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Posts Tagged ‘harm reduction’

Despite [all], some men stubbornly fight for our rights anyway; I don’t mind saying that I find that sort of obstinacy rather sexy.  –  Maggie McNeill

It’s already getting close to a year since I’ve compiled a list of men who have spoken out for sex worker rights, in defiance of the popular Swedish-flavored narrative which casts sex work as tantamount to rape and a form of male “oppression” of women.  In such a climate, speaking out for sex workers is liable to get one labeled a client or even a “pimp”, so “these days it takes some serious balls for a man to stand up, demand rights for sex workers, and actually sign his real name to the thing.”  Here, then, is another list of male allies; remember, this doesn’t include men who are directly involved in our industry, since it’s as personal for them as it is for us.  It does, however, include clients who have chosen to “out” themselves for the cause.  As before, this is by no means complete; please make any new suggestions in the comments below, so I can include them in a follow-up next year.

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance journalist who writes often about feminism, comic books and “geek” culture; he’s been published in Slate, the Atlantic, Wired and many others, and he has a book on the Golden Age Wonder Woman comics out early next year.  Follow him on Twitter at @hoodedu.

Magnus Betnér is a Swedish comedian who has dared to mock the Swedish model in front of Swedish audiences in Sweden; that automatically qualifies him for this list. Follow him on Twitter at @Magnusbetner;  he tweets in both Swedish and English.

Andy Bodle is a journalist and scriptwriter who has written for the Guardian, the Times, the BBC, and ABC.  He is out about having hired sex workers when he was younger, and has written several times debunking “trafficking” claims and arguing for decriminalization from a harm reduction viewpoint.  Email him at andybodle@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @_Womanology_

Felix Clay is not a cat, but rather a writer for the humor site Cracked who not only writes sex-positive articles, but even defended sex work in one where he admitted to hiring an escort (though he denied having sex with her).  Follow him on Twitter at @Felix_Clay

Leonard Fahrni is a regular reader and an instructor at Metro State University in Denver; beside speaking up in person and in a number of blog posts, he also proved hugely helpful to me when I reached Denver on my tour this past June.  Follow him on Twitter at @LeonardFahrni.

Robert King is a professor of applied psychology at University College, Cork, Ireland; he writes the blog Hive Mind at Psychology Today, in which he has on a number of occasions defended the legitimacy of sex work.  Email him at r.king@ucc.ie or follow him on Twitter at @DrRobertKing

Ed Krayewski is an editor at Reason who has, like so many libertarian journalists, consistently supported people’s right to do whatever they damned well please with their own bodies, including sell or buy sex.  Email him at ekrayewski@reason.com or follow him on Twitter at @edkrayewski

Jay Levy is a Cambridge University researcher whose 2012 PhD looked at Swedish prohibitionism as a form of violence against women; he has also written a book on the subject and discusses it in this video.  Email him at j.levy.03@cantab.net.

Nicola Mai is a professor of sociology and migration studies at London Metropolitan University; he not only authored an important study debunking “sex trafficking” myths in the UK, but has also supported decriminalization in both scholarly and popular articles.  Email him at n.mai@londonmet.ac.uk.

Robert Murphy is a well-known libertarian economist who, though he has not written on the subject of decriminalization before, did so after attending my presentation in Nashville back in July.  Email him via this page or follow him on Twitter  @BobMurphyEcon

Jim Norton is a comedian who recently came out as a client and published an article about it (in Time, no less), opening himself to the kind of prohibitionist attack that would cause fainter hearts than his to quail.  I don’t know if he ever reads this blog, but I have it on good authority that he owns an autographed copy of Ladies of the NightEmail him via this page or follow him on Twitter at @JimNorton

Peter Brian Schafer is a photographer and regular reader who strives in his work to portray whores with dignity and respect and to debunk the Madonna/whore dichotomy.  Email him at hookstrapped@gmail.com 

Sam Seder is a comedian, writer, actor, film director, television producer-director, and talk radio host; in the latter capacity, he has debunked ridiculous excuses for the criminalization of sex work and had Melissa Gira Grant as a guest on his show, Majority Report.  Contact him while on the air via this page or follow him on Twitter at @SamSeder

Michael Smerconish is a radio (on Sirius XM) and TV (formerly on MSNBC, now on CNN) personality who has made at least one persuasive on-air defense of prostitution from a harm reduction perspective, also mentioning clients with disabilities.  Follow him on Twitter at @smerconish

If you’d like to be on the next list of this type, just email me with a link to whatever public statements you’ve made about sex worker rights under your real name, and we’ll see about adding you to the next one (don’t be shy; if you don’t tell me, who will?)  In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for “Stand-Up Guys” in my weekly TW3 column, where I’ll mention guys who come to my attention without having to wait another year.

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I’m a 24-year-old girl who feels that if cheating is inevitable, and most men have paid for sex, then there’s no way that I can ever be in a healthy relationship.  While I support sex workers and want them to work safely, I refuse to marry a man who has paid for sex; I would rather be alone than do this.  How can I pursue a healthy, honest relationship if I can’t trust men?

If you define “healthy” as “unrealistically perfect”, then you’re correct that you’ll never be in a “healthy” relationship.  Human beings are not perfect, and men are not women; if you expect perfection, and furthermore define that perfection as men behaving like women, then you are indeed doomed to disappointment.  Healthy relationships aren’t those in which both partners meet and never fall below some unrealistic standard of behavior; they’re those in which each partner recognizes that the other is a flawed human being who will inevitably do upsetting, disappointing, hurtful or infuriating things, and that he or she is really no better no matter how much he or she might like to think so.  “I refuse to marry a man who has paid for sex; I would rather be alone than do this” is just as unrealistic (and, frankly, as immature) as “I refuse to marry a woman who is not a virgin; I would rather be alone than do this.”  If you insist on controlling your partner’s past, you obviously mean to control his future, and any self-respecting man in his right mind should run screaming from such a danger sign (just as any self-respecting woman in her right mind should run screaming from the counterpart).

Note that I’m not telling you that all men will cheat, because that wouldn’t be true; what I’m saying is that many will, and that it’s foolish to throw out a man you profess to love merely because he has a fairly-typical flaw.  I might point out that many a client comes to sex workers precisely because he is wise enough not to discard a woman he loves merely because she has the correspondingly-typical female flaw, namely losing interest in sex after a few years of marriage.  Everyone agrees that good relationships need to be based on more than sex, so why is it that so many people believe that a sexual disagreement is sufficient grounds for ending an otherwise-good relationship?  Even if a man cheats on you, applying some mechanistic “zero tolerance” rule like a guillotine to sever a connection you find beneficial in every other way is cheating both yourself and him.

(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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Because my wife has let me know in no uncertain terms that no more sex will be forthcoming, ever, I followed your advice and now see escorts, mostly when I travel but sometimes closer to home.  I’ve found that a few hours with a lovely, intelligent woman 2-4 times a month makes a huge difference in my life; I’m happier, my mind is sharper, my sleep is less troubled, and I’m much more focused and productive.  I no longer find myself deteriorating into extreme and disturbing sexual dreams and fantasies.  But what shall I do when I get caught?  I say “when” rather than “if” because doing something long enough means the probability approaches 100%, no matter how careful I am.  While my marriage is sexless it is not without value to me, and I dread the thought of divorce (which wouldn’t help either of us).

Monkeys typing ShakespeareIt’s true that the Law of Very Big Numbers guarantees that virtually anything, no matter how small the chance, is bound to happen if the number of chances for it to happen is large enough.  But actually, the number of chances isn’t that large in this case; if you’re about 50 and see an escort roughly 36 times a year for the next 10 years, then drop to 20 times a year for the 10 after that, we’re only talking 560 chances of a screwup by the time you’re 70.  And provided you are very careful as I advised you to be, that’s probably not even enough to get over a 10% lifetime probability of exposure; remember, about 20% of men see sex workers occasionally (and 6% see them frequently as you do), yet we don’t see anything like 20% of men exposed as clients.  The fact that ignorant people believe the nonsensical claim that fewer than 15% of men have ever paid for sex tends to point toward the lifetime exposure rate as being even lower than that, though of course it’s really hard to be sure.

You also seem to be presuming that your wife doesn’t already know, and that she would have a cow if she found out.  But in fact, neither of these is certain; some wives know (or at least suspect) that their husbands are seeing escorts and simply don’t say anything about it, especially if they’ve lost interest in sex.  Remember, women tend to be a lot more pragmatic than men give us credit for; a wife who truly doesn’t want sex any more usually views her husband ceasing to pester her for it as a good thing, and she might not be inclined to look too hard at why he isn’t doing so anymore for fear of messing it up.  Remember, your marriage is probably as valuable to your wife as it is to you; just as her frigidity isn’t enough to induce you to end it because you get other things out of it, so your infidelity may not be enough to induce her to end it for the same reason, especially if you don’t rub her nose in it.

Given that last sentence, the most important advice I can give you is this:  even if you think she’s found out, don’t say anything until she directly accuses you.  Stop seeing escorts for a while just in case, but it might just be guilt or paranoia on your part so you don’t want to open your trap and ruin everything.  If she accuses you directly, you might still deny it unless she presents evidence, but if she has that you might as well just admit the truth…but make it the whole truth, including when and why you started.  Yes, she may decide she wants a divorce, but she may not.  And though it doesn’t hurt to consider this question, dwelling on it is borrowing trouble.  Just be careful, don’t take any unnecessary risks, and it’s unlikely that the problem will ever materialize.

(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 don’t want to put myself out of business as a storyteller; I just want to tell less painful stories.  –  Melissa Gira Grant

Maggie in the Media LiberTea 8-17-14

Here are a couple of conversations I’ve had in the past few weeks; the How We Talk About Sex podcast with Eric Leviton (recorded the morning after I arrived in New York City), and the LiberTea spreecast (recorded last Sunday night within minutes of my arrival from Washington DC).  These are both very loose, informal conversations, about two hours each, with a lot more laughter and joking around than you might be used to from me.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

Try not to throw up when you read the name cops gave their entrapment scheme:

…[Florida] police detective…Reno Chevelle Fells resigned…after his arrest at a St. Augustine Beach hotel [after responding] to an online ad offering sex for money…”Operation Summer Lovin'” resulted in 14 arrests…

Law of the Instrument

Another cop helpfully explains that “sex trafficking” is everywhere, that “victims” don’t know that they’re victims and that women are so stupid and passive they have to be “taught” and “coached” to fear and distrust thugs who deceive, molest, chain and cage them. Words fall utterly short.

Somehow, I Doubt He Thought This Through

[William McDaniel] reported he did not get the sex act he requested as part of his $350 private dance at Sagebrush Sam’s Exotic Dance Club…west of Butte [Montana].  Officers informed him asking an exotic dancer for a sexual gratification is illegal and put him in jail for solicitation of prostitution…

Schadenfreude 

In “Unraveling”, Anne Elizabeth Moore discusses the deep connections between the “rescue” and garment industries (in comic strip form, drawn by Melissa Mendes).  There are also links to other strips in the series.  If you’re ever wondered why “rehabilitation” for sex workers so often seems to involve working in sweatshops, and why Somaly Mam was sponsored by fashion companies, you need to read this.

Scapegoats

An Albuquerque woman was arrested…after…she tried to poison her roommates when they discovered she had been having sex with two German shepherds.  Shari Walters…was…caught…having sex with both her roommates’ dogs…the night after…both roommates noticed their food tasted different…Walters…admitted to putting rubbing alcohol in both roommates’ waters, as well as toilet bowl cleaner in their food…

Above the Law

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper…Eric Roberts…pulled [a woman] over without probable cause…then…forced the victim to perform sexual acts in his patrol car, before driving to another location where he…raped her…”  But Roberts is just a piker compared to his “brother officer” Daniel Holtzclaw:

…Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 27, was arrested…on complaints of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and indecent exposure…Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said…Holtzclaw stopped women while he was working and forced them to expose themselves, fondled them and in at least one instance [raped] a woman.  Authorities have statements from six victims and expect a statement from a seventh…investigators believe there are additional victims…

The Lion and the Ox

There’s an awful lot of “suppose” and “maybe” here:

…The link between surrogacy and human trafficking is currently under investigation.  It is unequivocal that any child conceived to be sold constitutes a trafficked human…A clause in [UN protocol]…states that “references to slavery and similar practices may include illegal adoption in some circumstances”…it is unlikely, but possible, that the babies or embryos were envisaged for exploitation in the sex industry, on the illegal donor market, for slavery or the labour market.  This, de facto, constitutes a human trafficking case…Exploring links between…surrogacy and illegal adoption…automatically leads to organised crime…we may infer that the children were to be sold into an illegal adoption scheme…Suppose the children were conceived to be enslaved or exploited in the sex industry…

Somebody’s Daughter

Stalwart ally Elizabeth N. Brown on the “Would you want your daughter to be a whore?” fallacy:

…Using his apparent mind-reading powers, [Damon Linker] asserts that no one could honestly be okay with having a child in porn…Linker knows that nearly everyone must feel appalled because… he thought about it and was appalled?  That’s some pretty shaky logic…I would sure as shit rather have a porn star daughter (or son) than one who thinks, as Linker does, that being in porn makes someone “low, base, and degraded”…There’s nothing wrong with having certain expectations for your children…But…Our best laid plans mean jack…Proponents of decriminalization aren’t asking you to become pro prostitution, to encourage your kids to go into sex work, or even to abandon thinking it’s morally wrong, if that’s what you think…All we’re asking is for you to consider that criminalizing prostitution does more harm than good.  If — gasp! horror! disgust! — your daughter did happen to become a sex worker, wouldn’t you want to make it as safe and non-ruinous for her as possible?

Profound Ignorance

The “before the internet most whores were streetwalkers” and “each whore has only one ad” tropes just won’t die no matter how many times we kill them:

…A snapshot as recently as last week found 2,253 individuals advertising sex for sale [in Scotland] on a series of escort and other websites…However, sources stressed numbers have been close to 3,000 in recent months as the market – largely featuring foreign women who move around or are moved around – ebbed and flowed.  The sex trade has moved off the streets in recent years as women working in flats replaced traditional streetwalkers, most of whom were Scots with addiction or debt problems…Detective Chief Inspector Ruth Gilfillan…said she believed “well over 90 per cent” of sex work was now carried out from flats or brothels…

Texas Tall Tales Facebook Pimp

Texas just loves the “Facebook pimps” myth:

…pimps, hiding behind fake identities, increasingly use social media to lure young girls into the trade.  Unscrupulous predators and the popularity of online networking have made it tougher for authorities to crack down on sex trafficking.  Police estimate that 100 adolescents are trafficked every year in Dallas…

The article also claims that the undefined “illicit sex market” in Dallas is worth $99 million (per year? per day? as a purchase price?) and that 1 in 7 (14%) of the “children” reported missing are “probably victims of sex trafficking”…which would be a good trick, since only 0.014% of all “missing children” are abducted by strangers.

Banishment

But officials claim “sex offender” registration isn’t a punishment.

Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York…are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of a state law that…restricts many sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school.  Those unable to find such accommodations often end up in homeless shelters.  But in February…["authorities" proclaimed] the 1,000-foot restriction also extended from homeless shelters, making most of them off limits…in New York City…only 14 of the 270 shelters…have been deemed eligible to receive sex offenders.  But with [these] often filled to capacity, the state has opted to keep certain categories of sex offenders in custody…Some have begun filing habeas corpus petitions…demanding to be released…The state’s [pretense] is that it has the legal authority to continue holding [them]…because they are largely subject to post-release supervision by the state…[such as] unannounced home visits…as well as restrictions on Internet use and interactions with minors…

Under Every Bed 

As in the Chanel Island of Jersey, population < 100,000:  “Jersey Police…are investigating a sex trafficking ring.  The force say they have received information about a growing sex trade in the island, with women potentially being trafficked and exploited…

Monsters

The parents of an eight-year-old beat “every inch” of him, until he was dead, because he played with dolls…Pearl Fernandez, 30, and Isauro Aguirre, 34, beat their son Gabriel…“for eight straight months”, and he was “tortured more severely than many prisoners of war”…According to statements given by his two siblings, he was forced to eat cat faeces and rotten spinach and was not allowed to use the toilet…He was beaten with a metal hanger, a belt buckle and lost multiple teeth when he was hit with a bat…

Lower Education 

Northern Illinois University is restricting students’ access to certain websites.  For their own good, of course…Students who attempt to visit an unauthorized site through the campus network are redirected to a creepy “Web Page Access Warning”…[which] one student reported…to Reddit after he received a warning for trying to access the Westboro  Bapist Church’s Wikipedia page…NIU cites “common sense, decency, ethical use, civility, and security,” as its various rationales for…[trying] to dissuade students from visiting websites deemed harmful by administrators…

web page censorship threat

Mumbo Jumbo

When an article is this shockingly stupid, it’s hard to decide how to file it.  Is the most important factor the hilarious “Harvard of sex trafficking” label, or the use of the word “literally” to describe something that isn’t literal?  Is it a woman’s changed, then recanted, then re-sworn testimony being described as “her true story” because it agrees with prosecutors’ claims?  Is it yet another woman being caged to compel her testimony?  I was tempted to give precedence to the statements made by “trafficking expert” Donna Sabella, who said that domestic violence is “like” domestic violence (yep); that “prostitution…often results in arrested development — young women with the social or emotional age of someone 12 or 13″; and that “trafficking…has become somewhat normalized through…music, pimp costumes and shows like Pimp My Ride“.  But I eventually decided that it had to be Milwaukee cop Dawn Jones’ claim that “girls are…property of one pimp or another” but can change this supposed “ownership” to a new pimp by “looking one in the eye”.  It is unclear whether the magical “ownership”-changing force proceeds from the eye of the whore or the “pimp”.

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #409)

Pamela Stubbart is a libertarian who resigned from an organization called Young Voices because it allowed Belle Knox, who is also a libertarian, to join.  While I totally support the right of any person to associate or disassociate with others as she sees fit, and to like or dislike people (including me) or activities (including mine) as her psyche dictates, I do rather wish she hadn’t laced her resignation letter with prudishness draped in faux-reason.  Anyhow, Cliterati writer Slut O’Crat has penned an in-depth look at what’s wrong with Stubbart’s behavior, and more generally at the weird aversion some sex worker activists have to many sex workers’ wholly-natural and eminently-predictable embrace of libertarian ideas.

Worse Than I Thought (Traffic Updates)

the [Arkansas] Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking…presented findings and recommendations to the Judiciary Committee…It…[wants] to add human trafficking convictions to those requiring registration as a sex offender.  Other recommendations include posting a hotline number at all rest stops, state parks, and schools with grades 6-12.  This is an extension of legislation already passed which requires the hotline number to be posted at sexually oriented businesses and truck stops…

A Whore in Church (TW3 #433) Patrick Johnson

[After] bare-breasted women…marched in front of the New Beginnings Ministries church in [Ohio]…Patrick Johnson…of the anti-abortion group Personhood Ohio, responded…by asking Ohioans to call the legislature in support of banning “all public nudity in the state,” according to WSYX.  “I am sick that women can legally bare their breasts to children and to married men against their will in Ohio…what they did was an offense to God, was an offense to the public morality, and the legislature should act to criminalize what they did”…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

The proposed new law to “protect” German sex workers is very, very bad:

…the underlying spirit of this bill appears to be the perception of sex work as a social evil the government cannot rid society of and feels therefore obligated to impose regulations on it to such an extent where completely adhering to them is rendered virtually impossible, which in turn will enable law enforcement agencies to persecute sex workers and operators of prostitution businesses.  Hence, the title of this bill is utterly misleading and an insult to sex workers fighting for equal rights under the law…the bill will not protect sex workers, but instead…aims to protect society from the imaginary evil of prostitution…

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on July 13th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

massage parlor raidAfter generations of ignoring the violence against sex workers which is directly or indirectly caused by either full (as in the US) or partial (as in the UK) criminalization, the public is slowly beginning to wake up to the reality: most of it is perpetrated by the police.  Prohibitionists and “authorities” want everyone to believe the opposite, that clients and “pimps” inflict the most violence, and that the police are welcome “rescuers” from it.  Nothing could be farther from the truth; in every study of violence against sex workers ever done (such as this one from India), police are the largest victimizers and clients and pimps the least, with domestic partners and people empowered or emboldened by the marginalization of sex workers in the middle.  And despite the best efforts of those who need the public to support ever more criminalization in order to punish men for being men or to enlarge the police state, the truth is beginning to leak out, and we see new stories of police violence against sex workers almost every month.  Some of this is due to the efforts of sex workers ourselves; some is due to the diligent efforts of allies and ethical journalists; some is due to the stupidity and hubris of the police; and some is simply the natural result of omnipresent surveillance, the internet and a 24-hour news cycle always hungry for lurid stories.

In just the past few months, there have been a number of incidents that provoked public outcry on sex workers’ behalf against the heavy-handed behavior of governments and the violence of police.  In December, sex workers in Soho were subjected to a pogrom in which they were manhandled, robbed and dragged out into the street in freezing weather in their underwear; the public learned about it first from news photographers the police had themselves invited along.  In March, the world was scandalized to hear that cops in Hawaii wanted the explicit legal right to rape sex workers before arresting them.  In April, the general public finally began to notice Phoenix, Arizona’s Project ROSE, in which women profiled as sex workers are arrested in mass sweeps, denied legal representation and forced into religious brainwashing programs under threat of incarceration in Arizona’s brutal prison system; later that month, the world heard of the US government’s threats against financial institutions to get them to “voluntarily” cut off services to sex workers and other target groups.  In May non-sex workers were shocked to see the surveillance video of a Chicago massage parlor raid in which a handcuffed, kneeling woman was beaten and subjected to racist insults and death threats; only a week later, Newsweek published an article exposing the lies and fabrications of Somaly Mam, who pays Cambodian police to abduct sex workers and lock them in filthy, crowded cells at her “rescue centers”, where they are beaten, robbed, gang-raped and starved while their “savior” hobnobs with celebrities and receives accolades from anti-whore fanatics.

These stories all have two things in common.  The first is that, while they are shocking to the general public, sex workers and those who work closely with us have known about them (or in the case of single-instance atrocities, many others like them) for years or decades; it’s simply that until recently, nobody wanted to listen.  The second is that those who shocked by them generally believe them to be isolated incidents rather than recognizing them as business as usual, merely visible outcroppings of the police violence that underlies the entire landscape of criminalization.  While I was glad to see people upsetcop rapes sex worker about Somaly Mam’s torture porn and abusive practices, they need to understand that these are endemic to the rescue industry everywhere.  Though I was grateful at the outcry over Project ROSE, I am frustrated at the media’s cover-up of similar rights-violating programs which are merely less obvious because they lack that special Arizona lunacy.  Though I was relieved at the disgust people expressed toward the racist Chicago thugs, I am sad that most of them seem to think this was unusual, when in fact it is wholly typical behavior during any massage parlor raid.  And despite the apparent public belief that the situation in Hawaii was unique,

…This is standard operating procedure everywhere in the United States, and the only thing unusual about Hawaii is that it’s spelled out in law.  Just in case you’re a new reader or have a short memory, here are three examples from just last year:  Indiana,  Florida and Pennsylvania are all especially shameless in their defense of government-authorized rape, excusing it by claiming that sex workers are “sophisticated” (while simultaneously being pathetic, infantile victims)…

The sad fact is that none of these scandals is unusual in any way, except for the fact that they came to the attention of the public.  And they will continue to be business as usual until that public stops pretending otherwise and demands the abolition of prohibition.

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Young Woman with Magnifying GlassI haven’t been an escort very long, and though I’ve screened clients by email before I just did my first phone screening.  There were several awkward pauses from the gent, like he was waiting for me to ask him something else (or maybe wanted to ask me something but couldn’t find the words).  I was friendly, but have been warned not to talk about details about sex…still, shouldn’t I go into do’s and dont’s, like I don’t do anal or BBBJ?  Or is that a no-no?  Also, is it OK to ask if they’ve seen escorts before if they don’t have references, but pass screening in every other way?

Some men are just nervous and awkward on the phone.  That’s actually a good sign; if you feel he’s sincerely nervous, he probably isn’t a cop because they won’t be (they do, however, often claim to be newbies so they don’t have to provide references).  If I were you, I’d stay away from any kind of sexual talk on the phone, even veiled references; just be friendly and cover things like when, how long a session, etc.  Most good clients won’t push you for sexual details; since both parties know what they’re there for, what’s to discuss?  Yes, it would be good if we could both be specific about what he wants and what we will or won’t do, but unfortunately that’s much too dangerous in the current legal climate.

In the long run you’ll have to decide for yourself whether references are important to you, but I suggest you start out by asking for them; other girls can often warn you away from a bad or iffy client, tell you what to expect from a marginal one, etc.  While it’s certainly true that many newbies may be excellent clients, the only way to discover that is to see them for yourself…and as I pointed out above, that carries a heightened risk of his being a lying cop.  They’re hunting us very aggressively these days, so please be careful and don’t be afraid to ask other, more experienced girls for screening advice.  Here are some basic screening suggestions, but until you get a routine you’re comfortable with it doesn’t hurt to listen to what others have to say on the issue.

(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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Marijke Vonk is a Dutch sex-positive psychologist who specializes in working with sexual minorities; besides working as a therapist, she is a writer and lecturer on various topics concerning sexuality.   Since I discovered her blog a few months ago I’ve been repeatedly impressed by both her thoughts and the way she expresses them; if we had a thousand allies like her sex worker rights would be all but accomplished.  So naturally, I had to ask her to do a guest column for me!

When it comes to sex, the Netherlands is known as a tolerant country.  We’ve got marriage equality for same-sex couples, a usually laid-back attitude towards sexual diversity, famous red-lights districts and since 2000 legalised brothel-keeping.  But in recent years, the human trafficking panic has caught on and attitudes towards sex work have changed.  “The happy hooker does not exist” claimed Dutch politician Gert-Jan Segers, one of the initiators of new legislation to criminalise clients of sex workers.  “All prostitutes are forced” states Frits Rouvoet, an “expert” on sex work.  It’s interesting how these men will not change their minds, not even when numerous sex workers contact them to let them know they are indeed happy and not forced.

cops at brothelAs in the rest of the world, inflated numbers of incidences of trafficking are used to reduce sex workers’ rights.  The National Reporter on Trafficking in the Netherlands claims thousands of reported cases of possible victims of trafficking, but these reports include registration of non-sex worker women travelling alone (!) and sex workers visiting family abroad.  Even sex workers who buy new things, have a lot of friends or like their workplace are regarded with suspicion and reported as possible victims.  Sadly, these “thousands of reported cases” are repeated by politicians and NGO’s who claim more action (and money) is needed to combat this extensive problem.  When confronted with the inaccuracy of their claims they seem wholly uninterested.  “Maybe the problem is slightly exaggerated.  If that means we get more help for victims I have no moral objection”.

Most people involved in the Dutch rescue industry don’t seem to mean any harm towards sex workers themselves, they genuinely appear to want to help victims.  They don’t see the harm, and I think that’s where one of the major issues in Dutch sex workers’ rights lie.  They truly don’t see how their actions are harming both victims and sex workers.  And from a psychological viewpoint this makes sense:  it feels good to fight for a just cause, to help powerless innocent victims, to be one of the good guys.  Accepting that the “victims” not only refuse your help but are actually victimised by your actions causes a great deal of cognitive dissonance, something we all try to avoid.  It’s no wonder then that rescuers deny facts and sex workers’ experience, but their ignorance is far from harmless.

During recent raids on legal brothels hundreds of policemen violently forced their way into the workplace of twenty or thirty sex workers, smashing up their belongings, taking their earnings and bringing the women, their clients and anyone else near the establishment to police stations for questioning.  Scaring clients of sex workers is currently a popular method, not only by harassing them during raids but also by lying about the prevalence of forced prostitution: This has caused a noticeable drop in business for Eastern European sex workers in red light districts.  New legislation is being proposed to criminalise clients of sex workers when they “should have known” those sex workers are forced to work.  To be clear, sex with people who are obviously forced is of course already illegal and called rape.  But the major initiator of this new legislation is of the opinion that all sex workers are forced, this is simply a step towards end-demand laws.  Eastern European women are disproportionally stalked by police under the guise of anti-trafficking, they are followed around airports and stopped and questioned in public areas.  Prostitutes working from home are raided, their belongings confiscated and are even kicked out of their homes.  Necessary permits for brothel-keeping are impossible to get, which has resulted in a strong power imbalance between brothel-workers and the proprietors, a situation which almost begs for abuse and exploitation.  Sex workers have no legal way of arranging a work place for themselves.  The lies about trafficking and forced prostitution have resulted in increased funding of rescue organisations and ceased funding of sex workers’ rights organisations.  Actual victims are becoming more and more invisible under all the bloated claims, making them harder to reach.  Outside of the Netherlands the situation is even worse; anti-trafficking laws and regulations have hurt the position of sex workers and has increased police brutality towards sex workers.  Rescue organisations are currently the biggest perpetrators of human trafficking in the world, abducting women and girls from their homes and workplaces, keeping them in shelters against their will and forcing them to do manual labour under terrible circumstances and for a criminally low wage.

A stone bridge, Gapstow Bridge, in Central Park, NY.In order to change this, we need to make people see the harm they are doing.  But it’s difficult to convince people of the idea that they believe in lies and that their actions have resulted in the harm and even death of others.  In couples therapy I often explain the idea of “the golden bridge out” of a conflict.  If you and your partner disagree you need to give the other person a graceful way of admitting they are wrong; if the only way they can change their mind and agree with you is by agreeing they are a lying piece of garbage with no sense of empathy, they’re not going to agree.  Always give the other person a golden bridge out, a graceful way of changing their minds that doesn’t necessarily involve crushing their self worth.  I think we need such a bridge out for the antis, the rescuers, a graceful path for them to change their minds without having to state they were the bad guys.  They need a story in which their egos can stay intact.  They need a golden bridge out of their far from victimless crimes.

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