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Posts Tagged ‘harm reduction’

Dr. Paul Maginn is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Western Australia; he is the co-editor and co-author of several chapters in the recently published book (Sub)Urban Sexscapes:  Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry.  I asked him to comment on his book and explain why a planner & geographer is so interested in sex work.

Suburban SexscapesAt social events whenever we meet someone new for the first time it can be guaranteed that they will ask, “So, what do you do for a living?”  In the past, my stock response was generally:  “I’m an academic…an urban planner”!  The stock replies to this usually range from:  “Oh! What does that mean?” to “Oh, that’s nice! I have to go now because there’s my friend over there”.  You see, being an academic doesn’t seem to capture too many non-academic peoples’ attention.  So nowadays, when I’m asked what I do for a living I say:  “I’ll give you three guesses”.  I do this because it’s a good way to sustain conversation, it can be fun, and it’s a way of testing people’s perception of oneself.

Invariably, posing this question to people seems to immediately get their imaginations racing; it’s something of a “loaded” question, after all.  Hence, people start to think that you do something weird, exciting, dangerous or risqué for a living.  Whilst I was in my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in July 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting up with activist Laura Lee, who was on tour at the time.  We were sitting outside a well-known bar having a drink when a woman and her adult nephew, out celebrating the latter’s birthday, asked if they could sit at our table.  Of course, being sociable creatures we said, “Sure, no problems!  But you may want to avert your ears because of our conversation”.  They laughed and insisted that they were big enough not to be offended by whatever we were discussing.

Sure enough, this being Belfast, the nephew turned to us shortly after sitting down and said: “So what do yous’ do for a living?”  Laura and I looked at one another, smirked and replied:  “We’ll give you three guesses!”  Then without skipping a beat Laura replied in her Dublin burr:  “I’m a professional dominatrix!”  The nephew was dumbfounded, even more so when Laura presented him with her business card.  He excitedly asked if he could keep the card, adding quickly, “Not that I want to book you or anything”.  Then he looked me up and down and asked, “Are you in porn?”  Laura Lee can testify on a Sisters of Mercy bible that this actually happened!  I replied:  “Close, but no cigar.  I’m not in porn.  But, I’m into porn!”  I qualified this by explaining that I was an academic planner who researched the geographies and regulation of the sex industry and was working on a book on the subject.

So, what do planners and planning have to do with the sex industry? When commercial forms of sex – street- or brothel-based sex work; adult entertainment (e.g. stripping, lap-dancing or pornography); BDSM services; and sex shops, novelty stores or erotic boutiques – manifest they require spaces or premises to operate from.  This is where planning and zoning come into play.  Put simply, planning is concerned with trying to create “orderly” spaces by ensuring that there is a place for everything, and that everything is in its place via zoning.  Planners basically use rationality and technical skills to ascertain whether or not certain land-uses should permitted; however, when commercial sex premises are presented for planning/zoning approval they are often hijacked and held for political and moral ransom by politicians and others who often vehemently object to such proposals, even when such land-uses are perfectly legal.

It is this politicisation of planning and the wider politics and political rhetoric that tend to surround commercial sex industry activities that particularly interest me as an academic.  I’ve done some work looking at how state politicians in Western Australia (WA) have framed sex work in the wake of proposals to introduce legislation to regulate street- and brothel-based sex work.  In short, the political debates here in WA (and elsewhere in Australia for that matter) tend to be informed and dominated by moral arguments as opposed to evidence.  The same also applies to Northern Ireland, which recently passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill.  This Bill, when it finally receives Royal Assent, will see the introduction of the so-called Swedish Model of regulation of sex work.

There has been a fervent (some might say unhealthy) over-interest by governments, certain religious organisations and some branches of the feminist movement, in the sex lives of citizens.  Such over-interest has spurred the introduction (or efforts to introduce) legislation designed to exclude sex shops, curtail the number of strip clubs, prevent people from downloading “extreme porn” and criminalising the purchaser of sex services.  I am not suggesting for one minute that there should be no regulation of the different sectors of the sex industry, and neither do the various sex workers I know.  But recent efforts to regulate different forms of sex work are akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  It also seems fairly clear from observing proceedings in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Canada, for example, that politicians have little regard for the nuanced evidence on sex work and the “Swedish model”. I mean, who needs evidence when you have blind faith on your side?

Moreover, they seem to have contempt for the real experts in the field – sex workers – and a fixation that sex work is populated only by “fallen women” in need of “rescue”.  But sex work is a highly complex form of labour that takes places in a variety of spaces – streets, cars, bars, hotels, casinos, brothels, houses/apartments and the internet – and involves people who identify as female, male transgender and intersectional, who are straight, queer and bisexual, and who come from a range of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.  Whilst sex is obviously a key facet of the transactional relationship between sex workers and clients, there is much more to sex work than just sex.

If governments were sincere about reducing harm to sex workers, their efforts would be better placed on protecting the human and workplace rights of sex workers.  As we know, banning, prohibiting or over-taxing particular goods and services (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pornography and diesel) merely creates alternative unregulated markets which are often controlled by criminal elements; they thus represent a loss of tax revenue for governments and pose a higher risk to people (the very thing that governments claim they want to reduce).  Government regulation of the sex industry needs to be measured, pragmatic and evidence-based; policies premised on stereotypes, religious beliefs and moral superiority do more harm than good and result in unintended consequences.

So, next time you’re at a party, a wedding, Bar Mitzvah or funeral and you happen to bump into an urban planner why not say to them:  “Let’s talk about sex”?  I’m sure you’ll make their day, but be sure to clarify what you mean if you want to avoid them thinking that you’re coming on to them. 

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The idea that prostitution should be stopped by non-sex workers…devalues and dehumanizes people who are struggling to make ends meet. – Svati Shah

Check Your Premises

Oh, the mental gymnastics:

…Law enforcement and [feminist] groups [pretend that] tough…penalties are an appropriate response to pimps who prey on vulnerable young women…But at times, the law enforcement efforts that are meant to target the pimps also sweep up the women who assist them in their crimes, women who often are also victims themselves…

Blah blah “sold for sex”, blah blah “sex-trafficking network”, blah blah “control over her”, blah blah “enslaved to their pimps”.  You get the idea.

Repeat Offenders 

There’s something deeply disturbing about Catholic nuns aiding and abetting the police state; it’s even more disturbing when the collaborators name their operation after a Biblical whore famous for hiding fugitives from the police:

Sister Ancy Mathew …founded a charity called Rahab…and accompanied officers…raiding flats where trafficked women might be held…Women who have been trafficked into Britain to become sex workers have invariably been lied to, and have often been encouraged by the criminals who control them to fear police.  As a result, few trust the police enough to be able to open up…about what they know after they have been freed…

Enabling Oppression

Even the more perceptive survivors of forced prostitution recognize that criminalization enables it:

…I would never have had to go through that terrible situation if prostitution was legalized…If it was legal, I would have signed a contract, I would have known what I was getting myself into, and I could have held the recruiters accountable for their actions…

The Scarlet Letter (TW3 #19)

A woman that had been arrested in 2012 for allegedly working illegally as a prostitute and accused of intentionally causing clients serious bodily harm, has died from a drug overdose…she also left behind a suicide note.  Katerina…was among 12 HIV-positive women…whose names and photographs were published on the Greek police’s website in 2012…HIV stigma victimPositive Voice, a group that helps people with HIV, had denounced the incident as an unacceptable breach of  ‘medical confidentiality…Katerina…served a one year prison sentence and was released after a court…[found] no evidence [she] engaged in illegal prostitution…

The Widening Gyre 

Evidence?  This is Sweden, we don’t believe in evidence:

Sweden’s Security Service has expressed concerns about a rapid rise in the number of Swedes heading to Iraq and Syria to fight for Isis, as Sweden’s official coordinator against violent extremism suggests some girls are being forced to make the journey…she said that while many young people choose to join…others – especially girls – are…”trafficked” to the middle east and southern Asia…

Sexual Predators

Yakopovich believes cops should relax, have fun, rape a few whores and laugh at their tears:

Police say they are cracking down on prostitution…Lt. Vince Yakopovich said…”We always try to take the time and say, ‘Hey, drop what you are doing and let’s go'”…Local motels are cooperating for the most part…

Coming and Going (TW3 #311)

In the long run, tight budgets work in our favor:

Dallas County’s prostitution diversion [scheme]…was meant to serve as a model for the state’s largest counties.  But some officials, including those in Collin and Denton County, have passed on the state’s mandate…that counties with more than 200,000 people start [similar schemes]…Officials…say…prostitutes…in their jurisdictions …aren’t at the street level…and [harassing them] requires more [expensive]…investigations…

The Leading Players in the Field, Not (TW3 #316)

Gloria Steinem went to India earlier this year…with Ruchira Gupta…of Apne Aap…Feminists in India…disagree with Steinem’s take on prostitution…Steinem…repeatedly calls Apne Aap a “grass roots” organization, which would imply that it has little or no international profile, and primarily works with local people…[but] Apne Aap…receives funding from outside India regularly, and…is part of the international trafficking industrial complex, that combination of non-governmental organizations, governments, and money that has enabled the strange rise of the idea that “trafficking”, whatever it may be (chattel slavery, forced prostitution, any prostitution, forced labor, illegal migration, and/or debt bondage) is a universal problem requiring huge resources to resolve…

Original Sin (TW3 #322)

Pope Francis and other leaders of the world’s main religions…signed a joint declaration to work together to eradicate modern slavery…by …2020…they declared that “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution…is a crime against humanity”…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (TW3 #329)Yoda

If something’s in a movie, it must be true!

When Tim Matsui began working on his project about the sex trafficking of teenagers around Seattle in 2012, he followed a group of police officers…The Long Night, a film…directed by…Matsui and funded by the [rescue industry] is a gut-wrenching [fantasy] of the effects of sex trafficking on seven people, including victims, survivors and law enforcement officers…

Policing for Profit 

Wally Kowalski, an engineer living in a farmhouse in rural southwest Michigan, came home one day…to find his property swarming with cops…Kowalski has a license to grow and distribute medical pot to several low-income people who depend on the drug…state police…seized his power generator—even though it had nothing to do with his marijuana plants—and some expensive equipment.  They also destroyed the plants.  Kowalski [said]…they grabbed anything likely to be sold at a police auction…”When they found my bank accounts here in my office, they let out a yell.  They said, ‘Here’s the bank accounts, we got him.’  It’s like the happiest thing for them, to find my bank accounts.”  The police froze his accounts, rendering him unable to make payments on his student loans or other bills…The authorities haven’t charged Kowalski with a crime…

Scapegoats (TW3 #334)

Once again, vanillas reveal themselves as the true perverts:

A report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour describes an unusual field trip made by Canadian researcher Debra W. Soh – to a furry convention…she had expected to find herself in a dimly-lit orgy “filled with couples – or groups – of costumed folks engaging in kinky sex” but she saw nothing of the kind.  In fact, she saw nothing sexual at the whole convention except some erotic…fan art that was on sale.  Instead, the furries were chatting, playing board games, smoking, and so on…

Absolute Corruption (TW3 #349)

Former day care owners who spent 21 years in prison…[for Satanic panic] convictions…are struggling to convince prosecutors that they should be fully exonerated.  Dan and Fran Keller…were freed on bond last year when the only physical evidence against them was found to be a mistake…But…prosecutors remain unwilling to proclaim them innocent [despite the fact that everyone knows their conviction was the product of a witch hunt]…[their] claim…will be decided by…conservative judges [who protect the status quo and]…will be guided by the recommendations of [the] judge…who [convicted them in] 1992…and…has already twice ruled that they had failed to prove their innocence.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410) Fiona MacTaggart

a few weeks ago in Parliament…Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart added two clauses to the Modern Slavery Bill that would criminalise the clients of sex workers in England and Wales…MacTaggart and her supporters hoped to bring the Nordic Model here with almost no notice or debate…The English Collective of Prostitutes…lobbied their MPs on the phone or in person, and parliamentarians were blasted with anti-criminalisation briefings from left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell…Supporters Women Against Rape pointed out that: “To target men who have not been accused of violence just because they purchase sexual services, diverts police time and resources away from reported rapes”…MacTaggart has claimed that the majority of sex workers were coerced in some fashion – a view based on discredited statistics, and one for which she has been taken to task before

Shift in the Wind (TW3 #430)

Rare honesty in a mainstream American newspaper:

Let’s be honest.  Paying for sex has been around a long time, and it’s not going away anytime soon.  Recent court cases have established sexual rights and privacy in protecting what consenting adults do behind closed doors, but those rights end for people who wish to exchange sex for money…some people do not believe sex workers should have the same legal rights as other workers.  A study recently published in The Lancet found that even partial criminalization…such as the Swedish model…places sex workers at equal risk for human-rights violations and exploitation.  Trying to stop demand will not stop prostitution…Nearly every industrialized nation has made prostitution partially legal or outright legal. It’s time America does the same thing…

Special thanks to Mark Bennett for the unlocked version of the story.

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

Any amount of criminalization of sex work allows cops to play their evil games:

Five people were arrested…after police raided brothels in Germany…Austria, Bosnia and Romania.  More than 900 [cops]…took part in the raids…Police also seized cash, computers, hard drives, business records and one pistol.  Stuttgart prosecutors [demonized the sex workers’ relationships and told lurid “trafficking” tales]…

The Public Eye (TW3 #439) 

She’s a victim!  So let’s help her by making her homeless, too!  “Connected‘s Kate McGrew has revealed that she’s found it hard to find somewhere to live since revealing she is a sex worker on the reality show…

Monkey Business (TW3 #442)

Let’s hope this legal rationale of why chimps aren’t “persons” is extended to fetuses, too:

petitioner requests that this Court enlarge the common-law definition of “person” in order to afford legal rights to an animal.  We decline to do so, and conclude that a chimpanzee is not a “person” entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus…chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.  In our view, it is this incapability…that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights…that have been afforded to human beings…

Held Together With Lies (TW3 #447)

thousands of…sex slaves in Russia are…waiting for a good samaritan [sic] to come along and save them…since the government and society in general prefer to look the other way, anti-trafficking activists [pretend]…Russia…is now at once a destination, origin and transit country for sex slaves…and…ranked as the country with the sixth-biggest slave population in the world…in a fresh annual report by the…Walk Free Foundation…

Divided We Fall (TW3 #447)

Twenty-five Toronto city councillors have signed a letter asking Premier Kathleen Wynne to take…Bill C-36…to the Ontario Court of Appeal to determine if it is constitutional.  The new legislation, which received royal assent last month, will become law on Saturday…”we work to promote measures that increase public safety…In particular, we are united in our efforts to end violence against women…Bill C-36 has introduced…unsafe conditions into Canadian society, bringing foreseeable detriment and real danger to some of the most vulnerable women we represent”…The letter will be presented at City Hall on Friday (Dec. 5), which is the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and the 25th anniversary of the Montreal massacre…

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I see you so often rail about the imaginary “trafficking” issue.  I realize that very few adult sex workers are coerced, and that anti-prostitution laws have nothing to do with protection, but is there any actual evidence that there are real girls under 16 (particularly from Asia) who are really being forced to work as prostitutes? 

distorting mirrorIn a world of over six billion people, it is a near-certainty that any situation anyone can conceive of (which doesn’t violate the laws of physics) has already happened at some point and continues to happen from time to time.  So yes, I am sure that there are some Asian girls under 16 who are actually compelled (by some means almost anyone would agree were coercive) to work as prostitutes.  I have no way of guessing what that number might be, and neither does anyone else despite pretensions to the contrary:  all the cases which make the news involve women older than that; and/or the compulsion is of a type that would not be viewed as a problem if she were a maid or nanny; and/or she chose the situation as the best of a number of alternatives, many or all of them bad; and/or there is some cultural difference which causes her to see her situation differently from her “rescuers”; and/or the “trafficker” is actually an intimate partner rather than a cartoon pimp or racist caricature of a crime cartel.  Moreover, though prohibitionists paint sex workers’ clients as sadistic perverts who ignore bruises and evidence of bondage and prefer prepubescent girls to adult women, nothing could be further from the truth; sex workers who seem to dislike their work tend to get bad reviews because most men don’t actually like having sex with unwilling partners, and the idea that a business model based on the overt enslavement of traumatized tweens could ever be a thriving concern is highly dubious to say the least.  In fact, the popularity of this narrative reveals the sick, twisted psychology and sexuality of those who promote it; their view of sex work is like something seen in a warped mirror, not only reversed but magnified and distorted into unrecognizability.  The three most important forms of distortion are:

  • a rare, extreme situation is presented as though it were not only the norm, but a norm from which there is little if any variance (thus making it unique in human experience);
  • complex, nuanced human interactions are reduced to absurd black hat-white hat melodrama complete with mustache-twirling “pimp” villains, passive damsels in distress, and heroes with pure motives who ride in on white chargers to save the day; and
  • the carceral “solutions” which the fetishists inevitably favor not only fail to help women in the complex real-life situations whose existence they deny, but also to help even the women in situations which actually resemble their fantasy somewhat.  In fact, these supposed “solutions” make things worse in almost every conceivable case, as I explained at length in “Straining at Gnats” and “Enabling Oppression”.  Criminalizing sex work does not discourage a black market in which coercion can thrive; on the contrary, it creates such a market.

The one-sentence answer to your question, then, is this:  A small number of such girls probably does exist, but their situations are a lot more complex than the “sex trafficking” profiteers want you to believe, and the laws they favor actually hurt such girls by enabling those who exploit them.

(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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In this new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women. You must entirely resist both.  –  Lord Kitchener

Kitchener recruiting posterOne hundred years ago this past June 28th, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated, triggering a series of events which set Europe ablaze within weeks.  By November the German advance had been stopped at Ypres; in the four years between that battle and the signing of the armistice ninety-six years ago today, the battle-lines of the Western Front became entrenched and only barely moved until the last few months of the war.  So while the soldiers on other fronts had to make do with the usual assortment of camp followers, local girls and any brothels which survived the operations that brought the lines to that spot, both sides on the Western Front were able to avail themselves of the services of established brothels in the towns near the front on each respective side.  Well, the officers could, at least; proper brothels which had existed before the war generally displayed blue lamps, signifying that they were forbidden to enlisted men by military regulations.  Lower ranks had to content themselves with makeshift red-lamp facilities, sometimes the new French Bordels Mobiles de Campagne, but more often just commandeered pubs or other buildings whose facilities might consist of little more than, as one soldier reported, “a stretcher, with a very thin sheet and blanket.”

In 1914, Western civilization had not yet sunk into the modern madness of pretending that healthy young men can simply “just say no” to sex without ill effect (or that they should); with rare exception, absolutely nobody in military leadership imagined that they could really stop men from visiting brothels by ordering them not to.  Of course, the British tried to anyway; unlike the Germans (who issued the troops both condoms and disinfectant) and the French (who issued entire brothels), British military officials issued only the epigrammatic advice from Lord Kitchener while quietly allowing the troops to visit French brothels under the excuse that they didn’t want to offend their allies and hosts.  Since blue lamp facilities were established houses staffed by experienced professionals with a supply of condoms, they had no problem with sexually transmitted disease.  The same, however, could not be said for the red lamps, and since the troops were issued neither prophylactics nor proper information, STIs ran rampant.  Over 400,000 cases were recorded among British or Commonwealth troops during the course of the war, 150,000 of them on the Western Front alone; altogether roughly 5% of the men were infected at least once, three and a half times the infection rate among French troops and fully seven times the German rate.

By 1915 nurse Ettie Rout persuaded the New Zealand authorities to begin issuing prophylactic kits to their troops, and Canada soon followed suit; Britain’s response was to garnish the pay of soldiers who contracted STIs and treat them in separate, second-rate hospital facilities in order to punish and shame them.  Considering that an English Tommy’s pay was a scant one-fifth that of his counterparts from Canada and Australia (sixpence a day vs. two and a half shillings), it’s hardly surprising that infected troops preferred to hide their infections and/or treat them with ineffective patent medicines or folk remedies.  It is commonly claimed that many soldiers purposefully practiced unsafe sex in the hopes of trading thirty days in the trenches for thirty in hospital, but there is virtually no evidence to support this; in fact, given the pay garnishment, the stigma and the unpleasant side-effects of the arsenic-based medicines of the time, it hardly seems likely that many would purposefully pursue such a strategy.  And in any case, the story is unnecessary to explain the high disease rates among the British troops; the pigheaded policies of their leaders were more than sufficient for that.  By 1916 they began providing basic health education and encouraging soldiers to “disinfect” themselves after sex, but until the end of the War refused to issue condoms for fear that such a measure would attract public accusations that the Army was affording the men “opportunities for unrestrained vice”.

The United States only entered the Great War at the very end, but given that its institutional prudishness dwarfed even that of the United Kingdom, it seems likely that had the War not ended when it did, the Yanks’ VD rate would have challenged the Tommies’.  After all, not even the British had gone to the absurd length the Americans recently had, in criminalizing the act of prostitution itself; it’s even possible that a longer war would have given Washington more opportunity to impose its “white slavery” hysteria on the rest of the world back then as it is doing now.  But as things turned out, that did not happen; it took another century and another world war for the sane Franco-German approach of making allowances for human nature to lose out to the dangerous and delusional Anglo-American one of denying it, and for the idiotic strategy that resulted in half as many STIs as there were deaths in battle to become the dominant one over most of the world. 

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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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