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We did this now to protect her for now and in the future, because this could get worse.  She could be taken.  –  one of the worst mothers ever

I’m on my way to New Orleans today, and will be home Thursday night; it’s been a wonderful tour, but it’s a good thing it didn’t go on much longer because I’m only barely on schedule now and I really need to catch back up.  Today’s first video is from Gideon and is one example of what is probably a very typical situation that, before video, always went undiscovered.  The second video is from Jesse Walker  (who also contributed “supervillains”), and though I don’t usually like “cute kid” videos I thought this little guy’s “logical” arguments were very funny.  Everything above the first video is from Grace, and the links between the videos are from Dave Barry (“headline”), Jemima (“Hello Kitty”), Popehat (“no reason”), Franklin Harris  (“texting”), Nun Ya (“lucky”), Michael Whiteacre (“Chelsea”), and Mike Riggs (“life sentence”).

From the Archives

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on July 20th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

All week long I collect sex-work-related news stories for my Saturday “That Was the Week That Was” news columns, and when I prepare the columns each item is filed under a subtitle which refers back to a previous post.  But as I explained in “Case Study”, “every once in awhile a story comes along which is so interesting, funny, horrible, odd or whatever, that I like to analyze it at length.”  This is one of those stories, and my attention was attracted to it by two things: one, that it was difficult to fit into only one heading; and two, that there’s so much ignorance here one almost has to admire the journalist’s dedication to spreading misinformation.  After all, she could have obtained nearly all the information she needed from the two activists she interviewed; instead, she chose to shove their input to corners of the article and instead concentrate on the pronouncements of a clownish cop and a self-important academic (whom I’ve criticized on several occasions for his dopey assumptions).  Author Jessica Guynn wastes no time, starting off with monumentally dumb statements from the very beginning:

For years, sex workers have been the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley that no one talks about.  But…the sex industry has been closely linked to boom times in the Bay Area going back to the Gold Rush…

Scott CunninghamThat it’s the San Francisco Bay Area is neither here nor there; every place there are men with money to spend, there will be sex workers for them to spend it on.  Guynn seems to imagine herself an intrepid investigative reporter exposing some hidden scandal; I’m sure she thought it clever to intersperse sentences about the mundane doings of sex workers with those describing recent anti-sex worker pogroms and the overdose death of a Google executive, no doubt hoping the latter two would lend some lurid spice to the rather dry meat of the former.  And even when she’s dealing with basic, easily-checked facts, the “pimps and hos” mythology she learned from cops (or television, or other equally-ill-informed sources) seems to interfere with her ability to transcribe them; when the story first appeared she referred to the screening service Preferred 411 as “Preferred911”, and even in the corrected story she portrays it as an escort service directory (with obligatory scare quotes around the perfectly ordinary word “escort”) rather than what it is, a screening service and ad platform.  I’m sure activist Siouxsie Q (the first source quoted herein) could’ve thoroughly explained P411 to Guynn, but instead she quickly turns to Scott Cunningham, who might actually be able to turn out good research if he’d consult sex workers instead of proceeding from his own wholly-erroneous preconceptions:

Scott Cunningham, an associate professor at Baylor University who studies the economics of prostitution, said the Internet has made the sex trade “extraordinarily efficient,” taking it from the streets and red-light districts to home computers and smartphones.

This is the fundamental flaw in Cunningham’s work:  he believes (and has repeatedly stated) that prior to the internet, the majority of whores worked on the street; all of his studies are based on this fallacy.  Street workers have never been the majority at any point in history, and under criminalized 20th-century conditions they represented 15% or less of American prostitutes.  While it is true that some street workers moved indoors after the advent of the internet, the majority of internet-based escorts are those who used to work in hotels, take out ads in alternative papers or contract with escort services (which largely advertised in phone books).  But Cunningham insists on comparing apples to oranges, resulting in strikingly-wrong statements like, “Before the Internet, clients didn’t know where to find the prostitutes and prostitutes did not know where to find the clients.”  That’s news to me, and to every other sex worker who did quite well in pre-internet times; I can assure Professor Cunningham that my clients had no trouble whatsoever finding me, and the idea that hookers had trouble finding clients seems to proceed from another ridiculous and false assumption:  that clients are only a small subset of all men.

Kyle OkiThe belief in a lost era of woebegone streetwalkers crying plaintively in the night for rare and elusive clients (and its counterpart, the creed of the magical whore-multiplying powers of the internet) is also clearly evident in the statements of Sgt. Kyle Oki of the San Jose Police Department Human Trafficking Task Force (formerly known as the San Jose vice squad), who said “prostitutes are gravitating to the Internet because they can charge clients they find there more money for the same sex acts”.  This is a fine example of the principle of Garbage In, Garbage Out; Oki proceeds from a set of faulty assumptions, and authoritatively states a conclusion which is literally the exact opposite of the truth:  because the internet makes it easier for amateurs to place ads, cheapskates can more easily find cut-rate girls and established ones must either charge less or do more to compete, or else resign themselves to less business.  In other words, contrary to Oki’s blather, most prostitutes find that because of the internet they can charge clients less money for the same sex acts.  In 2000, the going rate in New Orleans was $300 per hour, above the national average; though it’s still possible for an established lady to get that, $300 buys a lot less than it did 14 years ago.  And in some areas (such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles) the bottom has almost dropped out of what was once a very lucrative market.

The rest of the article suffers from the same syndrome that permeates all of prostitution law and much of the public’s conception of sex work:  the fallacious belief that sex is different from all other human activity, and sex work different from all other work.  Would a reporter find the idea that any other entrepreneur had grossed almost $1 million over several years of brisk business remarkable?  Of course not, but somehow it becomes so when the entrepreneur is a sex worker (I also doubt Guynn would use the demeaning word “servicing” to describe the work of a landscaper, chef, masseuse or therapist, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day).  And then there’s this line: “One sex worker [said] she uses credit-card payment processor Square to charge clients…” to which any normal person’s response should be, “So what?”  How many businesses have you run into lately that don’t take credit cards?  Accepting credit cards is not remotely notable, for sex workers or anyone else, and it hasn’t been for at least two decades; the fact that a businesswoman uses a popular payment processor doesn’t make it any more interesting.  But that’s par for the course with mainstream articles on sex work; rather than discuss important issues like sex worker rights, police brutality and how “authorities” use the moral panic around “sex trafficking” to justify massive violations of human rights, reporters prefer to present dry-as-dust details that they portray as somehow shocking because the transaction involves sex, then liberally moisten the mixture with lies, myths and sexual fantasies from self-appointed “experts” who know less about sex work than they do about quantum physics.

Professor Scott Cunningham says these indoor sex workers will have to wait at least another century for their clients to find them.

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“Liberal” and “conservative” have become mere insults for political imbeciles to hurl at each other, nonsense words with about as much meaning as “poopyhead” or “cooties”.  –  “None So Blind

Venetian courtesanThough I made a big change in my procedures this month, it was largely invisible to my readers: given the chance to join my husband in New Orleans for a few days (the first time I had been away overnight since starting the blog), I had at last figured out how to schedule my columns for automatic posting.  Since I usually posted my columns soon after breakfast (between 9:30 and 10:00 Central Time) I set the automatic posting up to that time as well; it wasn’t until the following April that I switched to the fixed 10:01 UTC posting time I use today.  That New Orleans trip spawned “They All Axed for You”, an essay on the Crescent City’s dialects; another one-day trip with two other whores produced “Weird Sisters”.  But aside from those two trips, it was business as usual; August saw the usual Q & A column, a two-part update column, a two-part miscellanea column, and a fictional interlude (“Ghost in the Machine”), The Exorcistbut no harlotography; by this point I was publishing those columns roughly every five weeks rather than once per month, and since “Aspasia” was on July 31st the next installment (“Lulu White”) had to wait until September 3rd.  That allowed it to be a quasi-sequel to “Storyville” one year before; the only August column in that category was “Blackball” (sequel to “Nuisances”).

Tex Avery Wolf“Sex trafficking” hysteria had become a major topic by this time; “The New Victorianism”, “One Size Fits All”, “It Looks Good On Paper”, “Spotlight”, “Crying for Nanny” and “Law of the Instrument” all cover various aspects of it.  But I didn’t ignore other aspects of sex work: the two-part “In Denial” looked at sugar babies; “None So Blind” and “Part of the Picture” bizarre anti-porn rhetoric; “Business Opportunity” anti-stripping hysteria; and “One Born Every Minute” scams targeting sex workers.  “Crying Wolf” and “Inevitability” examined the degeneration of feminism, “Droit du Seigneur” the way cops and politicians Heavy Hand of Justice by Kevin Moorethink they have sexual rights over women, “Saving Them From Themselves” teen sexting hysteria, and “Counterfeit Comfort” the failure of “sex offender” registries to do what they’re supposedly intended to do.

Only four columns escaped easy categorization this month, and three of them describe personal matters:  in “Leaving the Life” I tell the story of my first attempt at retiring from escorting; in “Top Ten” I rank my “top” columns to date in various ways; and in “The Fur Is Flying” I describe a brouhaha between two activists.  The odd man out is “Follow the Leader”, wherein I point out that government actors often do things they would arrest and cage individuals for. Le Droit Du Seigneur by Jules Arsene Gardier (1872)

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 22nd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

There’s a persistent belief that some areas in the United States are more liberal and urbane than others, and while I suppose that’s true to some extent the differences are generally cosmetic.  It would be more accurate to say that some areas enjoy pretending to be more sophisticated than others, or at least that they delude themselves into believing they’re more sophisticated.  But pull back the curtains or lift the rug just a bit, and you’ll find the vilest and most disgraceful ignorance collected there, just out of view.

Seattle stereotypeTake the state of Washington, for example; it has a reputation for being very liberal, modern and forward-thinking, as exemplified by its being one of only two states to decriminalize recreational cannabis, and by being home to grunge rock, Microsoft and Starbucks.  But while Washingtonians may be very accepting of tech, drugs and rock and roll, they behave like pearl-clutching Victorians when the subjects is ess-ee-ecks and positively foam at the mouth if such impurity exists anywhere in close proximity to money.  For example, Washington is one of several states that forbid alcohol in strip clubs, and cities there regularly enact bizarre and schoolmarmish restrictions on lighting levels, the distance dancers must keep away from patrons, etc.  And when it comes to prostitution, they’re completely barking mad:

…some of the silliest, most absurdly exaggerated and just plain  stupidest “trafficking” tripe in the entire country erupts forth from the Pacific Northwest at least once a week these days…in the name of “fighting sex trafficking” the Washington legislature actually passed a law which would have totally destroyed the internet as we know it, and despite a federal slapdown they’re at it again; this is also the state which devotes hundreds of man-hours to trying to trick coffee-stand waitresses into flashing their tits so they can be charged with “prostitution”.  And who could forget the hilarity which ensued when Shared Hope International held a program warning high school girls, “Don’t run off to the other side of the country with strange adult men after turning over your life savings to them, because pimps are cool and abortion is sex trafficking”.  Or something like that…

white trash capital of the worldThe crusade against caffeine-dispensing harlots mentioned above is largely concentrated in Snohomish County, in other words suburban Seattle.  The police of the county’s largest city, Everett, are especially obsessed with the wanking fantasy that there are whores hiding in every coffee stand, and have aggressively persecuted a number of shops for years.  But they’ve apparently tired of this game, and decided to go after a bigger target:  rather than trying to “end demand” for coffee, they now want to regulate the sun on the grounds that it causes “sex trafficking”:

When the weather gets nicer in Everett, the number of suspected prostitute sightings increases…(the SUN) appears to be a strong factor in the increase in traffic.  Although, website traffic for prostitution maintains a steady pace throughout the year [sic].  We believe there is evidence that people are brought to Everett from neighboring states/counties by pimps…

I can’t help but be fascinated by this reporter’s idiosyncratic capitalization, fondness for sentence fragments and creative use of scare quotes:

…there are many factors that may lead someone into the “sex trade” and…some women are independent “workers”…

But the cops’ un-self-conscious hypocrisy is even more fascinating:

…There are many reasons and/or intricate layers involved for someone to enter the sex trade (either voluntarily or by force).  Drug addiction, mental health, lure of money, survival and forced/coercion just name a few [sic].  The bottom line:  Women are human beings; someone’s daughter, sister, mother or friend.  Treating them with respect and dignity is our priority…

Because deceiving, hunting, beating and caging a woman, subjecting her motivations for consensual behavior to state scrutiny, denying her right to choose her own work, thinking of her not as an individual but only in relation to some man, and referring to her normal economic needs with the dysphemistic phrase “lure of money”, constitute dignified and respectful treatment in the minds of Everett cops.  The rest of the article refers to other “end demand” practices embraced by the Everett police, including “Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution” orders, which are essentially similar to Britain’s ASBOs; in the United States, however, such practices are flagrantly unconstitutional and can only continue until challenged in court – which, needless to say, means they’ll probably be around until at least the end of the “sex trafficking” panic.

As I said at the beginning, there’s a persistent belief that some areas in the United States are more liberal and urbane than others; the actual truth is that they’re all pretty authoritarian and unsophisticated where sex is concerned.  It’s just that some places seem less aware of how ridiculous, childish, bluenosed and tight-arsed their anti-sex policies make them look to the adults of the world, and within those areas are cities which, due to being surrounded by normalized prudery, feel free to carry their priggishness to truly clownish levels.

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Sex work is part of the human story.  Accepting and embracing sex work…should be our humane, as well as our pragmatic, approach to the reality of our human lives.  –  Richard Horton and Pamela Das

Rough Trade

Two [Frankfurt] men were sentenced…to long prison terms for raping and abusing two prostitutes…A 34-year-old has…ten years and three months…[while] his 33-year-old accomplice was sentenced to eight years and three months…

License to Rape

Two American paratroopers stationed at a US military base in Italy have been arrested for allegedly beating, raping and robbing a pregnant Romanian prostitute…The suspects…agreed to pay…But after the three reached a secluded area, they allegedly decided to get what they wanted for free.  The two…beat up and raped the prostitute…for…three hours…then…left [her]…in the…field…and made off with her purse…

Lying Down With Dogs

From Vietnam:

…the People’s Committee has asked the National Assembly to…[increase] the…penalties on sex buyers and publicly naming them in the local community and…[to replace] the words “sexual intercourse” with “sexual satisfaction” [in the law] in order to cover behavior causing sexual arousal and the sex trade of homosexuals…

Saving Them From Themselves

The UK continues its drive to become a colony of the US:

Police have warned teenagers of the risks that…”sexting”, can pose to their safety, with the possibility they could wind up on the sex offenders’ register.  Several teenagers have already been cautioned over the practice…and police have stressed the risk that sexting poses to teens’ future welfare, as well as their criminal record…

Schadenfreude 

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing rescue industry figures exposed as frauds:

…Lady Katerine Nastopka…was surprised to see [reporters] at her fundraiser for the Rescue Children From Human Trafficking Foundation…In 2011, she made national headlines when she called herself a “Countess”…[and] claimed she had a connection to the famous Guggenheim family of New York.  Police arrested her and two others on charges of fraud for lying about the connection.  As part of a plea deal, she promised the court she would never use the Guggenheim name again…Nastopka…agreed to [speak to reporters but]…the interview never happened because [she] ran away…none of [the politicians she claimed as members of her board of directors]…know anything about [it]…

The Sky is Falling!

A reporter breathlessly asks if dating sites have a “prostitution problem“, in other words if sex workers use them to advertise.  You know, like sex workers have been using personal ads to advertise for as long as such things have existed.  But poor little Caitlin seems to imagine that the practice only started with “the advent of Craigslist”, and furthermore that large numbers of professional escorts will waste their time going on dates without first ascertaining whether money is forthcoming.  Her ignorance is so pronounced that it merely comes across as cute rather than deeply insulting when she suggests that it’s sex workers who need (presumably compulsory) “safe-sex education” rather than her fellow amateurs.

A Broker in Pillage

…the US Embassy in Pretoria…announced that the Department of Justice was conducting a workshop to teach South African law enforcement the practice of civil forfeiture…civil forfeiture is anti-democratic, and allows law enforcement agencies in the executive branch to attain some degree of independence from civilian or democratic oversight…foreign partnerships in law enforcement investigations allow the DOJ the ability to use worldwide NSA dragnet surveillance to find and acquire targets for asset forfeiture, particularly under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

An Example To the West

retired sex workers in Zimbabwe have opened a prostitution consultancy…to help young women protect themselves from being taken advantage of.  Lima Mankarankara (65) said they teach the new sex workers about the industry and how it works.  They also teach them how to handle clients…pizza girl

The Widening Gyre

I have a mental bet with myself about how silly these “slavery” claims will get before the end of the panic.  Bonus meme: pizza!

…Newspaper Expressen reported earlier this week that human traffickers had gone from “just” selling sex to selling women as lifelong slaves.  The newspaper’s sources said the cost for a slave…is €2,000 ($2680).  For 700 kronor ($100) one can rent a couple of girls for a day, for cooking, cleaning, or anything else…”It’s like ordering a pizza,” Per Hjort, a Stockholm detective, [said]…

King of the Hill

Most of this is the typical masturbatory filth (including the vile claim that most men who pay for sex are pedophiles), but it does include a link to the DoJ fantasy “report” which produced the infamous “top 13 child sex trafficking hubs” list: Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Dallas, Detroit, Tampa, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, New York, Washington, Las Vegas and St. Louis.  I do not believe these are intended to be in order of magnitude, so I’ll just count them as “top 13″ claims. Lancet sex work infographic

Shift in the Wind (TW3 #44)

The biggest news story of the week was the release of a World Health Organization report calling for total decriminalization of both drugs and sex work; it was accompanied by this reiteration of The Lancet‘s support for our position:

Sex work must be decriminalised if the world is to stand a chance of controlling the AIDS pandemic, say scientists contributing to a series of research papers in the Lancet medical journal.  Sex workers…are subject to repression, violence and abuse…at the hands of those who are supposed to uphold the law, according to the series of seven research papers presented at the International AIDS Conference…decriminalisation of sex work…across all settings…would reduce HIV infections by 33% to 46% over the next decade…

Original Sin (TW3 #321)

Neofeminist rhetoric and pop “addiction” charlatanry has now been completely incorporated into evangelical Christian beliefs about sexual “sin” to form a fully-developed “sex trafficking” religion:

Opposition to sex trafficking is almost universal…But many also…believe pornography production and distribution is a “victimless crime.”  They don’t connect the dots that lead from pornography directly to sex trafficking.  Pornography is a powerful stimulant that can actually alter brain patterns, creating addiction…Our sexualized culture, with its constant sexual portrayal of women, affects not only boys and men but girls and women, too.  Mass-marketing advertising campaigns directed at young girls seem to dictate that they must dress and act like prostitutes to be valued…girls increasingly view themselves as objects in a process called “sexual self-objectification.”  One result is today’s epidemic of “sexting”…Catherine Mackinon says that consuming pornography is an “experience of bought sex and thus it creates a hunger to continue to purchase and objectify, and act out what is seen.”  Pornography, she says, is “advertising for trafficking”…

Pimping the Pimp

Nevada “authorities” continue to use ridiculous “pimp” myths to enrich themselves and increase their power:

…A bill which would provide more resources for victims of human trafficking passed in the House of Representatives…Metro Police’s Vice Section rescued 91 women from the slave trade last year and 148 the year before.  The legislation could have an impact on men who trap these women. The prosecution of pimps wouldn’t be possible without the rehabilitation of survivors…The bill accesses millions of dollars for non-profits, who apply for money to serve homeless, runaway victims of severe trafficking…

Presumably, “rescued from the slave trade” actually means “arrested and caged for consensual sex”, because all the police departments in the entire country don’t discover anything like 91 coerced prostitutes per year.  And “serving victims” seems to mean “locking up whores indefinitely until they agree to participate in kangaroo courts.”

Number Puzzle (TW3 #324)

Cathy Reisenwitz spoke to some German sex workers:

…Germany’s decision to legalize prostitution not only helped sex workers, but actually decreased the number of human trafficking victims…According to the data, violence against sex workers is down, while sex workers’ quality of life is up…From 2001…to 2011, cases of sex-based human trafficking shrank by 10 percent…The mean age of a sex worker in Germany is 31.  Besides not being supported by data, the claim that legalizing prostitution increased human trafficking also defies common-sense economics…sex slang

Nasty Words (Extra Edition) 

The guy who did the massive Timeglider charts of slang terms for genitalia has unveiled three new ones: slang for sexual intercourse, for oral and anal sex, and for orgasm, bodily fluids and contraception.  Because he could.

Whimsical Notions

A group of former prostitutes has filed a lawsuit against the South Korean government seeking more than $1.2 million in compensation, alleging that it exercised significant control over their activities…The women worked in special government-designated areas near U.S. military bases beginning in the late 1950s…[the regime included] mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and women who were infected were sent to government-run camps…[where] their human rights were violated…It is thought to be the first such legal action taken by women — now elderly, but known as “western princesses” during their youth — who once worked in brothels that catered primarily to U.S. troops…in the decades after the Korean War…

Catastrophic Consequences

SCOT-PEP…exposed proposals from Police Scotland to impose unannounced “welfare visits” on sex workers who work from home…”Operation Lingle”…includes a programme of increased online surveillance of suspected sex workers, a clear violation of the civil liberties both of sex workers and the general public.  Members of the public will also be asked to speculate about which of their neighbours might be a sex worker and report them to the police, despite the fact that selling sex remains legal in Scotland…

As you may recall, we’ve seen this tactic before in Canada.

King of the Hill (All Traffick, All the Time)

Having his ridiculous numerical claims debunked multiple times in the national media hasn’t stopped Texas politician John Cornyn from making more of them:

Child sex trafficking has historically had a huge effect on the current immigration crisis in the U.S., and according to two Texas congressmen…hundreds of thousands of victims [have been] identified…”At least 700,000 people were reported as victims of international trafficking each year, 14,500-17,500 of which are women and children who are trafficked specifically into the United States”…

To Protect and Serve (TW3 #413)

Since their local case was dismissed, they took it to the feds:

…30 strippers are suing the San Diego police department after cops…forced…[them] to pose “nearly nude” for photos taken by members of the police department’s vice squad…approximately 10 officers detained the women for nearly an hour without a warrant or probable cause, and…cops made “arrogant and demeaning comments” while “ordering the women to pose in various positions and expose body parts so that the police could ostensibly photograph their tattoos”…Police department spokesperson Lt. Kevin Mayer described the raids and photos as a “routine” part of the city’s permit to regulate establishments with nudity…and…is meant to deter the women from engaging in “illegal acts”…

The Public Eye (TW3 #423) Land of Smiles poster

This is a refreshing change:

The phrase “human trafficking” conjures thoughts of sex slaves.  Most people mentally picture oppressed and exploited women…chained to a life of prostitution from which they must be freed…Erin Kamler…[traveled] to Thailand…and…found that things are not that simple…she discovered a world where politics and morality trumped human rights…feeling the need to educate the masses, Kamler…wrote a musical about Thailand’s anti-trafficking movement.  The Los Angeles premiere of Land of Smiles will run Wednesday-Saturday, July 23-26, at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, before heading to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August…[in] the story…Emma…arrives in Thailand an abolitionist wanting to “rescue” all the sex workers.  After speaking with Lipoh, who is being held at a detention center following a raid of the brothel where she worked, Emma begins to question what “rescued” really means…

Nice While It Lasted

Like hell it doesn’t:

New Zealand’s second-largest political party wants to reverse the burden of proof in rape cases if it gets into power, making defendants prove their innocence…Andrew Little, the Labour Party’s justice spokesman, has outlined plans for a monumental shift in the justice system…he said…”This approach does not contradict the fundamental principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty”…

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 15th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Emperor JulianDuring the reign of the Emperor Julian a man named Numerius, who was governor of Narbonensis (what is today southern France), was accused of embezzlement by one Delphidius; because Numerius was a high official his trial was presided over by the Emperor himself.  Numerius’ defense consisted entirely of denying his guilt, but since Delphidius had no actual evidence this was enough.  When it became clear that his attempts to trick Numerius into self-incrimination had failed, and that the charge would fail with them, Delphidius cried out, “Oh, illustrious Caesar!  If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?”  Julian’s famous (and quotable) reply was, “If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?”

The principle was not new in 4th century Rome; it is clearly stated many times in Roman law, appeared in both Athenian and Spartan legal codes, and traces of it appear in Deuteronomy.  From Rome it passed into the Western legal tradition, and it is one of the pillars of English common law.  Indeed, every schoolchild knows that a person on trial is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  However, this is no longer true in many cases; all over the West, but especially in the United States, this powerful defense against tyranny once enjoyed by everyone from beggar to prince has been slowly eroded away in the name of expediency.  Prosecutors eager to “score” convictions take advantage of the vast arsenal of overlapping laws to charge people with so many different crimes for one supposed act that conviction on even a small fraction of them would result in decades of imprisonment; the frightened (and often completely innocent) victim nearly always agrees to some lesser charge rather than face the prospect of spending most of his life in a cage where he may be repeatedly raped, tortured  and denied even the respite of death.  Intimidating a victim into confession circumvents the need to have any evidence at all, much less enough to secure conviction in court.

In some kinds of cases, however, prosecutors don’t even need this kind of barbaric threat to induce a confession, because the presumption of innocence is either directly weakened or effectively nullified by other prosecutorial weapons; or, the accusations are handled in special kangaroo courts where the presumption does not exist; or, the accused is simply punished directly by the police without the need for a trial, evidence or anything else.  And what kind of crime, you may ask, is so heinous that it justifies undermining a venerable principle and virtually ensuring that huge numbers of people will be punished for things they did not do, or else receive punishments that are wildly disproportionate to something they did do?  Mass murder, perhaps?  High treason?  Burning down orphanages?  Stealing war widows’ pensions?  Plunging whole countries into economic depression?  No, something that in the minds of American is far worse than any of those:  pleasure-seeking, especially sexual pleasure.

In many American states, if a neighbor calls the cops because the couple next door is fighting, “the husband is arrested…no matter what the wife says…and prosecuted.  Because many wives rightly refuse to cooperate with such proceedings, the Office on Violence Against Women…authorized so-called “evidence-based” prosecutions, kangaroo courts in which…hearsay…is allowed and the accused man is denied the constitutional rights of confrontation and cross-examination.”  On university campus, a similar third-party accusation can subject a young man to a “campus tribunal” such as the one described here:

…the tribunal does pretty much whatever it wants, showing scant regard for fundamental fairness, due process of law, and the well-established rules and procedures that have evolved…for citizens’ protection…the…allegations were a barrage of vague statements, rendering any defense virtually impossible…Nor were [they] supported by any evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.  The [accused]…was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel…The many pages of written documentation…were dismissed as somehow not relevant…witnesses against him were not identified…nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser… 

The war against people who enjoy ingesting substances spawned an even viler abrogation of the presumption of innocence:  civil asset forfeiture, by which the police or a court can steal a victim’s property under the ludicrous pretense that it (the property) has committed a crime; since inanimate objects have no rights, the state can take it unless its owner can prove its innocence (a reversal of  the normal burden of proof).  From the drug war the practice expanded to the War on Whores, and in the US and UK the police now routinely rob sex workers and clients of money, vehicles and other property.  And when there’s nothing else for greedy cops to steal, there’s always a victim’s reputation:

[St. Louis, Missouri] police are reviving a push to…humiliate…those prowling the streets for prostitutes.  “Johns”…will receive postcards…admonishing them for their crime, giving reminders about…sexually transmitted diseases and listing their court dates…In addition, police say they plan to routinely provide local news media with mug shots of those charged with prostitution crimes…

Pillory stocksThese so-called “Dear John” letters are not unique to St. Louis, nor even to the United States; the practice of publicizing “mug shots” on television, the internet  or even billboards is also widely used.  The pretense used to justify this is that these shaming tactics are not punishments but merely “public records”; I’m sure people who lose their jobs or families due to these actions are comforted by the distinction.  The truth is obvious to anyone whose mind is not warped by the “law and order” sickness:  all of these practices – the extrajudicial punishments, the legally-sanctioned robbery, the kangaroo courts, the plea bargains – are just ways to get around the inconvenient necessity of actually having to prove a person has done something wrong before subjecting him to violence.  Oh, well, presumption of innocence had a good run, almost 3000 years; I suppose we should be grateful for that much.  But it sure was nice while it lasted.

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An abolitionist is an abolitionist…whether Radfem or Muslim.  It is a little bit moot whether you kill someone with a bullet or by making their lives impossible while cranking up the stigmas…You are still just as dead, and in my honest opinion the bullet is quicker and cleaner.  –  Maggie Jones

Bad Girls Alix Tichleman

Ladies, it is NEVER a good idea to provide drugs to a client, because if something goes wrong they’ll be looking for a scapegoat:

An alleged prostitute has been charged with manslaughter for injecting a Google executive with heroin and then leaving him to die of an overdose…Alix Tichelman …is being held on…$1.5 million [bail]…Forrest Timothy Hayes…died Nov. 23 on his 50-foot yacht, Escape…His body was discovered the following morning by the yacht’s captain…Police say security footage from the yacht shows…Tichelman… gathering her belongings including drugs and needles, downing a glass of wine and lowering the blinds before leaving…Tichelman had an “ongoing prostitution relationship” with Hayes that began when she met Hayes on SeekingArrangement.com…

Only the sick mind of a cop could belch out a phrase as moronic as “ongoing prostitution relationship.”

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

Get it straight, cops; you have to rape a whore not to get in trouble.  Fairly paying her demonstrates you’re not the kind of person they want in their ranks: “[Florida cop Trenton Moore] was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.  Now he’s out of a job…”  And stealing the cash from the leaders of your cop gang is an even worse idea:

….£120,000 of seized criminal cash was taken from [a Scottish] police office by…Robert Moffat…£90,000 of that cash was found in Moffat’s house and buried under a slab in his back garden…That cash was then taken by…Dean Burnett as part of a £205,000 haul he blew on gambling and vice girls…Burnett…was jailed for 45 months…but was only ordered to pay back £5000…

Rooted in Racism

Sometimes “trafficking” just means “bringing in black people“:

A 30-year-old man has been sentenced to six months in prison for attempting to smuggle refugees into Sweden, after claiming he met them at a wedding in Germany and offered them a lift back…the man…hired a car from a rental firm in Stockholm.  He opted for a vehicle which could accommodate seven people, arguing that he needed the space as he intended to transport a set of large loudspeakers…He offered a lift to six people from Eritrea, who…were seeking asylum in Germany.  He said he received €600…as a thank you…but when he was picked up by border police he had €1,150 in his pocket…

They Just Don’t Get It (TW3 #18)

Reading stuff Pennsylvania reporters write about cops is like watching fellatio porn:

…Sgt. Rick Blake said…he’s discarded the notion that prostitution is a “victimless crime” because women choose to sell their bodies.  He said many women are forced into it…”backpage.com…is a way for them to advertise without being directly out in the view of…law enforcement,” Blake said…”None of them want to lead this life”…When a Florida woman was picked up in a sting…”She thanked us because this was truly her only way to escape from the people she was being used by”…

As Mistress Matisse pointed out, “women we arrest thank us” is the moral equivalent of “she liked it when we raped her”. 

Whatever They Need To Say

Bangladesh’s oldest brothel has been shut down following pressure from local clerics and politicians…More than 750 prostitutes in Tangail City were forced out of a cluster of houses that made up the 200-year-old Kandapara brothel…after the dwelling’s owners ordered them shut…[following] a march last week demanding the eviction of the sex workers…Monowara Begum, who heads a sex-workers group at Kandapara, accused the local mayor…of…threatening the women…“He…sent dozens of young men…they told us that we have only one hour to leave…or they would burn down the brothel with kerosene”…

Under Every Bed 

Just the same old revolting “all prostitutes are pimped addicts”, but nearly all of these wastes of ink include this nowadays: “South Burlington [Vermont] is a busy city of more than 18,000 people…right on Interstate 89…

An Example to the West (TW3 #316)

To commemorate the National Day of Sex Work, the Secretariat of Labour and Employment Promotion (STFE) of [Mexico City] gave 50 credentials to persons exercising sex work and recognized them as self-employed workers with social and labor rights.  The event…represents the second delivery of these documents…since last March, when the first group of 19 persons filed an injunction against the Law…which criminalized prostitution [in the city] as a crime “against the peace of the people”…[agency head] Patricia Mercado… admitted that public policy change was driven by the “Elisa Martínez” Street Brigade in Support of Women directed by Elvira Madrid and Jaime Montejo…[and] litigated by attorney Barbara Zamora…

Passive Voice

Radley Balko on a syndrome I’ve discussed before:

…Use of the passive voice in an admission of wrongdoing has become  so common that the political consultant William Schneider suggested a few years ago that it be referred to as the “past exonerative” tense.  You’ll often see a similar grammatical device when a police officer shoots someone.  Communications officers at policy agenies are deft at contorting the English language to minimize culpability of an officer or of the agency…

Policing for Profit Michael Mobley

When you’re a cop, armed robbery becomes “misdemeanor embezzlement” and decades in prison becomes a few weekends in the county jail:

[Virginia cop Michael Mobley] was sentenced to 30 days in jail…for stealing more than $3,000 from three prostitutes…he…pleaded guilty…to two counts of misdemeanor embezzlement…[and] can serve his sentence on consecutive weekends…Mobley…questioned [the victims] under the guise of a police investigation…[and stole their] money…

If he’d turned the money in to the head thugs, this would’ve been legal.

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Dr. Brooke Magnanti on the latest development in British “feminism”:

…Twitter has been a-bubble with prominent feminists endorsing Who Made Your Pants, a company which employs refugee women…to sew…underwear…with prices between £18 and an eye-watering £21.50 a pop…the implication (from people on Twitter, not the company itself) that not wearing them makes you not ethical or not feminist leaves a bad taste in the mouth…Many of the people who can’t afford to spend £20-plus [$34] on purportedly feminist knickers are themselves workers in a marketplace that devalues their labour.  This does not make them bad feminists, bad consumers, or bad people.  If we who are in a position of financial privilege are unable to recognise that, the fault lies with us – not with them…

Traffic Circle

Even the more ethical “human trafficking” folks are now starting to distance themselves from “sex trafficking” hysteria:

Human trafficking has become the cause célébre for sensationalist…media…a great deal of the…content is both inaccurate and irresponsible …[This] sensationalizing or falsification…is often excused…[as] “raising awareness”…[but] misinformed people…support policies and  organizations that are ultimately counter-productive…

The author, Ryan Turner, goes on to list what he considers the worst offenses:

…All human trafficking statistics should be regarded with some  skepticism…Misleading statistics obscure the true nature of the problem and…when…inevitably exposed as false or methodologically unsound, it undermines the credibility of the whole anti-trafficking movement…Conflation of sex work and sex trafficking often leads to policies that criminalize prostitution, making sex workers more vulnerable to violence and exploitation.  Meanwhile, the distinct needs of trafficking survivors are ignored in favor of “demand reduction”  programs that…harm…sex workers…Reveling in graphic details does not help victims and survivors, nor does it contribute in any meaningful way…The myopic focus on sex trafficking…draws attention away from the fact that the tomatoes we eat may be the product of forced labor in Florida…

Down Under (TW3 #350)

Prohibitionists insist decriminalization doesn’t work:

Police resolved a dispute between a sex worker and a client who refused to pay — by escorting the man to a cash machine to settle his $100 bill…A [New Zealand] police spokesperson said…”It…is a routine thing. Police would help any citizen having a disagreement whether they were a sex-worker or working in a pizza shop”…

What a Week! (TW3 #402)

Gunmen…attacked two buildings…in Baghdad’s Zayounah neighbourhood, killing at least 33 people including 29 women…there are suspicions the buildings were being used as a brothel.  The words “This is the punishment of those practising prostitution” were scrawled in black on one of the buildings…Michelle Obama bring back our girls

Here’s an excellent commentary on the story from another Maggie:

…where is the outrage…Where is the team of “British specialists” sent… to Bagdad to investigate…Where is Michelle Obama gormlessly holding up a #BringBackOurGirls sign?  Where is the hysterical Twitter campaign?  Perhaps if we were to relabel those women as “vulnerable victims of evil sex traffickers” their death might attract more sympathy?  As independent women…supporting themselves, not relying on some well funded NGO organisation to “rescue” them…they were…simply the “wrong kind of women” to be deserving of the ritual hand wringing…

Devil’s Advocate

Intellectual honesty is dead in the West:

Once we start creating sex-robots, what will be the limits we put on them?  It’s not a human being so you should theoretically be able to rock your human-like Rumba however you want, but there may be some situations that create moral panics even if the Cylon-victim involved is just a bundle of algorithms and plastic.  I asked the panel how society would deal ethically and legally with a hypothetical company that starts producing child sex-robots to satisfy deviant sexual desires…

You can guess the result.  Nobody wants to admit that a child-shaped toaster is still a toaster.

Drawing Lines

Another excellent Marijke Vonk essay:

…It’s a mistake to think that prostitutes are fundamentally different from other people…that sex is obviously and clearly different from non-sex, that sex work is strictly different from other types of work, that prostitution is clearly different from non-prostitution.  Violence against sex workers should be stopped…but it’s a mistake to think that violence won’t harm us all.  There’s no clear line between sex workers and the rest of us…

Maggie in the Media (TW3 #424)

Recorded while I was in Los Angeles early last month:

Schadenfreude (TW3 #425) 

More and more reporters are discovering the truth about “sex trafficking”:

Eden supposedly follows the life of Chong Kim…whose…story has been trumpeted [by "trafficking" fetishists while]…activists…have been busy poking holes in…it…In 2004, Kim published an essay titled “Nobody’s Concubine”…[which] has little in common with Eden.  Kim writes that she suffered abuse at home and was…raped by an acquaintance…She started working as a stripper and then for an escort service after escaping an abusive boyfriend and falling on hard times…Missing…is the desert warehouse full of teenage sex slaves in Nevada and the daring escapes described in her later accounts.  Over the years, Kim’s story has grown more lavish and sensational as the bad guys morphed from abusive clients and boyfriends to international gangs of kidnappers, pimps, human traffickers and johns that included law enforcement agents and even an unnamed former state governor…

Consult my research paper “Mind-witness Testimony” for an explanation of the psychological mechanism behind the inflation of stories like Kim’s.

Divided We Fall (TW3 #427)

Canada’s Bill C36 is merely the hook for this excellent essay against sexual prohibition:

…“unnatural” sex has always been problematic for moral crusaders.  For example, masturbation and homosexual acts were previously depicted as “harmful” to individual and collective health; yet such claims proved not only to be unfounded, but dangerous.  This, however, has not stopped the perfectionists among us from endorsing a new cause:  the present obsession with prostitution …the so-called deleterious effects of masturbation [were] widely discredited in…[the early] 20th century…and…by 1973, the American Psychiatric Association no longer considered homosexuality a disease…Yet here we are in the 21st century, justifying state repression of prostitution…we can get over our anxiety…whenever we come to realize that sex workers and their clients do not require “treatment”…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #428)

Many religious groups in Canada…have been enthusiastically supporting the government’s new prostitution bill…But dozens of Anglican clergy say the proposed law is immoral and endangers sex workers, and they are urging the government to withdraw it.  Rev. Bruce Bryant-Scott…has submitted an open letter to the justice committee signed by 33 of his…colleagues…

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