Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. – Groucho Marx
My monthly collection of odds and ends on harlotry and related topics.
The View from the North
While the Canadian government does its best this week to imitate the prohibitionist insanity of its southern neighbor*, the majority of the Canadian people (70% in this online poll) lean more in the direction Australia has taken. And while the typical viewpoint of the American mainstream media is amply demonstrated by the next item in today’s column, the typical view of the Canadian media is demonstrated by this June 3rd editorial from the Globe and Mail entitled “Why the Courts Must Decriminalize Prostitution”. Just imagine an American newspaper of equal stature printing an editorial whose thrust is summed up by the sentence “If you listen to the people most affected – the prostitutes – it becomes clear that the rational thing is to destigmatize the oldest profession, to help it be practised more safely and sanely, as the normal part of Canadian life that, like it or not, it is.” Such an editorial would be greeted in the US by missives from outraged Puritans demanding the cancellation of their subscriptions, bleats and moans from trafficking fetishists moaning “Think of the millions of enslaved children!” and moronic replies on the online version of the column. Nor are Canadian academics cowed by neofeminists as their American colleagues are; this study from the Canadian Review of Sociology demonstrated that most prostitutes are consenting adults who do the work to pay the bills like any other job, that only about 15% are streetwalkers, and that very few are forced into the work by men. I certainly hope you aren’t surprised.
*Incidentally, the first day of that trial didn’t go too well for the Crown; the chief judge kept interrupting with questions like, “Isn’t it self-evident the laws produce harm and don’t protect sex workers? If it’s legal, why would you want to make it impossible for them to work? Isn’t this like passing a law to prevent store owners installing security?”
The Leading Players in the Field, Not
Tony Maddox…of CNN International, said of the documentary: “This wasn’t, ‘We’ll get more publicity if we work with someone high profile, so let’s go find someone high profile.’ This was, ‘Who are the leading players in this field?’ ” One of them, he said, happened to be a famous actress.
Gee, wasn’t that convenient? Demi Moore, a “leading player in the field”? Riiiiiiiiight. I guess Tony Maddox didn’t dare call on real “leading players” like Laura Agustín or Ann Jordan, because they’d tell him that his manufactured “crisis” doesn’t actually exist and that would be bad for ratings. An oh-so-sincere Hollywood actress, on the other hand, can be paid to mouth any drivel she’s handed and if it’s already her own pet witch-hunt, that’s even better.
Incidentally, the story reports that the title of Demi’s upcoming (June 26th) CNN special is “Nepal’s Stolen Children”, which talks about “girls as young as 11 who had been forced into prostitution and were rescued by a Nepalese nonprofit.” Of course, the true social background of the Deuki custom is wholly ignored in favor of imposing Western values on a foreign culture: “[Moore] goes home with one victim to find out if the girl’s family will accept or reject her. Rejection is pervasive because of the stigma of sex trafficking in some cultures.” Yeah, it’s because of “sex stigma”; the NGO’s undoing of what the family perceived as a gift to the gods which would win blessings for them has nothing to do with it. As I said in my June 8th column, I will not defend slavery just because it is done in the name of religion or tradition. But haven’t Westerners learned that it’s impossible to win hearts and minds by barging in on an alien culture uninvited, telling them they’re evil, backward sinners and then insisting that we know better than they do how they should live their lives? Apparently Demi Moore and CNN haven’t.
Kristof’s Totalitarian Fantasy
The hits just keep on coming from the New York Times, which published (on the same day as the previous item) a rather ill-informed article from “Creepy” Kristof, whom regular readers may remember for his lurid columns on “sex slavery” which read as though they were typed with one hand. Apparently, prostitution isn’t the only topic about which Kristof feels compelled to make pronouncements despite an almost total ignorance of the subject; his beliefs about economics and international politics are apparently just as ill-informed: “The long trajectory of history has been for governments to take on more responsibilities, and for citizens to pay more taxes. Now we’re at a turning point, with Republicans arguing that we need to reverse course.” In other words, ever-inflating government is progress, so we should just accept that one day all of our decisions will be made for us by our betters and our only concern will be to slave like good little worker ants until we drop while Big Brother manages our money and our lives. No wonder Kristof hates whores; it must gall him that we keep most of our income and ignore the laws and regulations designed to “help” us. This article from Reason exposes Kristof’s claims for the absurdity they are, and includes the picture I’ve featured here in which Congolese women react with shock and amusement to the spectacle of a stupid American man balancing a woman’s basket on his head…which is sort of the way American women might react to an African man with a big goofy grin walking around town with a purse.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
As weird as it may seem, my husband and I often find ourselves nostalgic for the Cold War; the growing resemblance of Russia to the U.S. and the U.S. to the now-defunct U.S.S.R. is in my mind at least as unsettling as the prospect of World War III ever was. You know how the United States is bucking the widespread trend in the civilized world to make prostitution less criminal? Well, according to this June 8th story from The Guardian, Mother Russia apparently wants to prove she can be just as pigheaded as Uncle Sam:
Drug dealers are to be “treated like serial killers” and could be sent to forced labour camps under harsh laws being drawn up by Russia’s…parliament. Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the state duma, the lower house, said a “total war on drugs” was needed…Russia has as many as 6 million addicts (one in 25 people). Every year 100,000 people die from using drugs, Gryzlov said in a newspaper. The scale of the problem “threatens Russia’s gene pool”, he said. “We are standing on the edge of a precipice. Either we squash drug addiction or it will destroy us”…Injecting drug-use is also accelerating Russia’s HIV crisis because – unlike most other European countries – methadone treatment is banned and needle exchange programmes are scarce, meaning the virus spreads quickly from addict to addict via dirty syringes. An estimated one in 100 Russians are HIV positive. Under legislation promoted by the ruling United Russia party and now being reviewed in parliament, drug addicts will be forced into treatment or jailed, and dealers will be handed heftier custodial sentences…Activists criticised the idea of putting addicts behind bars, pointing to a growing worldwide consensus that treating drug users as criminals has failed as a strategy. The Global Commission on Drugs Policy said in a report last week that there needed to be a shift away from criminalising drugs and incarcerating those who use them. Gryzlov, however, claimed that “criminal responsibility for the use of narcotics is a powerful preventative measure”…
Several activists condemned Gryzlov’s suggestion to “isolate” drug users from society. “Sending more people to prison will not reduce drug addiction or improve public health,” said Anya Sarang, president of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation…”What we need instead of this harsh drug control rhetoric is greater emphasis on rehabilitation, substitution treatment, case management for drug users and protection from HIV”…Denis Broun, the Moscow-based director of UNAids for Europe and central Asia…[said] Gryzlov’s proposals could make matters even worse. “It has been widely shown that criminalising people using drugs simply drives them underground and makes them much harder to reach with preventative measures,” he said. “This is not an effective strategy for fighting HIV. Purely repressive measures do not work.”
Well, perhaps there’s a bright side to this; maybe Russia will be able to win the title of “police state which imprisons the largest number of its own citizens” away from the U.S.