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Mardi Gras 2017

mardi-gras-2017-by-andrea-mistrettaMaybe the places where many of y’all live don’t observe it, but I still do. So Happy Mardi Gras, dear readers!

Diary #348

Lastselfiecamera_2017-02-18-17-39-48-540 week was a good one for catching up with work, both paying work and activism; in a few days we’ll be holding SASS, Seattle’s Annual Sexwork Symposium.  And though I’m not as directly involved this time (still too chronically exhausted, I’m afraid) I’ll definitely be participating and attending, so if you go to any of the events you may see me there!  Tomorrow’s Mardi Gras, and it always strikes me as kind of weird that everything’s open and running normally on the holiday…because, of course, it isn’t a holiday anywhere else in the US except New Orleans.  But this year, with SASS following right on its heels, maybe I’ll be able to get over a little bit of that weirdness…and there’s nothing to stop me from having a little carousing tomorrow night with a few friends, even if there’s no big public spectacle.

Links #347

I can’t breathe.  –  Charles Wade

On Wednesday we saw clueless news-idiots in Texas purporting to uncover the “secret” meanings behind emojis and jargon used in escort ads.  In that same vein, here’s comedian Stephen Colbert riffing on an equally-idiotic local news report from Tacoma, Washington (a state which never saw a hysteria it didn’t like).  The links above were provided by Jesse Walker (“continent” & “supervillain”), Tim Cushing  (“serve” & “incident”), Mike Chase (“state”), Emma Evans (“lawn”), and Walter Olson (“rarely”).

From the Archives

In the News (#716)

We should…not…[create] barriers that stop vulnerable people seeking help.  –  Lord Paddick

Follow Your Bliss 

Understand that people like this are the norm in anything that involves prosecuting sexual offenses, and always will be:

A secondary school teacher who [enthusiastically] helped the Metropolitan Police grade indecent images of children was caught on film as he abused a sleeping six year-old boy…Craig Keane…now faces jail after pleading guilty to nine counts of sexual assault on a child under the age of 13.  He has been suspended from both his roles as a teacher and special constable…the victim was asleep while the assault occurred but another child in the same room hid a camera behind the curtain to capture the abuse after becoming concerned about what was happening…

The Widening Gyre sex-trafficking-shirt

Everything is a sign of lurking “sex traffickers”!  EVERYTHING!!!

When 19-year-old Ashley Hardacre left a late shift at the mall…she found what she feared was a trap.  “I…noticed that there was a blue flannel shirt on my windshield,” she wrote later that night on Facebook. “There were two cars near me and one was running so I immediately felt uneasy and knew I couldn’t get out to get it off…I drove over to a place where I was safe and quickly rolled down my window and got the shirt off.”  Hardacre…speculated that the way the shirt had been attached to her wiper was intentional…Hardacre’s post…quickly went viral.  But it’s not the first time people have suspected strange items left under their windshield wipers.  In July last year, a Wisconsin woman wrote that her mother had discovered a fancy jeweled ring on her windshield…“This is exactly how human trafficking and abductions take place,” Savannah Nguyen wrote in the now-removed post…The local police…chief [said]…the department had no evidence linking the ring to a sex trafficking attempt…

You know who else I hear puts things on people’s windshields to abduct them?  Satanists.  Commies too, I’ll bet.

Worse Than I Thought

Mormon politician fantasizes that sex workers “force” cops to rape us:

The [Utah] Senate criminal justice committee approved enhancing penalties for prostitution-related crimes as well as clarifying the definition of prostitution…Bill sponsor…Todd Weiler…said its language adds protection to [lying pigs] who [lie to rape sex workers] while conducting prostitution stings.  “Some of the women involved in this trade…are savvy enough … to force an undercover…to actually touch them, because that’s where the line is currently drawn”…

Checklist

Another ridiculous “study” based purely in the researchers’ sexual fantasies finds that mundane things are actually “signs of sex trafficking”:

Two hundred people are sold for sex every month in Lincoln and another 700 are sold in other parts of [Nebraska]…according to a new report from Creighton University…researchers spent several years [masturbating over] Backpage.com…Crysta Price and Terry Clark, cross-referenced the ads to make sure they weren’t counting one potential victim multiple times [yet couldn’t be bothered to consult even one actual sex worker.  A spokespig oinked that]…there are a number of ways to determine if an ad was made by a trafficker or by someone selling him or herself — including if the picture was taken by someone else, the verbiage used in the post and if the pictures were taken in a hotel room…Twenty-five to 30 percent of the ads researchers studied were posted by adults working independently and not being trafficked.  About 70 percent showed some sign of advertised individuals being underage or controlled by a third party…

I’m sure this is much better wanking material for prohibitionists than the mundane truth: roughly 2% coercion, roughly 3.5% underage (and only 25% of underage advertise online).

Lack of Evidence (#314) 

This will keep happening as long as laws & procedures that stigmatize sex workers are allowed to stand:

A Vancouver man was denied entry into the United States after a US Customs and Border Patrol officer read his profiles on the gay hookup app Scruff and the website BBRT.  The officer suspected the man was a sex worker because he found messages from the man saying he was “looking for loads,” and assumed it meant he was soliciting sex for cash…André, a 30-year-old Vancouver set decorator who declined to give his full name for fear of retaliation from US Customs, describes the experience as “humiliating”…Jon Davidson, legal director of the US LGBT organization Lambda Legal…says…“Their agents need cultural awareness training to not misunderstand that people who simply are leading a normal sex life are not prostitutes.”

Fuck you, Jon Davidson.  If whores’ sex lives aren’t “normal”, neither is yours. But I guess you’ve got your seat at the Big Table, so we don’t matter, right?

Paint By Numbers

Well, at least golf requires skill & activity:

A golf tournament March 31 at Sunset Hills Country Club will benefit The Covering House, which [profits from “sex trafficking” hysteria]…GENTS (Gentlemen Encouraging No Trafficking Society), a volunteer group…is playing host for the tournament…[blah blah] signs…[blah blah] suspect a child is being trafficked…[blah blah] Top 20 human trafficking jurisdictions…[blah blah] 300,000 children…[blah blah] average age of entry is 13…

Whereas this is the usual total inanity:

…Members of Congress, celebrities including Ashton Kutcher, and others…[changed] their profile photo for the End It Movement’s “Shine A Light On Slavery” Day…You don’t have to be in Washington to take part…in…[uploading] red Xs…You can also take a tube of red lipstick, mark an X on your hand, and snap a photo to post…yes-this-is-an-x

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the “End It” yahoos.

Whimsical Notions

Is “the dangerous cycle of prostitution” a used Harley bought with whoring money?

Recently we were exposed to the horrifying phenomenon of soldiers involved in the cycle of prostitution…shocking evidence of male and female soldiers…engaging in prostitution due to severe economic distress.  This phenomenon is a badge of shame for the IDF and the State of Israel…Military service is often a lifeline for boys and girls from all sorts of difficult backgrounds.  The army should set a moral example and act to stamp out prostitution in its midst, work to save these soldiers and recover them…

As far as I can make out, this dude’s pearl-clutching tone is dead serious.  Do you amateurs really believe this kind of shit?  “Shame”?  “Save them”?  “Recover them”?  Seriously?

Legal Is as Legal Does (#440)

The danger of a “tolerated” system: cops can suddenly decide to be intolerant:

A major crackdown on massage parlours and brothels across Adelaide has forced sex workers into risky private work where they are more vulnerable to violence and crime…Police have [exhibited] threatening behaviour during a flurry of raids since September that have resulted in the closure of well-established brothels and sex workers who are too scared to report crimes against them…Sex workers…[who] refused [to give cops their telephone numbers were]…threatened with a home visit.  Police officers…took sex workers’ car registration details, working names, and…told workers they would be arrested unless they left the premises immediately…[managers and] receptionists [are being hit with avails charges] “because they are the ones that handle the money”…

All-Purpose Excuse

“Human trafficking” can mean anything!

President Trump[‘s]…new policies also target unauthorized immigrants who smuggle their children into the country, as happened with Central American children seeking to reunite with parents living in the United States.  Under the new directives, such parents could face deportation or prosecution for smuggling or human trafficking…

Dirty Laundry (#452)

Good for this lady, taking a pompous judge’s attempt to get rid of her & then carrying on as usual:

…Mikaela Niculae…was arrested…last weekend…Ms Niculae had been before Letterkenny District court in June 2014 where she was part of a group of six prostitutes who were given €1,200 by Judge Paul Kelly to fly back to Romania.  The money came from a sum of €5,890 [stolen] by Gardai [from sex workers]…the…Judge…fined [her]…€500 and…order[ed her] mobile phone…[destroyed]…

Bad Fantasy, Good Reality (#586)

This is a good, objective look at sex work in Bangkok; it’s refreshingly free of the usual sadfeelz, judgment and imposition of “sex trafficking” fantasies on the interviews with real sex workers.  I do find it extremely funny that every Western reporter who visits a brothel feels compelled to assure the reader that he didn’t purchase sexual services; honestly, I’d have a lot more respect for one who admitted that he did, as it was demonstrate he was respectful of both the women’s time and profession.

The Course of a Disease (#652) 

This is a huge move forward for a UK political party:

The Liberal Democrats are likely to adopt as official policy a move to quash all historical sex-work convictions – including brothel-keeping, soliciting business and kerb-crawling.  The move…will be included in a key motion…as part of the party’s wider drive to decriminalise sex work…The party’s home affairs spokesman Lord Paddick said: “As a former police officer I know what works and the current laws around prostitution do not.  They might sound tough but they don’t protect people.  The police should be focusing their resources on…coercion rather than policing consenting adults…it is time for an informed debate on this complex issue and I want my party to be leading that debate”…

I’m so pleased by this I’m not even going to quibble over the ridiculous idea that human rights are subject to “debate”.

Orgasm isn’t only about “doing it right”, sexual satisfaction isn’t only about orgasm, and nobody has the right to define the parameters of “good sex” for you, or to tell you why you “should” or “shouldn’t” have sex.  –  “Mind Over Matter

apples and orangesFor such a short month, February has more than its share of holidays.  Besides Imbolc  and Valentine’s Day (and most years, Mardi Gras), there’s also the American marketing event I call the Stupor Bowl, and in 2014 there was a protest against mass surveillance (“The Day We Fight Back“).  After the regular monthly columns (guest columnist Mark Bennett, fictional interlude “Invasion“, harlotography “Liane de Pougy“) and the weekly ones (Q&As “Fossil“, “Mind Over Matter“, “Ideal” and “Teamwork“, Cliterati reprints “Not Your Rescue Project“, “Drawing Lines” and “Not Good Enough“) are removed, and the columns specifically dedicated to “sex trafficking” hysteria (“Don’t Call It Trafficking“, “All Traffick, All the Time” and “Alternative“) set aside, that leaves only three: “Public Conversation” (asking readers to use the comment threads); “Priorities” (discussing divisions in the activist community); and “The Proof of the Pudding“, in which a guest demonstrates a security measure.Never Read the Comments

Upscale

What is meant when girls say “upscale”?  Does it have some meaning outside of the donation rates?

minkWhen the word is used to describe an incall, it’s basically intended to assure prospective clients that they aren’t going to a squalid apartment in a seedy neighborhood.  But when words like “upscale”, “high-end”, “luxury”, “sophisticated” and “VIP” are used by escorts to describe themselves, they don’t really mean anything specific or quantifiable; they’re just branding words, used to convey an image and attract the kind of clientele the user believes such words attract:  wealthy, generous, and unlikely to haggle.  Of course, they’re just as likely to attract solidly middle-class guys out to treat themselves to a luxurious experience, which is why soap is described as having “luxurious lather” and chocolates are described as “decadent”.  Personally, I try to avoid empty words like that in my marketing; as a writer I prefer words that actually mean specific things, and distrust emotive words with little semantic weight (especially those that seem a bit snobby to my ears).  In reality, most sex workers will see whichever men can pass screening, pay our rates & treat us properly, “upscale” or not; I doubt very many really care whether a good client is a neurosurgeon or a bricklayer as long as he behaves like a gentleman.  Mind you, I’m not criticizing the ladies who use that kind of ad copy; if it works for them & brings in money, good for them & long may they prosper.  The fact is, some guys respond to “puttin’ on the Ritz” kind of words, just like many of the guys who call me are responding to my perceived intelligence & sophistication.  Or my huge tits.  And we all use the branding that keeps the money coming in.

(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.)

In the News (#715)

Every now and then, a take comes along that’s so scorchingly wrong, so unbelievably erratic in its approach to reality, that it feels a bit like sacrilege to think of it as bad journalism.  –  David Meyer Lindenberg

Think of the Children! 

“Authorities” force victims to mouth official propaganda to escape consequences, just as terrorists force hostages to read denunciations at gunpoint.  Both are equally sincere and truthful.

Resa Woodward, 38, said she participated in the [porn] industry more than a decade ago because she was in an abusive relationship with a controlling man….[who] pressured her into sex slavery…She said he booked her for shoots for a little more than one year.  Woodward has been a teacher for 15 years now…[but school] administrators…when the films…[were reported to the school by] an anonymous [informant]…She’s now requesting the Texas Education Agency reconsider her termination…”Do not penalize me for a dark saga in my youth that was not of my making”…

The More the Better 

The idea that a sleep mask, a feather duster and a scalp tingler constitute “sex toys” that need to be distributed in a box marked “18+” makes me roll my eyes so hard it’s painful, and not in a good way.  But I guess they deserve points for trying, and maybe this is a teeny-tiny baby step on a thousand-mile journey toward Western culture actually growing up:

Burger Kings in Israel are giving grown-up customers extra incentive to visit this Valentine’s Day…an “Adults Meal” that includes…”adult toys” in the tamest [sense] possible—nothing you can comfortably insert or battery-operated—just a satin blindfold, a scalp tingler, and a feather tickler…

The Spiral of Absurdity texas-tribune-tinfoil-hat

Jaded as I am, even I was shocked at the incredible cluelessness & stupidity of this one-page hit piece from the Texas Tribune, whose intent actually seems to be to get as much wrong as possible.  The “mistakes” (lies? intentional libel? attempts at satire?) are so basic and obvious it’s almost impossible to believe that none of the FOUR “journalists” (yes, it took four people to produce this one turd, presumably human-centipede style) knew better or even thought for a second, “Hey, maybe we should call an actual sex worker to fact-check this.”  Dave Meyer Lindenberg of Fault Lines has already done a terrific job of mincing it into pieces so small they can practically be inhaled, so I’m not going to duplicate his efforts (especially since he cites me extensively in the process); I am, however, going to reproduce the original here just in case some Tribune editor wakes up and tries to memory-hole this…thing.  And here are a few choice quotes from Dave’s dissection:

…The…article is a case study in the use of framing and omission to achieve an effect.  You’ll look in vain, for example, for a mention of the fact that Backpage won all its court cases…As call girl and sex-workers‘ rights activist Maggie McNeill has been pointing out for years, what data there are suggest underage prostitutes are a tiny subset of sex workers.  What’s more, only a small percentage are forced into the business…[as for] the meat of the article…What fresh hell is this?  What “phrases and symbols?” Is there any factual basis whatever for this assertion, or is the Texas Tribune receiving instruction from a higher plane?…law enforcement and groups claiming to fight sex trafficking have lists of “tells”…these “checklists” include plenty of things so bland as to apply to nearly everyone…things of which entire age groups are guilty…and outright absurdities…This is a paranoid fabrication, on a par with claiming playing a heavy metal record backwards gets you Satanic messages…

As for the piece’s nadir of idiocy, I’m going to have to go with its claim that a two-girl special means “at least one of the girls is underage, and the other is responsible for making sure she goes through with the sex act.”  Watching these people reveal their BDSM wanking fantasies in print is almost embarrassing.

Cops and Robbers (#435)

Cops are upset that the anti-sex hysteria they helped create has encouraged people to follow their example:

…self-proclaimed pedophile hunters set up fake social media profiles, masquerading as vulnerable teens, to…[shame people they decide are] “creeps”…Hundreds of Canadians…have been put in the spotlight when these groups post videos to sites such as Facebook and YouTube.  A handful of them have faced criminal charges…But…their cameras often don’t tell the whole story.  Cases with truly horrifying chats have been lumped in with chats that show no evidence of any sexual intent…In one case a woman who was targeted committed suicide…some of these Creep Catchers have a long history of criminal convictions, with one doing federal prison time…the evidence collected in stings by the Creep Catchers is rarely usable in court, and…the group has interfered with police operations…

Secret Squirrel (#509)

Politicians are shocked, SHOCKED I say, that software used by the police state they support is also being used by abusive fuckheads who don’t have magic costumes and Important Titles:

In a 2015 Women’s Aid survey of 693 women, 29 per cent said they had spyware or GPS locators installed on their phones or computers by a partner or ex.  In 2014, NPR surveyed 70 women’s shelters, finding 85 per cent were working with victims whose abusers tracked them via GPS, or what’s often referred to as “spouseware”…behind such easy-to-use spyware are opportunistic salesmen who’re peddling not just to jealous spouses and paranoid parents for small fees, but whose powerful spying software is also sold to police and intelligence agencies for hundreds of thousands of dollars…the malware used to snoop on terrorists and pedophiles is much the same as that used to control partners in abusive relationships…lawmakers, lawyers and women’s rights activists…[have absurdly] called on the U.S. government to take action [against its own creation, because making something illegal causes it to vanish]…

Sorry, authoritarian arseholes; y’all should’ve thought of this before letting that djinni out of its bottle.

Coming and Going (#592)

If you actually believe that the “authorities” had “no choice” but to jail an underage sex worker, infantilize her & try to brainwash her, then claim they “didn’t want to do it”, you are part of the problem:

Lena was…a…17-year-old [caged] with two dozen women in a single room….with no privacy…Yet [prohibitionists want you to believe that’s “rescue” from her difficult life as an underage sex worker]…[everyone pretends they didn’t] want…Lena in jail — not the Houston police who arrested her, not the district attorney who pursued the case…Texas has just one [disguised prison for underage]…sex [workers, and as usual only those who can be presented as perfect]…victims…[are] accept[ed there.  So to maintain the pretense that they give a shit]…authorities [pretend that locking up minors for being sexual is]…a gamble they call “arrest and recovery”:  arrest them to get them off the street and drop the charges later.  “What options do we have with these girls?” [pontificated] Ana Martinez, a prosecutor in Harris County…”If I dismiss her case, she’s just [not locked in a cage] that night”…

NB: This steaming turd was passed through three of the human centipede segments responsible for the specimen in “The Spiral of Absurdity” above before being plopped onto the plates of Texas Tribune readers.

The Public Eye (#596)

Another theatrical production by sex workers designed to debunk prohibitionist BS about our lives:

London’s Young Vic…[is featuring] a new play, See Me Now, the cast of which are all current or former sex workers, and whose content is made up entirely of their stories…See Me Now…is…a collaboration between the performers, writer Molly Taylor and director Mimi Poskitt.  It was inspired, in part, by conversations Poskitt had with a friend who volunteered at a sex work support project…Performers were recruited via outreach projects across the capital and come from a range of backgrounds; outdoor, indoor and independent sex work are all represented.  Some have second jobs, others survive solely through sex work.  Performers are male, female and trans.  However certain experiences unite everyone…

Lying Down With Dogs (#625) 

All the most enlightened, free countries have US-style anti-sex worker “crackdowns”:

[Hanoi] is aiming to bust up to 500 cases of illegal sex work in 2017, more than twice the number usually seen in past years…hundreds of hair salons and massage parlors will be inspected regularly.  The goal is to [destroy the lives of] 500 [human beings to “send a message”]…authorities last year identified more than 5,500 businesses offering so-called “sensitive” services.  Most of them are registered as hair salons, bars or massage parlors but also provide illegal sex services.  The city also plans to [force]…sex workers [into menial]…jobs…

Spotlight (#683) asstoon-strikes-again

I wonder if Asstoon will ever get professional help for his delusions of grandeur?

[Last] Wednesday, actor Ashton Kutcher testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on behalf of Thorn, an anti-sex [worker]…organization he co-founded with Demi Moore.  Thorn’s main project is Spotlight, a cloud-based data-collection and analysis tool that purportedly helps police find sex traffickers.  According to Kutcher…the app—funded by the McCain Foundation—has helped save more than 6,000 U.S. sex-trafficking victims, including 2,000 minors, in the past 12 months.  But…in government fiscal-year 2015, the FBI identified around 672 adult and child victims of sex or labor trafficking.  The FBI opened 802 human-trafficking investigations (resulting in 453 convictions) that year, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) opened 1,034 sex- or labor-trafficking investigations (and got 51 sex-trafficking convictions).  In addition, Uniform Crime Reporting data from the states indicates that 744 investigations into state-level sex-trafficking offenses were opened in 2015…even if we count all cases separately, we’re looking at a total of 2,580 investigations into sex or labor trafficking—5,725 less cases than Thorn allegedly helped identify in a one-year period…How can Kutcher’s group have helped in dramatically more sex-trafficking investigations than were actually opened across America?…

The Course of a Disease (#686)

Another patient succumbs to the Swedish disease:

[On] February 15th…the Republic of Ireland voted in favour of…the criminalisation of clients as well as [increasing] the penalty for sex workers working together for safety.  The Bill also allows the authorities to [steal] the earnings of sex workers as “proceeds of crime”.  [Though sold to the very stupid]…as a tool to promote gender equality and help rescue sex workers [from their own choices], the Bill…does not include any provision that would offer support to sex workers wanting or forced to stop selling sexual services…

An Example To the West (#710)

In India, mainstream feminists support sex worker rights and prohibitionists are a crank minority who can be individually called out:

In her recent piece, Sex work or slavery?: Why human rights discourse is no longer a tool for liberation, Nandita Haksar bases her entire argument on the faulty premise that “almost all women who have been in prostitution call it slavery”.  Haksar has chosen to…ignore…the National Network of Sex Workers Statement that was signed by more than 2,000 sex workers from seven states in India.  She discounts their agency and contradicts the feminism that supposedly drives her arguments – isn’t a deep respect for the choices and autonomy of all women at the core of what it means to be a feminist?…What Haksar fails to understand is that it is the State that is failing its citizens…The health and safety of sex workers is undermined by the continued criminalisation of sex workers, their clients and the organisation of their work, as well as the repressive use of other kinds of laws…

Business As Usual (#711) 

These rapist pigs are the same ones politicians keep urging sex workers to “trust” because of imaginary “pimps”:

On September 1, 2016, “Sunny” Kimnam gave a massage and a hand-job to an undercover police informant.  Since that day, she has been incarcerated, and faces likely deportation to Korea.  Kimnam’s story is far from unique.  Tucked in tales of “human trafficking investigations” and massage-parlor prostitution busts across the U.S., you’ll find that these efforts are almost always aided or led by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents…[or] ICE…Since January 1…DHS has been involved in at least a dozen massage-parlor raids, arresting at least 26 people.  Twenty-three of these arrests were women, all Asian and mostly in their 50s.  None were found to be involved in human trafficking, but they were arrested on charges such as prostitution, promoting prostitution, and giving an unlicensed massage…Even legal permanent residents—i.e. “green card” holders—can be “removed” if found to be sex workers.  Under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, legal immigrants who have not been naturalized as citizens can become deportable for a variety of reasons, including…crimes of “moral turpitude”—a nebulous concept defined at various points in immigration law as “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals”…