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Posts Tagged ‘Madonna/whore’

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 23rd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Vestal Virgins were among the most important people in classical Roman society; they were charged with keeping the sacred fires burning, and accorded numerous privileges in return.  One of the greatest of these was that their persons were sacrosanct; in other words, no person could touch them without their permission, upon penalty of death.  That meant no one at all, not even high state officials; a Vestal could not be touched even if she were convicted of the greatest crime of which she could be accused, that of breaking her vows by having sex or allowing the sacred fires to go out.  Because these offenses were believed to anger the gods and thus risk the safety of all Rome, the penalty for them was death; but since nobody could touch them to administer the sentence there was only one way carry it out:  the dishonored priestess was buried alive.  In order to avoid breaking another law against burialVestal Condemned to Death (attributed to Pietro Saja, about 1800) within the city, the tomb was provided with a candle and a small quantity of food and water in order to establish the legal fiction that it was a “habitable room” rather than a sepulcher, and the unlucky woman was thus left to a lingering death by slow suffocation to preserve the illusion of piety which would have been shattered by spilling her blood.

Whores are in many ways the diametric opposites of the Vestals:  we are as far from virgins as it’s possible to be, are stigmatized and rejected by our societies rather than being honored by them, and are responsible for banking men’s sexual fires rather than keeping actual ones burning.  But in the past few decades, there has arisen a legal doctrine which represents all women as helpless, pure and sacred; we are supposed to be delicate flowers who are irremediably damaged by the evil lusts of brutal men, from whom the Sacred State must “protect” us.  Harlots sin against that precept by being strong, self-willed beings who deal with men on equal ground and make a living from male lust rather than being “ruined” by it as the catechism claims we should be.  We must therefore be punished, but since Holy Writ has declared us blameless victims how can that be accomplished?  The answer, as it was for the Vestals, is slow suffocation…though in this case economic and social rather than literal.

The tomb disguised as a “habitable room” into which prohibitionists want sex workers sealed is called the “Swedish model”; just as the Vestals’ persons technically remained inviolate, so women under this abominable regime are not technically criminalized.  Our meager provisions consist of the fact that we can, on paper, carry out our work unhindered.  But just as the Vestal was prevented by the earth above her “room” from getting any more food, water or air, so Swedish prohibition attempts to starve and suffocate their victims by persecuting their clients, getting them evicted from their homes, hounding them with police surveillance, denying them social benefits and even stealing their children.  Swedish proponents even go so far as to proclaim that sex workers are “decriminalized”…just as the Romans could say that the condemned Vestals had not been directly executed.

In all of Roman history, only ten Vestals were ever condemned to this horrible fate.  But unfortunately for the mad totalitarian dreams of the prohibitionists, there are millions of whores in the world; it would be absolutely impossible for them to ever entomb all of us, no matter how fervently they might wish to do so.  In order to advance their scheme to extinguish as many of us as possible, they must find and close up every possible gap through which economic sustenance might flow, and that means eliminating our means of attracting and contacting clients.  Increased police surveillance could drive street workers into the dark, dangerous places where the Pure and Holy need not see them, but street work has always been a minority of all sex work and that’s even more true now thanks to the internet (which allows incredibly cheap advertising with greater reach than even the most expensive venues had twenty years ago).  Banning escort advertising has no effect whatsoever; there is no way to stop people from hiding commercial sex adverts within other, unbanned forms, and almost no way to stop buyers living under such a censorship regime from accessing websites hosted outside its jurisdiction.  This utterly infuriates the prohibitionists, who are well aware of sex workers and clients conducting our business right under their noses; they have therefore embarked upon an all-out effort to destroy its most visible manifestations, no matter what the costs in human rights.  Irish prohibitionists have proposed giving police the power to steal sex workers’ phone numbers in order to convert them into traps for clients.  Scottish prohibitionists, defeated in their attempt to impose the Swedish model, are trying to drum up support for advertising censorship by demonizing clients.  And American prohibitionists are willing to totally destroy the internet as we know it:

…members of Congress have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Backpage.com for its role in prostitution and sex trafficking or to recommend legislation that would make prosecution possible…[they claim] that…tens of thousands of children are sold for sex…every year…Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects websites from liability for content posted by a third party. That means a website can’t be prosecuted when someone posts an illegal ad on their website…

Vestal Condemned to DeathWere websites to be held liable for third-party content, they would have no choice but to shut it down.  All of it.  Amazon reviews, YouTube videos, comments on websites, free hosting of sites like mine on larger entities like WordPress…all gone, wiped out overnight.  If you think this only applies to American websites, guess again; a large fraction of the internet’s backbone is on American soil, and the US government has given itself the power to shut down any website in any country which it decides has violated some US law, through the simple expedient of shutting down traffic to it at the point it passes through the US.  And while the article above restricts its language to “children”, others are more honest about the politicians’ intent:

…proposed legislation…would allow for federal felony charges to be brought against operators of web sites that fuel the illicit sex trade through commercial ads…Under the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, individuals would face felony charges for promoting an advertisement…that…facilitates any of numerous crimes against children and adults in the sex trade, including…pimping and prostitution.  The legislation would also allow federal authorities to shut down advertisements…

What these megalomaniacs seek is nothing less than the power to shut down any escort’s ad and to prosecute the website that carries it; even websites outside the US could be attacked as described above.  There is probably very little danger of the Roasting the Pig By Burning Down the House Act going through, or of it withstanding a challenge even if it did; US judges have repeatedly proven themselves wiser than politicians by striking such laws down every time they’ve been tried.  But the fact that they do keep trying is a measure of their hatred and disdain for the women they wish to suffocate in the name of “protecting” our sacred bodies from “violation” by consensual sex.

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For a model that is supposed to help prostitutes…[the Swedish model] shows them remarkably little respect.  –  Mishka Gora

Rough Trade Danford Grant on video

Accused rapist says it wasn’t rape because his victims were only whores:

Danford Grant, a prominent Seattle lawyer…is charged with six counts of rape, one count of attempted rape and one count of burglary for allegedly attacking multiple women at massage clinics…Grant’s lawyers claim Jie Shao, owner of Carnation Massage:  “deleted all the footage that recorded what really occurred…to destroy what was evidence of prostitution, not rape or attempted rape”…attorney…Richard Hansen…has repeatedly put…responsibility …on the…victims…saying…“a lot of these…(massage businesses) were advertising on Backpage…that should tell you something”…

The Lesser of Two Evils

An excellent Christian argument against criminalization of sex work, especially via the Swedish model:

…To criminalise male purchasers while simultaneously exonerating female vendors…is a violation of natural justice…this…“denial of consent”…fails to understand the motivation of women who…prefer prostitution to the alternative…the duplicity and irrationality of wanting to eliminate prostitution…while simultaneously denying the moral agency of prostitutes…is mind-boggling.  The contortions of the mind needed to support this feminist narrative have…also led to…prostitutes [being treated]…like children incapable of taking responsibility for their actions…[while] male clients…are…“sex offenders”…along with rapists and child abusers…According to Dr Melissa Farley, upon whose dubious “research” seemingly every justification of the Swedish model is based, they are “predators”…For Christians, promiscuity has [always] been the defining aspect of prostitution…medieval canonists agreed that although it was wrong for a prostitute to practice her trade, there was no wrongdoing in her receipt of money for her services…It is…hypocritical and inconsistent to criminalise only this one form of promiscuity…It is not…criminal…for a woman to have a different sexual partner each night…nor…for a man to buy his mistress an apartment, clothing, etc…integrity would demand…prohibition [of sex work] apply to all illicit sex…Such a prohibition…was ludicrous in Catholic medieval Europe, and…even more so in a modern western democracy…

Actually, This is Good News

The more sex workers are treated as other professionals are, the better:

Prostitutes could be sued for breaching the Consumer Guarantees Act, the same as any other service provider, a law professor says.  A man who tried to sue a prostitute for compensation and damages  had his claim dismissed…But…Professor Cynthia Hawes said prostitutes were…no less accountable than other service providers…”if you’ve made a contract with somebody there could be a case.  A contract of prostitution is not unlawful in itself”…

Maggie in the Media

On Wednesday I was a guest on the Inspireland podcast; you can listen to it at that link or download it on iTunes.

Parable white slave girl

For April Fools’ Day, Jenny Heineman wrote a satire entitled “It Happened To Me:  I Read And Believed Nick Kristof”:

Despite ample warnings about the prevalence of con men seeking to prey on easily malleable puppets like me…I almost became the victim of a murky, seedy, dark, sex trafficking ring operated by equally murky, seedy, dark (-skinned) men…prostitution…is never a victimless crime…all fact-based evidence to the contrary should be deeply scrutinized…Furthermore, prostitution and sex trafficking are synonyms because if you disagree…you’re a pedophile…

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

A [Connecticut] woman faces prostitution charges after…she reported being robbed by a man who responded to her ad…Nikoletta Herman…became nervous about the way he was acting…changed her mind and…the man got upset, assaulted her and stole her cellphone…

Marching Up Their Own Arses

The newest anti-whore fad:  using “licensing” to jack up prostitution fines:

…Wausau [Wisconsin] Police Chief Jeff Hardel [wants]…an escort license…ordinance [which] would impose fines in the $2,000 to $5,000 dollar range, and [require] licensed escorts to be fingerprinted, pass background checks, and file a…business plan.

Full of Themselves (Updates Galore)

Massage parlors are victims of licensing as well:

…Minneapolis will require massage businesses to be licensed…to prevent sex trafficking…With cooperation from…victims, prosecutors are…working to drive down the demand…through aggressive prosecuting of “johns.”  The city also has conducted training sessions to educate hotel and motel owners and employees to recognize, report and stop sex trafficking…

coffee crack pipe
To paraphrase one line from the article, “The new law is intended to make Minneapolis a safe police state to call home.”

Gullible’s Travels

Coffee smoking is a dangerous new trend that could be going viral among teens…But the side effects can be dangerous. People have reported trouble breathing, dizziness, vomiting and even hallucinations.”

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

violence and assault against sex workers by the police…has come under the scanner of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission…Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a complaint…on behalf of the sex workers…”Women have been beaten up just for standing on the road, or while walking towards the bus stop…Women have been…compelled to pay money, failing which they are threatened that false cases will be filed against them,” Professor Rajendra Y J of PUCL said…

The Prudish Giant (TW3 #9)

PayPal is at it again; here’s a letter sent out on Monday by the crowd-funding platform Patreon (which lets patrons pledge a set amount to an artist for every new work created) to artists who create “adult” material:

…we had to change your custom URL and set your Patreon page to “private”…users must [now] have a specific link to view your page, as it no longer appears in our search results.  We got a notice from Paypal this morning that they were shutting down their entire integration with Patreon because of “adult content” on our site!  As you can imagine, this would be detrimental to creators – hundreds of thousands of dollars were to be “frozen” unless we flagged all adult content pages, made them private, and removed Paypal functionality from their individual pages…We have already emailed your patrons who signed up to become your patron through Paypal, and we have asked them to switch over to a credit card.  No action is needed on your part, however, if you would like to email your patrons as well, that could be helpful in converting patrons from Paypal to credit card…

Above the Law 

Kansas jailer Kenneth Reese “has been arrested, accused of sex crimes against jail inmates”; the first allegation a year ago didn’t go anywhere, but a second accusation seems to have tipped the balance.  Meanwhile, in Louisiana, “Richland Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Dewey Allen has been arrested on charges of sexual battery and malfeasance…

Held Together With Lies

Emily J does a splendid job of ripping apart prohibitionist nonsense:

…here are the basic numbers of their claims:  140 girls & women in Ottawa right now are trafficked sex slaves…[each makes] $260 000 – $280 000…on average…[at] $200/Hour average price…$260 000 per year at $200/hour…[is] 1300 sessions in a year…if each one works 365 days per year, they earn $712 per day…[and] 3.56 clients per day, every single day…that’s 498 unique men seeing trafficked girls in Ottawa…[and] 182,000 sessions per year…[which would mean] 65% of all men in Ottawa have had sex with a trafficked sex slave…

Number Puzzle

The invaluable Wendy Lyon debunks another bogus “trafficking” study:

There’s been much in the Irish media…about a new report on sex workers’ clients…You’d need a pretty small population size for 58 [respondents] to…tell us anything about clients as a class – and the authors can hardly claim simultaneously that the population size is small enough, and that it spends €250m a year…if the respondents amounted to even 10% of the sex-buying population of Ireland, that would still require them to pay an average of €431,034 per year for sex…the…survey…asks…Have you ever changed your mind and walked away because the person seemed…a list of options follows, including “scared”, “controlled”, “unwilling”, “unhappy” and “too young”…a client who…walked out of an appointment with an independent escort who was in a bad mood…[was] recorded as having encountered a sex worker who he believed was exploited or trafficked.  This…is a gigantic leap that undermines whatever credibility this survey might otherwise have had…

Under Every Bed

This collection of single sentences  about the “sex trafficking problem” in Boise, Idaho (population 200,000; known chiefly for lumber and potatoes) is not actually organized into a coherent article; apparently, its “writer” is a dual devotee of the “sex trafficking” cult and the Hemingway software.  The gems found therein include (multiple sic):  “a child is taken in…they’re used not only for prostitution but also in gang organized crimes”; “victims…go through a ‘moral development’ period…in order to stay safe they must go along with their captures”; and “investigators…believe that a major problem stems from the Internet…‘where kids play online’”.

Bottleneck (TW3 #324)

This breathless article from the Canberra Times is clearly intended as an attack on decriminalization in New South Wales:  it spouts “sex trafficking” nonsense; quotes cops, politicians and an NGO named “Brothel Busters”; and does not quote any sex worker organizations at all.  But like many prohibitionist screeds about the “failure” of legal sex work regimes, it ignores a vital point:  the women it discusses are only victims because they are specifically excluded from working legally via some legal bottleneck, in this case the inability to get visas for sex work.  Naturally, Scarlet Alliance has repeatedly warned the government about this exact issue.

Bootlickers (TW3 #326) 

Because surely there are scads of women who think escort to barista is a good career move:

[Sheriff's Sgt. Darrell L. O'Neill] was charged…with felony promoting prostitution…for allegedly tipping off bikini baristas in exchange for sexual favors…[cops claim] Java Juggs stands hire young women who have worked as strippers and escorts and “essentially operate as drive-through strip clubs or brothels”…

Innocence Never Had

Another useless public policy based upon the absurd notion of magical “pimp” mind control powers:

[Los Angeles] officials are exploring a plan to require more…training for foster parents and group home workers to help them recognize …signs that children and teens under their care may be victims of sex trafficking…pimps sometimes recruit underage sex workers from group homes…Rachel Thomas, a sex trafficking survivor [said]…”There’s a grooming process…with recognizable signs.”

The Punitive Mindset (TW3 #352) 

Campaigners fighting the Ministry of Justice over a ban on books being sent to prisoners…threatened to take their battle to the courts…Geoffrey Robertson QC, who has offered his services for free, said…justice secretary Chris Grayling [is] acting “unlawfully and irrationally”…to inflict “cruel and unusual punishment” on literate prisoners.  “Grayling is not a lawyer, he is a politician who seems to think he is above the law,” said Robertson…”He has no power to impose additional punishment on prisoners over and above that which is imposed by the courts.  The action has nothing to do with prison security or any other legitimate purpose”…Grayling [pretends]…”the arrival of thousands of unknown parcels in our prisons each day”…would undermine the…battle against drugs…

R.I.P. Andrew Hunter

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

Sex workers from across the UK and rest of Europe crammed into a select committee room in the House of Commons to argue against plans to change prostitution laws that would criminalise clients…

Whither Canada? 

Canadian prohibitionist is sad because he can no longer force sex workers traumatized by arrest to listen to his “rescue” sales pitch:

A prostitute rescue program…is now on hold because police are no longer laying prostitution charges in Saskatoon, says…Don Meikle…once an arrest was made “we would be sitting at the police station waiting for them…It’s…very disappointing…It’s taken away that crisis that quite often created change”…

The rest of the article is littered with words like “combating prostitution” and the program is praised by a pro-Swedish model prohibitionist group.

Delightful Conversation

Go back and look at the text below the second picture on yesterday’s column (which I actually posted on March 8th) before reading this:

…[Miranda Barbour] made up the claim that she killed more than 20 people and is drawing on the escapades of television serial killer “Dexter,” her sister said…”She takes a lot of truths and puts the lie in the middle so when people…see all these truths…they believe the lie”…Ashley Dean said Elytte Barbour loved the TV show Dexter and suggested that her sister…”is using descriptions from the show”…

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We call on the Government of Canada to join with global leaders, community, researchers and legal experts in rejecting criminalization regimes, including those that criminalize the purchase of sexual services, and instead support the decriminalization of sex work…as scientifically-grounded and necessary to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers.  -  The Gender & Sexual Health Initiative

Maggie in the Media

Here’s an interview with me on the Euvoluntary Exchange podcast, and a guest column I did for Radley Balko’s blog at the Washington Post.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do Steve Smith

The Robbinsdale [Minnesota] police chief resigned from his position…after…he was arrested in a prostitution sting…ten people were arrested…including…Steven Smith…

The Scarlet Letter

Richmond, California’s…police department…plans to…post…photos of men arrested in prostitution stings to Facebook and Twitter…even though these men might not ever be convicted of any crime…

And Speaking of Victim Blaming…

It’s blessedly absent from this story:

Two…thugs bound and gagged a prostitute after robbing her — thinking that she wouldn’t call the police.  Jason Barton…and John Coulter…were joined by David Coulter from Northern Ireland, in a sickening attack on the 27-year-old Polish woman…[who] was found in her flat after her muffled cries for help were heard.  She pleaded with the tower block caretaker not to call the police but he ignored her protests…the vile trio…[was] found guilty… Book of Legendary Lands

Presents, Presents, Presents!

This week I received Playing the Whore and The Book of Legendary Lands from Korhomme and The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection from Gumdeo.  Thank you both so much!

The Sky is Falling!

The arrival of…Seeking Arrangement…has caused…consternation in France…40,000 French “sugar babies” have already signed up…“Seeking Arrangement takes advantage of the financial misery of students.  The site hides violence against women in beautiful wrapping paper,” said Anne-Cecile Mailfert…[of] Osez le Feminisme…“We hope lawmakers will [ban] websites when they…adopt…the law criminalizing the purchasing of sex”…

Thou Shalt Not

Because prohibition always works so well:

Leading doctors have called for a ban on cigarette sales to those born after 2000 in a programme of “progressive prohibition”…They urged the British Medical Association to lobby for a complete ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone born in this century…

Above the Law 

Maryland Transit Administration Officer Martez Johnson…[gave a woman] a ride…after an MTA bus hit her car about 3 a.m. March 13…Martez walked the woman to the front door of her home…[then] forced his way inside…pushed her onto her couch and raped her…After he left, she called 911…Earlier this week, a Baltimore City police officer was charged…[with buying sex from] a 14-year-old girl advertising prostitution services online…

Finding What Isn’t There

In science, theories change to fit facts.  In politics, facts change to fit beliefs:

…a law designed to catch human traffickers…has netted few charges and even fewer convictions in Canada, anti-trafficking advocates complain.  There have been [only] 35…convictions since new laws…came into effect in 2005…MP Joy Smith…says more charges and convictions [must be created]…Jennifer Mann, a…Crown attorney, said…it’s…under-reported…But…John Ferguson, a retired RCMP superintendent, says the lack of convictions…may indicate that it is not that widespread…

Only one man is willing to accept that women have agency; all the women interviewed insist that childlike women are “controlled” by evil men.

An Example To the West (TW3 #39) Rajib Boy

The impoverished son of a sex worker in Calcutta…has been selected to participate in a Manchester United soccer training camp…Rajib Boy, 16…will head to the U.K. in April…amid hopes that the sport will liberate them both from poverty…”I am not ashamed of being a sex worker’s son…She is my main source of inspiration.  But I want to take her out of the red-light district as early as possible”…

Buried Truth

[Illinois] State Rep. Keith Farnham stepped down…after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided his home and his state office [for child porn]…Farnham…has…co-sponsored two laws cracking down child pornography [including] one…stiffening penalties for its possession…

Prudish Pedants (TW3 #133)

A federal appeals court…upheld the convictions of…fetish filmmaker…Ira Isaacs…A three-judge panel of the…9th Circuit Court of Appeals…rejected Isaacs’ arguments that the lower court…abused its discretion by excluding [his] proposed expert testimony.  Defense attorney Roger Jon Diamond said he would discuss with Isaacs whether to file a petition for rehearing before the full 11-judge appeals panel…

The Proper Study (TW3 #319)

Porn Studies has released its first issue:

…In the introduction…editors-in-chief – Feona Attwood…and Clarissa Smith…write:  “Recent years have seen a resurgence of public discussions (and scares) about…pornography-related topics, perhaps most notably the expansions of pornography across the internet, its putative links to rape and sexual violence, and erotic life-styling or the oft-cited ‘sexualisation of culture’”…

Predictably, Gail Dines used the occasion to bark at the moon.

FearusOscillation (TW3 #321)

You’ve probably seen this image floating around the internet, and since it contains the address of a long-abandoned website someone bought that domain in order to debunk the image.  The nutshell version: in the original 1979 survey, students were given a five-point range from “always” to “never”, and this chart counts all responses except “never” as a “yes” response.  It certainly changes one’s impression to know that the “yes” percentages are actually four different gradations of agreement added together, doesn’t it?

Unmentionables

Chase Paymentech…told Lovability founder Tiffany Gaines…that the company considers it a “reputational risk” to handle online payments for condoms, which it classifies as an “adult-oriented product”…Gaines…created Lovability with the goal of making it less awkward for women to buy condoms

Micromanagement

Dr. Feelsad wants DNA surveillance of sex workers because of his sadfeelz:

…DNA…can be a powerful tool in combating human trafficking, according to forensic scientist Timothy Palmbach…[who] set out…to…develop…a DNA database of victims and at-risk persons…Palmbach ventured to a number of places, including Costa Rica, Nepal and Djibouti to see if he could successfully identify and obtain DNA samples from victims and possible perpetrators…in Costa Rica…police asked for help investigating a hotel known for sex tourism… he eventually found himself alone with a 14-year-old girl…[who would have charged him] $400 an hour…Palmbach [said] “I really almost started to cry…I just saw the depravity of the situation and how much it’s all driven by money and demand”…

O, Canada! (TW3 #405)

More harassment of legal sex workers in Canada:

…CEASE, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation…[is harassing sex workers with offensive] texts…Any sex worker with a phone number listed in the Edmonton…Backpage.com has likely received one of [the]…messages…Project Backpage [is] a new collaboration between the University of Alberta, Chrysalis Network…and CEASE…Because the sex industry has mostly moved from the streets to the Internet, [rescue industry] groups are finding it more difficult to [annoy] women…Susan Davis…[of] the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals…takes the view that the texting tactic is a preferable alternative to police raids and sting operations, such as Operation Spotlight…

ritual shaming
Deafening Silence (TW3 #407) 

China aims to prove it can be at least as stupid and brutal as the US when it comes to destroying businesses and hurting the economy through liberal use of cops and dysphemisms:

The vice crackdown that began in Dongguan last month has resulted in the arrest of more than 850 suspects and will expand across Guangdong before it wraps up in May…the three-month campaign against the illegal sex trade has already led to the break-up of more than 60 criminal gangs…[and] cost more than 3,000 hotels, saunas and massage parlours their licences…In addition, some 854 websites and more than 96,000 public instant-messaging accounts have been closed for promoting sex services online…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410)

Articles like this give me hope that we’ll eventually start seeing similar ones about “sex trafficking” hysteria:

The nation’s largest and most influential anti-sexual-violence organization is rejecting the idea that culture — as opposed to the actions of individuals — is responsible for rape…Recently, rape-culture theory has migrated from the lonely corners of the feminist blogosphere into the mainstream.  In January, the White House  asserted that we need to combat campus rape by “[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.”  Tolerance for rape?  Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised…there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm…Rape-culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense…But now…RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)…repudiates the rhetoric…and…is especially critical of the idea that we need to focus on teaching men not to rape…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

A poll…shows that over half the population of the UK is opposed to the criminalisation of prostitution.  Only three in ten nationwide were in favour.  In London it was only one in four…The exact wording for the poll was:  Currently in the UK under certain circumstances, it is legal for men and women to pay for sex.  There are some people that wish to make it illegal for the user to pay for sex.  Do you think such a criminalisation is a good idea or not?…51% agreed that “No, paying for sex should not be criminalized.”  31% agreed that “Yes, it should be illegal to pay for sex.”  The other 18% had no opinion.  There was little difference between the sexes with 53% of men and 49% of women opposing criminalisation.  Under a third of both sexes were in favour…

To Protect and Serve (TW3 #411)

25 exotic dancers filed suit against the [San Diego Police] Department for violating their civil rights…during a routine permit inspection…10 unidentified officers detained the dancers under no stated suspicion and began photographing…[them] against their will for roughly one hour…

Whither Canada? Joy Smith

It’s good to see real information in the public discussion of sex work in Canada:

The Conservatives say they are listening to all the submissions they receive before they draw up Canada’s new prostitution law…But the…government [is using] a report by Conservative MP Joy Smith, titled The Tipping Point, as the intellectual underpinning for…the so-called Nordic model…The problem is much of the research cited in The Tipping Point is highly selective — ignoring truths that are inconvenient or cast the Swedish model in a poor light…The…report contends that countries like New Zealand that have decriminalized…have seen a dramatic increase in sexual exploitation and violence.  But anyone who reads the Prostitution Law Review Committee report assessing New Zealand’s legislation comes away with a very different impression…

And here’s one from the Ottawa Citizen:

…In Canada, we’ve been sold a false dilemma that presents only the possibility of a “Nordic”…regime or…“Dutch” approach…But Canadian sex workers…know that New Zealand’s model…merits much closer consideration…Sex workers in New Zealand are now covered by labour laws…the Prostitution Reform Act has not resulted in any growth of the sex industry or increase in number of sex workers, nor has the sky fallen.  The Prostitution Law Review Committee…found that there has been a marked improvement in employment conditions and a decrease in violence…

And an open letter signed by 300 academics:

We…are profoundly concerned that the Government…is considering …new legislation to criminalize the purchasing of sex.  The proposed legislation is not scientifically grounded and evidence strongly suggests that it would recreate the same…harms of current criminalization.  We join other sex worker, research, and legal experts across the country and urge the Government of Canada to follow the Supreme Court…decision and support decriminalization of sex work as a critical evidence-based approach to ensuring the safety, health, and human rights of sex workers…

Surplus Women (TW3 #412)

What if…Orange County [California is] dealing with a serial killer preying on prostitutes?…Orange County…formed a multi-agency task force when homeless men were being fatally stabbed over a few months…but [are] not doing so now when the victims [are] female prostitutes…Are cops making a judgment call on which type of victims are worthy of their attention?  Anaheim Police Lt. Tim Schmidt…[says] “We don’t have the evidence to say they’re connected”…of the cases involving missing persons Kianna Jackson, Josephine Vargas…Martha Anaya…Tina Hoang and Jarrae Estepp…[rescue industry figure] Lois Lee…of Children of the Night…[says] “It’s just a high-risk job”…

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Last week I published a letter from an exceptional woman:  though she’s a Christian with a strong personal aversion to sex work, she has deeply considered the issues and realized that there are many, many problems in “anti-trafficking” discourse.  After my last letter she wrote again with more good questions, but her letter was so complex that I have separated out the individual questions not only to make this column easier to read, but to protect her privacy by eliminating personal details.  If you haven’t yet read last Wednesday’s column, you really ought to do so before proceeding with today’s.

A friend of mine belongs to an anti-trafficking ministry which gives out gift bags to ladies in brothels and tries to build friendships with them.  The gift bag includes shampoo and sometimes cookies and earrings, and also a packet of tissues, inside which they have slipped a hotline for getting out of prostitution.  Would you personally find such a message with a hotline number insulting?

trafficking soapMost sex workers would probably consider that more funny than insulting, because the idea outsiders have that we’re all “trapped” or “victims” or “slaves” is very amusing when it isn’t backed up by uniformed thugs.  But once the cops start smashing down doors, beating, raping and robbing sex workers before caging them and giving them criminal records that will follow them for life, it goes far beyond mere insult.  The idea that we’re “victims” is a symptom of what you mentioned in your first letter:  the refusal to listen.  It’s kind of like the way gay people are treated in some churches:  “I can’t understand how a man could be attracted to another man, so there must be something wrong with them.”  The old narrative was that sex workers were “bad” women, but over the past 800 years Christianity has slowly shifted toward viewing us as “fallen” creatures to be redeemed, and that became the dominant social discourse in English-speaking countries from the 1880s on (largely due to the influence of the Salvation Army and other groups promoting the “white slavery” hysteria).  After criminalization became the norm in the US (from 1910-1914), people naturally started seeing prostitutes as “criminals”, and that view persisted until the beginning of the present moral panic in 2004 (though several years earlier in Sweden).

I have seen sites that quoted (at least they claim) comments from clients about prostitutes, 95% of which were horrendous.  So why do clients come to you?  Is it really that men who are willing to buy women are often aggressive and do not respect women in general? 

Those “client quotes” are totally cherry-picked.  The idea that men pay good money to spend time with women they hate is about as absurd as anything I can think of; it’s related to the radical feminist notion that all intercourse is rape.  The fact is, I was often treated better by the men who paid me than guys who just dated me, and that’s a very typical experience.  The majority of sex workers’ clients are either horny or lonely, and that’s it.  They’re not looking for women to “objectify” or “abuse”, and the only people who can believe otherwise without being lied to are people who believe the Marxist foolishness that all economic transactions are innately exploitative, or those who believe that all sex not sanctified by marriage (or all heterosexual sex, period) is bad.  The only reason they pick on sex work is that when they try to apply those ideas more universally, most normal people mock, shun or ignore them.  Sex workers have been turned into a pariah caste against whom rhetoric that wouldn’t last five minutes when directed against anyone else, suddenly becomes palatable.  The most common form of prostitution these days is probably GFE escorting, where GFE stands for “girl friend experience”.  In other words, the majority of clients want a girl who is nice and friendly and chatty and sweet, just like a regular date.  Yes, there are bad clients…but that’s true of every business in the world, as anyone with experience in retail or waitressing can tell you.

Do you not mind when a man comes to you only for your body, with no interest in your personality, your soul, your mind, your history?  Although if I must think of sex work as normal work, I suppose it would be as ridiculous as if I asked an office worker, do you not mind that your boss has no interest in your personality etc and that you are reduced as just a working cog in a cooperation.  In an office, ideally you’d find a caring manager who does care about your well-being – and I guess there are clients who are similar?

sex dollAs I explained above, most clients are.  If you talk to sex workers who have had “straight” jobs, you’ll find they usually felt far more objectified in those than in sex work.  People who talk about “bodies to be used” must have a very low opinion of men, to believe that that’s how men see sex.  In fact, one of the most annoying client behaviors is when they go on about “I want to give you pleasure” and “what would you like to do?” and that sort of thing, which many of them do.  We hate it because it makes it much harder to satisfy a customer who won’t say what he wants, but as you can see it’s exactly the opposite of that “objectification” jazz.  When I was an escort I advertised myself as “the thinking man’s companion” because I have a hard time “dumbing down” my conversation and wanted to attract men who liked that…and there were plenty.  You were talking about reviews earlier; you know who gets the worst reviews?  Girls who just lie there like a “body to be used”.  What prohibitionists claim men are looking for, is actually the thing which will probably kill a sex worker’s business faster than anything else.

My anti-trafficking friend never says “prostitute”, but rather “ladies in the sex industry”; she also never gives out their names “in order to protect their confidentiality”.  But if sex work is just work, what difference does the word make?  And why wouldn’t prostitutes want people to know their names?

If sex work were completely accepted, normal and legally protected, I would agree with you that there would be no need for aliases.  But that isn’t the way it is, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  Your friend is wise to be discreet.  As for the term “prostitute”, it’s a very legalistic word that has acquired  considerable negative baggage.  So while I myself use it because many outsiders with whom I discuss it (especially lawyers & politicians) see it as a neutral term, it is in fact pejorative and should be avoided.  “Sex worker” is considered the most polite term; “prostituted woman” is the most insulting and demeaning because it casts us as passive, inert victims without intellect, will or agency.

I’m uncomfortable saying that sex work should be okay and treated as any other job, but I’m also uncomfortable with criminalization because everyone has the right to choose what they will do and how they want to live their lives.  How do I resolve this conflict?

Now we’re getting into the philosophy of harm reduction, which is quite complicated but here’s the nutshell version.  I personally think cocaine is awful; I hate the way people act when they use it, I hate the way it makes their noses run and their mouths get crusty, I hate the weird fantasies they have when they’re on it.  Eventually I got to the point where I’d refuse clients I knew were using it because I didn’t want to deal with it.  However, the harms that result from cocaine aren’t nearly as bad as those that result from attempting to suppress it, such as the establishment of a surveillance state, empowerment of police to violate civil rights on a massive scale, bloody cartel wars, bad (even fatal) reactions to tainted drugs, the attraction of criminals to the business, the vast waste of money and the highest incarceration rates in history.  I don’t have to like cocaine or approve of its use to recognize that its prohibition is a horrible thing and the wellspring of myriad evils, and you don’t have to like or approve of sex work to have the same view about its prohibition.  And considering that it is the prohibition of sex work that is the chief enabler of coercion, I would think that every moral person who is truly concerned about that would join with the UN, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many others in calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

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If anyone is perpetuating prostitution-related violence, it is prohibitionists like Kristof, who insist on maintaining a black market.  -  Jacob Sullum

Out of Control (The Camel’s Nose) Dr. George Doodnaught

A Canadian anesthesiologist convicted of sexually assaulting 21 sedated women during surgeries was sentenced…to 10 years in prison…Dr. George Doodnaught…relied on his three decades of operating room experience to avoid detection…the…victims…gave generally similar accounts of being kissed and fondled by him, and of having his penis placed in their mouths or hands…they were conscious enough to be aware of what was happening, but were not able to move their limbs…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

A cop is a cop, even when she’s a sex worker:

For years, Philadelphia Police Officer Terra Barrow had a side job running a handful of [sex] websites and phone lines…Barrow said she got into the…industry…to…make [extra] money…Competitor Donna Burns…claims Barrow ripped off her site designs, stole her client database and bullied competitors by telling them she was a cop…Burns also…gave…investigators advertisements that Barrow allegedly placed…as an escort named “Black Barbie.”  Barrow acknowledged she used that nickname in email but [claims she] has never worked as an escort…

Down Under

Neofeminists claim decriminalization has “failed [to protect sex workers] everywhere it’s been tried”.  This is what that “failure” looks like:

A prostitute has won a landmark sexual harassment case against a Wellington brothel owner…the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the young woman $25,000 in damages for emotional harm as a result of sexual harassment.  Aaron Montgomery, who no longer owns The Kensington Inn…was described as a bully who enjoyed controlling and humiliating women and tried to pressure workers into having sex with him…

Imaginary Crises

After two decades as one of the few women who dared to challenge the hysteria, it’s nice to have so much more company lately:

…if the risk of sexual assault on campus were truly one in five…no parent in their right mind would send their daughter to coed universities…Chad Hermann…[examined] the reported sexual assault offenses over three years at…the University of Pittsburgh (UP), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Duquesne University (DU).  In 2009:  At UP, with 14,800 female students, four sexual assaults were reported.  At CMU, with about 3,900 female students, six sexual assaults were reported (a three-year high).  At DU, with 5,700 females, three were reported.  But wait:  We “know” (we don’t really) that 90% of rapes go unreported!  Okay, Hermann adjusts the numbers to reflect that, giving UP 40 assaults, CMU 60 and DU 30.  Are we at one-in-four yet?  Hardly.  We’re at one-in-185 (average of the three)…Medway victim safely exiting into a police car

It Looks Good On Paper

a BBC investigation  into the policing of prostitution in Medway, Kent showed harm reduction was dangerously disrupted by their aggressive “cleaning up the streets” approach.  In 2009, Kent Police began a scheme…called Safe Exit, supposedly to help women leave the sex trade by offering treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, training and education, and housing…But…instead…the women received a criminal record…Kent Police claimed to have reduced the number of women working on-street by over 90, but…two public servants associated with the scheme…say originally there were only 40-50 women working on-street.  Our sources also told us…that the scheme was a “political PR stunt”…[some of the women were burdened with] ASBOs…and a few ended up in prison…

Law of the Instrument

What at first seems like an arrest mission on a busy Orange County street is actually a rescue mission, as police go undercover to save girls who have become victims of sex trafficking…”  No, actually, it’s an arrest mission.  And if you can handle reading that first one, try this one about nearby Santa Barbara County, in which the agency of female university students and Chinese immigrants is totally denied using the excuse of “Stockholm Syndrome”.

Shifting the Blame (The Beat Goes On)

[James Brown]…was convicted of killing four women in his basement and stuffing their bodies in car trunks after he met them through online escort ads…just days apart, at his home in December 2011…Two were burned beyond recognition when a car was set on fire.  Brown…faces life in prison with no chance for parole…The women who were killed were Renisha Landers, Demesha Hunt, Natasha Curtis and Vernithea McCrary, all in their 20s…

Above the Law Mark Ridley

Three more brave heroes protecting and serving, in Oklahoma:  “…Muskogee police officer…Mark Ridley…was arrested…after allegedly forcing…the woman’s car…off the road, then…[forcing] her to perform oral sex at gunpoint…” and in California:  “Sheriff’s deputy [Damian Marquez repeatedly]…arrested a woman on felony probation ‘for the sole purpose of raping and sexually assaulting’ her at the [City of Industry] sheriff’s station…Xavier Thicklen and in Wisconsin:

[In the early stages of her pregnancy] and twice more after she had her baby, a [female prisoner] was placed in shackles…and raped over and over again, according to reports…Xavier D. Thicklen’s “abuse of his authority went wholly unchecked” by co-defendant Sheriff David A. Clarke, even though at least one of the assaults was caught on camera…Thicklen is charged with five counts of second-degree sexual assault…[and] could be sent to prison for 40 years on each…

First They Came for the Hookers… 

[New York City] has been…targeting…strip clubs by going after their liquor licenses…[after] trumping up charges…some clubs have continued to operate sans alcohol—which does, as a result of other bizarre strip club regulations, have the advantage of allowing dancers to be fully nude…But [alcohol-free clubs are much less popular and]…prohibition also zaps a major source of revenue for both clubs and dancers…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #30)

Finland has rejected the efforts of its neofeminist “justice” minister to impose the Swedish model, but what they gave her is bad enough:  “…the Ministry of Justice has proposed a tightening of the law, so sex-buyers who should have suspected pimping or trafficking can be sentenced…Justice Minister Anna- Maja Henriksson…[says she is] disappointed and…her goal is still a total ban…”  They are lowering the burden of proof to only one step short of strict liability, but obviously that isn’t enough to satisfy Henriksson’s anti-sex bloodlust.

King of the Hill

Buried beneath the Profession of Faith, agency denial, masturbatory fantasy, and penis-size bragging is the only worthwhile sentence in this crap:  “the FBI [named]…Detroit…as the second largest area for human trafficking in the U.S., with only San Francisco larger…She Rescue is not OK

All the Difference 

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has charged an Australian filmmaker with hindering the work of a…[“rescue”] organization…James Ricketson…accuses the Brisbane-based Citipointe Church of retaliating against him for his years-long efforts to help a Cambodian family retrieve two daughters from the organization’s She Rescue Home…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #52)

The same old Labour Party busybodies (with help from like-minded prudes in other parties) are once again trying to impose the Swedish model on the UK, but this time they’re pretending to be a new group inspired by last week’s reprehensible EU vote.  If these people were any more transparent they’d be completely invisible.  Here’s what Tim Worstall had to say about it:

…the “slavery” in prostitution…doesn’t, in this country at least, actually exist.  For we had a plan whereby every single police force in the country went out looking for people who were indeed sex slaves…and…could…not…come up with sufficient evidence to charge anyone at all…What we…have is consenting adults…deciding what to do with their own bodies…

Japanese Prostitution (TW3 #131)

While Japanese politicians work to deny, downplay or excuse their country’s enslavement of tens of thousands of women in wartime brothels

…Japanese-American plaintiffs, served by American megafirm Mayer Brown, are pursuing the agenda of reactionary Japanese politicians through despicable litigation…In 2013 the City of Glendale [California] erected a modest memorial to the comfort women…in a public park…Japanese politicians were enraged and have repeatedly demanded that the memorial be removed.  The…lawsuit…seeks to [accomplish this]…by force of law…

Flush Criminalization

I love it when Jacob Sullum tears into Nick Kristof:

…how should we view armed agents of the state who invite people to engage in peaceful exchange, only to pounce on them with guns and handcuffs?Nicholas Kristof thinks they’re heroes.  Consider…his latest column equating prostitution with “human trafficking”…Kristof…insists “that isn’t prudishness or sanctimony but a strategy to dampen demand.”  This strategy—cops posing as prostitutes—has been a joke and a cliché for as long as I’ve been alive, but Kristof considers it the cutting edge of innovative policing.  If targeting customers is all it takes to eradicate black markets, why do they still exist?…Kristof…calls sting operations “marvels of efficiency”—which they are, assuming you want to produce futile arrests and gratuitous humiliation…

As I reported in December, the “marvel of efficiency” sophomorically entitled “Operation Flush the Johns” hasn’t had much luck convicting any of the accused who didn’t just plead out; they finally got their first one this week.

R.I.P. Petite Jasmine (TW3 #329)

A video by Carol Leigh on the memorials for Petite Jasmine and Dora Özer.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #345)

An excellent article by Molly Crabapple on the vile Project ROSE and its equally-vile founder, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz:

…Project ROSE may seem similar to the many diversion programs in the United States…[but] it doesn’t work with the convicted.  Rather, its raids funnel hundreds of people into the criminal justice system.  Denied access to lawyers, many of these people are coerced into ROSE’s program without being convicted of any crime…Roe-Sepowitz …told Al Jazeera:  “Once you’ve prostituted you can never not have prostituted…Having that many body parts in your body parts, having that many body fluids near you and doing things that are freaky and weird really messes up your ideas of what a relationship looks like, and intimacy”…

Remembrance

Too bad the BBC can’t be this honest and sympathetic about modern clients:

Visiting prostitutes is a little-known and little-discussed aspect of life on the Western Front, but it was a key part of the British soldiers’ war experience…brothel visits [were seen] as a physical necessity – it was an era when sexual abstinence for men was considered harmful to their health…

In other words, a more realistic era.

Traffic Jam (All Traffick, All the Time)

Cuckoo Clock McCain is still at it:

Cindy McCain testified at a [Congressional] hearing…that about 84% of ads for prostitution placed on [New York area] Backpage.com…during the Super Bowl involved women being trafficked…The study was funded by the McCain Institute…and used research from Arizona State University and analysis from Praescient Analytics…

Rich loon McCain hires ethically-bankrupt fanatic Dominique Roe-Sepowitz (that’s who “Arizona State” really is) to use an “analysis” method of her own design, and the “study” finds exactly what the two of them want it to find  despite the fact that it contains nothing resembling either facts or methodology.  What a surprise!

The Public Eye (TW3 #408)

Here’s an excerpt from Melissa Gira Grant’s new book, Playing the Whore, and two more interviews with her; one is with Caty Simon in Tits and Sass and one with Josh Eidelson in Salon.  I’m very pleased to see how much coverage Grant and her book are getting in mainstream publications, especially in this time when most of the media are forehead-deep in prohibitionist lies.

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #409) Belle Knox

The Duke freshman porn starlet has revealed her photo and stage name: Belle Knox.  And I like her more with every article she writes:

…the Duke Chronicle wrote a somewhat patronizing portrait of me, disguising my name…The question I am asked over and over again is this:  If I am proud of being an adult performer, then why do I “hide” behind this fake name?  Because…my decision to do porn does not somehow mean that the world now “owns” or deserves access to every single thing about me…My birth name is one name…My porn name is another…I can’t stop you from calling me any name you want to — including “slut,” “whore” or “bitch” – but I can decide what name I use…please dissuade yourself right now of the delusion that you control or own me…I am not your child or your property or your Madonna or your whore…

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I’ve been dismayed at the condescension toward and willful ignorance of the experiences of sex workers that is prevalent among…those…who…try to impose their values through criminalizing their work.  -  Peter Shafer

Barbie

Every once in a while, it’s nice to see a woman whose name isn’t Maggie McNeill attacking mainstream feminist claptrap:

Barbie is a safe way for girls to explore dangerously adult concepts like sexuality…says [psychoanalyst] Joyce McFadden…she likens young girls’ play-acting Barbie sex with them trying on their mothers’ makeup or bras…Anti-Barbie arguments have a tired ring to them…when I look back at my own Barbie-influenced youth, I have a hard time pointing to anything but positive effects.  “The feminist perspective is she has this unattainable figure,” McFadden says. “But Barbie was the only doll that had breasts, the only one to create a space where girls could start to fantasize about that”…Barbie is sexualized by adults, not kids…

Maggie in the Media

For those who couldn’t catch it live, the podcast version of my February 16th appearance on The Bob Zadek Show is now available.

Legislators Gone Wild

Harry ReidHarry Reid is on his anti-whore hobby horse again:  “Las Vegas is one of the cities in contention to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, but Nevada’s prostitution laws may jeopardize the city’s chances of winning its bid…” The idea of a convention-rich state criminalizing a whole industry to win one single convention would be hilarious if it didn’t display such a blatant disregard for his constituents’ lives.

Somehow, I Doubt He Thought This Through

Unfortunately, it’s the sex workers who suffered from this idiocy:  “A disgruntled punter made a complaint to Harrow Council…after a prostitute refused to have sex with him…at a brothel in the borough…The brothel is now being closed…

Follow Your Bliss

The officer in charge of a police pilot project created to combat human trafficking and rescue sex trade workers…[engaged] in sexual acts and [sent] lewd messages and photos of his penis to sex workers and colleagues.  Sgt. Derek Mellor…once the lead of Hamilton [Ontario] Police’s…“Project Rescue”…[pleaded guilty] to [nine] charges…

Good News, Bad News (TW3 #10)

Western Australia politicians keep playing with this diseased carcass:

Professor Catharine MacKinnon said Perth was perfectly placed to prevent human trafficking from Asia…because it was used as a gateway…by criminals.  However…the…Government would have to…overhaul prostitution laws to target the people who pay for sexual services rather than the prostitutes…

By “carcass” I mean the Swedish model; MacKinnon is still alive and flapping around belfries for the time being.

The Rape Question

Cherry 2000 sex contractConsidering the doctrine that consent can be retroactively revoked months or years after the fact, I sincerely doubt an informal contract without  a lawyer witness  would really offer much protection against future rape charges, but I guess it couldn’t hurt.  It’s just sad we’ve come to this.

Welcome To Our World (TW3 #15)

Everything is magically right and moral when state actors do it:

…[Washington state] prosecutors had [a rape and kidnapping victim] arrested…The 43-year-old woman…has not been charged with any crime.  She just wasn’t showing up for pre-trial meetings with prosecutors…[in other words] the woman [is being held] against her will so she can help convict someone else of holding her against her will…

And just in case you think I tend to exaggerate about neofeminists:  Amanda Marcotte approves of the state’s actions.

Bullies With Badges

Big masked heroes in riot gear prove their manhood by attacking Asian women:

Birmingham [Alabama] police raided an Asian massage parlor…taking four women and three patrons into custody.  Police, along with FBI and ICE agents [pretended] the raid was in response to complaints of prostitution and possible human trafficking…

Her poster
The Pygmalion Fallacy

In the entire history of futurism, has any futurist ever been right about anything?

…a prominent futurologist has claimed that AI girlfriends…like the one…in the…film Her could become a reality by 2029.  Ray Kurzweil…claims…a virtual body with a tactile sense…“will…certainly be completely convincing by the time an AI of the level of Samantha is feasible”…

Femme Fatale

A man died of a heart attack while in the embrace of a prostitute at a brothel in Ticino [Switzerland]…police confirmed that…there were no third parties involved and no criminal case…seven customers have died in brothels in the canton in the past ten years…

Imagination Pinned Down

This is just a typical lurid “survivor” narrative, but contains an unusually telling passage near the end:  “For 17 years, Lloyd told no one what she had been through…Six years ago, she contacted the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado and met people who convinced her that she was dragged into a life of prostitution — and that it wasn’t her fault…” As usual, all events are conveniently decades in the past, with no witnesses, and she only came out with it after others convinced her that it happened.

Broken Record

You should’ve known we wouldn’t get through an Olympics without at least ONE “sex trafficking” scare story, and here it is courtesy of XO Jane.  I’m sure we can all think of more credible explanations for this scam that don’t involve the Russian Mafia and sentences like “The Olympics is a huge draw for trafficking…and American women are typically sold for more in foreign countries.” Peter Schafer Whores & Madonnas

Real People (TW3 #36)

Photographer and regular reader Peter Schafer on his project Whores and Madonnas:

Opportunities are extremely limited in the Dominican Republic for women to make a decent living…After reading about how central the responsibility of being a mother was to their motivation to pursue sex work, it got my mind going as these women seemed to explode the well-worn dichotomy that classifies women as either Madonnas or Whores…I became their client…explained I was working on a photo project and showed them some of my other work…I paid them for their time being photographed…because prostitutes in Sosúa are the economic drivers, with all other businesses…dependent on them, they enjoy…status and respect…

Not To Be Taken Internally (TW3 #39)

An adult entertainer was sentenced in Mississippi…to seven years in prison for helping set up an illegal silicone buttocks injection that killed…Karima Gordon.  Stewart, who goes by the…[stage] name…Pebbelz Da Model, took $200 to refer Gordon to the injector and falsely claimed the person was a nurse…Tracey Lynn Garner, the one suspected of administering the injections, is charged with depraved-heart murder in the deaths of Gordon and another woman, Marilyn Hale…She has pleaded not guilty, with her trial scheduled for March…

With Friends Like These…

The title is, “For Smart Prostitution Laws, Ask a Prostitute”.  The first couple of paragraphs sharply criticize the Canadian laws which were struck down, and the middle section discusses misconceptions about sex workers and implies we need to be consulted on new laws…then the author rapidly descends into evil pimps and helpless victims, and concludes by advocating the Swedish model.

Watershed

Slowly but surely, it’s becoming acceptable for female public figures to declare their support for something other than criminalization of sex work. Legal journalist and former assistant district attorney Robin Baton recently published “Why Prostitution Should Be Legalized in the U.S.”, and while she fails to see the problems with the license-and-regulate view that’s probably just because she hasn’t thought it through; she uses arguments based on the principle of self-ownership, the lack of a bright, clear line between prostitution and other female behaviors, and the sports analogy.  And though (as Scott Greenfield expressed it) “she’s no Maggie McNeill”,50 Canadians Who Changed The World it’s still good to see this in a US medium.

Book Reviews (TW3 #339)

Another honor for Chester Brown, the acclaimed cartoonist (and friend, and reader) who drew the cover for my book:  he’s been included in a new book entitled “50 Canadians Who Changed the World”.  Chester says the book isn’t very good and downplays his hiring of sex workers (depicted in Paying For It), but I still think it’s great that he was picked out of the many notable Canadians the author could’ve written about.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #345)

On March 14, 2014 human rights defender and transgender advocate Monica Jones will…go…to trial…for “manifestation of prostitution”…after she [was arrested for protesting]…Project ROSE …Two members of SWOP Phoenix and the Best Practices Policy Project intend to travel to Geneva to…educate the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee about human rights violations perpetrated by Project ROSE and the Phoenix police…and call on the Committee to pressure the U.S. government…This unique opportunity has emerged because the United Nations Human Rights Committee will review the U.S.’s human rights record…on…the same date as Monica’s trial…

Deafening Silence (TW3 #407)

This Hong Kong reporter seems to be trying out for a job in Beijing’s propaganda ministry:

Hong Kong police are planning to focus special attention on illegal sex trade operations in response to a wide scale crackdown on prostitution…in…Dongguan…Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung has expressed concern about a likely increase of prostitution in Hong Kong, but also expects additional criminal activity to accompany this vice…Prostitution was banned in China after the Communist revolution in 1949.  However, it reappeared three decades ago…and…is greatly responsible for a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases…

Though the talk of criminality and disease is typical in the West, I simply cannot fathom why so many people whose minds were not broken by Mao are nevertheless happy to repeat the ludicrous propaganda that prostitution magically ceased to exist after his official proclamation.

Drawing Lines

[At the turn of the century]…an adult performer openly escorting was relatively rare…[but in the past few years] the industry…changed drastically: the talent pool [is] larger, the number of available roles much smaller, and the advent of digital piracy [has] driven performers’ rates down.  Escorting…has become one of the most lucrative ways for adult performers to supplement their flagging incomes…up to thousands of dollars for a single booking…The issue…is fairly divisive among performers…[and] was largely stigmatized within the adult film community until recently…

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #408) yay for sisterhood!

After all the attacks, the Duke porn actress decided to speak for herself:

…I couldn’t afford $60,000 in tuition, my family has undergone significant financial burden, and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I…love…my experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering.  The next question is always:  “But when you graduate, you won’t be able to get a job, will you?  I mean, who would hire you?”  I simply shrug and say, “I wouldn’t want to work for someone who discriminates against sex workers”…

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #408)

Two sex workers’ flats in Soho, central London were…re-opened by a judge…[who] rejected police evidence that women…were being controlled or incited into prostitution for gain…Judge Kingston’s decision brought for the first time some common sense to legal cases, which have been rumbling through the courts since mass raids at the beginning of December…

What Next? (TW3 #408) 

If you’d like to answer the Canadian consultation but aren’t confident in your ability to make good points, Maggie’s (the Toronto Sex Workers Action Project) is here to help with simple guidelines (both general and question-by-question) which will help you not to get tripped up the way the government wants you to with its “when did you stop beating your wife?” phraseology.  Read them, get your own answers ready and submit them in the next sixteen days.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #408)

Mary Honeyball, desperate to smear the 549 organizations (it has since grown to 560) who spoke out against her revolting scheme which this week imposed the Swedish model as a non-binding standard for all of Europe, fell back on the usual ridiculous neofeminist ad hominem by branding them all “pimps” (savor the absurdity of that for a moment before proceeding).  The ICRSE naturally had an answer to that, and here our friend Laura Lee and ally Dr. Belinda Brooks-Gordon confront Honeyball on Newsnight.

The Swedish model’s detachment from reality is so profound even Time magazine can’t miss it, despite the reporter’s belief in “sex trafficking” myths.

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If the patriarchy is about men making decisions for women…why do some feminists want to control other women’s decisions?  -  “Lauren”

Gorged With Meaning

The situation described by this article – girl does sex work to pay for university – is so typical as to be a case of “dog bites man”, and nowadays doing porn won’t stay secret for long.  But the article actually says more about its author than about its subject:  “Lauren” seems like an intelligent, sensible, pragmatic young woman, while writer Katie Fernelius appears to be a supple-spined airhead who lets other people do her thinking for her.  In response to this:

I worked as a waitress…and not only did it interfere with my school …but also I was making $400 a month after taxes…For people to tell me that doing porn and having sex, which I love, is more degrading than being…somebody’s servant and…being treated like a lesser, second-class citizen, that…makes no sense…I felt more degraded in a minimum wage…service job than I ever did doing porn…

…Katie  crawls into her navel, quotes Gloria Steinem and babbles about “patriarchy”, “power dynamics” and words being “problematic”.  Yet I’m sure she thinks she’s better-adjusted than Lauren is. African artists protest in Korea

Where Are the Protests? 

There’s a word missing here, but I just can’t think of what it might be:

African artists hired by a Korean museum have been laboring under conditions “similar to indentured servitude”…The 24 artists came from various countries…to sculpt, perform, and do other tasks at the Africa Museum of Original Art in…Pocheon…They…were promised salaries of…minimum wage — 1,269,154 won ($1,183) per month — and comfortable accommodations; instead, they were paid [only] 500,000 or 650,000 won…and forced to live in cold, mice-ridden rooms.  Their salaries barely covered the cost of three meals a day, and the museum gave them only spoiled rice to eat.  Their contracts stipulated three performances per day, but they were often forced to do four to six performances…when they complained…their concerns were either ignored [or] dismissed…

Held Together With Lies

The new claim:  “The number of British children being trafficked for sexual exploitation has more than doubled over the last year…The figures…are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg…”  And the truth:

…these statistics are…drawn from…the National Referral Mechanism…a…process adopted in 2009 to identify…potential victims…the most recent NRM statistical bulletin states…“the number of referrals…is not a measure of human trafficking in the UK”…[but only those suspected by officials]…

The Scarlet Letter (TW3 #19)

Human rights activists in Kyrgyzstan are concerned that…police…[are] forcing sex workers…to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases…and…[have] carried out numerous raids since…November…Prostitution by individuals has been decriminalised in Kyrgyzstan, although organised activities like running a brothel are illegal. Sex workers report widespread harassment and extortion by police…

Whorearchy (TW3 #19) Spain protest 1-16-14

Prostitutes in Spain…[protested] a planned crackdown on streetwalking…Hetaira said it would rally…against plans to fine prostitutes and [clients]…fearing it will force them to work in dangerous conditions….[a new] law would make offering or soliciting sex in prohibited areas punishable by a fine of between 1,000 and 30,000 euros…

Backwards Into the Future (TW3 #41)

Theatre for a Change says there has been tremendous progress…in its efforts to raise awareness on rights of sex workers…[in] Malawi…Eric Saforo…says since 2012 the Malawi Police Service is beginning to recognize that abuse against sex workers is…not acceptable and that the police service is opening up to…[improving] working relationships between the two parties…

Due Consideration

Jennifer Whalen…was charged…with felony and misdemeanor counts for ordering…misoprostol and mifepristone online…for her 16-year-old pregnant daughter…She said she couldn’t find an abortion clinic nearby, she didn’t want to go out of state, and she didn’t know she needed a prescription…The felony…is for “medical consultation and judgment”; the misdemeanors are for not being licensed as a pharmacist, endangering the welfare of a child, and “simple assault”…The same thing happened to a mother of three in Idaho in 2012 who took RU-486…[because]…the closest clinic was hours away, would have charged $500, and because of state law, required multiple trips…

Monsters

A mob armed with wooden clubs and iron bars, screaming that they were going to “cleanse” their neighborhood of gay people, dragged 14 young men from their beds and assaulted them…Four of the victims were marched to a police station, where they…were kicked and punched by…officers who…threatened that [they] would be incarcerated for 14 years…under Nigeria’s new Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act…[activist Ifeanyi Orazulike said] “They were told ‘If you come back, we will kill you’”…The walls of [their] houses…have been painted with graffiti declaring “Homosexuals, pack and leave”…

Original Sin (TW3 #321)

Trafficking math is hardThis mostly-typical “sex trafficking” gobbledygook is only notable for “Michigan is one of the top five states for human trafficking” and for its use of “sex worker” rather than “prostituted woman”, “trafficked child”, etc.  But the picture that came with it, borrowed from one of the numerous Christian sites linking porn to “trafficking”, has some interesting math:  6000 total “rapes” (i.e. transactions) over 7 years is only 857 a year…awfully low for “50 per day”.  Even with weekends off that’s just over 3 per day, which is pretty realistic; obviously somebody is deviating from the program.

Unclean Situation (TW3 #330)

Justice for Magdalenes Research has hit out at the “subterfuge” being employed by the Government [against]…victims of the laundries…the department is writing to women offering formal lump sum payments, while stating that all other aspects of the scheme remain subject to legislation or discussions with other Government departments.   Despite the fact that the full terms of the scheme are not finalised, women are requested to sign a waiver accepting “all the terms of the scheme” and waiving “any right of action against the State or any public or statutory body or agency” arising out of their time in a Magdalene laundry…

Opting Out

The UK government’s futile and ham-fisted attempts to purge the Internet of all of its rough edges and naughty bits are about to see international escalation…David Cameron’s government has long-stated they want this filtering to eventually extend to websites deemed “extremist”…and it appears that…[ISPs] will soon [be ordered] to include websites declared to be promoting terrorism…as we’ve seen with the porn filters, there’s probably no limit to the number of entirely legal and legitimate websites UK citizens will find suddenly inaccessible.

UK readers who use Chrome and haven’t yet installed “Go Away Cameron”  should probably do so immediately.

Lack of Evidence (TW3 #344)

Nine men [arrested in a November raid]…were convicted of prostitution and sentenced to between three and nine years in prison…[followed by] a three-year…period for rewiring…in…mental institutions…The police report…and the results of anal examinations do not connect the…men to prostitution.  But…the arrest and prosecution of men who don’t fit acceptable standards of masculinity reassures Egyptians that the ruling military regime is as conservative as any Islamist party…

Remembrance

The moral purification of the Armed Forces continues:

The commander of the Naval Ordnance Test Unit at Port Canaveral has been relieved of duty for allowing two strip clubs to sponsor a military-related golf tournament last year…“Those type of organizations just don’t reflect positively on the Navy” [a spokesman]…said…

Number Puzzle (TW3 #349)

Matthias Lehmann has put together a short video of highlights from a symposium about the German Prostitution Act last December.

Where Are the Protests? (TW3 #350)

Miranda Barbour has a delightful conversation with credulous cops:

A Pennsylvania woman charged in the…slaying of a man she and her husband met through Craigslist [claims]…she killed many more victims…A law enforcement source close to the investigation said Miranda Barbour’s new claims could be “the real deal”…the 19-year-old Barbour [said] she participated in at least 22 killings in the past six years in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California.  “When I hit 22, I stopped counting…I can pinpoint on a map where you can find them”…Barbour [said] she had her first experience with killing when she [was] just 13, shortly after she…joined a satanic cult in Alaska…she [says that she] felt no remorse for her victims and…killed only “bad people”…

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #350)

No justice for victims of the Soho pogrom:

…at least six sex workers have fought the closures, [saying] they had not been coerced into working and that closing the brothels would make their work more unsafe.  In the first of three appeals…two women…lost their battle to have their flats reopened after a judge [claimed] that unknown figures were “controlling” prostitution in the area…However…the Reverend Simon Buckley wrote that trust in the police had been severely undermined by the “seemingly ham-fisted” nature of the operation.  “The girls who continue to work in the unclosed flats say that they would not feel confident in turning to the police if they were a victim of crime…[they] previously…had a good rapport with the police”…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #351)

As preparations for the World Cup accelerate, Brazilian authorities are attempting to sanitise the country’s image by clamping down on sex-related businesses.  More than 2,000 websites have been targeted, and prostitutes are being threatened with prison sentences for…[advertising]…according to Thaddeus Blanchette…media hype…rests on the false assumption that fans will…seek out sex with children…Tatiana Mauro…of Promundo Brazil…points to a report published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which finds no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking or prostitution.  Sensationalist reporting on trafficking and mega-events is not only unfounded, it is also paving the way for a more repressive prostitution policy…

What Next? sex work is real work

Canadian readers, here’s your chance to be heard:

The Conservative government wants to hear from Canadians about how to rewrite the country’s prostitution laws [which] were struck down by the Supreme Court…A month-long online consultation period on the Justice Canada website…runs to March 17.  The high court gave the government one year to come up with new legislation…the…government has made it clear that simply allowing the laws to lapse…is not an option…

Predictably,

The [survey]…is being criticized for…loaded questions and misleading information about available options…It assumes prostitution is dangerous and that all sex workers want to be saved, said Chris Bruckert…[of the] University of Ottawa.  She also criticized government for not conducting town-hall style consultations where people have more time to unpack their opinions…She also says the Nordic model could contradict the reasoning for striking down the Canadian laws in the first place…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #404)

549 NGOs and civil society organizations…have signed letters to the members of the European Parliament asking them to reject a report by MEP Mary Honeyball, which asks EU Member States to consider the criminalisation of the clients of sex workers.  The letter…denounces the conflation of sex work and trafficking, the disregard for sex workers’ health and safety and the lack of evidence [in] the report…signatories include…many women’s rights groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation …Another document drafted and signed by [45] academics and researchers…[analyzes] the lack and misrepresentation of evidence in [the] report…amongst other astounding errors…Honeyball completely misinterpreted a [Dutch] report…by…“mistaking” data on coffee shops for data on brothels…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #404)

As thousands of cash-strapped Italians take to the streets to protest against their tax bills…[prostitutes] are instead…fighting against a tax code that does not recognise their profession, even though paying for sex is legal, leaving them no chance to…qualify for a pension…What has really irked prostitutes is that…the tax office has now decided to fine them for tax evasion, even though it has given them no way of paying tax…Playing the Whore

The Public Eye (TW3 #406)

Another good interview with Melissa Gira Grant about her new book, Playing the Whore; she speaks to Noah Berlatsky of the Atlantic about sex work as work, the range of sex worker experiences, anti-sex feminism and the similarities between the gay and sex worker rights movements.

Drawing Lines

Because obviously sex work isn’t a profession, uses no creativity and nobody earns a living through it:

…Mercy Mushaninga…has taken to social network sites to address her bitterness over the labeling of models as prostitutes…“Modelling is a career…and a profession with some people earning a living through it…Models…use their natural endowment and creativity…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When the newspapers have got nothing else to talk about, they cut loose on the young.  -  Kenneth Rexroth

goofy woman swinging hammerAs I’ve written before, all prohibitionism is the same:  some object, substance or activity is depicted as intrinsically harmful  regardless of context or actual outcome, a connection to children is invented if one does not exist, and the prohibitionists then argue that any abrogation of personal liberty (no matter how invasive) and any expansion of the police state (no matter how destructive, evil and counterproductive) is justified to stop the threat to Our Treasured Way of Life.  Moral panics involving young people are basically interchangeable as well: parents discover their (usually biologically adult) offspring doing something unfamiliar; overreact; imagine all sorts of horrible consequences that probably didn’t actually happen; insist that someone else induced their perfect, innocent little angel to do this horrible thing; and then pretend that it’s a “growing problem” because they refuse to believe that Johnny or Suzie might be unusual in any (bad) way.  The penultimate item in that list will likely be embraced by the young person in an attempt to eschew responsibility, and the ultimate is amplified by the Law of the Instrument:  once the outraged parent is armed with this shiny new hammer, suddenly nails in need of pounding start appearing all over the place.  The interesting thing is that it makes no difference whether the behavior might conceivably pose genuine risks or if it’s completely harmless:  the parent’s moral outrage, lack of rational thought and unwillingness to accept parental responsibility for the youth’s mistakes are the drivers of the panic, not any genuine assessment of danger.

What made me think of this was the development of two moral panics in the same week and just a few hundred kilometers apart:  the one which started in Nova Scotia involved a behavior which could pose real risks, while the one which started in Rhode Island was mere juvenile foolishness, yet the reactions to the two and the development of the panic were essentially interchangeable. Let’s start with the Nova Scotia case:

A Halifax mother is on a quest to stop underage prostitution…after discovering her daughter was appearing on classified sites with near-nude images of herself…A CBC News investigation reveals that the problem of underage prostitution is growing, and police are seeing more girls — some as young as 13 — being exploited…Karen said she learned that there are many girls — at least 40 — in the area selling their bodies for sex…Her daughter says she’s out of it, but that isn’t enough for Karen…Fiona Traynor is chair of the board at Stepping Stone, an outreach organization for sex workers based in Halifax.  She said some young girls may be hesitant to come forward because service providers [are legally required]…to report any [underage sex worker to the cops, which] puts a barrier between offering services and being in conflict with the law…

Now, even as a whore who fully supports both a woman’s right to harlotry and a biological adult’s right to do as she pleases with her own body, I can understand a mother getting upset over discovering that her daughter was doing full-fledged sex work with ads and all.  We aren’t told how old the girl was (I’m going to guess 16 because if she were any younger the reporter would have been sure to mention it), but it’s pretty clear she was pretty damned careless to use an ad in which she could be recognized by the person who ratted her out to Mom.  Anyone that careless isn’t ready for professional-level sex work; she should have stuck to dating college guys she could hit up for cash.  Furthermore, given all the prohibitionist disinformation flying about nowadays, it’s unsurprising that the mother had a conniption.  But that’s not actually what’s at issue here; the problem is that after resolving the situation with her daughter to her satisfaction, she has taken it upon herself to harass, endanger and sic the cops on other people she does not know, waving her ignorance as a flag while charging wildly across an imaginary battlefield bellowing that oft-heard cri de guerre, “FOR THE CHIIIIILDREEEEEENNNNN!!!!”  And the reporter, rather than investigating the facts, reports the whole thing without a trace of skepticism, larding the account with the usual Copspeak and silly dysphemisms.

Now, here’s the one from Rhode Island:

A middle school in Portsmouth, R.I. recently sent parents an alarming e-mail about kids who are “snorting” or “smoking” Smarties, a silly fad in which kids grind up the tart candy into a fine powder, then blow out the vapor as if they were smoking…Yet everyone is worried. Portsmouth School Committee Chair Dave Croston asserts that the fad “would not be normal behavior” (God forbid!), and raises the “troubling issue of modeling.”  That is, kids who pretend to smoke today will become smokers later.  The warning sent to parents also cautions that the act may be a “precursor to future cigarette smoking and drug use.”  I don’t know of any empirical data to support that contention…in 2009, a Wall Street Journal article on [a previous iteration of] the alleged trend quoted a Mayo Clinic physician who warned that the act could lead to something called nose maggots.  That was also mentioned in the warning to Portsmouth parents.  Local blogger John McDaid  interviewed that doctor, who conceded that he’d never actually seen a case of “nose maggots” from Smarties, only that it was a possibility.  Nevertheless, the fallout from these panics has already led to suspensions of students across the country  for improper ingestion of a confectionery…

smoking SmartiesThese parents and teachers, their heads full of drug-war propaganda and “social construction” idiocy, go off exactly the same way as the Nova Scotia mother, despite the relative harmlessness of the observed behavior; when McDaid sent the story to CBS, they turned it into a scare story which called it a “dangerous activity” and included an interview with a loon who not only said it could be fatal, but also opined that “children who engage in this behavior may need a mental health evaluation from a medical professional.”  I agree that somebody needs a mental health evaluation, but it isn’t kids playing a silly game.  Fortunately, because of the internet we are no longer at the mercy of big media corporations selling panic for a fast buck; there are plenty of writers challenging the “sin, fear and crime” mold into which the mainstream outlets try to force any story about behavior which isn’t mind-numbingly conformist.  Here’s what a skeptical blogger had to say about the “quest to stop underage prostitution”:

A teenage girl becomes involved in sexual activity that most grownups, regardless of their own sexual behaviour as teens, find shocking and horrific…the distraught…parents construct a frame…[which] invariably posits the existence of a large but hitherto unacknowledged social problem that explains how a good child falls into bad situations…a journalist…[publicizes the] salacious…story…in which digital media are implicated…and…police are interviewed…[they] call for greater resources…and…powers…to deal with the putative trend…In extreme cases, this unholy coalition will propel politicians to pass hastily contrived, ill-thought-out legislation giving authorities over-broad powers to address problems that may or may not exist.

Some say the internet is killing the traditional media, and when I compare the way they handle stories like this to the way alternative sources like bloggers do, I must say that their death isn’t coming quickly enough to suit me.

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What would be the ideal mate for a sex worker be like? I would think honesty and trust would be a big deal, but what else? 

Venus and Adonis by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (after 1800)I don’t believe in “ideals”; every person is different, and needs different things in a mate.  That having been said, there are some qualities which tend to be necessary in every relationship: you mention honesty and trust, and those are certainly important…but isn’t that true of every relationship rather than just those involving sex workers?  The same could be said of qualities like understanding, patience, loyalty, fairness, etc.  If there is one quality that the partner of a sex worker needs which isn’t necessarily indispensible in other relationships, I would have to say it’s the recognition that sex is neither special nor magical.  While the myth that sex equals love  and/or vice versa is a destructive factor in most normal relationships, it is highly destructive in those involving sex workers for reasons which require no explanation.  When both partners believe in the myth and continue to provide sex to their spouses, or the extracurricular activity of a partner who doesn’t believe the myth is never discovered, the negative effects alone are probably insufficient to doom the relationship (“if you love me you’ll take constant no for an answer and never look for sex anywhere else” is a related but slightly different and more complex issue).  But in a sex worker’s relationship, it is a ticking bomb waiting to go off at some unpredictable time.  The person who loves a sex worker cannot ever afford to allow himself to see current professional activities as “cheating”, or past professional activities as some sort of ritual pollution or moral failure, because such feelings will inevitably rise to the surface during arguments (and we all have them) with catastrophic effect.

There are a couple of other columns you may wish to read for on this subject: in “May Q & A” I answered a reader who was curious about how sex workers could still be interested in partner sex after a day at work, and just a little over a month later I published a two-part interview with my husband which used questions supplied by readers; the latter will allow you to get some feedback straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

(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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