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In the News (#792)

Any invocation of tradition and moral values in support of a law that facially discriminate among classes of people calls for a healthy dose of skepticism on our part.  –  Judge Ilana Rovner

The Swedish Pimpocracy 

Sweden, the feminist Utopia:

Hundreds of allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced in Sweden in recent weeks…In a single day, 4445 women put their names to a petition in Svenska Dagbladet called ‘#medvilkenrätt’ (with what right) which calls for action against harassment and abuse of power within the justice system…One of the women…said that a district prosecutor had harassed her, repeatedly calling and texting her and, when she declined an invitation to dinner, threatening to destroy her career…”In every message, the threats grew more serious, and they began to include threats of assault and violence,” she wrote.  Another woman said that…a retired judge showed her photos of three defendants in a rape case and asked her “which of them I would most like to be raped by”…one woman said a lawyer asked her to collect “all the information on guys, clothes, pictures and so on relating to the plaintiff to show how ‘slutty’ she was”…

The Course of a Disease

Though there’s very little chance of this going anywhere in Latin America, it’s still disturbing to even see this filth appearing there at all:

Three months ago…Columbian legislator…Clara Rojas…began campaigning for new legislation which would fine people who pay for sex with up to $23,000,000 Colombian pesos (around $7,500 US dollars).  This proposal has been strongly condemned by Colombian sex workers, activists and academics…

The Notorious Badge

Just for once, it’d be nice to see a realistic show about sex work instead of these lurid wanking fantasies about teenagers:

Netflix has announced its second Italian original, a scripted series titled Baby, about teen prostitution in Rome.  The eight-episode show is loosely based on a scandal that created a stir in the Italian capital in 2014 when it surfaced that two…high school students…were engaging in part-time prostitution

It’s only “loosely based” because the real story would be much too boring and mundane.

Hall of Shame (#525)

The only person interviewed in this video who comes across as sane and reasonable is my friend Christina.  Bindel ends up sounding like an obsessed lunatic vomiting up moldy propaganda, and Hof’s denials (the author of The Art of the Pimp proclaiming he’s not a pimp despite owning seven brothels) make one wonder whether he’s as stupid as he thinks we are.

And I wish Reason TV would start interviewing more sex worker activists instead of repeatedly returning to Nevada’s deeply-oppressive crony brothel system, which is about as un-libertarian as one can get.

Fallen Idol

This has been an open secret for a while, so I’m unsure why it didn’t break when the James Deen revelations were in the news:

Last June, a woman named Ginger Banks posted a YouTube video that circulated widely among those in the adult entertainment industry…In the 10-minute clip…Banks compiles allegations against Jeremy from all corners of the adult-industry…including stories of everything from indecent exposure, nonconsensual digital penetration and rape…Rolling Stone spoke with more than a dozen women both on and off the record who made such claims against Jeremy, alleging that the famous porn star violated their boundaries, taking advantage of both his status as an industry legend and their status as sex workers as grounds to flout the basic rules of consent…Jennifer Steele…alleges that Jeremy raped her twice, once at a photoshoot and once at his apartment, in December 1997.  “He just kinda keeps going and pretends like you didn’t say anything.”  Jeremy refutes these accusations, claiming that all the interactions he’s had have been consensual.  “These allegations are pure lies or buyers remorse,” Jeremy told Rolling Stone in an emailed statement…

Little Boxes (#748)

Once again, prudishness trumps the Constitution:

To protect public health, safety, and morals, the government has an important interest in preventing women from going topless, a federal appeals court has ruled.  And the importance of keeping lady breasts out of public view overrules any First Amendment or equal protection issues that such a policy raises…Going topless might not be inherently expressive, “but to declare, as a matter of law, that it can never be expressive is the quintessence of throwing out the free-expression baby with the non-expressive-conduct bath water,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote…The case (Tagami v. City of Chicago) stems from the 2014 ticketing of Sonoko Tagami, who took to the Chicago streets with only opaque body paint over her bare breasts to celebrate “GoTopless Day” that year.  Tagami was issued a $100 citation for violating the city’s ban on public indecency…

The Widening Gyre (#750) 

The “Facebook pimps” myth is one of the silliest of the whole panic:

If there’s new technology that teens are using to communicate, pimps know about it, [fantasizes] special agent Marty Parker, and they’re using it to snare potential victims…”Pretty much every popular social media site out there is being used for recruiting potential victims of sex trafficking”…Where once pimps stalked malls and group homes…now they’re all over the internet.  Social media facilitates ease of communication, for better or for worse, and Parker says it’s made the practice of pimping even easier…

In reality, as regular readers know, social media have made pimps unnecessary to most of the women who formerly employed them.

Lack of Evidence (#763) 

Hey ACLU, if sex work weren’t illegal laws like this would be easily overturned:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has come out against a [politician’s] proposal to outlaw “prostitution-related loitering” in zones to be created [at will] by the Chicago Police Department, saying the plan is vague and could lead to people getting arrested based on how they’re dressed.  Under a plan from…Jason Ervin…the police superintendent could designate zones that are “frequently associated with prostitution-related loitering.”  Police could order people to leave those zones if the [cops fantasize that] they intend to engage in prostitution.  Anyone who returned to the area within eight hours of the police order to leave could be fined up to $500 or sent to prison for up to six months.  ACLU…spokesman Ed Yohnka took a dim view of the proposal, saying in a statement that the language is vague “and seems to encourage police to order people to disperse or even arrest them for what may be innocent and constitutionally protected behavior.”  Yohnka said a similar rule in New York City resulted in police arresting people based on how they were dressed, where they were standing, whether they had money on them or whom they were speaking to…

The Spiral of Absurdity (#789) 

Texas is vying with Washington, Arizona and Florida for the dubious distinction of being the US state which produces the most dangerously delusional “sex trafficking” propaganda:

The Texas Governor’s Criminal Justice Division awarded four separate grants totaling $4.4 million to provide better victim services and criminal prosecution in cases of…sex trafficking…”Violent criminals toss victims into the criminal justice system” [Harris County District Attorney Kim] Ogg said…Houston is the No. 1 city for calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline…Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez [vomited out “end demand” fantasies and the tired idiocy about how]…”No child plans to enter the sex industry when they grow up”…

Even for someone as jaded as I am, the sight of a pig (DAs are just highfalutin’ pigs) proclaiming that “violent criminals” are actually the ones responsible for the state’s war on consensual behavior is pretty revolting.

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic (#789) 

It’s rather satisfying watching the “sex addiction” myth implode in real time:

…a closer look at the evidence yields little proof that an unhealthy obsession with sex is comparable to an addiction to drugs or alcohol.  Sex-addiction therapists argue that their patients experience symptoms of withdrawal and risk-taking…much like substance addicts…Yet these reports are largely anecdotal.  Studies have yet to prove that people who feel they have a problem with sex or porn regularly increase the time they spend consuming it, or move on to more “extreme” stuff.  As for withdrawal symptoms, people sometimes feel anxious or distressed when they abstain from this behaviour, but these are not analogous to the symptoms of substance addicts, which are often physiologically profound and medically serious…Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatrist…is sceptical of the idea that you can be addicted to things – like food and sex – that we are hard-wired to consume in order to survive.  “You don’t need to invoke an unusual pathological explanation for why human beings eat and why they have sex, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be here,” says Humphreys.  Substances like heroin, by contrast, not only more dramatically hijack our brain’s pleasure pathways but also inspire behaviour that threatens people’s survival, so an addictive process is necessary to explain our attachment to them…

Diary #386

Now that Grace is here in Washington, I’ll actually be cooking a whole Thanksgiving dinner by myself for the first time since 2014.  Oh, it probably won’t be as big and elaborate as the ones I used to make in the old days, but it’ll have turkey (no, it’s not dry and nasty when I make it) and dressing and gravy and pumpkin pie and all that.  And I’ll get to spend a couple of days at Sunset, which will be nice for a change.  Then Friday is the start of the Yuletide season; this year I managed to stay away from enough retail stores that I didn’t have to endure much-too-early holiday decorations & music, which is a promising start.  See, I keep the holiday season for loved ones and generosity rather than conspicuous consumption, so it hasn’t been ruined for me.  And that reminds me:  starting Friday, I’m running my annual Toys for Tots special which for a small expenditure will allow you extra time with me while bringing a little bit of joy to needy children.  It will run until December 11th, and you don’t even need to be in Seattle to take advantage of it!  If you’re interested, please read Friday’s column for details; if you don’t want to wait until then just email me (serious inquiries only, please).  Here’s to the holiday season; won’t you consider spending a little slice of it with me?

Pretext

It happened again a few days ago:  a local police department (this time in Laredo, Texas) thought it would be cute and heartwarming to pull motorists over, lights flashing, and give them some kind of gift, this time Thanksgiving turkeys.  Other police departments have pulled similar stunts over the past few years, usually but not always at holidays; the gifts have included Christmas presents for their kids, $100 bills, gift cards, ice cream, “good driving” tickets and probably several other things I can’t think of at the moment.  Have you ever watched one of the videos that are almost inevitably released after these stunts?  Despite the carefully cherry-picked and curated results, it’s still possible to notice that some of these people are confused and nervous, and that their laughter is more often the product of released tension or emotional shock than it is healthy joy.  Sometimes the news coverage is honest and reports that some of the victims of these mind games are angry and refuse the “gifts”, but most sources obediently give the cops the publicity they’re looking for by parroting their saccharine statements about how they want to give back to the community, build trust, etc.  But behind the smiles and fake goodwill lies the truth:  that these are nothing but vulgar publicity stunts dreamed up by tone-deaf sociopaths without the slightest clue how upsetting and stressful it is to be pulled over by a pig, or even worse,  by puerile sadists who think it’s funny to pull practical jokes on people who might potentially experience genuine terror from these sophomoric schemes.  If you’re a middle-class white person who’s never had a bad experience with a cop, or known anyone who did, you may be tempted to wonder what the harm is in this; you may figure I’m overreacting (certainly several bootlickers on Twitter did).  But for a lot of people those flashing lights don’t signal a temporary annoyance or slight financial hit; they represent at best the beginning of an ordeal which will inflict serious or even catastrophic financial hardship on them, and could possibly end in prison, the loss of their vehicles and/or jobs and potentially years of legal difficulties.  At worst, a police stop can result in robbery, rape or – if the victim is black – death.  And what do you think would happen if one of these practical jokers smelled weed, or noticed a totally legal firearm, in the car during this “fun” stop?  Life-destroying charges and possibly even being gunned down.  What a clever joke, hardy-har-har.

Others have written about the legal, constitutional and civil-rights issues raised by these sadistic games, but instead I’m going to ask that you try looking at them as what they are:  consent violations, not so very different from the other consent violations powerful men feel entitled to inflict on others.  These cops are using people without their consent as props in a propaganda show, and whatever “compensation” they give is the sucker doctors used to give kids for enduring shots.  If you can’t see this, let me ask you how you’d feel if an armed cop pulled you over and then asked to hug you, or to take you out on a date, or to marry him?  Don’t you feel like the situation is just an itsy-bitsy bit psychologically coercive?  Because I’ve actually been in the second situation, and I’ll tell you this:  when an armed cop pulls you over at 2 AM (albeit alongside a busy interstate highway), tells you how beautiful you are and then asks you for a date, it doesn’t feel like a compliment or a request; it feels like a demand.  And the fact that he’s twice your size and in possession of several deadly weapons and has the ability to destroy your entire life on a whim, turns that demand into a threat.  I honestly don’t recall what I said to get out of the situation, but given that this happened only a few years after I was actually raped by cops, you can probably guess how relieved I was when he took “no” for an answer and let me drive away.  Just like the victims of these “generous cop” scams are.

Links #385

Don’t any Spanish speakers work at Taco Bell headquarters? – Jerry Coyne

I didn’t find this video actually scary because the ending was obvious from fifty seconds in, but it had a good atmosphere and there were a few moments that gave me a frisson, which is more than I can say for 99% of what passes for “horror” these days (which are basically nothing but long lead-ins to jump scares).  The links above it were provided by Cathy ReisenwitzJesse WalkerAmy AlkonRadley BalkoKevin WilsonTim Cushing, and Scott Greenfield, in that order.

From the Archives

In the News (#791)

Once [the cops] put you in that [sex worker] box…they don’t care.  –  unnamed victim of Oluwatobi Boyede

Bad Girls 

I don’t know who this chick is, and none of the Seattle whores I’ve talked to do either.  But we all know the “oral sex” thing is bullshit:

An escort was arrested on accusations she shot a Washington state man in the head because she thought he was bad at oral sex – and she wasn’t sure how to tell him.  Marissa Wallen, 21, allegedly admitted to shooting her 36-year-old client at his North Everett home last month…she then stole the victim’s wallet, left him for dead and went on a $12,000 shopping spree…Wallen told a detective that the man was “performing oral sex wrong and she did not know how to tell him that” so she grabbed a gun and shot him…He was found alive but unresponsive on Oct. 24, three days after he was shot, when his employer asked police to perform a welfare check…

In recent years, cops have developed a nasty game of tricking sex workers into saying or doing weird things so the story is more sensational.

Gateway

Leave it to the authoritarian mentality to imagine a link between sex work and barroom brawls:

…the Arctic Ranger…pub was at the centre of an investigation into claims a group of Hungarian women were being forced to work as prostitutes inside the bar…no one was prosecuted [but]…the claims [were used as grounds]…for closing the pub in June 2013 [anyway].  A licensing committee hearing was told the pub had become almost lawless after a spate of violent attacks…problems included…a victim suffering injuries to his eye and nose…[and] a fractured jaw…a [cop] suffering leg injuries after being struck by a thrown glass…a woman being assaulted…A fight involving 20 people…a man having his head stamped on…

Surplus Women 

Cops threaten and harass sex workers, and disbelieve us when we try to give them information, then they disclaim responsibility when this happens:

A London [Ontario] sex worker says she warned police someone could die after she was choked, sexually assaulted and held against her will in the home of [Oluwatobi Boyede, who is] now accused of murder.  But police didn’t believe her…and as a result…a second woman was assaulted and a third is dead.  “I told them everything.  They did nothing,” she said…“The cops treated me like I brought it on myself…They didn’t charge him.  They treated me like a piece of shit…They did not want to hear what I was saying.  What happened to the second girl and (homicide victim) Josie Glenn didn’t have to happen.”  Her story may be the most damning indictment of police as questions grow about how…they approach violence against women, especially sex workers…

The Sky is Falling!

I find it difficult to believe that so many women made it through university without knowing anyone who did some kind of sex work:

The student debt crisis in the US has gotten so bad, there’s a growing group of young women…who are taking an unconventional approach to paying for college.  Through…websites like SeekingArrangement, Sugar Babies…partner up with wealthy, often older, men who want to spend money on them.  Some 2.5 million Sugar Babies identified as students in 2016 on SeekingArrangement.com…Sugar Babies go to dinners, attend events, or accompany their Sugar Daddy, or daddies, on trips.  In some cases, they provide companionship or foster a mentor-mentee relationship.  In other situations, the terms of the agreement include physical intimacy…

“Unconventional”?  Really?  Young women having sex with older men in exchange for support is practically the definition of “conventional”.  If anything, it’s the pretense that this is something new and unusual that is “unconventional”.

A Broker in Pillage (#508)

The quaint non-“law enforcement” term for this is “blackmail”:

Denver cab driver Semere Fremichael got caught up in an undercover prostitution sting.  He was innocent—he thought she wanted a ride, not sex for pay—and was acquitted by a judge.  His taxi, however, got taken for a rough ride.  Denver’s Fox affiliate has an excellent two-part investigation showing how the city attorney’s office is using civil asset forfeiture to cash in by snatching vehicles…for…low-level crimes…even when their owners aren’t convicted.  In 2016, Denver made more than $2.4 million, seizing more than 1,800 vehicles…Denver put the screws to Fremichael…offering him a civil version of a plea deal:  He could get the car back in 30 days if he gave them $1,000.  Or he could demand a civil hearing.  If he lost, it would cost him $6,000 and he could lose the car for a year.  He took the deal, and says he probably lost an additional $2,500 because he couldn’t use his cab for a month, even though he committed no crime…

Subtle Pimping (#587)

When it comes to profiting from sex workers’ images while giving us nothing, fashion designers are among the worst offenders:

…The very prevalence of [stereotyped sex worker] images, overworked as they may be, is a testament to their durability…the clothes we wear, or might like to wear, owe a very real debt to the world’s most ancient profession.  “Fashion…is influenced by hookers,” said Anna Terrazas, costume designer of The Deuce.  “It’s not the other way around”…“There is an untold history of the relationship between sex workers and fashion,” said Rebecca Arnold, a fashion historian…working women routinely took up what their respectable contemporaries shunned as too showy, tasteless or new…

The Prudish Giant (#703) 

Facebook can’t even follow its own “standards”:

Facebook has blocked the sale of a pack of Christmas cards featuring a robin redbreast because of its “sexual” and “adult” nature.  The artist, Jackie Charley, said she “could not stop laughing” when she discovered the reason the social media company would not approve the product…The bird…was one of three designs painted by Charley of animals in the snow…The others were a stag and a squirrel…Charley said she was sent the message: “It looks like we didn’t approve your item because we don’t allow the sale of adult items or services”…Charley said…“There’s obviously nothing in the images themselves which is inappropriate.  Similarly, there were no ‘trigger’ words used in the cards’ descriptions that I’m aware of.  For instance, the robin card was simply called ‘Robin’, not ‘Robin Redbreast’ as some people have wondered”…she [has] not had any direct response from Facebook, but the interest generated from the gaffe had led to a lifting of the initial ban…

A Woman’s Point of View (#706) 

Don’t get too excited that the New Hampshire legislature is “Establishing a committee to study decriminalizing sex work“; one of the sponsors has made comments in which the unmistakable stench of the Swedish rot is clearly present.  But we’ll see.

Between the Ears (#722) 

Have a device that connects to the internet? Assume it can be used to spy on you:

…a Reddit user pointed out that Hong Kong-based sex toy company Lovense’s remote control vibrator app…recorded a use session without their knowledge.  An audio file lasting six minutes was stored in the app’s local folder.  The user says he or she gave the app access to the mic and camera but only to use with the in-app chat function and to send voice clips on command — not constant recording when in use.  Other users confirmed this app behavior, too.  A user claiming to represent Lovense responded and called this recording a “minor bug” that only affects Android users.  Lovense also says no information or data was sent to the company’s servers, and that this audio file exists only temporarily.  An update issued [last week] should fix the bug…

The Mote and the Beam (#789)

Another probable casualty of the War on Whores:

…The Wikipedia we know today simply would not exist without Section 230.  User-driven projects could not thrive if websites were subject to greater liability for user content, and certainly could not be supported by a small nonprofit organization like the Wikimedia Foundation.  For that reason, we have…serious concerns about…SESTA and other amendments to Section 230.  That’s why our Executive Director emphasized Section 230’s importance for Wikipedia’s hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors in a recent campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and why we submitted a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee expressing the importance of Section 230 for the Wikimedia projects.  The current bill does not reflect the careful balance that preserves small, nonprofit community projects like Wikipedia…

Bottom Feeder

At the beginning of September I got an email from a bottom-feeder who takes money from escorts to write fake reviews.  Naturally, I replied with a blast of “How dare you!”, “Don’t you know who I am?” and “Fuck you, you fucking fuckwad, I wouldn’t need fake reviews even if I wanted to be on TER, which I don’t.”  The reply?  Unctuous flattery about how the offer was only open to the best, most “upscale” girls (in which case, why do they need it?) and pretended offense that I would claim this unethical scam was unethical.  At the time, I bitched on Twitter but decided not to give the sleazebag business by calling attention to him.  But a few days ago he sent me his “offer” again, and this time I really blew my stack and promised to call attention to this.  Here are the highlights of the email, with his contact info and a lot of repetition removed.

Saw your ad online and wanted to tell you that you look beautiful.  I want to give you best reviews out there with top rankings.  My approach is proven to help you make more money, attracting new clients, by Sharing positive experiences.  Placing you above the competition…I write TER and Eccie reviews.  We never have to actually meet, That’s it!  The stories I write are full-detailed and believable…Will do as many as you want from various profiles.  You can even write your own and I will post it for you…I will not post for new providers, or any TER profile I deem to be skeptical [sic]…Please do not ask me for TER Handle’s [sic] I post from to read my review’s [sic], it is a breach of my security and my clients [sic]…I charge $150 for 1 or 2 for $275.  Paid via Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum only.  I will not discuss any other form of payment, so please do not ask…time lines for posting up to ten reviews will be outlined safely, as not to draw attention from TER support…Don’t wait this rare opportunity won’t be here much longer…If you do not agree with this service please do not respond, also please do not post this to Twitter.  Too [sic] all the Grumpy Girls over at FCKTER, FCKP411, & Escort Union PLEASE get a fucking clue, NO ONE wants an UNREVIEWED PROVIDER.  Stop fighting the very system that keeps us all safe.  I don’t work with anyone who isn’t known in our community, and would never jeopardize the safety or the security of the referencing system that is widely used by everyone…this is 10000% discreet and confidential…

Reviews don’t keep sex workers safe; they keep clients safe.  But even that’s not true any more, considering that prosecutors are now using reviews as “evidence” of “promoting prostitution” (i.e. pimping).  And given TER’s policy of not removing demonstrably-false reviews (including this dude’s, unless this is a total scam, of course), the system can actually harm escorts by allowing enemies to plant fake bad reviews to hurt her business, and by allowing cops to write fake reviews so as to establish credibility with which to infiltrate our community.  I haven’t allowed reviews for a while now, and I’m not alone; many ladies don’t any more, some for reasons I’ve already mentioned and some from a general distaste for the whole thing.  Guys, there are better ways to select an escort than buying into a system which can be gamed by bottom-feeders like this dude and used by pigs to destroy your life.  And ladies, please don’t enrich scum-suckers in hope of gaming a broken, abusive, increasingly-dangerous system.

The Anxiety Trap

I have intense fear of socializing and being vulnerable with other people, especially other women; men can be “intense” for me and so I fear them too, even though I know it’s irrational.  This may seem stupid, but I feel helpless and trapped.  Do you have any advice?

I’m sorry I’ve taken a week to answer you; I’ve been pretty rushed and I wanted to take the time to give you a proper answer.  Well, that’s not entirely honest; I haven’t just been busy, I’ve also been suffering from pretty severe anxiety and feelings of sorrow.  I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that you aren’t alone.  Many people, even people you respect and think of as wise or heroic, suffer from these kinds of feelings.  Now, the feelings aren’t always directed toward the same things; for example, I have no problem at all with socializing, but like you I have a great deal of trouble with allowing myself to be vulnerable with people I love (so forget it with strangers).  The feeling persists even with people who have never done anything to justify it; it’s a feeling born inside of me, fed by decades of frustrating social & familial interactions dating back to my childhood.  And yes, I feel very stupid about it, especially because everyone thinks I’m so strong and tough and they can’t imagine why I should be this way.

But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t stupid, not at all; it’s the way you’re wired.  I don’t know whether this is due to trauma or biochemistry (some anxiety disorders are neurological & have nothing to do with life experiences), but in either case I think you could probably benefit from therapy.  I’m not promising you it will be easy to find one; you may have to try a few before locating one who will understand you and whom you can trust (this is even more so for sex workers).  But I think it’s worth the effort.  The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has a list of “kink-aware professionals”, and at the bottom of that list you’ll find other links that may be helpful; you didn’t say you were kinky, but most professionals who are non-judgmental of kink will also be non-judgmental of sex work.  If you can’t find anyone on that list you might also try AASECT, but please be aware that many therapists in that list are NOT sex-positive despite setting themselves forth as therapists specializing in sexuality.  It’s also possible that medications may help; some people benefit from daily anti-anxiety medications, while others do better on take-as-needed medications like Xanax (or even cannabis, if you have a consistent source).  But even if you and your doctor decide meds are not the best option, just being able to talk to someone non-judgmental can do a world of good.

I wish you all the best, and I sincerely want you to write me back to keep me posted on how things go for you.  Above all, please understand that you aren’t alone, you aren’t weird, and your suffering isn’t hopeless.

(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.)