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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

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

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

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

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

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

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We never know what’s percolating in the mind of children, okay?  And when they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty.  -  Charles Maranzano

Many of you have probably seen the first video, of dogs reacting to a magic trick; in the second one, a magician performs tricks for cats instead.  This isn’t the first dog/cat video dichotomy I’ve featured; look back to Links #160 for more juxtapositional fun. The three links above the first video were provided by Radley Balko, and those between the videos by Amy AlkonClarissaRick HorowitzKevin Wilson, and Eddie J Cunningham, in that order.

From the Archives

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Fucking magnets, how do they work?  -  Insane Clown Posse, “Miracles

vampire's kissIt’s not always easy being the Honest Courtesan; sometimes in the process of talking about human sexuality, I run into some aspect of my own sexuality which is somewhat embarrassing to admit to.  At that point I have to decide whether to walk around the subject, or say “I’d really rather not discuss that”, or just throw caution to the wind and forge ahead out of my comfort zone, trusting that Aphrodite will bless my courage.  Often it’s because a reader asks a question which can be answered in part by discussing my own feelings, but in this particular occasion it’s because a reader wrote an article in Psychology Today.  The reader is Dr. Robert King, and the article is subtitled “What Monster Porn Might Tell Us About Human Nature”.  It’s a critique of John Horgan’s “What ‘Monster Porn’ Says About Science and Sexuality” in Scientific American…an odd venue for it because, as King explains, Horgan “used a blatantly creationist strategy to attack an entire field of science of which he disapproves”, evolutionary psychology.  Horgan absurdly claims that because he personally can’t think of a reason for women to be turned on by the idea of sex with monsters, there must not be a scientific explanation, and that this is wonderful because Freud.  Or something.

Dr. King, on the other hand, displaying the superior insight one would expect from one who appreciates this blog, has a very good sense of what the biological connection is:

…monster porn is by no means novel…Ancient dildoes going back 20000 years are adorned with pictures of various potent animals.  And…just take a look at what the Centaurs are trying to do to the Lapith women on the metopes of the…Parthenon…raucous festivities involving symbolic sex with humans dressed as animals…go back as far as records begin.  Not far from where I work there is an annual festival at which the Queen of the May symbolically marries King Puck…an icon of animal potency and fertility.  In the UK symbolic animals grab innocent maidens off the streets with impunity during May festivities.  What do things like Bigfoot, Cthulhic monsters, magical beings, werewolves, vampires and centaurs have in common?  Well, to someone not wedded to a creationist psychology might I venture one or two themes of adaptationist relevance?  Power.  Potency.  Transgressiveness.  Loss of control.  Outbreeding.  The evocation of uncontrollable desire.  Dominance.  Submission.  Rescue.  Heroes.  Villains.  Large penises.  Do these sound like themes irrelevant to biology or reproduction?  If so, then it’s time to go back to school…it might easily turn out that the prevalence of these fantasies has no adaptive function—they might be by-products of other adaptations.  Not everything is an adaptation.  Every first year biologist knows this…

The Moon Maid by Frank Frazetta (1974)Horgan is apparently so content to view sexuality as an unfathomable chthonic mystery that he doesn’t even bother to ask a reasonably-intelligent woman who’s turned on by this sort of thing what she thinks about it.  And though I’ll never read Taken by the T-Rex or Moan for Bigfoot, that’s not because I’m disgusted by the subject matter; as it turns out, I myself am a reasonably-intelligent woman who’s turned on by this sort of thing.  See these illustrations?  I’ve got a bunch of ‘em in my art folders.  People who played Dungeons & Dragons with me could tell you about some memorable episodes.  And remember my mentioning how the movie Gargoyles inspired one of my favorite make-believe scenarios as a kid?  Yeah, that.  The thing is, anybody who’s read some of my other columns on my own kinks and paid attention to some of the fantasy iconography I’ve featured (dig the cover of my book at upper right) could’ve guessed as much; it’s no surprise when a woman who is turned on by rape, abduction and bondage scenarios is similarly affected when the abductor is some sort of non-human entity.  For the record, dinosaurs and the like do nothing for me; it has to be an intelligent monster, like a demon, an astropelagic alien (again, see my book) or a werewolf.  In a spoken sequence on Bat Out of Hell, a male character asks a female, “On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?”  My friend Philippa used to say that her answer to that was, “Every fucking time.”

When Horgan declares that evolutionary psychology can’t explain monster porn, he indulges in the same narcissism as prohibitionists do when they declare that no woman could choose sex work:  “I cannot understand this, therefore it is inexplicable.”  But actually, women being turned on by monsters is no odder (vampires, anyone?) than women indulging in transactional sex; however much either or both of them might upset and horrify prudes, they both have their origins in female behavioral scripts going back to the time when the behavior of human men wasn’t much different from that of the monsters in the fantasies.

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

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

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

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

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 16th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

In early December, Elytte and Miranda Barbour were arrested on a charge of murder in the first degree, three weeks after getting married and moving from North Carolina to Pennsylvania:

[The Barbours]…lured a man to his death with an ad on…Craigslist…because they wanted to kill someone together…Elytte Barbour [said]…he and…Miranda…[lured] Troy LaFerrara…[with an escort] posting…Elytte [said]…Miranda…regularly…made anywhere from $50 to $850 by meeting with men for such activities as having dinner together or walking around a mall.  The ads she placed…all said upfront that sex was not part of the deal…“She is not a prostitute…she…meets with them and has delightful conversation”…

Miranda BarbourGenerally, when a couple commits murder together, the man is the leader and the woman the follower.  But from the moment I read this report, I strongly suspected that this time it was the wife who was the psychopath  and the husband her weak-willed assistant.  Why?  Because she actually expected him to believe that the ridiculous “time and companionship only” disclaimer was literally true, and he actually did.  And a man who can “tenderly be led by th’ nose as asses are” in such a fashion is also the sort who can be convinced that killing somebody for fun is a reasonable idea.  After this story broke I waited for over two months for the other shoe to drop as I knew it inevitably must, and on February 16th came the awaited thud:

[Miranda Barbour claims]…she killed many more victims…the 19-year-old…[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 [sic] cult in Alaska…she [says that she] felt no remorse for her victims and…killed only “bad people”…

While this bizarre fantasy was believed by the reporter to whom she first spoke of it, the credulous cop who called it “the real deal”, and a friend she first met in one of the psychiatric hospitals where she has spent much of her young life, just about everyone else realized that the idea of a 13-year-old female serial killer who murdered dozens without even being suspected is patently absurd:

Miranda’s father, Sonny Dean…is not the only one who doubts his daughter’s story…If she really killed 22 to 99 people in the span of six years in four different states…that means she was getting away with murder every few weeks to every few months since the age of 13.  It would make her America’s most prolific serial killer.  “Miranda lives in a fantasy world made up in her own mind,” Sonny said. “She craves attention, is selfish, dishonest and manipulative”…at…16, Miranda [had told a friend] she was a member of a “gang” that was “comprised mostly of men”…[and] “mentioned having been raped by multiple men at once”…[after returning from her first episode of running] away from home when she was 12…she told her mother, Elizabeth Dean, that she’d been “out prostituting” and had met a 25-year-old man named Forrest, who was “into satanic [sic] stuff” and was now her “ruler”…

Miranda claimed to have been “branded” with a swastika and Forrest’s name, but though her mother found large cuts on her they were not words or other recognizable symbols.  Several years later, after her parents divorced, Miranda claimed…

…that she [had become] pregnant…[and] the cult members…”tied her to a bed, gave her drugs and [gave her] an ‘in-house abortion.’”  Miranda’s mother…[immediately] took her daughter “to a doctor, who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy”…

When she later really did become pregnant, she claimed that Forrest was the father, but that he had since been murdered; she also claimed to be a “high-ranking official in the satanic [sic] world” at the age of 17, when a judge decided it was better to send her to live with her uncle in North Carolina.  There she met Elytte, won him from his pregnant girlfriend, and talked him into eloping to Pennsylvania with her, where they committed the murder to “bring them closer together”.  And while it’s obvious that Miranda is capable of murder, it also seems very likely this was her first one.  She was never unsupervised in most of the places she claims to have killed, and…

…Alaska State Troopers issued a statement that there is “no evidence” that Miranda committed any murders in the state.  Members of Seeking Alaska’s Missing, a statewide support group, are also skeptical.  Authorities where Miranda lived in North Carolina said that their only unsolved homicide cases date back to Miranda’s infancy, and thus would’ve been impossible for her to have committed them.  Experts have said she doesn’t fit the profile  of a serial killer, who are rarely women [and] are typically older…

DexterAccording to Miranda’s mother, a person claiming to be Forrest called about Miranda’s baby after she moved to North Carolina (and after Forrest had supposedly been murdered).  But though her mother seems to believe in the existence of this “Satanic cult”, I do not; while it’s entirely possible Miranda belonged to a group of maladjusted teenagers playing at being a “cult”, her ideas about the behavior of such groups bear far more resemblance to pop-culture depictions than to anything real.  The notion of uncatchable serial killers preying on “bad people” seems borrowed from the television series Dexter, the “branding” motif should be familiar to anyone who’s been following the “sex trafficking” hysteria, and imaginary “forced abortions” appear over and over again in the “recovered memory” literature and latter-day descendants of the “Satanic Panic”.  As I’ve explained before, those suffering from such delusions and confabulations remember them just as clearly as you remember what you did yesterday, or even more clearly if your day wasn’t very interesting.  And over time, the false memories invariably become more detailed, more extreme and more lurid, and conform ever more closely to whatever narrative the deluded person has embraced (such as the belief-system of a political or religious group).  Miranda Barbour’s story already bears some resemblance to those of “sex trafficking survivors” (branding, gang rape, enslavement, exploitation of adolescent girls by older men, etc), though for now she is not only claiming her prostitution was voluntary, but also that it wasn’t even prostitution.  However, this affair is not yet over and Barbour’s tale is not done changing; I won’t be at all surprised if she soon “remembers” being the victim of “sex trafficking”, and her “Satanic ruler” turns into a “pimp”.

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The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.  -  H.L. Mencken

So, were y’all thoroughly confused yesterday?  Were you wondering who the hell wrote that crap that was posted under my name, or did you think it was a great improvement over my usual baroque sentence structure and outré descriptions?  Did you find yourself saying, “Ye gods and little fishes, it’s as though Ernest Hemingway had come back from the dead to write a guest column!”  Or did you not even notice anything amiss?

dumb kid from ShaneYesterday was, of course, April Fools’ Day, and for this year’s prank I decided to run my Reason essay “The Mythical Invasion of the Super Bowl Hookers” through Hemingway, a program which purports to “improve” your writing by making it “bold and clear”…in other words, by shortening and simplifying each sentence down to a level that would not confuse a rather slow-witted ten-year-old.  Hemingway said that my original text was “OK”, with 16 demerits; the final product was rated “good” with only 8, though I had eliminated everything the machine had labeled a “problem”.  Presumably, my score couldn’t get any lower because it still had too many words of more than one syllable and too many highfalutin’ terms like “prohibitionist”, “television” and “Canada”.

Now, in part I did this was because I thought it would be funny; not necessarily Monty Python funny, Three Stooges Funny or even Noël Coward funny, but at least whimsically amusing.  But I also did it to show just how stupid it is to defer to the aesthetic sensibilities of something that would lose in a battle of wits with a starfish.  Even if one stupidly believes that there is only one kind of good writing, and suffers from the lamentable but popular delusion that Hemingway was its archetype, and furthermore imagines that even Hemingway always wrote in that clipped, easily-parodied style we refer to as “Hemingwayesque” (which he did not), the notion that a glorified Nintendo console is qualified to judge adherence to that standard is ludicrous at best.  But as stupid as that idea is, a very large fraction of moderns cling to it with childlike devotion because it is a natural outgrowth of one of the most pernicious dogmas of the machine age:  that human beings are just another kind of (albeit complex) machine governed by knowable rules, and that Utopia can be achieved if we can only discover those rules and implement them thoroughly (and ruthlessly) enough.  This is the heart of “Progressive” thought:  force people (via social engineering, prohibition and criminalization) to only eat, wear, watch, read, hear, say, do and think what “experts” have decided is “good” for them, and the Millennium will arrive on the very next high-speed train.

The problem with this is that it’s 99 44/100%  pure bullshit.  Human beings are not Skinner’s programmable modules, social interactions are incredibly complex and most “experts” aren’t even qualified to make decisions for their dogs, much less for millions of people they don’t know.  That idea that human beings can and should be governed by rigid, top-down rules designed by said “experts” has given us the Drug War, sex work prohibition, mass incarceration, mass surveillance, the nanny state, “Child Protective Services”, the “sex offender” registry, mandatory minimum sentencing, “zero tolerance” school policies and a host of similar abominations far too numerous to list.  People’s lives, like their writing styles,The Brothers Hemingway are unique, and what works for one does not necessarily work for another; by the reductionist “logic” of modern governance, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Dostoyevsky were all terrible writers because they don’t sound like Hemingway…and their works should be mercilessly edited until a mindless computer program declares them acceptable.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 9th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Great Social EvilFor most of the Twentieth Century, “authorities” in many Western countries (especially the United States) chose to portray sex workers as either criminals to be jailed or “problems” to be solved, “social evils” as the Victorians had termed us.  But by the 1970s, that narrative was wearing thin:  the sexual revolution had opened many people’s eyes to the fact that sex is not some magical polluting force, and early feminists campaigned for sex workers’ rights.  Though mainstream feminism went anti-sex in the ‘80s, the legacies of the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement and the sexual revolution had by then undermined the official narrative; the portrayal of sex workers in movies and TV shows had become much more positive, and the average person was beginning to see anti-harlot crusades for what they are:  authoritarian interference in people’s private lives.  Clearly, that couldn’t be allowed to continue; something had to be done, so prohibitionists

…created the “sex trafficking” hysteria as a means of rallying the public behind criminalization again.  As the “Nation Strategy” of Swanee Hunt’s Demand Abolition organization states, “Framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support and to stimulate stronger opposition.”  In other words, “since people now recognize it’s wrong for the government to stick its nose into private bedrooms, we have to pretend this is really about something else.”

Nowadays, it’s rare to hear old-style police talk about locking up the dirty whores to protect the public from them; far more often, armed raids in which women are terrorized, handcuffed, evicted in freezing weather, humiliated, caged, gang-raped or otherwise brutalized are described as “rescues”.  “Sex trafficking” does far more than let cops rebrand their usual sadism as heroism, however; it also produces more practical results, such as immigration control:

Specialist anti-slavery teams are to be based inside UK airports in a bid to clamp down on human trafficking…The first team will be based at Heathrow from 1 April before the scheme is rolled out to other airports.  They will be tasked with identifying victims and disrupting criminal gangs involved in international trafficking.  The government says the scheme will ensure there is “no easy route into the UK for traffickers”…

“The scheme is part of a larger plan to ensure there is no easy route into the UK”.  There, fixed it for you.  But pandering to xenophobia is only one way in which “sex trafficking” hysteria is useful to politicians:

[Maine state] Rep. Amy Volk…would give courts permission to vacate prostitution convictions against people who [can prove they] were forced or coerced into the crime.  [Her] bill…also would set up a compensation fund for victims, paid for with increased fines for those who are convicted of promoting prostitution.  It also would make the crime of furnishing drugs to a prostitute an aggravated offense…Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, accused Volk, a pro-life legislator, of trying to “soften her edges” on women’s issues by sponsoring the bill…

Rob Bell preachingThis is, of course, a nonsensical accusation; a bill which infantilizes women (compare “furnishing drugs to a prostitute” with “furnishing alcohol to a minor”) would hardly seem out of character for an anti-abortion politician, and the “sex trafficking” hysteria is so thoroughly grounded in Protestant Christian morality that the politician Linda Smith, founder of Shared Hope International, once described “anti-trafficking” activism as “an extension of the ‘pro-life’ cause”.  Yet the most important advantage of the hysteria to governments is only hinted at in the article above; it is spelled out clearly in the one below:

Recently the Virginia House of Delegates passed two bills ostensibly aimed at…human trafficking…HB 235 forces people convicted of soliciting an underage prostitute to register as sex offenders.  HB 660 enables prosecutors to seize the earnings of sex workers.  The bills were submitted by…Rob Bell…who in 2012 voted in favor of a bill requiring all women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound prior to having an abortion.  In the same session, he was the primary sponsor of a bill…requiring police to inquire into the citizenship of anyone arrested, regardless of criminal charges…[So-called] abolitionists want to eliminate sex work through more punitive legislation.  Generally motivated by moral opposition to sex work, they have moved into using outrage and concern over human trafficking to push for harsher laws aimed at punishing sex workers.  HB 660 is exactly this sort of bill.  It allows police to take possession of these women’s property, including cash and vehicles, upon their arrest.  The women don’t even need to be convicted…incentivizing cops to arrest more grown women by allowing them to seize their earnings will do nothing but line the pockets of police department at the expense of an already-vulnerable population…

All three strands come together in the person of Rob Bell:  the fundamentalist Christian crusade to control women’s bodies, a xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda and an opportunity to fill the state’s coffers by legalized theft.  Official narratives pretend that government actors want to “help” sex workers, but in reality the only people these “authorities” are “helping” is themselves.

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My boyfriend and I have been together for 6 years, but after a couple of years together I went on the pill and it completely killed my previously-high sex drive; during the 3 years I was on it I could probably count the number of times we had sex.  Once I realized the cause of the problem I stopped taking the pill and our sex life improved dramatically.  The problem is that my boyfriend become afraid to initiate sex with me during those years, so he always waits for me to initiate it; however, I’m sexually submissive and really want him to lead.  How can I boost his confidence after three years of making it worse?The Garden of Don Juan by Lajos Gulácsy (1910)

Since it seems to me that you and your boyfriend are very honest with one another, I think the direct approach is called for here.  Explain to him that now you’re off the pill, you’ve returned to normal…and that “normal” for you means enjoying being the submissive partner.  Promise him that you won’t turn him down unless you’re really sick or something, and encourage him to be the aggressor.  Also, it won’t hurt if you play up how excited you get when he takes the initiative; yes, it’s a bit dishonest but think of it as a “white lie” which will help to make him more confident and thereby result in better sex for both of you.  I’m sure you’ll eventually be able to dispense with it once he realizes that you really, truly do want him to be the sexually dominant one, because once he gets the hang of it he’ll see the results in your natural responses.  And I suspect it won’t take all that long for him to learn.

You answered my questions about heterosexual male escorts in “Vice Versa” and I’ve done a lot of research since then, but I have a follow-up question:  If you personally were to pay for a male escort, what is the #1 service you would like him to deliver to you?

I literally cannot even imagine a situation in which I would conceivably pay a man for sex.  That’s just completely alien to me, not only because I could easily get a man to pay me for any sex or company I might want, but also because I don’t experience spontaneous sexual desire in the way some women do, much less the way guys do.  And if I don’t need or even really want something, why in the world would I spend good money on it?

When a prostitute sleeps with a physically attractive (to her) client, does she enjoy the sex more or is it just a better-than-average work day?

Attraction and sexual pleasure are more complicated for women than for men, and more complicated still for whores.  Clients who are attractive and know it can often be a huge pain, because they imagine it should get them some sort of bonus or special treatment.  So while it’s absolutely true that some work sex is more enjoyable than other work sex, the reason may or may not have anything to do with a client’s attractiveness; it could be due to the way he treats the escort, a rapport they have, or something even less definable.

(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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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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After breaking down doors and waving…guns around, it’s gratifying [for cops]…to pacify terrified slaves by tasering them.  -  Joyce Arthur

Recognition

An elderly Italian man got a rather unwelcome surprise when he ordered an escort – and his…40-year-old son’s South American girlfriend…arrived at his house…the pair declined to take the encounter further and swiftly parted ways.  The man [decided]…to tell his son…prompting a bitter fight between the pair…the son [sued] his father for injuries…Barbie and Lammily

Barbie

While whitebread feminists wet themselves over the newest version of “Happy To Be Me”, Virginia Postrel isn’t having any of it:

…All right-thinking people  seem convinced that Barbie instills in her pre-school fans a false and remarkably detailed standard of beauty.  Hence the widespread  praise for Lammily, the latest anti-Barbie concept doll.  A crowd-funded project from artist Nickolay Lamm (the source of her ungainly moniker), Lammily is based on the average proportions for a 19-year-old…[but] the average 19-year-old female American stands 5 feet 4 inches tall.  She has a 33.6-inch waist and…weighs 150 pounds…If Lammily were true to life…she’d have rolls of fat, not a firm plastic tummy…Celebrating one version of average as “normal” and “realistic” implicitly stigmatizes everyone who doesn’t meet that standard.  Barbie doesn’t pretend to do that; Lammily does…

A Narrow View

This NPR article on diversion programs is full of the usual “sex trafficking” nonsense and dishonest platitudes about the programs’ effectiveness, but one section was especially troubling:

…Judge Pratt says that initially her treatment-focused approach…improved the ability to prosecute the traffickers.  But…a lot of the boys…were becoming pimps.  “The foster care system and juvenile justice system is creating both sides of this market, the suppliers and the goods,” she says…

Her revolting dehumanization of girls as “goods” is bad enough, but her willful mischaracterization of young male sex workers as “pimps” in order to prop up the vile “pimps and hos” myth is utterly reprehensible.

To Protect and Serve (August Updates)

San Diego cops use “sex trafficking” as an excuse to send a SWAT team to a strip club:

A manager at Cheetahs strip club says his dancers felt violated by police who photographed them almost nude…10 officers swarmed the building with guns and bulletproof vests, interrupting business for a couple of hours…to make sure all 30 dancers had proper permits and were in compliance…

Don’t Take My Word For It

Male delusions about sex work start extra-early in Sweden:  “Swedish police have received a report that three underage boys [as young as ten] speaking bad German tried to sell sex to women at a busy commuter hub in central Sweden…

Not for Everybody

Though Meg Munoz had a very bad time as a sex worker and for a while supported prohibition, she eventually recognized the harm it creates:

…Poorly conducted, [biased]…research needs to stop being used as the foundation for fundraising…the refusal to have sex work acknowledged as real work…has all but halted any civil discourse…Allowing moral biases to dictate policy is dangerous for those who are there by choice and force…

Above the Law Deon Nunlee

No, you lying asshole, it’s exactly what police officers do, which is why this is the second most common subtitle on the blog:

…while police responded to [a] domestic violence call, one of the officers allegedly took the woman into an upstairs bedroom and sexually assaulted her…Deon Nunlee has been charged…Detroit Police Chief James Craig said…“This is an anomaly.  This is not what our police officers do”…

In fact, here’s another in the same city:Geoffrey Townsend

A former Detroit police officer who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct involving participants in his boot camp for misbehaving teens is being sued by two of the victims…Geoffrey Townsend…began making unwelcome sexual advances [eventually culminating in rape when one]…victim was 13 years old…and…the…[other] 16…

And it’s not limited to the US, eitherScott Andrew Terry

[Durham, Ontario police Constable Scott Andrew Terry] sexually exploited [a 16-year-old girl] …with whom he first came into contact after she was busted for shoplifting in May of 2000.  Instead of filing charges…he…[offered] her a rental room in his house…[then] began making advances which…escalated to nude photos, sexual touching and eventually rape…“in exchange for the rent”…

First They Came for the Hookers… 

This dumb story about dumb strip-club restrictions in Chicago is, as you might expect, mostly just dumb.  But these comments from anti-whore zealot Bob Fioretti venture into a higher realm of dumbness:  “we have an underlying social problem.  Between 15,000 and 25,000 women a day engage in prostitution…in this city.  That underground activity undermines us a city — a world-class city…”  I’ll bet you didn’t know we were so dangerous, or that roughly 4% of the adult female population of Chicago were whores.

Higher Education (TW3 #23)

Unlike the last time we saw this, these teachers are actually qualified:

An enterprising association of sex workers in Barcelona has angered some of Spain’s most prominent feminists by offering an “intro to prostitution” course…at a cost of €45…the four-hour intensive course for aspiring sex workers was held last month by the Asociación de Profesionales del Sexo…Lidia Falcón…[who] has spent years fighting to have prostitution [criminalized] in Spain…said…the problem with the course lies in its underlying suggestion that some women are working in the profession out of their own free will…

So Falcón wants the course banned because it blatantly disproves her lies.

Imagination Pinned Down

Though the social climate which led to the Satanic Panic had been building for years, it was the McMartin Preschool hysteria that really launched it.  Now that it’s a generation in the past, even media outlets like the New York Times which fully embrace “sex trafficking” hysteria recognize its earlier incarnation for what it was.  Here’s a good retrospective called “McMartin Preschool: Anatomy of a Panic”; watch it with the current hysteria in mind and note the many parallels.

The Widening Gyre

If “authorities” don’t want stupid myths about women being abducted spreading around, they sure have a strange way of showing it:

[A rumor] warns of attempts to abduct women and girls in broad daylight at crowded shopping centers.  It warns that a new gang initiation requires members to kidnap, rape and beat womenBig Pimp and then dump them in parking lots.  For years, authorities have tried to keep such messages from spreading, debunking their claims as urban myths…

To clarify:  Women being abducted by gangs for quick rape = “right up there with Bigfoot”, but women abducted by gangs for years of captivity and sexual slavery = 100% credible.

South of the Border

In Mexico, a respected advocate is arrested as a “pimp” for helping sex workers organize:

…the recent arrest of Alejandra Gil…[is due to] new legislation, which…conflates sex work with human trafficking…Gil has worked tirelessly for the human rights of sex workers for many years…Laws and policies that target “third parties” under the premise of “protecting” sex workers, increase our vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, and create real barriers for sex workers organising…

Bottleneck

Considering that more than 90% of whores prefer to work illegally than submit to licensing, how well do you think this colossally stupid Italian law will work?

…prostitution will be permitted in private houses, subject to certain conditions, including the use of condoms…the draft law, which was presented…by…Maria Spillabotte…includes the issuance of a licence, stating that the holder is free of sexually transmitted diseases and confirming that a payment has been made…of €6,000 for a full-time licence or half that amount for part-time work…Prostitutes will also be required to get a certificate of mental fitness.  “This is a fundamental way of getting women away from coercion,” says Spillabotte.  “During an interview, the specialist will be able to tell if the girl is being forced into prostitution or if it is her free choice”…

That Old Black Magic

Patrick RockThe Sharjah Police…arrested an Arab woman and a man for forcing women into prostitution and engaging in black magic…

Buried Truth

When a politician obsesses about “protecting children from porn”, this is usually the reason:  “A senior aide to David Cameron resigned…the day before being arrested on allegations relating to child abuse images.  Patrick Rock…was involved in drawing up the government’s policy for…online pornography filters…

Between the Ears (TW3 #133)

This article on “Why Viagra Ruined Sex Work” quotes a few ladies whose names regular readers may recognize:

…“I wouldn’t say ED drugs are the worst thing, but they are really annoying,” laughed…Jolene Parton…“it…makes it harder for the client to come.”  Anna Gristina…dubbed [it]…“The working girl’s worst nightmare come true…It went from wham-bam, thank you ma’am,’ to ‘Oh my god, can you just finish, man’”…Amanda Brooks…says…men become obsessed with having an erection at the expense of any enjoyment for anyone…

It Looks Good On Paper (TW3 #311)

Texas joins the states arresting people to force them into “diversion” programs:  “The Corpus Christi Police…conducted a ‘Jane Sting’…in conjunction with the Red Cord Diversion Program…all six arrested persons were signed up to participate…rather than have criminal charges immediately applied.”  Yes, they actually referred to sex workers as “janes”.

The Crumbling Dam (TW3 #315)

Joyce Arthur hits it out of the park with this satire:

In a bold move aimed at protecting workers from exploitation while on the job, the government today passed a new law that criminalizes most employers and customers…Law and Order Minister Punter MacCunny…pointed out that 95 per cent of people hate their jobs and want out, according to a new government-commissioned study…Police welcomed the new law, which gives them sweeping new enforcement powers to target the huge increase in organized crime.  According to Det. Sgt. Billy Clubber, head of the RCMP’s new Slave Save Squad, “We’ll be cracking down on slavery rings, basically any place where workers are bribed with wages to provide services”…The law now designates employers and customers as “pimps” and “johns,” respectively…

Long Spoon (TW3 #351)

Reason’s video on condom criminalization specifically refers to the Human Rights Watch report condemning the practice in New Orleans:

Ladies of the Night

Saith Dr. Brooke Magnanti in The Telegraph:

It’s an unusual move to go from policy and social commentary to fiction, especially as the stories cover a range of genres from romance to crime to sci-fi.  And yet it works.  The eye for detail that fans of Maggie’s non-fiction writing appreciate is well played here.  She invents worlds with ease and populates them with thought-provoking, yet never two-dimensional, women and men.  If you love plots with twists, she has them to spare.  (If you’re not into twists, or women who aren’t always whiter than white, probably best to stay away.)  And the cover art by acclaimed cartoonist and Louis Riel author Chester Brown is wonderful.

She also reviews Daddy by Madison Young and Playing the Whore by Melissa Gira Grant.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

Sex columnist Suzi Godson presents “10 Things You Need to Know Before You Support the Swedish Model of Sex Work” in response to the new push by UK prohibitionists.  It’s not anything new for readers of this blog, but it’s possible ammo for online discussions you may get involved in.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #410)

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz answers the many criticisms of Project ROSE by denying them to Christian Post after refusing interviews with mainstream reporters.  And if you imagine the denials are substantive or backed by facts, think again:  her entire rationale for cooperating with cops to railroad people and deny them lawyers is, “sex-work…is against the law.”  Meanwhile, in last week’s other installment of “Traffic Jam”, a demonstration of the motivation behind the fakery:

A study of advertising placed during the recent Super Bowl in New Jersey suggests the volume of sex trafficking that will occur when the event comes to Arizona in 2015 will likely exceed the ability of any one law enforcement agency to address.  Phoenix Police Lt. James Gallagher, who co-authored the study…said law enforcement must coordinate to combat sex trafficking during major events…

In other words, “give us more money and power!”  Here’s a Storify of the fun several of us had with this mess last Saturday.

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