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Posts Tagged ‘consensual crime’

I’m passionately against sex-trafficking, and on the whole I do not support sex work.  If the existence of the sex industry hides trafficked victims, which it does, then I’d rather there’s no sex industry at all, because while the willing sex worker is able to do other work, the trafficked victim has no such choice.  I was an advocate of the Swedish model until a Swedish friend of mine sent me a blog post that explained how it’s making life worse for sex workers (even coerced ones), contrary to what the Swedes and well-meaning Christian community might have us believe.  I’ve also keenly noticed that in all the sex trafficking discussions and films I’ve seen, nobody – absolutely NOBODY – asked the prostitutes, the very people who know what it is they need, and what the situation is really like on the ground.  So I’m interested knowing what, in your opinion, do sex workers need?  What kind of system, law, or facility should be in place to better protect and help sex workers?  Is it possible to help and rescue trafficked victims, whilst not interfering with willing sex workers?  What would actually help rescuers identify and free trafficked victims in the sex trade?  Finally, why have YOU chosen to be a sex worker?  I’m asking not to judge you or to preach or change your mind.  I just want to hear the other side.

I’ll try as best I can to answer all your questions; if I miss anything, please reply and ask it again.  You may not like everything I’m going to say, but you seem like someone who’s genuinely trying to understand so I hope you won’t reject uncomfortable truths out of hand merely because they do indeed make you uncomfortable.

Amerikaz Most wantedThe first question you need to ask yourself is, what is it about sex work you don’t “support”?  If you merely mean that you can’t envision yourself as ever being in a position to either sell or buy sex, the statement makes perfect sense; I could say that “I don’t support the rap industry” because I don’t like rap and therefore contribute no money to that segment of the music business.  However, my powerful dislike for rap does not give me the right to deny that it undoubtedly gives pleasure to those who do like it, and provides a creative outlet for people who nonetheless could do “other work” under far less satisfying conditions and for vastly less money.  Nor would it be right for me to demonize rap and blame it for things that derive from the nastier portions of human nature; these problems would still exist even if rap could somehow be eliminated by establishing a totalitarian state whose police had the power to violate people’s rights at will in order to further the War on Rap.  It is never right, moral, justifiable or even possible to stop people from pursuing peaceful, consensual, private activity, whether that activity involves music, books, sex or drugs.  You mention the prohibitionist myth that the sex industry “hides” the existence of coerced workers, but this is no more true than saying the agricultural industry “hides” the existence of coerced farm workers or the domestic service industry “hides” the existence of coerced domestics.  The sad fact is that some human beings are willing to directly subject their fellow creatures to coercion, and most human beings are willing to allow others with fancy titles and interesting costumes to inflict coercion as long as that violence achieves results they like, whether those results be enlarging their country’s territory, filling the state’s coffers, inflicting their moral agenda on strangers or producing cheap food and consumer electronics.  Most people who position themselves as enemies of “sex trafficking”, yet seem relatively unconcerned with other forms of coerced labor, do so for two reasons: first, that they do not themselves buy or sell sexual services; and second, that they wish to stop others whom they do not even know from doing so.  If these same people were constantly calling for the abolition of other industries in which some degree of coercion occurs (such as agriculture, domestic service, textiles, electronics and the prison industry), their position would at least be logically consistent (if naively Utopian).  But that is not the case:  they are perfectly willing to accept exploitative and coercive, even quasi-slave-like, treatment of agricultural laborers, domestics, sweatshop workers and those arrested under prohibitionist laws; it is somehow only sexual exchange, coerced or otherwise, which inflames their ire.

I am really pleased that you recognize the necessity of listening to sex workers; that is the major point of my essay “Let Me Help”, which I think would answer most of your questions.  It contains links to other essays of mine (and to resources outside this blog) which will help you to understand not only that very few sex workers are coerced in any meaningful sense of the word, but that most of the people “authorities” label “trafficked” are not the helpless victims in need of “rescue” that they are painted as being in exploitation films and prohibitionist propaganda.  These people themselves say this over and over again, but as you pointed out nobody wants to listen because the truth conflicts with the narrative they prefer to impose upon it.  And one thing upon which virtually all sex workers agree is that decriminalization – the removal of all laws which treat sex work as somehow magically different from all other forms of work – is absolutely the best way of dramatically reducing the harms which plague the industry under criminalized, semi-criminalized or quasi-criminalized regimes.  My recent essay “Treating Sex Work As Work” sets out the case in exhaustive and thoroughly-cited detail, explaining how every attempt to control sex work by criminal law results in causing far more harm than it prevents.

I chose the job that suits my needsIf you want a longish answer to your last question, you should probably read my three-part “Genesis of a Harlot”; however, I can give you a much shorter answer which is at the same time more universal.  I chose sex work for the same reason about 98.5% of all sex workers do:  it was the best fit for my needs at the time.  Sex work is both more lucrative and more flexible than any other kind of work available to most people; in its most basic form it requires no special equipment, starting capital, intensive training, licenses or tests.  And though those characteristics are attractive to many people, they are especially attractive to members of certain marginalized populations – including, ironically, women with prior prostitution arrest records – who find it difficult or impossible to secure or maintain conventional employment.  In other words, the more laws, rules and regulations a society allows government to inflict upon it, the larger the fraction of people who will be driven into underground economies by their inability to get other work.  The more a government tries to control people’s work, movement and lives – including their sex lives – the larger the sex industry will become; prohibitionists are therefore their own worst enemies, because the more they crack down, the more people they push into conditions under which sex work is the best available means of support.

(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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If anyone is perpetuating prostitution-related violence, it is prohibitionists like Kristof, who insist on maintaining a black market.  -  Jacob Sullum

Out of Control (The Camel’s Nose) Dr. George Doodnaught

A Canadian anesthesiologist convicted of sexually assaulting 21 sedated women during surgeries was sentenced…to 10 years in prison…Dr. George Doodnaught…relied on his three decades of operating room experience to avoid detection…the…victims…gave generally similar accounts of being kissed and fondled by him, and of having his penis placed in their mouths or hands…they were conscious enough to be aware of what was happening, but were not able to move their limbs…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

A cop is a cop, even when she’s a sex worker:

For years, Philadelphia Police Officer Terra Barrow had a side job running a handful of [sex] websites and phone lines…Barrow said she got into the…industry…to…make [extra] money…Competitor Donna Burns…claims Barrow ripped off her site designs, stole her client database and bullied competitors by telling them she was a cop…Burns also…gave…investigators advertisements that Barrow allegedly placed…as an escort named “Black Barbie.”  Barrow acknowledged she used that nickname in email but [claims she] has never worked as an escort…

Down Under

Neofeminists claim decriminalization has “failed [to protect sex workers] everywhere it’s been tried”.  This is what that “failure” looks like:

A prostitute has won a landmark sexual harassment case against a Wellington brothel owner…the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the young woman $25,000 in damages for emotional harm as a result of sexual harassment.  Aaron Montgomery, who no longer owns The Kensington Inn…was described as a bully who enjoyed controlling and humiliating women and tried to pressure workers into having sex with him…

Imaginary Crises

After two decades as one of the few women who dared to challenge the hysteria, it’s nice to have so much more company lately:

…if the risk of sexual assault on campus were truly one in five…no parent in their right mind would send their daughter to coed universities…Chad Hermann…[examined] the reported sexual assault offenses over three years at…the University of Pittsburgh (UP), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Duquesne University (DU).  In 2009:  At UP, with 14,800 female students, four sexual assaults were reported.  At CMU, with about 3,900 female students, six sexual assaults were reported (a three-year high).  At DU, with 5,700 females, three were reported.  But wait:  We “know” (we don’t really) that 90% of rapes go unreported!  Okay, Hermann adjusts the numbers to reflect that, giving UP 40 assaults, CMU 60 and DU 30.  Are we at one-in-four yet?  Hardly.  We’re at one-in-185 (average of the three)…Medway victim safely exiting into a police car

It Looks Good On Paper

a BBC investigation  into the policing of prostitution in Medway, Kent showed harm reduction was dangerously disrupted by their aggressive “cleaning up the streets” approach.  In 2009, Kent Police began a scheme…called Safe Exit, supposedly to help women leave the sex trade by offering treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, training and education, and housing…But…instead…the women received a criminal record…Kent Police claimed to have reduced the number of women working on-street by over 90, but…two public servants associated with the scheme…say originally there were only 40-50 women working on-street.  Our sources also told us…that the scheme was a “political PR stunt”…[some of the women were burdened with] ASBOs…and a few ended up in prison…

Law of the Instrument

What at first seems like an arrest mission on a busy Orange County street is actually a rescue mission, as police go undercover to save girls who have become victims of sex trafficking…”  No, actually, it’s an arrest mission.  And if you can handle reading that first one, try this one about nearby Santa Barbara County, in which the agency of female university students and Chinese immigrants is totally denied using the excuse of “Stockholm Syndrome”.

Shifting the Blame (The Beat Goes On)

[James Brown]…was convicted of killing four women in his basement and stuffing their bodies in car trunks after he met them through online escort ads…just days apart, at his home in December 2011…Two were burned beyond recognition when a car was set on fire.  Brown…faces life in prison with no chance for parole…The women who were killed were Renisha Landers, Demesha Hunt, Natasha Curtis and Vernithea McCrary, all in their 20s…

Above the Law Mark Ridley

Three more brave heroes protecting and serving, in Oklahoma:  “…Muskogee police officer…Mark Ridley…was arrested…after allegedly forcing…the woman’s car…off the road, then…[forcing] her to perform oral sex at gunpoint…” and in California:  “Sheriff’s deputy [Damian Marquez repeatedly]…arrested a woman on felony probation ‘for the sole purpose of raping and sexually assaulting’ her at the [City of Industry] sheriff’s station…Xavier Thicklen and in Wisconsin:

[In the early stages of her pregnancy] and twice more after she had her baby, a [female prisoner] was placed in shackles…and raped over and over again, according to reports…Xavier D. Thicklen’s “abuse of his authority went wholly unchecked” by co-defendant Sheriff David A. Clarke, even though at least one of the assaults was caught on camera…Thicklen is charged with five counts of second-degree sexual assault…[and] could be sent to prison for 40 years on each…

First They Came for the Hookers… 

[New York City] has been…targeting…strip clubs by going after their liquor licenses…[after] trumping up charges…some clubs have continued to operate sans alcohol—which does, as a result of other bizarre strip club regulations, have the advantage of allowing dancers to be fully nude…But [alcohol-free clubs are much less popular and]…prohibition also zaps a major source of revenue for both clubs and dancers…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #30)

Finland has rejected the efforts of its neofeminist “justice” minister to impose the Swedish model, but what they gave her is bad enough:  “…the Ministry of Justice has proposed a tightening of the law, so sex-buyers who should have suspected pimping or trafficking can be sentenced…Justice Minister Anna- Maja Henriksson…[says she is] disappointed and…her goal is still a total ban…”  They are lowering the burden of proof to only one step short of strict liability, but obviously that isn’t enough to satisfy Henriksson’s anti-sex bloodlust.

King of the Hill

Buried beneath the Profession of Faith, agency denial, masturbatory fantasy, and penis-size bragging is the only worthwhile sentence in this crap:  “the FBI [named]…Detroit…as the second largest area for human trafficking in the U.S., with only San Francisco larger…She Rescue is not OK

All the Difference 

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has charged an Australian filmmaker with hindering the work of a…[“rescue”] organization…James Ricketson…accuses the Brisbane-based Citipointe Church of retaliating against him for his years-long efforts to help a Cambodian family retrieve two daughters from the organization’s She Rescue Home…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #52)

The same old Labour Party busybodies (with help from like-minded prudes in other parties) are once again trying to impose the Swedish model on the UK, but this time they’re pretending to be a new group inspired by last week’s reprehensible EU vote.  If these people were any more transparent they’d be completely invisible.  Here’s what Tim Worstall had to say about it:

…the “slavery” in prostitution…doesn’t, in this country at least, actually exist.  For we had a plan whereby every single police force in the country went out looking for people who were indeed sex slaves…and…could…not…come up with sufficient evidence to charge anyone at all…What we…have is consenting adults…deciding what to do with their own bodies…

Japanese Prostitution (TW3 #131)

While Japanese politicians work to deny, downplay or excuse their country’s enslavement of tens of thousands of women in wartime brothels

…Japanese-American plaintiffs, served by American megafirm Mayer Brown, are pursuing the agenda of reactionary Japanese politicians through despicable litigation…In 2013 the City of Glendale [California] erected a modest memorial to the comfort women…in a public park…Japanese politicians were enraged and have repeatedly demanded that the memorial be removed.  The…lawsuit…seeks to [accomplish this]…by force of law…

Flush Criminalization

I love it when Jacob Sullum tears into Nick Kristof:

…how should we view armed agents of the state who invite people to engage in peaceful exchange, only to pounce on them with guns and handcuffs?Nicholas Kristof thinks they’re heroes.  Consider…his latest column equating prostitution with “human trafficking”…Kristof…insists “that isn’t prudishness or sanctimony but a strategy to dampen demand.”  This strategy—cops posing as prostitutes—has been a joke and a cliché for as long as I’ve been alive, but Kristof considers it the cutting edge of innovative policing.  If targeting customers is all it takes to eradicate black markets, why do they still exist?…Kristof…calls sting operations “marvels of efficiency”—which they are, assuming you want to produce futile arrests and gratuitous humiliation…

As I reported in December, the “marvel of efficiency” sophomorically entitled “Operation Flush the Johns” hasn’t had much luck convicting any of the accused who didn’t just plead out; they finally got their first one this week.

R.I.P. Petite Jasmine (TW3 #329)

A video by Carol Leigh on the memorials for Petite Jasmine and Dora Özer.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #345)

An excellent article by Molly Crabapple on the vile Project ROSE and its equally-vile founder, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz:

…Project ROSE may seem similar to the many diversion programs in the United States…[but] it doesn’t work with the convicted.  Rather, its raids funnel hundreds of people into the criminal justice system.  Denied access to lawyers, many of these people are coerced into ROSE’s program without being convicted of any crime…Roe-Sepowitz …told Al Jazeera:  “Once you’ve prostituted you can never not have prostituted…Having that many body parts in your body parts, having that many body fluids near you and doing things that are freaky and weird really messes up your ideas of what a relationship looks like, and intimacy”…

Remembrance

Too bad the BBC can’t be this honest and sympathetic about modern clients:

Visiting prostitutes is a little-known and little-discussed aspect of life on the Western Front, but it was a key part of the British soldiers’ war experience…brothel visits [were seen] as a physical necessity – it was an era when sexual abstinence for men was considered harmful to their health…

In other words, a more realistic era.

Traffic Jam (All Traffick, All the Time)

Cuckoo Clock McCain is still at it:

Cindy McCain testified at a [Congressional] hearing…that about 84% of ads for prostitution placed on [New York area] Backpage.com…during the Super Bowl involved women being trafficked…The study was funded by the McCain Institute…and used research from Arizona State University and analysis from Praescient Analytics…

Rich loon McCain hires ethically-bankrupt fanatic Dominique Roe-Sepowitz (that’s who “Arizona State” really is) to use an “analysis” method of her own design, and the “study” finds exactly what the two of them want it to find  despite the fact that it contains nothing resembling either facts or methodology.  What a surprise!

The Public Eye (TW3 #408)

Here’s an excerpt from Melissa Gira Grant’s new book, Playing the Whore, and two more interviews with her; one is with Caty Simon in Tits and Sass and one with Josh Eidelson in Salon.  I’m very pleased to see how much coverage Grant and her book are getting in mainstream publications, especially in this time when most of the media are forehead-deep in prohibitionist lies.

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #409) Belle Knox

The Duke freshman porn starlet has revealed her photo and stage name: Belle Knox.  And I like her more with every article she writes:

…the Duke Chronicle wrote a somewhat patronizing portrait of me, disguising my name…The question I am asked over and over again is this:  If I am proud of being an adult performer, then why do I “hide” behind this fake name?  Because…my decision to do porn does not somehow mean that the world now “owns” or deserves access to every single thing about me…My birth name is one name…My porn name is another…I can’t stop you from calling me any name you want to — including “slut,” “whore” or “bitch” – but I can decide what name I use…please dissuade yourself right now of the delusion that you control or own me…I am not your child or your property or your Madonna or your whore…

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on February 2nd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

unfrozen caveman lawyerI find it fascinating (albeit in a sad and terrifying sort of way) to see how oblivious modern Westerners are to the fact that our “leaders” are nothing but tribal chieftains who hide their naked barbarism behind fine talk, fancy titles, ersatz philosophy and elaborate rituals.  The “rule of law” is absolutely meaningless when society supports a parasitic class whose only function is to make more laws, to interpret them in such a way as to inexorably increase their own power, and to hire thugs in order to inflict violence upon those whom they can (credibly or otherwise) accuse of having violated any of the tens of thousands of arcane, abstruse, vague, overbroad and complex laws to which they add new (and invariably worse) specimens every week.  And despite their modern “scientific” or “democratic” veneer, the vast bulk of those laws are based in superstitious concepts which any primitive would recognize:

…that plant matter or technological devices can be intrinsically evil; that certain words or images can be literally harmful to children or even to grown men and women; that the mere action of taking a photograph of a naked person (or in some cases, even a clothed child) is intrinsically inimical; that certain forms of human interaction can mystically harm the participants even if they freely choose to engage in the activity and suffer no physical damage; that magical vestments or talismans can grant power over other people or absolve the wearer of moral culpability for his actions; that official pronouncements from anointed leaders can make things vanish; and even that being given a spell-scroll of one variety can make a “dangerous” action into a beneficial one, while being given a different kind of rune-inscribed parchment can make an innocuous action evil…

The most astonishing part of all this is that Westerners can often recognize these principles for what they are when they are displayed by the “leaders” of a non-Western culture, while remaining willfully blind to the exact same behavior in our own.  Take, for example, this recent news item:  “A 20-year-old woman has been raped in public by as many as 12 men on the orders of tribal elders in a village in eastern India…as a punishment for an ‘unauthorised’ relationship with a man from another village…”  The rest of the article tries to fit this in with other gang rapes in recent years, but that’s nonsense; the latter are the actions of criminals, while this was the action of a group deputized by officially-recognized leaders.  The only reason the rapists and the officials were arrested is that a higher level of government disagreed with their actions.  But while comfortable middle-class Guardian readers tut-tut about how awful “those people” are, people in the UK, Europe and the US are harassed and punished by our own “village elders” for “unauthorized” relationships all the time.  Sex workers and our clients are humiliated in public, confined, assessed fines that are nothing but legalized robbery, and even punished by rape:

new Justice Department study shows that allegations of sex abuse in [American] prisons and jails are increasing — with correctional officers responsible for half of it  — but prosecution is still extremely rare…a growing proportion of the allegations have been dismissed by prison officials as “unfounded” or “unsubstantiated”…even in the rare cases where…[officials admit] sexual abuse occurred…fewer than half were referred for prosecution, and only 1 percent ultimately got convicted…

And as in India, the only time these officially-sanctioned rapists get in trouble is when a higher level of government decides (for whatever reason) to do something about it:

A Justice Department investigation accuses Alabama officials of…fostering an environment of rampant sexual abuse at the state’s Tutwiler Prison, where inmates “universally fear for their safety” and officers allegedly forced women to engage in sex acts just to obtain basic sanitary supplies…male officers openly watched women shower or use the toilet, staff helped organize a “strip show,” prisoners received a constant barrage of sexually offensive language, and prisoners who reported improper conduct were punished…“Officials have been on notice for over eighteen years of the risks to women prisoners and, for over eighteen years, have chosen to ignore them”…

Knight Fighting Woodwoses by Lucas Cranach the Younger (c 1550)We are all, every last one of us, intellectually indistinguishable from our ancestors who migrated to the far corners of the world over the past 30,000 years; the only thing which makes us different is the body of wisdom and learning we have accumulated over that time.  Basically, we don’t act like savages because we are taught from an early age not to.  But when society gives certain individuals – our “leaders” – explicit or implicit permission to ignore the constraints it places upon everyone else, we should not be terribly surprised when they take advantage of the offer.

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Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds.  -  Thomas Jefferson

This is not a real news story; I cobbled it together out of bits and pieces of five real articles, removing identifying details and changing just a few words here and there to make the point I wish to make.

miniskirtsLast Friday, the President signed the new Anti-Pornography Act into law; in addition to banning actual pornography it outlaws suggestive music videos and revealing clothing, specifically miniskirts and tops that show cleavage.  Then on Monday, he signed into law another bill toughening penalties for prostitutes after legislators agreed to remove a clause criminalizing those who do not report them to the police.  The new law allows life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of “aggravated prostitution”, which includes prostitution while infected with HIV; coercing anyone into prostitution; and paying for sex with a minor whether the customer was aware of her age or not.  The bill originally proposed the death penalty for these offenses, but that was later removed amid international criticism.  A section imposing a 14-year sentence for first-time offenders was removed, but a sentence of seven years for “attempting to commit prostitution” remains in the law.  It also criminalizes the “promotion of prostitution”, which includes allowing prostitutes to advertise in a publication or on a website; businesses or non-governmental organizations found guilty of “promotion of prostitution” would be fined $40,700 and have their certificates of registration cancelled, and directors could face seven years in jail.

The President said in an interview that prostitution is “unnatural” and not a human right.  “They’re disgusting.  What sort of people are they?” he said.  “I’ve been told recently that what they do is terrible.  Disgusting.”  He denied that prostitution had always been practiced in the country, claiming instead that it was a recent import from the West caused by pornography and the other “immoral influences” banned by the bill he signed Friday.  Lawmakers said the influence of Western lifestyles risked destroying family units.

Activists sharply criticized the new laws, claiming that both of them are designed solely to win votes from the evangelical churches in the 2016 elections.  “They are shallow and oppressive pieces of legislation that violate a host of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression and equality before the law — all of which are enshrined in the constitution and in the international treaties the legislature has ratified,” said one activist who wished to remain anonymous.  It was also alleged that the ministerial task team asked by the president to advise him on prostitution falsified the information contained in the report given by legal and psychological experts, twisting it to show that prostitution should indeed be further criminalized.  The Scientist Consensus Statement concluded that prostitution “needs regulation like any other human behavior, especially to protect the vulnerable”, and concludes:  “Prostitution has serious Public Health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.”

The President insisted that activists are motivated by “mercenary reasons”, and stated that prostitution is more common in Western societies because “on account of random breeding, they have generated many abnormal people.”  His views are espoused by 96% of the population, leading activists to fear violence against those whose names appeared on a list of the “200 most wanted prostitutes” a tabloid published the day after the law was signed.  The front-page story included some pictures and many addresses, and carried the headline:  “EXPOSED!”

sexual minorities UgandaMost of you have probably already guessed that the real country is Uganda, the real president is Yoweri Museveni, and the real activity being prohibited is homosexuality rather than prostitution (except for the first sentence, which is almost verbatim from the original article).  All the quotes from the president and others are also essentially verbatim.  There is one major difference between my patchwork construct and the originals, however:  the originals contain statements like, “The White House issued a statement [saying] ‘Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward’…”  But as we know all too well, there isn’t a government in the world with the nobility and decency to openly criticize other countries’ abusive legal regimes against sex workers, and the Hypocrite-in-Chief of the United States feels entitled to criticize one other country’s treatment of one sexual minority while at the same time he actively promotes horrific abuse of another all over the world.

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Sex work can be dangerous; but those dangers are exacerbated, or in many cases even created, by criminalisation.  -  Jean Urquhart

Something Rotten in Sweden (December Updates) Maxine Doogan

sex workers [protested] a San Francisco anti-trafficking panel discussion…about “Discouraging Demand”…[including] the “John School”…Maxine Doogan…[of] the Erotic Service Providers Union…[said] “Using the term ‘john’ to describe our clients is like using the N-word…It’s a derogatory means of dehumanizing the customers.”  Law enforcement efforts that go after clients ultimately increase risks for sex workers, she continued.  “Any criminalization of our customers is going to bring us more violence”…Doogan also cited the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision…striking down…anti-prostitution laws that the justices unanimously agreed were…dangerous…

For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea

the law which regulates sex work in India today [is] the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA), 1956.  This does not criminalise sex work per se, but, as the Lawyers’ Collective that works for sex workers’ rights points out, it results in “de facto criminalisation through prohibition of soliciting, brothel and street work”, and this “has effectively undermined sex workers’ ability to claim protection of law”…Often sex workers are evicted from the only roof they had with their children in the name of “closing down brothels”…[the avails law] criminalises…their children as soon as they cross the age of 18, and old parents and younger siblings who many sex workers support.  However…“The criminalisation of soliciting is one of the most obvious legal problems…Sex workers are arrested even when they’re not soliciting”…

Against Their Will

This has a few irksome passages, but it’s probably much more palatable to rescue industry types than the way most sex worker rights activists might express it:

…Imagine someone flying across the country to pick up an individual they only recently met.  They are removed from everything they have ever known.  Then they’re placed in a home where they can’t have contact with anyone in the outside world.  Sounds much like trafficking?  It also sounds like a rescue…More often than not the story of Captain Save a Ho and the “fair maiden” ends with the girl running out as friends console the rescuer saying, “You did the best you could”…“She had too many problems”…or “Maybe she was wounded beyond repair”…The term “rescue” naturally implies that a person is incapable of helping themselves, and sometimes this is true…but the effects of being rescued can leave a lasting emotional mark on the survivor, which is difficult to overcome in the new life…

Saving Them From Themselves arrested teen girl

[Virginia] police say a teenager is facing child pornography charges after allegedly tweeting nude pictures of herself…The teen’s phone was confiscated for evidence, and she was charged with one count of distribution of child pornography…this could end up…with jail time…investigators say they are seeing a surge in these types of cases because teens see it as harmless sexting.

How dare they form their own opinions!  Only “authorities” have the right to determine what is harmless, and teens must be taught that by the infliction of much more severe harm.

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic

David Ley…and colleagues conducted a review [showing]…only 27 percent…of articles on porn addiction contain…actual data, while [most suffer from]…poor experimental designs, [low] methodological rigor and lack of model specification…The review…found very little evidence — if any at all — to support…the purported negative side effects…There was no sign pornography was connected to erectile dysfunction, or that it caused any [brain] changes…people reporting “addiction” are more likely to…have a non-heterosexual orientation …high libido…and…religious values that conflict with their sexual behavior and desires…the research team said pornography might improve attitudes toward sexuality…increase quality of life…and…provide…a legal outlet for illegal sexual behaviors or desires, and its consumption or availability has been associated with a decrease in sex offenses, especially child molestation…

Coincidentally, Dr. Ley also appears in “Horns” below.

Above the Law

The lengths to which prosecutors and reporters will go to avoid saying “rape” when the rapist is a cop are nothing short of amazing:

Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot admits he committed sex acts with an unresponsive woman…and now faces a federal sentence for lying to the FBI about it…Theriot…placed her in the front seat of his police vehicle and took her to his office where he “engaged in…sexual contact with her”…

And in Hawaii,

[Alexandria Gregg]…is suing the…department of public safety and [prison warden] Neal Wagatsuma…for…[sexually] shaming…her and other female inmates…“During open public meetings of male and female detainees…Wagatsuma repeatedly forced…[female inmates] to stand at a podium and speak about their private, intimate and traumatizing sexual experience”…the warden ordered [them] to elaborate on…incidents of rape as well as sexual preferences.  The public questionings were videotaped by male detainees…“Typically, the detainees selected for filming were young attractive women”…Press Freedom Index

Pyrrhic Victory

Presented with minimal comment: the US continues its descent in the press freedom index; it is now just below Papua New Guinea and Romania, and just above Haiti and Niger.

Naked Truth

A good article by Melissa Gira Grant on the real effects of political crusades against sex work.  Note that though Salon chose to point fingers at “the right” in its headline, the article itself makes no false partisan distinctions:

…Super Bowl lent the excuse for New York and New Jersey…to step up their routine anti-prostitution policing, in anticipation of an increased demand for commercial sex that, in Super Bowls past, has never been borne out.  NYPD’s vice unit coordinator Anthony Favale doesn’t even seem to mind that the hype is just that, telling Time, ”I don’t know if the increased number [of prostitutes] is a legend or not, but I am exploiting the opportunity”…Long before the media turned the Super Bowl into a…story of violence and exploitation…people engaged in the sex trade have been documenting…all the ways anti-prostitution policing pits them against law enforcement and puts them at risk when they need help…

Sex Work is Work

Sometimes the absurdity of the idea of consensual crime is blatantly obvious:

The European Union is [finally] enforcing laws which…require countries to estimate how much cash changes hands on their black markets.  Those figures will be taken into account when calculating national GDP and allocating the £120-billion Brussels budget.  EU officials say the change will ensure consistent economic comparisons between member states.  As prostitution and drug use is legal in some member states – like the Netherlands – officials say it’s only fair for other states to acknowledge those activities in their national accounts.  Prostitution in the UK is expected to be valued at £3 billion a year, and drug dealing at around £7 billion…

Train Wreck (TW3 #48)

An…NGO, Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria (SAP-CLN), in collaboration with Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) have elected to embark on a controversial campaign to rid Nigeria’s capital city of prostitutes…armed soldiers and police…run amok…[victims are charged] N5,000 each [about $30.50 US]…those [with] the money [are] released instantly [but] others [are held overnight to see a] magistrate…SAP-CLN has many [lawsuits] hanging on its neck [over this]…and…the… Dorothy Njemanze Foundation…has called on the Federal Government to stop SAP-CLN…The group said many female students …employees… shoppers and even married women have been brutalised and abducted…

Original Sin (TW3 #321)

Dr. Brooke Magnanti on the evangelical underpinnings of “sex trafficking” myth:

The scandal of counsellors in “crisis clinics” that claim to offer “abortion support” claiming that terminations can cause breast cancer and women to become child sexual abusers was exposed this week…The vast majority of such “clinics” in the UK…are run by…Christian Action Research and Education (CARE)…the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.  This APPG aims to promote the so-called Swedish Model…It’s been revealed over and over again how far left second wavers are beholden to anti-homosexuality, anti-trans, anti-sex work and anti-abortion interests, yet many people refuse to acknowledge the truth…I think Pee Wee Herman says it best…


Deafening Silence

Time bravely denounces police violence against sex workers!  But only in China, of course; American anti-whore police violence is A-OK:

…A 6,000-strong [police] force reportedly raided 12 hotels and entertainment venues in Dongguan] leading to 67 arrests — 90-odd cops for each of the alleged perpetrators.  Two police chiefs were later suspended, according the South China Morning Post… “Swept Away: Abuses Against Sex Workers in China“…documented torture, beatings, physical assaults, arbitrary detentions and fines.  Another report, by Asia Catalyst, found that escaping custody meant paying bribes.  Periodic “busts” focus on shaming women, not stemming the trade.  In a now-notorious 2010 case, Dongguan officials publicly paraded male and female suspects, barefoot and handcuffed, through the street…But…China’s netizens know where the real shame lies…“clean [up] your so called police troops, that’s what people really want to see” [said commenters]…“Arrest 67 officials [instead]“…

Between the Ears (TW3 #322)

Once again:  female sexual desire has nothing to do with blood flow, to the genitalia or anywhere else:

…a pill dubbed “female Viagra”…containing an extract from French pine bark called pycnogenol, goes on sale this month…[under the name] Lady Prelox…The manufacturer…claims its product “boosts libido and increases arousal in women”, because it “encourages blood flow to the reproductive organs as well as the brain”…

Torture Chamber

the Dutch justice ministry announced the planned closing of…19 prisons…[due to] a continued decline in crime rates.  Additionally, those who are convicted are choosing electronic tagging instead of incarceration.  This allows people to go back to work and continue as productive members of society. It also saves about $50,000 per year per person…

Horns

B0000351 Human sperm showing exceptional sperm countFrom an evolutionary perspective, the idea that a guy would take pleasure from watching his wife with another man is counterintuitive.  Historically, men have gone to great lengths to avoid being “cuckolded”…fear of cuckoldry…shaped how our male ancestors approached sexual relationships and, to this day, is…the reason men tend to get more jealous…about…sexual infidelity than women…Increasingly, scientists favor a biological explanation based on a growing body of work on sperm competition.  Research shows that when one woman mates with several men, those men can display behavioral and biological changes intended to increase their likelihood of fertilizing her egg…David Ley…[thinks it’s related to] displaying…one’s sexy wife [as] a status symbol…

Innocence Never Had

More truthful headline: “Underage Sex Worker Murdered in Yorba Linda

A 17-year-old girl found stabbed to death in…Yorba Linda [California]…was a victim of human trafficking…about two weeks before she was killed…Officers identified Aubreyanna Sade Parks as a victim of human trafficking during a crackdown on prostitution in Santa Ana….Parks was turned over to county social service workers…[and] taken to a shelter but walked out in the following days…Larry Soo Shin [has been arrested for the murder]…

It’s bad enough that criminalization almost certainly contributed to this young woman’s death; do they really need to erase her agency in an attempt to increase that criminalization for living sex workers?

The Public Eye (TW3 #403)

Considering it’s in an Irish newspaper, this is nothing short of amazing:

…Watching [Northern Ireland’s justice committee] in action, you could very well be back in Salem in the final years of the 17th century…Laura…Lee’s treatment was so bad that she has registered a complaint with the Assembly…Lee does much of her sex work with terminally ill and disabled men, offering them a discount from her normal rate…In one of the most repulsive parts of the hearing, Paul Givan asked her, “Why would you exploit a disabled individual and make him pay?”, as though Lee was targeting defenceless men and entrapping them into having sex with her…[these] posturing men…clearly fancy themselves as grand inquisitors, when in reality they mistake boorishness and stupid sneering for incisive interrogation.  It is [they], not…Laura Lee, who should be ashamed of themselves.

Catastrophic Consequences (TW3 #406) Jean Urquhart

MSP Jean Urquhart did something extraordinary this week:

Jean has criticised Edinburgh’s decision to delicense its saunas and massage parlours, and called for a debate on decriminalising sex work in order to improve safety and decrease stigma.  Her intervention has been praised by…SCOT-PEP as “courageous”…Jean highlighted calls from sex workers’ organisations for full decriminalisation, as practiced in New Zealand since 2003…

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I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.  -  James Madison

Ben Franklin Day We Fight BackMadison was, of course, exactly correct.  Those sick enough to seek power over others are never satisfied with the amount they have; they are driven to constantly seek more, to gradually push the boundaries of what they are allowed to do like the camel in the proverb.  The United States was founded on libertarian (at the time they were called “liberal”) principles, but in the process of getting the country started far too many exceptions and loopholes were allowed in those principles; the most egregious of these was chattel slavery, an evil whose legacy is still contributing to the decay of liberty a century and a half after it was abolished.  In the name of “safety”, “public order”, the “greater good” and other such vague nonentities, the rights of individuals have been eroded gradually and silently since the latter half of the nineteenth century, until there are precious few left (and those are cracked and pitted almost beyond recognition).  Even the principle of self-ownership, the one upon which all the others (and the very principle of democracy) depend, still exists in name only; armed thugs have been granted the power to inflict violence upon virtually anyone for virtually any reason (or even for no reason), to break into the private homes of peaceful citizens without warning, and to sexually and/or medically violate anyone’s bodily integrity on pretexts that even the Inquisition might have found flimsy.  Throughout all of it the American people, mesmerized by propaganda of imaginary hobgoblins, have allowed encroachment after encroachment, abrogation upon abrogation, while licking the boots of the overlords and thanking them for the privilege.

I want you to stop being afraidBut those overlords forgot one thing:  though Americans have degenerated into a race of spineless weaklings, they are as prudish as they ever were (if not more so).  While they are as willing as ever to celebrate the mistreatment of people they can rationalize as being not like them (racial or sexual minorities, drug users, etc), they don’t like the idea of being seen naked or having their sexual secrets exposed.  So while the news of each new excess of the police state for the past several decades has been greeted by the majority with yawns or even cheers, Edward Snowden’s revelations exposed an aspect of it that offended Americans’ Puritanical sensibilities.  Costumed goons murdering, abducting, destroying and pillaging was of no consequence, but now that they’ve been caught peeking through a hole into the girls’ locker room the peasants are ready to form a lynch mob.  To be sure, the most broken and lost of the mob have aimed their anger at Snowden; they blame him for making it impossible for them to continue on in blissful ignorance.  But a greater number are at last directing that anger where it belongs: at the police state.  Today there’s a protest against mass surveillance going on, and this column is a part of it.  I fear it’s far too little decades too late, and that the majority will go obediently back to sleep as soon as the President assures them that he’s “doing something” about it; however, I will continue to fight for freedom and justice as long as there is breath in my body, and while the masses are aroused I think we need to keep shouting at them in the forlorn hope that they may have finally reached the limit of their tolerance for oppression.

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Mark Bennett is a criminal defense lawyer in Houston who, as he says in the text below, is unafraid to defend sex workers.  I first linked his blog just over a year ago in “The Truth About ‘The Truth About…’“, then more recently in “The Spiral of Absurdity“.  But in December he wrote a series of “tweets” which impressed me so much, I asked him to turn them into a guest post; this column is the result.

An adult’s body belongs fully to that adult.  It does not belong to his parents, to her husband, or to the government.  If something—including your body—belongs to you, you can do what you want with it, as long as what you do doesn’t hurt (or create an unjustifiable risk of hurting) other people.  If you cannot do what you want with it (without interfering with others’ rights), a thing does not belong to you.  You have at best a limited license.

Ken Lane watches his daughter Hannah sign the purity covenant at the annual Father-Daughter Purity Ball in Colorado SpringsIt is true that the law and society treat us as having a limited license to our bodies.  In most American states you can’t legally smoke marijuana, you can’t hire someone to help you end your own life, and you can’t have sex with someone for money.  It has not always been the case that a woman’s body belongs to her, even aside from the claims upon it by government; historically, women’s bodies have effectively belonged to their male kin, who were honor-bound to protect their purity until they married, and to their husbands thereafter.  There are still segments of society in which this is the case.  Witness, for example, “purity balls” at which adolescent girls pledge that they will preserve their virginity until married and fathers pledge that they will protect their daughters’ purity.  I do not claim to be a feminist, yet it strikes me as creepy that a father should take such a proprietary interest in what his grown daughter does with her vagina.

To the avowed feminist, the claim of male ownership (transferred from the father to the husband, with no intermediate ownership) of female sexuality must be the height of patriarchy.  Yet there’s a wide gap between rejection of male ownership of female sexuality, and acceptance that everyone’s own sexuality belongs to him or her, to do with what he or she will as long as it doesn’t hurt (or create an unjustifiable risk of hurting) other people.  This gap is illustrated by the feminist position (not universal, but much broader than just the PIV-is-rape crowd) that sex work should be criminalized.  Sex work is the explicit exchange of sexual services for value (as opposed to the implicit exchange of sexual services for value, which we just call “sex”).  Criminalization is the use of violence (including the threat of violence) to compel people to refrain from doing something.  This is what libertarians call “the gun in the room”:  without violence, government would be powerless to compel anything, so those who support criminalization are using violence (through proxies) to force women not to engage in explicit sexual commerce.  The argument against decriminalizing sex work depends on people possessing a thing that they cannot be permitted to sell.  But if a person possesses something that she could not (assuming a willing buyer) sell, she doesn’t own it.  By criminalizing sex work we teach people that their sexuality is not their own, but subject to society’s—government’s—license.  If male ownership of women’s sexuality was bad, government (male-created and mostly male-run) ownership of women’s sexuality is worse.

I write as a criminal-defense lawyer who represents sex workers, as a libertarian, and most importantly as the father of a girl.  “Would you have sex for money, Mark?  Would you be happy about it if your daughter chose to?”  I reckon not.  But each of us experiences life’s many facets differently; I know women who derive satisfaction from sex work, and I’m not prepared to force my own tastes on other people at gunpoint.  Outlawing sex work makes women’s sexuality (most sex workers are women) the property of the community.  There would be a certain internal logic in this if you were a PIV-is-always-rape feminist:  you would see in the sex worker a woman who thinks she is honestly exchanging sexual services for money, but who a) suffers from false consciousness; and b) is harming your cause by promoting a culture of penetrative sex, and therefore rape.  (You would also have written off this post, on seeing my name, as mansplaining.)  By the same token, if you were a religious fundamentalist you might think that sex workers were calling the judgment of God down upon society, and feel that using violence to stop sex work was justified to prevent a greater harm.

protest postersBut I suspect that most people fall somewhere between these two extremes.  If they view sex work as harmful, most people see it as harmful to the sex workers, harmful to individual relationships, or a symptom of a more severe disease.  When sex work is harmful to sex workers, the harm is often due to criminalization, which drives the criminalized behavior underground, where it’s easier for violent people (including police) to harm those engaging in it.  Even absent criminalization, sex workers would sometimes put themselves into danger, but the risk of harm to sex workers cannot justify using violence to stop them.  When sex work is harmful to individual relationships, that’s the fault of the people in the relationships, and not of sex work; using violence to stop sex work because some relationships are troubled is an irrational overreaction.  And though I do think that society is sick, sex work (which has always existed in all societies) is not a symptom.  Even if sex work were a symptom of a societal disease, applying violence to sex workers would not cure it; on the contrary, it would just drive the symptom underground.

I think that most people have a visceral moral reaction against sex work, which they rationalize and don’t worry about a lot about because they don’t consider the downside of criminalization.  I’d like to ask those people:  could we try treating a woman’s sexuality as her own property, to keep, give, rent, or sell as she will?  Let’s try, just for a generation or two, teaching our daughters that they are sovereign over their own bodies.

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Slavery is so intolerable a condition that the slave can hardly escape deluding himself into thinking that he is choosing to obey his master’s commands when, in fact, he is obliged to.  -  W.H. Auden

OBEY eye posterI have come to the conclusion that statism rots the brain.  In order for a free mind to accept the delusion that someone else as human as himself has the right to tell him what to do, he has to inflict damage on his own psychic organs of self-determination; in order to accept the patent absurdity that such superiority can be conferred by merely putting on a special costume, carrying a little tin amulet or giving oneself an interesting title, that damage has to be severe indeed.  And if the subject is to believe that this right of state functionaries to control him extends even to what he does with his own body, the damage has to be both irreversible and so dramatic that it renders the statist incapable of recognizing the truth about nearly anything in which the state is involved.  The individual so afflicted not only identifies with the overlords, rationalizing that because they have the divine right to rule him they legitimately represent his interests (“Government is just a word for the things we choose to do together”); he will also obediently line up in front of the slaughterhouse and praise the wisdom and goodness of the butcher (for example, in the recent cacophony of bootlicking which began with and included a federal judge’s declaration that the NSA’s blatantly-unconstitutional universal surveillance is in fact constitutional).

In really advanced cases, the victim’s mind is so warped that he cannot imagine things another way from the status quo; if something is currently illegal, it must have always been that way, and when faced with evidence to the contrary he will misinterpret it to support his lawheaded perception.  If he sees an example of government coercion inflicted upon something which was previously free of it, that simply will not compute because holy governmental control is, was and ever will be, forever and ever amen.  Think I’m exaggerating?  Let’s take a look at how historian William Moss Wilson recently described the imposition of a licensing regime on Nashville whores during the occupation of the city by Union forces in the early 1860s.  Remember, prostitution was not illegal in and of itself anywhere in the US prior to 1910; it was often regulated, or restricted to certain areas, or banned from certain areas, and streetwalkers were often harassed by cops using laws against vagrancy and the like.  But since a lawhead cannot imagine that something now regarded as “criminal” could ever have been seen otherwise, we get nonsense like this:

…By June 1863, the large numbers of soldiers hospitalized in Nashville for venereal diseases led surgeons and regimental commanders to…[attempt to] rid the city of its prostitutes.  Deportation would prove no easy task; nearly every structure along…“Smokey Row”…was a house of prostitution, and other brothels were scattered about town…several hundred women were dragged onto requisitioned steamboats…but [other cities refused them]…and…black prostitutes…filled the void left by their white colleagues…Once deportation proved a failure, [officials instead] released orders that required all of Nashville’s prostitutes to register with the military government, which would in turn issue each woman a license to practice her trade…for a weekly fee of 50 cents…these women would receive a regular medical checkup, and if healthy, issued a certificate.  Infected prostitutes would be hospitalized and treated at no additional charge.  Failure to register would be penalized with a 30-day sentence in a workhouse…

Wilson’s brain is so warped by statism that he cannot see the imposition of licensing, mandatory health checks and pimping fees for what they are, the intrusion of government into a field with which it had previously been uninvolved; the very idea of an unregulated profession is anathema to him.  Accordingly, he misnames the regime “legalization”, ignoring the fact that prostitution wasn’t illegal to begin with and therefore could not be “legalized”.  The attempt at deportation was not, as he himself explains, the normal status quo in Nashville, but rather an act of martial law by the military governor of an occupied city.  He is “shocked” by the fact that the press and city government viciously attacked the deportation plan but accepted the licensing scheme, and he willfully misinterprets the whores’ acceptance of the regime as a desire to be “protected by regulation” rather than as a welcome respite from the harassment which had preceded it.

government outlays to GDPThis is not an isolated incident; for example, articles about Storyville usually describe it as a “legalized red-light district” when in actuality its establishment represented the restriction to a small area of a business which had previously been allowed everywhere in the city.  I’ll bet that before most of y’all started reading this blog, you believed that prostitution had always been illegal in most of the US; most people are surprised to learn that criminalization was a 20th-century notion, enacted in the same general time period as Prohibition and enforced by large, standing municipal police departments which had only existed for a generation.  The fact of the matter is that prior to 1913, the US federal government was tiny and the state governments not much bigger; however, the busybody laws which began in the “Progressive Era” gave the swelling numbers of government officials many new excuses to meddle in people’s lives, and the new permanent income tax provided the funds with which to do it.  Government began to grow at a pathological rate and has not stopped since, and the minds of most who were born, raised and conditioned to it can no more imagine another way than the members of a lost underground civilization could imagine the sky.

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If people point to some prostitutes as victims they should realize, as the judges did, that the very laws in place were much of the cause of that.  -  Terri-Jean Bedford

Merry Christmas from the SCCOn December 20th, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled on the government’s attempt to block the Himel decision (which struck down Canada’s prostitution laws on September 28th, 2010).  The one-line version:  “The prohibitions at issue…prevent people engaged in a risky – but legal – activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risk.” If you want more detail, here’s the 705-word version, and here’s the whole thing (almost 20,000 words).  The good news is, the court agreed with sex worker rights activists that the chief danger of sex work is not intrinsic to it, but rather results from the laws imposed upon it.  The bad news is, the court suspended its decision for a year to give the government time to write new laws, and there is nothing in it to prevent the imposition of American-style criminalization:

…the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t touch on the principle of sexual autonomy.  Rather, it cleaves to a tighter, narrower logic…The central metaphor in Bedford is, perhaps oddly, bicycling.  It would be wrong for Canada to allow citizens to ride bicycles, but forbid them to wear helmets.  If a law makes a legal activity more dangerous, it is suspect…sex work is a legal activity, but related prohibitions made it less safe, so the Supreme Court struck down those prohibitions…[but] said nothing about whether sex work itself should be legal…if Parliament introduces new laws that directly criminalize sex work…the logic of Bedford will have very little to add to the next legal fight about prostitution…

Were this the United States, you can bet the legislature’s immediate response would be criminalization.  However, it’s a little different in Canada; though some politicians have been huffing and puffing about the decision every sane person knew was coming for months now, Canada has since the late 1960s maintained a strong tradition (well, much stronger than that of the US, anyhow) that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.”  In 1988, the historic Morgentaler decision included the statement “[T]he basic theory underlying the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms is] that the state will respect choices made by individuals and, to the greatest extent possible, will avoid subordinating those choices to any one conception of the good life.”  That would seem a strong argument against criminalization, but

…as with Morgentaler, as with the Chaoulli medicare case in 2005, the court has not presumed to judge the purposes the legislature had in mind.  Whether the state may restrict abortion, or establish a public health-care monopoly, or regulate prostitution are all subjects on which the court has expressly declined to intervene.  All it has insisted in each case is that, in the pursuit of these objectives, the state may not actually kill people, or put their safety at risk…

On the other hand, the government has heavily invested its prohibitionist case in neofeminist rhetoric, and recently adopted the Swedish model as its official position; several MPs have released long-winded “explanations” of the “fact” that women are permanent victims who shouldn’t be allowed to choose sex work.  There is little likelihood that a system proven to increase violence and stigmatization of sex workers would pass muster under Bedford, yet at the same time it would be rather embarrassing for the government to push for the direct criminalization of sex workers after proclaiming us too weak to avoid being controlled by morally-superior clients and “pimps”.

Nikki Thomas, Terri-Jean Bedford and Valerie ScottSo at this point, it’s difficult to predict what might happen next.  Reactions are all over the map; while sex worker activists hail the decision as a victory and prohibitionists either moan that it’s a disaster or bizarrely misinterpret the decision as reinforcement of their catechism, the media is generally being cautious:  The Ottawa Citizen went so far as to print both Jimmy Carter’s (yes, THAT Jimmy Carter) clueless and ignorant plea for the Swedish model, then a debunking of both the plea and the model three days later.  And while it isn’t at all surprising to see pro-decrim articles in Reason or Reality Check, it’s definitely not the usual fare at the Washington Post:

…In the mainstream media, prostitution is almost always conflated with sex trafficking.  One only has to look at Nicholas Kristof’s pieces in The New York Times, for example…But…the…focus on trafficking has not led to policies that keep sex workers safe and healthy.  Especially in the United States, the equation…has led to more spending on law enforcement…If policymakers want to make sex workers’ lives safer, there are many organizations they can learn from.  Sex workers advocate for their rights through groups like the Global Network of Sex Work Projects…the St. James InfirmaryStella in Montreal, the PACE Society in Vancouver, and Maggie’s in Toronto.  These organizations are effective because they view sex work as work…Every year on Dec. 17, sex worker rights advocates worldwide host events to…underscore the harm of anti-prostitution policies…the Canadian Supreme Court has taken an important step towards abolishing the legal conditions that create this violence.  We should not roll back the clock.

Given that the WaPo recently hired libertarian journalist Radley Balko and several years ago published the first major (though sadly isolated) American debunking of “sex trafficking” mythology, perhaps the wind is shifting away from prohibition there as it is at the UN and the vast majority of human rights organizations.  But just as is the case in Canada, only time will tell.

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Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated.  -  Robert J. Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson

Today is the 12th day of Christmas, so tonight is Twelfth Night, the traditional occasion for tomfoolery.  So though we only have one last Christmas item this time (the first video, courtesy of Jesse Walker), the number of truly weird ones is appropriate for the holiday.  The first four below were contributed by  Popehat, the second video by Rick Horowitz and the links between the videos by Radley Balko (“safety” & “funny”), Mike Riggs (“together” & “blinded”),  Kevin Wilson (“time travel”), Nun Ya (“poop”), Ed Krayewski (“bizarre” & “photos”),  Cop Block (“parking”), Clarissa (“totalitarian”),  Grace (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), and Brooke Magnanti (“overcriminalization”).

From the Archives

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