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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

My wife and I have been together for 13 years, and our sex life is basically nonexistent.  She was always very conservative about what she would do, but she has serious chronic health problems so even straight intercourse is now rare (less than 20 times in the past 3 years).  She’s an excellent housewife who takes excellent care of me and my son, and I love her and would never want to hurt her.  But I do need sex, and if I bring it up she says it’s because I watch too much porn.  So I decided to see an escort and found one I think I’ll like, but what if I become addicted to seeing escorts?  I searched the internet and found that this can be a scary addition that can cause a marriage to crumble.  How can I know if I’ll be addicted or not?

Woman with MonkeyYour situation is not at all unusual.  Though there are various reasons for it and various degrees of the problem, the basic situation (husband wants more and better sex than wife will give) is so common it probably accounts for the majority of sex workers’ business and I’ve written about it six times in just over a year:  “The Twig is Bent”, “Fossil”, “Familiarity Does Its Thing”, “On a Mountaintop”, “Late Bloomer” and “There Ain’t No Bad Guys” all contain advice that you may find useful, but it’s clear that you also feel guilty about getting your needs met.  If your wife said, “if you wouldn’t look at food on TV you wouldn’t need to eat,” you’d recognize this as a patent absurdity, yet our culture tries to convince people this is true of sex; the myth of “sex addiction” is part of that attempt.  It is impossible to get “addicted” to escorts, just as it’s impossible to be “addicted” to sex or porn (and if you don’t believe me, click on those 7 links).  It’s certainly possible to become obsessed with seeing escorts, because people can become obsessed with anything from stamps to television shows to policing other people’s sex lives.  But if you don’t have a history of becoming obsessed with things, you needn’t worry that it will suddenly happen now.  Escorts are not witches with the ability to enchant you with a kiss; we’re just ordinary women providing a service.  So unless you’ve had problems with spending too much money on liquor or cigarettes or gambling or DVDs or strippers or whatever in the past, I sincerely doubt you’ll run yourself broke with escorts.  Once you see a few you’ll be able to determine how often you need it and how much you can afford, and then as long as you’re careful you might actually find (as so many men have before you) that seeing sex workers saves your marriage rather than endangers it.

(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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I work for a large company which has many different contracts with both private companies and governmental institutions.  I wholeheartedly support most of the work we do, but I’m less happy with our association with law enforcement, which might lead to the abuse of innocent people.  Worst of all, in the past few years another division of the company has become involved with the trafficking myth pushers, and it makes my skin crawl.  But I’m not high enough in management to have any influence, expressing my views can only do me harm, and good jobs are hard to come by these days.  How can I reconcile my conscience with continuing to work there? 

blood moneyAs a whore, far be it from me to condemn others for taking “dirty money”; some of my clients were politicians, gangsters, drug dealers, ambulance-chasers and other lowlifes who got their money in morally reprehensible ways.  Money cannot be “tainted”, either by sex rays or anything else; as I wrote in “O Tempora!  O Mores!”, “if a thief buys food from a grocery store with stolen money, that transaction is the exact moral equivalent of buying food with money that was rightfully his; the grocery store owner is not morally responsible for the thief’s actions unless he somehow caused them himself.”  As long as your actions with regard to your employers are moral, it’s not your fault if the money they use to pay you comes from sleazy deals that you were not personally involved in.  Besides, it’s probably impossible these days to work for any company larger than a mom-and-pop that doesn’t have some questionable association.  If it continues to bother you, perhaps you could make donations to organizations committed to advancing sex worker rights; that way you’ll feel as though you’re helping to undo a little of the wrong your employers are helping to do.

I’m a woman who has never done sex work, and I have a male friend who’s shy and socially awkward; he’s still a virgin at 32.  He wants to lose his virginity with a professional, but has made a couple of mistakes and is now hesitant to move forward; one escort tricked him out of some money, and another turned him down when he said he was a virgin.  On top of that the higher class escorts all seem to require references which, of course, he doesn’t have.  I advised against blindly going to Backpage, but I have no idea what other advice I could give him; can you help?

Woman Talking to a Shy Man by Ravi VarmaWhat your friend needs is an established escort who is “newbie friendly”.  This means a lady whose screening methods are not dependent on references; she’s going to ask him for some kind of identifying information, and use it to be sure he isn’t a cop.  That’s one of the reasons he should pick only an established escort with a good reputation; it will help him to know she isn’t going to steal his money like that other woman did.  Do tell him that a regular escort in his city shouldn’t ask for money in advance; it’s generally only traveling escorts who do that, and it’s better for him to get someone local just in case his nerves get the better of him and it takes a few dates to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.  An older woman would probably be best for this; they tend to be much more patient with nervous first-timers and some of them really enjoy breaking younger guys in.  Point your friend to my column “The First Time”, and tell him to read the comments, too, because there are a couple from other adult virgins there; “Sensitive Guy” might also be helpful.  Finally, you might also direct him to my “Questions” page, which has many links to my answers to previous questions; the first two under “General Sex Work Questions” are especially important, and he might also find some that speak to him in “Requests for Advice” farther down the page.

(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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A man can go from being a lover to being a stranger in three moves flat…but a woman under the guise of friendship will engage in acts of duplicity which come to light very much later.  -  Anita Brookner

“We’re going to have to move soon; I really think Eleanor is beginning to suspect.”

“What makes you think that?” asked Hazel, handing him his drink and then moving behind him to rub his shoulders.

“Nothing I can really explain,” he said, then after a sip: “When you’ve been married to somebody for twenty-seven years, you get to know all her little ways, and you notice when they change.  You were married before, you know what I mean.”

“Yes.  But how do you know she isn’t cheating on you, too?”

Ted laughed.  “You don’t know Eleanor; she’s as cold a fish as there is.  We were both virgins when we got married, and once we were done having kids she just wasn’t interested any more.  I’ve already told you this more than once.”

“There’s no need to get testy,” she said reassuringly.  “I just want you to consider all the possibilities so you don’t start acting nervous and setting off her radar.”

“Like I said, I think I already have.  Oh, I’ve been very careful; before I met you I saw escorts for years, and before that I had cultivated a pattern of not really telling her much about my comings and goings.  And since she leaves the money to me, it’s always been easy to use as much as I want without her being the wiser.  But lately, she’s been requesting a lot more money for all sorts of things, as if she’s trying to probe the state of our finances.”

“Has she been questioning you or anything like that?” 2X

“No, she wouldn’t.  Eleanor is maddeningly indirect; she never makes a statement when an insinuation will do, and whenever she’s angry at me it always takes me days to figure out why.  I’ll never understand why so many women are like that; is it something on the X chromosome?”

“You have an X chromosome as well, Ted.”

“I know, but maybe something on the Y cancels it out.  Maybe real sneakiness requires a double X.”

“Oh, really!  Now you’re just being ridiculous.  I’m relatively straightforward, and you’re extremely sneaky; if quietly converting most of your investments to negotiable form so you can fly off to Tahiti with your mistress doesn’t qualify, I can’t imagine what would.”

Ted looked as though he had been slapped.  “I’m not leaving her destitute,” he said quietly; “In fact, as per your suggestion I transferred the house and several large investments into her name.  I just want to divide the money fairly rather than leaving it to courts and lawyers who would probably give her everything.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said, hugging him closely.  “I didn’t mean to hurt you.  It’s just that I feel nervous, too, and dumb female stereotypes always get me irritated.  Please forgive me.”

“See, Hazel, this is what I’m talking about.  You know how many women would apologize like you just did?  Practically none.  That’s not a stereotype, it’s just the truth; men usually end up having to apologize no matter who was wrong.  I don’t think you really understand how different you are from most women.  I never believed I would fall in love with anyone ever again, much less want to live my life with her.  But you just make me feel so special, so safe.  I know I can trust you, and that we won’t end up being strangers sleeping in the same bed like Eleanor and me.”

“I promise you that will never happen,” she said through glistening eyes.  And then she kissed him, and for a while there was no more conversation.

****************************************************************

airliner in flightA few days later, though, she brought up the subject again on the airplane.  “I just can’t help but feel guilty about what we did.  I know the two of you really shouldn’t have married in the first place, and that you haven’t had a sex life in over 15 years.  I know the kids are grown up, and we really do love each other, and there really wasn’t a home to break up.  But damn, don’t you feel bad about running off with all the negotiables as well as the stuff he put in your name?”

Eleanor shrugged.  “Not really.  I left documents donating the house back to him, and he’s still under fifty; he has twenty more years to build up again, and with no alimony that’ll be easy with his salary.  He’ll be a lot better off in the long run than I would’ve been had he been the one to run off with you as he thought would happen.”

“I suppose you’re right,” sighed Hazel.  “But I still feel bad about playing him like I did.”

“No worse than he thought he was playing me,” Eleanor huffed.  “He got what he deserved.”

“Maybe,” she replied.  “But I guess he was right about women being the sneakier ones, after all.”

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Nobody was ever meant
To remember or invent
What he did with every cent.
  -  Robert Frost

People who have never owned a company often fail to understand that any institution formally organized and registered with the government is a separate entity from its owner, even if there is only one owner.  I am the sole owner and member of Maggie McNeill, LLC, yet I cannot simply take money from that entity as I please; I can pay myself as much salary or bonuses as I like, but it must be recorded that way, and if I spend the company’s money on myself without proper documentation (say, by buying cat treats or going to a movie) it is considered embezzlement.  It can get complicated; when I’m on my book tour this summer, for example, I can buy myself dinner with company funds (as long as I keep the receipts), but I could not do the same tonight because I’m not travelling on company business right now.  And though I could give copies of my book purchased with company funds to reviewers or other business contacts, if I wanted to give them to friends as gifts I’d have to buy them from the company because there is no valid promotional reason to give them to friends.

Al CaponeTo those who have never owned a company, this probably seems remarkably silly, and it would be if not for the existence of income taxes.  But because businesses and individuals are taxed differently, using company funds directly for personal use avoids having to disburse those funds on paper, so it then becomes undeclared income.  When the company is small and the amounts meager it’s unlikely the taxman will discover anything amiss, but as the amount of money in question increases the government pays a great deal more attention:  remember, while Al Capone got away with many murders and other violent crimes, it was for tax evasion that he was finally imprisoned.  And when the entity in question is a nonprofit organization, the rules are even more strict; the owner of a nonprofit is still subject to income tax even if the organization isn’t, so spending nonprofit funds on personal use is considered an even more serious offense.

The reason I’m bringing all this up right now is not merely because I got a short lecture on it from my banker last Friday, but also because of certain information a confidential source provided me just the day before that.  Remember Rachel Moran, touted by Irish prohibitionists as a former sex worker despite the fact that she doesn’t know the first thing about the profession and nobody in the area she supposedly worked had ever set eyes on her before?  And then there was her confederate Justine Reilly, who was convicted of “pimping” in 2001 but repeatedly “reframed her experiences” until she was magically transformed into the “victim of pimps” herself.  Well, with the help of Magdalene laundry front Ruhama, the two of them formed an “independent” liar’s club named “SPACE International” and then set about soliciting (ahem) donations (ahem ahem).  Here’s an interesting email exchange with Norma Ramos of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (a major prohibitionist group instrumental in spreading Swedish rot propaganda); I’ve inverted the order from the way it appears on the forwarded email so as to make it easier to read, and I’ve also hidden details like addresses and bank account numbers.

From: Rachel Moran [mailto: rachel.moran8@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, November 11, 2013 11:05 AM
To: Norma Ramos
Cc: justine reilly
Subject: Bank account details

Dear Norma,

After more nonsense with the bank today where I have been advised that Justine and I will need to set an appointment for next week, we have decided that the commonsense thing to do is have our funding transferred into my account, where it will stay only until we have set up our joint account.

I am going to Norway tomorrow for five nights and myself and Justine are going to the UK the following week, and of course you are leaving CATW within weeks, so we feel this is the best way to deal with things for the time being and are hoping this is okay with you.

Mine is a current account, not a savings account (in case you are asked) and my bank details are below:

AIB (Allied Irish Bank) – ***** Branch
Account name: Rachel Moran
Account Number: 6******7
National Sort Code: 9****1

My home address is, * S_____ Lane, ********, Dublin **, in case you should need that. If there is anything else you need please let me know.

Thank you for this, and for everything, xx

Rachel

From: Norma Ramos <NRamos@catwinternational.org>
Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 4:03 PM
To: Rachel Moran < rachel.moran8@gmail.com>
Cc: justine reilly <justinereilly@ymail.com>, Corey Backes <CBackes@catwinternational.org>, Janet Gumbs <jgumbs@catwinternational.org>
Subject: RE: Bank account details

Dear Rachel,

CATW is thrilled to an award a seed grant in the amount of $5000.00 to SPACE to facilitate the development of this NGO dedicated to working against the commercial sexual exploitation of human beings. Thank you for the leadership you and Justine have shown been working to end this human rights violation. Warmest, Norma

Norma Ramos, Esq.
Executive Director
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
Phone: (212) 643-9895
www.catwinternational.org

On Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 9:31 PM, Janet Gumbs <JGumbs@catwinternational.org> wrote:

Dear Rachel,

I am confirming that a wire for the amount of USD 5,000,  Euro 3,656.31 was processed today.  The funds should be in your account within two days.  Please confirm receipt of these funds at such time.

Best,

Janet Gumbs
Director of Finance
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)
t. 212.643.9895
http://www.catwinternational.org/

From: Rachel Moran [mailto: rachel.moran8@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 6:35 AM
To: Janet Gumbs
Cc: Norma Ramos; Corey Backes; justine reilly
Subject: Re: Bank account details

Dear Norma and Janet,

We are very grateful for the kind donation of USD 5,000 (Euro 3,656.31) which arrived in my account during my recent stay in Norway. We will be spending this money on communications equipment and fees and technological support, and will be retaining all receipts associated.

Our deepest thanks for your kind assistance,

Rachel and Justine

accountantWell, that’s all pretty clear; the $5000 was awarded as a “seed grant” to SPACE to “develop” its work of ending the terrible human rights violation of consensual sex.  And SPACE’s directors said the money would be spent on “communications equipment and fees and technological support,” complete with receipts.  So nothing to see here, then…except for the part where organizational funds were deposited into a private account, and also that I’ve been hearing rumors that Moran & Reilly are not exactly friends any more.  Perhaps the estrangement is due to the fact that while Moran’s star is rising (she was even interviewed by Rupert Everett for his upcoming Channel 4 documentary, Love for Sale), it seems Reilly is being quietly retired as an embarrassment.  But if Moran & Reilly are no longer a team, what about those company funds that went into Moran’s personal account?  Here’s what my source said about that:

Ms. Moran is currently living it up in the states with the funding from SPACE.  All the original founding members left, including Justine Reilly, and none of the original members had access to SPACE funding or any of the internal administration.  SPACE International is all Rachel Moran!!!

Obviously, this is merely an allegation, but it seems it would be an easy one for the Irish tax authorities to investigate were they of a mind to do so.  While the Irish government seems afraid of crossing the Laundry Orders or looking too closely at anything they’ve polluted with their foulness, governments invariably seem much more likely to sit up and take notice when taxes are involved than when it’s a matter of some trifle like the enslavement of thousands of women.

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Line in nature is not found;
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced, all rays return;
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.
  -  Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Uriel”

the brideI’ve been giving quite a few interviews lately, and I’ve noticed that one particular question comes up quite often (either on mike or off), especially from female interviewers:  “Would you ever do it again?”  I don’t think most of them intend it as a “gotcha” because I have been very fortunate so far in avoiding interviews with the sort of people who ask such questions (the most popular of which is “Would you want your daughter to do it?”)  Rather, I think it’s symptomatic of the underlying assumption, even among many people who firmly believe in self-ownership and sex worker rights, that there is something intrinsically “wrong” or distasteful about sex work.  I’m not blaming them, mind; that attitude is so deeply and firmly embedded in our culture that it’s a rare person indeed who is completely free of it, and that includes whores.  Most people, including many sex worker allies and staunch advocates, tend to think of retired sex workers as people who have “exited”, or “gotten out”, or even “escaped”, and are therefore understandably curious about someone like me who views our profession as not merely something to be tolerated, but a positive good.

When people ask why I retired, I often reply “Did I?”  As I’ve often stated, I don’t view marriage as all that different from prostitution; the affection my husband and I share does not lessen the economic basis of our formal relationship.  But that’s not really what my questioners mean; what they want to know is, “If you were faced with economic need, would you go back to professional whoring?”  And the answer is, “Of course I would.”  I already came out of retirement once due to a major financial setback, and life is full of such passages; if a similar situation arose, I would do it again.  There’s nothing strange about this; many women drift in and out of sex work at different times in our lives, or change between different types of sex work as conditions change, and I’m no different from anyone else.  Perhaps the question also reflects a kind of intellectual snobbery; maybe there’s an assumption that because I’m now a writer who is noted for her mind and words, that returning to sex work would be a kind of regression or even debasement.  But that’s elitist garbage; unless I suddenly evolve into an incorporeal being who can live on air and sunlight, I will always have physical and economic needs which must be addressed pragmatically.

The fact that this isn’t completely obvious to everyone says a lot about our society’s weird hang-ups.  Nobody would even think of asking a retired nurse, teacher, cook or real-estate agent if she’d go back to it should the need arise; for any profession other than whore, it would be a given.  Only when we reach the point where that query seems just as inane when directed toward a sex worker, will we know that at long last humanity has given up its childish and destructive superstitions about sex.

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Patronage

If a patron buys from an artist who needs money (needs money to buy tools, time, food), the patron then makes himself equal to the artist; he is building art into the world; he creates.  -  Ezra Pound

Lorenzo di Medici by Raphael (c 1518)In days of yore, artists tried to attract patrons; that is, noblemen or other wealthy individuals who would give them money to live on.  The artist was expected to produce poems or paintings or concerti or whatever for the patron, and the rest of the time (barring the occasional cathedral ceiling or requiem mass) was left to putter on his own to produce Great Things; the best patrons required little in return for their generosity, while others were more demanding.  Modern governments and corporations still give out grants, but since these are determined by bureaucratic politics or commercial considerations it isn’t really the same; these entities tend to expect certain results, and on a timetable at that, so there’s little room for the recipient to follow his own path while somebody else pays the bills.  So I’m really very lucky in having a husband who believes in my work and trusts me enough that he’s willing to pay the bills while I do my thing.  Still, he’s not a prince or a cardinal, so it would be nice to have some extra funds coming in to finish building our house and the like; I’ve therefore come up with a few ways that those of you who would like to indulge your inner Medici can do so, on a small scale.

First of all, there’s my book; if you haven’t bought a copy yet here’s your chance!  Its list price on Amazon is $15.95 US, but there’s a slight discount so it actually won’t cost you quite that much.  It’s also available for £9.95 in the UK and €11.95 in FranceGermany and Italy.  Readers in other countries will need to order it from the Amazon branch which gives them the best price and service, or directly from CreateSpace (international shipping applies); it’s also available on Kindle for $8 US.  Starting today, you’ve got another option:  you can buy an autographed copy directly from me for $25 if you live in the US, $30 if you live in Canada and $35 if you live anywhere else; the price includes shipping, which is why it’s more outside the US.  If you want an autographed copy but don’t want to pay that much (and as a thrifty soul myself I totally understand that), you can get one from me for $16 at one of the many book signings I plan to do this summer as I tour across the US.  The launch will be held at the Healthy Rhythm Community Art Gallery in Fairfield, Texas on April 17th, from 6:30-8:30 PM, but the main tour will start six weeks later at the end of May. Here’s a VERY TENTATIVE schedule; I’ll replicate this on a tour calendar page which will be updated as things change or become confirmed:

City Tentative dates
San Francisco, CA May 31st – June 4th
Los Angeles, CA June 5th–9th
Las Vegas, NV June 10th-14th
Phoenix, AZ June 15th-17th
Albuquerque, NM June 18th-20th
Denver, CO June 21st-25th
Oklahoma City, OK June 26th-28th
Dallas, TX June 29th-July 3rd
Kansas City July 5th-7th
St. Louis, MO July 8th-10th
Memphis, TN July 11th-13th
Nashville, TN July 14th-16th
Cincinnati, OH July 17th-19th
Chicago, IL July 20th-24th
Pittsburgh, PA July 25th-29th
Albany, NY July 30th-August 1st
Boston, MA August 2nd-5th
New York, NY August 6th-10th
Philadelphia, PA August 11th-13th
Washington, DC August 14th-17th
Raleigh, NC August 18th-20th
Charleston, SC August 21st-23rd
Atlanta, GA August 24th-26th
Tampa, FL August 27th-31st
New Orleans, LA September 2nd-6th

And that brings us to another way you can help me.  Since my book was self-published, I don’t have the resources of a publishing company to organize events; if you live in any of these cities or even within a couple of hours’ drive of them, I would love your advice and input about events I should attend, places that would like to host a book signing or have me speak, etc.  If you own or manage a business or organization and would like to hold an event for me, please contact me ASAP so we can work out the details; if you aren’t the boss but still think you could arrange it, let me know that too!  I want to meet as many of my readers as possible and attend as many events as possible so this tour will be a success.

money in garterFinally, there’s one more new avenue of patronage:  in the right-hand column under the calendar and subscription button, you’ll see a new box labeled “Become a Blog Patron”.  I’ve created four different subscription levels: 10¢ per day ($36.50 annually), 25¢ per day ($7.75 monthly), 50¢ per day ($15.50 monthly), and $1 per day ($31.00 monthly).  If you want to make a one-time donation, just click on the button of the amount you want to give, wait for it to clear your bank or credit card and then click on “unsubscribe” so it won’t draft again.  If you prefer to give me a gift instead of cash, you can get something from my Amazon wish list.  And pretty soon I’ll be opening up an auxiliary web page with other merchandise like T-shirts and coffee mugs, so keep your eyes out for that.

As I’ve said before with regard to my wish list, I do not ever expect my readers to give me anything or pay for me to write; this blog was not intended as a commercial venture, and it never will be.  I will never carry any advertising, and soon I’ll be upgrading my WordPress package so you won’t see any ads from them, either.  There is nothing I hate more than seeing winking, flashing, jumping bullshit slathered all over a web page, and I will never subject my readers to that.  But many readers have asked how they can help, and many have been generous with gifts; many have urged me to write books and install a donate button.  So if you can afford to show your appreciation in a concrete way and would like to do so, now you can; if you can’t or prefer not to, that’s fine too.  This blog is my art and my calling, not a business, and I think of anything y’all choose to send as gifts, not fees or earnings.  All I ask is that you spread the word if you like my work; anything more is strictly optional, and totally at your discretion.  I appreciate all my faithful readers, because every day y’all reward my work with the gift of your time and attention.

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This world of imagination is the world of eternity.  -  William Blake

In a place that is not a place as material beings understand the term, on a plane of existence several levels above our own, three friends came together to share stories of their travels since the last time they had met.  I shall refer to them as Red, Green and Blue, but what they actually call themselves (if indeed they use a concept as crude as “name”) I do not know.  As was their custom they eventually lapsed into a philosophical discussion, debating various ideas in much the same way as sentient beings everywhere in the multiverse do, and one of the topics they touched upon was the ephemeral nature of the societies created by material beings.  Soon the conversation turned to a comparison of these societies, and they began to speculate about which of these had the lowest likelihood of still existing in a recognizable form by the time they got around to visiting it again.

colors“I visited a world whose inhabitants were expending its resources at a shocking rate,” ventured Red.  “They had developed technological means of improving their physical conditions, but made not the slightest effort to calculate the probable supply of the raw materials consumed in the process, nor even the most basic contingency plans for the eventual depletion of those materials.  Though enough of them were skilled in the development and use of technology to maintain and even improve their control over their environment, the majority of the population was fixated on an irrational belief system which pretended that beings from higher planes like ourselves had nothing better to do than to watch over them constantly, protecting them from the consequences of their own foolish actions.  Though they believed such beings could transcend the laws of nature and violate conservation of energy, they simultaneously imagined that the beings were obsessed with the tiniest details of their behavior, and would dole out reward or punishment based upon how closely each individual could adhere to a set of arbitrary, pointless and mutually contradictory rules.  So rather than prepare themselves for the ultimate necessity of modifying their procedures to maintain or improve their current standards of living, they instead devoted tremendous effort to asking nonexistent benefactors to somehow materialize favorable consequences for them, and to spying on each other to ensure nobody was breaking any of the silly rules which they imagined their incorporeal benefactors to care about above all else.

“Surely, such a misguided sense of priorities must eventually result in catastrophe; if they fail to think ahead they must eventually reach a point where their resources run out, and when that happens their society must either collapse or decline into barbarism.”

“That is indeed a sorry situation,” replied Green, “but I think we must all agree that whatever the chances of such a civilization’s survival, they would be lower still if those hapless creatures were burdened with even more deficiencies.  I visited a world very like the one you just described, but in addition to the resource depletion, irrational belief system and refusal to face reality, they were also incredibly violent.  A large fraction of their already-limited means was expended in the infliction of harm upon one another, and when they could find no sensible reason to do so they invented ridiculous ones.  Like the beings you visited, they were obsessed with monitoring each others’ mindless obedience to foolish regulations, but they further believed that they had the right to inflict violence upon each other for even the smallest and most inconsequential violations of those regulations.  They even selected from among their number a designated group whose entire purpose was to go about not only looking for rule-breaking, but to actually deceive their fellows into breaking rules so as to provide an excuse for the infliction of violence.  Nor was this violence limited by some principle of proportionality; these special agents were allowed to inflict grievous, even fatal harm upon their victims for even the tiniest transgression of the most obscure rule.  And when they could not discover a large enough number of rule-breakers to satisfy their assigned quotas, they would simply pick victims at random, falsely accuse them and inflict harm just as though they had actually done whatever it was they were accused of.”

“Incredible!” rejoined Red.

“There’s more.  Though there were already so many rules it was totally impossible for any of them to ever learn them all, they designated another group whose entire function was to invent even more of them, and to ensure they were too complicated for the ordinary individual to understand; they were written in a form of code so that none without special training could even hope to comprehend them.  And if these rule-makers failed to make enough new rules to satisfy certain other individuals, they were criticized for inefficiency.

“It seems inconceivable that such a civilization could even last long enough to run out of resources; surely they must destroy themselves well before that point.”

sperm & egg microphotographBut then it was Blue’s turn.  “I fear that the world I visited must come to a bad end even more quickly still, for its inhabitants were afflicted by all of the behavioral flaws the two of you have described, and another which I consider still worse.  Like many material life-forms, they reproduced sexually and the biological drive to mate was a strong one.  But though the act of reproductive union was so pleasant to them that they would use every opportunity to engage in it, even when biological conditions did not allow impregnation, they simultaneously believed that the act rendered them ritually impure.  A very large fraction of their arbitrary rules were dedicated to restricting the act of mating, and infractions of these rules were held to be among the most serious of all, and subject to some of the harshest penalties in the society.  Furthermore, mated pairs were supposed to be exclusive despite the fact that one of the biological sexes tended to have a much stronger and less selective drive than the other, and though transgressions against that exclusivity were extremely common they all pretended that their own mates would never behave so.  An entire profession was dedicated to allowing the expenditure of such urges in a controlled fashion so as to reduce the potential harm resulting from transgressive mating; without this profession the long-term pair-bonding upon which their entire social structure was built would undoubtedly fail far more often than it did.  Yet those who practiced it were vilified and stigmatized by most of their societies, even by those who used their services, and the dedicated rule-enforcers spent wildly disproportionate amounts of time and effort in their persecution.  Furthermore, they seemed to labor under the delusion that if they could only cage everyone they discovered in this transaction, the biological basis for it would vanish without affecting their rate of population replacement.

“Given that such a large fraction of their racial energies was expended upon a wholly futile task which, if they could somehow succeed at it, would totally destroy the foundations of their society, I cannot believe that this culture still exists in the form I perceived it.  Such mass derangement must surely prove disastrous within a relatively small number of generations.”

The friends agreed that the world Blue had visited must indeed have fallen into chaos by now, and was therefore the worst of all those they had seen.  Perhaps they were wrong; it may be that as astral entities they had an imperfect understanding of the tenacity and adaptability of material life.  Or perhaps the time-scale on which they functioned was so protracted that nearly any society of material beings would perish quickly by their standards; it may be that “soon” to them would be twice ten thousand years by the way we measure time.  Conversely, it may be that my poor, ephemeral brain of matter was unable to grasp the true nature of their conversation, and that upon awakening from this vision I filled in the gaps with my own mortal preoccupations.  And really, in all likelihood, Red, Green and Blue exist only in my imagination (and now in yours), and this entire tale is but the idle fancy of a tired and cynical mind.

We’d better hope so, anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modern feminists expend considerable time and energy criticizing societal pressures for women’s bodies to conform to certain sexual norms.  While I reject asinine assertions like “clothes, cosmetics, diets, gym membership, trips to the hair salon, the waxing salon and the nail salon [are indicators of women’s] self-loathing” and mercilessly ridicule those who spend their time calculating the body proportions of plastic dolls, I do think it’s worth discussing the way people of both sexes think they have the right to control women’s bodies and to limit what we are allowed to do with them.  Furthermore, while I believe in both the free market and individuals’ right to modify their bodies as they please, I reserve the right to criticize sleazy businesses which use deception to capitalize on women’s powerful desire to be “good enough”.  In fact, I don’t think mainstream feminism is nearly vocal enough in its condemnation of societal attempts to control women’s sexuality and big business’ efforts to profit therefrom; if anything, most vocal feminists are perfectly happy to reduce women’s sexual freedom if it means reducing that of men in the bargain.  But when their publicly-stated goal of “equality” conflicts with their true goal of sexual repression, such women are liable to experience cognitive dissonance which renders them uncharacteristically speechless, as they have largely been on the issue at hand today.

pink viagraIn the last two decades, the pharmaceutical industry has succeeded in medicalizing a number of issues which were previously seen as behavioral or even normal: for example, the ordinary restlessness of schoolboys is often misdiagnosed as “attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder” so that they can then be drugged into docility, and the totally understandable resentment young people feel when they’re treated as “children” is now pathologized as “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” (for which I’m sure some drug will soon be forthcoming).  Virtually all male sexual dysfunction (and some behavior that isn’t actually dysfunctional) is now treated with medication even when it really isn’t appropriate to do so, and for years now the corporate pill-pushers have been dying for a “female Viagra” by which they could profit both from women who are unhappy with their sex lives and, more importantly, those who can be convinced that they’re “not good enough”.  Unfortunately for their dreams of a vast new source of profit, female sexual response is much more complicated than male; it cannot simply be quantified by measuring how often sex occurs or how long it lasts, and it can’t be cured by improving blood flow to the genitals or raising the testosterone level.  Yet there are those who bemoan the fact that female sexual desire has not yet been fully medicalized as male desire has been, and who eagerly await the day when we can see television adverts telling women that there’s something “wrong” with them for wanting sex less often than their partners do:

…there are no medications available in the United States for female hypoactive sexual desire disorder.  That’s the technical term for when women have a distressing lack or absence of sexual desire or fantasy.  Up to one-third of adult women may experience it…But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rejected applications to green-light [flibanserin]…If there is no positive action on the drug, it could spell doom for pharmacological efforts to manage female sexual desire…The drug works by increasing brain blood flow in particular ways…it increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, and lowers levels of serotonin.  Side effects of flibanserin include dizziness, nausea, fatigue and sleepiness.  Unlike some treatments for men, flibanserin needs to be taken once a day, every day…

Let’s break this down point by point, shall we?

1) Calling something experienced by 1/3 of a population a “disorder” is a flagrant misuse of the word.   We don’t even consider homosexuality a “disorder” any more, and it’s only about 3% of the population; how then can the sexuality of 11x as many people be considered a “disorder” in any meaningful way?  Female desire and fantasy cannot be measured by male norms; we stopped doing that decades ago in most areas, so why are we still doing it with regard to sex?  As I’ve written on a number of occasions, “I rarely feel anything like what men think of as normal lust, and I think that’s great; if I felt anything like the kind of near-constant desire men feel, I’d ask my gynecologist if there was anything we could do about it without ruining my looks.”  Yes, the word “distressing” is included in the description, but I think it’s important to differentiate between distress deriving from sexual dissatisfaction and that resulting from either partner pressure or from big businesses telling women they’re “abnormal” because they don’t want to fuck like bunnies in every room of the house 365 days a year.

2) If you don’t find the phrase “efforts to manage female sexual desire” chilling, you haven’t been paying enough attention to either my writings or the news.flibanserin

3) Flibanserin is a psychoactive drug which was originally tested as an antidepressant; its whole raison d’être is to alter the mood and behavior of a third of the female population, and journalist Elizabeth Landau appears to think that’s just peachy (and probably even “feminist”).  A huge fraction of womankind is being defined as Not Good Enough and told that the very chemistry of their brains is in need of correction; if you don’t consider that troubling, there’s nothing else I can say to help you “get it”.

As I wrote in “Caveat Emptor”, there’s a vast difference between a woman choosing to alter her body and her being tricked, talked or shamed into doing so.  And when the characteristic she’s being pushed to change is not merely an aspect of her physical appearance but the very machinery of brain and personality, it seems to me that feminists should be paying a lot more attention to this than to the pressing issue of whether bikini waxing is “feminist”.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on January 19th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

Idealized Portrait of a Courtesan as Flora by Bartolomeo Veneto (1520)For most of human history, nobody thought of taking money for sex as a defining activity.  This is not to say that there were no whores, because of course there were; it isn’t called “the world’s oldest profession” for nothing.  But it wasn’t the fact that a woman took money for sex which defined her as a whore, but rather the fact that she made a living from it.  As I wrote in my Cato Unbound essay, “Treating Sex Work as Work”,

…It was almost universally understood that many working-class women and a not-inconsiderable number of those in higher classes would accept money for sex, at least on occasion, and it was impossible to draw a bright, clear line between behaviors that constituted “prostitution” and those (such as concubinage, mistresshood, and political marriage) which did not despite their often-mercenary basis.  The manifold laws regulating sex work were not intended to preclude pragmatic motivations for sexual behavior, but rather to keep up appearances, guard the purity of bloodlines, and maintain public order.  But as the Victorian Era dawned, a new idea began to take hold of European minds: if science could perfect Man’s tools and techniques, why couldn’t the same process be applied to Mankind itself?  The immediate result of turning (pseudo-)scientific inquiry upon sex was that taking money for it was no longer considered merely something that “unladylike” or “sinful” women did for a living or extra income; instead, the “prostitute” was defined into existence as a specific type of woman, separate and distinct from other women.

Prior to the 19th century, any sexual behavior outside of marriage was considered “sinful”, regardless of its motive, but there were also class considerations; sexual “immorality” was both expected and assumed of working-class women, and whether a girl occasionally asked for money or not could make little difference in the way she was perceived by her so-called “betters”.  This is why it was not unusual in pre-industrial cultures for a disgraced upper-class woman to turn to sex work; once she had fallen from her elevated station, taking money for sex did no more harm.  But once the idea of “prostitution” as some uniquely disgraceful activity was invented, and the “prostitute” was defined as the lowest of the low, it was inevitable that women who would previously have been considered more or less the same as whores would attempt to draw lines between themselves and the new pariah class.  And once governments began to criminalize prostitution or activities around it as a result of the new ideas, distinguishing oneself from a “common prostitute” became a matter not only of dignity, but practical necessity.

The first group to successfully shed the whore stigma was actresses, who had since classical times been considered interchangeable with harlots; after the dawn of cinema they actually moved into a de facto higher social class, especially in the United States.  Dancers whose style could be credibly represented as asexual or highbrow (preferably both) followed them, then masseuses and women who had extramarital sex for non-financial reasons.  In the past several decades, the number of such groups has exploded and now includes many whose claim to being different from sex workers is threadbare indeed; burlesque dancers, competition pole dancers, glamour and lingerie models, professional “cuddlers”, nude maids, waitresses catering to sexual fantasies  and even sugar babies insist that they are different from strippers, hookers and fetish workers in some real (and legally defensible) way.  Even people who are directly paid for a hands-on sexual service claim that being “certified” or “spiritual” or whatever makes them not sex workers, and some who cannot possibly deny that they are still pretend to be “better” than other sex workers because they are “legal”, or because they don’t have direct intercourse and parrot “trafficking” propaganda to kiss up to cops.  But this example from the January 15th Guardian takes the biscuit:  “As a professional dominatrix, I…[know] sex is a human need, and kink can be a meaningful part of the sexual spectrum.  We sex workers turn the erotic into a humane and powerful art.  [But] too many of us, particularly escorts, are miserable slaves, and we must fight tirelessly for their freedom…Mudflap Girl Tesselation  Way to go there, Margaret Corvid; boost yourself up on the backs of all us pathetic, dirty escorts…oh, excuse me, “miserable slaves”.  Because only wonderful, superior dominatrices can choose freely, while those of us who prefer to sell more mundane sexual services are clearly dysfunctional.  In my essay “Whorearchy” I wrote,

…a whore is a whore is a whore, and legal, moral or procedural lines serve only to break people into smaller groups which are more easily dominated by the power-hungry.  If you accept money from someone that he gives due to sexual interest in you, then you are a whore and everything else is just semantics.  When politicians, pundits or rulers use some arbitrary determinant like penetration, duration, location or motivation to bless some harlots while damning others, what they’re actually doing is reducing the size of the group who might oppose them and winning supporters from among those granted legitimacy.  This is why I’m harshly unsympathetic to those who vehemently maintain that their species of sex work or sensual therapy is absolutely not prostitution:  all they’re doing is throwing other women under the bus, and if we had all stuck together from the beginning of second-wave feminism…prostitution would’ve been decriminalized long ago and many women who are now dead or damaged might still be alive and healthy…

As I’ve pointed out before, gay people only won their civil rights by forming a coalition, and until sex workers stop drawing arbitrary lines between each other and accepting the lies and false divisions promoted by those in power, we will never have the same kind of success.

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