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Archive for June, 2013

We’ll [have] the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  –  John McCain

This was another quiet week, which was good because it gave me a sorely-needed chance to do a bit of catching up.  I’m in the home stretch with the first draft of this scholarly paper and should finish it tomorrow; revision isn’t nearly as difficult for me as initial composition, so after this it should be all downhill unless they totally hate it or something.  Anyhow, the leading contributor was Radley Balko, who provided everything down to the first video.  That was supplied by Laura Lee and was represented by the person who posted it on YouTube as a Russian tampon commercial; however, several commenters said it was actually a clip from a new spoof film called Movie 43.  In either case, it beats the hell out of the usual blue liquid, white dress and horseback riding nonsense (don’t worry, guys, it’s not yucchy).  The second video (from Marty Klein) is a Mississippi sex-ed teacher’s brilliant method of getting around his state’s ban on showing students how to use condoms, and the links between the videos were provided by Walter Olson (“poop scoop”), Grace (“hidden cost”), Mike Riggs (“welcome”), and Nun Ya (“Hello Kitty” and “gun rape”).

From the Archives

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To God, there is no zero.  –  Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man

Richard MathesonR.I.P. Richard Matheson

Another of the greats has passed on.  Though his name is less familiar to the general public than those of many far less talented and far less influential authors, virtually everyone has seen and appreciated screen versions of his work; he wrote almost half of the best Twilight Zone episodes, most of the Vincent Price “Poe” movies of the early ‘60s and many other films you may know (including the thrice-filmed I Am Legend).  And since I can’t possibly do his memory justice in this small space, here’s a proper tribute from regular reader Franklin Harris.

Meretrices and Prostibulae

Archaeologists recently uncovered an ancient brothel attached to a gymnasium and restaurant in northern Greece…It was likely built in the second century BCE, which means it had been a going concern for about 250 years when an earthquake…shut [it] down forever.  Put another way, this brothel operated longer than the United States has so far…

N.B.:  I used this title because Greece was under Roman rule at that time.

License To Rape

Tanzanian police torture, rape and assault sex workers, sexual minorities and drug users, while medical staff deny them healthcare…Human Rights Watch…said in a report…[they] were [also] arrested and detained for days on end…Officers gang raped children as young as 12 years old…One drug user had his eyes burned out with acid…

Jezebel (January Updates)

hotel maidsNordic Choice Hotels…has announced the removal of pornography from its television channels.  ‘We believe it is a natural part of our social responsibility to not support an industry that contributes to…trafficking,’ said [CEO] Torgeir Silseth…”  There was no statement from Nordic Choice about shutting down their whole chain because many so-called “trafficking” victims work in hotels, but I guess one has to have priorities.

Old Men and Young Women

Silvio Berlusconi was given a seven-year prison sentence and banned from holding public office for life…after an Italian court found him guilty of abuse of office and paying for sex with…underage prostitute…Karima El Mahroug…” Berlusconi and the girl both deny having had sex, and even if they had it would’ve been completely legal had no money changed hands because she was 17 at the time.

Neither Cold nor Hot

The Miami New Times does an article on sugar babies; frantic pearl-clutching ensues at Jezebel:

…What really sucks about sugar baby relationships is that most of the arrangements don’t seem like they’re entered into freely; they’re a desperate response to a shitty set of circumstances — a lack of job opportunities, lack of job abilities, and last, but not least, the insanely high cost of college education…the site even targets advertising to women who search “help with college tuition”…

The Author Formerly Known as Morning Gloria has a history of this sort of neofeminist prohibitionism disguised under a thin veneer of sex-positive platitudes, and that’s not even counting her apparent belief that the law of conservation of energy somehow proves that “America is…fucked up.”

May Q & A

Veteran Brazilian activist Gabriela Leite on why she likes the word “whore”:

Bootlickers

How will historians judge a culture that spent many man-months and tens of thousands of dollars on this?

A bikini-barista stand owner who twice before has been accused of lewd conduct recently managed to get a…[cop] to warn her of any undercover surveillance…Carmela A. Panico, and Sgt. Darrell L. O’Neill…were charged with conspiracy to promote prostitution…at seven Java Juggs and Twin Peaks espresso stands…The FBI assisted with the investigation…

Yes, the FBI actually helped bluenoses harass coffee shops because the waitresses wear bikinis.

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

Julie Ann Carey, 41, not only was robbed at knife point after providing sex to a customer, police then arrested her for solicitation after she reported the crime…

The Crumbling Dam

Try to imagine an editorial like this in an American newspaper:

…In…[the] Globe & Mail, paid typist and self-confessed plagiarist  Margaret Wente [published]…”Legal Prostitution? Are We Nuts?”, [in which she] brings her swollen puritanism to bear on the current Supreme Court case…Calling prostitution, “the most exploitative, degrading work on Earth” Wente opposes the “feminists and other progressive types”…who are endeavoring to make it less exploitative and degrading…What she doesn’t acknowledge…is that prostitution is already legal in Canada

It’s That Time Again

New Jersey is getting an early start on the annual campaign to look really stupid and transfer a lot of money to cops’ pockets:

New Jersey law enforcement officials expecting a rise in forced prostitution leading up to the 2014 Super Bowl said…efforts to crack down on criminals and help victims will span the entire state…New Jersey is believed to be a major entry point for human trafficking due to its dense and diverse population and convenient access from New York to Philadelphia…Selling Sex

Presents, Presents, Presents!

Joyce Arthur sent me a copy of the new anthology Selling Sex:  Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada, to which she contributed an essay.  Thank you!

Naked Truth

Laura Lee published “Sex Workers Don’t Deserve to be Stigmatised – and We Don’t Want Your Pity Either” in The Independent:

…I can go out…get hopelessly drunk and jump into bed with Mr. A. Random…the chances are any form of protection will go out the window, as will any form of valid consent.  As a society, we deem that okay, because everyone does it, right?  If I go to a hotel, meet Mr. A. Random in the middle of an afternoon, spend a couple of pleasant protected hours and get paid for it – pearls everywhere are clutched and horror levels soar.  But in my second example, I’m safer.  I know his name, his phone number, where he is staying and I am…surrounded by people…

Bottleneck

The Prague Assembly has approved a bill to regulate prostitution…[both brothels and individual] prostitutes would have to apply for a licence…prostitutes would have to be over 18, without criminal record and…would have to undergo regular medical check-ups…”  The bill’s author claims its intent is “to divide legal prostitution from the illegal.”  It’ll do that, all right, but not in the way he seems to think.

Dirty Laundry

There were a few Magdalene Laundries in the United States as well:

…at…fourteen, Diana [O’Hara] entered the gates of the Good Shepherd Laundry in Buffalo, New York with the label of “incorrigible”…talking was allowed only when the nuns clapped their hands…[a misbehaving girl would be]…locked inside [a] closet…[or] an old [rat-infested] shower room with stone benches [sometimes for days]…followed [by] a severe beating…to “make her strong”…

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #52)

While jobs are difficult to find and money is tight, should the Welsh Government be helping women find extremely lucrative and flexible work?”  Yes, someone actually asked that.Johnny Depp & Amber Heard

False Target (TW3 #135)

Hugo Schwyzer is still pretending that men’s preference for young women is “socially constructed”; Christopher Ryan corrects him:

In a recent column at The Atlantic…Hugo Schwyzer asks us to consider, “What would happen if men stopped chasing much younger women?”…he’s not talking about pedophiles…[but rather] men like Johnny Depp, who is apparently dating a woman in her late 20s, while he’s just hit the big 5-0…Schwyzer argues…that this isn’t…happening in response to…innate biological desire…despite the overwhelming…evidence…Schwyzer cites [only] a 2007 study done in Sweden…[which] actually says the opposite of what he thinks it does…Schwyzer somehow knows Depp’s…attracted to his 27 year-old girlfriend because…she’s powerless and he’s intimidated by less “malleable” women of his own age….[this] attempt to shame consenting adults out of what he considers to be inappropriate relationships strikes me as quite the opposite of an informed feminist perspective…

The Auctioneer Effect

If you thought ultrasound requirements for abortion were bad…

…a last-minute amendment to Ohio’s budget…requires an ultrasound and 24-hour wait before birth control… “Pregnancy” in the context of the informed-consent requirements now means “any fertilized egg”…so…“the disruption of implantation of a fertilized egg” now counts as an abortion.  Prescribing birth control is, in Ohio, a ticking time-abortion…

Comfort Zone (TW3 #320)

Usually, the equation of migration with “trafficking” as an excuse to restrict it isn’t quite this transparent:

At least 200 Nigerian girls are trafficked every month to Russia…the crime…declined in Western Europe following strict laws on illegal migration…to curb the menace…[so] attention…shifted to Eastern Europe…you will be shocked at the extent of resistance [to being “rescued”] from the girls. We tell them Russia is not a destination for prostitutes yet they still come…the parents of those trafficked encourage…their children…Casey Kids Playhouse

Think of the Children! (TW3 #321)

More hysteria over structural sex ray contamination:

Parents’ outrage at an advertisement for a swingers party at a [Victoria] children’s play centre has forced the local council to close the business…the centre’s owners [had] said they would repeat the event every month at Casey Kids Playhouse once they found six other couples…a local mother…[who] had booked her son’s fourth birthday party there…[said] ”I am disgusted…This is so morally wrong, not to mention unhygienic”…

I just can’t stop laughing at the word “unhygienic” in that context.

Absolute Corruption (TW3 #323)

The inevitable result of allowing “authorities” to “investigate” themselves:

Jesse Friedman…was properly convicted and should not have his status as a sexual predator overturned…[claims] Nassau County district attorney…Kathleen M. Rice…Mr. Friedman’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, and…Andrew Jarecki, [director of Capturing the Friedmans]…[said] the report was a biased whitewash by the office that originally botched the case…“Rice has made a craven, but not surprising, political decision in failing to admit to the wrongdoing of the…D.A.’s office and former sex crimes chief Fran Galasso, in the face of overwhelming evidence of Jesse’s innocence,” Mr. Jarecki said.  Mr. Kuby said that the district attorney’s office had fought Mr. Friedman’s efforts at every turn and that this was just more of the same…“Fortunately, the conclusion of this bogus reinvestigation clears the way for the Friedman team to return to court”…

Rotten to the Core

This is how service disputes are handled when the profession is legal:  “Sunset Thomas…the…onetime cast member of…Cathouse…and [retired] porn star…[who works] at the Chicken Ranch in Pahrump [Nevada, is being sued by regular client Robert Proffitt for]…$2,200 for services he alleges were not rendered…

Which I Doubt

Tracy Quan considers the connection between the recent Supreme Court decision and the New York “condoms as evidence” bill, and discusses the rather unpleasant bedfellows the sex worker rights movement picked up in both cases, quoting yours truly in the process.

Across the Pond (TW3 #324)Jack Vettriano painting

Gee, I can’t imagine why the police took these paintings:

Jack Vettriano paintings worth £500,000 were seized from a former brothel boss in a police crackdown on vice…detectives…smashed into the home of Ian Haig, 70, whose brother Charles, 73, runs a…sauna in Edinburgh.  Vettriano…regularly visited Scorpio sauna…in the 1990s and painted…girls working there.  He gave paintings to Ian Haig as a thank-you before he became one of Britain’s most successful artists…Police [claim the paintings are]…potential evidence…

Number Puzzle (TW3 #324)

Why is it that people just don’t get that sex work follows the same rules of economics as any other business?

The presence of thousands of brothels and hundreds of thousands of prostitutes has heightened competition and pushed prices down steeply in the German sex trade…Prostitution became legal in Germany in 2002, and the open sex trade has taken off in the years since…It’s been estimated that more than 1 million men pay for sex in Germany every day.  One of the classic arguments for legalizing prostitution is that recognizing and regulating the world’s oldest profession would improve the conditions of sex workers.  Instead, recent reports paint legalized prostitution in Germany largely as a failure…Despite the critics’ claims of atrocious conditions brought on by legalized prostitution in Germany, there are many who don’t want to go back to the days when the trade was cordoned off in the black market…

This is a prime example of American criminal ignorance about sex work; consult the title link for a thorough debunking.

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This essay first appeared on Cliterati on May 5th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

Sold!In “Under the Bus” I discussed the way in which politicians are all too willing to sacrifice the rights of minority groups (especially already-marginalized ones like sex workers) in order to broker some political deal.  When the stakes are extremely high, this can perhaps be understood if not forgiven; at least the sacrifice of the few won some important victory for the many.  But the ugly truth about the modern gay rights movement is that it now regularly throws marginalized subgroups under the bus to win minor victories for the majority.  As one activist recently pointed out on Twitter, “More LGBT people will get jailed under anti-#prostitution laws than will ever want to marry. Gay Inc tells them: Go rot.”  I think it’s safe to say the same thing about the military: more LGBT people (especially transgenders) are sex workers than soldiers, but one would never know it from the comparative amount of noise mainstream gay activists make about the issue.  Furthermore, I’ve seen others complain that “Gay, Inc” is trying to ignore HIV patients and to cut the “T” off of “LGBT”.  The reason for all of this bus-throwing is the same; as I explained in “Chauvinism”,

…Gay rights was for a very long time an uphill battle, especially in the pathologically-prudish United States.  Yet in the past few years, opposition to the cause has quickly withered and died with astonishing speed…If one insists that the cause of opposition to gay rights is “homophobia”, in other words a particular aversion to homosexuals, the rapid turn of the tide makes no sense whatsoever.  But when one realizes that the same hatred is dispensed to anyone who is outside the norm, the reason for the change becomes clear…While gay people were chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”, progress was achingly slow.  But once they started to stress how little different they were from heterosexuals – “Look, we even want to get married and form families like you do, see?” – opposition to granting them rights rapidly dissolved.  Once the majority came to see gay people as sufficiently “normal”, their chauvinism was no longer an issue…

Because sex workers and transgenders are more easily “othered” than nice, “normal” gay folks who want to live in the suburbs, join the country club and adopt kids, our concerns had to be crammed back into the closet lest we upset the status quo – despite the fact that drag and transgender sex workers were the chief agitators at the Stonewall riots, the birth of the gay rights movement.  As Wikipedia explains,

The Stonewall Inn…was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community:  drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth.  Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn…Tensions…erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later.  Within weeks, [Greenwich] Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested…Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York…and three newspapers were established to promote rights…Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world.  On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place…commemorating the anniversary of the riots.  Similar marches were organized in other cities.  Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June…

Stonewall riotsSan Francisco quickly became a center of the gay rights movement, and the San Francisco pride parade the largest and most elaborate gay community event in North America (it became “lesbian and gay” in 1981 and “LGBT” in 1995).  Attendance is now estimated at over a million people each year, and in 1997 the parade began to attract lucrative corporate sponsorship as gay rights became a mainstream issue.  The parade, and gay rights in general, has become big business, and mainstream gays (the term “queer” hardly seems appropriate any longer) now seem to think of those of us who challenge the establishment as crazy relatives to be shut in the attic and Not Talked About.  So I wasn’t too surprised to see this Glenn Greenwald column at the end of April:

News reports yesterday indicated that Bradley Manning, widely known to be gay, had been selected to be one of the Grand Marshals of the annual San Francisco gay pride parade, named by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee.  When the predictable backlash instantly ensued, the president of the Board of SF Pride, Lisa L Williams, quickly capitulated, issuing a cowardly, imperious statement that has to be read to be believed.  Williams proclaimed that “Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration” and termed his selection “a mistake”.  She blamed it all on a “staff person” who prematurely made the announcement based on a preliminary vote, and she assures us all that the culprit “has been disciplined”: disciplined.  She then accuses Manning of “actions which placed in harms way [sic] the lives of our men and women in uniform”:  a substance-free falsehood originally  spread by top US military officials which has since been decisively and extensively debunked, even by some government officials  (indeed, it’s the US government itself, not Manning, that is guilty of “actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform”). And then, in my favorite part of her statement, Williams decreed to all organization members that “even the hint of support” for Manning’s actions – even the hint – “will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride”.  Will not be tolerated.

Greenwald enumerates at length the evils committed by the aforementioned corporate sponsors, but for our purposes it’s this bit that’s important:

…at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, once an iconic symbol of cultural dissent and disregard for stifling pieties, nothing can happen that might offend AT&T and the Bank of America.  The minute something even a bit deviant takes place…even the SF Gay Pride Parade must scamper, capitulate, apologize, and take an oath of fealty to their orthodoxies (we adore the military, the state, and your laws).  And, as usual, the largest corporate factions are completely exempt from the strictures and standards applied to the marginalized and powerless.  Thus, while Bradley Manning is persona non grata…illegal eavesdropping telecoms, scheming banks, and hedge-fund purveryors of the…worst right-wing agitprop are more than welcome…when I wrote several weeks ago about the remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality, I noted that this development is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed.  If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset…

BorgIn short, sex workers and those members of the queer community who either can’t or won’t be assimilated into the fascist Borg can forget about getting any help or support from mainstream gay organizations, because it won’t be forthcoming.  Over two years ago I wrote, “Sex worker advocates need to concentrate on OUR rights and stop wasting our time, money and energy on…causes…[with] millions of dollars, scores of celebrity advocates, hundreds of legislators and many thousands of low-level activists behind them…”  That’s even more true now that our former allies have sold us down the river; like those outcasts who (44 years ago today) refused to submit quietly to police, we need to show the Powers That Be that we will no longer tolerate institutionalized persecution merely because we make loudmouthed, pearl-clutching prudes uncomfortable.

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[She was] the most elegant of women, having the most aristocratic taste and the most exquisite tact:  she set the tone for a whole area of society.  –  from her obituary

Marie Duplessis by Édouard ViénotAs we have seen before, it’s not unusual for the lives of whores to become the stuff of legend, often to the point where the real woman is either lost under the embellishment  or people forget there was ever a real woman in the first place.  Such a woman was Marie Duplessis, whose real story was far more interesting than the romantic legend later created from it.  She was born Alphonsine Plessis on January 15th, 1824 to a ne’er-do-well Norman father and a mother who was the last of an impoverished noble family which had been reduced to servility; her mother died when she was six and her father raised her alone until she was fourteen, when he sold her to a band of gypsies.  Yes, this is her actual story, stranger than the fiction by which most modern people know her, and as you will see it only gets better.

The gypsies took her to Paris and put her to work in a dress shop, but by fifteen she discovered that prostitution was far more lucrative and allowed her to pay off her indenture in less than a year (many “trafficked” women still make the same choice for exactly the same reason today).  Her exceptional beauty and charm won her a devoted following, and at 16 she attracted her first important client:  Agénor de Guiche, later one of Napoleon III’s ministers.  It was at this time she took the name Marie Duplessis (the “Du” prefix connotes a noble family, an honor she felt her mother’s ancestry entitled her to) and wisely invested in tutors who taught her not only to read and write, but also educated her in history, geography and other subjects she needed to converse intelligently with men of the ruling class.  By the age of 17 she was involved with Comte Edouard de Perregaux, but because he could not give her all she needed she did not devote herself to him exclusively; another patron, the Count Von Stakelberg (a Swedish diplomat in his eighties) bought her a house in the Boulevard de la Madeleine.

Marie Duplessis at the Theatre by Camille RoqueplanLike so many other courtesans, she established a salon in her residence, and many of the Parisian cognoscenti gathered there; among them was Alexandre Dumas fils, the as-yet-undistinguished son of the famed adventure novelist.  The two fell in love in September of 1844 (only a few months after the publication of his father’s most famous work, The Three Musketeers), but the relationship was not to be; Dumas was far too poor to support her, and by August of 1845 she had had quite enough of his jealousy toward those who could.  But as we will see, the relationship actually worked in reverse, and Marie brought Dumas far more wealth than he ever gave her.  Her next lover was the famous composer (and infamous womanizer) Franz Liszt, but by spring of 1846 he had moved on and she entered into a marriage of convenience with Perregaux.  Because this was an English registry-office marriage transacted without benefit of clergy it was not considered binding in France, which suited Marie just fine: she could share her husband’s title without having to observe any of the restrictions that come with matrimony.

Her brilliant career was not to last, however; like so many 19th-century children of poverty she had contracted tuberculosis (or as it was called in those days, “consumption”), and by the summer of 1846 she knew she was dying.  She visited every specialist in Europe, but there was no cure.  By September she was no longer able to work, and none of the clients who eulogized her after her death did anything to ease her suffering; as Nickie Roberts wrote in Whores in History, she was “abandoned by all her former lovers and friends except her faithful maid Clothilde – and her creditors.”  She died on February 3rd, 1847, less than three weeks after her 23rd birthday.  And though her lavish funeral (paid for by Perregaux and Von Stakelberg) was attended by hundreds, her possessions still had to be auctioned off to pay her debts.

camille deathThat was the real story: a motherless young woman, “trafficked” at 14, who paid for her own education and became one of the most successful members of her profession at an age when modern women are still called “children”, then died of an incurable malady which would have claimed her no matter what because antibiotics had not yet been invented.  But a spurned lover decided to twist that into a morality play, making Marie – or as he renamed her, “Marguerite Gautier” – a “fallen woman” who dies young as a result of her dissolute life; he also created a fictional version of himself named “Armand Duval”, who convinces her to give up her life as a courtesan and thus saves her “virtue” before she dies.  The lover was of course Alexandre Dumas fils, and the novel was La Dame aux Camelias (“The Lady of the Camellias”), published only a year after Marie’s death.  It soon made him far wealthier than she ever was; it became a bestseller, then an extremely popular play, then in 1853 a Verdi opera named La Traviata (“The Fallen Woman”).  The book has remained constantly in print since then, the play and opera have been performed innumerable times, and there have been three different ballets and a dozen movie adaptations (the most famous being Camille (1936), with Greta Garbo as “Marguerite”).  I’m sure most of you have seen or at least heard of one or more of these fictional representations of Marie Duplessis (especially if you read Tuesday’s column), yet I doubt more than a few of you – if any at all – knew anything of her real story before today.  Some things never change:  today, as in the 19th century, most people prefer to embrace romantic nonsense about “fallen women” and how awful it is to be a whore, than to recognize the simple, unvarnished truth.

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Angel_Holding_ManI am stunned by the amount of understanding and compassion with male sexual frustration you often display in your writing; not many women are that sympathetic to this particular hardship.  Because I was very obese during my teenage years I never quite developed ability of talking to women, and because my parents were abusive alcoholics I have a lot of difficulty in forming any kind of relationship.  I am now 22 years old and though I’ve lost the extra weight and have some good things going in my life, I’m still very depressed and so sexually frustrated it sometimes manifests as a painful feeling in my chest.  I think spending some time with compassionate professional might help alleviate the pressure so it would stop being such a distraction.  How exactly should I proceed with this? How do I contact the girl, how should I explain my situation, and how can I make sure that she is sympathetic and honorable, so the whole experience is therapeutic and enjoyable and not frustrating and unsatisfying?  Though I hide it from everyone I am actually a very sensitive and fragile guy and I would hate for the whole experience to end up in more trauma.

I do believe it’s possible for an escort to help you to develop confidence, if you pick the right one.  Luckily, this isn’t as difficult nowadays as it used to be because of the magic of the internet.  I’ve given some general advice before about how to use it to get a good, reputable escort, and you might also want to read my advice to a young man whose frustration has turned to anger and fantasies he’s uncomfortable with.  Though your reaction to the lack of physical intimacy isn’t the same as his, the core problem is not dissimilar.  As such, my advice to you is similar:  Go onto the escort boards, research the ladies in your area, and find one with a reputation for patience who also advertises that she’s “newbie friendly”; these ladies will be more likely to be willing help you though the screening process, and will also probably have more experience with virgins (don’t worry, you’re not remotely alone in that department).  If you take your time and find a kind, sympathetic professional, I think there’s a very good chance a few visits with her will help you to develop the confidence you need to go out and speak to girls in a non-professional setting.  Good luck, and if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Oh, there ain’t no rest for the wicked,
Money don’t grow on trees,
I got bills to pay,
I got mouths to feed,
There ain’t nothing in this world for free.
  –  Cage the Elephant

It’s time for more songs about working girls, and as usual I’ve tried to get as much variety as possible in both the type of lady (from streetwalker to courtesan) and the musical genre (from jazz to opera).  We’ll start with one suggested by Chester Brown, about a sailor visiting a brothel.  He seems to be one of the type I’ve mentioned before, who are overcome with shame after orgasm:  He jumps up and rushes out, then feels his passion was “wasted” on “love [that] was but a smile”.  Nonetheless, it’s a lovely song.

Pleasures of the Harbor (Phil Ochs)

And the ship sets the sail
They’ve lived the tale
To carry to the shore
Straining at the oars
Or staring from the rail
And the sea bids farewell
She waves in swells
And sends them on their way
Time has been her pay
And time will have to tell
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

And the anchor hits the sand
The hungry hands
Have tied them to the port
The hour will be short
For leisure on the land
And the girls scent the air
They seem so fair
With paint on their face
Soft is their embrace
To lead them up the stairs
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

In the room dark and dim
Touch of skin
He asks her of her name
She answers with no shame
And not a sense of sin
Until the fingers draw the blinds
Sip of wine
The cigarette of doubt
The candle is blown out
The darkness is so kind
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

And the shadows frame the light
Same old sight
Thrill has blown away
Now all alone they lay
Two strangers in the night
Till his heart skips a beat
He’s on his feet
To shipmates he must join
She’s counting up the coins
He’s swallowed by the street
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

In the bar hangs a cloud
The whiskey’s loud
There’s laughter in their eyes
The lonely in disguise
Are clinging to the crowd
And the bottle fills the glass
The haze is fast
He’s trembling for the taste
Of passion gone to waste
In memories of the past
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

In the alley, red with rain
Cry of pain
For love was but a smile
Teasing all the while
Now dancing down the drain
‘Till the boys reach the dock
They gently mock
Lift him on their backs
Lay him on his rack
And leave beneath the light
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

And the ship sets the sail
They’ve lived the tale
To carry from the shore
Straining at the oars
Or staring from the rail
And the sea bids farewell
She waves in swells
And sends them on their way
Time has been her pay
And time will have to tell
Soon your sailing will be over
Come and take the pleasures of the harbor

Let’s speed things up a bit now, with two from Street Walker Blues.  This first was very popular with the big bands, though originally written in 1924; it describes a young man who is disturbed by his encounter with an old girlfriend who is now a sex worker.  It’s thus thematically similar to the J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold”, written over 55 years later.

Nobody’s Sweetheart (Kahn/Erdman; music by Meyers/Schoebel)

You’re nobody’s sweetheart now,
There’s no place for you somehow,
Fancy hose, silken gowns,
You’d be out of place in your own hometown!

When you walk down the avenue,
Some just can’t believe that it’s you.
Painted lips, painted eyes,
Wearing a bird of paradise,
It all seems wrong somehow,
That you’re nobody’s sweetheart now!

Though we can’t be sure exactly what sort of sex worker “nobody’s sweetheart” was, there’s absolutely no such ambiguity in our next choice:

Down in the Alley (Memphis Minnie)

I met a man, asked me did I want to pally
Yes, baby, let’s go down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
Take me down in the alley
I can get any business fixed all right

I met another man, asked me for a dollar
Might have heard that mother fuyer holler
Let’s go down in the alley
Let’s go down in the alley
Let’s go down in the alley
You can get your business fixed all right

(spoken) Let’s go

When he got me in the alley, he called me a name
What I put on him was a crying shame
Down in this alley
Down in this alley
Down in this alley
Where I got my business fixed all right

You got me in the alley, but don’t get rough
I ain’t gonna put up with that doggone stuff
Way down in the alley
Way down in the alley
Way down in the alley
Lord, my business fixed all right

(spoken) Oh, it’s so dark
Can’t see no light
Got to feel my way out this alley
I’m sure gonna stop walking at night

You took me in the alley, you knocked me down
Now I’m gonna call every copper in this town
You got me down in the alley
You got me down in the alley
You got me down in the alley
Now you got your business fixed all right

(spoken): Boys, I’m sure gonna stop walking,
walking late at night.

Memphis Minnie knew whereof she spoke, because like Edith Piaf she started as a street singer who also turned tricks.  Even once she became part of the Memphis blues scene, she still made more from hooking than from music until she married in 1929.  This sort of casual prostitution by women who don’t primarily identify as whores was probably the most common type throughout human history (and may still be, considering that ten times as many women have taken money for sex than have worked as full-time hookers); it’s always been especially common in the entertainment industry.  A century before Minnie’s time French girls of this type were called grisettes, and this song from The Merry Widow portrays a group who are dancers, B-girls and  whores:

The Grisettes Song (Franz Lehár; French lyrics by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein)

On the boulevard we’re strolling,
Trippel-trippel trippel trapp!
When the gendarme’s out patrolling,
Drop a copper in his cap.
Drop a copper in his cap,
And the gendarme takes a nap!
It’s so cheap to keep him sleeping,
Drop a copper in his cap!

Every night we come to Maxim’s,
Where the night-owls congregate!
Every true insomniac
Is glad that Maxim’s stays up late.
We’re Maxim’s favorite dancers,
We’re cabaret entrancers,
Lolo, Dodo, Joujou, Froufrou, Cloco, Margot.  Et Moi!

Ritantouri, tantirette
Eh voilà les belles grisettes!
Les grisettes de Paris,
Ritantouri tantiri!

Will you buy a poor grisette
A flower or a glass of wine?
Life is not an operetta,
Here you get a check to sign.
Paris isn’t Liechtenstein,
Here you get a check to sign!
We rely on you to buy
A flower or a glass of wine!

We grisettes, we stay so merry,
For you men, you like us so!
Every night the necessary
Glass of sherry, then the show!
We’re Maxim’s favorite dancers,
We’re cabaret entrancers,
Lolo, Dodo, Joujou, Froufrou, Cloco, Margot.  Et Moi!

Ritantouri, tantirette
Eh voilà les belles gristtes!
Les grisettes de Paris,
Ritantouri tantiri!

Translating songs is not easy, and these lyrics are different from those in other English-language versions of the operetta; some of the ones I found online were considerably more coy than these.  That video and the one below were suggested by Dean Clark, with the comment “For your hooker song files.  Opera is full of them.”  The most famous of these is probably La Traviata, from which today’s last selection is drawn; it was adapted from the theatrical version of La Dame aux Camélias (known as Camille in English), Alexandre Dumas, fils’ novel based loosely on the real life of Marie Duplessis, whom we shall meet this coming Thursday.

Sempre Libera (“Always Free”) (Giuseppe Verdi; lyrics by Francesco Piave)

Violetta:  Free and aimless I frolic
From joy to joy,
Flowing along the surface
Of life’s path as I please.
As the day is born,
Or as the day dies,
Happily I turn to the new delights
That make my spirit soar.

Alfredo:  Love is a heartbeat throughout the universe,
Mysterious, altering, the torment and delight of my heart.

Violetta:  Oh! Oh! Love! Madness! Euphoria!

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Being the bloodsuckers that they are, they prey on innocent, unsuspecting people and try to find a way to ply their wares.  –  “Major” Nick Clark

The one small mercy (and believe me, I really had to stretch to find one) of neo-Victorianism is that we haven’t heard much of the myth of the wanton lately.  For those who may not even remember it, this is the formerly-universal belief among men that:

…the lust of women is stronger than that of men, and that women thus draw men into sin; the widespread interpretation (though certainly not the original meaning) of the story of the Fall is that Eve’s offering Adam the apple is symbolic of her tempting him into carnality, and to this very day Muslim men pontificate from the pulpit (and on the internet) about the greater lustfulness of women.  The Classical Greek philosophers taught that woman was like an animal always in heat, and the mythology of every part of Eurasia is full of temptresses, seductresses, succubae, enchantresses, whores and other wanton women whose entire reason for existence seems to consist of luring men into sex…

Femme FataleThe idea generally fell out of favor in the West during the Victorian Era, and though it experienced a brief revival in some circles during the sexual revolution I had thought it largely out of fashion again except among some sex-positive feminists who insist that the ladies are generally just as randy as the gents despite the inconvenient fact that women never seem to want it enough to pay for it, and almost never to behave in any other way that demonstrates the voracious sex drive typical in most men.  Yes, there are some individual women whose sex drive is greater than that of some individual men (especially among the beaten-down variety so common in the modern West), but the fact that there are mountains whose peaks are closer to sea level than the bottoms of many valleys does not invalidate the general statement “mountains tend to be higher than valleys”.  Yet every once in a while, we see somebody playing fast and loose with cherry-picked statistics and calling it “groundbreaking research”, usually to sell a book:

…Even to the most casual observer of human history, it isn’t news that women’s sexuality has been feared, suppressed and lied about.  But What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by journalist Daniel Bergner uses groundbreaking sex research to show the ways in which our supposedly enlightened society still has female sexuality backward — completely, utterly, profoundly…gender stereotypes have shaped scientific research and blinded researchers to evidence of female lust and sexual initiation throughout the animal kingdom, including among humans.  It reveals how society’s repression of female sexuality has reshaped women’s desires and sex lives.  Bergner, and the leading sex researchers he interviews, argue that women’s sexuality is not the rational, civilized and balancing force it’s so often made out to be — that it is base, animalistic and ravenous, everything we’ve told ourselves about male sexuality…In fact, he argues, “one of our most comforting assumptions, soothing perhaps above all to men but clung to by both sexes, that female eros is much better made for monogamy than the male libido, is scarcely more than a fairy tale”…

I totally agree that women’s sexuality can be base and animalistic, that it isn’t all that well-adapted to monogamy, and that a lot of the reason it appears otherwise (and that so many women are functionally asexual) is cultural pressure.  But to say that this means that the female sex drive is as ravenous as men’s is to ignore that male sexuality is also shaped and suppressed by cultural pressure, especially from women, and that functionally asexual men are extremely rare.  Here’s a comical video showing what the world might look like if women really were as horny as men:

Very few people nowadays believe this nonsense, but there’s a limited form of it which seems to be crawling out of the woodwork again: the notion that while “good” women (Madonnas) are sexually pure, “bad” women (whores) are predatory succubae always on the prowl for “good” men:

…Alabama state Sen. Shadrack McGill…[said] a number of strippers had come to his work [and] even to his home in the middle of the night…his “Facebook was hijacked and women sent me pictures of themselves half-naked”…McGill’s wife, Heather, decided that she had enough and…posted a message to his Facebook page:  “I am very blessed to be the wife of a God fearing, hard working, ministry minded, loving father and husband and it is not just my right but my duty to lovingly serve him by protecting him!…We have children that look at our face books [sic] from time to time!  Shame on you!  You know who you are.  Next time everyone will know who you are!!  For I will publicly share your name before we ‘unfriend’ you”…

And when we ravenous harlots aren’t stalking “God-fearing” men (to ruin their paladinhood, no doubt) we’re attacking their wives:

…Anna Burgese, the…wife of a wealthy…Philadelphia homebuilder, claims in [a] federal lawsuit that as many as 10 prostitutes pounced on her in the…lobby [of the W hotel in Miami Beach] on Jan. 19.  They mistakenly believed that she was encroaching on their turf…Instead of helping Burgese catch the attackers, the suit contends that the “prostitute-friendly’’ hotel put the women in a taxi to facilitate their escape…over the past decade, Miami Beach’s prostitution rings have taken on a more sophisticated and sinister side, involving sex-trafficking and women from Eastern European countries, known as “B-girls,’’ who fleece deep-pocketed tourists…Burgese claims that the assault was unprovoked and that the prostitutes threw her face-first against a stone wall in front of hotel employees.  Her husband…fought the women off with his crutches…

French B-Girl, 1925How fondly I remember those sinister old times, getting together in huge gangs of “high-priced escorts” to beat up aging debutantes at the W in New Orleans!  And sometimes, just for an extra-sophisticated change of pace, we’d all sashay in formation over to the Windsor Court to slash the tires of Rolls-Royces and Ferraris, or perhaps to the Hyatt Regency to ride up and down in the glass elevator, running out at each floor to scrawl obscenities on people’s doors with lipstick and dump room service leftovers into the ornamental pool in the lobby.  And every time guests would complain, the “prostitute-friendly” staff would whisk us off in taxicabs with “Born To Be Wild” blaring on the stereo.  What carefree days those were, before all these God-fearing enemies of trafficking appeared to beat us off with their crutches and “unfriend” us on Face Books!  I swear, it just makes a girl want to join the packed crowd down at the nearest male stripper club to lose herself among all the hundreds of other base, animalistic and ravenous hussies.

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