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Posts Tagged ‘consensual crime’

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on October 26th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

As long-time readers know, I’m very fond of science fiction and fantasy; the difference between the two is that the latter describes a world which (by our understanding of the laws of the universe) could not actually exist, while the former describes a world which could but does not (at least yet).  As some have pointed out, though, the term “science fiction” is really too limited; very often the world described in such a story differs from our own not due to some scientific discovery or technical development, but in a social or cultural way.  For this reason, some writers and critics prefer the term “speculative fiction”, which broadens the genre to include things like alternate-history stories; my tale “For I Have Sinned”, for example, imagines what our modern world might be like had the Catholic Church won the Crusades and successfully suppressed the Protestant Reformation.  The story is an example of a type called a dystopia; while a “Utopia” is a fictional world better than our own1984 (at least in the writer’s estimation), a dystopia is one that is worse.  But just as the traditional science fiction of yesterday (e.g. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Destination Moon) can become the science fact of today, so can what was once the stuff of dystopian speculation become the true and horrible political reality.

The process is usually very gradual, just as technological development is; a poisonous idea becomes established in one place and spreads to others, expanding in scope once it’s in place.  The wicked Swedish model of prostitution law, which defines women as moral imbeciles and men as their evil oppressors, is sold to the delusional, the misandrist and the ignorant as a means of “protecting” women from dirty, bad sex, and though it has been repeatedly beaten back in England and Scotland it has now taken root in Northern Ireland:

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted by 81 to 10 in favour of making it a crime to pay for sex…Northern Ireland is the first part of the UK to vote in favour of the measure.  There is still some way to go before the bill becomes law, but the prospect of a ban on paying for sex in Northern Ireland has taken a significant step forward…Opponents included Justice Minister David Ford who claimed it would be difficult to enforce…

“Difficult to enforce” is an understatement; the US has criminalized both the buying and selling of sex for a century now, and though only a tiny fraction of all such transactions are caught by police it takes “sting” operations and other violations of civil liberties to accomplish it.  In other words, even if you believe that stopping consensual behavior is somehow a good thing, prohibition can’t actually accomplish that.  It does, however, provide a useful excuse for the construction of a vast police state; “protecting children from porn” was the rationale for establishing the UK’s internet censorship regime, but it’s now being extended to allow suppression of any viewpoint of which “authorities” disapprove.  Nor will they be content with merely silencing such people:

People found guilty of Internet “trolling” in Britain could be jailed for up to two years…following a number of high-profile cases of abusive and threatening behaviour on Twitter.  Justice Secretary Chris Grayling…[said] “This is a law to combat cruelty — and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob”…last month a man was jailed for 18 weeks for what prosecutors described as “a campaign of hatred” against a [politician].  “These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life…” Grayling said.  “That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence”…The government proposes to amend two existing laws to extend the maximum jail term and also the time limit for prosecutions, from six months to three years…

I edited this item to remove the cases politicians are using to win the support of the thoughtless and focus on their real motive: shielding politicians from criticism.  Thoughtcrime is now a very real offense in Britain; perhaps you read about this case:

Robul Hoque…[was convicted for] his collection of Japanese Manga or Anime-style images alone…His barrister Richard Bennett said:  “These are not what would be termed as paedophilic images.  These are cartoons”…Police found the images when they seized Hoque’s computer…none were of real people.  They were classified as prohibited images as they depicted young girls, some in school uniforms…exposing themselves or taking part in sexual activity…Six years ago he was prosecuted for having “Tomb Raider-style” computer-generated pictures of fictional children…

That’s right, he was convicted for having drawings of a taboo subject.  Drawings.  And pay attention to that line about how they found the forbidden doodles, because their power to search you for “evidence” (or any other excuse) is increasing all the time:

Registered gun owners in the United Kingdom are now subject to unannounced visits to their homes under new guidance that allows police to inspect firearms storage without a warrant.  The new policy from the British Home Office went into effect Oct. 15…Britain’s gun owners were subject to the home visits before the update, but the inspection had to be conducted with prior notice…the Association of Chief Police Officers [claimed] the revamped guideline does not grant police any new powers…ACPO is also encouraging [informants] to call a new Crimestoppers hotline to report any [people they want harassed by police]…The Home Office is [pretending] that legitimate guns could easily be stolen and wind up in the hands of terrorists…

Of course, guns aren’t the only things which terrorists might use; knives, household chemicals, cars, computers, money…why, the list is endless!  Clearly the police need the power to “inspect the storage” of those things in private homes, without warning or warrant.  And if the owners aren’t home when they arrive, well, in the interests of national security the police should clearly be given the power to let themselves in, and if the place gets ransacked in the process you can be sure those in charge will dismiss any claims the householders make with the assurance that proper procedures were followed.

time machineAll of us are time travelers, and though the process is both slow and unidirectional, it inevitably brings us into a world very different from the one where we started.  Unfortunately, we cannot merely hop into the TARDIS and return to the past or visit a different future if we don’t like the one in which we find ourselves; we are stuck there, like it or not.  Tyrannies don’t materialize without warning overnight, nor are they usually imposed from outside any more; the world around us is a prison we have allowed the powerful to build, stone by stone and bar by bar.  They capitalized on our fears, our intolerance, our greed, our envy, our laziness and our wrath, and though we could have stopped them many times over we were always more concerned with what other people were saying, doing or thinking, and thus handed our self-proclaimed “leaders” the weapons they needed to dominate us all.  Welcome to the future, and if you think all the things I described above are hunky-dory just wait until the inexorable action of legal precedent brings your face under the boot next.

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Governments need to be reminded (at least annually if not constantly)…that [their] overthrow…by a disgruntled minority is always a possibility.  I would like to see most if not all politicians and their minions paying for their power and privilege by being forced to live in a constant state of nervous anxiety.  –  “Guy Fawkes Night

I only call myself a libertarian because it’s the only popular term which has some general resemblance to the way I see the world.  Technically, what I am is a minarchist, someone who is to an anarchist what an agnostic is to an atheist; I’m also more or less an agorist.  But use either of those terms to most people, even to many libertarians, and you’ll be greeted with blank stares; I had to add both of them to the Microsoft Word dictionary while writing this.  For most uses, “libertarian” is good enough, though it means that I have to endure opprobrium from semi-literates who write for sites like Think Progress, Alternet and Salon and seem to believe that “libertarian” means “caricature of a fundie plutocrat” or even “whatever I don’t like”.  The demonic misnamed “libertarians” in these yahoos’ tiny minds are like cartoon distortions of Ayn Rand characters,Gilded Age political cartoon mustache-twirling (excuse me, “beard-stroking”) villains who are perfectly happy with the system except insofar as their own power-plays are disrupted by the good, noble, valiant white knights in government.  Not counting the cops and the military, of course; those are bad parts of government, totally and completely disconnected from the good parts who only try to “help” people by telling them how to live, why to fuck, whom to associate with, where to shop and what to eat, wear, buy, watch, say, do and think.  Said directives are of course implemented by laws (for our own good, naturally) and enforced (look carefully at that word) by the cops they pretend to disapprove of and locked up in the prisons run by powerful crony-capitalist corporations they pretend to hate (in Facebook posts made on their iPhones).

In truth, I’m as far from many libertarians (especially Libertarians) as I am from most Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Socialists; the main difference is that the vast majority of libertarians, no matter what their flavor, respect my right to have different beliefs from them and different opinions about which issues are most important.  And that makes them in my estimation vastly better human beings than those who assert the right to ownership over my person, my time and my effort, even if I disagree with them on a lot of issues and just can’t get terribly excited about the trials and tribulations of people who’ve made more money since breakfast than I will in my entire life.  One important way, perhaps the most important way, in which I differ from most libertarians (especially Libertarians and “libertarian-leaning” anybodies) is that I do not believe our current system is salvageable.  Unlike most people, I harbor no delusions about American exceptionalism and no 21st-century chauvinism; I refuse to comfort myself with the childish belief that the culture and time in which I live is magically different from all others that have gone before, because of God or science or “democracy” or “feminism” or mass communications or what-have-you.  As a pragmatist and a student of history, I recognize that all cultures  – every last stinking or shining one of them – are as mortal as the humans who build them, albeit on a slightly larger time scale.  No culture is immortal; all of them are born, grow, mature, sicken, decline and die, usually over a period of a few centuries to a millennium at best.  And pretending that wholly different cultures are the same merely because they occupy the same territory and call themselves the same thing is as absurd as insisting that Elizabeth II is actually Queen Victoria.  The United States of history, the patriotic fiction to which so many believe they owe fealty, is as dead as the dodo; it was born with an ugly birth defect which doomed it from the start, and the monstrous doppelganger which grew like some loathsome fungus inside of its carcass would not be worthy of saving even if that were possible.  Nor are the majority of modern Western nations any better.

I’m not calling for a revolution; I’m saying that a revolution is inevitable, whether we like it or not.  The powerful have made it inevitable, despite the best efforts of those philosophically-inclined revolutionaries we call the “Founding Fathers” to minimize the extent to which the power-hungry could take control over the less-able, less-connected, less-ambitious and less-evil.  They wanted to make it impossible for anyone to gain very much power over anyone else; they failed.  It was partly due to the toleration of an institution in which one human being could literally own another (the birth defect to which I alluded earlier), partly due to oversights and errors in the legal instruments they created, and partly due to new and horrific disguises for totalitarianism developed by successive generations, but mostly due to the fact that what they wanted was flat-out impossible; any system of government can and will be remade by the evil to give them power.  Last December, Clark Bianco of Popehat wrote a powerful polemic about what our system has become; in it he refutes the common argument that the system is “broken” (which implies it can be “fixed”, a contention he and I both deny).  It’s well worth your time, but here’s a sample:

Twenty years ago I was a libertarian.  I thought the system could be reformed. I thought that some parts of it “worked”… whatever that means.  I thought that the goals were noble, even if not often achieved.  The older I get, the more I see, the more I read, the more clear it becomes to me that the entire game is rigged…the system is not reformable.  There are multiple classes of people…the bottom of the hierarchy…can, literally, be killed with impunity…Next up…are…regular peons…[who] can have our…rectums explored at the roadside…because the cops got permission from a dog…Next up…are the…disciplined-voting-blocks…[then] the cops…judiciary and…prosecutors…and…at…the [top]…the true ruling class: the cabal of (most) politicians and (some) CEOs, conspiring both against their own competitors and the public at large…The system is not fixable because it is not broken.  It is working, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to give the insiders their royal prerogatives, and to shove the regulations, the laws, and the debt up the asses of everyone else.

Burn it to the ground.

Burn it to the ground.

Burn it to the ground.

The fires have already started, though the Powers That Be are expending considerable effort to extinguish them while simultaneously denying that they exist.  Sooner or later they will develop into a conflagration which will consume the current edifice; with any luck those who next build on the site will be able to salvage a few sound parts of the old structure to incorporate into the new one.  Maybe the next experiment will get a bit closer to the goal and last a bit longer before it, too, degenerates into tyranny.  But history teaches us that is rarely the case; things have indeed slowly improved over the ages, and there’s no reason to suspect that trajectory will change.  But the improvements always come from virile young cultures learning from the mistakes of the old ones, not from moribund old ones too obsessed with past triumphs to bother gazing upon their own decaying visages in the mirror of time. burning capitol

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 28th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

Tyrannical laws, especially those against consensual behaviors, are supported by many people suffering from the delusion that these laws (or other, subsequent laws based on the precedent of the laws they supported) will never, ever be used against them or anyone they care about.  Of course, this is nothing but a naïve fantasy; the fact of the matter is that, as I have written many times before, a weapon once forged can be used by anyone who cares to pick it up; furthermore, once its pattern has been invented there is nothing to stop other tyrants from forging similar weapons to use against those they wish to oppress…which might very well include those who supported the first law.  Over and over again we see examples of prostitution laws being used to arrest women who have never been paid for sex in their lives; because a whore looks exactly like any other woman, and her “criminality” derives entirely from taboo motives for an activity which is completely legal otherwise, cops routinely arrest  “women who carry condoms, answer personal ads, wear sexy lingerie, go without lingerie, fail forced ‘virginity tests’ask a cop if he’s a cop, ‘act sexy’, go out after dark without a male chaperone, or even just ‘look like a prostitute’.”  In some parts of the US, some of these acts are themselves criminalized, leading to a bizarre and evil regime in which a woman can be arrested and convicted for “acting like a hooker” even if everyone agrees that no “act of prostitution” took place.

I’m sure most of you heard about this incident last month:

[Hollywood actress] Daniele Watts…has claimed she was “handcuffed and detained” by Los Angeles police officers because of her race.  Two police officers approached Watts and her white boyfriend Brian James Lucas when they were seen showing affection in public, the actress said…she refused to produce her photo ID…and was then handcuffed and held in a police car as the officers tried to figure out who she was…

Daniele Watts arrestNaturally, the police chief insisted that the cops acted properly (as police chiefs always do, even when an unarmed person is shot in the back or an autistic teenager is tased to death):  “Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is defending the actions of officers who briefly detained and questioned an actress…following reports that she was ‘involved in a lewd act’ in a parked car…”  Setting aside for a moment that the initial reports said she was suspected of prostitution, not “indecent exposure”, it seems disingenuous to claim that their being an interracial couple had nothing to do with the harassment.  Here’s an account from a woman who, though she was eventually arrested for having the same name as someone for whom there was a warrant, was initially stopped merely for being a black woman in a vehicle with a white man, despite the lack of “indecency”:

…I rode shotgun in a pickup truck with…my friend, Nathan…On the way to the restaurant we drove too far and had to turn into the entrance of a very wealthy, very white neighborhood to get back on track.  Suddenly we heard a police siren coming from an unmarked SUV, signaling for us to pull over.  Before the arresting officer made it to Nathan’s car, two more unmarked SUVs and a police car joined them…Their first question was addressed to Nathan: “How do you know this woman?”…

In other words, prostitution laws provided a useful pretext for a stop.  Certainly, there are many such pretexts, including the hundreds of inane traffic regulations that actually exist and the dozens of others cops just invent on the spot.  But it’s telling how often prostitution laws are used as that pretext when it’s black women the “authorities” want to harass:

…Kantaki…Washington, Cydney Madlock and J. Lyn Thomas say a member of the [Standard] hotel’s security team accused them of being hookers.  The women had just come down from…[the] bar…and settled in the lobby when several men approached them and offered to buy them drinks…a security guard from the hotel whispered something in the man’s ear and ushered him away.  “After…he comes over to me and my friends and says, ‘Come on, ladies.  You can buy a drink but you can’t be soliciting,’…We were like, soliciting?  He said, ‘Don’t act stupid with me, ladies.  You know what you’re doing’…Dude, I’m a lawyer and these women are educators…Why the hell would I be in here soliciting prostitution?”  Outraged, Washington demanded that the guard give her his name and the name of his manager…When she and her friends approached the manager…they were met with indifference…Several weeks later, Washington received an email from…the hotel inviting her and “three guests back to The Standard for a bottle of champagne…followed by dinner…”  None of the emails…addressed the prostitution accusation…

Of course, they’re lucky he was only a rent-a-cop; otherwise it might’ve gone more like this:

A Galveston couple is suing three police officers who they say arrested and beat their 12-year-old daughter after mistaking her for a prostitute…Named as defendants are…Gilbert Gomez…David Roark and Sean Stewart…Dymond Larae Milburn went outside her home…to flip a circuit breaker about 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 22, 2006.  Responding to a call that three white prostitutes were soliciting in the neighborhood, the plainsclothes officers jumped out of an unmarked van…and one of them grabbed the girl, who is black…the officers did not identify themselves as police and…the officer who grabbed her, later identified as Roark, told her, “You’re a prostitute.  You’re coming with me.”  Her parents, Wilfred and Emily Milburn, heard her cries for help and came outside to see the hysterical girl hanging on to a tree and screaming “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” while two officers hit her in the head, face and throat…Two hours later…emergency room…doctors found she had a sprained wrist, two black eyes, a bloody nose and blood in an ear…Weeks later, the girl was arrested during classes at…school, where she was an honors student…She was tried a year later on a charge of resisting arrest, but the judge declared a mistrial on the first day…Wilfred Milburn was arrested the…day [after the initial incident] for interfering with police and assaulting an officer…

super cop mind probing machineThe systemic racism of the American “justice” system is hardly a secret, and only a fool would pretend that the removal of any one law would do much to stop police abuse of black people; they would simply use another of the many laws available to them under universal criminality.  But just as legislative precedent can be used to build new laws, so can judicial precedent be used to overturn old ones.  The vast majority of the laws used to harass all people, but especially minorities, are those against consensual activities because they allow cops to stop, annoy, question, beat, chain and cage peaceful people who have done nothing to anyone else, based purely on cops’ whims and feelings.  To accuse someone of prostitution, a cop need not even produce drugs to plant upon his victim; all he needs is a prejudice or a wanking fantasy.  And the eradication of any such vile law is a step toward eradicating all of them.

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Dave Krueger used to run an excellent blog named Sex Hysteria! in which he chronicled the many instances of human stupidity about the subject.  “Sex trafficking” was only one of the many topics he covered, and I first heard about the “gypsy whores” myth from him.  Alas, real life eventually put so many demands on his time he could not continue the blog, and he doesn’t write as often as he used to, however, he recently reappeared on Twitter and I hope this isn’t the only guest spot he does for me.

One doesn’t have to be an avid follower of the news to notice that American law enforcement is becoming ever more tightly integrated into the day-to-day affairs of ordinary citizens; you no longer have to be suspected of a crime (in the traditional sense of the term) to warrant the interest of any of a multitude of police agencies with overlapping jurisdictions at federal, state, and local levels.  Almost every government agency that generates regulations has an enforcement branch armed with guns making sure you aren’t braiding hair or arranging flowers without a license, dealing non-approved milk, buying too much cold medicine, or allowing your kid to sell lemonade, etc.  Government insists on using its police powers to dictate even the tiniest details of human commerce; in today’s America, if you breathe, you are probably a law breaker.

But even aside from the regulatory environment, fabricated crime has replaced traditional crime as the central focus of the justice system.  In a traditional crime, some act injures a non-consenting person in some way; in a consensual “crime”, all parties engaged in the activity consent to it.  Consensual crimes may still result in injury, but no force was used to compel anyone into being a party to them.  Consensual crimes include almost all prohibitions on drugs, sex work, gambling, and usury; laws specifically targeting minorities (race, gender, and sexual orientation) belong to the same class.  Without compulsion and victimization, it is rare for anyone to report such “crimes”; that is the crux of what differentiates traditional from consensual crime from a law enforcement perspective.  Equally important is that many more people engage in outlawed consensual behavior, and usually do so more often than they would commit traditional crimes.   In other words, consensual crime creates an endless supply of easy targets for law enforcement.

Over the course of the 20th century, the US justice system experimented with and expanded its focus on consensual crime; in recent years, federal grant programs and asset forfeiture laws have actually incentivized police departments to divert resources away from traditional violent crime fighting.  Because people who engage in consensual crime rarely complain, law enforcement must resort to “stings” and confidential informants (CIs) to produce evidence of law breaking; a sting consists of tricking someone into committing the outlawed act, and a CI is anyone willing to testify, in exchange for cash or favors, that someone else committed a crime.

The most prolific campaign against consensual crime started in the 1970s with Nixon’s “War on Drugs”, which triggered a perpetual erosion of the civil liberties which were once considered a defining characteristic of American freedom.  Key among these lost freedoms are protections against self-incrimination, unreasonable searches, and privacy in general.  The U.S. now has the distinction of having more criminals behind bars than any other country on the planet, and virtually all convictions now come from plea agreements induced by prosecutors who overcharge a defendant and then offer to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.  The path from freedom to prison has become a high-volume assembly line consisting largely of clerical steps in a Kafkaesque system that holds all the cards.

Mixed with the bad news that all Americans are subject to harassment and arrest is the sobering fact that police are not subject to the same laws as the rest of us; there are no consequences when they don’t respect our rights.  In the absence of public outrage and irrefutable proof of misconduct, the entire justice system stands ready to shield cops from accountability.  Nothing has exposed this culture of corruption like the widespread use of video-capable cell phones to expose cops blatantly and routinely lying about the facts of an arrest, but even when caught red-handed it’s rare for a cop to even be fired, much less charged under criminal law.  Cops are also shielded from damages stemming from civil suits; successful suits are paid by taxpayers.  On top of that, police are taking on a more militaristic character; SWAT teams that were once intended for dangerous situations like hostage standoffs are now used to serve routine search and arrest warrants.  This militaristic, us-against-them, mindset instills an attitude that the public is the enemy; escalation of violence is becoming a reflex law enforcement reaction rather than a tactic of last resort.

Is there any way to reverse this trend?  Even as traditional crime rates plunge, the fear-mongering “tough on crime” rhetoric that permeates election campaigning remains very effective with voters.  And though millions of Americans are adversely affected by the government crusade against consensual crime, they remain largely disorganized and ignored by the establishment media.  The drug war throws thousands out of work, making many unemployable, eroding the tax base and exacerbating poverty, while the voting block that benefits from this taxpayer-financed crusade (cops, prosecutors, judges, the prison system, treatment specialists, attorneys and the illegal drug industry itself) thrives.  So although there has been some limited success with rolling back some state marijuana laws, there is not going to be any noticeable diminishment of the powerful industry that benefits from consensual crime laws without massive public pushback; this, however, is highly unlikely because  activists who fight consensual crime laws are divided by category.  The crusader against the drug war doesn’t see gamblers or sex workers as natural allies, etc.

The only viable prospect for reversing this trend is for everyone with a dog in the fight to recognize they are all fighting the same foe; rather than remaining in isolated pockets of resistance, they need to join together as one movement with one voice.  It’s time to make the case that consensual crime laws and the American police state are everyone’s problem.  This is not a left vs right issue; the current state of affairs has been an enthusiastic hand-holding joint venture between both Republicans and Democrats, but history shows that parties can change when pushed by a large enough interest group.  If you’re a sex worker, gambler, or drug war opponent, you are part of that interest group.  If you are the spouse or parent of someone whose life has been ruined because of some low-level consensual crime arrest, you are part of that interest group.  Even if you’re just a taxpayer who doesn’t want your taxes used for persecution, you’re part of that interest group.  There is power in numbers; we need to stop sending thousands of people to prison every year for no other reason than we don’t like what they do behind closed doors.

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Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
   –  Robert Frost

95 ThesesThe Nation is the oldest continuously-published weekly magazine in the United States, and describes itself as “The Flagship of the Left”.  So when it prints a story with the headline, “Liberals and Feminists, Stop Enabling the Police State”, it’s the rough equivalent of a nun sneaking copies of Luther’s 95 Theses into the hymnals at Easter high mass.  For several decades now, self-described “leftists” have done their level best to ignore or deny their part in the creation and expansion of the American police state, despite the fact that its chief rationales – the various wars on consensual behaviors – were birthed, nursed and reared to maturity by the Progressives, the intellectual and spiritual ancestors of today’s statist “left”.  This state of denial is especially pathetic when the subject is sexual prohibition; soi-disant “progressives” will reflexively and spasmodically point to the right whenever the subject comes up, their left eyes tightly shut so they don’t have to acknowledge that at least half of the crusade, and the lion’s share of the current rhetoric, is growing out of their own beloved sinister avian appendage.  But JoAnn Wypijewski isn’t having any of it; she demands that her compatriots recognize the blood on their hands:

…At the crux of [mass incarceration]…is a hard truth, a moral and political catastrophe…It is the lust for prosecution, the clang of the prison door; and the liberal/progressive/feminist hand in enabling the police state and confusing punishment with justice…any invocation of freedom or human rights or bodily integrity that does not also recognize this is hypocrisy…follow the wire linking Ferguson to swelling violence budgets and shriveled social ones, to “quality of life” policing and spatial control of the poor, to police-cordoned “free speech zones” and mass arrest of protesters, to the border “fence” and Border Patrol surge, to the “cleanup” of Times Square’s XXX underbelly for hypercorporatized, hyperpoliced space, to random police stops and dog sniffs, to random drug testing, to the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, to NSA snooping, to the $350 billion US security business, to TSA full body scans, to drug blimps, to asset forfeiture…to immigrant detention, to “zero tolerance” at schools, to enhanced penalties for “hate crimes,” to sex-offender registries, to civil commitment, to torture as policy, to legalized discrimination, to legalized suspension of constitutional rights for ex-cons, to the redefinition of pimps as “traffickers” who…may be sentenced to life, to vice squad entrapment systems, to law upon law passed amid the clamor for safety, to…the gulag of prisons…that [lock away] about 7 million Americans…

Sex, or fear of it, has been almost as important in the construction of this nightmare state as racism.  Just as the legal gains of the civil rights movement were blunted by…the incipient “war on drugs,” the sexual revolution…[was] short-circuited by serial sex panics, police power in loco mariti, Victims’ Rights as a mask for vengeance and the conception of the Sex Offender as a new, utterly damnable category of human being…“Carceral feminists”…elided personal power with state power, eschewed the project of liberation…and took as [their] armor the victim’s mantle…when a 6-year-old is called a sexual harasser for stealing a kiss, and men in civil commitment have their dicks hooked to plethysmographs while forced to watch violent porn as “treatment”…the sex-crime side of the prisoner supply chain shows no sign of slowing…

This is not the only recent article in The Nation which is critical of anti-sex feminism and its cringing enablers in the American left; others have questioned the Swedish model and Canada’s flagrant defiance of its own Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize prostitution.  Nor is The Nation the only major publication to recently publish sex-work-friendly articles; the New Republic recently featured a very positive,Becoming Belle Knox accepting article on disabled men who hire sex workers, and the Daily Dot (not remotely in the same class as the other two, but still) published a review of the documentary Becoming Belle Knox which not only condemned anti-sex work bile from both the “right” and “left”, but also correctly categorized “sex work isn’t work” and “emotional connection and sex have to go hand in hand” as myths.

Many of my readers and my fellow activists are so stunned by the incessant “sex trafficking”, anti-whore din that they begin to despair; I would be lying if I said I never felt that way myself.  But history shows us that prohibitionist noise is always most cacophonous just before the masses begin to turn against those prohibitions; consider the history of “Drug War” propaganda and anti-gay activism and you’ll see what I mean.  Though it’s nearly impossible to find a story about sex work in the mainstream American media that doesn’t consist entirely of tinned prohibitionist rhetoric, parroted police statements and regurgitated neofeminist poison, the truth is beginning to percolate into the alternative press, some magazines and many professional organizations.  There has been a subtle but noticeable change in the air over the past two years, and it’s becoming more pronounced with every passing month; within a few years sex work will be a full-fledged controversy like gay rights was in the ‘90s, and that’s the first step toward our inevitable victory.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 3rd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Irish politician John Philpot Curran once said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”  Later orators repeated the aphorism and rephrased it into its current, less cumbersome form, but the main point is still the same:  that governments and other would-be rulers are driven by the pathological need to control others, so those who value their freedom can literally never take that freedom for granted.  Every politician, every prohibitionist, every social engineer and every naked ape with a title, uniform or badge is bound and determined to bring as many other people under his control as possible, and because this drive springs from his warped psyche you can be sure he will never relent as long as he remains above ground.  It is therefore necessary for every free person to pay close attention to those who imagine themselves “leaders” or do-gooders, because every law or policy such people propose is intended to curtail others’ freedom in some way which they always insist is vitally necessary, yet virtually never is.  Even after some oppressed group wins its rights after a long struggle, it can never again relax; as surely as night follows day there will come those who want to reverse that situation, either openly or subtly, usually under the guise of “helping” the group’s members or managing some sort of “problem” they supposedly cause the rest of society.

This is why I say that sex worker rights activism is not for the faint of heart.  Imagine dedicating your energy, your industry, your time and your reputation to a war you absolutely will not win.  Read that again, and understand that I mean it exactly as it’s written:  the sex worker activists alive today will never see a final victory, not if they live to be a hundred.  I’m not saying conditions can’t or won’t improve, nor am I saying that partial victories can’t be won in some places, nor that in the course of centuries people won’t look back upon sex work prohibition as an ugly form of collective mental illness.  What I’m saying is that until and unless we completely discard the barbaric concept of consensual crime, every single hard-won right could be taken away practically overnight by some coalition of politicians and other self-interested petty dictators.  Did you know that as the result of the 1980 political deal which settled the lawsuit Coyote vs. Roberts, prostitution was decriminalized in the state of Rhode Island, and remained so for almost 30 years?  Yet it is not so today, because in 2009 an unholy alliance of cops and prohibitionists successfully convinced the legislature (which had resisted several recriminalization attempts) to once again turn sex workers and clients into police prey by using the excuse of “sex trafficking”.  In New South Wales, which a 2012 study praised as having the “healthiest sex industry ever documented”, prohibitionists are scheming at this very minute to once again subject sex workers to the horrors of criminalization:

In 2010, Vicki Dunne  prompted the [Canberra] government to hold an inquiry into sex work laws…[which] came to a predictable and reasonable conclusion that…decriminalisation…is effective…Three years later Dunne – this time with Gulia Jones on side – now pretends that the inquiry never happened.  The two of them headed overseas with Peter Abetz and Christine Campbell (Victoria).  These politicians took in sights of dubious usefulness in Sweden, and Korea, met with NOT A SINGLE sex worker group, and even threw in a trip to France for good measure…it’s a long way to fly to witness pieces of paper that one could download on the internet…sex work is work.  Sex work is not a social ill that needs fixing.  Sex work is not a political hobby horse for bored politicians.  And sex workers are not Dunne or Jones’ rescue project.  Sex workers don’t need interference in our lives from those who view us as victims…

Other politicians appear to understand the havoc recriminalization would wreak, but still can’t resist playing god with other people’s lives:

…Currently in NSW the sex work debate is centred around whether…licensing brothels is worth pursuing…Since it has already failed…in Victoria and Queensland you would think such a silly idea wouldn’t get very far.  However the political lure of licensing as a ”solution” to supposed ”crimes” within the NSW sex industry has gained much more traction than it deserves.  Licensing brothels does not replace the current regulatory work councils are required to do.  Instead it adds an extra layer of bureaucracy…A licensing system sets up a series of hoops for brothel owners, staff and workers to jump through prior to being deemed ”legal”…Because licensing is difficult to comply with, the industry is divided into two:  those who can meet the licensing standards become ‘’legal’’, and those who cannot are deemed ‘‘illegal’’…The idea that newer, harsher laws will somehow make regulation of sex work easier is flawed.  And it has proven to be incorrect in the other states where it has been implemented…

Elena JeffreysBoth of those essays were written by Elena Jeffreys, who (as a sex worker and activist in a country with different regulatory regimes in different states) is well-qualified to judge which work and which don’t.  Most people are not so placed, and are thus easily led astray by imported “sex trafficking” myths and the cynical lies of anti-sex “feminists” attempting to corrupt the agendas of human rights organizations.  Health officials, social scientists and all others who have studied sex work agree that the tyrannical Swedish model harms sex workers and society at large, while the New Zealand model of decriminalization helps sex workers and eliminates the coercion prohibitionists pretend to be so very concerned about.  Yet even in New Zealand, held up as an example for the entire world, prohibitionists are working to destroy everything; one group wants imposition of the Swedish model, while another “merely” wants restrictions on where and how whores can work (including a suggestion that they be confined to brothels). Fortunately, activists in both New Zealand and Australia understand the need for vigilance and are fighting hard to abort these schemes before they can go very far; I hope they succeed, and that when our turn comes at last American activists can maintain the same level of watchfulness.

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Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.  –  Thomas Jefferson

To hear the cops tell it, they’re the “thin blue line” that stands between civilization and a species of chaos resembling Mad Max meets Lord of the Flies in the midst of an immense drunken free-for-all in Somalia.  Never mind the fact that full-time police are a comparatively recent social development, that violent crime was  declining for centuries before their invention, and that police spend the majority of their time collecting revenue and harassing people for consensual behaviors; we’re just supposed to accept their word for the fact that they do a vital, dangerous,  thankless job, and that those of us who criticize them would be on our knees kissing their boots and thanking the gods for their timely arrival were we to be menaced by keyboard-wielding perverts, pimps with broken taillights or drug dealers thumbing their nose at the social order via “rolling stops”.

Groundskeeper WillieAs in so many other cases, the myth police want you to believe is almost nothing like the truth.  Despite dramatically-increased armament and out-of-control “officer safety” policies justified by the pretense that police work is incredibly dangerous, the truth is that mechanics, commercial drivers, farmers, linemen, garbage men, steelworkers, roofers and pilots all have more dangerous jobs than cops.  Logging and fishing are dramatically more dangerous; cops’ level of on-the-job peril is roughly equivalent to that of groundskeepers and professional athletes.  Moreover, the “lawbreakers” they supposedly “protect” society from are mostly productive members of that society who are robbed at gunpoint for breaking arbitrary rules, violently attacked for amusing themselves in ways the “authorities” have forbidden, and tricked into breaking laws which carry lifelong penalties for “crimes” that didn’t actually happen and which the cops’ targets had no intention of committing in the first place.  The reason for this evil fuckery?  To continue the myth of the “thin blue line”, naturally; since there aren’t enough actual criminals to justify the existence of even a fifth of the cops we have (and not a hundredth of their weaponry & equipment), they have to manufacture “dangerous criminals” in order to convince the Great Unwashed that they are not merely a necessary evil but heroic defenders of “innocent children.”  Here’s a recent example:

…Jason Lee…maintains that there is a stark difference between intending to buy sex and intending to buy sex from a minor…After a few text messages with his chosen escort, Lee was told that she was [supposedly] a 16-year-old runaway.  The ensuing scenario is familiar to many of the men whose sullen mugshots are posted online and featured in media reports…Phoenix-area officers have used similar tactics to net dozens of suspects who police [pretend] were ready and willing to exploit young girls…But many child-prostitution defendants say police’s use of the adults-only section of the site is bait-and-switch technique that makes felons of those guilty of misdemeanor intent and no actual crime.  Media attention is typically quick to follow the arrests, unjustly branding average “johns” as pedophiles…Lee admits he planned to pay for sex with an adult and said several factors led him to believe the woman at the other end of the text message was 18 or over, despite her claims.  How else would she book a hotel room?  If she was really a runaway, wouldn’t her parents track her down by her cell phone or credit card?…Lee believed the woman was just…lying…about her age to squeeze more money from him, he said.  Further…the age of consent in Maryland, where Lee was visiting from, is 16…police [pretend that magical] code words in their [fake] ads…are…searched by those who aim for the young.  Defense attorneys say the opposite is true — their clients don’t know to weed out these words.  [But] few suspects, even those with a reasonably strong defense, opt to fight the charges at trial…

Nor is it only in Phoenix that such sleazy con games are played; Polk County, Florida, home to another Neanderthal Nazi of the same noxious mold as Phoenix’s Joe Arpaio, is in some ways even worse:

…While detectives used to post ads suggesting an underage teen or child was available for sex, they now routinely post more innocuous personal ads of adults on traditional dating sites.  When men – many of them under 25 with no criminal history – respond, officers switch the bait and typically indicate their age is really 14 or 15 years old…law enforcement is also now routinely making first contact with men…responding to their ads on dating sites…after men start conversing with what they think are adults, officers change the age they claim to be, but try to convince the men to continue the conversation anyway…If the men indicate they [aren’t] interested, they [are] still often arrested for just talking to [a cop]…

Even if the men have the resources to hire a good lawyer, the damage is already done because Judd splashes their pictures across the media and insists that they’re “perverts” even after they’re exonerated by a court:

…Judd…either didn’t realize – or didn’t care – that a number of the 132 men whose faces appeared on his mugshot “big board” had already been cleared of committing crimes…”It’s fair…Because…when we arrest them as ‘sexual perverts on children,’ I’m going to call them [that]…”

Sooner or later, people are going to start waking up to the fact that cops are not their friends and nothing like their servants; they lie constantly, are willing to do anything to enrich themselves and can arrest, jail and destroy anyone they take a dislike to as easily as they pick their noses. They can do all these things without oversight, checks or consequences because the majority have willingly eaten their shit for several generations; our only hope is that they stop swallowing and making “nom nom nom” noises before every last one of us is condemned to prison, probation or some registry of artificial “offenses”.

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