Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2012

Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.  –  Robert F. Kennedy

In a lovely example of synchronicity, the brilliant Amy Winfrey (creator of Making Fiends, one of my favorite TV comedies) posted a new video, “Tea Time with Cobra”, the same day I published “My Favorite Short Films“; you can see it below, after six links from the ever-vigilant Radley Balko.  Next after the video you’ll find three links from Popehat, two from Cthulhuchick and one each from Melissa Gira GrantWalter OlsonKorhommeDeep Geek and Neil Gaiman  (in that order), plus a second video called to my attention by Antonio Lorusso.  I found it interesting because I’m subject to severe, debilitating motion sickness myself, and it’s rather nice to know that because of that I probably needn’t worry about accidental ingestion of neurotoxins.

Read Full Post »

It’s not about promiscuity, which makes you sound square; it’s not about prostitution, which makes you sound dirty; it’s about sex-trafficking, which makes you sound like you’re on the side of the angels, know-nothing though they might be.  –  Michael Wolff

Amazingly Stupid Statements

Just Don’t Call It Slut-Shaming: A Feminist Guide to Silencing Sex Workers” is a funny and dead-on-target lampoon of neofeminist anti-whore rhetoric in the form of a mock primer.  Definitely a must-read.

Cracks in the Dam

Canadian courts slap down another government attempt to stop sex workers from claiming human rights:

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the right of a non-profit group representing women…in downtown Vancouver’s sex trade to challenge the country’s anti-prostitution laws on constitutional grounds.  The ruling means the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society can go back to B.C. Supreme Court to pursue a case it launched five years ago…

The government’s argument against the suit relied on the sophistry that one of the parties in the suit (Sheryl Kiselbach) was no longer affected by the laws due to being retired, and that the other party (the DESWUAVS) could not be affected because it was an organization, therefore neither had the right to sue.  But the judge realized that the government’s claim that streetwalkers had to bring such suits individually was absurd, and ruled in favor of the group.  It’s not only good news for sex workers, but for other marginalized Canadians as well:

…[attorney] Katrina Pacey…explained [that] “This would provide a real opportunity for marginalized people, people with mental health issues, people with HIV, prisoners, refugees, children to form a collective organization whereby they then have the support and capacity to bring these cases forward, as a community”…

Japanese Prostitution

The bad economy and political tensions between their countries have combined to make things increasingly difficult for Chinese whores in Japan, creating a dangerously unbalanced buyer’s market:

…“Rumors have been spreading that Chinese girls have been beaten up by Japanese Johns, and some of them are even begging off on transactions with customers they don’t know out of fears for their safety,” says “pink” journalist Yasuhiro Ebina.  “Many Chinese women tend to be blunt and unsociable, but of late they are forcing themselves to smile, and have been primping themselves to improve their appearance.  Before a deri heru (out-call sex) service might have charged an additional 8,000 yen for honban (the “real thing,” i.e., intercourse), but now they’ve knocked as much as 5,000 yen off the total price”…women from Shanghai tend to be proud and many refuse to dispense oral sex, but over the past week they are now even providing lip service bareback.  And some ladies from Dalian or Harbin are even allowing customers condom-free rides…

Forward and Backward

The stupidity, it burns!  “…[Washington, D.C.] police lieutenant Jeffery Carroll told residents at a neighborhood meeting…that [a perceived] jump in [street] prostitution may be related to the surge in construction activity and increase in construction workers in the neighborhood.  Carroll told residents that prostitution activity typically takes place between midnight and…6:00 a.m. The recent surge has come between 3:30 and 7:30 a.m. or else at around 3:30 p.m….which police say could correlate to changes in construction shifts…

Not To Be Taken Internally

Yet another poor fool has died from allowing a non-doctor to inject filth into her arse in a non-medical setting:

…52-year-old Morris Garner…who has had gender changing procedures and goes by the name Tracey Lynn Garner, is charged with depraved-heart murder in the March death of 37-year-old Karima Gordon, of Atlanta…Gordon became ill within 30 minutes of leaving Garner’s house in Jackson after…injection [of a silicone-like substance into her buttocks] but decided to try to make it home to Georgia before seeking medical treatment…[investigator Lee McDivitt]…said her chance of surviving the injections was small, anyway…”The [medical examiner] told me…[that when he] cut the victim open…this material ran all over the floor, all over their shoes, all over the place”…

What I can’t understand is why so many of these self-proclaimed cosmetic surgeons are transgendered.

Above the Law

Once again:  As long as government actors have excessive power over individuals, this will keep happening:  “…Pittsburgh Public Schools police officer…Robert Lellock…was arrested…[on] 23 counts of crimes including corruption of minors, child endangerment and sex crimes…”  Lellock allegedly raped several 13-14 year old boys, ensuring their silence by a combination of threats to kill their families and rewards of marijuana and class-skipping privileges.

An Example To the West

You may remember that DMSC had formed its own football (soccer) team for the children of Calcutta sex workers; well, two of the boys were picked for a world championship team:  “Two sons of sex workers from India’s eastern state of West Bengal will play soccer…in the Indian…team for the Homeless World Soccer Cup 2012 in Mexico…’This is a big achievement in integrating children of sex workers with the mainstream sports community,’ said Dr Samarjit Jana of DMSC.”

The Birth of a Movement

This Guardian article is mostly about sex workers’ reaction  to the socialist scheme to inflict the Swedish model on France, but it also contains interesting information on French hookers’ efforts to circumvent busybody laws and the sleazy tricks cops use to harass them.

…The “white van women”…embody the French state’s difficult attitudes to prostitution.  As in the UK, prostitution itself…is not a crime.  But…[a] 2003…law [forbids being]…in a public place known for prostitution dressed in revealing clothes.  To get round this, women started working in private vans.  Selling sex inside a vehicle was not breaking the law.  But police are now using any means to crack down on the growing number of sex-work vans, namely parking tickets and tow-trucks…some…owe thousands of euros in parking tickets and pound-release fines accrued each month…

Shift in the Wind

An excellent op-ed against “end demand” rhetoric appeared last Sunday in, of all the unexpected places, The New York Times; I’ll bet Nick Kristof isn’t happy:

…policy makers have started to push to eradicate all prostitution, not just the trafficking of children into the sex trade.  Under the catchphrase “no demand, no supply,” they advocate increasing criminal penalties against men who buy sex — a move they believe will upend the market that fuels prostitution and sex trafficking…[but] the “end demand” campaign will harm trafficking victims and sex workers more than it helps them…End-demand advocates’ prototypical victim — an abused teenage girl…forced into the sex trade…does exist.  But they disregard the fact that individuals, including boys, men and transgender people, enter the sex trade for a variety of reasons.  The pimped girl who has inflamed the public’s imagination needs government services and protection, not to be made into a symbolic figure in an ideological battle to eradicate the entire sex industry, which, like many other sectors, includes adults laboring in conditions ranging from upscale to exploitative, from freely chosen to forced…despite their righteous anger, the end-demand crowd is quick to dismiss what many sex workers actually have to say.  Some activists have gone so far as to brand those who criticize their campaign as “house slaves” unable to recognize their own oppression…

The writer is being polite; Melissa Farley’s actual term was “house nigger”.  The article goes on to strongly criticize the Swedish model, flatly stating that it has failed to reduce prostitution and explaining how it harms women; it reports that most abuse of sex workers is by police rather than clients or “pimps” as claimed by the prohibitionists; and it discusses real solutions very much like those advocated in this blog.  The article is not long, and well worth your time.

Worse Than I Thought

Proposition 35 is so awful (Chorus:  How awful is it?) that even trafficking victim advocates oppose it:

…The opponents, who range from a South Bay nonprofit to a co-author of California’s current law against trafficking, say that, instead of helping, Proposition 35 will set back their work by years.  Chief among their concerns is the measure’s focus on hefty penalties rather than a collaborative attack on the problem…That approach, they say, ignores the victims…[they] also condemn the discrepancy between penalties for labor and sex trafficking…Most victims don’t end up in the sex trade…yet Proposition 35 provides for lower penalties for labor victims…

The Phoenix Pharisees

The Maricopa County sheriff’s office only “treats prostitutes as trafficking victims” when they find it convenient:  “…Over the course of a month, detectives made 37 arrests on suspicion of prostitution-related crimes…in an unincorporated area of the county tucked between Tempe and Guadalupe…suspects made contact with an undercover deputy, who secured an offer of sex for money and then used a code word as a signal for other deputies to storm the hotel room…”  “Code word?”  “Stormed” the room?  Their pomposity would be hilarious if they weren’t ruining the lives of real women.

Thoughts On My First Conference

I’m the third interviewee in this video.  It’s not very long, but I still figured y’all would want to see it.

Parting of the Ways

This Guardian op-ed presents Michael Wolff’s opinion of the Backpage-Village Voice split; though he has no love for Lacey and Larkin he has even less for Kristof and company, and the article provides the interesting tidbit that some of the anti-Backpage campaign was funded by the Church of Scientology in revenge for the Voice’s relentless attacks on it.

Metaupdates

Bad Fantasy, Good Reality in TW3 (#7)

Cambodian cops are learning to parrot their American masters quite well:

Chan Sreynuch, the owner of Mikasa Coiffure and Beauty…was arrested…on suspicion of human trafficking, according to the national military police spokesman Kheng Tito…According to him, Sreynuch would lead young women — often aspiring singers and students — to her salon, then connect them with wealthy businessmen…Three of her manicured and coiffed callgirls were also detained…[and] sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Hall’s rehabilitation centre for “re-education”…

Coming and Going in TW3 (#12)

Anna Gristina…has pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution…[she] will be sentenced…to time served and probation as part of a plea deal.  The judge warned the Scotland-born woman she could also be deported…

An Example To the West in TW3 (#14)

Workers in the [Korean] sex industry called…for the scrapping or revision of anti-sex trafficking laws…[which limit their] rights to sexual autonomy and their freedom to enjoy a free sex life as adults…another sex worker surnamed Kim submitted a petition…for…judgment on whether the laws are constitutionally acceptable…

Real People in TW3 (#21)

British prohibitionist Julie Bindel interviewed the Fokkens sisters, the elderly Dutch whores about whom a documentary was recently made; unsurprisingly, she only reports the negative parts and dismisses the “rosy picture the twins paint of prostitution” as just a kind of weird twin-thing.  Of course she is pleased to report that the Fokkens say legalization has been bad for Dutch hookers (largely because of the exaggerated tax assessments European officials commonly use to persecute sex workers), but cannot or will not comprehend that no sex worker rights organization in the world supports Dutch-style legalization.

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic in TW3 (#29)

If you’re impressed by those brain studies that “prove” porn, sugar, the internet or whatever is “as addictive as cocaine”, you need to consider the study which won this year’s Ig Nobel Prize in neuroscience “for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.”

This Week in 2011

My columns on Mabon and Banned Books Week were followed by others on misuse of the word “vagina”,  the fallacy of “empowerment”, dehumanization of whoresdominatrices in the news and women’s views of male sex workers.

This Week in 2010

My first Mabon column, the problems caused by unsatisfied male sex drives, my sex-related pet peeves, one of my earliest columns on “sex trafficking” hysteria  and an angry reply to it, the growth of opposition toward prohibition and my announcement of the Himel decision.

Read Full Post »

The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and preferred answers, not because he is obstinate but because he knows others worthy of consideration.  –  Allan Bloom

Only two questions this time, though both are fairly long ones.  If you have one you’d like me to answer, please email me at maggiemcneill@earthlink.net; I’m a bit slow with my correspondence lately but I should still be able to answer you within a few days.

I’m in my twenties and single, but very much do want to get married some day.  I know that as a wife it will be extremely important to keep my husband sexually satisfied as best I can; I also know that if I don’t, I’d much rather he meet his needs with a hooker than an amateur since, like you’ve mentioned time and time again, the former is likely to be discreet and not destroy my marriage.  However, even if I do perform my “wifely duties” well, do you think it’s still inevitable that a man is going to cheat for sexual variety?  And if so, how would one go about having a conversation about it with a husband prospect?  “I’d really prefer if you didn’t cheat on me at all, but if you do, please do it with a professional!”?  I feel like that’d encourage a man who wasn’t even thinking of such a thing to go for it!  I know this is probably a strange thing for me to be stressing over when I’m not even so much as engaged, but I’d love to hear your perspective!

No, it’s not inevitable; roughly 67% of all married men cheat, which still means about 1 in 3 don’t.  And you have to remember that those figures are for all marriages, with bad or inattentive wives mixed in with the good, attentive ones.  I would suspect that if we could figure out a way to only survey the husbands of good wives, that number would be much lower.  It would not, however, be zero; I suspect it would be something like 20%, the fraction of men who see whores “occasionally” (I don’t have any specific rational basis for this comparison; it’s more like an educated guess modified by instinct).  Given that, I don’t think it’s at all silly to have the conversation you suggest at some point.  I’m not suggesting you just blurt it out in the middle of sex or dinner, but sooner or later a related subject is bound to come up and you can segue into it.  He will almost certainly insist that he’ll never do that, and he may even really mean it at the time, but years later if he feels the need he may remember what you said and take the harm-managed path.  Don’t worry about “giving him ideas”; when it comes to sex people will invariably think of such things on their own whether you mention it or not.  Plus, you can certainly stress that you’re not exactly giving your blessing to his hiring hookers, but rather just telling him that the professional option would hurt you less and you’d find it easier to forgive.

Your stressing about it now is indeed “strange” in the sense of “unusual”, but not in the sense of “weird”; in fact, I think it’s a sign of remarkable good sense.  Most girls never even consider these things, and as a result they tend to react that much more badly when faced with the revelation that their husbands are not superhuman paragons of virtue.  In fact, I suspect that a young woman who can think so clearly about an emotional subject like this is much more likely to choose her mate wisely and to consider factors like economics and sexual compatibility rather than simply rushing into marriage in a biochemical haze, and that will dramatically increase your chances for a good match characterized by mutual honesty.

A little over two months ago, I met a whore with whom I share a social chemistry that I never experienced with a woman before, and I feel such intense affection for her that I equally look forward to our conversations after my basic physical need has been satisfied.  At the same time, I respect our professional boundaries; I feel scheduling an appointment with her once a month does the trick.  I have become much more responsible in my personal life. I feel better motivated to tackle life’s challenges, get my sleep and exercise, keep my space clean and organized, feel more at ease around others, and am more affectionate with my family.  I no longer feel as though I have resigned myself to a cheap substitute for a conventional relationship.  Even more bizarre, I have begun to feel that compensating a woman is more natural than conventional relationships.  Have I gone nuts?  Perhaps I’m romanticizing this too much?  Secondly, do you think it’s plausible for a whore to have such a quasi-intimate relationship with a client, genuinely feeling some affection for him that doesn’t cross professional boundaries?

Your question is kind of tangled, but I’m going to tease out what I think are the pertinent strands.  First of all, as I’ve written many, many times before, there really isn’t a bright, clear line between prostitution and dating (or even marriage) as people like to pretend.  All lasting relationships have an economic component, because once the flare of biochemical passion fades there needs to be something more substantial to hold the partners together, and mutual economic benefit is about as strong a glue as there is.  That does not preclude genuine affection, however; most everyone has had the experience of genuinely liking a customer, employee, boss or co-worker despite the fact that the relationship is primarily an economic one, and though I love my husband I also recognize that our socioeconomic arrangement is the bedrock of the relationship.  Expressed another way, economics is the cake, and love the icing, not the other way around as modern Americans like to pretend.  So, answering the last question first:  Yes, a whore can have genuine affection for a client and vice-versa, and since some whores feel no need for sexual companionship outside the job, I can’t see where the opposite couldn’t be true.

Next, you have to remember that the male need for sexual variety is pretty powerful, and more so in some men than others; though some men certainly yearn for a lifetime companion, others may prefer serial monogamy and still others may be perfectly happy with getting their sex from women and their companionship from deep male friendships.  The idea that every man (or every woman, for that matter) must or even should form long-term relationships that combine social, economic and sexual factors is asinine; though such relationships are often rewarding and are probably better for raising children than the culturally-available alternatives, that doesn’t mean they are right for everyone, or that everyone is going to crave them.  So no, you’re not crazy for finding your relationships with whores rewarding and satisfying; what’s more, you need to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.  If you’re happier, better-adjusted and more productive now than you’ve ever been before, why question it just because closed-minded bigots might not like it?  The only person you have to please is you, and if you’re accomplishing that you’re in an enviable position.  Keep on the way you’re going as long as it works for you, and if you ever arrive at a point where it doesn’t any more you can calmly take stock of the situation and proceed from there.

Read Full Post »

Elmer Fudd:  Oh Bwunhiwda/You’re so wuvwy.
Bugs Bunny:  Yes I know it/I can’t help it.  –  “What’s Opera, Doc?”

Given that I prefer short stories to novels and have stated categorically that I feel quality is much more important than quantity, you probably could’ve guessed that I also like short films.  For purposes of this column I decided to define “short” as anything under half an hour, and as usual I established a few rules to narrow the field; the most important of those limits was that individual TV series episodes were excluded, because to allow them would produce far too wide a field to even consider.  Furthermore, since the short film genre is essentially dominated by two formats (the music video and the one-reel cinematic cartoon), I bit the bullet and limited myself to one specimen (and one honorable mention) of each.  Even so, there’s more repetition than I would like in two descriptor fields:  three of these (and one HM) were directed by the late, great Chuck Jones, and three were produced by grants from the National Film Board of Canada.  But it had to be; had I limited myself to one Jones selection and one NFBC selection the column would never have been done.  Because the time-scale here is so tight (most of these were made between 1966 and 1976) I’ve decided to list them in alphabetical order.

1)  Blackfly (1991)  This wickedly funny animated video for an infectious song (don’t say you weren’t warned) was, like so many amazing animated shorts, produced by a grant from the NFBC; I first saw it on the Cartoon Network’s anthology series O Canada in the late ‘90s.

2)  Don’t Come Around Here No More (1985)  Of all the hundreds of music videos I saw in the mid-‘80s, this one sticks in my mind more than any other; it was rare for a video to achieve this perfect a synthesis of music and visuals, and the fact that I really like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and love Alice in Wonderland didn’t hurt either.

Honorable MentionUnder Pressure (1981)  A striking video for a great song; it was directed by David Mallet (who was responsible for many memorable videos) and often shows up on “best video” lists.

3)  Feed the Kitty (1951)  Part of the genius of Chuck Jones lay in his realization that short cartoons were primarily a visual medium, and the greater the fraction of the story that could be told purely in images, the better.  The only words in this masterpiece are those spoken by the housewife, Violet; Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot make only animal noises, and Marc Anthony’s facial expressions are among the most evocative ever portrayed in ink and paint.

Honorable MentionWhat’s Opera, Doc? (1957), also directed by Jones, was the first cartoon ever selected for the National Film Registry, and is widely considered among animators, directors and critics to be the single greatest animated short ever made.  It is nothing short of amazing, and only my love for “Feed the Kitty” kept it off of the main list.

4)  Horton Hears a Who! (1970) is the first of two TV specials on this list directed by Chuck Jones; this one was his second with Dr. Seuss.  Even as a child I recognized that the moral and philosophical implications of the story were far beyond those in most kiddie fare, and the spectacular Maurice Noble design is a feast for the eyes.

5)  Icarus (1974)  I first saw this odd, haunting claymation film as a filler short between shows on our local public television station in the late 1970s, and I never forgot it (though until the advent of the internet I despaired of ever seeing it again).  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a good copy of it despite the fact that it was included in Fantastic Animation Festival (1977).

6)  Lady Fishbourne’s Complete Guide to Better Table Manners (1976) is one of the funniest things I have ever seen, and it rewards repeated watching with little details that one might not catch the first time around.  Be prepared for “A thousand pardons, I was most revolting” to become a permanent part of your vocabulary.  I apologize for the huge, ugly logo some moronic Philistine encumbered this YouTube copy with.

7)  Number Three Ball (1970)  This short film was produced for Sesame Street by Jim Henson and directed by Frank Oz.  Though it’s extremely short, Oz had to build the complicated props by hand, a process that took months; the result is well worth it, because this is probably the most memorable of the many clever and often beautiful shorts which appeared on the show during the early 1970s.

Honorable MentionE-magination (1969)  Here’s another outstanding Sesame Street short, a lovely and surreal pastel animation with a unique, wistful score.

Honorable MentionThis Lollipop is Following Me (1971)  Sesame Street’s sister show, The Electric Company, also had some incredible animated shorts, of which my favorite was this inexplicable nightmare in miniature.  I still occasionally find myself singing this song out loud.

8)  Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1975)  Chuck Jones adapted a number of stories from Kipling’s Jungle Book as TV specials, but this was in my opinion the best.  The first time I saw it I disliked the way Jones depicted the mongoose’s motion, and also a few silly bits of “business” near the beginning, because I felt they detracted from the serious tone of the story (Orson Welles is the  narrator; ‘nuff said).  But eventually the rest of it won me over, and it’s now one of my favorite films of any length.

9)  What On Earth! (1966)  This clever satire from the NFBC was obviously not directed by Jones, but I owe my discovery of it to him because it was featured on his groundbreaking kids’ show Curiosity Shop, which I am still waiting for on DVD.  No YouTube video of it is available, but you can watch it on the NFBC website by clicking on the title.

10)  Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968)  This is IMHO the funniest and most entertaining of the Walt Disney Pooh adaptations; every time I watch it I get the giggles for days over “Well I say now.  Someone has pasted Piglet on my window.”  Unfortunately, Disney being its usual greedy corporate self, the film isn’t available online, but at least I can show you the heffalump song:

Honorable MentionThe Wizard of Speed and Time (1979)  Since “Blustery Day” wasn’t available I figured I would give you one more for the road (so to speak).  Keep in mind this was all done with stop-motion animation, without any help from computers whatsoever.

Please feel free to include your own favorites in the comments!

Read Full Post »

There is no feast on earth which does not end in parting.  –  Chinese proverb

By now many or even most of you have heard the news which broke first thing Monday morning; as stated in the official press release,

New holding company Voice Media Group…announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase the publishing and related sales properties owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC.  The purchase includes the iconic Village Voice Media alternative weekly newspapers and their associated websites, as well as the national advertising arm of the company.  The buyout is being led by Scott Tobias, who has been Village Voice Media Holdings’ chief operating officer and will be chief executive officer of the new Voice Media Group…Backpage.com, also currently owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, is not part of the buyout.  Backpage.com will go its own way as a separate company with separate ownership.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the move had something to do with the continuous attacks on Backpage, which became the favorite target of prohibitionists after they succeeded in getting Craigslist to delete the erotic services section they had forced it to establish only a few years before.  The newspaper business is not what it once was, and threats of advertising boycotts and all manner of sound and fury from fanatics can’t be all that reassuring to publishers.  What concerned me when I first read the news was the question of how it might impact the Village Voice chain’s editorial stance, which has been relatively pro-sex worker rights for some time now.  I did a little research, however, and came up with this farewell letter sent by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin (owners of Village Voice Media Holdings) to “colleagues, friends and critics”, which I think does provide an answer:

…[We] have spent much of our time in the past few years huddled with attorneys in ongoing litigation over the First Amendment, free speech on the Internet and Backpage.  We have federal court victories for Backpage in Missouri and Washington and are awaiting a federal judge’s ruling in Tennessee.  Throughout this struggle we have also locked horns in numerous media venues with the National Association of Attorneys General.  This particular fight is important and not one that we intend to abandon.  At the same time, Backpage’s battles are an enormous distraction to publishers, editors and readers of Village Voice Media…Consequently, we have decided to sell our newspaper publishing and online media company…and…depart to devote our undivided attention to the defense of Backpage, which is not part of the sale.

If it seems that we now spend as much time with attorneys as we do with writers, the truth is we have always kept the company’s footing through litigation…we have successfully defended more than 45 lawsuits filed by lawyers attempting to silence us.  But it is also true that the Backpage attacks are different from conventional press issues, if only because the attacks are orchestrated with the often unlimited resources of government funding.  As a consequence, the struggle is not an easy one.  The outcome is not assured.  Litigation is extremely costly in time and money.  But this fight is the next step…For these past few decades, we have fought to ensure that our publications stood for the principles of unfettered speech, open government, accountability and freedom of the press.  We have also challenged conventional wisdom, whether delivered by pontificating pundits or self-righteous scolds…

After reading that, I don’t think we have anything to worry about; it seems highly unlikely that Lacey and Larkin would have sold their baby (the company’s first weekly, Phoenix New Times, was opened “in 1970 as a protest over the war in Vietnam and in reaction against the mainstream media”) to a group of people whom they suspected might roll over and turn yellow just to make a fast buck as most of the journalistic world has.  I believe the new ownership (which is, after all, just the old management) will continue to oppose the prohibitionists, perhaps even more so now that they needn’t concern themselves with accusations that their only motive for defending sex worker rights is profit.

Lacey and Larkin close their letter by saying to their soon-to-be-former staff, “Enjoy the hell that you raise.”  I’d like to wish the same thing back to them, and to tell them that I’m very glad they’re on our side.

Read Full Post »

Humanity is the washerwoman of society that wrings out its dirty laundry in tears.  –  Karl Kraus

Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries were the culmination of a centuries-long trend which started in the 13th century.  Though the Church had always held prostitution to be a “necessary evil”, the crusading fervor of the mid-1200s turned “the Church (and most governments) [toward] tolerating the profession but attempting to redeem as many whores as possible by teaching them the ‘error of their ways’, sometimes…by confining them to…‘Magdalene homes”:

Conditions in these homes ranged from the tolerable to the terrible depending on their endowment and management; a few cared for ex-whores indefinitely while attempting to find them husbands, but the majority were semi-prisons in which the women were “cleansed” by teaching them the “value of honest work” (i.e. unpaid drudgery) with a harsh regimen of long hours, short rations and strict rules while supervisors read from the Bible or various didactic tracts.  Most of the Magdalene homes died out after the Black Death decimated 14th century Europe, but a few survived the centuries and the movement actually experienced a revival throughout the English-speaking world in the mid-18th century.  Their numbers  dramatically increased with the rise of the “purity movement” in the late 19th century, but by the early 20th their treatment of ex-whores had become so harsh that only the truly desperate were willing to go there and they largely vanished in all countries but Ireland, where they were called “Magdalene laundries” because the inmates were used as washerwomen.

This is by no means ancient history; the last of these laundries was closed only 16 years ago today (September 25th, 1996) after the public was made aware of the horrific abuse which was rampant in such facilities, and the Irish government’s investigation of the scandal has only just been closed (its report is due by the end of this year). This recent article from the Irish Examiner  will give you some idea of what these early incarnations of “rehabilitation centers for prostituted women” were like; note that though (as their name clearly indicates) they were established solely for “repentant” prostitutes, incarceration in them first became mandatory and then (as always happens in such systems) was extended to other “bad” girls such as unwed mothers and teen runaways:

The 145 pages of Justice for Magdalene’s…[report] describes from testimony how the women suffered abuse of various kinds…and once the door to the outside world was shut on them, they were referred to by number not by name…JFM hold[s] religious orders and the State directly and indirectly responsible for systematically humiliating, imprisoning and enslaving thousands of young Irish girls…the State sent women and girls to the laundries and ensured “they remained there — in most cases, without any statutory basis for doing so”…the State used the laundries as a way of dealing with births outside marriage, poverty, homelessness, promiscuity, domestic and sexual abuse as well as youth crime and infanticide… “It repeatedly sought to funnel diverse populations of women and girls to the Magdalene Laundries and in return, the religious orders obtained an entirely unpaid and literally captive workforce for their commercial laundry enterprises”…the women washed, ironed and sewed from dawn to dusk, were regularly beaten, not allowed to talk to one another and punished if they laughed.  There was no regard whatsoever for their health or medical needs.  If they stepped out of line, they were “put down the hole”.

“This was a four by four room… There was nothing in it, only a bench — no windows.  You were put in there; your hair was cut, more or less off completely….and you were there all day without anything to eat,” one woman recalled.  Even for the “good” girls and women upstairs, food was scarce…[those] in the laundries were also denied contact with girls in other convent complexes…[and] the laundry was designed so the women could not see out or be seen inside…

The nuns would also routinely split up sisters or mothers and daughters, denying them contact even to the point of not telling one when the other had died.  I’m sure you can guess who the laundries’ biggest customers were:

…the nuns got direct capitation grants from the State and also valuable state contracts for cleaning laundry and commercial laundry work from various Government departments and agencies…the State chose not to supervise the religious orders’ operation of the Magdalene Laundries…[it] failed to enforce its own health and safety legislation…[and] turned a blind eye to the fact these school-age girls weren’t receiving an education, weren’t being paid for working 12-hour days and had been cut off from family, friends and the outside world…

The two orders involved in this monstrous enterprise were the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity; one would think that given the public relations nightmare which has resulted from the Irish government’s involvement with these organizations, it would want nothing more to do with them, and would be especially hostile toward allowing them any input whatsoever on any public policy even remotely connected to whores.

One would be wrong.  The “prostitution and trafficking” NGO named Ruhama, the largest and most vociferous anti-sex work organization in Ireland and the most aggressive proponent of imposing the Swedish model on the country, “was founded as a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, both of which had a long history of involvement with marginalised women, including those involved in prostitution.”  Nor is it relying on Church funds or public contributions to accomplish its goals; according to the Irish Times it “receives funding from the Department of Health and the Department of Justice.”  In other words, the Irish government continues to fund two societies of sex-hating sadists, with a long history of vile and inhuman treatment of women, in their campaign to extend their anti-whore policies into the streets and to impose them on men as well.

And people wonder why I distrust governments.

Read Full Post »

The lines I have written that you read between,
The lines on the pages
The lines on the screen
Of lines spoken – I say what I mean.
It’s parallel lines that will never meet.
  –  Deborah Harry

The dinner dishes had been rinsed and placed in the washer, the young men were on the veranda talking about yesterday’s football game and the kids were already kissing, cuddling and playing in the family room, but Molly had not seen Jake since dessert.  She walked over to Sarah, squeezed her hand and kissed her cheek, and asked, “Hey, cutie, have you seen my first-born?”

Sarah smiled and said, “I think he’s got a new book going; he’s been on the computer all day and I had to force him to stop for lunch.  Mary said she heard him up late last night, too.”

“That boy and his habits!  He certainly didn’t get them from me,” said Molly in mock exasperation.

“Oh, Molly, it’s harmless.  Sure, he gets a bit anti-social when he first gets an idea and is just starting to outline it, but that never lasts more than a week or two and then he’s back to his old loveable self.”

“Besides,” interjected Karen, “We could use the money; the big truck is on its last legs and the little one just can’t do the same work.”

Molly gently tweaked her nipple and said, “Who invited you into the conversation, nosey?”

Sarah laughed.  “She’s right, though, Molly.  If this one sells as well as his last we could settle all the bills and even make a few investments.”

The older woman sighed. “I know you’re right, but you can’t blame me for worrying about his health.  I’ll bring him some coffee and check on him.”

Jake’s room was the last one at the end of the west wing; he said it was quieter there, and the sunrise would not awaken him if he worked past midnight, as he often did while writing.  Molly knocked on his door, waited for him to call out and then went in.

He turned from the monitor just long enough to see who it was, then turned back with a “Hi, Mama!” and resumed typing.

“Hi yourself, stranger,” she said, coming up behind him to rub his shoulders.  “You fled from the table as though you were going to be sick.”

“Oh, Ma, you know how it is when I get a new idea, and this is going to be a great one.”

“A novel?”

“Maybe a trilogy, or even a series.”

“Well, that’s good!  But you won’t be in any condition to write even one book, let alone three, if you don’t mind your health; Sarah said you didn’t want lunch, and now here you are in your room when we’re all going to be making love in a little while.”

He turned from the screen and took a deep sip of the coffee.  “I’m not trying to offend anyone, honestly.  It’s just that this is such an incredible, unusual idea that I have to outline it all while it’s still fresh in my mind.”

Molly glanced at the file name showing at the top of the word processor screen.  “Parallel Lines,” she read; “Does that mean it’s an alternate-reality kind of thing?”

“Yes, I got the idea while watching a documentary about chimpanzees.”

“How so?”

“Well, you know that there are two kinds of chimps, right?”

She thought for a moment.  “Standard chimps and…bonobos, no?”

“Yes.  And there’s only about a 1.5% genetic difference between us and either species, but behaviorally we’re more like the bonobos.”

“Good thing, too; chimps are brutal, nasty creatures.”

“But just as intelligent as bonobos,” Jake said with excitement.  “So what I started thinking was, what if humans had been behaviorally more like chimps than bonobos?  Where would that parallel line of evolution have taken us?  Female chimps don’t form sexual bonds like humans or bonobos do, so they don’t form the female network which allows women to civilize men.  Thus male chimps maintain juvenile levels of aggression all through life, and because they’re bigger and stronger they can pretty much run the show.  They even form packs and go looking for strange males to kill.”

“But wouldn’t these chimp-like humans necessarily be primitive?  How could they co-operate to form an advanced culture?”

“Well, they’d still have clan and tribal bonds; I think when they developed agriculture the tribes would just get a lot bigger, so instead of roving groups you’d have organized bodies of men fighting between these super-tribes, even when there wasn’t really anything important to fight over.”

“It sounds like a perfectly dreadful world to live in,” said Molly.  “Wouldn’t their sexual development be stunted as well?”

“Oh, undoubtedly,” he mused; “in fact, that’s what I was just trying to work out.  I think they would probably be very sexually possessive, like a dog with a bone.  But it isn’t easy to imagine what effect that sort of behavioral pattern would have on their culture.  Sex is the backbone of society, the social glue that lets us live together in peace; what kind of twisted culture would you get if it weren’t there?”

“I’m sure you’ll describe it brilliantly, as usual,” she said, “but in the meantime I don’t want you turning into a chimp-man due to sex deprivation.  If you won’t play with the whole group tonight, may I at least ask one of the girls to sleep with you later?  I’m sure Della would enjoy that.”

He grinned sheepishly.  “You win, Ma.  Ask her to come in when she’s ready for bed, and I promise I won’t keep her waiting.”

“Deal.  I love you.”

“I love you too, Mama.  And thanks for worrying.”

Molly kissed him on the head, gave him a quick hug and took the now-empty coffee cup, closing the door behind her so as to give him his privacy.  She understood that reading about a place was quite a different thing from living there; but all the same, she thought, it’s probably best that parallel lines can never meet.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »