Archive for December, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013

Commercialization and culture wars can only steal your Christmas if you let them.  –  Maggie McNeill

I’ve written on a number of occasions how important rituals are to human mental health, and how much poorer and sadder modern Westerners are for having largely forsaken them or, more often, allowed them to be replaced with other, synthetic rituals which serve the interests of the ruling classes (festivals such as “Super Bowl Sunday”, “Election Day” and “Black Friday” spring to mind).  The mistake all too many secular and rational people make is in imagining that “ritual” automatically implies “religion”, which it absolutely does not (any more than irrational belief systems require a god).

Pope Xmas blessing 2009As these examples of synthetic ones illustrate, rituals need not be organized around supernatural beliefs, biological families or anything else; the one thing they share is that they involve groups of people voluntarily coming together to do something in some specific way that doesn’t necessarily make logical sense.  The event is not actually about what it is declared to be about; the Super Bowl could be recorded and watched later, shopping could be performed on some other day and no individual vote is worth the trouble it takes to cast it.  What is most important to those who are devoted to such rituals isn’t the actual activity, but the sense of being part of something larger than themselves.  To those who cluster outside stores on “Black Friday” the wait is part of the experience, just as it is for those who wait in lines to see long-awaited new movies or those who throng to an appearance of some admired leader.

The supposed reason for any given ritual is thus much less important than the ritual itself, and Christmas is a perfect demonstration of that.  What began as an attempt to ensure the return of the sun after a long decline eventually became a celebration of that return, then a festival of various gods associated with rebirth, then a way to brighten the long winter nights, then a time for family and friendship, and now an excuse for spending a lot of money.  But the major aspects of the festivities (such as their extraordinary length in comparison with other holidays, the giving of gifts, the feasting, the singing, symbolism involving plants and lights, etc) continued on through the centuries no matter what the current “official” reason was, and each place and time has made its own contributions to the vast heap of traditions and rituals which we now call “Christmas” (though it has had other names before, and will again).  Some old traditions eventually drop by the wayside, and new ones are added; the pattern varies from place to place and even from household to household; but if we look at the big picture what we see is one large tapestry stretching back some 6000 years in time and across most of the Earth.

The takeaway from all this is summed up in today’s epigram:  Christmas is there for you if you want it, and barring catastrophe or malicious action nobody but you can take it from you.  How people celebrate Christmas next door or across town or in other cities makes no more difference than how they celebrate it on the other side of the world, or how they celebrated it 3000 years ago, or even what they call it or what reason they ascribe to the celebration; anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.  Take whatever elements you want from the vast Yuletide buffet, and leave the rest; add your own traditions, and cherish them year after year; call the festival whatever you want, and ascribe it to whatever excuse pleases you.  The only important thing is that it’s all meaningful to you and those you care about, and that you refuse to allow the pressures of life and the behavior of selfish busybodies to rob you of something which rightfully belongs to everyone. Grinch feast

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A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea.
  –  Noël Regney

National logoMy friend Terry majored in music and also adored comedy, so it should come as no surprise that he was very good at inventing song parodies on the fly.  And though we had always spent a lot of time together, that was especially true in the latter half of 1986; I lacked both a boyfriend and a car at the time, and since Terry was only too happy to ferry me about we saw even more of one another than usual.  One night just before Christmas of that year, he was driving me down to the National supermarket at the corner of Robert E. Lee and West End Boulevard (where I bought most of my groceries in those days) and we got into a discussion of Christmas songs we liked and hated.  As I’ve mentioned before, I strongly dislike sappy and overly-sentimental songs, and the one Christmas song I despise above all others is both:  “Do You Hear What I Hear”, written during the Cuban Missile Crisis by Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker; in addition to its other loathsome qualities, I hate the patent absurdity of the way the bearers of the message escalate in authority over the course of the song.  Well, by the time we got to the store Terry was starting to improvise a parody, and as I shopped we continued working on it; by the time we got back to my place it was mostly done, and he wrote it down on a piece of scratch paper that I have treasured for 27 years.

I don’t know why I remember that night so clearly; we spent many pleasant times together that are now, alas, lost to time and the fragility of human memory.  Perhaps it’s because I think of that song every year, and sing it at least a few times every Yuletide season.  This year, I’d like to share it with y’all, not merely because it’s something I had a hand in writing (I suspect observant readers may be able to guess which lines came out of my head), but also because it ridicules several things that I’m still mocking a quarter-century later, including the way rumors become increasingly distorted with repetition and the way people adore “authorities” no matter how horribly they behave.

Do You Hear What I Hear?  (music by GS Baker, lyrics by Terry F. & Maggie M.)

Said the north star to the winter wind,
“Let’s fuck with this kid’s head.
Tell him a story that’s bizarre;
Let’s pretend we’re Godhead.
Tell him I’m an omen or something
And then he’ll run to the king;
He will certainly run to the king.”

Said the winter wind to the shepherd boy,
“Listen to what I say!
Leave the sheep alone for awhile,
And listen to what I say!
A star, a star, the third one from the right –
It will bring us goodness and light,
It will bring us goodness and light!”

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“The wind told me to come here!”
(Of course we know this isn’t true;
It gets much worse, I fear.)
“A star, a star, the third one to the right –
It will bring us goats every night,
It will bring us goats every night!”

Said the king to the men in the white coats,
“Take this nut case away!
He’s been spending too much time with sheep and goats –Do You Hear What I Hear
Put him in a white room
With padded walls, guards out in the halls
In the deepest part of the loony bin,
Where he cannot talk to the wind.”

Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen not to blockheads
Who go about talking to the wind,
And sleep with sheep in their beds!
Stars have no right, bringing goats by night
To weird little kids in the field,
To weird little sheep in the field.”

Said the people to the sheep everywhere,
“Come and lie in our beds!
Wooly white sheep everywhere,
The king said lie in our beds!”
The wind said “Star, this has gone too far –
Let’s do it again next year!”
“Yes,” said Star, “Let’s do it next year.”

Merry Christmas, dear readers, and if the wind tells you anything tonight it would probably be better if you didn’t repeat it to any kings or agents thereof.

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It was anticlimactic and boring until the cops overreacted.  –  Stefan Warner

Though there were some big stories in sex news this week, it’s always a bit quieter on the link front around the holidays.  And that’s really a good thing, because I’m not sure I’d want to be a Grinch by sharing too many of the usual tales of tyranny right now (I wish I had none to share, but that’s impossible under the current police state).  Mike Riggs took top honors this time, with everything down to the first video; the second one (via Grace) is the only “burning log” video you will ever need.  The links between the videos were provided by Popehat (“denunciation”), Brooke Magnanti (“Cthuken”), Franklin Harris (“Apocalypse” and “drugs”), Jason Kuznicki (“virgins”), Waiting Girl  (“incubator”), Kevin Wilson (“Sweden”), and Molly Crabapple (“blame”).

From the Archives

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Yule 2013

Have you ever noticed a tree standing naked against the sky,
How beautiful it is?
All its branches are outlined, and in its nakedness
There is a poem, there is a song.
Every leaf is gone and it is waiting for the spring.
When the spring comes, it again fills the tree with
The music of many leaves,
Which in due season fall and are blown away.
And this is the way of life.
  –  Jiddu Krishnamurti

Yuletide WishesToday is Yule, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  If you read this within a few hours of its posting, the exact moment of solstice – that is, when the apparent path of the sun reaches its southernmost point – will not yet have happened; that will occur at 17:11 UTC, which is to say 11:11 AM in the Central time zone of North America.   Contrary to the claims of Christians, this is the real “reason for the season”; most cultures have holidays celebrating it, and the roots of the celebration we now call Christmas go back at least 5000 years to ancient Sumer.   I suspect it actually began about 3900 BCE, when the climate abruptly cooled and dried all over the world, thus creating the first really frightening winters those ancient people had ever known, and stimulating the development of planned agriculture, calendars, centralized governments, property rights and eventually even writing and math (to keep track of who everything belonged to, and just how much of it there actually was).  In a very real sense, Christmas is literally as old as civilization, and we owe the majority of what makes us more than just high-falutin’ monkeys to that ancient event that we now only remember in myths of a time when life was easy.  The resulting hardships shaped the human world, and though they were perceived negatively by our ancestors (and still are by those who want nothing more than to be kept like pets or “innocent children” by some all-powerful entity or institution), the truth is that existence without change is not life, but stagnation.  Winter must come if spring is to follow, and spring must in turn mature into summer and fade into autumn.  That is the real meaning of Christmas:  though change and death are inevitable, new life to replace the old is never far behind.

Blessed Be!

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I am writing this on my phone, for the living and the dead.  –  Jemima

Rough Trade Daniel-Nicolae Ilie

A man who raped a prostitute…has been jailed for [forty] months.  Daniel-Nicolae Ilie…paid £20 for sex…[but] when she refused his demands for further sexual acts, he attacked her…Judge Horton said…”A sex worker, like any other woman in this country, is entitled to her consent”…

The Red Umbrella

As usual, there were a number of articles for the December 17th observance, but for me four really stood out.  In the first, Siouxsie Q interviewed Dr. Annie Sprinkle, who first conceived of the idea; then UK politician James Shaddock published “As Liberals, We Must Stand Up for Sex Workers”; Jemima wrote a powerful poem called “For the Living and the Dead”; and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects released its new consensus statement, “On Sex Work, Human Rights and the Law”.

Ashley Madison

A [North Carolina] man blames the breakup of his marriage not only on the other guy, but also on the online infidelity service that he says made it happen…Robert Schindler…is suing her alleged partner…along with Ashley Madison…alienation of affection…laws have survived numerous efforts…to repeal them, and in recent years they have led to million-dollar judgments for wronged spouses…

Subtle Pimping

Another person who profited from whore stereotypes without consulting us or giving us any support in return:

Patricia Adler…[announced] that she would be leaving her tenured position teaching sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder…[after] officials told her that one of the highlights of [her] course…had to go.  That is an annual lecture on prostitution…to illustrate that status stratification occurs in various groups considered deviant by society.  She seeks volunteers from among…teaching assistants…to dress up as various kinds of prostitutes — she named as categories “slave whores, crack whores, bar whores, streetwalkers, brothel workers and escort services.”  They work with Adler on scripts in which they describe their lives as these types of prostitutes…

The Leading Players in the Field, Not

Mira Sorvino is VEWWY SEWIOUSWhen CNN wants a “human trafficking expert”, you can be sure they won’t call on anyone who’s actually studied migration or sex work or anything; no, it’s always a has-been actress trying to reinvent herself as a “human rights champion”, accompanied by (usually religious) rescue industry types.  You may also be sure nobody’s going to even acknowledge the existence of any local activists, because otherwise we’d be cheated of a white savior’s journey into the Heart of Darkness, complete with serious-faced selfie.

Peeping Toms

A federal judge…in Utah ruled portions of the state’s anti-polygamy law unconstitutional…polygamists in Utah can’t apply for multiple marriage licenses, but neither can they be prohibited from living together as…husband and wives…The case was brought to court by Kody Brown…whose family is featured in TLC’s Sister Wives

Setting Women’s Rights Back a Century

Cathy Young published an excellent article on “How the government encourages kangaroo courts for sex crimes on campus”; it covers not only material from the above-linked column, but also topics explored in “Lower Education”, “False Target” and several other essays.  Definitely worth reading in its entirety.

The Crumbling Dam

The Canadian Supreme Court will announce its final decision in Bedford vs. Canada today; some have speculated that the timing may indicate that it will not be to the government’s liking.  Here’s law professor Kyle Kirkup:

…In 1967, the Supreme Court upheld a decision placing a man in indefinite detention after he was convicted of sodomy and deemed to be an “incurable homosexual.”  In 1969, largely in response to the decision, the federal government…decriminalized sodomy…Forty-six years after the decision, it is safe to say that the…Court…was on the wrong side of history.  Last week, the Supreme Court of India was widely criticized for upholding a similar law criminalizing gay sex…history will not be kind to the decision…the Supreme Court of Canada…has the opportunity to focus its analysis on the harms caused by…criminalization…instead of sending messages about good sex and bad sex.  What side of history will the Court be on?…

UPDATE:  The court was on the right side of history.  Unfortunately Parliament may not want to be this time…

The Law of Averages

A whole convention full of trafficking loonies in the formerly somewhat-sane Rhode Island gathered to swap disinformation, including ridiculous nonsense about pimped streetwalkers working out of strip clubs.  The writer pretends to have done research by explaining that “the average age of a child forced into prostitution is 12,  according to the U.S. Department of Justice…other studies place the age range at 12-15 years old.”  Of course, no study says anything of the kind, and the official DoJ study on the subjectThe Ladies of Trade Town put the average underage sex worker’s debut at roughly the same age found by every other study – about 16.

Presents, Presents, Presents!

I’ve received a number of presents in the past two weeks.  Sasha Castel sent me Strapless, a lovely scarf, some perfume and an Australian chocolate bar; Sailor Barsoom sent The Ladies of Trade Town; Eddie JC1 sent The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part 1 and The Lurker in the Lobby, and Krulac sent Family Christmas.  Thank you all so very much!

Gingerbread House

The Alameda County [California] Juvenile Hall is…creating a girl’s camp for victims of sexual exploitation…Esa Ehmen-Krause, the deputy chief probation officer…says the plan is to convert some vacant detention units into a safe harbor…[by retrofitting] the space to make it feel comfortable…But [advocate Venus] Rodriguez…[asks] if the goal is to teach girls about healthy relationships and how to live independently…“How does that work in a lock up facility?”…

Unclean Situation

More on Ireland’s inbred prohibitionist cabal:

The Turn Off The Red Light (TORL) political campaign…is led by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), who are funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.  ICI have received $5,903,868…so far.  13 other TORL organisations have…received a whopping $40,710,493…in total…the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) which have provided TORL with extensive pro bono legal advice…have had $10,419,298…Ireland’s human rights organisations have fallen silent on the issue of further criminalisation of sex work…It turns out they are all funded by Atlantic Philanthropies also…a total of $17,762,683 between them…In Harm's Way cover

Long Spoon

The long-awaited call for decriminalization by Human Rights Watch has arrived, in a report on rampant human rights abuses committed by Louisiana “authorities”:

Louisiana state laws and practices that prohibit access to sterile syringes and criminalize sex work contribute to an uncontrolled HIV epidemic and an extremely high AIDS death rate, Human Rights Watch said…New Orleans police regularly interfere with sex workers who carry condoms, putting them and their clients at risk of HIV…“In Harm’s Way:  State Response to Sex Workers, Drug Users, and HIV in New Orleans” documents government…abuses of at-risk populations in New Orleans.  It calls for changes in state and local laws and policies that stigmatize, discriminate against, and facilitate police abuse of sex workers and drug users, and interfere with health services…

Rough Trade (TW3 #337)

California officials voted…to overturn a discriminatory rule that prevented sex workers who are physically or sexually assaulted from receiving money from a special victim compensation fund intended to help the victims of violent crimes…sex workers will now be eligible for state assistance to pay for medical and related expenses they incur as a result of the assault.  Members of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board said they were compelled to change the “repugnant” rule after hearing the testimony of sex workers who have been assaulted and left without recourse or support following the crime…

Sex Rays

It isn’t only children who are harmed by sex rays; infantilized women are too!

Lap dancing club plans for Doncaster…have been rejected following serious concerns about the possible effect on the sensitive work carried out at a neighbouring women’s centre…[“authorities”] said the venue would…alter the perception of vulnerable women, significantly harming the service the centre provides…

Here’s a previously unknown property of sex rays; they “alter perception”, presumably like LSD.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

Melissa Gira Grant on a pro-Swedish model New York Times editorial:

…The alternative the Times offers?  Sex workers should instead be treated as “victims,” which the editorial claims can be accomplished by increasing criminal penalties against their customers.  But there’s no evidence, in the editorial or elsewhere, to support that assertion …[and] leading global health and human rights organizations have …condemned that approach, as have sex workers themselves.  Passing stronger laws against buying sex and treating sex workers as victims does nothing to actually protect [their] health, safety, or rights…and only perpetuates a system in which sex workers are endangered by the police.  The proposed French law introduces new penalties for activities related to buying and selling sex, only one of which is the highly publicized “fines for johns.”  The law is quite broad, and targets many more people who are involved in the sex trade than customers…Sex Workers Unite

Dr. Melinda Chateauvert also comments on both the New York Times article and the French law in this interview introducing her new book, Sex Workers Unite.  Meanwhile, the pending law has emboldened anti-whore fanatics:  “Forty people rallied…on the road between Beziers and [Nissan-lez-Ensérune]…to drive prostitutes out of their sight…they chased prostitutes until dusk…[in order to] prevent them from working…

Dutch Threat (TW3 #349)

A company set up to run brothels in Utrecht has applied…to set up a pension fund…The company, named Freya, says footballers and prostitutes both do heavy work and so should be treated equally in terms of pensions.  Footballers can save up to €5,000 tax free a month to put into a pension fund for when they are no longer physically able to play.  Prostitutes should be given the same rights to do this, [said] board member and lawyer Wil Post…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #349)

All you need to know about this Australian example of yellow journalism is its overlong title:  “Girls kidnapped by drug gangs and sold as sex slaves to cash in on the 2014 FIFA World Cup”.  Here’s the truth, courtesy of Dr. Thaddeus Blanchette’s commentary on a nearly-identical Time article:

…Fortaleza, one of the host cities of the World Cup, currently has open twenty cases of underaged prostitution (six of which involve foreigners) and TWO THOUSAND cases of sexual exploitation of children that have nothing to do with prostitution or tourism…in ten years of work researching Rio de Janeiro’s brothels…I have not encountered a single child prostitute.  Frequent police raids on these establishments also generally come up a cropper.  There are a few cases, of course, but I can count them on the fingers of one hand, from over a ten year period.  Where, then, are these legions of child prostitutes?  If the police and I and my co-researcher, Dra. Ana Paula da Silva, can’t find more than a handful in all the hundreds of commercial sex venues in Rio de Janeiro…where are these kids?…apocalyptic claims that the invasion of legions of sports fans would lead to an increase in prostitution…have NEVER been substantiated:  in fact, they’ve been consistently debunked…

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #350)

Sex workers in London’s Soho had their doors kicked in by riot police…[who] brought along journalists to photograph cowering women who were desperately trying to cover their faces…Working flats have been closed, throwing women out on to the street…migrant workers…were taken away…for compulsory “counselling”…and…removal from the UK, despite protesting that they were not trafficked victims…Kay Thi Win, a sex worker in Burma, has said:  “We live in daily fear of being ‘rescued’…[by] police, who break into our workplaces and beat us, rape us and kidnap our children in order to save us”…

Number Puzzle (TW3 #350) the alert Mary Honeyball

Tim Worstall replies to European politician Mary Honeyball’s claims of “growing disillusionment in places where [prostitution] has been legalized”:  “No, there is not growing support for such a framework.  You’re lying…[prohibitionists] are…wildly lying…There simply isn’t any evidence that ‘sex slavery’ is anything other than an appalling and vile and very rare indeed crime…

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I wouldn’t have known what I know now if I hadn’t lived the way I have.  –  Kathleen Rockwell

Though there have always been women who made a career of directly accepting money for sex, the majority of those who have taken money for it – perhaps as high as 90% of them – did so casually or infrequently, and never thought of themselves as whores per se.  Indeed, it wasn’t until the 19th century that any woman who had ever done so was judged to be as “fallen” as those who made a career of it and eschewed marriage and domesticity.  But like all new ideas, this one did not catch on everywhere right away; though it was popular in the “social purity” movement and later became the standard definition among American Progressives, many women of the transitional period continued to take money for sex on an irregular and unpredictable basis, leading to considerable controversy among both contemporary and modern bean-counters as to whether or not they were “really” prostitutes.

Klondike Kate, circa 1901Case in point: Kathleen Eloisa Rockwell, born in Junction City, Kansas, in 1873 (though she later claimed 1876).  Her parents had both divorced their spouses to marry each other, then in turn divorced after a move to North Dakota.  By the time Kate was five her mother Martha had again remarried to a wealthy businessman; until she was 15 she lived in a mansion in Spokane, Washington.  But after her stepfather’s business failed the marriage did as well, and Martha dragged Kate off to Chile, where her son from her first marriage was living; on the voyage there Kate accepted a young officer’s proposal of marriage.  Since Martha had entirely failed to grasp that “do as I say, not as I do” is an ineffective parenting strategy, she was aghast; she ended the engagement and upon arrival in Valparaiso enrolled Kate in a convent school.  No sooner had she graduated and started teaching kindergarten than she accepted another proposal, this time from a Spanish diplomatic attaché; she soon ended that one at the insistence of the school’s principal.  In later years, she claimed to have accepted over 100 proposals in her life, and broken all but a few of them; I suggest the reader view this as akin to courtesan’s claims of men committing suicide over them, or modern strippers’ staggering incomes that never seem to translate into actual bank balances.

Only three years after her arrival in Chile, Martha decided to return to New York; she soon asked Kate to join her there, but when she arrived in November of 1892(?) she found that her mother was both broke and too old to attract another rich husband.  Kate supported them both with a number of chorus-girl gigs until an old friend invited her back to work in a vaudeville theater in Spokane; there she not only sang and danced, but also made a cut from drinks customers bought her (it seems likely that her first tricks were picked up there).  When the Klondike gold rush started in the summer of 1897, Kate recognized it as a matchless opportunity; within a year she had put together the money to resettle her mother in Seattle and pay for passage to Canada.  She arrived in Victoria, BC late in the autumn, and discovered that the RCMP would not let women go any farther because the winter was “too dangerous”.  But like any good harlot, she refused to let the arbitrary declarations of cops deter her when there was money to be made; she therefore disguised herself as a boy and sneaked onto a cargo ship headed for Whitehorse, Yukon.

Klondike Kate, circa 1900She worked as a tap-dancer in Whitehorse for most of 1899, then joined the Savoy Theatrical Company when its new theater in Dawson opened in 1900.  Since she stood out in looks, talent and sex appeal from the other girls she soon attracted the attention of Charlie Meadows, who offered her $200 a week (about $5500 today) and star billing at his Palace Grande Theater, where she immediately became a huge hit.  Her show-stopper, the “Flame Dance”, included her twirling a huge swath of red chiffon about while singing and dancing; men threw money at her during the act, and she charged them to dance with her afterwards.  She is also known to have charged for company, but was extremely discreet about it; altogether, she later estimated she made about $500 a week beyond her salary, a total of about $30,000 ($815,000 today) by the end of 1900.  On Christmas Eve she was crowned “Queen of the Yukon” by her fans, and a miner named Johnny Matson (more on him later) fell instantly in love with her.

Unfortunately, she had recently begun a relationship with an ambitious Greek immigrant named Alexander Pantages, a former boxer and current bartender with plans to open a chain of theaters.  They opened the Orpheum together early in 1901, and with Kate as its headliner they were soon rolling in money.  But in the spring of the following year, Pantages realized that the gold was running out and suggested the two of them move to Seattle; Kate did not wish to leave Dawson, so they embarked upon a long-distance relationship.  Even after she finally came back to the US in 1903 or 1904, she wanted to tour while he was stuck in Seattle working on his dream of a theater chain.  While she was performing in Texas, Alex took up with a violinist named Lois Medenhall, whom he married on March 12, 1905; though their relationship had clearly been cooling for a long time Kate was furious and filed a breach-of-promise lawsuit against him in May, seeking the return of the $60,000 she had invested in his theaters plus another $25,000 in damages.  The affair upset her terribly, however, and she started drinking heavily; she settled out of court in April 1906 for a paltry $5,000, then moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, opened a hotel and performed at a nightclub called the Floradora.  Luck was not with her; the uninsured hotel burned down in 1907 and she left Alaska flat broke.

Klondike Kate, circa 1906Since she was only 34, she easily built up another career in vaudeville.  But there was not nearly as much money to be made in Seattle as there had been in the Klondike, and besides she was depressed and drinking; after a knee injury ended her dancing career for good in 1914 she had a nervous breakdown, and left Seattle to open a boarding house in Bend, Oregon (at which some of her boarders seem to have been whores).  Though money was tight, she preferred to do most of the menial work herself rather than sell any of her expensive jewelry; as she later told a biographer, “I can remember the queer looks on the faces of customers, seeing me up to my elbows in soap suds, with a thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds in each ear.”  She eventually built her business into a profitable enough venture to make large donations to the town’s volunteer fire department, but made the mistake of selling it in the early 1920s to start a restaurant in California…which promptly failed so badly she was forced to borrow money from the now-successful Alex Pantages.  The latter’s fortune did not last long after that, however; in 1929 his wife Lois was tried for killing a man while driving drunk, and Alex was charged with raping a young actress.  Though his conviction was overturned after two years in prison, he was financially ruined and died of a heart attack in 1936.

Kate married a cowboy named Floyd Warner in the late ‘20s, but that was over by the time she received a letter from Johnny Matson, who had never stopped loving her; he had read a newspaper account of the Pantages trial (during which Kate had been subpoenaed by the prosecution as a character witness) and decided to look her up again.  In that letter he proposed, and she married him in Victoria, BC on July 14, 1933.  He was still a miner and very solicitous of her welfare, so he insisted she spend the winters in Oregon rather than at his remote claim.  During this time she began to be invited to appear at miner’s reunions in Portland, and spent her winters training young Hollywood actresses in vaudeville techniques.  They lived happily this way until the winter of 1946, when she was notified that Matson had been found dead in the woods miles from his cabin.  Two years later she married another old admirer, an Oregon accountant named W. L. Van Duren, and was still with him when she died at the age of 83 on February 21, 1957.  Though she is not well-known in most of the US, she is still remembered fondly in Alaska and Oregon; in the former as the glamorous showgirl of her youth, and in the latter as the generous civic benefactress of her later years.  And despite what moralists like to believe, they were one and the same woman.

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Is exhibitionism an all-or-nothing proposition?  The thought of having sex in a public or easily discovered place, being caught or otherwise exposed, is an active turnoff.  That’s partly due to an intense fear of public humiliation, but there’s also a consent issue:  if I’m doing it in a public park, and someone uninvolved interrupts the scenario, that person did not consent to becoming part of my sex life.  Shocking, embarrassing, or upsetting people is not my thing.  However, the thought of fucking for an audience of willing watchers, who are getting off on the sight of me is massively arousing.  So, do exhibitionists necessarily have to enjoy both aspects?

nude redheadWhen I was preparing to get liposuction in the autumn of 2004, I of course returned to the surgeon who had done such a stellar job on my tits.  His office manager brought me to the exam room and gave me the obligatory gown, but when the doc came in I asked, “What is this thing actually for?”  He replied, “It’s for modesty.  Why, don’t you have any?”  He was of course half-joking, and I explained that since he had already seen my top half nude many times and was about to see my bottom half nude, the whole gown thing seemed a pointless exercise in prudery.  But really, the short answer to his question would have been “no”; I’ve never been afraid of nudity, at least not in the conventional sense.  As I’ve explained before, I was dreadfully self-conscious about body hair and flat-chestedness, but those are concerns of not being attractive enough; modesty is in a sense the opposite, the concern that one is the subject of too much sexual attention.  And for me there was no such animal, short of actual violation (but my first experience of that wasn’t until years after my personality was pretty much set in stone).  I’ve always enjoyed dressing sexily, have never had any problem getting nude in front of others, and my chief concern with stripping was whether I was really a good enough dancer to make any money at it.  I had my first three-way at 17, and my first sex in front of a spectator not long after that; I’ve never had any hesitation about having sex in front of others, as long as the door was locked.

Because as it turns out, I’m exactly the same as you on this subject.  Being watched by willing spectators in private is a huge turn-on, but being concerned about arrest or other associated dangers of public sex is a gigantic turn-off.  In one of my very earliest column, “Aversions”, I wrote:

I know most guys and even a lot of women think [sex in weird places] is very sexy, but as far as I am concerned a bed is more than adequate as a venue for sexual relations.  Sand, dirt, dry leaves, insects, spiders or other, less identifiable debris in my genitalia are NOT my idea of a smashing good time, nor is being arrested for indecent exposure, nor having my head banged repeatedly against concrete, nor being crammed into some weird, cramped, smelly, unsanitary or all of the above position.

Though I was quite promiscuous as a teenager, I never once had sex in a car, and the one time I let myself be talked into sex in Audubon Park was such a traumatic experience I still remember it as though it were last week (though it was almost 30 years ago).  I would consider being turned on by the possibility of discovery to be a separate thing from pure exhibitionism, and even though the two are popularly associated I don’t think they really hail from the same region of the psychosexual landscape. The Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet (1863)
(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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