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Archive for October, 2011

One year ago today I published a short history of prostitution in Japan, in which I mentioned that there were many different types of brothels, including bathhouses with sexual services; these are called “soaplands” and they are extremely popular.  Well, as it turns out my husband was recently in Japan on business and his host invited him and another gentleman from his company to go along with him to a soapland; he told me about it when he returned and we both felt my readers might be interested in a first-person account of what goes on there.  So I’m turning the rest of this column over to him (except for a few concluding remarks from me at the end); if you have any questions just ask them in the comments, and I’ll try to get him to answer them as soon as possible (though it may be next weekend before he manages it). 

The soapland we visited was in a largely-residential urban neighborhood where there were several such places, but some are not open to gaijin so we drove around a little until the doorman of one of them flagged us down and showed us a parking place.  We exchanged our shoes for slippers at the door, then he took us into an anteroom.  The manager greeted us and told us the price (10,400 yen, about $135 US), then asked each of us what sort of girl we would like and took us one at a time beyond a partition to show the girl he thought would best suit that man’s preference; it was much more discreet than the lineups at Nevada brothels.  I didn’t care for the first one he showed me, but the second one looked like a Japanese version of Maggie dressed in a slinky gown and high heels, so I was quite happy with her.

She took my hand and escorted me to the third floor; her English was good enough (in combination with sign language) that she could communicate sufficiently for the situation.  The room to which she brought me had a normally-floored section where we came in, then the rest of it was like a very large, sunken shower floor with brown tiles.  To my right there was a shelving unit with a small dorm-type refrigerator and to my left a massage table; the sunken section had a large Roman-style tub filled to the brim with water.  She had me get undressed and put my clothes in baskets she gave me, then she undressed as well and I waited while she got her things ready for the session.  After a couple of minutes she called me to come down and had me sit on a stool whose seat was actually two pads with a large gap between so as to expose the whole crotch area.

She turned on the water in the tub, and it immediately started overflowing onto the tile floor.  Next, she used a flexible shower fitting to wash my crotch, then scrubbed me completely from head to toe with a scrubby and a strong but pleasant-smelling soap.  After washing herself in the same way, she told me to get in the tub; the water was the perfect temperature.  She got in the tub with me, sitting between my legs facing me, and rubbed a soft sponge without soap all over my skin; she then started masturbating me underwater, and after I adjusted my position so she wouldn’t have to duck her head under the water she used her mouth for a few minutes as well.  That was just a preliminary, though; she got out of the tub, moved the stool aside and brought out an air mattress with a lip running around the edge; it was like a combination air mattress and kiddie pool.  She then brought out a large plastic bowl and filled it with what Maggie tells me is called “nuru gel”, a super-slick lubricant that doesn’t dry up.

She called me out of the tub, put a folded towel as a pillow on the air mattress, had me lie down and smeared the gel all over both of us; she then started sliding around on me, rubbing every part of my front with her entire body.  It’s hard to describe; it was as though she was using my body for a stripper pole, and slid along my legs and arms like a train on a monorail.  Sometimes she went fast, sometimes slow, but it was all good and she was obviously very practiced.  After about 20 minutes of this she brought me back to the stool and completely washed us both with the strong soap again, then dried me thoroughly and led me to the massage table.  She gave me a gentle and sensual massage, then walked on my back while supporting part of her weight on a bar hanging from the ceiling; she controlled the pressure by supporting her weight with her arms, varying from feather-light to the whole weight of her body.  I was very impressed with both her dexterity and her physical fitness.  After about 15 minutes of this she told me to flip over, performed oral sex for a little while, then put a condom on me and got into cowgirl position.  I can’t ever finish in that position, so after a short time I flipped her over and got on top.  Once I was done she removed the condom, washed us both one last time, then dried me and offered me iced green tea from the fridge before I got dressed.  Altogether, it was about 90 minutes total.  When I exited the building my shoes were at the front door, so anyone walking by could see how many guests were in the establishment.

My husband dictated the above narrative to me and I put it into complete sentences, then turned it over to him for additions and corrections; I’m not sure I really believe that the massage girl looked like a Japanese version of me, but it’s sweet of him to say that so I won’t question it.  While he was trying to explain to me what everything looked like, he went digging around on the internet and found the second picture, showing the air mattress and tub (it’s actually a still he extracted from a Japanese video).  He found a picture of the stool in the same video, but it was difficult to see clearly so I searched and was able to locate the first picture above.  It turns out there’s a specific name for the thing, sukebe isu, literally “pervert chair”.  Anyhow, writing this column led us into a discussion of all the kinds of prostitution he’s sampled around the world, and it was actually more than I had previously thought!  So perhaps one day I may be able to convince him to do another column on brothels in Tijuana, Australia or Germany, or perhaps the Amsterdam window-girl I encouraged him to see a few years ago.

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Of the three official objects of our prison system: vengeance, deterrence, and reformation of the criminal, only one is achieved; and that is the one which is nakedly abominable.  – George Bernard Shaw

Some euphemisms are just so absurd it’s a wonder they aren’t the subject of constant public ridicule; one of these is “Department of Corrections”, a common American phrase meaning “Prison Department”.  It also has a number of derivatives like “correctional institution” (prison) and “correctional officer” (jailer).  But surely, no sane person believes that prisoners are being “corrected” or rehabilitated in any way; in fact, the evidence is the opposite, that locking criminals up for long periods of time merely makes them worse, and imprisoning those who break minor laws destroys their lives and/or turns them into career criminals.  The reasons for this should be obvious; prisons are little more than schools for crime, where those who are not thoroughly violent when they get in are forced to become more violent to survive.  Furthermore, excessive sentences remove prisoners from society for so long they forget how to behave among normal people and internalize the prison mode of behavior so that it’s difficult to “unlearn” when they get out, especially since criminal background checks, offender registries and other post-incarceration punishments often prevent former prisoners from ever returning to normal society.  These measures create a permanent criminal underclass who can never make a good living or otherwise reintegrate, so their incentives to return to crime (or enter it for the first time if their initial incarceration was for a consensual “offense”) are very strong indeed.  Women who cannot get “regular” jobs can always fall back on prostitution or marriage, but for male ex-convicts there aren’t many options for a worthwhile income other than drug dealing.

None of this makes any difference to lawheads, who defend their punitive mindset with tautologies, a priori statements and asinine slogans derived from TV cop show theme songs.  They take sadistic pleasure in seeing others suffer even if that suffering undermines rehabilitation, endangers society at large and costs the state tremendous amounts of money.  The prevalence of such warped mentalities in the United States can be demonstrated by the fact that we have only 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners and that since 1980 the incarceration rate has grown wildly out of proportion to the crime rate, largely thanks to mandatory sentencing laws, “three strikes” laws and the War on Drugs.  Nor are these perverts satisfied with caging human beings; oh, no!  They constantly agitate for longer sentences and harsher treatment of prisoners, both during their imprisonment and after their release.  And when badge-licking sadism gets into bed with political correctness and neofeminist “social construction” mythology, the result is just plain revolting:

A group of prisoners has begun a letter-writing campaign to protest what they see as an unfair ban on pornography inside [Connecticut’s] correctional institutions.  The Department of Correction announced in July that it would be banning all material that contains “pictorial depictions of sexual activity or nudity” from the prisons beginning next summer.  The state says the ban is intended to improve the work environment for prison staffers, especially female staffers, who might be inadvertently exposed to pornography.  “While it is not supposed to be displayed, it is still visible to staff, whether it be on the inside of a foot locker or underneath their bunks, so they are still exposed to it,” said Correction Department spokesman Brian Garnett.  “And secondarily, is the fact that this is contrary to our rehabilitative efforts, particularly when it comes to sex offenders.”

OK, let’s see if we can follow the “logic” here; they’re applying “hostile work environment” rhetoric derived from “sexual harassment” law to prisons?  The mind boggles; one would think any sane being with the most rudimentary knowledge of human sexual behavior would recognize that for a woman, the inside of a men’s prison would be practically the archetype of a “hostile work environment”.  And if a woman is able to see under a male prisoner’s bunk or into his foot locker, porn is the least thing she has to worry about being “exposed” to.  And how, pray tell, is access to material which the great majority of adult males view regularly somehow “contrary to rehabilitative efforts”?  Looking at porn is one of the few normal male things prisoners can do, and contrary to anti-porn claims it seems to reduce the rate of sex offense rather than increasing it.

…Bill Dunlop, a law professor at Quinnipiac University, said there is a constitutional argument to be made.  But, he said the courts have generally sided with prison officials, as long as they can prove the ban has a legitimate goal other than to simply suppress material that some people might find objectionable — such as maintaining safety in the prisons, or keeping the material out of the hands of sex offenders.  “The courts don’t require the prison officials to look for other ways of achieving those goals without infringing on First Amendment rights, to the extent that they would for government outside the prison,” he said.  “Based on the press release and the notice to the prisoners, it looks as though it’s in the general area of regulations that have been upheld in the past.”  But the state’s total ban on sexually explicit material appears to go beyond bans that the Supreme Court has upheld in the past, he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut…is not representing any of the inmates and doesn’t advocate for pornography in prisons, but is concerned that the ban could be enforced in an arbitrary and overly broad manner.  “Similar regulations have been used to censor an image of the Sistine Chapel, newspapers and magazines with lingerie ads and the novel Ulysses,” Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, said in a statement.

…The ban has the support of the union that represents prison guards.  Lisamarie Fontano, president of Local 387 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said she has been pushing for such a ban for several years, and has received complaints from female employees who have been sexually harassed by inmates using pornography.  “It’s a betterment to all to have it gone,” she said.  “Some inmates don’t want it, because their own sexual and mental issues were being forced onto them, even though it shouldn’t be there in the first place.”  Prisoners also use pornography as currency in prison, trading the pictures for other things of value, she said…

Given that prison guard unions, like all public employee unions, wield power far out of proportion to their numbers (the California prison guards’ union is thought to be the most powerful union in the United States), I have no doubt that the ban will be supported by the courts.  I don’t believe for one second that Fontano or any other female freaking prison guard is so lost in neofeminist La-la Land that she honestly believes that male sexual desire derives from looking at porn; she just wants to create her own sadistic mental porn by depriving male prisoners of one more simple human pleasure.

One Year Ago Today

Yesterday” is a cynical rumination on what it will take to get the mainstream media to stop acting as prohibitionist propaganda organs, and to really get the cause of sex worker rights moving, using lessons learned from gay rights activism.

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Liberty has never come from the government.  Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government.  The history of government is a history of resistance.  The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of government, not the increase of it.  –  Woodrow Wilson

Time and again I have pointed out that the popular American belief that the Democratic Party is “liberal” (in the conventional, though incorrect sense) and the Republican Party “conservative” (ditto, ditto) is not only wrong, but dangerous; naïve people support the candidate of their party of choice presuming that he will act in a way more in keeping with their views and priorities than the candidate of the other party, but this is simply not true.  Time and again politicians do whatever is expedient and pleases their masters (the big-money interests who bankroll their campaigns) rather than what the people who elected them expect them to do, and often Republicans act in ways which place them to the “left” of Democrats, and vice-versa.  Case in point our current president; the conventional wisdom says that Democrats are supposed to care more about civil liberties, but as Jonathan Turley of George Washington University points out in a September 29th article from the Los Angeles Times, that certainly isn’t the case with Obama:

…Protecting individual rights and liberties — apart from the right to be tax-free — seems barely relevant to candidates or voters.  One man is primarily responsible for the disappearance of civil liberties from the national debate, and he is Barack Obama.  While many are reluctant to admit it, Obama has proved a disaster not just for specific civil liberties but the civil liberties cause in the United States.  Civil libertarians have long had a dysfunctional relationship with the Democratic Party, which treats them as a captive voting bloc with nowhere else to turn in elections.  Not even this history, however, prepared civil libertarians for Obama.  After the George W. Bush years, they were ready to fight to regain ground lost after Sept. 11.  Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights.  Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities.  Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.

However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them.  The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly.  Soon after his election…Obama…[announced] that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture.  Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the “just following orders” defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.  Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised.  He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights.  He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists.  His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.  But perhaps the biggest blow to civil liberties is what he has done to the movement itself.  It has quieted to a whisper, muted by the power of Obama’s personality and his symbolic importance as the first black president as well as the liberal who replaced Bush.  Indeed, only a few days after he took office, the Nobel committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize without his having a single accomplishment to his credit beyond being elected…

It’s almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome…Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama’s position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him.  Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism…[but that] cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama’s policies…It looks more like a cult of personality…Ironically, had Obama been defeated in 2008, it is likely that an alliance for civil liberties might have coalesced and effectively fought the government’s burgeoning police powers.  A Gallup poll released this week shows 49% of Americans, a record since the poll began asking this question in 2003, believe that “the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals’ rights and freedoms.”  Yet the Obama administration long ago made a cynical calculation that it already had such voters in the bag and tacked to the right on this issue to show Obama was not “soft” on terror.  He assumed that, yet again, civil libertarians might grumble and gripe but, come election day, they would not dare stay home.  This calculation may be wrong.  Obama may have flown by the fail-safe line…it will be virtually impossible [for civil libertarians] to vote for someone who has flagrantly ignored the Convention Against Torture or its underlying Nuremberg Principles…by blocking the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for torture, Obama violated international law and reinforced other countries in refusing investigation of their own alleged war crimes…

In time, the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties.  Now the president has begun campaigning for a second term.  He will again be selling himself more than his policies, but he is likely to find many civil libertarians who simply are not buying.

Since Turley does not specifically mention them, I feel it necessary to add that the present administration’s record on other civil rights issues of interest to myself and my readers is as deplorable as its record on torture, surveillance and the police state.  Candidate Obama pledged “to seek a more humane and effective drug policy”; President Obama has expanded the drug war, authorized DEA raids against medical marijuana suppliers and dispensaries in states where they are legal, suspended the first, second and fourth amendments in order to persecute them still further, and ignored scientific findings to pronounce that marijuana has no valid medical use.  Candidate Obama spoke of immigration reform; President Obama has deported over one million immigrants, far more than any other US president in history.  He went longer without issuing a pardon than any president other than the first two and last two, and has to date pardoned only 17 people in all (mostly for minor crimes).  He has repeatedly waffled on gay rights issues, and ignored the recommendations of a group of respected scholars that he reject the policies of the Bush administration that equate all prostitution with sex trafficking, instead choosing to continue the “anti-prostitution pledge” that ties federal funds to an oath that recipients will demonize and support criminalization of sex workers.  And he has supported his vice president’s campaign to strip young men accused of sexual impropriety of their civil rights, even when their supposed “victims” deny they did anything wrong.

No matter which party wins the presidency, this trend is likely to continue; Obama has proven himself a foe of civil rights, nearly every candidate in the Republican field considers his opposition to civil rights to be a selling point, and the last time a third-party candidate won the office was in 1860 (and that party went on to become one of the two major ones).  But there is hope; as Turley points out, 49% of Americans now consider the government “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens”.  At the current rate of increase that should reach 60% in less than four years, and then maybe, just maybe, enough people will become angry enough to launch a new civil rights movement…and it’s about damned time.

One Year Ago Today

Anatomy of a Boondoggle” dissects a news story about prostitution stings in suburban Pittsburgh, revealing the truth behind “the sort of prohibitionist propaganda which the police love to issue and which gullible reporters swallow whole because they can’t be bothered to investigate the facts or interview anyone with an opposing view (and wouldn’t be allowed to print it if they did).”

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Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are fallin’
To the sound of the breezes that blow
An’ I’m trying to please to the callin’
Of your heart strings that play soft and low
And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush.
  –  Van Morrison, “Moondance

The modern disconnect with the natural world which has given rise to neofeminism, “social construction of gender”, the militant “animal rights” movement and many other bizarre beliefs and practices is completely alien to me.  When one lives in the country surrounded by plants and animals it is impossible to reduce the calendar to an official fiction, to pretend that shifting clocks changes the time, to imagine that sex-based characteristics and sexual behaviors are instilled by socialization rather than arising naturally as they do in every other animal, or to believe that things like predatory male sexuality, prostitution, sexual dominance and submission and the physical or behavioral characteristics to which people are attracted derive from “patriarchy” rather than evolution and neurochemistry, and can be eliminated by laws and giving little boys dolls to play with (as discussed in my column of one year ago today).  And once one spends even a short time each day watching dogs, cats, livestock and wildlife it is no longer possible to comfort oneself with the ridiculous idea that humans are a kind of angelic being totally and completely separate from all other forms of biological life, or to adhere to the naïve notion that it is either possible or desirable to completely eliminate from the human world what the “enlightenment police” glibly refer to as “cruelty” (a concept which bears about as much resemblance to actual cruelty as a teddy bear has to a grizzly).

It’s not as easy for the inhabitants of New Orleans to isolate themselves from Nature as it is for the inhabitants of most large cities; it is probably the greenest of all American cities, and the total percentage of ground covered with concrete there is very low indeed.  The living Earth beneath the city does not accept her bondage lightly, and constantly expresses her displeasure by undermining houses, creating holes in the roadways, and introducing water into every place which is not hermetically sealed.  Nor do the other life-forms who share the environment respect man-made borders; insects, reptiles and small mammals brazenly invade human dwellings on a scale unheard-of elsewhere, and even the plants slowly creep in while nobody is watching and destroy whatever gets in their way.  And I haven’t even mentioned the hurricanes.

Despite all this some still try, shutting themselves up in climate-controlled offices all day and climate-controlled houses all night, and moving between the two as quickly as possible.  I honestly think they’re in the minority, though, or at least they used to be, which is probably part of the reason neither neofeminism nor any other belief system which relies on rejection of Nature has ever caught on there (or anywhere else in the Deep South).  And I never even tried to join their number, nor do I think I could have had I wanted to.  The tides which ebb and flow in every woman were always particularly strong in me, and that wasn’t the only natural factor which was; the combination of my sinus problems and the bursitis in a cracked rib (incurred in an auto accident when I was in my late teens) allowed me to predict the weather with a high degree of accuracy for most of my twenties, and as I wrote in my column for last Halloween my spirits have always invariably lifted as autumn arrives and the leaves begin to turn.

October usually enjoys a particular sort of cool weather, a crisp breeziness quite unlike that one might experience on an early spring day or a comparatively warm winter one; this is October Weather, my name for that special atmospheric condition I associate with turning leaves and the imminent arrival of my birthday.  In New Orleans I was often cheated of it; October Weather might not come ‘til November and then immediately depart, or some years it might not appear at all.  In fact, one of the reasons I chose to move to the upper South from my native country was the promise of more distinct seasons, including a long, colorful autumn.  The odd, late, chaotic autumns we’ve had the past few years due to the changing climate have caused me considerable annoyance, but they’re still more dependable than what I got in New Orleans so I reckon I can’t complain.  But when that weather did arrive I was filled with a sort of wild, witchy joy; I wanted to stay out late, to suck the fragrant air into my lungs and fly through the night under the harvest moon with my hair streaming behind me.  As a young teen I often sneaked out in the middle of the night to enjoy such weather, and after I arrived at UNO I would wander about the campus on such evenings or ride my bicycle to midnight movies at the Robert E. Lee Theater a few miles away.  More than once I invited my cousin Jeff or whatever boy I was dating to moonlight picnics on such evenings; since UNO was largely a “commuter college” with a low resident population the campus was virtually deserted at night, so we had our pick of sites.

Jeff was a big fan of Van Morrison’s, and there were three of his songs which Jeff particularly associated with me:  “Brown-Eyed Girl”, “Tupelo Honey” and the one which forms my epigram; one of the things which let me know that my husband might be “the one” was that he associated those same songs with me.  And though as I age my reaction to October Weather isn’t nearly as strong as it was in my teens and twenties, on clear, cool October nights I still feel the urge to go out and dance in the dry leaves under the moon.

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Ignorance is learned; innocence is forgotten.  –  José Bergamín

Every so often a reader will stun me by objecting to my vilification of neofeminist prohibitionists with a statement like, “feminists just want equality” or “feminists want women to have choices” or even “feminists aren’t anti-sex”, which causes me to wonder where exactly that reader has been living his whole life that he’s never had to endure the kind of anti-sex venom which is spewed forth by the likes of Dworkin, MacKinnon, Farley, Jeffreys et al.  He can’t possibly have read this blog very often, else he would’ve seen my descriptions of neofeminist rhetoric in columns like “A Short Glossary of Prohibitionism” and “A Fantasy of Hate”, my direct quoting of neofeminists in “The Other Foot” and “In Their Own Words”, and analysis of neofeminist propaganda by myself and others in columns like “A Load of Farley”, “Sales Pitch” and “Down Under”.  And he must certainly have never encountered neofeminist arguments that all sex workers are suffering from “false consciousness” or “Stockholm Syndrome”, or heard them speak disparagingly of “choice feminists” and “sex-pozzies”.

Others admit to encountering these hateful harpies, but seem to believe that they are only a small and marginalized group; would that this were so!  Though neofeminists are no longer the majority in the feminist movement, they still command most of the money and have the ear of governmental officials, the media and police agencies, who find their “victimization” rhetoric useful as an excuse for persecuting sex workers and undermining women’s rights.  Also, the extensive mythology they have developed about whores, our lives and our work is repeated so often it has become an article of faith for many people in the general public of North America and Europe, many of whom (especially in religious-based groups) may not even recognize its origin.  Indeed, the neofeminist dominance of institutional “feminist” discourse is so complete that many people (such as men’s rights activists and social conservatives) neither recognize nor discuss any other type!

So I really have to wonder just how sincere these commenters actually are.  If I had this conversation, say, fifteen years ago with a bookish sort of person who didn’t watch television and never read popular magazines or anything produced by academic feminists, I might have believed that he had never encountered a neofeminist and was deriving his beliefs from some of the early second-wave literature or the odd early ‘90s sex-positive article.  But in these days of the internet (and clearly anyone who comments here has access to that) and the nigh-omnipresence of sex trafficking hysteria, I just can’t accept that anyone living in a Western country has never, ever encountered a fire-and-brimstone, rape-culture-spouting, Patriarchy-fearing, “prostitution is oppression”, man-hating, head-spinning, mouth-foaming neofeminist at one point or another.

So we’re left with several possibilities:

1)  That these people are fully aware of neofeminists, but prefer to deny their existence or numbers for political reasons;
2)  That they’re in denial because the existence of these harridans offends their idealistic views on what feminism should be;
3)  That like me, they refuse to characterize these people as true feminists and are merely expressing themselves badly;
4)  That they think of the anti-sex cult as a fringe group and are merely “whistling past the graveyard” about the very real danger they still pose and the extensive damage they’ve done;
5)  That I’m wrong, and some people really and truly don’t realize how many anti-sex radical “feminists” are out there and/or the extent of their influence; or
6)  That they’re just yanking my chain, trolling or being willfully obtuse.

We have some really good, lively discussions on this blog, and I often learn from my readers, so I’m opening this one up to the Honest Courtesan commentariat; which explanation is the correct one?  Is it a different reason in each case, or even a combination of factors?  Or is it something else I haven’t thought of?

One Year Ago Today

No Other Option” discusses a small but important segment of whores’ clientele, namely those men who, due to physical disabilities, are completely unable to acquire sex with amateurs and therefore have no other option but to pay for it.

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How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.  –  William Shakespeare, King Lear (I, iv)

The hubris which is an unfortunate but intrinsic characteristic of the modern mind leads the one so afflicted to believe that modern people are invariably more sophisticated, more moral and more “enlightened” than our ancestors were, and in many ways we are; we know more about the universe, have access to a greater range of ideas and experiences, tend to have greater respect for individual differences, have largely eradicated the worst forms of slavery and are far less violent.   But in other ways we have remained static, oscillated or even declined, and unfortunately the latter condition applies to sex work.  Since the beginnings of civilization the status of the whore has progressively (though not steadily) declined; as I said in my column of one year ago today:

Despite neofeminist dogma about prostitution being a manifestation of patriarchy, the truth is actually the opposite:  Prostitutes had our highest status in the ancient Goddess-centered cultures because we were rightfully viewed as the gateway between mortal men and the great Feminine Principle.  It wasn’t until the patriarchal cultures succeeded in subordinating the Earth Mother to the Sky Father that our status started to slip…by the 6th century BCE  free temple prostitutes in Athens had largely been supplanted by slave-girls given to the temple as donations, and the Athenian leader Solon tried to eradicate secular prostitution by establishing cheap state-owned brothels and persecuting streetwalkers…In general, male-dominated governments are not really happy about being unable to control prostitutes, and maladjusted men are unhappy that women they don’t own can demand (and get) generous compensation for their sexual favors while men cannot make similar demands from women.

Though in the West courtesans held high status from ancient Greece until the turn of the 20th century, the number of women who could qualify for the title and the number of men who could afford them steadily decreased.  In the East, government control over the lives of harlots slowly increased, and while we were tolerated in Europe until the 16th century the Reformation ushered in an age of anti-whore rhetoric (derived from the preaching of the ancient Hebrew prophets, as described in last year’s column) which slowly but inexorably grew until it combined with the social engineering agenda of the late 19th century “social purity movement” and resulted in our profession being not merely controlled but outlawed on a large scale for the first time in history.  And though these laws have been repealed or softened in most civilized countries, they continue in others (such as the U.S. and various theocratic or repressive regimes), and even the countries where we aren’t classified as criminals generally view prostitution as a “social ill” to be tolerated or controlled.  Worst of all, Victorian moralists pronounced us subhuman and modern prohibitionists continue their rhetoric, declaring us childlike “victims” suffering from “false consciousness” and unable to make adult decisions for ourselves.

This is all particularly galling because, as our ancestors knew, we serve a valuable social function.  In the most ancient societies we were honored not merely for our connection to the Goddess, but also for our role in managing the power of male sexuality, and though in later patriarchal societies we were controlled, contained or tolerated, nobody was stupid enough to suggest that we should be eradicated.  But thanks to the delusional idealism of the social purity crusaders, we are now viewed by many as not merely unnecessary, but an active harm to society…a society which would collapse into sexual chaos without us.  The tide is starting to turn; some cultures have again admitted that ours is an acceptable trade, and many individuals recognize that we serve a vital social role.  But it’s still a pleasant surprise to see an editorial like this one from the September 27th Vancouver Sun:

We, as a society, do not value the services of sex workers.  Sex work is productive work with many direct and indirect benefits to the mental and physical well-being of society…Through our inaction and misguided policies based on this attitude we have created a more dangerous situation for the most vulnerable workers…It’s a huge challenge to change Canadian law given the ambivalence and hypocrisy surrounding this issue but…nothing will change for the better unless we start to appreciate what sex workers do.

And though they’re not seeking recognition for the goodness of her work as a madam but rather for a good deed a person of any profession could have performed, it’s still nice to see people seeking a pardon for their ancestor saying that they’re proud of her:

…when the massive concrete dam below Cora Brooks’ house suddenly broke apart in September 1911, sending 260 million gallons of water churning down the narrow valley toward Austin [Pennsylvania], her quick phone call into town gave many enough warning to run to high ground.  The torrent of water obliterated the industrial town, but the woman saved all but 78 of its residents.  Three months later, when Cora Brooks pleaded guilty to the charges of running a “house of ill repute” and selling liquor without a license, the town came to her defense.  “Had it not been for her, undoubtedly hundreds more lives would have been lost,” residents said in a letter to the sentencing judge.  “Large numbers of people were fed by her, and the suffering and distressed rendered aid and assistance.”

“Cora Brooks,” the judge declared, “proved she was not only human, but humane,” and he released her with a $200 fine.  But the conviction still stands, and Cora’s distant relatives are now asking Gov. Tom Corbett to pardon her of her public sins.  “She was the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold,” says Margo Baker Crosby.  Yes, she was a thorn in the side of the town’s elite, “but that was part of her charm…She needs to be recognized for her good deeds that saved that town”…the director of Potter County’s tourist promotion agency, [Cora’s great-grandson] David Brooks…said…He’s over the embarrassment of her trade.  “I’m proud,” he said.  “If you’re going to be known for something, saving the town isn’t bad.”

Maybe one day in the distant future, men like David Brooks will be able to say they’re proud of whore ancestresses because of their work, rather than in spite of it.  But I doubt that will be anytime soon.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  –  English proverb

Last December I reported that an HIV patient had been cured in Berlin via stem cell transplant, and on September 29th Spanish researchers announced a possible vaccine:

Spanish scientists at the National Biotech Centre in Madrid say a new vaccine could reduce HIV to a “minor chronic infection”…90% of participants given the MVA-B vaccine showed an immune response to the virus and 85% kept the immunity a year later.  According to a press release from The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC):

The success of this vaccine, CSIC’s patent, is based on the capability of a human’s immune system to learn how to react over time against virus particles and infected cells.  “MVA-B vaccine has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more,” says Mariano Esteban, head researcher.  MVA-B is an attenuated virus, which has already been used in the past to eradicate smallpox, and also as a model in the research of many other vaccines.  The “B” stands for the HIV subtype it is meant to work against, the most common in Europe.

Once injected, the vaccine teaches the…immune system to track down and fight off the virus.  “It is like showing a picture of the HIV so that it is able to recognize it if it sees it again in the future,” Esteban says…[adding] “If this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays.”

This is fantastic news, though I have to wonder if prudish American parents, eager to cut off their children’s noses to spite their faces, will refuse to allow them this vaccine as many have refused the one for venereal warts?  Wrongheaded opposition to that one is so widespread the California legislature felt it necessary to enact a law allowing teenagers to get the vaccine (and any future vaccines for STDs, including HIV) without the knowledge of parents who would rather their daughters die than have sex; of course, there is widespread outcry over the law from people who think it should be OK to deny one’s teenage children access to health care.

California is also the state in which a city (San Francisco) with a large gay population recently saw a (defeated) effort to ban infant circumcision, despite the fact that we’ve known for five years now that it reduces the chance of HIV infection by 60% (future attempts at circumcision bans have since been outlawed by the California legislature).  In Europe, the practice is now being encouraged as one of the most cost-effective means of stopping the spread of the disease, as detailed in the second part of our lead story:

In other HIV news, a group of European economists says adult male circumcision is not the most cost-effective solution for stopping the disease and resources should be directed towards other options like finding an HIV vaccine, infant male circumcision, removing the risk of infection from blood transfusions, and stopping mother-to-child transmission of the virus…Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, told a group meeting at Georgetown University, “We need to spend money on things we know work,” and added, “Making blood transfusions safe costs almost nothing, but we’re not doing it.”

That this fact is virtually ignored on this side of the pond should come as no surprise; the United States in general and California in particular are well-known for their inverted priorities and arse-backward “solutions”, spending tremendous sums of money and enormous effort on problems that barely exist (such as “human trafficking” and domestic terrorism) while ignoring threats to thousands or even millions of people.  One ongoing example from California is another HIV-related issue, the condom porn controversy, the absurdity of which was highlighted in my column of one year ago today.  Unfortunately, Americans as a group are mired in religious thinking, even when they’re not religious; they tend to unquestioningly accept whatever pronouncements are made by those they view as “authorities” (whether religious, political, cultural or simply famous), and never let little things like facts change their minds.

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Justice will only exist where those not affected by injustice are filled with the same amount of indignation as those offended.  –  Plato

One year ago today I pointed out that though the still-contested Himel decision striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws in Ontario was “only one tiny crack in a very large and solid dam,” that “many such tiny cracks can weaken even the toughest structure so that one day it may yield to other pressures upon it.”  That column reported another such crack:  a judge in British Columbia allowed a similar challenge to the prostitution laws to proceed despite the efforts of prohibitionists to block it on a technicality.  And now just in time for the anniversary of that decision, I’m happy to report yet another constitutional challenge, as reported on October 7th by CTV:

Canada’s prostitution laws are facing another constitutional challenge from a woman charged with keeping a bawdy house.  And the lawyer mounting the case says other charges laid against sex workers in BC are in trouble because anyone can use a charter challenge as a defense in court.  “It’s the same experts, the same evidence…the constitutional challenge is not out of reach the way it was two years ago,” said Joven Narwal…[who] represents a woman who was charged with keeping a bawdy house, living on the avails of prostitution, and procuring a person into the sex trade after Vancouver police raided…[her business just] days after an Ontario judge ruled that Canada’s prostitution laws are unconstitutional…In B.C., former sex worker Sheryl Kiselbach challenged the same laws, though the case is tied up in legal delays.

Putting those two cases together means anyone has access to the research and arguments to build a charter challenge, said Narwal.  “It’s easier now to the extent that you know which evidence is necessary, which experts will be necessary,” he said.  There are some 90 solicitation charges being prosecuted right now in B.C., and two groups of bawdy house charges.  “They’re all compromised to the extent that anybody who is going to fight is going to sue constitutional arguments,” said SFU Criminologist John Lowman.  B.C. prosecutors admit this will mean a harder fight in court, but they won’t be deterred.  “If a charter challenge is raised, that will be more complicated,” said Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie.  “If that happens more often, we’ll just deal with it on a case by case basis.”

Obviously, prosecutors “won’t be deterred”; it isn’t their own money they’re wasting, and the fight is at least half of the sadistic fun for them.  But that struggle is about to get a lot more difficult (and probably less fun) as the cracks in their prohibitionist dam keep multiplying.  Remember Insite, the Vancouver harm reduction project the Canadian government was trying to close down?  Well, the Canadian Supreme Court has unanimously decided in Insite’s favor, and legal experts are already predicting that this will undoubtedly help the sex worker rights case (thanks to Kelly Michaels for calling this October 7th Vancouver Sun story to my attention):

Canadian courts could strike down the country’s anti-prostitution laws if judges follow the logic of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on drug policy that came out last week.  Experts say the biting unanimous decision preventing the closure of North America’s only safe-injection site for drug addicts has implications for a challenge to Canadian adult prostitution laws that is working its way through the courts.  The court said closing the Insite clinic violated addicts’ basic rights to life and security, given evidence that the clinic reduced the risks from drug addiction.  “I think it’s going to be cited in many, many cases,” said Errol Mendes, law professor at the University of Ottawa.  He said the ruling’s logic can apply in a prostitution case that is likely to end up at the Supreme Court…Ontario’s Court of Appeal is expected to rule on the case soon.  If it and then the Supreme Court uphold Himel’s decision, the federal government will have to find another way to restrict prostitution, or perhaps accept legalized brothels of the sort found in Nevada.

Both Himel’s ruling and the Insite ruling found government actions did not meet the “principles of fundamental justice” that underpin Canadian legislation…A lawyer in the prostitution case agreed that the Insite case was significant for his challenge…Canada’s Supreme Court is less politicized than the U.S. court, and few lawyers expect that to change even after Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper names two new judges, probably within months.  Experts said the Insite decision showed that the government could not ignore scientific evidence to push a legal agenda that opposes drug use or prostitution.  Significantly, the Supreme Court did not examine whether the trial judge was right to conclude that Insite saved lives, focusing on how the government had to react to that evidence.  This might make it easier for the Ontario court to dismiss requests from government lawyers to reexamine the facts of the prostitution case…

Those cracks aren’t just legal, but social as well; as I reported in last year’s column and several other places, public support for criminalization in Canada is rapidly eroding and a number of newspapers have taken a pro-decriminalization stance.  I’m willing to bet that ad campaigns like this one from Nova Scotia have helped by showing that prostitutes are “regular people”, thus fighting police propaganda that we’re all criminals and prohibitionist propaganda that we’re all damaged victims.  Thus, I’m very pleased to see that St. James Infirmary has launched an ad campaign along very similar lines, and considering the story was featured on Huffington Post it may even find its way into the mainstream media:

…St. James Infirmary’s new media campaign promoting the rights of local sex workers…[is] a collaboration between [the infirmary]…and artists Rachel Schreiber and Barbara DeGenevieve…[and] features portraits of sex workers and supporters — spouses, partners, family members and health care professionals — putting faces to the people who work in the industry…”We wanted to make visible the workers who tend be invisible,” said Schreiber…”Sex workers aren’t people hanging out in a dark alley somewhere; they are nurses, teachers and mothers.  Our goal is to demystify sex workers.  They are just everyday people.”  Schreiber believes that because of the mystery and invisibility surrounding the sex industry, workers have trouble accessing the resources they need — an issue she’s hoping the campaign will bring to light…the recent controversy surrounding Ashton Kutcher’s anti-sex trafficking campaign caught her eye…“When the focus of so much media attention is on the trafficking, it doesn’t leave room for anything else — like the resources to keep those who choose to work in this industry safe and healthy, and to give those who feel like they don’t have a choice a way out.”  According to Schreiber, the problem with the media attention is that it fuels enforcement rather than support.  “Many of the sex workers we assist at St. James choose to do what they do.  And they have needs and rights just like everyone else,” said Schreiber.  “And for those who feel stuck due to financial situation, the answer is in getting them the help they need, not in having them arrested.”

The result of the project:  an honest, sincere and informational campaign across San Francisco.  Schreiber originally planned to house the campaign on billboards across the city, but both Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor rejected the campaign, telling Schreiber that “sex worker [is] not a family friendly term”…But Titan 360, the ad company that supports BART, Muni and AC Transit, happily agreed, posting Schreiber’s photographs on Muni busses all over San Francisco.  “We’re hoping this starts a dialogue,” said Schreiber.  “And we want sex workers to be a part of that dialogue.”

Furry Girl’s sex worker rights billboard was similarly rejected by ad companies, but she finally located one who would take it.  As in so many areas, the United States lags behind the rest of the developed world on sex worker rights.  But when the prohibitionist dam crumbles in Canada,  the cracks are bound to spread south; it’s good to see a few of them are already appearing.

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…as soon as she heard me she came down, opened the door, and asked me to come in…she set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed…a golden goblet for me to drink… – Homer, Odyssey (X)

By the time the black-and-white car had come to a stop in front of the grand old house, the girl on the porch had vanished inside.  And by the time the uniformed man had made it to the front door, it was opened by a beautiful, seemingly-ageless woman he knew well.

“Good afternoon, Tommy.  Congratulations on your election!”

“Afternoon, Miss Kay; mind if I come in for a spell?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to make you sit on the porch!  Come on in, and rest your feet for a while.”

He followed her in to the beautifully-furnished parlor and accepted the glass of wine she poured him; he had known her long enough to understand that it was best just to accept it because she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  Not that he particularly wanted to resist; she made the finest homemade wine in the state.

“I was beginning to wonder when you were going to show your face up here, young man; your father (may he rest in peace) came every week to hear the gossip.  He always said I helped him so much that I should have been on the county payroll.”

“Well, Miss Kay, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said hesitantly.

“Oh?” she asked, refilling his glass.

“Well…see, it’s like this.  Things are different now from when Daddy was sheriff.  There’s a lot of talk up at the state capital about cleanin’ up crime, and about morality and all.”

“What’s that got to do with me?  There hasn’t been a major crime in this county since the end of Prohibition, and the rumors we heard helped your father deal with the minor ones.”

“Yeah, but what about your operation here?”

“Why, whatever do you mean?”

“Come on, Miss Kay, you ain’t dumb.  You do a whole lot more’n raise hogs up here.”

She laughed.  “That?  Tommy Carson, don’t be a fool; nobody in this county cares about that.  I bought this house soon after I arrived in this country, and I’ve been taking in girls and entertaining travelling gentlemen ever since.  The people around here know me for a good neighbor.”

“Folks around here, sure.  But like I said, they’re startin’ to make noise in the capital, and puttin’ pressure on local officials like me to clean up.”

“Rulers do that from time to time; it’s the way of things.  They won’t know anything about what goes on here unless somebody tells them, and nobody’s going to do that.”

“Well, maybe.  But it’s not like it was no more; it’s gettin’ a lot harder to cover up.  An’ I’m thinkin’ that extra effort has to be worth somethin’ to you.”

She put down the bottle with barely-controlled anger.  “How dare you?” she hissed.  “Boy, I delivered you, and I gave your mother poultices and medicines for your ailments and rashes and the like.  And when she came here sick with worry because you were going off to fight the Germans, who gave her a charm to protect you?”

Tommy remembered the ancient bronze coin with its faded hawk image and Greek letters; he had worn it on the chain beside his dog tags and though he would not admit it aloud, it had given him great comfort on that beach in Normandy when other men were dying all around him.  “And I appreciate all that, Ma’am, I really do.  But I figure if a man don’t look out for himself, nobody else is like to.  You of all people should understand that.”

After a long, tense pause her face relaxed, and she poured him another glass.  “Of course I do, Tommy.  You’re right.  Things change, and we have to change with them.  Let me go over my books, and we’ll see what we can arrange.”

“I’m glad you decided to see it my way, Miss Kay; I’ll come back after the weekend, OK?”

“That’ll be fine, Sheriff,” she said, seeing him to the door.  “Now, mind you drive carefully; that wine is more powerful than you think.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

“Now, Miss Kay, it’s not your fault.”

“Yes it is, Bart, I should never have let him drive; I told him that wine was much more powerful than he thought, but he insisted he could handle it!”

“You know how Tommy is; once he gets a mind to do somethin’ neither you nor nobody else is gonna stop him.”

“But he could have been killed!”

“Well, he can’t be hurt that bad because he was nowhere near the car; after the crash he must’ve wandered off somewhere to sleep it off.  I’m sure he’ll turn up; we just figured we’d check here in case he came back to use your phone.”

“Please, Bart, let me know as soon as he turns up.”

“I’ll certainly do that, Ma’am.  Oh, by the way, there was a pig wandering around near the wreck; he was real tame so the boys caught him easy and I’ve got him in the truck.  We figured he must be one of yours.”

“Yes,” she said.  “He’s one of mine.”

(With grateful acknowledgement to the work of Margaret St. Clair).

One Year Ago Today

Dry Spell” is a fictional interlude which tells the sad tale of Bea Becket, the top girl in the finest brothel in her city in October of 1929.

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Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit.  It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practised at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.  –  W. Somerset Maugham

Most of you probably heard back in June that F. Chris Garcia, retired president of the University of New Mexico, was arrested in conjunction with the persecution of Southwest Companions; regular readers don’t need me to point out the usual pompous cophistry such as referring to a review board as a “prostitution ring” and calling a website administrator a “recruiter of prostitutes” (a phrase intended to conjure images of a pervert luring doe-eyed innocents into his van with the promise of candy), nor the trumped-up charges such as “conspiracy” (which basically means talking to someone else about something the cops decide to label a “crime”) and “destruction of evidence” (which means there is no evidence and never was).  But you may have missed this item from September 29th:

Bernalillo County’s District Attorney has dropped prostitution charges against former UNM President F. Chris Garcia.  However, the decision doesn’t mean the nationally known political science scholar is out of hot water.  It’s a move that buys the D.A. and the police more time to analyze evidence and the build their case against Garcia and other men busted in what police call a prostitution ring.  “When we have complex, multi-defendant cases that involve a lot of documents that have been seized, computers that have been seized, typically it takes awhile to analyze all of that,” said District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.  The law requires prosecutors to take a case to the grand jury within 60 days of the defendant’s arraignment.  Dropping the charges and re-filing later gives the prosecution extra time – even months…

In other words, the district attorney hasn’t got a case (remember “destruction of evidence”?) so she’s dropped the charges for now in order to have the freedom to harass Dr. Garcia later after she threatens some arrested hooker into making up a bunch of “human trafficking” bullshit.  Or, she just plans to leave it hanging over his head indefinitely, or else the dismissal is part of a behind-the-scenes deal of the type for which Brandenburg is well known (perhaps involving her buddy, escort-raping judge Pat Murdoch).  Since I’m not from Albuquerque I’m not personally familiar with her, but my research indicates she’s the sort of female politician who is bound and determined to prove that she is as sleazy, unprincipled and amoral as any man:  She has been accused of gross misconduct (including reneging on plea bargains and leaking privileged information to the press), has allowed innocent people to sit in jail despite knowing of exculpatory evidence, and has been caught lying and inventing “facts” in interviews on numerous occasions.  But her chief claim to infamy is her widely-criticized tendency to wield prosecutorial discretion like a sledgehammer against ordinary citizens (such as the decorated Marine whom she and Murdoch sent to prison for two years in order to discourage citizens from protecting their property against thieves), but to show no interest in pursuing charges against Murdoch or her other colleagues.  Which of her many faults is in play this time?

As I have pointed out before, cops and state-employed lawyers consider themselves a ruling class to whom the rules simply do not apply; they feel entitled to break laws, inflict violence on the citizenry and otherwise do whatever the hell they want:

Wayne County [Michigan] Prosecutor Kym Worthy…has filed charges against former Romulus Police Chief Michael St. Andre, his wife Sandra Vlaz-St. Andre, and five Romulus detectives…for misconduct, corruption, embezzlement, and witness intimidation…[in connection with] a scheme to improperly use drug forfeiture funds for personal benefit.  Worthy says the allegations include purchasing a Westland tanning salon operated by Vlaz-St. Andre, hiring prostitutes and spending $40,000 on marijuana and alcohol in a one-year period.  Chief St. Andre and his wife are alleged to have had bank account balances in excess of their combined annual income [and] the officers are…accused of “double-dipping” expense reports and making “fictitious payments to confidential sources.”

Their alleged criminal activity, which began in January 2006 and continued up until this month, took place under the guise of a Romulus Police Special Investigation Unit investigation into allegations of Liquor Commission violations, prostitution and narcotics trafficking…this supposed investigation was hidden from the Special Investigations Unit supervisor and supervised only by St. Andre.  No information from this case was ever turned over to prosecutors.  Worthy said the Michigan State Police began investigating allegations of police corruption in January 2009 at the request of someone she termed “a highly-placed Romulus Police official”…

In other words, the excesses were too egregious to ignore, especially since the informant (most likely the unnamed “Special Investigations Unit supervisor”) was both highly-placed and brought in too many others for the affair to be effectively hushed up.  Even so, the prosecutor prefers to hide the bald truth under euphemisms; armed robbery and grand larceny are softened into “improper use of drug forfeiture funds”, in other words dirty cops pocketing money they stole from people at gunpoint after accusing them of the heinous crime of possession of drugs without a badge.  Obviously, Dr. Garcia chose the wrong profession; had he been a cop or a judge instead of a university professor, he could have hired as many hookers as he liked as long as he invited the district attorney and other highly-placed cops to the party.

One Year Ago Today

An Older Profession Than You May Have Thought” demonstrates that our trade is very old indeed, predating our species by millions of years.

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