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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

I do not mind what she does as long as she comes back to me in the end.  –  George Keppel

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII of the United Kingdom, had an interest in women which is notable even by the promiscuous standards of noblemen.  Naturally, among his dalliances were a plethora of professionals, among them Skittles and La Belle Otero.  His first semi-official mistress was Lillie Langtry, whom we discussed in May; today I’ll introduce you to the last (and longest-lasting) lady to hold that position, from three years before his coronation until the day he died.  She had a number of things in common with Lillie: an ability to get along with their royal patron’s wife, Princess (later queen) Alexandra; a gift for discretion so highly-developed that many people to this day don’t realize (or else deny) that they were whores; and most importantly, a similar motive for taking up the profession.

Alice Frederica Edmonstone was born on April 29th, 1868, the daughter of Sir William, 4th Baronet Edmonstone, and his wife Mary.  Sir William was a retired admiral, and Alice (the youngest of nine children, all but one girls) grew up in Duntreath Castle on Loch Lomond, the home of her family since the 14th century.  Her childhood appears to have been wholly unremarkable; none of the short biographies I consulted have anything at all to say about her personal life before June 1st, 1891, when she married George Keppel, son of the 7th Earl of Albemarle.  But while her husband was of a good family with a long history of service to the Crown, he had very little money; had the two of them been content to raise their daughters quietly in the country his income would have sufficed, but both of them loved city life.  It was expensive to keep up with London society in those days, and since Alice was strikingly beautiful (with an hourglass figure, alabaster skin and thick chestnut hair) the two of them soon hit upon a simple plan: she would take on wealthy lovers whose income would finance their lifestyle and provide George with business connections.  He wasn’t her pimp, not exactly; she found her patrons and charmed them with her own abilities.  George’s contribution was to stay out of the way and provide her with the appearance of respectability.

The historian Victoria Glendinning wrote that Alice had the “sexual morals of an alley cat…sexual faithfulness to her husband wasn’t a value to her.”  But this is merely the ignorant attitude of an prudish amateur.  Cheating “alley cats” hide their affairs from their husbands; Alice planned hers with George.  Nor was he a weak cuckold sitting alone at home while his wife wandered; he also had many affairs, with Alice’s full knowledge and approval.  Her daughters later described their parents’ marriage as a “companionship of love and laughter”, and though this certainly could be taken as a biased view, it must be pointed out that the Keppels remained happily married for 56 years and died within two months of one another; though there is some speculation that Violet (born 1894) may have been the daughter of a lover, Sonia (born 1900) strongly resembled George, so there is little doubt that he was her father.  Though their relationship may seem strange to those outside of the demimonde, I’m sure every sex worker reading this will recognize it; they loved and trusted each other, and sex with others had no effect on that.

Alice’s first arrangement, with Ernest Beckett (later the 2nd Baron Grimthorpe), began less than two years of her marriage; it is Beckett who is believed to be the biological father of Violet.  Next was Humphrey Sturt, the 2nd Baron Alington.  There were a few others in the second half of the ‘90s, but on February 27th, 1898 she met “Bertie”, and the rest is literally history; within weeks she had replaced his previous mistress (the indiscreet Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick), and she remained with him until his death in 1910.  The arrangement was extremely lucrative for the Keppels: though Edward was notoriously stingy (by courtesan standards) with direct payments, he enriched them indirectly in several ways.  First, he gave her part ownership of a rubber company, from which she made £50,000 (about £3 million today); he also had his own top-notch financial advisers manage her investments, and got a high-paying job for George.

Even before she met the (then) Prince, Alice had acquired the reputation of being one of the most talented hostesses of her era.  She was intelligent, witty, well-informed and never unkind or intemperate, and she brought these characteristics and others into her role as royal mistress.  She was so discreet she even hated people to mention her relationship with the King a quarter-century after his death, and she was the only person who could bring him out of the black moods he often fell into.  These traits made Queen Alexandra actually fond of her, thus smoothing what could otherwise have been an extremely difficult relationship:  His Majesty insisted on having Alice in his entourage practically everywhere he went.  This was not only for her companionship; she was noted for her wisdom and political judgment, and the King depended on her advice.  Furthermore, so great was her skill at conversation he often employed her to feel people out on delicate topics, or to let his opinion be known without making an official announcement.  The reverse was also true; when ministers or other officials wanted to further explain opinions with which Edward disagreed, Alice could present them to him in such a way that he would at least listen without getting angry.

But despite her influence, she was unable to convince the King to cut back on his smoking and heavy eating, even after his health began to fail.  When he was dying in May of 1910 he asked for her to come to his deathbed, but apparently that was too much for the Queen; as soon as he lost consciousness she ordered the doctors to get rid of Alice, who reacted with uncharacteristic loss of composure.  She became so upset and hysterical, in fact, that she had to be removed by the guards; from that point on she was no longer welcome at court.  Alice had developed genuine feelings for Edward over the past 12 years; furthermore, she was by this time 42 and had become a bit plump, so she was no longer able to function as a courtesan.  She and George decided it would be best to leave London for a while, so they spent two years travelling in the Far East (ostensibly for their daughters’ education).  Upon coming home they bought a new house and returned to society, albeit more quietly; Alice also helped run a hospital in Boulogne during the First World War.  In 1927 they bought the Villa dell’ Ombrellino near Florence and lived there the rest of their lives except for 1940-1946, when the Second World War forced them to return to the UK; they stayed in the country for a time, but then moved into the Grosvenor Hotel in London in spite of the Blitz.  By the time they returned to Italy Alice was terminally ill with cirrhosis; she died at the age of 79 on September 11th, 1947, and George followed her two months later.

Famous harlots do not usually have interesting descendants, but Alice Keppel is an exception.  Her elder daughter, Violet, became involved in a torrid lesbian affair with the poetess Vita Sackville-West; apparently, Alice’s sexual liberality stopped short of That Sort of Thing, so Violet was induced to marry Denys Trefusis and break up with Vita.  Violet became a novelist and her affair appears in fictionalized form in a number of works, notably Virginia Woolf’s Orlando; she subsequently had other lesbian affairs, but because she learned to be discreet about them after Vita her mother had no objection.  The younger daughter, Sonia, married Roland Cubitt and had a daughter, Rosalind, who in turn married Bruce Shand and bore a daughter, Camilla, less than two months before Alice died.  When Camilla grew into a young woman she met and became involved with a great-great grandson of her great-grandmother’s most famous patron, but because he needed to make a political marriage, she instead married a cavalry officer named Andrew Parker Bowles.  The tendency to be a royal mistress, it seems, runs in families, though unlike her famous ancestress the Duchess of Cornwall eventually married her Prince of Wales.

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Since the very beginning of this blog, I’ve endeavored to be brutally honest on the subject of sex work; I have neither exaggerated the good aspects of the work nor hidden the bad ones.  This is not only because of my sincere belief that honesty is the best policy, but also because ugly truths that are hidden become weapons for enemies when discovered; sex worker activists must hide nothing, so the public will understand that we’re being just as honest about the things we deny as those we confess.  This month’s guest column is about one of those unpleasant aspects of sex work; sex workers’ ad copy often presents us as insatiable sex goddesses getting paid for having a ball, but in truth we really aren’t all that different from other women and work sex is generally much more about work than sex to us.  The essay is also quite unusual in that it asks for advice, much like a Q & A column; however, since the question came from a celebrity I thought it needed a different treatment.  Furthermore, though I was able to give the lady some advice from my own experience, in my opinion she needs very specialized input pertaining to an area of sex work I have no personal experience with:  commercial porn.  Because the nature of the question would tend to undermine her public persona, she asked to be published anonymously and of course I have agreed;masked woman I used the name “Anonyma” both in reference to Catherine Walters, and because the title “Guest Columnist:  Anonymous” has already been used.  Please respect her wish for anonymity by not speculating on her identity in the comments.  I hope that readers with porn industry experience (I have at least two of you in mind) will weigh in, and if you feel your advice is better given privately please email me with “Anonyma” in the subject line and I’ll forward it to her.   

I am an award winning porn performer. My image is that of a hypersexual young woman who is insatiable—a sex symbol for my fans. But off camera, that image could be farther from reality.  At first, my porn life didn’t interfere too much with my  real life; I was still able to have sexual relationships on camera, and my libido was as high as ever.  But after I was in the industry for a while, my sex drive dropped to non-existent and the thought of a man’s penis penetrating me now makes me cringe.  Why?  A lot of reasons.

On set, I’m expected to have sex for hours.  After a while, the sex isn’t pleasurable; it’s actually quite painful.  Long days on set paired with exhaustion cause tears and cuts in my vagina- oftentimes it happens on set and I am told to power through to complete the scene.  Having sex with a tear is excruciatingly painful.  My many sexual partners and exploits have also led to another painful problem:  pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection that causes inflammation of the uterus and ovaries. In other words, every time a penis gets deep inside me the pain is unreal.  Normally, pelvic inflammatory disease is treated with antibiotics and abstinence from sex, but being that my job is to have sex, it comes and goes for me.

Sexual trauma from my past has also given me a mental block that arises whenever I have a sexual encounter.  I, like many other survivors, suffer from PTSD because of the assaults I have experienced.  Also, the thought of having sex and not being paid for it now bothers me; it’s as though I only view men as dollar signs, as games to be won.  Before, I always loved men AND women!  But now I’m encumbered by this aversion to men, and the thought of having sex with a man does not appeal to me in the slightest.  I still find men attractive, but I don’t have the urge to jump on him and fuck him like I used to.

Obviously, this is causing issues in my relationship with my boyfriend.  He is amazing and understanding, but I feel guilty for not being able to please him; we have only had sex 2 times this summer (I know, it’s horrible).  I have seen a therapist and he advised me to quit sex work, and maybe he’s right; maybe it is causing permanent damage to my psyche.  But it’s my livelihood and I still love it in most ways.  Does anyone have any advice?  What do I do to get over this mental blockage?  How do I begin to have a normal sex life again?  Help! 

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Would you care to comment on this?  “…this video…[shows] a boy [being] sexually assaulted and molested by an adult woman, to the huge entertainment of a bullying, out of control crowd.  The boy is obviously trying to go along with good humor, fear-grin plastered across his face, but as things progress it’s obvious he’s being humiliated, shamed, and disturbed over sexual behavior he doesn’t fully understand, and being mocked the whole time for it…

inappropriate lap dance(Readers can watch the video at the link if they like, but it isn’t necessary to follow my response).  As you probably know, I vehemently oppose characterizing adolescents of either sex as “children”; it’s hard to tell the boy’s age from that video, but I’d guess he’s in puberty rather than pre-pubescent, and therefore not a “child”.  And if he’s not a “child”, that can’t be “child molestation”, Q.E.D.  Furthermore, I consider the criminalization of every possible transgression to be a smoothly-paved road to totalitarianism; there are at least five distinct levels of offense, of which criminality is the most serious.  When one uses a legalistic term like “child molestation”, one is at least strongly implying (if not outright stating) that one believes state violence would be an appropriate response to the situation; I do not agree that sending a goon squad to beat, chain, humiliate, cage and ostracize that woman for life would be an appropriate response to her offense.

Next, we have to consider the principle of harm reduction.  No matter how much prudes and child cultists wish to pretend otherwise, the evidence is that adult-adolescent sexual contact usually has few if any long-term effects; as I wrote three years ago, “most of the trauma associated with sexuality involving minors derives not from some mystical property of sex itself, but from the considerable fuss adults make over it when it is discovered (including endless invasive and uncomfortable interviews with creepy strangers asking highly personal questions), not to mention guilt over getting someone else in trouble”.  When I was gang-raped by three cops (which I’m sure you will admit was a far more egregious violation of my person than what we see in this video) I did not report it because “from my viewpoint the rape could last an hour and be over except for nightmares and flashbacks, or I could let lawyers and judges and cops subject me to a waking nightmare, a slow-motion rape that might go on for months or years.”  Some people who have been raped or sexually assaulted want to go through the legal process in order to gain closure, exact vengeance or attempt to protect others from violation, while others do not; it is nobody’s business which the victim chooses but his or her own.  Even full-out aggravated rape is not the end of the world, and non-violent sexual humiliation far less so; in the case of the boy in the video, the emotional and psychological damage from a protracted criminal prosecution would be vastly greater than any he experienced during this episode, and to what end?  To please adults whose sensibilities were offended, or who just have an axe to grind?  I think not.

axe to grindThen there’s the issue of projection.  As a side-effect of empathy, human beings have the unfortunate tendency to project their own emotions onto other people; we ask ourselves, “how would I feel in that situation?”  When it helps us to connect to others, to view their hurts as serious and their needs as worthy of consideration, it is a good and positive thing.  But when it causes a person to overrule the statements or wishes of the other, to say, “no, you’re wrong, you don’t feel that way because I would feel differently in your place”, or to demand state violence be inflicted on someone against the wishes of the actual victim, that is a horse of an entirely different color.  It’s fine for you to say, “I would be humiliated and upset if I were in that boy’s place”, or even “I believe that boy was absolutely mortified and traumatized”.  It is not fine, however, for his parents to demand retribution unless he wants it himself, and it is tyrannous for the state to demand such retribution on the grounds that the “victim” is state property.  Moreover, it is absolutely outrageous for uninvolved strangers to demand such retribution against the victim’s wishes on the grounds that it made them uncomfortable; that is the basis for virtually all prohibitionism, and thus a moral and social abomination.

I believe that what that woman did was probably wrong (in a moral sense) and certainly inappropriate; since I know nothing about the people involved I cannot say anything else for certain.  If I had been there I would have put a stop to it, but since no responsible person did we are left with nothing but a very limited amount of information…far too little to ruin two lives over.

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

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If you’ve just started reading my blog since last summer, you may be unfamiliar with Aella the Amazon; if so, this story will make little sense to you unless you first read “A Decent Boldness“, “A Haughty Spirit” and “Glorious Gifts“, in that order.

Wise to resolve, and patient to perform.  –  Homer, Odyssey (IV, 372)

To My Dearest Friend Phaedra, May Tethys Protect and Enrich Thee:

I pray this letter finds thee well, and that thou wilt forgive my poor grammar and worse penmanship.  I have written it in Tarshi because it is of the utmost importance that its contents are kept a secret between us, and I know that no one in my country and few in thine can read it.  My people already believe me to have become somewhat erratic due to my years spent in Man’s World, and I fear if they knew what I was planning I might not escape as easily as I did that unpleasantness about the spring festival six years ago.

youth with cattleThou wilt remember that I conceived by the wealthy Scythian who gifted me with the beautiful kine, and bore a healthy son; thou wilt also remember that by the ancient pact between their people and ours, sons go to live with their fathers while we keep the daughters.  Most of my people see a son as no more than bad luck, a necessary but unfortunate side effect of the lottery which might also produce a daughter.  But somehow I could not be quite so unconcerned; even in the three months between his birth and the Spring Festival I had become very attached to him, and though I spoke it not aloud I gave him a secret name in my heart, Asterios.  I suppose my Aunt Laomache is right, and I have been contaminated by outlandish ideas; I’ve known so many good men, both in Tartessos and during the months I spent at thy mother’s in Knossos, that I can no longer think of them merely as a necessary evil (no matter how bad most of them may be).  Furthermore, his father Niall and I have mated every year since at the festival, and he always makes me a present of more kine; I thus see my son (whom his father named Hemek) every spring, and again on the occasions when our clans have met for trading after harvest, and every day (or so I fancy) in the faces of the two daughters I have borne since, who strongly resemble their brother.

So though it is not considered proper among my people to care about the fates of sons, the heart cannot be commanded by mortal woman.  I know not why I feel such a powerful concern for his health and happiness, but feel it I do, and I have come to the conclusion that it is wrong to deny him the advantages his sisters will have.  The Scythians are great warriors and horsemen, but they are not civilized like we Amazons; they spend most of the year roaming the steppes, living in tents and grazing their herds hither and yon.  They have no writing and little in the way of art, and even their music and poetry are crude.  So though my son is already strong and skilled for his five years, I want more for him than to be a mere herdsman.  If wandering be the way of his father’s people, so be it, but let him wander among the cities of the West rather than the endless seas of grass in the East.  Let him go forth and learn about all the wonders of the world as I have, and come home a wealthy, important and learned man, perhaps one able to bring culture to his noble but naïve race.

I have spoken to Niall about this, and we are in agreement; he is very impressed with the knowledge I gained in my travels, and he would like his son to have similar learning.  If it meet with thy approval, we will send Hemek to thee two springs hence with the same captain who bears this letter; in the years I have known him I have found him to be an honorable man, and I believe I can trust him to deliver the boy safely into thy keeping in Knossos.  I also know thou hast important kin who can secure the necessary seals and papers to doubly insure that he not be abused or sold into slavery before he reaches thy house.  I charge thee to love him as thou lovest me, and to rear and educate him alongside thine own son; once I receive confirmation of his safe passage I will also pay the same captain to carry thee a sum of gold sufficient to pay whatever sum his teachers demand, and a like sum every year until his education should be complete.

Though I am a loyal Amazon and love my family and my mother country, I am no longer the pigheaded provincial I was when we met so long ago; I have learned that there are many ways for men and women to relate to one another, and have grown wise enough to understand that our ways are not necessarily the best.  Legend says our first queen established our laws so that we would never be dominated by men, and while I saw the kind of society she wished to avoid in several of the places we visited, in Crete I saw men and women living together as equals.  Perhaps thy people are morally superior to all others, yet I know them to be just as mortal; I therefore assume this to be the result of superior teaching and wiser laws.  That is the other reason I wish my son to be educated there; perhaps he can bring that wisdom back to his father’s people, and his mother’s people can in turn learn from them.  I do not believe that even a son of mine can create a new Golden Age singlehandedly, nor that such a thing is even possible.  But if change is to happen it has to start somewhere, and who better to start it than one of Amazon blood?

With Sincere Love and Gratitude, Thine Own True Friend Always

Aella sealed letter

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It’s time we let the prohibitionists know that if they want to pick on sex workers, we have a whole lot of brothers and sisters they’re going to have to face as well.  –  “Friday the Thirteenth Again

Red Umbrellas by Georgio BisettiEvery year has at least one Friday the Thirteenth, and there can be as many as three in a year; next year will be that way, with the day appearing in February, March and November.  The longest time that can pass between two such days is 14 months, as noted in “The Last Thirteen for Fourteen“.  But this year we only have one, in the middle of the year, and that’s today.  Regular readers know what this means, but for those who’ve joined us since December, here’s how I explained it last September:

…from soon after the beginning of this blog, I’ve asked those of you who aren’t sex workers yourselves to speak up for our rights on this day.  The gay rights movement didn’t really take off until the friends and families of gay people got involved, and…we’re going to need [similar] help to make our voices heard.  We need all the sex workers (such as strippers, dominatrices and porn actresses) whose fields aren’t currently criminalized, and the sugar babies and other women who have informally or indirectly taken money for sex…We need all of the men who hire us at least occasionally…[and] all of the women who recognize that…laws which can be used to arrest us will also work to arrest you.  We need all of those who love porn, polyamory, BDSM or kink, because even though policing of sex usually starts with harlots, it never stops with us.  We need all of the public health and human rights experts who understand the necessity of decriminalization in light of their respective fields, all of the libertarians who recognize that governmental prohibition of consensual behavior is both indefensible and dangerous to individual liberty, and all of the feminists who recognize that a woman’s right to control her own body and make her own sexual and economic choices is the primary feminist issue.  And we need all of the decent human beings who don’t fall into any of those categories, but are simply disgusted by the idea of armed thugs arresting, humiliating and ruining people for the “crime” of consensual sex…

You could write a blog post, make an anonymous comment on an anti-whore news story, bring up the subject with friends, link or reblog this column…anything is a help!  If you don’t feel comfortable making any sort of public statement but still want to help the cause, there’s a “Donate” box in the right-hand column; you could also support my current speaking tour via GoFundMe or just buy a copy of my book.  There are also sex worker organizations such as SWOP, ESPLERP and the St. James Infirmary, or sex-worker-friendly organizations like Women With a Vision, that could use your contribution.  Whatever you do, please post about it in the comments and include a link if appropriate; I’ll republish every one next March together with whatever people do in February.  Above all, please remember that any contribution – loud or quiet, public or private, eloquent or laconic, lengthy or brief – is important and worthy, and everyone one will hasten the day when governments no longer believe it’s acceptable for them to persecute sex workers, our clients and our associates in any way they please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christina Parreira has done several different kinds of sex work, from stripping to camming to porn; she’s also an activist and is currently working on her PhD in sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  When she started working at a Nevada brothel I asked if she’d write about her impressions for me; since most of the sex workers who post frequently here dislike brothel work, I thought it important to present a different view.

As someone who has worked in different sectors of the sex industry for years, I have met and befriended many sex workers in various parts of the industry, both legal and illegal.  But until January, I had never worked in a brothel, and like many sex workers only knew the stereotypes.  Although some sex worker publications have written about the brothels, they are missing the one thing that should be essential to any article about the experiences of a marginalized group: the voice of the workers.  I have only worked in one brothel for four 7-12 day stays, so I do not profess to be an expert;favoritesign that being said, I am happy to share some of my observations about brothel life, and I thank Maggie for giving me a platform to do so!

I will NEVER forget my first day moving into the brothel!  I was absolutely terrified and had no idea what to expect in terms of income, relations with other workers, and client interactions.  I was no stranger to sex work, but had never been required to live on premises.  The fear of confinement was anxiety-provoking, and having to obtain a sheriff’s card to legally work as a prostitute was no picnic either.  Despite the hassles of regulation, I pushed my reservations aside and instead focused on my aspirations to conduct brothel research as a worker.

First, a lengthy disclaimer:  I am not advocating brothel work, nor saying it is any better or worse than other types of sex work.  I cannot and will not speak for others, but I can certainly speak for myself.  Despite the flack that I caught from activists who labeled me as a “traitor” for working in the legal system, I enjoy working in the brothel.  I know myself well enough to know that I am not cut out for independent work:  the advertising, the screening, the (unfortunate) fear of arrest.  The brothel provides the comfort of structure and safety without the worries that accompany work in a criminalized system.  I believe that decriminalization (or rather, full legalization, the more accurate way to describe it) is the ONLY acceptable answer to the problems created and perpetuated by criminalization; however, I would still choose to work in a brothel rather than independently given the choice, a choice that ALL workers should have.  No one should be confined to working in a legal system that requires licensing and testing regulations, just as no one should be confined to working independently if there are other options available.  No one should be shamed for their decision to participate in the legal brothel system, regardless of whether or not anyone else believes that the brothel system is exploitative.  That’s the funny thing about rights; they should apply to everyone regardless of personal preference.  The whorearchy is still alive and well, but more on that later.

Life in the brothel is dictated by sound; something as simple as a doorbell could cause a spring to action or a sigh of relief.  The entrance is locked, just as any door to a home would be locked.  The manager on duty is referred to as “House Mom” by workers, which I believe helps to add to the “homey” feel of the brothel.  First and foremost it is a business, but it is also a home that houses sex workers of all ages, ethnicities, body types, and backgrounds.  The feminist assertions that brothels only employ “hegemonically beautiful” young, thin women is simply not true.  I will repeat:  the radical feminist assertion that all brothel workers are tall/thin/large breasted/blonde/young/blah blah blah is simply not true; I see women of all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, and ages.

bedroom2The majority of my time in the brothel is spent in bed writing, chatting with other workers in the parlor, and relaxing in the outdoor hot tub.  Sometimes I work out on the pole in the parlor or treat myself to a trip to the tanning bed.  There are no shifts, and workers are encouraged to spend time interacting with clients on the message boards during slow days.  I show up to line-up as frequently as I can, depending on my state of mind and how many clients I have seen (or turned down) that day.  As an independent contractor, I set my own prices.  These vary by amount of time, activity, and of course on the client’s disposition (yes, the “asshole tax” does exist!)  Negotiations between workers and clients take place in the worker’s bedroom behind a closed door – the only place where it is legal to discuss the exchange of money for sexual services.  Once a service is agreed upon, the house mom takes care of payment and keeps track of time.  After that, the client and worker disappear into her room until the house mom gently knocks on her door to let them both know that time is almost up.  Sometimes I go days without booking a single client, and turn many away (YES, we are allowed to turn down clients!)  Some days are quite profitable, but I have never seen more than three clients in one day.  Note that I use the word “client” rather than “man”; yes, women DO come to the brothel and pay for sexual services from other women.  Is it the majority?  Is this representative of all brothel patrons?  No, but does it need to be?

So, what about the line-up?  It all begins with the doorbell; one ring means a client, and two rings means a worker, friend, partner, or anyone else who knows better than to ring the bell once.  One ring means the potential for money!  House Mom answers the door, welcomes the visitors and asks if they would like a line-up.  Some visitors are tourists who want a tour and a free ogle, and thankfully others are patrons who are interested in our services.  At this point, we hear yet another bell; one that calls us to the parlor to line up for our visitors.  Unlike some other establishments, this brothel does not require workers to come to line-up, but to miss line-up could mean missing out on income.  Regardless, this is the worker’s choice, and thank goodness for that!  Some women choose to “sleep pretty” (usually in make-up and sexy nightwear) in order to always be ready for the bell, but I need my sleep.  Brothel workers have much more autonomy than most realize, but again, this really depends on the brothel; I can only speak for the uniquely decorated pink house that sits alone in the middle of the desert.

As with all forms of employment, there are pros and cons to working in the brothel, and one of the major cons is the stigma…from other sex workers,  mostly independent escorts who accuse me of pushing a legalization agenda by conducting academic research while working in the brothel.  The irony is that these are the very same people who spend their lives advocating for their rights to work in the ways that they deem appropriate, the same people whom I’ve respected for years.  If you believe that working legally offers many more protections than working in an “unregulated” system, then I suggest you remove your blinders; if, on the other hand, you believe that working independently makes you more of a target (or more of a “real activist”) than those who choose to work in the legal system, you’re just as misguided.

Some days the hypocrisy seems unbearable.  However, the whorearchy extends far beyond prostitution; whores in various sectors of the industry think that they are superior to one another.  Back in December, a porn performer had the audacity to publicly blame the “unregulated US escorting industry” for the few porn performers who tested HIV positive.  Her logic (or lack thereof) is problematic for several reasons.  First, ANY sex off camera presents a risk, whether the sex be with clients, lovers, life partners, or pool boys.  Second, anyone who has her own escort ad online should probably refrain from casting the first stone, but I will leave it at that.

I spoke to Belle Knox, Duke University student who was thrown into the spotlight after being outed as a porn performer, about her thoughts on whorearchy.  After being outed, Knox was taunted by classmates and perhaps more surprisingly by her own peers in the porn industry.  When I asked about her experiences with stigma within her own industry and from other sex workers, Knox said this:

I have been called a hoe by a stripper; others have sneered at me and taunted me by saying some variant of “at least I don’t suck dick for a living”.  Within my own industry, I have been marginalized for my participation in a rough sex scene early in my career.  In a world where sex workers face discrimination, stigma, and bigotry ubiquitously, it deeply saddens me that I cannot find solace among the very men and women who I work alongside.

It saddens me too; as Dr. Barb Brents pointed out in “Why Decriminalizing Sex Work is Good for All Women”, whore stigma affects ALL of us.  First, they came for the whores…  pooltable

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Ms. Mam and her foundation banked on Western feel-good demands for intervention, culminating in abusive crackdowns on the people she claimed to save.  –  Melissa Gira Grant

Half the SkyAfter the publication of “Continuing To Crumble“, all hell broke loose for Somaly Mam.  I must admit I was surprised at just how quickly and thoroughly it happened; I suspect a lot of “sex trafficking” skeptics in editorial departments were just waiting for something like this (which is a very good sign indeed).  The day after my essay, Somaly Mam announced that she was resigning from her position as head of her foundation, and this article by Anne Moore appeared in Salon:

This week’s Newsweek…[debunked] the figurehead of the so-called “modern slavery movement”…Mam claims to have rescued more than 4,000 girls from sex slavery, but questions about her stories still arise from former staff members, her former husband and those supposed former sex slaves…Mam’s…pernicious web of obfuscations and self-aggrandizements…keep women’s economic opportunities around the world hovering somewhere near deplorable…Many of her accolades…can be traced back to her friendship with New York Times columnist Nick Kristof.  As of press time he still lists the Somaly Mam Foundation as a “partner” in Half the Sky Movement, his blatant attempt (along with wife Sheryl WuDunn) to brand and therefore profit from economic and physical violence against women and girls in the Global South…Kristof may, eventually, claim to have been duped.  I believe he’ll be lying (again)…Mam can’t be held accountable for the impact of her tales as much as she can for establishing the culture of permanent victimhood…what…anti-human trafficking NGOs do…is normalize existent labor opportunities for women, however low the pay, dangerous the conditions, or abusive an environment they may be.  And they shame women who reject such jobs…What anti-trafficking NGOs are saving women from…is a life outside the international garment trade…

The next day, the Times itself – arguably the one organization most complicit in the spreading of Mam’s evil lies – published this piece by Melissa Gira Grant:

…Mam’s…portrayal of all sex workers as victims in need of saving encouraged raids and rescue operations that only hurt the sex workers themselves.  In 2008, Cambodia enacted new prohibitions on commercial sex, after the country was placed on a watch list by the State Department.  In brutal raids on brothels and in parks…women were chased down, detained and assaulted.  The State Department commended [this]…and removed the country from the watch list…Mam’s target audience of well-off Westerners, eager to do good, often knows little about the sex trade.  It doesn’t require much for them to imagine all women who sell sex as victims in need of rescue…When Mira Sorvino arrived with CNN last year to film sex workers undercover in Phnom Penh, Ros Sokunthy of the Women’s Network for Unity [WNU] told the Asian Correspondent news site that this approach was part of the problem:  “You show the face of the mother, who is so poor that she has to sell her daughter for money?  How does this help the daughter or mother?  It doesn’t.  It helps the NGO to make money”…A “hero” like Ms. Mam lets those who lift her up feel that they are heroes, too. They can be saviors simply by repeating her stories and swiping their cards.  Now Ms. Mam has been exposed before her donors and the Western media who anointed her and made fighting sex trafficking a kind of industry in itself, while sex workers suffered the consequences.  Will Ms. Mam’s supporters consider the price of what they’ve been sold?

And speaking of Asian Correspondent, here’s their article from the day after Grant’s:

…CNN…”poverty porn” [does] not sit well with…WNU…Ros Sokunthy…said rich donors would rather support anti trafficking groups with an…agenda to stop all sex work, than those that help sex workers and their children get out of poverty…Pisey Ly…[said that the Somaly Mam Foundation] “still [praises]…Somaly and…[does] not recognize the consequences of how [they]…impacted people”…anti-trafficking organizations tend to be against all sex work, not just…forced sex work…When consenting sex workers are arrested or “rescued,” their children suffer.  With their mothers gone and no money or food coming in, they must find work, even though they are children…

What about the Great White Savior, Nicholas Kristof, who as observed above is more complicit than any other individual in enabling Mam’s depredations against sex workers?  Over the weekend, he quietly removed her page from his website; the first picture above is what it looked like before, and this is what it looks like nowHalf the Memory Hole

But if he thought the issue was just going to go away, he was sadly mistaken; it isn’t only sex workers who have been sick of his victim-pimping, snake oil and  outright lies:

…You mean, Mr. Helicopter Rich White Man Rescuer was ready to buy lurid, falsified stories hook, line, and sinker?  Who could have guessed!  Here’s a 2011 Kristof article lauding Mam and her story, in what has to be the most prototypical Kristof column.  Here’s another, on [Long Pros], entitled, “If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?”  Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe something that actually happened…The history of prostitution reform in Progressive Era America tells a similar story.  There were Kristofs then too, freaking out about the white slavery traffic.  They wanted to hear the most lurid stories possible and then publicize them to make points about the evils of prostitution.  They didn’t bother fact-checking either.  And time and time again, these stories about young women didn’t pan out.  The impact of this movement was to make sex work illegal, making it far more dangerous, as it largely remains today.  The actions of women like Mam and useful idiots like Kristof just obscure the real problems of a lack of opportunity for women to have decent work and respectable lives in Cambodia and elsewhere, not to mention discrediting attempts to help solve real sex slavery.  But then Kristof has never been interested in people helping themselves  anyway.  He prefers saving brown people from themselves

Fittingly, Kristof issued his “explanation” and “apology” (which as you might expect was neither) on International Whores’ Day; predictably, it was not so much an admission of rescue industry fraud as a lament that Mam’s well-deserved downfall will make it harder for other rescue industry operations to continue enriching themselves at the expense of sex workers:

…I don’t know quite what to think.  Somaly stands by her story, but she also resigned, which gives credence to the allegations…serious doubts have clearly been raised about her…but I’m reluctant to be an arbiter of her back story when I just don’t know what is true and false…Whatever the situation with Somaly, there’s no uncertainty about the larger issue of human trafficking in Cambodia…One risk is that girls fleeing Cambodian brothels will no longer get help.  Another is that the debate about Somaly’s back story will overtake the imperative of ending the trafficking of young teenagers into brothels.  Let’s remember that this is about more than one woman.

I suggest Kristof heed his own closing statement, though I know he won’t; he and other prohibitionists believe the feelings, beliefs and political agenda of a vocal  minority which includes himself, politicians, neofeminists and fundamentalist Christians take precedence over the needs of many millions of  sex workers, their clients, their children and everyone else they help. Prohibitionists aren’t literally “one woman”, but their numbers are tiny compared to those of the people they wish to control and overrule.  Furthermore, I hardly think Kristof need worry about the “sex trafficking” gravy train running off of the rails just yet:

For the first time, pastors and police joined together in…Cambodia…to discuss human trafficking….IJM staff led nearly fifty church leaders through a study on the Bible’s call to seek justice for the oppressed, and then [a cop]…shared about human trafficking and how church leaders can help their communities report the crime…One pastor encouraged her peers to think creatively about how they could work with police for good…The chief of the Cambodian anti-trafficking police…shared tell-tale signs of trafficking and advised pastors of the kinds of questions they can ask if they suspect a girl is in trouble…

The “sex trafficking” hysteria is beginning to implode, and the vultures will eventually need to find another carcass to feed on.  But there’s still a lot of meat left on this one, and they won’t leave until they’ve picked off every scrap.

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

Juxtaposition

Popehat suggests we compare and contrast this:

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

And this:

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

Real People Maria Isabel

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

Check Your Premises

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

If It Were Legal

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

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

Something Rotten in Sweden (July Updates, Part One)

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

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

The Punitive Mindset

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

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

Above the Law

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

That Old Black Magic

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

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

Traffic Jam (TW3 #51)

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

The End of the Beginning

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

Comfort Zone (TW3 #320) Louie Gohmert

The endgame of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

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

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

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

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

Hard Numbers (TW3 #351)

Mobs with torches are back in fashion, it seems:

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

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

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

Guest Columnist:  Sarah Woolley (TW3 #406) 

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

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

Sex Work is Work (TW3 #407)

Another blow against the absurdity of consensual crime:

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

Traffic Jam (TW3 #409)

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

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #410) Alyssa Funke

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

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

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

Deafening Silence (TW3 #413)

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

The Missing Word

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

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

Three Steps Back (TW3 #418)

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

The Mote and the Beam (TW3 #419)

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

Blood on the Sand

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

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on May 4th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

In cinema and television, the goodies and baddies are usually distinctly different and in opposition to one another; the enemy of the baddie is a goodie, and anything done to bring down the baddie is automatically good.  But real life is rarely like that; in the real world, the enemy of a baddie is nearly always another baddie (often a worse one), and things done to bring down baddies often have such terrible implications for others that it really would’ve done less harm to simply let the baddie keep doing whatever it was he was doing.  As I’ve pointed out before, “Oppressions always start with those nobody is willing to defend.”   When civil rights are eroded to “catch” scoundrels, it’s never long before the precedent thus set is extended by stages to cover everyone; furthermore, when some awful behavior becomes acceptable for ordinary people who lack legal “authority” over others, it’s inevitable that government actors will start doing the same thing.  In the recent controversy over the leaking of billionaire Donald Sterling’s racist rules for his mistress,Sterling and Stiviano virtually all the media attention has been focused on his behavior, as though it were the whole story; in fact, nearly every person involved in the sordid affair has behaved abominably, and the episode is part and parcel of a deep illness in modern society.

Though many people have incorrectly cast this as an issue of censorship, it’s actually much more insidious.  As prominent free-speech attorney Marc Randazza explained,

The First Amendment protects you from the government punishing you because of your speech.  The NBA is a private club, and it can discipline Sterling all it wants…The First Amendment does not insulate you from criticism…Nevertheless…What happened to him may have been illegal and was morally wrong…In California, you can’t record a conversation without the knowledge or consent of both parties…We all say things in private that we might not say in public…Think about what [Sterling’s] public character execution means.  It means that we now live in a world where if you have any views that are unpopular, you…not only need to fear saying them in public, but…to fear saying them at all — even to your intimate friends.  They might be recording you, and then that recording may be spread across the Internet for everyone to hear…The Sterling story is not that we found a bigot and dragged him to the gallows in the middle of the marketplace of ideas.  The Sterling story is about how there is no more privacy.  We live in a world where you can share your intimate photos with your lover, and they will wind up on a “revenge porn” website.  We live in a world where our intimate conversations will be recorded and blasted to billions of listeners.  We live in a world where, say a gold digger can spy on her sugar daddy, and the world says that the creepy old guy is the bad guy…In this story, there are two villains.  Sterling represents the bad old days.  But Stiviano’s behavior represents the horrifying future…

Actually, I think Randazza grossly underestimates the number of villains here.  Since the entire media apparatus is already focusing on Sterling, I need not waste words on further commentary about him.  But what about his treacherous mistress, Vanessa Stiviano?  Let’s dispense with the “girlfriend” and “archivist” nonsense:  she is a courtesan, albeit an amateurish, unethical one.  She didn’t “fall in love” with him, and he wasn’t so impressed with her librarian skills that he gave her a Ferrari, two Bentleys, a Range Rover, a million-dollar Los Angeles duplex and $240,000 in cash.  Maggie the Librarian finds the claim that we share a profession preposterous, and Maggie the Whore finds the claim that we don’t equally so; both sides are outraged by her lack of professional discretion.  As an archivist she is duty-bound not to divulge private recordings, and as a harlot she is duty-bound not to divulge anything about her patron; if she has a moral issue with something he says or does, she needs to find another patron or another line of work.     

But there’s no evidence that she revealed the recording out of some high-minded principle of justice or primitive impulse to defend “her people” (Sterling’s comments were anti-black and Stiviano is half black).  Indeed, she claims that some other party stole the recording and sold it to the gossip website TMZ; if true, there are two more villains for our list.  However, Sterling claims that Stiviano released the tape herself in retaliation for his wife’s lawsuit against her (more next paragraph); specifically, it’s because Sterling and the LA Clippers basketball team (which he owns) have publicly embraced the suit and claimed that Stiviano “embezzled” her various fees and gifts.  Given that a settlement is already under negotiation to ensure that no more tapes are released, and that Stiviano appears to be shopping for a “kiss and tell” book deal, I find Sterling’s version far more credible.

About that lawsuit:  in this whore’s well-considered and experience-informed opinion, Rochelle Sterling launched it as a petty and ill-considered means of revenge against Stiviano, and her husband went along with it under threat that an expensive and embarrassing divorce would surely follow if he did not.  I say “petty” because the total value the wife seeks to steal from the mistress is a paltry $1.8 million; Sterling’s net worth is $1.9 billion.  In other words, she filed an aggressive and high-profile lawsuit for less than 1/1000 of her husband’s accumulated wealth…the equivalent of a middle-class wife suing an escort her husband saw once or twice.  In the past, wives had more sense than to risk the Streisand Effect by calling attention to their husbands’ dalliances; many now apparently lack the sense and dignity of their forebears, however, and have abandoned discretion entirely to the keeping of ethical sex workers.

The baddies listed so far represent only a miniscule fraction of the total number involved in this story.  Whether the tape was released by Stiviano herself or by this supposed third party she has declined to name, it was the existence of the tabloid media which made the release possible; however, those media are only commercially viable because of the public’s taste for the lurid and its jackal-like desire to watch and even participate in the humiliation or destruction of others.  If there were no audience for the salacious details of others’ private lives, no lust to fondle the dismembered bones of the skeletons in everyone else’s closets, there would be no tabloid press, no profitable gossip mills, and very little blackmail; unfortunately, we all have that shameful curiosity to some degree, so there will always be a ready market for stolen secrets.  At one time, discretion was the mark of a professional or a person of quality; now it’s increasingly becoming a quaint relic of the bygone past.  And though the mob may cheer when some awful person’s sins are exposed, it will react with equal exuberance when the blood on the sand is yours.

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