The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
An autoimmune disease is one in which the body’s protective systems turn from attacking pathogens and other invaders to attack some portion of its own tissues instead. As you might expect, most such disorders are fatal; what you may not realize is that women are disproportionately affected. Women are ten times as likely as men to be affected by such disorders; about 75% of those with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and 85% of those with multiple sclerosis are female, and autoimmune diseases are among the leading causes of death for all women below the age of 65. The bodies of societies sometimes also develop such syndromes; the systems which were meant to protect society from invaders or other troublesome organisms are instead turned against some of its own systems, sometimes even vital systems. And just as in biological autoimmune disorders, those who are affected most are usually women. I don’t think I need to give many examples of this; the witch hysteria of the 16th and 17th centuries is one, as is the wholesale rape practiced by armies in African civil wars. But the one I wish to concentrate on today is the continuing persecution of prostitutes in England and the United States, despite the obvious social function we serve.
This social autoimmune disorder has been prevalent in modern cultures since it first evolved in the late 19th century, but many countries, including some who suffered from very advanced cases of it, have recovered or at least acknowledged they had a problem and sought treatment for it. Taiwan, for example, long permitted prostitution but in the ‘90s caved in to US pressure and the influence of American “rescue groups” and descended into a particularly acute case of repression; fortunately Taiwan’s prostitutes were well-organized and refused to kowtow to American-style prohibition. They formed the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters to fight the new persecution, and Taiwan will legalize prostitution in November of this year. While the proposed system of red-light districts and permits allows for far more abuse than decriminalization, it’s vastly superior to the pathological American system or the deeply sick English system.
As I reported on January 3rd, “the Association of Chief Police Officers has called for a debate over prostitution laws so as to change them to protect prostitutes from violence. While some local jurisdictions in England (such as Liverpool and Merseyside) have adopted a progressive approach to reducing violence by tolerating prostitution, others (such as Blackpool and Bradford) prefer American-style antics which endanger women by forcing them onto the street; decriminalization (or at least law reform) would put an end to such irresponsible and asinine behavior by prohibiting it from above.” The term “American-style antics” was not chosen lightly; remember this article in which we read about the Detroit police seizing people’s cars for the “crime” of parking near a club they suspected of “facilitating prostitution”? Well, Bradford police are now doing something similar: taking the license plate numbers of cars parked in the red-light district, looking them up in the database and then sending out letters accusing them of “kerb crawling”, i.e. trolling for streetwalkers. And while the letters do not constitute official criminal charges, they are sent indiscriminately to the owner’s home or work address (if a company car) and remain on public record unless the victim wins a lawsuit to have them removed. In other words, the accused are assumed guilty until proven innocent…because they legally parked in a place the police decided was “suspicious”. While the Detroit police department’s stealing cars and holding them for ransom constitutes sheer Chinese banditry, it is surpassed in evil by Bradford’s quiet, cheap Orwellian surveillance resulting in a permanent cloud of publicly-recorded suspicion.
Meanwhile, here in the Colonies, the FBI has apparently decided to attempt to trump numerous court decisions by threatening escort advertising websites with charges of “facilitating prostitution” and “money laundering”; according to an article posted on the website of the Adult Video Network on Saturday (January 8th):
This year’s Arthur Schwartz Legal Seminar featured some of the country’s top First Amendment attorneys giving attendees the low-down on the latest threats facing the adult industry, as well as some of the victories scored over the past year. [The first speaker was]… Paul Cambria [a prominent 1st amendment attorney who]…warned of a new threat: Targeting websites that accept ads for adult services. Cambria spoke specifically of the recent bust of Escorts.com, whose offices were raided by over 100 Philadelphia police and FBI agents in October, although no federal indictments have yet been issued, and Cambria’s own sources have indicated that the Justice Department has no interest in the case. “It’s really new [legal] ground,” Cambria said of the raid, observing that courts around the country have held that advertisements posted on a host website are merely “republished” material, with the host having no responsibility for the ads’ contents. However, he noted, the FBI has taken the position that allowing such ads to be posted on the sites amounts to “facilitating prostitution,” and that the web host could be charged with criminal facilitation and even money laundering—both very serious federal felonies.
Attorney Karen Tynan, who represents the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) spoke next, summarizing the several meetings held by Cal/OSHA regarding forcing adult producers to force their performers to use “barrier protections” (condoms, dental dams, goggles, face shields) during sex scenes. She traced the beginnings of the controversy…and spoke of the pressures put on the Los Angeles Department of Public Health by such groups as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Pink Cross Foundation and the UCLA Reproductive Health Interest Group. Tynan noted that Cal/OSHA has never won a court case against a company not following state health regulations, and urged performers and producers to get involved in the issue and attend the Cal/OSHA meetings, the next one scheduled for February 8 in Oakland. “You can have a voice in these meetings,” she stated.
[Seminar moderator Jeffrey] Douglas added that the fight is on two fronts: Free Speech is attempting to create workable health regulations for the industry, since the current ones were developed for high-risk hospital personnel, as well as to help companies push back against OSHA inspectors who, he said, will cheat and lie to get the “cooperation” they want.
So while other countries work to eliminate this “social autoimmune disorder”, the countries which pioneered the concept of civil rights – England and the United States – prefer to wallow in sickness. In the UK there is hope if reformist forces win out over those who almost succeeded in establishing the Swedish Model there last year, but in the US governments not only refuse to fight the prohibitionist disease but actually cater to groups either inside or outside the government who want to hasten its progress.