As with my “New Movie Reviews” column last month, these are simply new book reviews which I’m adding to the bibliography page and didn’t want regular readers to miss!
Once the Japanese Empire started to expand in the 1930s, some 200,000 women (many of them Korean) were enslaved in Japanese military brothels; at first most were tricked into it, but later all pretense was dropped and they were simply abducted and forced into a life of abuse and degradation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the issue of comfort women was completely ignored at the Tokyo war crimes trials (these women were only whores, after all, even if they weren’t before the Japanese captured them) More shocking, however, is the fact that the Japanese government continues to deny the facts to this day, preferring to claim that the comfort women were all professional prostitutes who volunteered for the duty and were well-paid in spite of the fact that the surviving comfort women unanimously deny this and the fact that the claimed level of payment would have cost the Japanese treasury hundreds of millions of yen per month at a time it could not possibly afford such an expense. This is not an easy book to read; I’m not easily brought to tears, yet found myself weeping bitterly several times while reading it. This book should be required reading for all the silly asses who claim voluntary adult prostitution in a free society is equivalent to “sexual slavery”; I defy anyone who has read it to ever again compare the life of ANY Western sex worker with this abomination.
Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Heinlein had some very advanced ideas about sexuality; in Stranger in a Strange Land he even predicted the rise of “free love” a decade before it became popular. He speaks highly of whores in a number of his works, but perhaps none as much as in this one. The title character is a genetically engineered woman, an “artificial person” as her society terms it; like prostitutes in many past cultures she is therefore viewed as not fully human. Friday is a futuristic secret courier, and part of her training was in the art and science of harlotry; the means by which she survives a rape early in the book generated considerable controversy, but is not unlike my own method (relax and go with it if it’s inevitable because if you fight you may be hurt or even killed). Heinlein’s female characters are often based on his beloved wife Virginia, and Friday is no exception; they’re usually extremely intelligent, resourceful and competent, highly pragmatic and unrepentantly feminine (one critic called them “boy scouts with tits”). Apparently, many men see me as a living Heinlein character because I was on a number of occasions asked, “Have you ever read any Robert Heinlein?” or even specifically, “Have you ever read Friday?” I always considered it a high compliment.
The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander
Though much of it seems tame almost 40 years later, the importance of this book cannot be overstated. Xaviera Hollander was among the first prostitutes to come forward to enlighten people about our profession, just as I and many others are still trying to do today. But unlike today, the conventional reading audience in 1972 was far more accepting of unconventional sexuality, and Hollander’s book became a best-seller. Does she pander to the masses by concentrating on the sex? Absolutely. Are some of her stories exaggerated? Undoubtedly. But that isn’t the point; the point is that a woman had the nerve to say “I am a prostitute, and I’m not degraded or miserable or drug-addicted or enslaved,” and the public of those far more enlightened times said “OK, that’s cool.” The new edition of this book is a measure of how much times have changed; ten pages of material (including an experience with a German Shepherd which even shocked me when I first read this book in high school) have now been cut, and some of Hollander’s language and attitudes (such as her opinion of homosexual men) have been bowdlerized and/or rendered politically correct. This book was one of my first eye-openers, and still deserves to be read; however, I suggest you find a copy of the original edition in a (physical or online) used-book store rather than reading the whitewashed new edition.
My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday
This was another groundbreaking book published at the height of the sexual revolution; it consists of Friday taking a metaphorical sledgehammer to the Madonna/whore duality by daring to publish the real sexual fantasies of real women (including students, housewives, professional women, and others across the spectrum) and thereby revealing the “whore” side of the average Madonna. Though some parts of the book seem tame by modern standards, others (such as fantasies about rape and animals) shock today’s repressed audiences more than they did the book’s original audience in 1972. Then, few sexual subjects were taboo; now, unfortunately, writing about such things can get one censored or even criminally prosecuted. Unlike The Happy Hooker, the newest edition of this one is not expurgated; take a look at the reviews on Amazon and you’ll get a feel for modern reactions to it. When I first read a used copy in 8th grade I found it terribly liberating because it helped me to understand that I wasn’t a “pervert”; I think it still has that power today, maybe even more so. In the early ’70s many people denied normal women even had sexual fantasies, but in 2010 lots of other people deny normal women have some of these fantasies in particular.
This deeply researched, profusely illustrated volume is full of meticulous detail but is never dry; if you would like to know more about the laws, culture, houses, women, customers, musicians and other aspects of life in The District, this book is for you. And throughout, the author shows again and again that legalized prostitution is better for everyone both in and out of the trade on every level, from social to legal to economic; it should be required reading for anyone entering politics.
The Meese Commission was the Reagan administration’s attempt to invent a legitimate excuse for suppressing porn, which at the time was beginning to explode due to the advent of home video; a hand-picked panel of anti-pornography crusaders (including “Focus On the Family” preacher James Dobson and Judith Becker, a former songwriter for Captain Kangaroo) was convened under Attorney General Edwin Meese and assigned to watch porn movies and read adult books. They stole and distorted the work of legitimate scientists (many of who filed angry protests against the misuse of their research), inserted their own opinions as fact and ignored reams of data from the Scandinavian countries, yet still could find absolutely no evidence that porn was harmful in any way; this did not stop them from issuing a concluding statement which basically translates as “despite the fact that we couldn’t find any evidence to support it, we think porn is harmful anyway. So there.” I read this book when I was a librarian, and though the commission itself is now long-forgotten by the Great Unwashed, its story serves as a valuable object lesson of the lengths to which governments in general (and the United States government in particular) will go to suppress the sex trade. And though the Meese Commission failed and porn is here to stay, its tactics are alive and well in current government “studies” of the “inherent danger” of prostitution to society in general and women in particular.
Unrepentant Whore: The Collected Works of Scarlot Harlot by Carol Leigh
I don’t agree with everything Carol Leigh (aka Scarlot Harlot) says, but she has been one of the most active and important fighters for the rights of whores since the 1970s and a vociferous opponent of the anti-sex “feminists” since their first appearance. This book contains most of her writing, including an extensive insider’s overview of the sex worker rights movement in the ‘80s and ‘90s and essays on the harm done to women by the continued suppression of our profession. Scarlot is a performance artist, and a lot of her teaching is accomplished by a combination of shock and humor in the “underground comedy” tradition.
Whores and Other Feminists by Jill Nagle (editor)
This is a collection of feminist essays by educated whores like Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle and Tracy Quan, interspersed with others from the rare sex-positive feminist academics who oppose the lies and puritanical censorship of the neofeminist majority. As with so many other books I’ve reviewed, the negative reviews on Amazon, coming as they do from indoctrinated neofeminists and Christian fundamentalists, are some of the best advertising this book could have; they should be printed on the dust jacket along with the raves!