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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

I was…struck by how the…treatment for these women mostly consisted of convincing them that they were victims.  –  Jessica Gutiérrez

Bad Girls 

I suspect missing information:

…sex worker…Aarti Yadav…was arrested…[for] the murder of a constable, Dilip Borole…”Yadav owed him money and Borole had been insisting that she [repay him]…Yadav offered him a drink laced with a sedative.  After he passed out, she strangled him…[then]  wrapped the body in a mattress, before setting it on fire…”

Maggie in the Media IMDb logo

Jayant Bhandari, who attended my presentation in Philadelphia, interviewed me for his podcast by phone last week after I returned home.  And a few weeks ago, I got my own IMDb page because of my appearance on The Independents.

Perquisites

Tip for reporters who don’t want to look like prohibitionist ignoramuses:  when reporting on sex work in East Asia, don’t simply say “prostitution is illegal”, but rather point out it was traditionally legal and only criminalized in the past few years due to American pressure:

…just as [US] companies…pick up the tab for employees’ lunch meetings, in Korea they subsidize…hard core boozing and…the…sex trade (never mind that prostitution is illegal)…To Koreans, the business districts of American cities appear staid, orderly and a bit dull…[Koreans say] North America is a “boring heaven” while their country is an “exciting hell.”  No salesman…gets far here unless he can sing mean, inebriated karaoke and then slug through negotiations the next morning with a thumping headache…

Against Their Will

Nobody in the Indian media seems to think it’s strange that “rescued” women want so badly to escape their “rescuers”:  “The Pune rural police have launched a search…[for] three women who escaped from a government hostel…A few months back, [they] were rescued from a brothel in Aurangabad…”  See also the next item.

Law of the Instrument

A social worker explains why she rejected the “sex trafficking” paradigm:

A few years ago I worked as a psychotherapist in a governmental institution in Mexico…we [were forced] to participate in…raids…to “rescue” victims of human trafficking…I saw how the rights of the women found in the hotel were trampled on.  I witnessed [their] physical maltreatment…This single experience made me resign my job…psychologists and social workers…were…sent in to win the confidence of the women and then use this information in an unethical way…the…["victims"] were unwilling or even angry at the idea of receiving therapy.  Some escaped from the refuges where they were housed “for their protection”.  They didn’t seem to see it as rescue…

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical Slender Man

ABC News [wrote]:  “A 14-year-old girl was arrested after allegedly setting her family’s house on fire in what authorities suspect is the latest case of Slender Man-inspired violence“…This past spring, two girls stabbed a classmate as part of a bizarre plan to prove the fictional creature was real…many reporters seemed to think it was not a weird one-off but a harbinger of a new trend, and a short burst of Slender Man media hysteria followed…the supposed Slender Man connection in the new story?  “…The teen…admitted to using the websites  Creepypasta.com and SoulEater.com, which are associated with The Slender Man“…She…”admitted” to “using” (which I assume means “reading”) Creepypasta.com, a vast depository of online horror stories that is “associated with The [sic] Slender Man” in the sense that he is one of the many characters one might encounter there…

So What Else Is New?

a…recent report…published in the journal Nature Reviews Urology  by Emmanuele Jannini…found that, essentially, the G-spot is just a sensitive area that’s part of the larger pleasure center that includes the vagina, clitoris, and urethra…a…2012…study by…Dr. Amichai Kilchevsky…found…that…what [women are] likely experiencing is a continuation of the clitoris…

Scapegoats (TW3 #10)

Given that politicians who obsess about certain kinks are nearly always practitioners of those same kinks, what are we to make of Joe Arpaio’s crusade against zoophilia?

…Arpaio says sexual deviants continue to flock to Craigslist…to locate like-minded deviants to engage in sex acts with animals.  Several suspectshave been arrested by Sheriff’s deputies, and many were later convicted and jailed…Terry Wayne Haupt…went to meet up with the Sheriff’s Office undercover black lab for the purposes of engaging in various sex acts…Arpaio says he has written to Craigslist…on three separate occasions asking the company to consider forbidding this type of solicitation…Craigslist…has never responded…

Yes, Arpaio is now doing bestiality stings.  Meanwhile, nearby in Albuquerque…

Broken Record

How low can they go?

Prostitution is common during the [New Mexico State] fair, and Albuquerque police are running…[stings in which] female officers dress up as prostitutes and [trick]…men [into talking to them]…“The officers have to be very careful about how they approach…to avoid entrapment,” [pig mouthpiece Tanner] Tixier [lied]…police are seizing the vehicles of men who are arrested…

As regular readers know, they aren’t “careful” in the least; they simply invent accusations against anyone they choose to target.  And what, pray tell, constitutes “dressing up as a prostitute”?  High-heeled boots or skinny jeans, perhaps?

The Widening Gyre

Lock up your daughters!  Sex traffickers are EVERYWHERE!!!

A new study…reveals…victims of sex trafficking are recruited in places we like to think are safe havens…girls as young as 12 and 13 are first approached…at schools, malls and even parties…The study looked at five years of cases in Minneapolis…Some 40 percent…come from families [with whom] child protection had contact…a potential [excuse] for intervention…police say major events like this summer’s All-Star Game can change the dynamics of what has become a big time business…

FYI:  looking at a bunch of police reports doesn’t qualify as a “study” of anything except cops’ and prosecutors’ masturbatory fantasies about underage girls. Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick

Like a Horse and Carriage

Gay marriage supporters claim that for two men who love each other to marry “makes a mockery of marriage”:

Two men got married in New Zealand…and people aren’t happy about it.  Heterosexuals Travis McIntosh and Matt McCormick tied the knot…as part of a radio competition to win tickets to the Rugby World Cup.  The “best mates” got hitched…with tens of thousands listening live.  But…gay rights groups and social conservatives…have both condemned the sham marriage…

Picket-fence gays:  if the state is going to involve itself in people’s interpersonal contracts, I support your right to make such contracts as you see fit.  But your busybody concern for whether two people who make such a contract are habitually shoving their body parts into each other’s orifices is deeply disgusting, and you need to STFU.

Under Every Bed 

I had an ad in the Baton Rouge phone book for years, and it only barely justified its cost:

…Emily Morrow-Chenevert…said the Interstate 10 and Interstate 12 corridor makes Baton Rouge a hub for sex trafficking.  New Orleans is among the top 20 cities…and Houston and Memphis are other big destinations.  Baton Rouge…serves as a convenient stop between those places…there’s an estimated 27 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide…

It’s a “convenient stop” an hour away from New Orleans and on no credible route between it and Memphis.  Note also that the 27 million claim has shifted from all “human trafficking” victims to specifically “sex trafficking” victims.

Lower Education 

Ohio State essentially defines all unscripted human contact as rape:

At Ohio State University, to avoid being guilty of “sexual assault”…you and your partner now apparently have to agree…“regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place”…[this] impractical “agreement” requirement…[also applies] to…“touching”…[and] Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center seeks to radically narrow the concept of consent further (and ban “kissing” without verbal consent as “sexual assault”).  It says consent must be “verbal,” “enthusiastic,” and must be “asked for every step of the way”…Consent also must also be a litany of other things, such as “sober,” “informed,” “honest,” “wanted,” and “creative”…

Sold Out drag queen Facebook protest

Would Facebook dare to target picket-fence gay folk this way?

In a frankly creepy overreach of authority, Facebook is going after…drag queens, requiring that they use their “real names”…In some cases they’ve requested users send in a copy of their drivers license to prove a name is legit…Facebook just rolled out gender-neutral family options, so clearly they’re trying to appear sensitive to nonconforming identities.  So what’s with the name police?

Facebook temporarily backed down after protests, but hasn’t changed its policy.

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #335)

Once again: No, Zurich’s was NOT the first tippelzone in Europe:

…Vienna is considering installing…”drive-in brothels”…to improve working conditions for street prostitutes…The facilities were first installed in Zürich a year ago…Street prostitution in Vienna is generally legal, but…more and more restrictions [have been] enacted in recent years…

The rest of the article is actually a very good discussion of the bottleneck effect.

Paint By Numbers

Yet another cut-and-paste “sex trafficking” story:

Florida…ranks among the top five states for human trafficking…local authorities formed a team to recover victims and…increase public awareness…”it’s hidden…everywhere”…Polaris Project…Traffickers…use drugs to keep their victims…Florida…has enacted stricter laws…such as requiring strip clubs to…keep [workers' personal] information on file…Parents should monitor…their children…on social media…because…traffickers…Salvation Army…conference…how to get men to stop purchasing sex, along with a prayer walk outside of massage parlors and strip clubs…

The only novel element is the assertion that “Traffickers often change locations…using standard transportation that wouldn’t raise eyebrows…”  As opposed to what, howdahs?  Pogo sticks?  Dirigibles?  Amphibious landing craft?

Dirty Laundry (TW3 #405)

a public inquiry into historical child abuse…has heard…of the abuse…at the Sacré Coeur orphanage…[in] Jersey, [where nuns] beat children with spoons and forced them to work in a knitwear factory…in one nightmarish instance, nuns confined a child no older than six to a room where a dead nun had been laid in a coffin…Other punishments included the children having sheets pulled up tightly over their heads so they couldn’t move and having to eat meals in a toilet…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410) David Ley

Dr. David Ley shares the story of a young man with OCD who made the mistake of telling a “Mental Health Crisis Team” (which includes a cop) about his persistent rape fantasies, resulting in his suspension from university and dozens of strangers prying into his private thoughts.  Ley writes,

…This young man is terrified that his thoughts…of rape make him dangerous to others.  Unfortunately, that’s the message that he is getting, everywhere he turns.  I’m truly sad that this young man…is now learning that asking for help can result in punishment…he…is…surrounded by a system…driven by panic and fear…[which] is making problems worse, not better…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

The German Association of Female Lawyers (DJB)…rejects the prohibition of prostitution and criminalization of clients…A ban would mean a return to the times of social stigma and lack of rights for women, yet would not change the fact that prostitution takes place…[if clients alone are criminalized] an important group of witnesses in criminal proceedings would be lost…the DJB rejects the introduction of [licensing] for sex workers…the risk of stigmatization is…high and the benefits of such a scheme questionable…

Another Fine Mess (TW3 #435)

Ordinary business practices don’t magically become newsworthy when  hookers use them:

The company that operates Ireland’s biggest sex-worker website has moved its headquarters to Spain and is expanding its business across Europe…Escorts Ireland…[was] previously…based in London  to avoid [Irish anti-advertising laws]…chief executive Audrey Campbell…confirmed the company has moved to Spain because of its “more accepting” attitude…[and favorable] tax [framework]…Campbell set up the company with…Peter McCormick…who has a conviction for brothel-keeping in…the 1990s…McCormick’s son Mark was imprisoned for 16 months for brothel-keeping in 2010…

Translation:  “Internet-based company expands its operations and moves its domicile to a country with more advantageous laws and regulations.  Both owners are experienced in their field.
Whither Canada? (TW3 #437)

Terri-Jean Bedford…[has a list of] names of politicians who hire sex workers…compiled from sex workers across Canada, and…is carefully considering which…to release…after [C-36]…receives royal assent.  This would shame the hypocrites who secretly go to prostitutes while publicly moralizing against sex work or [voting] for laws that endanger sex workers…C-36 will either be undone by the next government or struck down by judges…[it] is a doomed rearguard action — aimed at winning donations and votes — and the Conservatives know it.  What they don’t know:  whose names are on Bedford’s list.

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Constructive Criticism

I have a great relationship with my girlfriend, but her fellatio has never been satisfying to me.  Is there a loving, respectful way to discuss sexual performance with a partner so that it becomes more satisfying?  She’s wonderful and deliciously devoid of hang ups, but I have to become more skilled at guiding her to what will satisfy me.

WRONG WRONG WRONG!People need feedback in order to improve their techniques at anything, and sex is not an exception.  However, since most people tend to be shy (to one degree or another) about sexual talk, it’s entirely possible for a person to make it well into adulthood without ever having received any kind of helpful feedback about sexual technique.  This is bad for two reasons:  first, the person may continue in some bad habit that could easily have been corrected if discovered in the teens or early twenties; and second, the person may well assume that because his or her technique has never been criticized, the one who finally does so is simply hard to please or being insulting.  Also, while men nearly always think of sex as a performance, a lot of women never do; they’ve been told (especially by neofeminists and other anti-sex types) that men just want passive collections of orifices, and are surprised and unsure of how to react when a man tells them otherwise (from what you’ve told me your partner is not like that, but it still bears mentioning as part of the bigger picture).

The best way to criticize anyone, especially a person with whom one has a personal relationship, is to emphasize the positive rather than dwelling on the negative:  “I really like it when you do such-and-such” tends to be accepted much more readily than “I don’t like it when you do this other thing.”  Since she isn’t hung up she will almost certainly do more of whatever you praised, and over time you can gently guide her to doing it exactly the way you like it without hurting her feelings.  If you’re lucky, even mentioning it in the first place may open a dialog; she may ask “what else do I do that you really like?” or even “is there anything I do that you don’t like?”  If the latter question comes up, answer honestly but don’t insult or harp; not “Oh, God, I really hate when you use your teeth!” but rather, “Well, sometimes it hurts when you use your teeth.”  And remember, criticism tends to be more palatable when sandwiched between thick slices of praise.

(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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(This is the second of two parts; if you missed yesterday’s installment, go back and read it first!)

Hole in the Moon by Chesley BonestellAfter several agonizing minutes, Doc came on the line; I was relieved that his speech was unslurred.  “What can I do for you, my dear?”

“Doc, honey, what can you tell me about the slugs?”

“You mean the limaxomorphs?  We don’t know much about them yet; they spend most of their time submerged in the lakes, and don’t do much of interest when they’re basking.  We’ve never even found remains to examine, but long-distance scans seem to indicate a very simple bodily structure, much lower on the evolutionary scale than the earthly gastropods they resemble.”

“Could they be intelligent?”

“Mercy, no, dear girl; they don’t seem to have anything like a brain that we can detect, though again we would need to dissect one to be sure.  Still, we’ve never observed any behavior that would seem to indicate intelligence.”

“How about coordinated group activity?”

“That’s not really a sign of intelligence per se; ant and bee colonies have very sophisticated group behavior, but they’re not intelligent as we understand the term.”

“So, abducting women wouldn’t qualify?”

“Well, it depends; group hunting behaviors are not…wait, are you saying this isn’t a theoretical question?”

“Not as such, no.”

“They actually abducted you?  When?  How?  Where are you now?  What are they doing?”

“I’d call it dancing.”  While I had been talking, the slugs had seemed to become increasingly…well, excited, and sort of throbbed while swaying forward and backward.  And just as the Doc started to ask those rapid-fire questions, they had begun to slowly slide sideways in a circle around me, not getting any closer.  The ones who were not in direct proximity to me were still swaying and throbbing, as if to music I couldn’t hear.  And the weirdest part of the whole performance?  I wasn’t scared at all.

Dancing?”

“I took a lot of lessons as a girl, Doc; dancing would be the word I’d use.  Artistic expression through rhythmic movement.”

“That still doesn’t mean they’re intelligent; birds do mating dances, for example.”

“I don’t think they want to mate with me, Doc; I think they’re trying to communicate.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Call it a hunch.  I’m going to ring off now; I want to see how they react to that.  But don’t worry, I’ll call as soon as something changes, and I’ll answer if anyone calls me.”

When I broke the connection, they abruptly stopped moving; they did not resume when I started talking to myself out loud, but did when I called the club again.

“Tell Doc they’re sensitive to radio waves,” I told Frances, then “I’ll call when I learn anything else.”

The slugs were still again for quite some time, and I began to get a bit thirsty.  I hadn’t intended to be gone so long, so I hadn’t filled my water bottle; fortunately the air recirculator had recently been serviced, so I wouldn’t suffocate unless I stayed here for several days.  After a while I got up to stretch my legs; there was no reaction at all from my strange hosts.  It was as though the only thing that excited them was electromagnetic energy.

That stray thought gave me an idea, so I activated my built-in torch and played the light over the slugs in the front row.  The effect was almost immediate; they started to sway again for a few moments, then gorgeous ripples of color began to play over them as though someone were putting on a laser show.  The colors changed, brightened and dimmed and moved in waves from slug to slug, not stopping for an instant when crossing between individuals, as though they were all part of a greater whole…Say, what if they were?

“Frances, put Doc on again…Doc, could all the slugs be one creature?”

“You mean like a bee colony, many creatures bound together in a swarm?”

“Sort of, only more so; what if the slugs aren’t actually individuals at all, but simply cells connected together by telepathy or radio waves or something?”  I explained how they had reacted to my light, and as I spoke they began to do their dance again while the colors ebbed and flowed among them in intricate patterns, like unearthly flowers blossoming and dying on shifting dunes, or like silent fireworks merged with rolling waves.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life.

“I think you may be onto something, my dear!  If each limaxomorph is merely part of the greater whole…oh, my!”

“What?” I asked after a few moments of silence.

“They – or if we’re right, it – may assume that we’re connected to each other just as they are.  Perhaps your abduction was, to it, nothing more than a tap on collective humanity’s shoulder?”

“And the reason they – it – gets excited when I’m talking on the phone is that it believes I’m communicating to the rest of you like its cells communicate!  Yes, that must be it!  Doc, I’m going to try a few things here, so don’t get worried if I’m quiet for a while.”

“Understood.”

I rang off, and though I expected it I couldn’t help being disappointed when the color waves and dancing abruptly stopped.  So I turned on the light again, and was rewarded with the colors; I called a friend I knew wasn’t home, and the dance continued until her answering machine got tired of my talking nonsense and hung up on me.  Then I stood up again, and started moving toward the entrance; the slugs didn’t budge.  Clearly, I wasn’t going to get out of here until it was satisfied that we had understood whatever it was trying to say.

Sometime after midnight I fell asleep, but I didn’t sleep well; I was haunted by nightmares of an immense, formless something peeling off my clothes and trying to get into my skull via my ears.  Doc called once and Frances twice, and though the slug-collective responded as usual to the calls, it didn’t do anything else.

If you’ve never slept in a spacesuit, I have some advice for you:  Don’t.  They’re not made for it, and you’ll ache all over and be grumpy all the next day.  So I was in absolutely no mood to deal with the first phone call of the morning, Marshal McBusybody himself.

“What is going on, Miss Trevor?  I called your office and they said you were out.”

“You expected the owner of a nightclub to be awake at 0900?”

“Not really, but I heard that you left in a huff last night, never came back, and that Dr. Robinson spent the entire evening in your office.”

“So you’re spying on me, too?  I don’t think that’s playing strictly by the rules, Marshal.”

“You still haven’t answered my question; what exactly is going on?”

blonde in retro spacesuit“Ask your spies,” I said, and hung up.  Frances would get an earful from me later for letting him bully her into giving out my personal phone code.  I had rather hoped that an angry conversation would cause a different reaction in the slugs, but no such luck; they reacted exactly the same way as before, and stopped when the call did.  I tried explaining to them/it that I was hungry, exhausted, cramped and dying for a cigarette, and that I really despised having to take care of personal business in a spacesuit, but it was no use; I wasn’t even sure they could hear me.

The morning dragged on, and though I tried everything from semaphore with my suit light to my best Ginger Rogers impression (or the closest to it I could get in space boots), the only reactions I got were the same ones I had before.  Then at 11:37 I heard the amplified voice of my new adversary calling down from above, and the slugs didn’t seem to like him any more than I did.

“MISS TREVOR, THIS IS MARSHAL McBAIN.  ARE YOU DOWN THERE?”

“Of course I’m down here, you imbecile!  You obviously used a robohound to track me to this hole in the ground, so where did you think I’d be?  In Detroit?”

“ARE YOU IN ANY IMMEDIATE DANGER?”

“If I were in immediate danger, I’d have been dead hours ago!  Any more stupid questions?”

“WE’RE GOING TO LOWER YOU A LINE.”

“You do that.  Is Doc with you?”

“I’m here, dear girl!” he shouted down.  “This is amazing; we had no idea there were this many of them in the area!”

“Yeah, well try to keep Captain Gungho there from killing ‘em all until I get upstairs,” I said as I adjusted the sling around my torso; “I think I know what they want.”

Later in his office, I tried to drive my theory into the marshal’s thick skull.  “Look, it’s not that complicated.  If Doc and I are right, the slugs are one big creature.  Not just in that lake, but all over Titan; your men found slime trails leading out in every direction from that cave.  One single creature, spread out over a whole world.”

“So?”

“So how do you think you’d feel if you were the only intelligent creature on a whole planet, with nobody else to talk to?  And what if another creature came along that was so different from anything you knew, that you at first thought it wasn’t intelligent, but then you realized it might be?  Wouldn’t you try to talk to it?”

“I suppose I would.”

“Well of course you would, Marshal!  And let’s say it ignored your first few attempts…”

“What attempts?”

“Who knows?  It could’ve been sending out all kinds of signals we didn’t recognize as communication, right Doc?”

“Indubitably.”

“Like he said.  So wouldn’t you eventually get frustrated and go to even greater lengths to attract the stranger’s attention?  Try to talk to her?  To impress her with your charm and personality?”

“You think the slugs were flirting with you?” he asked incredulously, and with undisguised disgust.

“Not with me, Marshal, with us.  It’s one big organism, more than the sum of its parts, so naturally it thinks humanity is as well.  Heck, maybe it’s even right, in a way.  But you seem to think loneliness is all about sex; it’s not, you know.  Not for slugs, and not for humans, either.”

He looked at me for a long time before speaking.  “Perhaps I misjudged you, Miss Trevor.  You may be more of an asset to this colony than I had at first imagined.”

“We all do that sometimes, Marshal; until last night, we thought the slugs were just mindless bottom-feeders.  It takes a big person to admit he misjudged somebody or something.”

For the first time since I’d met him, I saw a slight smile crack his face.  “Well, I hope we still see a lot of each other.”

I blew smoke in his direction and smiled back. “Count on it.”

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The 1920s and ’30s were the heyday of the pulps, cheaply-produced magazines crammed with new fiction in almost every genre imaginable.  They were the forerunners of comic books and, in a way, of television and video games in that they provided affordable entertainment and tried to reach every possible niche market.  Like their modern successors, they were often condemned by critics as lowbrow, but had a certain undeniable charm; many of the best stories are still read and anthologized today.  This story was based on a dream I had on my first night in New Orleans at the end of my recent tour; perhaps it was inspired by a poster of sci-fi pulp covers Denise had on the wall of the guest room.  Though modern science has rendered its setting highly dubious, I ask that you approach it as readers approached those old tales from nearly a century ago:  as an imaginative tale of adventure on a fantastic world.

Saturn as Seen from Titan by Chesley Bonestell (1952)Every time I looked up at that spectacular view of Saturn, I congratulated myself on having had the good sense to invest in topside property.  Though it had meant a heavy mortgage, the expenditure of every penny I’d made my first year on Titan, and the calling-in of every favor I had accumulated, it was totally worth it; nearly every visitor to the colony preferred my club to the ones down in the red-light district, as did every local with any poetry in his soul.  Sure, it meant I had to charge more for drinks and house fees, and to maintain a more discreet atmosphere than the anything-goes places in the backstreets.  But you know what?  I never liked working in that kind of place, and I’ll be damned if my name was going to be attached to one.  I could never have afforded the rent or the bribes to own a place this classy on Earth, but here it was still wide open for a gal with a little bit of business savvy and a lot of what Mama Nature gave her.

That’s not to say that I didn’t breathe a little sigh of relief every time I sat down with my books and saw loads more black ink than red.  While it’s true that there are few things more dependable than gents’ desire for booze and female company when they’re months away from population centers with a more even distribution of the sexes, it’s also true that hospitality is always a precarious business and a proprietor always needs to be aware of developments that might queer the whole deal faster than sunset on Ceres.  And on the particular night of which I’m about to tell you, one such development walked through my door and none-too-politely requested my company.  Well, demanded is maybe a better word.

Said development was about 190 centimeters tall, wore a badge and a blaster and looked a helluva lot like Fred McMurray; I mean the young Double Indemnity Fred McMurray, not the old Disney-comedy one.  Which is kind of a funny coincidence, because I’ve often been told I look a lot like the young Barbara Stanwyck.  By the time I excused myself from mingling and reached the office, he was looking through my file cabinet.

“Didn’t your mama ever tell you it’s not polite to riffle through a lady’s drawers without her permission?” I asked from the doorway, projecting a nonchalance I did not feel.

“You’re required to keep these available for inspection on demand; I’m demanding.”

I shrugged.  “Suit yourself.  You’ll find they’re all in order; I pay my lawyer and my CPA to make sure they are.  In fact, I could’ve delivered ‘em to your office and saved you the trouble of coming all the way across town.”

“I wanted to look the place over for myself.  You know this sort of business isn’t supposed to be operating on the surface; you appear to have been grandfathered in somehow, but I want you to know that I’ll be watching, and if this place becomes a nuisance…”

I was sitting at the desk by this point.  “Pleased to make your acquaintance too, Marshal,” I said, blowing smoke in his direction before stubbing the cigarette out in the ashtray.  “I get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

“Count on it,” he said, slamming the door on his way out.  I will not record what I said the moment he was gone, because I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m unladylike.

Though I learned long ago to keep control of my temper when dealing with men, I was boiling inside and knew it would be a mistake to go back to the floor right then.  So I left things in the capable hands of my assistant Frances, put on my thermal suit and decided to go for a walk along the lakeshore.  Now, if you’ve never been to Titan (and let’s face it, that’s probably a safe assumption), I should probably explain that the lakes, rivers, swamps and seas here aren’t made of water but of a liquid hydrocarbon mixture; it would probably smell like tar or gasoline, but since you need a helmet to go outside I can’t be sure.  If you absolutely have to know, ask a chemist.  Anyhow, the native life seems to like it all right; the shallows of the lake swarm with bugs during the day, and even at night you can hear lots of things moving around in the water.  Oil.  Benzene?  Oh, you know what I mean.

McMurray & StanwyckI was plenty mad when I left the dome, and by the time I had cooled off I had walked about three kilometers beyond the end of the well-travelled path.  Not that I was worried, mind you; humans are by far the largest animals on Titan.  The second-largest is a kind of giant slug massing about 30 kilos, and I suddenly realized I had walked right into the middle of a much larger aggregation of them than I’d ever seen or heard of.  They like to lie in the mud sunning themselves during the day, in groups of maybe a few dozen at a time, but it was rare to see ‘em at night.  Yet here I was, surrounded by hundreds of the slimy things; though they are usually very shy and always flee the approach of humans by sliding into the lake, these weren’t moving at all and I bet Doc Robinson would’ve given a month’s pay to trade places with me right now because what had made me stop and wake up to my surroundings was nearly putting my foot in one.

Doc could’ve saved his money, though, because I’d have gladly traded places with him for free.  Yeah, they were harmless…but this was a much larger grouping than anybody had ever seen in one place, and at night to boot; it gave me the heebie-jeebies, and I decided that even the company of the new marshal would be preferable right now.  But as I turned back, I realized that there was no place to go; the slugs had slithered onto the path behind me, and I couldn’t move from the spot where I was standing without stepping on one.  I don’t scare easy, but let me plop you down alone on another planet, surrounded entirely by shapeless aliens, and let’s see if you do any better than I did.  I was totally terrified, and I guess I must’ve had my oxygen valve turned a bit too low for the combination of exertion and excitement because when they started closing in and actually crawling up my legs I passed out.  Aw, who am I trying to kid?  Like the heroine of a Victorian melodrama, I fainted.

By the time I opened my eyes again, my radiophone’s readout said 23:14; I had only been out for maybe half an hour, but my surroundings were completely different and I shuddered when I realized the slugs must’ve dragged me here.  I wasn’t sure where “here” was, exactly, but it looked like a cave and the rocks were wet with slime.  The entrance was above, so there was plenty enough Saturn-light for me to see that the group which had captured me was only a small fraction of the number here; there must have been thousands.  Though I was still petrified they hadn’t actually harmed me (except for the nice new grey hairs I had probably sprouted), and in fact were giving me a wide berth; the only bad thing was the unshakeable feeling that they were looking at me (despite the fact that they lack any visible sensory apparatus at all).  After about ten minutes of calming myself, I decided to risk the radiophone; Frances answered.

“Hiya doll.  Keeping things together over there?”

“Janet?  Where in blazes are you?  You’ve been gone for over two hours!”

“No time to explain now.  Is Doc Robinson still there, and sober?”

“Yes and mostly.  You want me to get him on the phone?”

“Please.”  The slugs hadn’t moved; could they hear, or detect radio waves, or both?  If so, they didn’t seem overly concerned.

(What do the slugs want with Janet?  And even if she escapes them, how will she deal with the new marshal?  Be here tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!)

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We cannot turn a blind eye to these violations.  –  Chuck Sykes

I’ve got a couple of animation videos for you this week; the first one is a short documentary from the planning stages of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the second another installment of The Kronies (a series mocking fascism by casting crony capitalists as ’80s superhero toys).  The links above the first video  are from Jason Kuznicki, and those between the videos from Michael Whiteacre  (“headline”), Lucy Steigerwald (“stranger danger”), Scott Greenfield (“purdah”),  Rick Horowitz (“libertarianism”), Jesse Walker (“Stonehenge”), Grace (“cat lovers”), and Popehat (“cycling”).

From the Archives

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 10th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Buyer's RemorseMost people have probably had the experience of buying something and regretting it later.  Sometimes it’s because the product is substandard, or because it was deceptively advertised and turned out not to be what the buyer expected.  Sometimes one simply gets caught up in the moment, as at an auction or while on a shopping trip with friends, and then feels differently once one is out of that situation.  And sometimes one spends the money while locked in the grip of powerful drives, like hunger or lust, and later experiences remorse over buying overpriced food products or dropping a lot of money on porn or sex workers.  In most cases, no harm is done; the buyer can simply return the unwanted item for a refund.  When the regretted purchase is an ephemeral, however (such as dinner, a show or sex), returning it simply isn’t possible; the ethical person chalks it up to experience and perhaps learns his lesson, but other, less moral types scheme to steal the money back.

Nearly every sex worker has encountered buyer’s remorse at some point in her career; dishonest workers who are better at the sale than the performance  encounter it frequently, but even the best, most conscientious whore sees it from time to time.  Part of it is the nature of male sexuality; some men lose all judgment and perspective while in the throes of desire, and do things they wouldn’t if the “big head” were fully in control.  In the worst cases they may rape, molest or otherwise violate someone; in lesser cases, they might commit career- or marriage-ending indiscretions of the sort that keep blackmailers in business.  And in the situations sex workers encounter, they simply spend more money than a more prudent man would have…which might possibly attract the attention of a wife or employer.

Even in cases where the money isn’t really an issue, some men are overcome by feelings of guilt or shame after release.  Such a client may go from enthusiastic and outgoing to withdrawn and unfriendly; the conversation which was so effortless suddenly becomes labored or ceases entirely, and an invisible wall suddenly goes up between him and his date.  In an incall situation, he will hastily dress and leave immediately; in an outcall he will try to get the escort to do the same.  Sometimes such a man will even rush for the bathroom in order to place a physical barrier between himself and the focus of his shame, or will become blatantly rude in order to drive her out all the more quickly.  A few rare outliers might even become violent and/or attempt to steal the fee back, but even among those a reaction this extreme is highly unusual:

A dominatrix and two friends accused of holding one of her clients hostage and “torturing” him have been cleared of all charges…the alleged victim [claimed he]…was held at knifepoint…forced to dance around in…women’s underwear and clean his face with a toilet brush…while being filmed.  The man claimed he had gone to the home of…Sinead Nijjer…under the impression she was willing to have sex with him for free, having twice previously paid £50 pounds for oral sex.  He told the jury that when he got to her flat…he was jumped on by two men…and…subjected to the embarrassing ordeal, which included him being forced to suck Ms Nijjer’s toes and being told his…“penis would be cut off”…[he further claimed] his captors threatened to release the video footage unless he paid them…[but] he was able to escape when he exaggerated breathing difficulties he was having and one of his alleged captors called 999…Miss Nijjer [explained] the alleged victim had come to her flat…for a [domination] session which he refused to pay for…The victim denied making up the story to cover up his embarrassment at being found by paramedics in…women’s underwear…[and] that he had faked the panic attack to get out of paying…

remorseIt doesn’t surprise me that this outlandish drama came as the result of buyer’s remorse over a fetish session; though the shame reactions I described above were often connected to vanilla dates, in my experience they were more common in kink or fetish sessions.  This should surprise no one; though vanilla sex is loaded down with culturally-inflicted shame and paid sex even more so, kink is burdened with the greatest weight of it.  And if even ordinary sex can provoke such strong rejection of the sex worker in some clients, that might be all the more true of someone who craves humiliation, but got more of it than he bargained for.

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It seems to me that since sex doesn’t invariably lead to procreation any more, we have a lot of mumbo jumbo about “emotional commitment” and such.  Why is sex supposed to be for fun when you are young and single, but then when you get married it is supposed to take on some sacred, personal significance such that you don’t do it with anyone else?

Reed warbler and cuckoo chickFor most of recorded history, female marital fidelity was more important than male for the simple reason that we always know who a baby’s mother is, but until recently had no way of being sure of the identity of the father.  Since most men were repulsed by the idea of spending their resources on (and even leaving their property to) a cuckoo in the nest, a woman’s “purity” and “chastity” became the ancient world’s version of a credit rating; just as the latter helps to convince lenders that a modern person will pay back credit which has been extended him, so the “purity rating” helped to convince men with resources to invest them in a woman and her children.  Originally, women without such a rating weren’t shunned or stigmatized; they simply weren’t considered good marital prospects.  But as the centuries wore on such “purity” went from being a bonus to being a necessity, and the lack of it became a mark against a woman’s character (much as poor credit is becoming in our modern society).  By the Victorian Era, the emphasis on chastity had spawned the notion that proper women were totally asexual, and female sexuality thus became a sign of either bad breeding or psychological/spiritual damage.

For all this time, male fidelity was never important to society as a whole because children’s maternity was never in question; it wasn’t until the appearance of that peculiar blend of pseudoscience, authoritarianism and Christian moralism we call “progressivism” that anyone other than Christian clergy and wronged women really gave a damn about male sexual behavior.  Progressive thought held that if only “experts” educated in “scientific” methods of social engineering (including eugenics and control of the foods and other substances people ingested) could gain control of society, the human race could be “perfected” and we’d all live in a Utopia.  First-wave feminists embraced this excuse to mind everyone else’s business, and one of the main goals of the resulting “social purity” movement was inflicting the societal expectation of female asexuality on men as well (because sex is dirty and nasty and a “superior” man wouldn’t want it).  An avalanche of busybody laws followed, including the first widespread criminalization of sex work and alcohol, and if it weren’t for the Nazis giving eugenics a bad name it would no doubt still be just as popular as prohibitions against certain substances and sex acts (which are its ideological siblings).

Some rather ignorant people believe that these Victorian growths are things of the past, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Oh, they were tweaked somewhat in the middle decades of the 20th century, but the basic notion that members of the ruling class have the right to inflict violence upon everyone else “for their own good” is so useful a tool of control they’ll never let it go until it’s ripped from their cold, dead, severed hands.  Alcohol prohibition was scaled back somewhat, but violent pogroms against users of other intoxicants were piled on top of it; the insistence that “official” sexual relations be licensed was replaced by sanction of unlicensed but noncommercial relations coupled with violent repression of commercial ones and the expectation that “immature” non-monogamous relations would eventually give way to serial monogamy based on romantic “love”.  Furthermore, the party of the first part (hereinafter referred to as “the individual”) agrees that the party of the second part (hereinafter referred to as “society”) has the right to discourage “immature” pleasure-based relations by propaganda, shaming, pseudoscience about “sex addiction” and “negative secondary effects”, criminal prosecutions of sexual encounters that for one reason or another violate the expectations of one or more of the participants or uninvolved bystanders, or any other method society cares to introduce at a later time in perpetuam; the individual further agrees to internalize society’s discouragement of such “immature” relationstoilet plunger by a date not to exceed that of the individual’s thirtieth birthday or date of his or her first legally-contracted marriage, whichever comes first.

I think you get the picture.  Society hasn’t actually changed its old, repressive ways; in fact, it has actually expanded them and repackaged them in a different-shaped box with a colorful, “modern” wrapper in the hopes that you won’t notice that the same old oppression is still being rammed down your throat with a toilet plunger.

(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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