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Posts Tagged ‘Madonna/whore’

There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.  –  The Gospel of Philip

Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, long considered to be either a prostitute or “reformed” prostitute and therefore the subject of special devotion by many Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican, and Lutheran) whores.  As I have explained before, there is no canonical evidence for this; the idea seems to date to a sermon  delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory the Great, in which she was identified as a repentant harlot (possibly by identification with the “adulterous woman” whom Jesus rescues from being stoned in the 8th chapter of John).  But the four canonical Gospels are not the only ones:

…among those used by Gnostic congregations (and subsequently excluded from the canon) were four more Gospels:  Thomas, Philip, Mary and Judas, all but the last of which assign a much more prominent role to Mary Magdalene than the four canonical ones; indeed, the Gospel of Mary is actually attributed to her.  These Gospels refer to Mary as Jesus’ “companion” and describe him as loving her more than his other disciples and often kissing her on the mouth…the Gospel of Mary identifies her as the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” mentioned so often in John…

Pope Gregory may well have been aware of these gospels, and perhaps intentionally conflated the Magdalene with the adulteress as a way of smearing her in a time of increasingly-patriarchal Church practices and increasingly-prudish Church attitudes toward sex.  It is possible that one of the reasons Mary the Harlot caught on so quickly as a mythic figure was that she built upon and supplanted the clearly sexual (though not specifically professional) portrayal in the Gnostic gospels, oral traditions of which could well have survived their suppression two centuries before Gregory’s sermon.  I might even point out that she could well be viewed as a Christianized Venus, just as the Blessed Mother is a Christianized mother-goddess and Jesus himself a Christian solar deity.  The actual biographical facts of the lives of the human beings upon whom the mythic figures are based is of no more importance than whether Buddha could actually perform miracles, King Arthur pulled a sword from a stone or Mohammed flew into heaven on a winged horse; as in the case of Saint Nicholas (the official patron saint of whores), the mythology which has developed around the historical Mary Magdalene has a life of its own independent of the mundane facts.  The process of apotheosis creates a new being separate and distinct from the long-dead person whose name he or she shares, and that being inhabits the irrational realm of faith rather than the rational one of fact.

Simply put, Mary Magdalene the symbol is an entity wholly distinct from Mary Magdalene the first-century Jewish woman, and whether the latter was a whore, wife or mere follower to Yeshua bar Yosef is immaterial to the power of that symbol.  For centuries, the name “Magdalene” has been synonymous with “prostitute” in Christendom; when in the 13th century the idea arose for the first time that whores were “fallen” women in need of “rescue”, the asylums established for the purpose were called “Magdalene homes”.  Though few of these institutions survived the Black Death, the movement was revived in the mid-18th century and the number of such places multiplied with the rise of the “white slavery” myth a century later; though they again died out in most places in the early 20th century, they continued on in Ireland until 1996.  In various parts of the British Isles, the term “Magdalene” became “Maggie”, and applied either to whores in general (in England) or ones confined to Magdalene laundries (in Ireland).  The working girls in a number of folk songs are named “Maggie”, and of course Stephen Crane gave us Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets; some of y’all have probably guessed that I chose the name “Maggie” for a reason, and perhaps noticed that the name “Maggie McNeill” has a similar cadence to “Mary Magdalene”.

So even though I well understand that Mary Magdalene may not have “really” been a member of my profession, I also understand the difference between fact and truth.  The sacred whore may have largely ceased to exist in the mundane world of matter, but she still exists in the human unconscious.  And in the West, it has pleased her for a number of centuries now to work under the stage name Mary Magdalene.

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

Bad Girls Alix Tichleman

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

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

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

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

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

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

Rooted in Racism

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

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

They Just Don’t Get It (TW3 #18)

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

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

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

Whatever They Need To Say

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

Under Every Bed 

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

An Example to the West (TW3 #316)

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

Passive Voice

Radley Balko on a syndrome I’ve discussed before:

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

Policing for Profit Michael Mobley

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

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

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

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

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

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

Traffic Circle

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

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

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

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

Down Under (TW3 #350)

Prohibitionists insist decriminalization doesn’t work:

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

What a Week! (TW3 #402)

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

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

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

Devil’s Advocate

Intellectual honesty is dead in the West:

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

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

Drawing Lines

Another excellent Marijke Vonk essay:

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

Maggie in the Media (TW3 #424)

Recorded while I was in Los Angeles early last month:

Schadenfreude (TW3 #425) 

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

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

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

Divided We Fall (TW3 #427)

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

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

Whither Canada? (TW3 #428)

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

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 8th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

According to the popular narrative, sex workers are “bad” or “defective” or otherwise abnormal; we are not to be trusted even to run our own lives, so when “good” women who claim to want what’s best for us say that we need to be criminalized for our own good – that our statements should be ignored, our clients demonized, our workplaces raided by armed thugs who drag us away to cages where we can be subjected to degrading attempts to “correct” or brainwash us, and our organizations branded as a “pimp lobby” – the politicians side with them and the legions of the ignorant mindlessly parrot their drivel about “sex trafficking”. There are many of these righteous guardians of female purity; in Ireland, for example, they are led by Ruhama, an organization founded by the exact same nuns who ran the infamous Magdalene laundries, where sex workers and other “sinful” women were condemned to slave labor until they were completely broken. Among these outcasts were unwed mothers, whose children were ripped from them and incarcerated in hell-holes like St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home:

The bodies of 796 children…have been found in a disused sewage tank in Tuam, County Galway. They died between 1925 and 1961 in a mother and baby home under the care of the Bon Secours nuns…historian Catherine Corless discovered the extent of the mass grave when she requested records of children’s deaths in the home…The vast majority of the children’s remains, it seemed, were [simply dumped into] the septic tank. Corless and a committee have been working tirelessly to raise money for a memorial that includes a plaque bearing each child’s name…death rates for children in the Tuam mother and baby home, and in similar institutions, were four to five times that of the general population. A health board report from 1944 on the Tuam home describes emaciated, potbellied children, mentally unwell mothers and appalling overcrowding. But, as Corless points out, this was no different to other homes in Ireland. They all had the same mentality: that these women and children should be punished…

Eden posterAnd yet, these nuns still receive funding from the Irish government and their lies about sex workers are still accepted unquestioningly by the Irish media. In the United States, laws and old prejudices prevent the Catholic Church from gaining quite such a powerful hold, but nothing short of absolute exposure stops sociopaths like Somaly Mam or the woman whose supposedly “true” story the movie Eden was based on:

…Chong Kim whom [sic] has claimed to be a survivor of human trafficking is not…after thorough investigation into her story, people, records and places, as well as, [sic] many interviews with producers, publishers and…organizations, we found no truth to her story. In fact, we found a lot of fraud, lies, and the most horrifically capitalizing [sic]…We have found several other organizations…who have been defrauded by Chong collecting money in their name…

When Eden came out many sex worker activists condemned it as a pack of lies; we’ve done the same about Somaly Mam for years. And despite their being exposed as charlatans, others very like them continue to cash in and exert such powerful influence over politicians that outrages like this are the norm these days:

…This cynical, dystopic model does not resolve the problems found by the Court in Bedford to be unconstitutional, and adds new ones such as the prohibition on advertising.  The Charter rights…[of] life, liberty, security of the person, freedom of expression and equality…are [all] breached…It is an unconstitutional variation of our broken laws that impose more danger, more criminalization, and fewer safe options, contrary to the requirement of the Supreme Court of Canada…All that will be required for police to surveil and target sex workers is the suggestion that a person under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present…purchase [of]…sex…[carries] mandatory fines…from $500 to $4,000, to five years in jail…Without the ability to advertise in newspapers, online, or other forms of media, sex workers will now have severely limited means for working safely indoors…

pile_of_bonesHow many more skeletons need to be found in closets or cesspools before the public wakes up to the evil of prohibitionism? How many more lies until the self-appointed saviors lose their credibility for good? And how many more women have to die before governments abandon their mad dream of controlling the sexuality of every individual within their borders?

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on May 25th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Though human beings have developed a highly technological society based on scientific principles, the great majority of them are still immersed in magical thinking.  I don’t merely mean a few irrational beliefs which we recognize as irrational; everyone, including the most die-hard skeptics, have such beliefs, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we recognize them as irrational and proceed accordingly.  What is not harmless, however, is basing laws and policies on primitive superstitions such as the idea that inanimate objects can be evil, that talismans or inscriptions can grant power over others or turn evil actions into good ones, and that innocuous actions which violate cultural taboos can render a person ritually impure.  Many of the systemic evils of modern societies (such as the drug war, censorship and police brutality) spring from one or more of these beliefs, and the “taboo” principle is the source of most of the harmful laws and social stigma surrounding sex work.  But today I’d like to discuss another magical belief, the principle of contagion, and demonstrate how it generates some truly bizarre and harmful discrimination against sex workers.

The principle of contagion is the one which underlies most sympathetic magic; it is the belief that once an object has been in contact with something or someone, it is forever affected by that thing.  This is why old-style barber shops in New Orleans used to offer to put newspaper on the floor to catch one’s cut hair; superstitious people feared allowing the clippings to come into the possession of an enemy, who might use it to inflict harm via black magic.  Similarly, relics of saints are believed to share in the saint’s holiness.  It is this belief which underlies the absurd behavior I mock as fear of “sex rays”:

The dirtier and more “illicit” the sex, the more intense the sex rays …BDSM and swinging  produce concentrations that can contaminate surrounding objects, and sex work produces such intense levels that sex workers cannot be allowed near children ever again for the rest of their lives.   Even objects we handle  (including money and virtual objects such as emails) must be kept far away from “children” (including young adults), and the danger is so great that kids inadvertently exposed to the dreaded rays must be quarantined from other kids…

sketch of possibly-imaginary parasites by Dr. Michel Ettmuller (1682)But it isn’t only children who are believed to be harmed by the contaminating touch of harlots; adult human beings in the 21st century actually behave as though commercial sex inflicts some magical taboo radiation into bedclothes and other surroundings, while amateur sex does not.  Nobody is disturbed by the knowledge that any hotel bed one occupies has previously been shagged in by complete strangers, but apparently sex workers carry pernicious and undetectable cooties which we deposit everywhere we work, and which cannot be removed from bedding without washing it in holy water and soap made from the fat of virgin lambs:

The owner of budget hotels in…[England] has admitted prostitutes have used his properties…Tony Burlingham…said he was taking action to tackle the issue, but said the law made it hard for hotel owners to do so…“One in five hotel bedrooms have got a prostitute in them.  Police have taken the crime off the street and have moved it into [hotels]”…selling sex behind closed doors is legal, as is buying sex…“What we have done is turned the internet off and have put car park restrictions on”…He said switching off the internet aimed to stop prostitutes in his rooms [going online]…and…limiting the number of cars would prevent pimps from parking in the car park…

For now, let’s just ignore the absurdity of calling sex work a “crime” in one sentence while admitting it isn’t in the next; let’s just wonder how any sane, modern adult believes that sex for pay in a hotel room is somehow intrinsically different from “free” sex in the same room.  The principle of contagion is even more obvious in this story about Airbnb, a website which allows people to rent their homes to strangers for short periods of time.  A person would have to be hopelessly naïve to imagine that none of these renters ever have sex in their beds, yet when money is exchanged for the exact same activity we get this:

Hookers are using…Airbnb…to turn prime Manhattan apartments into temporary brothels…One apartment…belongs to publicist Jessica Penzari…But when a hooker got slashed by a client in the…apartment over the price…Penzari got a call from cops…Airbnb put her up in the swanky InterContinental hotel in Times Square for two nights…and also paid to change her door locks, clean her apartment and replace her pillows and other belongings…Airbnb said…“we have zero tolerance for this activity”…

They replaced her belongings…why, exactly?  Because of contamination by sex rays or malignant magical microorganisms, obviously.  The story (or others like it) inspired this incredibly loathsome scheme:

…The landlords of swanky Manhattan buildings are hiring private investigators to smoke out tenants who use Airbnb to illegally rent rooms – including to prostitutes and drug users…investigators respond to ads featured on the online home-sharing service…[then] gather evidence — including photos, receipts and copies of keys — to [enable] landlords [to] evict [them]…Landlords [supposedly] hire the private investigators after [busybody neighbors] complain…about…unfamiliar visitors in the building…[Vincent] Parco also uses a team of attractive women — who sometimes pose as hookers — to catch the…tenants…It’s illegal for tenants in New York to rent out apartments while they’re not on the premises…

bed cootiesWhen this story broke, some sex workers questioned why it was necessary for the hired rats to pose as honest sex workers, if any subletting is illegal.  The reason, of course, is whore stigma; if the fake renter was pretending to be a sweet, virginal secretary, a judge might side with the tenant against the sleazy, spying landlord and his hired snoops.  But let the fake pretend to be a whore and all sympathy goes out the window; after all, no measure is too extreme to prevent filthy strumpets from contaminating real people’s beds with their invisible cooties.

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The word career is a divisive word. It’s a word that divides the normal life from business or professional life.  –  Grace Paley

A couple of months ago I saw an article on a study which found that members of couples can probably tell when their partners are faking orgasm; it bore the provocative title “Your Partner Knows When You’re Faking”.  My immediate reaction?  “I’m a professional, Honey; maybe yours know, but mine don’t.”  But that little joke set off a train of thought:  isn’t it likely that one of the reasons so many women are anti-whore is that they’re intimidated by our superior sexual skills?  To be sure, not every whore is a virtuoso in the bedroom; some get by on looks alone, or cater to unusual fetishes, or have incredible charm, and some just excel at marketing.  But by and large, the average professional has both a greater range of skills and is better at each than the average amateur.  Part of the reason is that we get a lot more practice, and part is necessity:  except as noted above, we have to be better at it because our livelihoods depend on it.

I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial here; the sexual proficiency of harlots is not really in dispute.  Male commenters on this blog have often  praised the abilities of their favorites, and our prowess underlies the myths depicting us as enchantresses, succubae and vampires.  Insecure men fear that we will control them thus, and insecure women fear that we will steal their husbands (presumably to add to our collections); the whole “pimp” and “sex slave” mythology derives from the need to deny the legendary sexual powers of whores by pretending that we’re the pathetic, powerless victims of men.  Nor are those women with enough sense to know that hookers really aren’t interested in their husbands wholly immune; many of them find the very idea that other women are better in bed than they are somewhat upsetting.  Remember, society defines a woman by her sexuality to a far greater degree than it does a man: she is assigned to either the “Madonna” or “whore” category based upon it; selling sex is called “selling herself”, as though sex constituted her entire being; and sexual violation is supposed to utterly destroy her soul and irremediably pollute her body.  Nor is it only traditional “patriarchal” thought which elevates female sexuality thus; neofeminists are simultaneously obsessed with it and defined by their rejection of it.  So it’s not surprising that many women would be intimidated by the knowledge that others are better in the sack than they are; on some level, they see whores as better women than they are, and must reject that painful concept by imagining us as the exact opposite.

Don't try this at homeOf course, this is all a load of nonsense.  Sexual ability is a skill, no more or less valuable than many others; it isn’t magical, earth-shaking or ego-defining.  Some people have a natural talent for it, and others don’t; some take the time to develop it, and others don’t; some earn their bread by it, and others don’t.  Yes, I’m better at sex than most women; I’m also an above-average cook and (so I’m told) an excellent writer.  My business skills, however, are below par; my housekeeping skills are mediocre at best and my musical ability is practically nonexistent.  The fact that I possess the talents necessary to succeed as a professional sexual partner does not make me a better woman than someone who lacks those talents, but neither does it make me a worse one; each of us has her role to play, and society would have a lot fewer problems if each of us concentrated on her own rather than attempting to perform, critique or manage everyone else’s.

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A woman has the exclusive right to decide if she wants to work in prostitution and it is forbidden for anyone to interfere…we must put an end to the condescension and paternalism of politicians and others who purport to speak for…prostitutes and determine what is good for them.  –  “Shelly”

R.I.P. Maya Angelou Maya Angelou

Poet and author Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th at the age of 86, and predictably the obituaries have all either ignored or glossed over the fact that as a young woman she worked both as a whore and a brothel madam.  Though she wrote about this period of her life in her second book, Gather Together In My Name, feminists and others who wished to make Angelou into an icon have sanitized the inconvenient fact for decades, and aren’t letting a little thing like her death change that.  Peechington Marie discusses the whitewashing in a thoughtful article on Tits and Sass.

The Red Umbrella

Like so many of its type, this article about the brutal rape and robbery of a Michigan sex worker by sociopathic twins Michael and Peter Versluys spends more ink on the bizarre, ignorant and opportunistic statements of prohibitionists than on the victim:

Websites such as backpage.com allow sex trade customers to check out who’s for sale from the comfort of their living room…“It makes it a hundred times more dangerous,” sex worker advocate Anny Donewald said.  That’s because sex workers can no longer see who is approaching them like they could when customers would drive or walk by…“You…never know who’s coming or…where you’re being sent to,” she said…So why don’t prostitutes simply find a safer occupation?  Donewald says the sex industry has a separate culture with its own rules and that it’s hard for anyone to get out…“These girls were conditioned in the sex industry since they were 12 and 13 years old, and so they don’t know another way”…

Donewald claims to have been a whore, which makes this farrago of idiotic arse-backward nonsense all the more pathetic.  Compare this from a civilized country:

…sex [workers were] confronted at gunpoint in a series of robberies of interstate escorts who came to Adelaide for four or five-day stints.  The bandit used a series of mobile phones and worked out when the women were due to leave…so that he hit when they had the most cash…[the victims were] initially unsure how detectives would treat the case, given…[they] were sex workers…“But it wasn’t like that…All of the police…were nothing but professional” [one said]…John Steven…Costi’s violence escalated [in his last robbery before being arrested]…He…died in an apparent [jailhouse] suicide…before his trial…

Maggie in the Media

I’m quoted extensively in this student article about the problems of sex work criminalization in Louisiana, and also in Elizabeth N. Brown’s Reason article on International Whores’ Day.

Cognitive Impairment

I wonder if VandeHoef plugged her Hitachi magic wand into the computer’s power strip while she was writing this lurid fantasy, or if she just used a battery-powered masturbation aid instead?

…There’s an enormous yuck factor to being groped by and copulating with strangers…But I wanted to know more about those who said they willingly did this…I expected a…diatribe about how it’s an adult’s right to choose to rent out her…intimate orifices…prostitution dehumanizes a person by reducing her (or him) to a quivering piece of flesh to be used, squeezed and thrust upon exclusively for the sexual gratification of whoever has the right amount…of cash…a Nordic-style model…[is] the best option for those who don’t want their tax dollars used to sanction an industry that reduces people to rentable sex parts…forced into a nightmare of numerous daily rapes, violence, venereal disease and substance abuse.

Tyranny By Consensus the future of porn in California

A bill that would require condoms to be used in all adult films produced in California narrowly cleared the Assembly…the measure’s [sponsor claimed] he sought to bring workplace safety standards, present in all other “legitimate businesses,” to the adult film industry…He noted that law enforcement officers, doctors, nurses and other professionals all are required to wear protective gear when risking exposure to blood-borne pathogens…

A Whore in Church

Because whores are subhuman monsters who can’t possibly have religious beliefs.

Staff at a US newspaper received a shock…when they discovered a witch profiled in the paper’s “Faith and Values” section was also allegedly a prostitute.  Intelligencer Journal…published a statement online…expressing…regret that the woman’s extracurricular activities were not picked up by editorial staff…The original story…has since been removed [from the paper's] website…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #8)

The last poll said the same thing:

…a poll…found that the majority of the [Israeli] public is against criminalizing the solicitation of prostitutes.  Some 63 percent of respondents…agreed that criminal punishment should not be given to those who buy sexual services from prostitutes if both sides agree to the transaction…The Association for the Regularization of Prostitution in Israel [explained] that legislation criminalizing prostitution would mainly harm women…

Above the Law

Only when a cop’s rape victim is very young are reporters willing to call the crime what it is:  “A Tennessee police officer is accused of sexually abusing a girl over five years…Steven Feinberg began molesting the girl when she was 12…[and] raping [her] when she was 14…”  When the victim is an adult, the crime drops to mere “sexual assault”:  “Clearwater [Florida] Police…are investigating a report of sexual assault…by an officer…attending a training conference for the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators…”  And when the victims are whores, it’s just “sex on duty”:  “A…San Bernardino [California] police officer has been convicted of forcing two prostitutes to perform sex acts on him while he was on duty…The jury found Jose Jesus Perez…guilty…of two felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one misdemeanor civil rights offense…

An Example to the West 

Real People (TW3 #21)

A new Channel 4 documentary, My Granny the Escort, will reveal what it is really like being a mature sex worker.  Sheila Vogel-Coupe pulls in…£250-an-hour…and entertains up to 10 clients a week who are as young as 20…85-year-old Sheila has been working as an escort for four years, following two happy marriages.  Sadly, both husbands passed away from illness…

Imagination Pinned Down

Note how interchangeable these “sex trafficking survivor” narratives are, and remember what I explained about stereotypic conformation:

Sex trafficking is…happening right here in Southern Idaho…Rebecca Bender…was a victim…for six years…”I moved off to college, and I met a guy who was pretending to be my boyfriend”…She tried to escape numerous times, but her trafficker would find her.  She was beaten regularly, branded twice, her daughter was threatened, and she was sold to other traffickers.  “I was brainwashed and threatened to keep my mouth shut”…Stacey King…says…many of the victims in the Boise area are 11 to 13-year-old girls who are targeted at a mall…

The Public Eye

Sex workers are often the subjects (or objects) of stories, but are very rarely given the platform to tell their own story on their own terms.  There’s something profoundly refreshing about watching a sex work narrative unfold without feeling the usual…fear that sex work will be misrepresented, sensationalised, demonised, glamourised; that sex workers will be objectified; that the narrative will hinge around a worker having her…professional boundaries broken, or breaking them herself, for lurrrrve.  (Show me a mainstream narrative about sex work which is not about this and I will give you a cookie.)  [Watching]…the Sex Workers’ Opera, for the first time I felt that I could trust that whatever stories would be told, they…would be told respectfully. It was an exhilarating feeling…

Under Every Bed Pretty Woman scene

Another small town imagines bogeymen in the bushes and  claims lack of evidence as proof:

…District Attorney Farley Ward says he doesn’t know of any human trafficking cases yet in McAlester — but he has seen things that make him suspicious…Michael Snowden…of the [Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics'] Human Trafficking Unit, said…Seventy-eight percent of…women who are part of…sex trafficking are drug dependent…“But they say it’s a victimless crime…It’s the root of everything”…Snowden sounded particularly incensed at…Pretty Woman…“It’s not glamorous,” he said…“Richard Gere doesn’t exist”…

Yes, Snowden is so obsessed with his masturbatory fantasies that he denied the existence of a well-known celebrity.

Sex Work is Work (TW3 #407)

Dr. Brooke Magnanti on inflated “estimates” of sex work’s contribution to UK GDP:

…Having had a close look at the methods employed to come up with their impressive total of £10 billion per year, I think they are likely to be out by as much as an order of magnitude too high…they got their estimate of the current number of sex workers from Eaves for Women…[which] has come under fire for its statistical methods…Also what about men who pay for sex with other men, which accounts for the majority of male sex workers?…The ONS then go on to guess at the average earnings based on Punternet…Why not ask escorts themselves?  It’s not as if we’re hard to find…Finally, for their calculation of how many clients sex workers see in a week, they relied on research conducted in the Netherlands. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that the difference between sex work in a country where it is legal and heavily regulated, and one where it is legal but many sex workers criminalised, is simply not going to be equal…

The accountant who writes Tax Relief 4 Escorts has an even more comprehensive analysis.

Whither Canada?

On Wednesday, the Canadian government re-introduced sex work criminalization disguised under a Swedish-flavored patina of “protecting women”; essentially the new Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act re-enacts all the laws that were struck down and also criminalizes paying for sex, advertising sexual services, porn and engaging in any commercial sex in any place that has ever contained or ever will contain children:

…This cynical, dystopic model does not resolve the problems found by the Court in Bedford to be unconstitutional, and adds new ones such as the prohibition on advertising.  The Charter rights…[of] life, liberty, security of the person, freedom of expression and equality…are [all] breached…It is an unconstitutional variation of our broken laws that impose more danger, more criminalization, and fewer safe options, contrary to the requirement of the Supreme Court of Canada…All that will be required for police to surveil and target sex workers is the suggestion that a person under the age of 18 can reasonably be expected to be present…purchase [of]…sex…[carries] mandatory fines…from $500 to $4,000, to five years in jail…Without the ability to advertise in newspapers, online, or other forms of media, sex workers will now have severely limited means for working safely indoors…

I cannot believe that the entire Canadian government is so deranged or stupid as to believe this law will stand; it is obviously an attempt to continue the legal wrangling until the hot potato can be passed to the next government.

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes (TW3 #412)

According to this article about the prohibitionist weirdos of “Stop Porn Culture”, Julie Bindel’s presentation on “the politics of the sex industry” consisted of “a succession of tabloid-style personal attacks on pro-sex industry activists, academics, escorts, and performers, complete with photos seemingly lifted without permission from their social-media profiles.”  Bindel listed certain names as being part of the “pimp lobby”, the prohibitionists’ version of the Illuminati or the Elders of Zion, a shadowy cabal which apparently want sex work decriminalized because it disobeys all economic principles and decriminalization would result in expansion of the black market.  Or something.  Anyhow, reporter Rachel Hills wrote down these names of people Bindel listed as key players in the “pimp lobby”:

Chris Knight
Brooke Magnanti
Sebastian Horsley
Thierry Schaffauser
Douglas Fox
John Dockerty
Amnesty International
Elizabeth Wood
The Sexual Freedom Coalition
Jerry Barnett
Belinda Brooks Gordon
Rachel Moran
Maggie McNeill
Stella Marr

Horsley has been dead since 2010, and as regular readers know Moran and Marr are well-known prohibitionist shills.  Some of the other names are almost as inexplicable, though I’m obviously pleased to see mine there; one wonders what Bindel was smoking when she compiled the list.

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Companies will not change ‘til they learn that discriminating against sex workers gets them more flak than providing services to sex workers.  –  Molly Crabapple

I’ve been writing for several years now about the slow turn of public opinion in sex workers’ favor.  Despite the efforts of prohibitionists both in and out of governments to depict us as pathetic, broken victims or evil, calculating criminals (when we’re not depicted as both simultaneously), our voices are increasingly being heard and we are winning ally after ally.  Health organizations, human rights organizations, UN officials, academics and even some feminists and journalists are increasingly recognizing that the prohibition of consensual sex is a dangerous abomination that helps nobody but the police state.

buried aliveThis terrifies the prohibitionists, whose entire agenda depends upon keeping sex workers isolated and friendless and the average person misinformed about our lives and work; accordingly, they’ve embarked upon a campaign to bury sex workers alive, to return us to a state of voicelessness so they can again pretend to speak for us while working against us.  As Charlotte Shane explains at length in a recent essay, prohibitionists are now harping on how sex work is “hidden” while simultaneously recognizing that clients have no trouble finding us.  In a pathetic, yet dangerous attempt to make their fantasy of “invisible, voiceless” sex workers trapped in a “dark underworld” true, they continuously attack the online advertising which makes us anything but “invisible”, pretend that the many sex workers who speak online are “privileged” and “unrepresentative”, and ridiculously brand all of our allies from the UN to Human Rights Watch to academics who study the sex industry as “pimps”.

Though the erasure of many millions of people is obviously impossible, that never stops governments from trying (usually by turning their countries into police states and increasing levels of violence to near-genocidal proportions).  I’m happy to report, however, that the attempts are beginning to attract such bad publicity that at least a few of them are starting to fail.  On Sunday I discussed the backlash against a police department that thought it would be hip and fun to “live tweet” their destruction of peaceful citizens’ lives via a prostitution sting.  Operation Choke Point has attracted a lot more opposition than the “authorities” would have liked, and now another supposedly-private company’s vile behavior (almost certainly resulting from or at least inspired by Choke Point tactics) has resulted in another public relations nightmare for the perpetrators.  Stephen Elliott has a good summary on The Rumpus:

Eden Alexander…had a nearly fatal reaction to a commonly prescribed prescription drug and, because she’s a sex worker, it was assumed to be related to drug use…because she wasn’t treated she developed a staph infection.  A fundraiser was started for her on GiveForward, a Kickstarter like service [which] helps people seek funding for medical bills.  GiveForward processes payments through WePay…which is like Paypal.  A webcache copy of the fundraising page is here…She had raised over $1,000…[when] she got a note from WePay saying her fundraiser had been cancelled because the service cannot be used in connection with pornographic items…

Yes, they classed a human being (or her medical bills) as a “pornographic item” because she happens to be a cam girl; keep in mind this is a company originally started by two guys trying to raise money for a bachelor party, including “bottle service at a club” (i.e. strippers), a company which has welcomed everyone from revenge porn scammers to abortion prohibitionists.  But somehow, a sick woman who retweeted some things an eavesdropping bluenose didn’t like was beyond the pale?  Yeah, I smell the government’s nasty hand in this.

Eden Alexander's message from WePayFortunately for Eden, Molly Crabapple and other allies with loud social media voices started calling attention to her plight within hours after WePay kicked her in the face last Saturday morning (May 17th); the Rumpus article appeared early that afternoon, and was followed by a number of others on various blogs and news sources.  Even the Daily Mail picked it up, though in typical Mail fashion the story concentrated on the tragedy porn of a dying woman’s desperate and hysterical tweets rather than the unforgivably-callous action which precipitated them.  Soon WePay realized it had made a serious error in assuming “nobody will care what we do to a filthy whore anyway”, and issued a mealy-mouthed apology citing unspecified “rules” for the evil, stupid decision.  But whatever those mysterious “rules” are, they apparently don’t apply to another funding platform named Crowdtilt, whose founder reached out to Eden’s friends and invited them to start a new fundraiser on his site; they did, and the funding goal was exceeded within hours thanks to all the publicity  (as of this writing, more than 8x the amount WePay tried to deny her).

Ironically, the prohibitionists’ attempts to render sex workers invisible and mute, to bury us alive in unmarked graves and even erase us from history, are beginning to backfire on them.  Not so long ago, prostitution “stings” came and went with little media attention and many businesses discriminated against known sex workers without a peep from anyone outside the sex work community.  But once the whore-haters’ hubris grew so great they began to actually believe in their own mad sexual fantasy of “abolishing” us from all existence – past, present and future – the cacophony of violence and lies they have raised could not help but attract the attention of good people who previously hadn’t thought much about whores, and whose attention we might never have been able to attract on our own.  Eden Alexander’s fundraiser was far more successful than it would’ve otherwise been; Prince George’s County’s “sting” failed utterly instead of catching the usual modest harvest of victims.  Pay attention, prohibitionists:  we’ve lived in this world since long before anyone conceived of the idea of controlling others via organized violence, and we’ll be here long after that idea is consigned to the historical rubbish-heap along with human sacrifice, chattel slavery and other such atrocities.  And all your attempts to make us disappear only succeed in increasing our visibility.

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This is the second part of the story of Molli Desi, a young Indian woman abducted into a “rescue center” under the excuse that her sex worker friends might “traffick” her.  If you missed the first part yesterday, I urge you to go back and read it first before continuing.

At the “rescue” centre (which we only thought of as a “detention” centre) we were told that the NGO had custody papers for us from a court, and that we could not leave.  I think it is important to understand why we are held in custody rather than given our freedom after we are “rescued”.  Most anti-trafficking programmes must have what are called the “Three Ps”: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution; without cases the NGOs cannot meet their prosecution quotas, and without women and girls in their centres they cannot meet their “protection” quotas.  Many of these NGOs are not rights-based at all, but rather prioritise prosecution of traffickers; they must therefore detain sex workers under “safe custody orders” so as to force them to testify in court.  This detention can last many years because the court process is so slow, so the trafficker can get bail and live free while the “victim” is held in centre or even prison.  If women or girls run away, the NGO claims they were kidnapped by traffickers.  In reality, though, it is the NGOs who are the real traffickers; sex workers and other women they capture are a commodity that they buy and sell.rescue center show  To get money from USAID they must promise to be anti-prostitution, and to get money from other donors they use women they have captured to put on shows.  The women are even given false ages to make it look like they are very young; they told the court and donors that I was 12 years old though I was actually 17, and one woman of 23 was said to be 16.

The detention house was not like the orphanage; the women and girls were scared and cried a lot.  Several of them were not even sex workers, but rather migrants without papers; the NGO said they were “at risk” for trafficking.  Most of the girls there with me were not sex workers; some had been raped while in domestic service.  Everyone wanted to leave but many had nowhere to go, because the NGO had told their family and home village that they had been trafficked and raped.  They do this to stop you from being able to go home, because they know your family will reject you for being a sex worker; it’s a way to discourage running away from the centre.  This is why it is so important to give a false name and say you are from a faraway place when they catch you (which we did); it also helps to prevent anyone from filing a First Instance Report (FIR).

After a couple of days, the NGO demanded we undergo gynecological examinations and take HIV tests, but I refused to undress or to let them take blood.  They would not respect my wishes, so I had to physically fight them; the NGO director hit me in the face with her hand, and I now have a scar on my forehead from her heavy ring.  Each day we had to do activities in the centre, and we were not allowed to go outside.  One day two white donor women came to visit the centre, and we were forced to sing and dance for them and let them take photos of us; when the staff realised I could speak English they took me upstairs and locked me in a room until the women had left.  After we had been in the centre for a week, we started planning our escape, but our hidden phone needed credit and charge; though we had the money I had hidden, we did not have any contact with outside.  We learned from other women who had been there a while that night security would exchange food and candy for sex, so we propositioned one night guard and in exchange for oral sex and money he eventually brought us a phone charger and phone credit.  We were then able to contact our sisters in the orphanage, who had been very worried about us; the orphanage had filed an FIR on us because they thought we had been kidnapped and trafficked.

Microsoft Word - Document1After another few more days of oral sex with the night guard and some of his friends (whom he was charging money for access to us), we arranged for two of our sisters to come to the centre in an auto-rickshaw, late at night (this was during a festival time).  We then used a metal bar we got from the guard to prise open the metal cage on our window, lowered ourselves onto the annex roof, and got down to the garden.  Unfortunately, the main gate was still locked and we could not get to the street, so we rang our sisters outside and they convinced the auto-rickshaw driver to break the lock and let us out, whereupon we all ran to the auto-rickshaw and fled away into the night.  We did not go straight home, but stopped for iftar food; it tasted so good, and we were all so happy to be free we laughed and cried all the way home.  When we got home everyone was so pleased to see us, and we immediately washed our clothes and had showers; I then slept for almost a whole day.  We told our director that we had been lured away by miscreants and eventually escaped from their hideout, so she wrote a report and the FIR was cancelled.  We eventually heard from a woman who escaped the detention centre later that the staff had claimed traffickers had kidnapped us from the centre, and that we had probably been sent to Mumbai.

My main accusation against the “rescuers” is that everyone presumes that they take proper care of those they “rescue”; in truth, however, the NGOs have complete power over their victims. There is no proper protection for women and girls they detain, so it is very common for centre staff to rape them.  Though the Government is supposed to supervise orphanages and centres, the reality is that it lacks the capacity to do so; all NGOs know there is inadequate supervision, and many of them resist external accountability and will pay the few inspectors who do come to give them clean reports.  This power and impunity from consequences invites abuses of all kinds, such as the way the night guard charged his friends for sex with us; personally, though, I did not find the sex trading for telephone credit and food nearly as bad as the way the women senior staff acted toward us.  They want sex workers to be forced into domestic work or garment factory work, or to be married to low caste men; they know they are trapped inside patriarchy and resent our determination to live free.  You can find many “rescue” stories on the internet, but most of them are usually mediated by the “rescuers”; if you read my account here and the various links I have included, you will hear another truth.

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Molli Desi is one of the small number of Devadasi (sacred prostitutes of India) still remaining; she and Rani Desi, a Nagarvadhu (high priestess) now live in London and are active on Twitter, which is how I got to know them.  A few years ago Molli was trapped in one of the rescue industry’s many “rescue centers”, but eventually escaped; I asked if she would share the story on my blog and she graciously consented to do so.

Molli DesiI wish to give special thanks to the Nagarvadhu for helping me with this article, which is a translation from an account written in my mother language.  In this short a space I cannot tell the whole truth about all rescue projects, but I think I can expose how structurally and institutionally dangerous most rescue centres are in much of South Asia.  Furthermore, I will suggest that many donors from the West deliberately ignore these risks to detained women and girls so as to pursue their self-serving agendas.  I do not use the terms women and girls lightly; women and girls are often conflated by the NGOs, so that women of 23+ or married women of 16 will be referred to as girls; female identity in India is far more complex than any simple consideration of age.

It seems so strange to me that organisations that condemn the excesses of closed brothels will in turn exercise the same powers over those they claim to rescue; of course most girls are not rescued from closed brothels, but rather are taken from domestic labour or other sex work environments such as bars, clubs or rooms.  After “rescue” they are detained in facilities (sometimes called orphanages, shelter homes or rehab centres) where sexual and other abuse is commonplace; these detention centres are supposed to be inspected by the Government, but there is very little accountability so they foster and encourage a culture of impunity among the organisations that run them.  I wish to share my story because I think it very important that people understand the motivations and practices of these organizations; my experience is not unusual, and was a direct consequence the power that “rescuers” exercise over detained women and girls.  I have changed names and some details so as to protect myself and others.

I do not know my date of birth; I do know I was taken from the arms of a dying woman who told the people around her my name just before she died.  One man claimed to be my uncle and wanted to take me away, but one Devadasi lady knew he was really a miscreant and refused to let him take me.  Eventually I was taken to a nice orphanage, and while I was growing up there I was told that my mother and father were migrant workers who had been killed in a bus crash, so no one could trace my real extended family.  In India this made me a social outcast, but my time in the orphanage was a happy one.  I had many “sisters”, was successful at school and had a talent for classical dance and singing; however, I was also aware that was socially suspect and that I would not be considered suitable for marriage by most “respectable” families because I was an orphan.

In India, marriage is the institution in which patriarchal power is reproduced, and its implementation and policing is delegated to older women; married women in particular support marriage, as it is the means by which they exercise male-delegated power over their son’s wives.  It was common practice for the sons of respectable families to target orphan teen girls when they went to college and to have affairs with these girls with promises of marriage.  Once the boy graduated, his family would arrange a marriage to a respectable girl and the orphan girl would be disowned.  Such young women would then only be able to make a marriage to a low-caste man, and then only with a promise of dowry; if the dowry was considered insufficient the husband and his family might even torture the wife, and sometimes kill her.  Orphan girls fully understand that we need to find alternatives to marriage if we want to escape such subjugation.  Some girls focus on getting skills or higher education; others develop dancing or even gymnastics.  Others do sex work rather than marry or take dangerous work in a garment factory or domestic service.  However, in India an unmarried woman is not considered fully human, so anyone who refuses to marry is considered a dangerous rebel.

As I got older, I began to spend time with a small group of girls and young women who sold sex in various residential hotels; I was attracted to them because they worked as a group and lived a freer life, coming and going as they pleased.  Two of my good friends from the orphanage worked with these women, and when we were not at school and they were not working we would arrange outings and gatherings.  Because they worked as a group they could negotiate with the owners of the residential hotels for better rooms to meet their clients and for less cost.  If any residential hotel owner caused a serious problem or assaulted any member of the group, they would set fire to his rubbish bins or his car and send a note to say next time they would burn the hotel.  They had money that could use for clothes and telephones but mostly they saved their money in the bank for when they would rent their own apartment.  If men eve teased them in the street they would shout back and even throw stones at them, whereas most girls would run away.    I admired their self-assurance, but I did not do sex work myself at this time because I did not feel confident enough.

sex workers detained in raidOne evening before Ramadan I was visiting my two girl-friends at a residential hotel where they working when suddenly there was a commotion from the lobby.  One friend looked out of the door and then closed and quickly locked the door; she told us the police were in the hotel. We were all terrified because the police will often rape women and take their money.  The police went from door to door shouting for everyone to come out; we could hear the screams of the women and girls.  I hid one of our phones and most of the money in a condom inside my vagina; it was very painful but I knew we would lose it all if I didn’t.  We then went outside into the hall, where two policemen shouted at us to come into the reception area; eventually there were about twelve women and girls surrounded by more than twenty police and NGO workers (only two of them were women).  A police sergeant made us line up and he took everyone’s phone and money, except for what I had hidden; if he asked a question and didn’t like the answer he got, he would hit the woman in the face.  After a few minutes the police inspector left, and the NGO workers said all young women and girls would have to go with them for safe custody; only women who could prove they were over 20 or had a magistrate permission certificate to be a prostitute could stay.  Eventually the NGO workers took me, my two friends and another young woman; we were chosen because we were the smallest and the police said they knew the other women were well known prostitutes who were definitely over 18.  The police then took the women who were allowed to stay, and in exchange for sex they could have their telephones back.

We told the NGO workers that I was not a prostitute, but was only visiting my friends; also, a police officer said that I did not look like a prostitute because I was wearing blue jeans and not Salwaar Kameez like the others.  However, the NGO workers said I was at risk of being trafficked by my friends, so I must go to “safe custody”.  There were five NGO workers; they took photographs of us (it’s not unknown for TV journalists to be invited to watch these “rescues”) and then took us outside to their minibus.  I tried to run away in the street, but one NGO woman grabbed my long hair and slammed me into the side of the minibus.  A crowd gathered as I was fighting back and during the chaos the other young woman managed to run away, but the NGO woman was much bigger than me so eventually my friends and I were pushed into the minibus.  All the way to detention the woman hit me and called me very bad names.

In tomorrow’s conclusion, Molli describes the rescue center and tells how she eventually escaped.

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[Mary Anne] Franks couldn’t care less who is turned into a felony sex offender, as long as some variation of her pet law is enacted, the hated men go down along with the innocent, and she gets credit for it. – Scott Greenfield

The Red Umbrella

A [Filipino man]…fell to his death while trying to evade police arrest…for allegedly beating up a [sex worker]…the  man [hired] her…and…they had sex [but he] started to beat her after she refused to take [methamphetamine]…

The Mote and the Beam

Here’s a long, confused article on the latest attempt to destroy the internet in the name of “protecting children”.  Among its other lovely features:  it would criminalize advertising “illegal sex” on the internet.  The article is packed with the usual asinine claims (including the ludicrous assertion that 82% of all prostitution advertising is on Backpage) but does state that the proposed law is basically similar to the ones that judges keep striking down as unconstitutional.  You’d think they’d learn, but why bother?  The consequences don’t fall on them.  Politicians are like stupid kids egging somebody’s house:  it only takes them a short time and very little effort to “send a message”, but the mess they leave behind takes others a very long time to clean up.

Moloch

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is weighing whether it’s constitutional to force all juvenile sex offenders to sign up with the state sex offender registry…Pennsylvania law requires  anyone 14…or older who is convicted of [a sex crime]…to register for life…they can petition for removal…only after 25 years, and only if they’ve had no subsequent offenses, even of a non-sexual nature…

John Warhurst
Above the Law

Note that this particular rapist cop works for the same department that wanted to “live tweet” a prostitution sting:  “John Warhurst [was arrested] for sixteen…sex offenses…[including] rape…Warhurst is a Prince George’s County Police Officer…”  In a rather odd twist, his wife was also arrested on similar charges.

Broken Record

If you though a gem and mineral show as “sex trafficking” magnet was ridiculous

…twice a year High Point triples in size with crowds numbering more than 80,000 people…[for] the weeklong Furniture Market…[which] draws more people than any other event in North Carolina.  Unfortunately, with any large crowd there comes the opportunity for anonymity, and sex traffickers are all too eager to take advantage…

What kind of mind calls anonymity “unfortunate”?

The Widening Gyre

Lawheads are willing to shut down a city to stop consensual behavior, but can’t even conceive that maybe their stupid laws are the real problem:

[Cincinnati] police…[have installed] concrete road blocks all along McMicken Avenue…While most agree something must be done to stop human trafficking…some say stopping traffic all together [sic] isn’t the answer…officials plan to keep the closures in place for…three months…[and] are…considering other drastic measures…like publishing the names of people convicted of prostitution related crimes, notifying their spouses and increasing fines…

Thought Controldaily beating

Here’s an excellent article on how the amazing diversity of the Golden Age of comics was destroyed by the repressive Comics Code Authority, a sort of self-lobotomization performed to save the industry from Congressional censorship after Frederic Wertham’s witch hunt:

…Distributors agreed not to carry comic books that didn’t abide by the Code, making it functionally as effective as law…independent women, and people of color, and all sorts of stories that didn’t fit with the compulsory patriotism and cop-worship of the 1950s, essentially vanished from comics for decades…What was left didn’t interest adults nearly as much, and comics slowly began to become less ubiquitous and more associated with pasty adolescent boys…

Little Boxes (TW3 #40)

An American medical student is auctioning off her virginity…Using the alias “Elizabeth Raine” and operating a blog entitled, Musings of a Virgin Whore, the 28-year-old…said she is willing to submit to a medical examination or polygraph as proof to the winning bidder…[and will consummate]…in Australia [to]…circumvent…American prostitution laws…Raine says she does not care about being labeled a prostitute…and…while she does not advocate prostitution she supports [its] “decriminalization and destigmatization”…She has promised to donate 35 percent of the auction proceeds to a charity “that brings education to women in developing countries”…

Caring Professionals

When they’re not infantilizing sex workers and demonizing our clients, they’re doing the exact opposite:

A disabled British retiree has ended up in court after he punched a council official who stopped him from seeing a prostitute.  Alan Thipthorpe, 88, was furious after he was prevented from seeing…Terri-Lee Pearce…[who] had regularly visited his care home.  Swindon council…stopped the visits because [they accused Pearce] of fleecing him out of his life savings…An angry Thipthorpe said…he should be able to spend the money how he wanted…


Under Every Bed

A “sex trafficking” cluck lectures us about the importance of word order, but apparently isn’t too concerned with number agreement:  “There is no such thing as children prostitutes, they are prostituted children who can be found in…any neighborhood and any town.”  Whenever I read something like this, I hear the voices from Chickenman crying “It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!”

The Pro-Rape Coalition (TW3 #316)

There cannot be a complete ban on Internet pornography in [India]…the government has told the Supreme Court…the…servers…are…quite often located in foreign countries, where such publication is permissible…even if a website is blocked, the same content can be hosted on a different server, may be in a different country, within a few seconds…

Birth of a Movement (TW3 #323)

a few hundred women [marched] down a busy commercial street in Mexico City during a May Day demonstration…to highlight the rights of sex workers… members of la Brigada Callejera (“the Streetwalkers Brigade”)…emphasized that…marchers were in the sex trade of their own free will…Mexico City’s government is currently attempting to redevelop La Merced and close down various hotels that it [pretends] are involved in trafficking…

Magic Formulae

A Minnesota law firm posted a page busting the common myths I’ve often written about, such as the notion that there are certain things cops can’t do or that one is safe if one has some kind of payment ritual.  I’d really like to see more whore-friendly entities posting information like this.

Acting and Activism (Extra Edition)

Another empty-headed actress attacks the less-privileged branches of our shared profession with stupid lies and moronic myths:

Jada Pinkett Smith…[is working on] a CNN documentary…about…sex trafficking.  Jada…had her eyes opened wide by two strippers who made clear to her that strip clubs in Atlanta, ground zero for the sex trafficking industry —are a gateway to…slavery…

Little Tin GodsLTG Ed Brown

Sheriff Ed Brown considers himself to be the owner of every human being…in North Carolina’s Onslow County – but he counsels his subjects not to worry, for his is a benevolent dictatorship administered by quasi-divine people endowed with transcendent wisdom…in [an ad] for his re-election campaign  [Brown wrote] “Those in the law enforcement profession have complete power over you, your life, your family, your loved ones, your rights, your freedom, your future and everything precious to life”…After the ad prompted criticism…Brown objected that his words were misunderstood…Brown apparently can [also] command the very elements themselves to surrender valuable secrets that remain inaccessible to lesser men.  While investigating the murder of…Maria Lauterbach, the Sheriff didn’t bother to collect shoeprints, choosing instead to conduct a forensic investigation using a divining rod made from a coat hanger

Sex Rays

…For months, Amazon has been deleting the wish lists of porn performers, models, and other…adult [entertainers]…Often, Amazon will cite “inappropriate” use of the wish list, such as it being used for “bartering” purposes…even when…there is no real evidence to that effect…Amazon has also deleted adult entertainers’ wish lists on the grounds that they include “inappropriate” items, such as adult toys or DVDs, despite the fact that Amazon offers these products…

Lack of Evidence (TW3 #344)

New York City has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit…by a man who said he was falsely arrested on a prostitution charge outside a Manhattan adult video store…Robert Pinter…says the settlement was a victory for 40 or so men…targeted [because cops] believed [them] to be gay…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (TW3 #345)

So much for “Sin City”:

…the [Las Vegas] Police co-sponsored [a] “Choose Purity” event…to show young girls what can happen when they don’t wait until marriage to have sex…Typically four things:  sexual assault, gangs, drugs and prostitution.  Avoid sex and avoid those perils, [organizer Regina] Coward said…The room of about 125 parents and children watched recorded interviews with a pimp and prostitutes, learned modern-day slavery exists in the form of the sex trade, and saw grisly images of…a woman who’d lost limbs in a methamphetamine lab explosion and a man who’d had his face partially gnawed off by a meth user…The monologues concluded with each girl getting on a gurney and into a body bag…

Shame, Shame (TW3 #348)

When Mary Anne Franks began her Jihad against revenge porn, it was pointed out that…her law would also criminalize the revelation of Anthony Wiener’s dangerous selfie…Franks adamantly denied her law suffered from significant…deficiencies.  But quietly, while no one was looking, the law morphed to include a…“Sydney Leathers exception”…even though few people know or care who Sydney Leathers is…Then came the viral twit…of a woman whose model plane strayed off course…and some snarky lawyer pointed out that anyone who retwitted it may well have committed a crime under Franks’ law.  Deniers strained to contend that could never happen,  convincing no one.  But it didn’t take long before…Arizona [enacted]…its…revenge porn…law…The crime went from misdemeanor to felony…and it has no “Anthony Wiener Sydney Leathers exception”…The sound you hear is Mary Anne Franks applauding as Crazy Joe Arpaio rounds up as many people…as he can find…

Backwards into the Future (TW3 #352) letter from Njong

Stephanie Wilson was reaching for a receipt inside a paper shopping bag from Saks Fifth Avenue when she found a letter pleading, “HELP HELP HELP”…from a man who…made the bag while being unfairly held in a Chinese prison factory…The note…was signed Tohnain Emmanuel Njong and was accompanied by a small passport-photo sized color picture… DNAinfo New York…located…Njong…who…said he had been teaching English in…Shenzhen when he was arrested in May 2011 and [wrongly] charged with fraud…he was forced to work long days in a factory, starting at 6 a.m. and continuing as late as 10 p.m…in December 2013…he…was put on a plane back to Cameroon…relatives…had believed him to be dead…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #415) 

Can you imagine this in an American paper?

…the government is leaning heavily towards the…Nordic model…as featured in [Joy Smith’s] Tipping Point report…Smith starts with a pre-conceived notion that presumes something which is simply not true, but is rather a sop to her own sensibilities…Eliminate prostitution?  With a law?…Maybe if Smith jumps up and down, holds her breath until she turns blue, and wishes really, really hard that’ll happen.  But I doubt it…

Best part:  the author’s an ex-cop.

All About the Men

Heather Berg’s criticism of Katha Pollitt’s ninnyish “OMG, men might see WHORES!!!1!!” essay from early last month makes the same point I made in “Dilemmas”: workers are not responsible for the moral failings (real or imaginary) of those who employ them.

…By making sex work exceptional, analyses like [these] ask us to forget that the wage system functions precisely by compelling us to work…If only everyone who opposes forcing people to work under threat of poverty and homelessness would join the struggle for a guaranteed annual income…the nature of a product is irrelevant to how we should theorize, legislate, or organize the labor involved in producing it.  Workers are not socially accountable for whatever may come from their work.  To accept otherwise encourages the over-identification with work that management finds so efficient in getting us to do more for less.  It allows capital to extract not only time, but also ethical responsibility from workers…

Though Berg’s view proceeds from a Marxist background and mine from a classical liberal one, we agree on both this subject and on the advisability of a guaranteed income.

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