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Mabon 2017

The apparent path of the sun will cross the celestial equator southbound at 20:02 UTC today, making this the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and the first of spring in the Southern.  This is the time of harvest, when plans come to fruition; it is also the harbinger of the time of rest, especially for Daughters of Darkness like myself who are exhausted and overstimulated by the long days of summer.  But even if you’re not a fan of the growing gloom, I hope you can enjoy the cooler days and hold summer in your heart while waiting for its return, just as I wait patiently through the long, bright days for the time that best reflects my inner landscape.

Blessed Be!

Julie Bindel, the well-known British “feminist” and prohibitionist, likes to call herself a journalist; however, I can think of a few more apt labels:  Huckster.  Charlatan.  Fruitcake.  And most of all, lazy twit who can’t even keep track of her own lies.  She’s been hawking a new book for a while now, but despite the help of a major UK newspaper giving her plenty of free column-inches in which to vomit out her regurgitated feces, it looks as though it’s going to flop in a big way.  And though I lack the intellectual endurance to even scan her overpriced doorstop, fortunately my friend Brooke Magnanti has far more critical wherewithall than I do, and was happy to volunteer this synopsis so none of y’all have to bother touching it, either.

This week Julie Bindel releases a new text which I have been privileged to see an advance copy of.  Unlike her previous efforts it’s aimed more at a scholarly market than a popular one, with aspirations to be a summary of investigations into sex workers’ organizations.  The newspaper coverage in Britain has been unescapable in the run-up to its release, with Bindel herself penning vicious invectives against sex workers in all the major papers.  Bindel initially crowdfunded the book to the tune of £7000.  Backers could pay £250 for the honor of having lunch with the woman herself (ironic when criminalized sex workers are also often forced to advertise their services as “lunch dates”).  On top of this, the book had an advance from Palgrave, so the punters end up paying twice.  The title, The Pimping of Prostitution, is ironic given anti-sex work crusades demonstrably attract and spend far more money than shoestring operations like rights orgs do; it is offered at an eye-watering $39.99 for the paperback (and an unbelievable $37.99 for the Kindle edition).  But while supporters paid a premium for the content, does the book deliver?

In a word:  no.  While advertised as a scholarly work it lacks any academic rigor.  Most of the references are self-citations of privately published reviews written by Bindel and Melissa Farley.  Peer review?  What peer review?  A few debunked statistics are trotted out as well.  There is no content of note here, which is unsurprising given Bindel’s most famous quote is that if given a gun and forced to choose between shooting a pimp and an academic, she would shoot the academic.  Bindel claims to have interviewed 250 people in 40 countries about sex work – by her own admission they are journalist friends of hers, police, and “regular members of the public who knew very little, if anything, about the sex trade”.  If this were a middle school project it would be laughed out of class for its utter lack of quality.  She notes in the acknowledgments that “the other side” trusted her to “represent their words and views fairly”.  Is that so?  She has called legalization and decriminalization the same thing when they are not.  Despite being told many times sex workers support decriminalization, not legalization, Julie is too dishonest to admit this, setting up a straw (wo)man and knocking it down over and over.

She states over and over again that there is a “pro-prostitution lobby”.  Who?  She never exactly says and cannot produce any paper trail.  That is for the simple reason that it is she and her friends who are lobbying politicians, setting up All Party Parliamentary Groups stuffed with MPs who want to see more women imprisoned, and paying for events to try to sway lawmakers to their ideology.  The other side, such as it is, is sex workers unpaid for standing up for their rights, and a handful of front-line organizations trying desperately to make sure any sense is heard in the prohibitionist din.  In any case, the claim she interviewed sex work activists is false; she has not so much interviewed her opponents as hand-selected people uninvolved in activism or sex work.  Why are her lengthy conversations with Peter Tatchell about gay men and the age of consent here, if not to stoke pedophilia fears on the back of homophobia?  Why does she place so much importance on tearing down sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim, whose area of research this is not?  How is politician Keith Vaz’s relationship with male escorts related to violence against women?  A few contextless quotes from Conner Habib and Janet Mock are thrown in to prove – well, it’s not clear what, actually.  It’s a mystery:  a bunch of unconnected hit jobs padding out an otherwise shoddy book.  The rest is a collection of personal anecdotes, old feminists she once met, and so on.  She also details the time in the ’70s she was pen-friends with imprisoned sex worker Emma Humphreys, while dodging the question of why the laws she supports would still put women like Emma in jail.

When discussing sex workers condescension drips from every sentence and it is clear she is used to having the floor to herself.  Unable to take criticism or debate (the launch party for her book at “independent intellectual venue” Conway Hall expressly forbade sex work activists), disgusted by the humans she so profitably claims to save.  Her schtick would be funny if it didn’t have real and damaging repercussions on people’s lives.  But the main takeaway from the book is its desperation.  The money she raised appears to have gone towards an all-expenses-paid international jaunt with only the slenderest of results to show for it.  The text reads less like a new movement and more like a last gasp.  If this is Bindel’s final shot at the history books than let it also be the epitaph for her career.  Here lies prohibition: illogical, illiberal, and entirely without merit.

If you want real scholarship about sex work, including hard-hitting debunking of Bindel’s lies (and those of her cronies), please purchase Brooke’s new book Sex, Lies and Statistics (with a foreword by yours truly).  And until Monday evening, Brooke is donating 100% of the profits from ALL preorders globally to SWOP Behind Bars, the nonprofit organization which specializes in helping the women Bindel and her ilk want to keep locking up in cages.

In the News (#775)

[Current law] leaves the door open for prosecutors to go after any teens who sext.  –  Doug Honig

Saving Them From Themselves

“Progressive” Washington state reaffirms its “liberal” views on sex:

…the Washington State Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a 17-year-old who sent a dick pic.  The court found that state law allows him to be convicted for distributing child porn, even when the photo he sent was of himself.  Legal advocates…[warned] that the ruling…make[s] it possible for prosecutors to charge sexting teens with crimes that will follow them for the rest of their lives…In an amicus brief…the ACLU of Washington, Columbia Legal Services, TeamChild, and the Juvenile Law Center argued that upholding the teen’s conviction is a “strained and erroneous interpretation” of child porn laws that “would jeopardize thousands of minors…by criminalizing…common and normative adolescent behavior.”  The groups said the teenager’s conviction runs counter to the [supposed] intent behind the law, which is to [supposedly] protect children from exploitation, not convict them for taking pictures of their own bodies…

The civil rights groups’ statement is highly disingenuous; the intent of such laws isn’t to “protect” anyone, but to punish people for sexual behavior of which “authorities” disapprove.

Surplus Women 

When a sex worker dies, the media treats it as a form of lurid entertainment:

Sarah Woods…of Portsmouth, [Ohio]…[was] found dead [on August 22nd]…Wood’s death was quickly a popular topic on social media…Woods had a long history of drug abuse and prostitution.  She had also lost many of those closest to her to drug abuse…Woods was still actively prostituting and using crack cocaine…[family members] saw Woods leave with an unidentified man that had helped set up clients…for Woods…

Legal Is as Legal Does

The difference between legalization and decriminalization cannot be stated too often:

…campaigners for criminalisation…often use the terms “legalisation” and “decriminalisation” interchangeably as if ignorant of their enormous differences.  Legalisation holds sway in Nevada, Amsterdam and Germany, automatically criminalising any who do not comply with the regulatory regime – this may include those unwilling to register with the state, undergo high cost compulsory frequent medical checks or who wish to work in their own premises rather than large venues controlled by someone else.  Decriminalisation, the removal of laws relating to consensual adult sexual behaviour, has been instituted nationwide only in New Zealand…

Signs (#650)

Beware of hotels eager to suck the cocks of “authorities”:

…two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix [are] routinely sending in leads to…Immigration and Customs Enforcement…”We send a report every morning to ICE—all the names of everybody that comes in,” a front-desk clerk told the [Phoenix] New Times…court documents show that “between February and August, ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at Motel 6s, showing up roughly every two weeks” while there was a distinct lack of “records indicating that ICE conducted arrests at other local motels during this same time period”…Motel 6 has a history of nationwide narc-ery, as documented by the American Civil Liberties Union in a 2015 statement about the chain’s habit of collaboration with local police…

One Born Every Minute (#685) 

It’s always a pleasure to see whore-raping scum thrown in prison:

Mario Ambrose Antoine, a Kansas City-area man who posed as an adult producer and talent agent to [rape] women…and film them, was sentenced…to 10 years in federal prison without parole…Antoine told the women, who signed contracts and modeling release forms…that they would be paid thousands of dollars for their auditioning and modeling activity…when the women complained about not being paid, Antoine forwarded images of their sexual activity to their employers or significant others…

Wise Investment (#717)

Sex workers, clients & everyone else harmed by “prostitution stings” needs to keep suing over them:

…An arbitrator has awarded $17.5 million to a former Swedish Health neurosurgeon who says he was fired in retaliation for questioning the practices of another top surgeon.  Dr. David Newell lost his job a year ago, and Swedish contends he was fired for failing to notify the organization that he had been arrested and jailed in a Seattle prostitution sting…“For this arbitrator to award Dr. Newell $17.5 million — at a time when…there is a [moral panic about imaginary]…sex trafficking and…[adult] women [are making their own sexual decisions] — is unconscionable and outrageous,” said Swedish’s CEO, Dr. Guy Hudson…Newell contends the prostitution issue was used as cover to get rid of him after he had raised internal concerns about Dr. Johnny Delashaw, a star surgeon who…had his state license suspended

Until the Establishment suffers more from each “sting” than the victims do, such evil scams will never stop.

Too Close To Home (#729)

I hope this rapist spends the rest of his life on the “sex offender” registry:

For five months, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray rejected calls for his resignation [after it became known that]…he sexually abused teens decades before entering politics.  But…he announced his resignation [last] Tuesday…after news emerged that a younger cousin was publicly accusing Murray of molesting him in…the 1970s…Since the [facts] began to emerge in April, Murray has continued to [pretend] he is innocent…

Yes, this is the kind of sociopath who thinks he has the right to persecute adult men for seeking consensual sex.  If there’s any justice in the world John Urquhart, Dan Satterberg and Val Richey will be joining him in the same prison.

To Molest and Rape (#731) 

When the molester is a cop, sexual assault becomes “interfering with civil rights”:

Cleveland [cop] Kenneth Bolton Jr. pleaded guilty to charges including gross sexual imposition as well as misdemeanor interfering with civil rights in a plea deal that allowed a kidnapping charge to be dropped…Bolton pulled over two women…after [being tipped off about their looks by]…another [cop]…Bolton used a sex toy [that he found by illegally searching their car] to rub their genitals over their clothing…he will now have to register as a sex offender.  He will also no longer be able to serve as a [cop in Ohio, though he’ll probably be hired elsewhere]…

At least he’ll be on the “sex offender” registry, which rapist cops usually escape.

A Broker in Pillage (#750)

It looks like Congress is split on whether it’s OK for pigs to rob citizens blind:

…the House of Representatives…approved an amendment to [an]…Appropriations Act that will roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s expansion of asset forfeiture.  Amendment No. 126 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, led by Rep. Justin Amash…Sessions revived the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allowed state and local police agencies to [steal] assets and then give them to the federal government — which would in turn give a chunk back to local police.  This served as a way for these local agencies to [openly violate] state laws designed to limit asset forfeiture…Rep. Don Beyer…[said] “Civil asset forfeiture…creates a perverse incentive to seek profits over justice.”  The amendment passed with a voice vote, meaning it had overwhelming support…

The Mote and the Beam (#773)

What might the internet look like if SESTA isn’t stopped?

…With the threat of overwhelming criminal and civil liability hanging over their heads, Internet platforms would likely turn to automated filtering of users’ speech in a big way.  That’s bad news because when platforms rely too heavily on automated filtering, it almost always results in some voices being silenced.  And the most marginalized voices in society can be the first to disappear…The modern Internet is a complex system of online intermediaries…which we use to speak out and communicate with each other.  Those platforms are all enabled by Section 230, a law that protects platforms from some types of liability for their users’ speech.  Without those protections, most online intermediaries would not exist in their current form; the risk of liability would simply be too high…SESTA would…shift…additional liability to intermediaries.  Many online communities would have little choice but to mitigate that risk by investing heavily in policing their members’ speech…

Diary #377

Grace and Chekhov left for their last full run to Oklahoma on Friday, and barring another delay will arrive tonight; for the next two days they’ll be preparing for the return trip, which will be a marathon because they’re going to have the animals with them and we don’t think it’s a good idea to have them cooped up in the trailer for more than two days, even with the ventilation windows.  After that, I can sell the big trailer to recoup some of my costs; everything remaining will be able to fit in the bed of the truck and the small trailer that’s currently sitting in storage.  It’ll be nice for my income to start going someplace other than petroleum companies, auto repair & parts businesses and tire stores (not to mention hotels) again, such as building-material stores and the like.  But when I’m finally done with fixing the place up, it should be a lovely little country retreat for Grace to live in and me to visit when I get the time.  For those of you who are thinking about this for the first time: yep.  I’m spending all this money and effort on a place where I’ll probably spend less than 40 hours a month, if that.  But Grace will be there full-time, and friends in need of a retreat will have a place to go, and I’ll have a place I can spend holidays in when the mood strikes.  Hell, maybe I’ll even get a license & let Grace grow cannabis there; I certainly have the room (and a dear friend who happens to have connections in the industry so I can find buyers).  Well, we’ll see; the important thing is that I’m finally putting down roots, as I’ve longed to do for over 30 years.  And that to me is far more precious than money.

Divination

Since the beginning of civilization, “authorities” have lusted for the magical ability to divine which of the peons might be disobeying their diktats.  Primitive cultures often believed in trials by ordeal, in which the guilty would be revealed by failing certain tests (presumably because the favor of the gods was believed to be necessary to pass these tests).  There were literally hundreds of these in various cultures and times, of which the best-known is probably throwing an accused witch into a pond; if the water “rejected” her (i.e. she managed to stay afloat despite being bound) she must be “impure” and therefore a witch, but if the water “accepted” her (i.e. she sank) she was innocent of the charge, despite being drowned.  As time went on, “scientific” methods of detection replaced more openly mystical ones; that is to say, the various mumbo-jumbo rituals “authorities” used to make people into “criminals” were explained to the masses with pseudoscientific claptrap rather than nonsense about spirits, mana, divinely-revealed knowledge or whatever.  The nineteenth century brought us “scientific” advances in criminal detection such as phrenology and criminological physiognomy, led by brilliant scholars like Cesare Lombruso who

…claimed that all prostitutes, without exception, had receding foreheads and large jaws, and that some had “exaggerated” growth of the labia or clitoris.  He…claimed…that “primitive” African and American Indian women shared these same features, thus demonstrating that whores were more like “savages” than like highly-evolved Europeans.  And since prostitutes were primitive they were also stupid, and thus incompetent to make their own decisions…

Of course, as time went on cops and prosecutors embraced far more dependable “evidence” of criminality, such as winking, possession of condoms, walking on certain streets and the type (or lack) of underwear.  And the outrageously-racist rhetoric of Lombruso and his ilk were replaced by more subtle (but still purely racist) excuses for targeting black people.  “Forensic science” gave cops tools like bite-mark analysis, recovered memories and “signs” that an infant was shaken to death; these were used to send hundreds of innocent people to rot in cages, despite being no better at detecting “criminals” than sacrificing a goat and examining its entrails.  The “War on Drugs” introduced new lows in evidentiary standards, such as “field tests” that routinely mistake substances such as spices, cookies, oil, soap and candy for “illegal drugs”, and “drug dogs” who actually “alert” to whatever their handlers want them to “alert” to rather than whatever might actually be there.  But the myth of the magic super-dog who can detect anything has become so entrenched in porcine mythology that cops will believe dogs can detect virtually anything, including electronically-stored ones and zeros, and they expect courts and the public to believe it as well:

…the feds are…[now] training dogs to sniff out…child pornography.  No kidding:  “‘Today we’re announcing a new weapon in the war against child…exploitation’, [Delaware County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney Jack] Whelan said“…Charlie—a female yellow Labrador retriever—is an “‘electronic-detection forensic K-9’…[who] will be deployed with the Internet Crimes Against Children Pennsylvania Task Force, tasked with sniffing out small hidden electronics, from CD-ROMs to flash drives, in suspected predators’ homes“…Charlie is also a good friend to the cop, Nat Evans, who handles [her]…This sort of thing is, in a word, idiotic.  And unscientific.  As Jacob Sullum reported in 2013, dogs trained to sniff out contraband (in most cases, drugs) are wildly inaccurate and often poorly trained…reports you read about dogs being able to magically sniff out this or that substance are pharmaceutical-grade bunkum…”[Supreme Court Justice David] Souter said, ‘the infallible dog…is a creature of legal fiction’.  Souter cited examples of dogs accepted as reliable by courts that had error rates of up to…60 percent“…It turns out that dogs mostly respond to their handlers and routinely infer when they should alert on a car, or a school locker, or a piece of luggage…

But don’t worry, sex-haters and prohibition fans, you needn’t despair; even if porn-sniffing dogs are eventually proven to be as reliable as a politician’s promise, the South Koreans just sold a sooper-dooper porn-detecting machine to Uganda, and there are oodles of magical “algorithms” that purport to be able to detect at least a few of those hundreds of thousands of “child sex slaves” we’re told are hidden “in your own backyard”.  And even if those fall flat, US courts have repeatedly ruled that cop accusations based in their “training and experience” – copese for “bigotry and wild-ass guesses” – are just as good as dogs, field tests and “algorithms”.  And maybe even almost as good as weighing women against ducks to see if they’re really witches.

Links #376

I think that is an interesting attempt to cover their butts.  –  Adam Frank

Here’s another song that I considered my favorite at some point in childhood.  There are several interpretations of the lyrics; any of them present an interesting coincidence, given that I was much too young to have any idea of their meaning (I just liked Freda Payne’s voice and the way the song sounded musically).  The links above the video were provided by Eddie J CunninghamPatrick Nonwhite, ClarissaJesse WalkerMistress MatissePopehat, and Nun Ya, in that order.

From the Archives

In the News (#774)

The trade union movement has to decide whether it’s going to back workers…or…police.  –  Laura Watson

Monsters 

The Swedish model protects sex workers!

Last year, France passed [the Swedish model, under the pretense of]…protecting sex workers from prosecution, but…[as sex worker activists predicted] it is simply driving them further underground and exposing them to far more danger.  Transsexual prostitutes who work in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne…are disproportionately affected…

Prudesville 

A new twist in Everett, WA’s absurd “bikini barista” melodrama:

Bikini baristas…are suing [Everett] over its ban on serving “quick service” food and drinks with bare shoulders, midriffs, or upper thighs…a group of seven baristas and one coffee stand owner filed a federal lawsuit alleging a violation of their rights to free expression, privacy, due process, and equal protection…Everett isn’t claiming that the regulations serve any food safety or public health purposes…the point of the dress code is to prevent…baristas from giving customers a peep show for extra cash…Employee violations can lead to fines for business owners, along with a requirement to register for a special license (which the city can deny)…if the owners are judged to have “facilitated” the “lewd conduct,” they can be slapped with a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.  Essentially, Everett has created a crime similar to promoting prostitution—but for facilitating skimpy clothing…

Law of the Instrument (#560)

Picture what you’d think of as “sex trafficking”, then compare it to this:

A St. Louis man who was employed at a high school is facing child pornography and sex trafficking charges after police said he exchanged illicit texts with a 15-year-old male student at the school.  Michael A. West…told the [young man] he could get him an opportunity to make money for performing sexual acts…

Cases are this are why even some not-completely-stupid people believe that “sex trafficking” is increasing; “sex trafficking” charges certainly are.

Social Autoimmune Disorder (#594)

Add Dayton, Ohio to the cities mailing blatantly-unconstitutional “Dear John” letters to the registered addresses of vehicles passing through certain neighborhoods:

So far this year, the Dayton police Vice Unit has mailed 18 [threat letters] to the owners of vehicles that were spotted in areas [police claim to be] known for high levels of prostitution.  The letters are supposed to [scare] people [by claiming that wanting sex]…is a “serious offense” that carries potential…deadly disease and other sexually transmitted infections…[often] the recipients are spouses or business owners whose vehicles were in the possession of [others] when [cops decided to stick their noses into others’ business]…

To Molest and Rape 

The US government claims it takes reports of cops raping women seriously…as long as they’re not US cops:

…two U.S. students…were raped by Carabinieri policemen who [took] them home in a patrol car from a nightclub…three patrol cars went to a nightclub to investigate a fight.  Two cars left after calm was restored, but the third remained.  The women…told authorities that the [cops] drove them to their apartment building and raped them…witnesses…confirm[ed] they saw the women enter the patrol car…

Uncommon Sense (#669)

The IWW was the first major union to support sex workers rights, but it won’t be the last:

The GMB and ASLEF have come out in support of the full decriminalisation of sex work in Britain, the first major unions to do so…The unions, which have a combined membership of over 600,000, are calling for the UK to adopt full decriminalisation, similar to the approach adopted by New Zealand, which since 2003 has provided sex workers with legal protections…

The Pygmalion Fallacy (#687) 

“Sex robot” hysteria gets ever sillier:

A cybersecurity scientist has issued a bizarre warning that sex robots could one day rise up and kill their owners if hackers can get inside their heads…cybersecurity lecturer Dr. Nick Patterson [fantasized] that the lifelike dolls could end up going all “Terminator” on us…hackers could breach the realistic robots’ inner defenses and catch their owners with their pants down…

Does this idea seem familiar to regular readers?

The Widening Gyre (#735)

They finally realized they could expand the panic by adding male “sex slaves”:

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation [formerly “Morality in Media”], Washington College, and The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking held a historic press conference…to kick off the first ever symposium on the sexual exploitation harming boys and men.  The government, NGOs, and society at large have overlooked male victims of sexual exploitation, the organizations [pandered]…Haley Halverson…of…the [NCSE fantasized]…that [the] estimated range of male trafficking victims hovers in the hundreds of thousands”…

The NCSE is a fundamentalist Christian anti-porn organization which is also behind the recent tactic of getting conservative states to declare porn a “public health crisis”.

Comfort Zone (#769)

Sometimes the attempt to hide migration control behind the “sex trafficking” narrative is especially apparent:

…”It had been more than 10 years since Gari, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala…had seen his younger brother.  So he was surprised earlier this year when he received a call from a federal government agency telling him his teen brother had emigrated alone from the Central American country to the Arizona-Mexico border…the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services…asked Gari to take legal guardianship of his brother….officials [lied]…that it wouldn’t jeopardize his own safety….[but] Gari…was arrested…by federal immigration agents who had used his little brother as bait“…immigration attorney Yazmin Rodriguez…knows at least three other similar cases…ICE [pretends] using children fleeing violence as bait “[is] part of a broader mission to disrupt human trafficking”…

The Mote and the Beam (#773)

The odious Nick Kristof finds it “baffling and perplexing” that internet companies don’t want the internet destroyed by sociopathic politicians on a witch hunt:

Sex traffickers in America have…a…crucial (if secret) ally: Google…organizations it funds have for years been quietly helping Backpage.com, the odious website where most American [passive, vegetable] victims of human trafficking are sold, to battle lawsuits from [ambulance-chasers fantasizing that] children [are] sold there for sex.  Now Google is using its enormous lobbying power in Washington to try to kill bipartisan legislation that would [enable profiteers to sue]…websites that [they claim] promote sex trafficking [or virtually any other federal crime]…as Backpage fights off prosecutors and worries about the legislation, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, Google has emerged as its behind-the-scenes champion…

What I find “baffling and perplexing” is that so few people recognize “One-hand” Kristof’s BDSM masturbatory fantasies about underage girls for what they are.