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In a very real sense prohibitionists of all types are pro-crime, because they WANT people of the group they hate beaten and caged, not helped to stay straight.  –  “Misdirection

MedusaBy March of 2012 “That Was the Week That Was” had stabilized to one per week, and with the addition of the Metaupdates feature (later absorbed into the column instead of grouped separately), the blog only lacked the weekly “Links” columns, the Q & A becoming a weekly feature and the Cliterati reprints to achieve the form it held for two years, from the beginning of 2013 to the end of 2014; I think I’ll always view that as the “classic” format even though it has changed since then and will no doubt keep changing as my life changes.  I think some things will probably remain for a long time to come; fictional interludes like “Penelope” and harlotographies like “La Belle Otero” are too popular to retire, event columns like “Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs” are too important to lose, holiday columns like Hawking with chicksOstara” afford me a much-needed break, and news/essay hybrids like “A Broker in Pillage“, “The Immunity Syndrome“, “Thou Shalt Not“, “Worms in the Apple“, “Above the Law“, “Enabling Oppression“,  “Useful Idiots“, “Same As It Ever Was“, “Prudish Pedants“, and “Ape and Angel” are so easy to write they are unlikely to vanish in the near future.

A world of disorderly notions, picked out of his books, crowded into his imagination by Gustave Dore (1863)The formats you’re seeing less of these days are interviews (like this one with psychologist Stanley Siegel), movie review and book review columns, and others that require hours of preparation (such as reading books) before I even sit down to write them; the ones you’re seeing more of are personal accounts like “Target Audience” and answers to reader questions like “Misdirection” because they flow easily and quickly from my fingers.  But don’t worry; I know my readers enjoy history columns like “The Profumo Affair” and “Circle“, and value analyses of human behavior such as “Fear of Commitment“, so they’ll never completely go away even if they’ve become less frequent.  And I enjoy needling prohibitionist profiteers like Nicholas Kristof far too much to ever stop writing essays like “Knights Erroneous” and “Double Deal“.The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin (1852)

 

Links #247

The students do NOT have to eat the Oreo if they do not wish to do so.  –  Mrs. Porter

I’m slowly beginning to catch up, though I still have quite a way to go to be comfortable with my work schedule.  This week’s video was supplied by Popehat, who also provided “protect” and “Jew”; the links above the video came from Wendy Lyon  (“resistance”), Jasper Gregory (“cookie”), and Jesse Walker (“911″).

From the Archives

Whole libraries of sex work laws have been written and enforced because lawmakers listened to nothing other than their own fears and paternalism.  –  Chris Hall

R.I.P. Sashimani Devi Sashimani Devi

Sashimani Devi, the last [devadasi]…at the Jagannath Temple in eastern India, died on March 19 in the city of Puri…She was 92…she was one of about 25 women assigned to care for Jagannath and other images of deities at the temple, conducting ritual baths, rubbing the statues with lotion and performing private songs and dances at bedtime…Sashimani…remained proud of her status until the end of her life, though she complained that temple authorities had reduced her role in temple rituals and paid her a miserly pension.  She told one interviewer who asked about the god Jagannath: “He is my husband and I am his wife.  There is no dispute about it.”  She was the last to perform a dance that had been practiced in the temple for 5,000 years…Laws criminalizing the dedication of devadasis began proliferating in the 1930s, and elite temples like Jagannath began to turn away from the practice, though “thousands and thousands” of devadasis are dedicated, to this day, at smaller temples throughout India…

Here We Go Again

Chris Hall looks at the connection between the belief in snuff films and the belief in “sex trafficking”:

Of all the myths about porn, sex and crime to get a footing in popular culture, the belief in snuff films is one of the most improbable, yet enduringly resilient.  For decades, journalists, politicians, law enforcement officials, and anti-porn crusaders talked about snuff films as if their reality had been as firmly documented as the address of the White House….[despite the fact that] no actual snuff films have ever been found…snuff movie hysteria is just a single link in a very long chain of moral panics around sex and sex work which stretches back centuries…the myths of white slavery and snuff films…depicted vast networks of deliberate, organized evil preying on society’s most innocent.  There are actual videos of murders by serial killers or terrorists, but…a true snuff film would be one where the victim is specifically kidnapped and murdered in order to make the film and distribute it through a vast, secret criminal network.  Similarly, white slavery would necessarily involve a nightmarish web of kidnappers and pimps working cohesively in a well-organized criminal subculture…the existence of snuff films and white slavery would reveal a shadowy, near-omnipotent “other” infiltrating respectable society…

Above the Law 

A…New York [City cop]…has been charged with multiple counts of rape related to a sexual relationship he’s alleged to have maintained with a teen girl more than 20 years his junior…38-year-old Vladimir Sosa…was arrested in the Bronx [after the girl]…confessed to her mother about the relationship last month…

The Notorious Badge 

Here’s an amusing example of prohibitionists’ obsession with the film Pretty Woman:  On its 25th anniversary, a “sex trafficking” fetishist publishes a letter asking Richard Gere to espouse the “end demand” creed of the “sex trafficking” religion and denounce clients.  I am not making this up.

Hall of Shame

Mistress Matisse: “If you’ve eaten poison and need to make yourself vomit, you should watch Dennis Hof and Nancy Grace debate sex work.”  I concur; Grace is one of the few creatures who can make Hof seem less-than-wholly-vile in comparison.

Shift in the Wind

More editorials like this, please:

It is unfathomable why adults are still being prohibited by law from engaging in sex work – whether as an individual providing or receiving such services – in and outside of Jamaica.  To make matters worse, it is also illegal for you to “knowingly” benefit from the proceeds of sex work regardless of your relationship to the individual…This is preposterous….a child whose parent works tirelessly as a sex worker to send him or her to school…can, in fact, be charged for benefiting from their parents earnings from sex work….if you are the parent of a sex worker with a chronic illness such as cancer, you can be charged for allowing your daughter to pay for life-saving chemotherapy.  What would you do if the person who supports you financially is a sex worker?  Would you still feel the law is justified – that prostitution should be illegal?

Standard Operating Procedure

Yawn.  Are people still pretending this was unpredictable?

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department…In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties…The stunning allegations are part of an investigation…into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI…[ATF] and the U.S. Marshals Service…The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation…

“Stunning”. LOL! Prostitute tester advert

Sex Work is Work

A brothel is advertising what many would consider a dream job: prostitute tester.  The job entails rating sex workers for overall quality, cleanliness, value for money, and safe sex practices.  The advert by the Berlin brothel…reads:  “Practical experience with many years of brothel visits necessary.  You should enjoy having fun with people and you should not be afraid of contact.”  Ideal candidates for the position would hold a university degree (preferably in business), have experience with brothels, and be able to show a health certificate indicating they are disease-free…a multilingual individual is desired, with knowledge of French a plus…

Torture Chamber 

[Florida prison guards] contaminated inmates’ food, sprayed them with chemicals for no reason and threatened to break their fingers and to kill them…These practices flourished under former Warden Samuel Culpepper…inmates…said they were stripped naked or down to their boxers at the whim of guards and had all their belongings and their mattresses taken away, then left around the clock on a cold metal bunk for 72 hours or more…[where] they would shiver, cold and petrified, waiting to be gassed…guards would sometimes heat up the gas canisters before activating them, making the chemicals more potent and stick more stubbornly to inmates’ skin…

Bait and Switch

Here’s a long, detailed account of how an ordinary man was tricked and railroaded by cops and prosecutors, his life destroyed for their profit:

…he believed she was nineteen, and he adamantly denied at all times that she looked underage.  He…thought she was lying about her age to try to get more money from him.  It took cops almost half an hour of merciless interrogation and lie after lie to get something even arguably incriminating out of him.  They kept telling him about how he tried to have sex with “that girl” who was sixteen.  When he asked why they were fixated on the fake age of a fake escort, the police report noted that as him seeing no problem with the age of sixteen…

Marching Up Their Own Arses (#452)

For a change, many outside the demimonde recognize anti-whore douchebaggery for what it is:

All sex workers are trafficking victims who desperately want out of the industry.  That’s the premise…of the new A&E show 8 Minutes, which is slated to premiere April 2….vigilante pastor (and former cop) Kevin Brown…sets up dates with sex workers, only to ambush them with attempts at rescue instead of payment—all filmed, hidden camera-style.  The…series has been called “awful” by the Daily Beast, while VICE referred to Brown and the series creators as “manipulators seeking out women for their own gain.”  A Change.org petition…garnered just under 2,000 signatures.  And…even local law enforcement condemned his methods…But none of this criticism has deterred A&E from airing the show…[so] about two dozen…groups that work with…sex workers signed a letter demanding a meeting with Tom Forman, the producer…

Worse Than I Thought (#524)

We can always count on Elizabeth N. Brown:

…the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” (JVTA)…was [stalled]…by party-line disagreement over an abortion-funding provision.  Thank goodness.  This is one time that lawmakers using abortion as a political tool may actually be a boon for civil liberties…One should always be skeptical when politicians insist on new laws to target things that are already targets…it belies efforts to grant government agencies new powers and more money without people paying much attention…One under-looked but worrisome aspect of the bill would set up several cybercrime-fighting units within the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement…By conflating all prostitution with sex trafficking, organizations that receive federal anti-trafficking grants can use it to go after prostitution more generally — something conservative rescue-orgs like because it fits their anti-prostitution agenda and police departments like because they can now use this money toward existing vice efforts.  And the more arrests and/or “rescues” they make, the more money they get…

Guinea Pigs

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on February 22nd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

wood splitting wedgeAs I’ve written many times, tyranny always starts with unpopular minorities, but it absolutely never stops with them.  Every time a new kind of law, legal procedure or police tactic is dreamed up by those with the sick need to control others, it is invariably tested first on some group that the “authorities” know few others will defend; then by the time it’s expanded to the general population, it’s much too late to do anything about it.  For example, US surveillance methods which were first excused as being necessary to uncover “terrorists” were quickly expanded to drug investigations, then to the entire population (as Edward Snowden revealed); similarly, the license-plate readers which were first used in the Drug War and “end demand” operations against sex workers’ clients were recently revealed to be employed in vast numbers to build a nationwide database of all automobiles.  Last year, I explained how men were being arrested for talking to a computer program intended to trick them into thinking it was a young girl, and in Florida and Arizona huge police operations (with cops in place of the program) have predatorily arrested hundreds of men whose only “crime” was looking for women their own age on dating sites.  In the UK, an internet censorship regime which was sold to the public in the name of “protecting children” from “extreme porn” is now being used to block anything some government official decides he doesn’t want the public to see.  And “asset forfeiture” proceedings, which were first touted as weapons against “drug lords”, are now being used to rob ordinary people who have done absolutely nothing wrong of their cash, cars and even real estate.

“Sex trafficking” has proved a bonanza for those who wish to install ever-greater tyranny without the slightest opposition from the populace; besides the increased surveillance, expanded asset seizure and new laws that criminalize ordinary behaviors, fanatical politicians are working to entirely destroy the internet as we know it by subjecting website owners and operators to criminal charges for third-party content.  And even if they fail, other nosy parkers are trying to harness the power of computers to spy on otherwise-anonymous citizens by analyzing what they post online:

…researchers have developed software that allows police departments to mine online ads offering prostitution services.  Traffic Jam gives police a rapid way to sort sex ads, spotting indirect language that may suggest sex trafficking, or grouping ads with similar language that may have been written by the same person… research analyst Emily Kennedy said more than 100 sites are commonly used in sex trafficking…

Regular readers know this is arrant nonsense; “sex trafficking” is here being used as a dysphemism for “sex work”.  Promoters of this incredibly misogynistic myth pretend that women are too asexual to choose sex for pragmatic reasons, and too stupid to place our own ads or plan our own travel; this article hilariously claims that women fly into towns “with a handler”, which is especially funny because four-year-old interviews with the same cops from the same podunk little Pennsylvania town mention no “handlers” of any kind.  These imaginary persons are almost literally pasted into the line to fit the “sex trafficking” narrative that is used to justify gross invasions of privacy.

But the aforementioned cops, who are well-known for the grotesque and evil lengths to which they will go to harass and victimize sex workers, fit right into the rogue’s gallery quoted in support of this Orwellian surveillance program; another such collective entity is the Arizona State University School of Social Work, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz’s highly-criticized factory for generating bogus prohibitionist studies and the academic leg of the awful Project ROSE.  And who, pray tell, financed the development of this data-mining program?Guinea pigs  Why, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which sunk $3.6 million into the project.  Another, similar platform was funded by the CIA.  But you just go right ahead believing that the US military-industrial complex is so very concerned with commercial sex that it’s willing to spend considerable funds just to stop people from having it; I’m sure that’s a lot more comforting than recognizing that whores are just the guinea pigs for yet another oppression that will soon be extended to everyone.

Fadeaway

I’ve never been very confident with women, so at the age of 28 I lost my virginity to a sex worker.  I continued to see other professionals since then as time and money allows.  Then two years ago I met a sex worker who was exactly my type; she soon gave me her personal phone number, and we texted a lot about upcoming meetings and about other things.  The last time we met in person she trusted me enough to let me take pictures of her (she advertised without showing her face), and invited me to karaoke with her.  A few weeks later I texted again, and her sister replied to me, saying she was in hospital and wouldn’t be working.  I wrote to her booker (who knew she liked me) and asked if she knew more, and she led me to believe that the problem was mental health related.  Not knowing what else to do, I’d send a little “get well soon” text to her every few weeks.  Eventually she responded, saying she was out of the hospital but unlikely to ever work again.  She seemed to appreciate my messages, and we continued to text for most of last year.  Eventually, I offered to take her out to a platonic dinner in August.  She said yes, and I made arrangements.  A couple of days before, she pulled out and begged forgiveness, saying she still didn’t feel physically up to anything.  I took this well, and continued to text her every other week as I had been before, but she soon stopped replying.  She’s been out of hospital for a year now, and I haven’t heard from her since summer.  I’m wondering if there’s anything else I can do.  I just don’t know how to deal with silence.  If she told me to “please stop” I’d absolutely respect that, but I’m worried she may have had a relapse or something like that too.Ghost Woman on Train Track by epica3

Human beings are complicated creatures; not only is it possible for us to feel multiple conflicting emotions at the same time, but we do it with astonishing frequency.   What this means in your case is that, though the lady does seem to have been genuinely interested in you, it’s also pretty clear that she doesn’t want you in her life any more.  Why?  There’s no way to know for sure, but I suspect it isn’t coincidental.  If the reason she ended up in hospital was indeed mental health-related as you suspect, it could be tied in with burnout or with ambivalent feelings about her work, and if that’s the case it’s no surprise that she no longer wants to communicate with a client, even a cherished one…especially a cherished one, really.  My guess is that she wants to break entirely with her old life, and that includes you.  But since she really does like you, she doesn’t want to hurt you and is instead pulling a classic feminine move called the fadeaway.  In a way, this breakup method is even more cruel because there’s no closure for the one rejected; however, it feels less cruel to the one doing the fadeaway, and in her mind that’s what counts.  You don’t have much choice but to move on; at this point all you’re accomplishing is hurting both of you.  Enjoy your memories of her, send her prayers or good wishes, and then close that chapter in your heart so you can be ready to love someone else.  Because she did give you one priceless gift: your first love.  And you may find that, painful as the experience was, it has prepared you for other intimate relationships, paid or otherwise.

(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.)

When two consenting adults have sex behind closed doors and if money changes hands then that is none of the state’s business.  –  Laura Lee

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

Police in eastern India were left red-faced when a raid on a sex district discovered four of their own along with a convicted murderer whom they were supposed to be…transporting…to hospital for a check-up…

Who Watches the Watchmen?

I’m really happy to see the media slowly growing more skeptical of ludicrous statistical claims:

…[Several news sources claimed that] “According to the FBI’s latest study, more than 58,000 kids were abducted by non-relatives in one year”…The number is derived from data collected between 1997 and 1999, mainly from a telephone survey in 1999…these numbers come from an era that predates the wide use of mobile phones, which allow parents to keep much closer track of their children…this is an estimate, based on a survey, not based on actual incidents…Two key components of the 58,000 figure are children who are reported missing by their caretakers or children who were missed by the caretaker for at least an hour but no report was filed…These incidents may meet a legal definition of “abduction” but generally do not conform to the public’s understanding of an abduction…The number of stereotypical kidnappings is significantly smaller: 115…the most recent (2014) FBI data on abductions by a stranger in a single year is 332…

Down Under

A Porirua man is facing two rare charges of failing to use a condom during sex with a prostitute.  The safe-sex law is thought to have been applied only about seven times since the Prostitution Reform Act was passed in 2003…Before prostitution was decriminalised, sex workers were not able to complain about clients not wanting to use condoms…[The man] said he knew the prostitute would not have consented to his taking the condom off, so he did it without her knowledge…

Tyranny By Consensus

I certainly hope you saw this coming:

Since Los Angeles County passed a 2012 law requiring all male porn performers to wear condoms, some Californians have been trying to extend the requirement throughout the state.  Legislation to this effect failed last summer, but activists are now seeking to put the matter before voters in 2016…If…Michael Weinstein gets his way, he could be subsidized by the state to sit around reviewing porn.  Under the proposed condom measure…”Weinstein would be placed in charge of monitoring any adult film produced in California to determine if condoms were used…If a condom wasn’t readily apparent in each scene, Weinstein would be deputized by the Attorney General to review the raw footage of the production, and file lawsuits against anyone involved in the production, including but not limited to the producers, distributors, agents, and anyone with a demonstrable ‘financial interest’ in the production”…To remove Weinstein from this role would require a majority vote from both houses of the state Legislature…

Under Every Bed dopedopedope

Small towns can’t credibly claim to be “sex trafficking hubs”, so they call themselves “stops” instead:

Hundreds of social workers, police officers, clinicians and concerned locals gathered…to learn about the growth of…sex trafficking in southeastern Wisconsin…the Human Trafficking Forum…explored the causes and symptoms of what they call “modern-day slavery”…Every 10 minutes, a woman or child is trafficked in the U.S, resulting in more than 15,000 victims each year*.  An official with the Department of Homeland Security…described Kenosha as a “stopping spot” between Chicago and Milwaukee…[a cop bloviated that] “Twelve and 13-year-olds are the primary target, that’s middle schoolers.  We need to get the word out to parents and teachers”…

Canadian cops are just as absurd:

…Is there human trafficking in Guelph [Ontario, population 121,668]?  “Absolutely”…[lied cop Patty] Pronovost…girls as young as 12 are exploited by pimps…classified ad sites like Backpage…are popular among prostitutes and pimps…The average age of a girl entering the sex trade is 14.  On average, they would see 10 to 15 customers each day, but 30 in one day is not uncommon…

I wish 30 clients a day really were “not uncommon”; if that were true my bank account wouldn’t be in the sorry shape it’s in.

*15,000/year = 1.7/hour = 1/35 minutes ≠ 1/10 minutes.

Challenge

My friend Laura Lee does it again:

A sex worker is using European human rights legislation to try to overturn a new law in Northern Ireland that makes it illegal to pay for prostitutes.  Dublin-born law graduate Laura Lee is launching an unprecedented legal challenge that could go all the way to Strasbourg, against a human trafficking bill which includes banning the payment for sex among consenting adults…

Traffic Jam (#439)

Nearly two years ago, Monica Jones was…arrested for prostitution during a massive police sweep.  Now, she’s in Geneva, Switzerland, taking her case to the United Nations.  The arrest in May 2013 was not the first time the cops had harassed Jones, and she fought back, successfully challenging the charges in court while rising to become an outspoken activist and a widely recognized human rights advocate.  Beating her own charges was not enough for Jones, and now she is using her story to challenge the United States’ prostitution policies on the global stage.  The UN Human Rights Council is preparing its quadrennial review of the US’s human rights record in May, and this week Jones and advocates from across the world are lobbying the council’s member countries on policy recommendations…

The Last Shall Be First (#513)

A bill that would ban transgender people from using their preferred public bathrooms has now…been amended to make an exception for some transgender people who have legally changed their gender on government documentation.  In essence, it means transgender people would need to have their papers on them to pee…[the bill’s sponsor]  claims that the ordinance would prevent male sex offenders and other perverted, unsavory characters from entering women’s bathrooms and that it’s a matter of public safety.  Of course…such incidents…are almost unheard of in other states and municipalities that have passed protections for transgender individuals…

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#523) Cheetahs

The fact that money is tight and online porn free couldn’t possibly have anything to do with this; it must be video games!

Strip clubs, with flashy signs advertising nude dancers, once had a strong footing in downtown centres across Canada.  But…an adult industry insider says strip clubs are an endangered species being killed off by lack of demand…Tim Lambrinos…[said]  “It seems that young Canadian males are more distracted with other types of interests — Game Boys, plugging in things and so on”…Toronto had 63 strip clubs a decade ago, now it only has 14.  Lambrinos admits licensed clubs are plagued with the perception they are tied to crime and unsavoury characters, but…that doesn’t match with the reality.  “In terms of crime, even public complaints, the licensed adult entertainment clubs were the bottom of the list…There were nail salons and hair salons and barber shops, restaurants that got far more complaints”…

Worse Than I Thought (#523)

A new “sex trafficking” law is so bad (HOW BAD IS IT?) that at least one “anti-trafficking” NGO has denounced it:

Looking to criminalize our way out of something hasn’t worked in any other issue and won’t work here…Services shouldn’t have to push victims to cooperate with law enforcement in order to receive funding…We need to be removing children from the judicial system, not increasing their involvement…being a trafficker is a specific crime and not just a catch-all for everyone who did something wrong to a child…This bill buys into a sensationalized presentation of a complex issue, to which the criminal justice system is somehow the solution…

Takao

Unlike Takao who is very much missed, Komurasaki is missed by no one.  –  a Yoshiwara courtesan, quoted in 1683

By now the regular reader should have noticed three recurring themes in my harlotographies: one of them pertains only to whores of pre-modern times; the second up to at least a century ago (though it is more pronounced in ancient stories); and the third up until the present day.  Taking these in reverse order, they are as follows: the inability of amateurs to simply report biographical facts without embellishing, dramatizing and romanticizing them; the difficulty of ascertaining even numeric biographical details with any certainty; and the confusion of more than one harlot with the same name.  All three principles are highly noticeable in the tale of Takao, a Japanese oiran (courtesan) who lived from 1640 to 1659; the lady in question was one of at least six courtesans (some sources say as high as eleven) with that name, and so is generally designated with the unimaginative moniker “Takao II”.  Very little is known about her with any certainty other than the day of her death, December 5th, 1659; however, that didn’t stop talespinners from turning her story into one of the most popular of kabuki plays.

I’ve written at length about the world of the oiran, but this passage bears repeating:

Until 1617 prostitution was completely legal in Japan, but in that year the Tokugawa Shogunate issued an order restricting prostitution to certain areas on the outskirts of cities.  Yujo (“women of pleasure”) were licensed and ranked according to an elaborate hierarchy, with oiran (courtesans) at the top and brothel girls (who were essentially slaves) at the bottom.  These “red-light districts” were not implemented for the moralistic reasons which spurred their creation in the West, but rather to enforce taxation and keep out undesirables such as ronin (masterless samurai); prostitutes were also not allowed to leave the district except under certain rigidly-controlled circumstances.  Soon the districts grew into self-contained towns which offered every kind of entertainment a man might want, all entirely run by women.  Once a girl became a prostitute her birth-rank ceased to matter, and her status was determined by such factors as beauty, personality, intelligence, education and artistic skills.  Even among the oiran there were ranks, of which the highest were the tayu, courtesans fit to entertain nobles…

Takao was a tayu under contract to the Great Miura, the largest brothel of the Yoshiwara district.  Though we know absolutely nothing about her personality or skills, they must have been as striking as her beauty for her to achieve the position of “top girl” at the Miura house soon after her debut, and to become the most sought-after courtesan in Yoshiwara within a short time thereafter.  Every contemporary source (of which there are three) say she died of tuberculosis; Takabyōbu kuda monogatari (Tales of Grumbling Otokodate) also states that several of Takao’s clients paid for her funeral even though they had failed to visit her on her deathbed.  But despite “consumption” being the traditional cause of courtesan demise in Western romance, Takao’s tragic death at the peak of her success wasn’t nearly dramatic enough for kabuki; for that love, treachery and violent death needed to be added. 

Enter Date Tsunamune, who had become Lord of Mutsu at the age of eighteen after the death of his father.  Some of his kin, however, plotted against him and managed to trick him into visiting Yoshiwara as a means of getting him out of the way.  While there he hired Takao and immediately fell in love with her, proposing to buy out her contract and marry her.  This much is largely historical; Tsunamune was a real person whose did indeed face opposition from his family (and was deposed in 1660).  He may indeed have visited Yoshiwara, though a letter claimed to be from Takao to him has been proven a nineteenth-century forgery.  But the rest of the story as told for generations is the stuff of fiction.  Naturally, Takao is supposed to have rejected his offer; some sources feel mere dislike for the man or a desire for independence after the termination of her contract are insufficient motivations for the rejection, and invent a lover who had pledged to marry her when her term of indenture was up.  I’m sure y’all can guess where the story goes next:  Tsunamune refused to take “no” for an answer and made the brothel owner an offer she couldn’t refuse, Takao’s weight in gold for the contract.  The owner accepted, but took advantage of Tsunamune’s lust by putting iron weights into the sleeves of Takao’s robe, boosting her weight to 75 kilograms.  Some storytellers say that on the boat trip from the brothel, Takao hurled herself into the river to drown, counting on the weights to take her to the bottom; others say Tsunamune caught her in the attempt and killed her with his sword instead, then dumped her body.  Still another version says that Tsunamune had one of her fingers broken for every day she refused his bed, and after he had gone through both hands he had her hanged.  But all of these say that her death (whether by murder or suicide) was the excuse used by Tsunamune’s uncle to remove him from power.

Co-opting the lives of sex workers to tell lurid stories of woe and tragedy is nothing new; it’s been done for centuries, perhaps millennia, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.  But at least in the Japanese variety, the tragedy derives from the freely-chosen actions of a proud, accomplished woman in defiance of fate, rather than from the pathetic subjugation of a cookie-cutter victim stereotype.  And I don’t think there’s any need to explain which I prefer.

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