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In the News (#896)

In the minds of the regulate-and-incarcerate crowd, it is much better to treat unsolicited butt or genital sightings with the same intensity as we do matters of national security.  –  Elizabeth Nolan Brown

The Course of a Disease

The Swedish rot has reached Spain:

The Spanish government is proposing a spate of new legal measures to [persecute] prostitut[es].  These include penalizing clients who solicit for sex and punishing landlords who make properties available to sex workers.  Further measures would also look to prosecute [people cops decide to label] traffickers…and…decriminalizing [sex workers, even though they are not currently criminalized]…Sex work is…neither illegal nor regulated [in Spain] but Prime Minister Sanchez came to power in June with a strongly [misogynist] agenda and promising to fight the e[mployment and sexual autonomy] of women…

Traffic Jam (#694) 

24 years of state-inflicted torture finally end for the San Antonio 4:

…Judge Catherine Torres-Stahl handed out orders…expunging the records of Elizabeth Ramirez…Cassandra Rivera…Kristie Mayhugh …and Anna Vasquez…all government agencies that house information on criminal charges, indictments, arrests or convictions related to the cases in which the women were found innocent must seal or destroy the records.  The women consistently maintained their innocence from that day 24 years ago when Ramirez’s nieces, then ages 7 and 9, accused the women of brutalizing them while on a weekend visit…After the women served nearly 15 years in prison, one of the nieces publicly recanted.  She said family members upset that her aunt had come out as a lesbian told her to lie.  So did her father, who…was upset that Ramirez had spurned his advances…it was also shown that [bogus] science helped support the charge…each of them…[has] receive[d] state compensation of about $80,000 for each year they were imprisoned — a little more than $1 million apiece…

Too Close To Home (#760)

Another exercise in cop-fellation and myth-regurgitation masquerading as journalism:

…Charles Peters…[of] the self-titled “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”…was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine after a jury convicted him in October of nine counts of second-degree promoting prostitution.  Peters…is appealing his conviction…[and free on] $75,000 bond while his appeal is pending…

Though she didn’t write that moronic headline (“Ringleader”?  Who the fuck uses that word with a straight face any more? Has the editor been watching ’30s gangster movies?), Sara Jean Green still needs to be ashamed of herself for this garbage, especially considering that I know for a fact she has the phone numbers of several prominent Seattle sex workers (including mine).  Prohibitionists claim what I do for money is “demeaning”, but I don’t have to infantilize peaceful women, demonize peaceful men, or lionize violent thugs.

Check Your Premises (#809)

Despite some conciliatory language and ground-ceding, this is a good article:

…the Tucson Weekly accessed a spreadsheet of all [Southern Arizona “sex trafficking”] investigations in the three years since the beginning of the grant and found 10 people who were convicted of trafficking and related crimes.  Out of 516 investigations…[only] 23 people were categorized as arrested for trafficking…of those 23…[only] 14 were [actually] charged with trafficking [or] other sex crimes…Of the 14…10 people were convicted or took plea deals, three have ongoing court cases and one committed suicide after being released on bail…[only] two cases resemble the mainstream narrative of a…[woman] forced to commit commercial sex acts against her will…In one case, a drunk, 71-year-old registered sex-offender in a wheelchair persistently and crudely offered a 14-year-old girl money for sexual favors at a bus stop…In another case, a man offered to pay three 15-year-old boys and one girl to [perform] sex acts in front of him.  Some of the cases involve runaways…In other cases, the…[so-called] trafficker [was the sex worker’s] friend or boyfriend…The spreadsheet indicates 52 misdemeanor arrests related to prostitution or not having an escort license…

Traffic in Nonsense (#831)

Anti-whore indoctrination has wholly infested the US trucking industry:

…Kendis Paris…of Truckers Against Trafficking…is one member of the 15-person Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking, which was developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation in October.  The group’s goal is to develop strategies for [encouraging truck drivers to snitch on sex workers]…The committee includes leaders of [rescue industry] organizations…[anti-whore propagandists] and representatives of the trucking, bus, rail, aviation, maritime and port industries…Truckers Against Trafficking leads [indoctrination] programs and distributes [propaganda] materials to various sectors of the industry…About 40 states have adopted aspects of Truckers Against Trafficking’s [indoctrination] model.  The group has worked with [pigs] who give [propaganda] wallet cards to truck drivers…

Imaginary Victims (#839)

Even by despicable modern US standards, this is an incredibly evil ruling:

A woman who was 16 when she killed a Nashville man who [assaulted] her…must serve at least 51 years in prison before she’s eligible for release, according to the Tennessee Supreme Court…The court’s five justices were unanimous in their decision against Brown, who was convicted of killing a…[client] in 2004 when he [roughed her up and]…she feared he would kill her…Brown argues her sentence is unconstitutional, citing a 2012 opinion by the US Supreme Court that said mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders violate the US Constitution…

Brown’s only chance now is the outgoing Tennessee governor, who can pardon her and commute her sentence.

Shame, Shame (#853)

New York just won’t stop trying to subject nude-pic-posters to police violence:

Under [New York politician Joseph] Borrelli’s measure, it would be a misdemeanor offense “to send an unsolicited sexually explicit video or image to another person with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm such other person,” punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.  Sexually explicit means anything showing “genitals, pubic area or anus of any person”…It’s already illegal for adults to send sexually explicit images to minors…[and] already illegal…to harass someone, stalk them, or threaten them.  So sending sexually explicit images “with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” could already be prosecuted under another statute, provided there actually is evidence of harassing or threatening intent.  What that leaves us with is basically a way for anyone to press charges against anyone who sends them a sexualized image…The measure would provide plenty of opportunity for jilted lovers to get even with criminal charges…The opportunity is also ripe for abuse against sex workers who advertise online, whether by those who enjoy harassing them for sport (as with last week’s so-called ThotAudit), by customers who feel slighted, or by law enforcement…

A Broker in Pillage (#858)

With any luck, SCOTUS will shut down this extortion scheme and others like it:

A Detroit woman [named Crystal Sisson] is suing Wayne County, Michigan, after police [stole] her car [because she bought] $10 worth of [legal] marijuana…[from] a [licensed] Detroit medical marijuana dispensary…the sheriff’s deputies cited her for “illegally occupying a place where controlled substances are sold” and seized her 2015 Kia Soul…To get her car back, Sisson had to pay the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office $1,200 to settle the forfeiture case, a typical practice in the county…the Supreme Court is currently considering a similar asset forfeiture case, Timbs v. Indiana, that revolves around the case of Tyson Timbs, whose Land Rover, worth $41,000, was seized after he sold two grams of heroin to a [narc]…Court watchers strongly suspect the Supreme Court will incorporate the Eighth Amendment, making the Excessive Fines clause apply to states.  Sisson is only one of hundreds of Wayne County residents who’ve been surveilled, pulled over, had their car [stolen], and been forced to pay out more than $1,000 to get it back, all for visiting legal, state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries…

Banishment (#870) 

Caging people permanently, without trial or sentence:

…William Welsh has a number of convictions for child molestation and sexual abuse dating back to 1979.  In 2011 he was no longer in custody, having served his required prison and probationary sentences. He was, however, required to register on Oregon’s Sex Offender Registry because of his prior convictions.  When he traveled to Belize in 2011 and failed to update the address listed on his registration, he was charged, and pled guilty, to violating…registration requirements – a felony – and he was sentenced to 673 days in prison.  A few weeks prior to his release, the Attorney General designated him a “sexually dangerous person”; the reviewing court agreed, and he was [indefinitely] committed…In 2016, however, his conviction (for having failed to update his registration) was vacated, after the Supreme Court, in US v. Nichols, 136 S.Ct. 113, held that SORNA did not require a person to update his registration when he was traveling to a foreign country.  So he petitioned for a release from custody, arguing that because he had not lawfully been “in custody” of the Bureau of Prisons…he could not, lawfully, have been subject to the commitment proceeding for “sexually dangerous persons” in the first place.  But his request for release was denied, first by the federal district court and then by the 4th Circuit

Surplus Women (#873) 

Let’s play a game:  Is this a rationalization of cop behavior or serial killer behavior?

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been charged with capital murder after telling investigators he killed four female sex workers because he considered them worthless and that he thought he was doing something good for his Texas border city…[the] prosecutor said…he will seek the death penalty if Juan David Ortiz is found guilty…

Feminine Pragmatism (#892) 

Dreams“. How old is the imbecile who writes this shit? Eight?

…Escalona was one of at least 41 Venezuelan women murdered abroad from February 2017 to this November.  They had fled Venezuela’s economic turmoil. They left their homeland with dreams.  Some were forced into prostitution.  All met death…

No.  These women weren’t “following dreams” like refugees from a fucking Hallmark card; they were trying to survive by fleeing a collapsing socialist dictatorship.  They were not naive children like so many American women; they were adults who had to take risks thanks to authoritarians criminalizing their pragmatic choice to cross borders to work.  And since criminalization attracts criminals, sometimes they lost those gambles.  The villains here aren’t imaginary “trafficking rings”; they’re the fucking politicians who force desperate people to deal with criminals to have a chance to escape hell.

Disaster (#893)

I’m not sure how much this will help, but it certainly can’t hurt:

…the new platform Tribunus has allowed web users to weigh in on critical issues when petitions and digital comments are no longer viable steps.  On Tribunus’ simple site, US residents can contact legislators directly by placing a phone call, sending them a fax, or — if their fax machine is turned off — quickly sending them a paper letter instead.  Tribunus’ creator, a Bay Area programmer who asked to be identified as Michael, said he first launched the platform to help defeat a legal measure threatening California sex workers (successfully, after protests and hundreds of letters).  Later on, he added pages addressing immigrant family separation and net neutrality…

The Prudish Giant (#895) 

Facebook turns the dial on its anti-sex “standards” up to 11:

Facebook just…adopted…new “sexual solicitation” rules…[that] ban “implicit sexual solicitation”including the use of sexual slang, the solicitation of nude images, discussion of “sexual partner preference,” and even expressing interest in sex…the new policy [even] bars “vague suggestive statements, such as ‘looking for a good time tonight’”…discussion of sexual exploitation is allowed, but discussion of consensual, adult sex is taboo.  That’s a classic censorship model: speech about sexuality being permitted only when sex is presented as dangerous and shameful…such…rules can incentivize abuse from…bad actors…[including] state actors…This process gives the user no meaningful opportunity to appeal a bad decision.  Given the rules’ focus on sexual interests and activities, it’s easy to imagine who would be the easiest targets:  sex workers…[and] members of the LGBTQ community…

From the way these rules are worded, they seem to even ban bland statements like “I’m lesbian” (which is “expressing sexual partner preference”).

Signal Boost

I’ve been asked to signal boost two messages for sex workers from organizations in our community, both of which provide opportunities to help yourself and other sex workers at the same time.  The first is about an essay contest from the ad website Slixa:

The passage of SESTA/FOSTA earlier this year…threatens the safety and livelihood of providers all across the world.  In an effort to gauge the impact of this law and how targeted communities might be helped, Slixa is announcing a call for essay submissions about the impact of SESTA/FOSTA, and a $10,000 USD total prize to be shared with the winning entrants and advocacy organizations of their choosing…in an effort to call extra attention to the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17th), submissions will be open [today], December 14th, 2018, and we are looking for voices like yours to help us raise awareness, both of the International Day and of the profoundly negative impact of SESTA/FOSTA on our community.  You can find details about the call for entries here, and information about Slixa here

The other is from the ever-awesome SWOP Behind Bars, who has made a deal to supply inexpensive cell phone service that also helps SWOP in its important mission to support incarcerated sex workers!

Our Solidarity Network lets you choose the premium network that is best for your area!  It’s the exact same networks as the “big” providers but for a lot less!

    • Bring your current phone or get a great deal on a new phone!
    • No contract and you can leave any time.
    • Unlimited talk, text, and data.on America’s fastest unlimited network.
    • Taxes & fees included.
    • No surprise fees on your monthly plan bill.
    • Texting & data abroad.
    • Unlimited in Mexico & Canada.

The Solidarity Network lets YOU be in charge of your mobile service! BRING YOUR OWN PHONE or choose from a wide variety of phones on sale at Great prices!

Click here to find out more!

I’m not planning to make a habit of promoting projects in this manner, but a chance for a sex worker to win a cash prize and an easy way for us to help less fortunate sisters are both very good reasons to make an exception!

Every so often, I’m forced to narrow my contact parameters a little bit more.  First I started turning down requests for me to do unpaid guest posts, then requests for written interviews.  More recently, I asked readers with questions to put them in a more concise form so it doesn’t take quite so much effort to read and answer them.  And now I’m afraid I need to add another one, about interviews this time:  if you want one, you’re going to need to conduct it in a way that doesn’t stress me out and require me to decode the bizarre “logic” of software engineers.  If you want to talk to me on the phone, that’s completely fine.  If you want to get together in person for an old-fashioned pad-and-pencil interview, or to record me for a podcast (either audio-only or with video) on your own equipment, we can do that.  And there are even a couple of online interview tools (Zoom and Google Hangouts) that generally work OK, though I’ve had problems with both of those (especially Hangouts) when the person who wants to interview me tries some kind of fancy thing.  If you want to use one of those, you need to assume all responsibility for technical details because I’m a whore, not a programmer; don’t think if something goes wrong I’m going to be able to figure it out on my end, because it’s very unlikely that I will, and the attempt will frustrate me and possibly even make me cry.  Skype?  Won’t work on my Chromebook.  I’m reasonably sure Facetime won’t either, because Apple, and I’m not going to try so don’t ask.  Nor will I respond well to requests that I “just download the whateveritis software” or “watch this YouTube video, it explains how to do it”.  Nope.  If you want to interview me, you need to handle the technical details of anything more complicated than “click here”, “please look into the camera” or “answer the phone”.  In short, the only part I want to have to deal with is “show up and be fabulous”, because that I’m good at.  And crying makes my makeup run.

In the News (#895)

I am more frightened of the police than I am of [a rapist].  –  Sipho

Surplus Women 

Stick to sex worker victims, and you can murder as many women as you like without cops giving a shit (or even noticing):

Convicted killer Samuel Little, 78, could turn out to be among the country’s most prolific serial killers in history, and one that, until now, law enforcement didn’t even realize existed…after being convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for three murders in Southern California between 1986 and 1989, Little recently began confessing to dozens more [as part of a bargain in which he will be moved to a prison in Texas].  In total, Little has confessed to killing 90 women  across more than a dozen states between 1970 and 2005…and…the FBI…has been able to link 34 unsolved murders to Little’s confessed crimes…While Little is fuzzy about dates, he has a chillingly detailed memory of…what his victims looked like and how they were killed…Little targeted marginalized women, many of them women of color, and the FBI has admitted that many of the murder cases they’ve linked to Little were not just unsolved, but barely investigated; some of his victims haven’t even been identified.  And although Little, a former competitive boxer, usually beat his victims and then strangled them while masturbating, according to the FBI, “many of these deaths were not classified as homicides [because NHI] but attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, or natural causes”…

Secret Squirrel (#344)

How to totally destroy your relationship with your teen offspring:

…“We offer a variety of options for parents whether they are simply looking out for their teens overall safety or concerned for the teen that may be sneaking out of the house at night or at risk of running away,” a sales video for Florida’s Tampa Bay Monitoring informs prospective customers…Frank Kopczynski, the owner of Tampa Bay Monitoring…also runs Action Plus Bail Bonds…“We provide a bracelet that is near-impossible to cut off,” Kopczynski [said]…[a microphone allows] staff [to] monitor the teen covertly…A competing teen GPS monitoring service says of their systems, “This device is also great if your juvenile goes on spring break!”…Tampa Bay Monitoring also offers an “optional, hardened steel encased security cuff for high-risk teens”…

Property of the State 

People with children are uniquely vulnerable to state coercion:

Child Protective Services workers…pressured a Harris County investigator to file charges against the mother whose case prompted a $127,000 sanction against the agency…Dillon and Melissa Bright [sued the state]…after CPS [abducted]…their children…[using invented claims] of child abuse…Following an October court hearing in which a CPS caseworker repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment on the stand [to avoid admitting prior perjury], the family ultimately won back their kids and last month Juvenile Judge Mike Schneider slapped the state with what may be the largest-ever sanction against the agency.  [The pressure to file further spurious charges started soon after]…

Little Boxes (#576)

US media reporting this fail to mention that many US jurisdictions have very similar laws against revealing clothes for women:

An Egyptian actress [was]…charged with public obscenity after she showed up at the closing ceremony of a film festival in Cairo wearing a see-through dress that revealed the entirety of her legs.  Rania Youssef’s trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 12, follows a complaint to the chief prosecutor by a group of [busybody] lawyers…Youssef faces up to five years in prison if convicted…

Sex Work is Work (#603)

Amateurs could learn so much about business from whores:

…Why [do] sex workers show so many more leadership attributes than a business leader?  The answer is straightforward—out of necessity.  A business leader has as many leadership attributes as he needs to have, and…just one or two might suffice…Rarely does he have to be an all-rounder…because he has enough people to cover for him.  The female sex worker does not have this luxury.  Her world is far more complex, much more challenging.  She must deal with emotional, health, and financial crises all the time.  There is the constant threat of violence, and her first mission is really to survive.  She has no power, but still must stay in control.  She has no support system, but she must cope.  She simply cannot win with just one or two shots in her game; she needs a whole repertoire…

The Last Shall Be First (#624)

The only “mistake” here was that the victim wasn’t actually trans:

A woman is suing employees of a Florida jail after they…forced her to spend…[many] hours in a cell surrounded by dozens of men, because they suspected she was transgender…Fior Pichardo de Veloz had come to Miami from the Dominican Republic to witness the birth of her grandchild in 2013, when she was arrested at the airport on an outstanding drug charge…Due to her history of high blood pressure, Pichardo de Veloz was examined by a nurse as a precaution.  The nurse saw she had been taking hormone pills and questioned her about her gender.  Despite Pichardo de Veloz’s denial of being a man, the nurse added a note to her file that read: “Transgender, male parts, female tendencies.”  The nurse notified a doctor, who reclassified Pichardo de Veloz as male without an examination…[she] was transferred to…an all-male jail, and shared a cell with about 40 men, who jeered at her…for 10 hours and said she was terrified to go to the bathroom and “urinated on herself instead”…[when] family members [complained]…she was…given a new examination [while]…several male [cops watched]…laughed at her and…took a photo…

Understand what happened here:  the nurse fully intended to put a transwoman into a situation where she was likely to be raped.  She could easily have determined the woman’s genitalia by examining her, but then she couldn’t have claimed it was a “mistake” to put her with men.

To Molest and Rape 

Can you imagine any non-cop getting only three months for aggravated rape?

A Colorado [pig] who [raped] a handcuffed woman…was sentenced to 90 days in jail followed by four years on probation…His victim was left with PTSD…Curtis Lee Arganbright…[was supposed] to take the woman home [after a minor incident at a hospital, for which the hospital declined to press charges]…on the way to her house…he…stopped his…car…and [vaginally raped] her…on the [hood] while she was still cuffed.  He then…oral[ly raped her]…before [threatening her if she told anyone]…She returned the hospital the following day [to report the]…rape…Addressing the incident when it first came to light in August 2017, Westminster Police Chief Tim Carlson [tried to divert attention from the crime by talking about his sadfeelz]…

The Pygmalion Fallacy (#778) 

Toasters have no “virginity” and cannot “consent” to anything:

Sex robots [do not exist] at the moment…but [that doesn’t stop reporters from calling sex doll rental arcades]…“robot brothels”…feel out the market in the US and Canada.  But if a [doll] hasn’t “had sex” yet, does that make it a virgin?  A crowdfunding campaign to open the world’s first consent-focused [sex doll rental arcade]…launched by Abyss Creations employee Unicole Unicron last month would argue that it does indeed…a $155,000 funding target [failed miserably by reaching only $2659 even though]…backers [could] pledge $10,000 to be the first person to [masturbate with] a [doll] at Eve’s Robot Dreams…in California…is putting a price on a robot’s virginity really the best marketing strategy for a [fake] brothel that’s focusing on the idea of [fake] consent?…

I’m sorry, that’s all  can quote; it’s just all too stupid even with my extensive editorialization.

The Rape Question (#806) 

Why do men not get that an informal contract without a lawyer witness would offer no protection?

…women [are] being asked to record “consent videos” before having [amateur] sex with men who fear they will be accused of assault afterwards…this then allows the person who recorded the video to use it as “evidence” that their partner gave consent before having sex…barrister Kate Fortescue [said]…”In this digital age, a jury is nearly always asked to look at material from phones and computers to help them decide the issue of consent.  Evidence of pre-recorded consent is clearly relevant and something a jury could consider.  However, even if consent was freely given, such recordings could never provide a blanket defence”…

Seriously, guys, if you’re really this worried just stick to pros and leave the amateurs alone.

The Prudish Giant (#818) 

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

Curator and art historian Ruben Cordova [foolishly] thought that Facebook was the perfect platform to archive the photographic materials equivalent to almost a decade’s worth of his research.  He created a network of albums, links, commentaries, and comparanda online, sometimes using those resources for his lectures at universities and galleries.  This abundance of scholarship even included materials necessary for Cordova’s forthcoming publication.  But…in the early morning of November 16…Facebook…permanently disabled his account due to an alleged violation of community standards banning sexually explicit content…[because an] algorithm in[correc]tly identified the nude woman in John De Andrea’s hyperrealistic Self-Portrait with Sculpture (1980) as a living human being…the image…was just one of about 240…he uploaded from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s popular Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body exhibition…[and even] included a link to the museum website, which would presumably allow a human moderator to fact-check Cordova’s appeal against his ban…when the art historian did try to appeal Facebook’s decision, he found that none of his messages reached the social media giant through his computer, receiving multiple error messages instead…

Disaster (#829)

We did warn you this wouldn’t stop with sex workers:

Tumblr will permanently ban adult content from its platform on December 17th in [celebration of the infliction of violence on sex workers]…The new policy’s announcement comes just days after Tumblr was removed from Apple’s iOS App Store over a child pornography incident, but it extends far beyond that matter alone…Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations…The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted.  Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos…[existing] posts with [censored] content will be set to private, which will prevent them from being reblogged or shared elsewhere…Users who run adult blogs can also export their content before the change takes place in order to save what they have…Since Tumblr was founded in 2007, it has largely turned a blind eye to adult content…[which made it] a safe place [for gender and sexual minorities] to enjoy, share, and discuss…adult content…

Business As Usual (#845)

It’s the same everywhere our work is even partially criminalized:

One in three of the 57 sex workers surveyed [in South Africa] reported they had been raped by policemen, and more than half said police officers had demanded bribes from them in exchange for escaping arrest or abuse…From interviews with a further 61 sex workers, the Sonke and Sweat researchers documented horrific examples of police forcing the women to have sex with animals, compelling them to eat used condoms and refusing to assist them after they had reported abuse at the hands of clients…in November 2015, [when] a sex worker…was found dead at “The Bush” [a scrub-covered field where sex workers take clients]…police…refused to take…statements [from her friends]…Instead…the police raided “The Bush” two weeks later, setting fire to their shacks and destroying their personal possessions…

Worse Than I Thought (#852)

While Virginia lags in inventing inflammatory anti-whore rhetoric, it makes up for it by inventing truly awful anti-whore laws:

Members of the Virginia State Crime Commission endorsed a package of anti-sex-[worker] legislation…that would…create “John schools” for people caught [in cop stings] and make it illegal to charge for “masturbatory services”…“Happy endings”…are currently not included in the state’s prostitution statutes, but local governments can individually act to define the transactions as illegal sex acts…[prohibitionists quoted some racist propaganda]…from…Polaris Project [that infantilizes Asian migrant women so as to deny them agency]…Another piece of legislation approved by the commission would create a [new anti-whore bureaucracy]…and…proposed “John schools” [to indoctrinate ordinary men in anti-whore propaganda]…Another…would define [any associate of an underage sex worker] as caretakers…and allow social service agencies to take emergency custody of [those declared] victims, [imprisoning them indefinitely under the guise of “protection”]…

Diary #441

Today is the very last day of my annual Toys for Tots special; you can still claim it if you book and pay today, even if we can’t manage an actual meeting today (which we almost certainly won’t, since I’ve got several things to do).  This year I got over $1000 in cash donations and several toy donations; I’ve already made two drops at the collection center and plan to make my final one tonight (unless I get any last-minute donations, in which case the local coordinator assures me we can squeak them in tomorrow or the next day).  I really enjoy doing this drive every year, and I’m happy to help children in need; however, like so many good things it’s very energy-intensive, so I’m rather glad the program-imposed deadline is two weeks before Christmas Day.  That gives them time to organize distribution, and me time to finish the rest of my own Christmas shopping and other preparations.  As usual, you’ll notice my blog schedule bounce around a little over the holidays, but it’ll be back to normal by the end of the second week of January; meanwhile, I’m going out to Sunset a few days before Christmas, so if you want to schedule during the holidays you need to either be flexible or contact me well in advance (preferably both).  Because the thing I want most for Christmas is some much-needed rest.

Melissa Mariposa is an escort and owner of Red Umbrella Hosting; she has also established and improved several other sites to help other sex workers, since our options have been steadily shrinking due to the war on whores.  I asked her to write an introduction to these sites because I’ve seen too many shady operators attempting to capitalize on the panic the US government has intentionally sown in our community.

As someone with an IT background, I knew as soon as FOSTA-SESTA passed that our web presence was in trouble.  Many mainstream web hosts have officially prohibited sex work related content while actually looking the other way, but I thought this might cause a shift towards enforcing those policies — as under FOSTA-SESTA, they become liable for that content.  Without hesitation, I cancelled my next 2 tours, acquired an offshore server, and was up and running before the weekend.  I spent most of my spring both migrating and rebuilding sites from the Internet Archive for those that had lost their free sites without warning, and as I was plugging away, I started to notice a change in ad sites.  EROS was making huge policy changes but staying silent (remember they had been raided six months prior by DHS and which we still do not know what is going on), TER had excluded US providers entirely, P411 was announcing “upcoming changes”.  It seemed our ad market was slowly folding one site at a time.

Then Backpage happened; they operated flagrantly with their servers in Arizona and we all paid the price.  While having an offshore setup does not make you immune in itself, there are definitely ways to maintain anonymity — otherwise  Pirate Bay would not have an almost 20 year running time.   There is a right way to do things, and Backpage did not do it.  At all.  And what I’ve since discovered (to my horror) is that none of the big ad sites in our industry were following the path laid out by internet pirates before us; no one is following best practices for a grey market site.  Not one site.  Most of them are hosted in the US, or they use Cloudflare which is a service that is in no way safe for sex workers.  The most well known escort ad sites grossed in the millions; Backpage made $135 million in 2014 alone, and sites like P411, TER, and EROS are also unquestionably in the 7 figure club.  I naively thought that these multimillion dollar businesses that get so much from us at the very least had a qualified IT person who understood the nature of what they were doing; I was wrong — and in retrospect, I was really fucking stupid to think that.  This was a sharp reminder of what I already knew:  No one is here for us, they’re here to make money off of us.  Sex workers aren’t exploited by our clients, we’re exploited by these sites, and some of the worst actors in this industry have been owners of some of the highest grossing sites.  Why do we put our money in the pockets of pimps and panderers?  Because they make us feel like we have to.  They aggregate false ads from our real ads on other sites, draw our clients in, we think that’s where clients like to look, so we make ads there and give them our money.

So I started looking around for legitimately offshore provider-run ad sites.  I was tired of putting my money in the hands of opportunistic dudebros, people who wanted to make a fast buck and should have known better, but didn’t.  I want to put my money in the hands of qualified women in IT who know our industry, know security, and who work to help us.  What I found was Have We Met, which had been around since 2016 (I was a beta tester, as I love the concept) but with strict policies that hindered them in the pre-FOSTA market.  I decided to reach out the owners (a provider and her partner) and they took me on as a silent partner.  I started implementing small changes to policy and pricing, and after a few months they asked if I would be interested in acquiring ownership of the site.  I happily accepted, and after some restructuring, Have We Met became what it is today:  A place where a provider can create a profile with their stats, website, and photos, and list themselves for free in up to 20 areas.  They can also write one single ad which is automatically listed in whatever areas they choose to list their profile; so if you’re touring 10 cities, you just add those cities to your profile, set up your ad, and the ad is automatically listed in those 10 cities when a client searches for providers — no expiration date.  Have We Met isn’t just an ad site — there is also a dual sided verification feature.  The provider and the client  are both asked eight basic, non-intrusive, non-sexual questions about the encounter involving subjects like punctuality, safety, and hygiene.  This is a checkbox only system with no room for textual fantasies of illegal activity.   After the verification is complete, it shows up on the provider’s profile to show future clients that others have found her to be clean, safe, reputable, and pleasant to be around.  Clients can pay a small fee to show verifications on their profile.  The questions clients are asked seem more helpful than what a simple “whitelisting” or “okay” provides, and I also felt this would provide a nice alternative to reviews whilst providing the assurance clients seek from them.  A “review” on the legal exchange of time for money and nothing more.  Verification without incrimination.

Meanwhile, I decided to also build a simpler site, something familiar which everyone knew the feel of, which could be completely managed from a smartphone because I know a lot of providers who don’t use computers anymore except to advertise.  So SWAN was born:  A familiar-feeling classified system where everything from searching to ad building can be done from the tiny computer in your pocket.  Ads are free, and all upgrades are under $10 (and you just so happen to get $10 credit free when you sign up for the site).  Like Red Umbrella Hosting, these sites require no ID to advertise and take no personal information to get started; they both offer free advertising, with optional paid upgrades with three methods of anonymous payment: physical gift card, crypto, and money order via mail.  I do not wish to tie your work life to your real life in any way; I don’t want your drivers license or pictures of your face with your work name written on it.  Those measures, used by other sites, are overly intrusive and unnecessary.  I have tried to approach building these sites from the angle of, “What do I as a provider want?” as well as asking others.  I welcome all feedback — positive and negative — on all of my offerings so I can continuously improve them.  I want to make tools that people want.

When FOSTA-SESTA hit, some of the popular blacklists began “cleaning up” entries that had titles such as “rape”, changing them to “bad date”.  In fear that we would no longer have an unadulterated blacklist, I set up OurList; I also have a site launching this week called Relax With Me, which you’ll just have to wait and see about (I will tell you that it involves advertising and another non-vulgar alternative to traditional reviews, and will also be free for providers).  Coming up in 2019 there are two large projects on the horizon for my company Trystworthy; Michael Fattorosi has speculated that within the next year our social media options will be gone, and I agree.  So I have been working with another developer on how to best start and implement a new social platform (NOT Mastadon) and am hoping to open something by the end of the first quarter at the latest.  The other project is completely under wraps for now, but you should be hearing something soon; it’s completely different and totally unrelated to any other offering I have and I am beyond excited.  My goal going forward is that I want to continue to offer useful tools to providers in this industry affordably, reliably, and transparently; all sites I build are fully functional for providers without a single dollar invested, and optional upgrades are exactly that:  Optional.  Advertising should not be your biggest overhead, a headache, or something you dread thinking about; it should be the easiest part of your job, and that’s what I am striving to do.   These sites are labors of love for an industry that has given me my entire life.  Building tools for the future is the best way I feel I can “give back”, and I will continue working towards this goal for as long as I draw breath.

Links #440

It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these shitheads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart.  –  “Officer” Dustin Boone

I’ve never heard of this composer, either, but his (sadly, very small) body of work definitely needs greater exposure.  The article from which I pulled the video was called to my attention by Jesse Walker, and the links above the video were provided by Patrick NonwhitePopehatTim CushingScott GreenfieldMarijke Vonk, and Radley Balko, in that order.

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