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Archive for December, 2013

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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I know who held the knife, but they might as well have put it in his hands.  –  the mother of murdered sex worker Petite Jasmine

December 17th posterSeveral days a year sex workers and our allies get together, either in person or in spirit, to observe certain occasions.  On March 3rd, we agitate for our rights and reach out to our comrades in other countries.  On June 2nd, we celebrate our victories and honor those who have gone before us in the struggle.  On Friday the 13th (a celebration of my own devising) we ask allies to join with us in the fight.  And on December 17th, in a ritual perhaps appropriate for the darkest season of the year, we remember our dead.

Their number is not as grossly disproportionate as prohibitionists like to pretend, but it is still much higher than it needs to be…especially since the cause of it is almost entirely governmental attempts to suppress or criminalize consensual adult behavior.  The body count of alcohol Prohibition is legendary, and many hundreds of thousands have died as a direct result of the “War on Drugs”; if we count total casualties rather than just fatalities, the toll is somewhere in the tens of millions.  The eradication of an activity which is totally legal if performed for a different motive is even more impossible, and the futile crusade to do so has been nearly as bloody.  Under any regime where the sale of sex is either partially or fully criminalized, the great majority of violence against sex workers is inflicted by the police; most of the rest that does not result from the sadly-normal violence inherent in human interactions is attributable to either the dangerous conditions under which sex workers must function in order to avoid police violence, or the marginalization which allows the evil and twisted to pretend that we’re acceptable targets for violence because we aren’t “real” human beings anyhow.  Every serial killer who has preyed upon sex workers has voiced some version of this sentiment, and the prohibitionists who support the system which enables the violence either claim that suffering and death of whores are a “price worth paying”, or reveal their sociopathy by declaring that such violence is a good thing.

In places where sex work is decriminalized or nearly so, sex workers are not forced into the shadows.  They need not work alone or in secret, without the support of friends or employees.  They are able to take their time assessing the character of potential clients, and need not rely upon third parties who don’t “look like prostitutes” in the eyes of the police.  Because their clients are also free to transact business, they are able to reject abusive clients and select the good ones who aren’t afraid to approach them.  They need not fear violent “rescuers” who invade their workplaces, abduct them, lock them in cages and subject them to brainwashing.  They are not the victims of government propaganda intended to convince everyone that they are either subhuman criminals or pathetic, childlike victims ripe for the picking.  And when they are victims of violence (as anyone can be in this imperfect world), they have the same legal recourse as anyone else.

Though the past year has seen many examples of the violence engendered by criminalization, one in particular stands out as a perfect illustration, namely the murder of the Swedish activist known as Petite Jasmine:

Several years ago she lost custody of her children as she was considered to be an unfit parent due to being a sex worker.  The children were placed with their father regardless of him being abusive towards Jasmine.  They told her she didn’t know what was good for her and that she was “romantisizing” prostitution, they said she lacked insight and didn’t realise sex work was a form of self-harm.  He threatened and stalked her on numerous occasions, she was never offered any protection…

JasmineThe Swedish government thus forced her to remain in contact with a violent abuser who eventually murdered her, because as a sex worker she was not in their eyes worthy of consideration.  Her death, a direct result of the actions of the Swedish state, triggered off a series of anti-criminalization protests on four continents; these protests, and similar ones for other murdered sex workers, demonstrate the true spirit of December 17th:  we choose to honor our dead not merely by weeping for them, but by fighting for the day when no more of us have to die for a sick and twisted fantasy of governmental control over the private choices of individuals.

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There’s nothing constant in the world,
All ebb and flow, and every shape that’s born
Bears in its womb the seeds of change.
  –  Ovid, Metamorphoses (XV, 177-8)

hollyThe holiday season just isn’t like it used to be any more; in fact, I’m rather beginning to dread it.  When I was a little girl I looked forward to it with great anticipation; I suppose all children do.  The food, the presents, the shows, the excitement, the new clothes, the break from routine, the visits from relatives…by the beginning of December I’m sure I was quite insufferable, counting down to the Big Day.  But now it always seems so disappointing.

I guess part of it is just that I’m not a child any more, and therefore unable to see things uncritically as children do.  And certainly, the world has changed in the past twenty years; we are not as innocent as we once were, and things are getting so commercial.  I know that probably sounds like hypocrisy coming from one who sells that which other women give away, but there’s a time and place for everything; just as there are times when I won’t work and men I won’t trade with, so I think an ethical merchant should not view the holidays solely as a means of enrichment.  Obviously, I’m not against business, and clearly food and gifts and decorations and everything else aren’t going to drop out of Heaven.  But isn’t there a difference between making money from what is supposed to be a religious holiday, and replacing the true meaning with a purely economic one?

Maybe that’s what’s bothering me; things are changing as things are wont to do, and I simply haven’t adjusted yet.  That will never work; I have to get myself out of this way of thinking before I end up like my grandmother, trapped in a world she barely recognizes.  She goes on and on about all the immigrants, and how their foreign ways have ruined what used to be a god-fearing country, and how all of our troubles derive from losing our traditional morality.  At this time of year she’s especially insufferable; why, just yesterday she was complaining that nobody even calls the holiday by its proper name any more.  “Sol Invictus!” she said; “Who’s that supposed to be?  Some combination upstart god!  When I was a girl the holiday was called Saturnalia, and it went on for a week, not one day as it is now!  We knew what was right then, and even though we still had barbarians bringing in their outlandish gods from all over the Empire nobody was confusing them with the true gods of Rome.  But now what do we have?  A Greek emperor ordering Romans to worship the Jewish god!  It’s madness, the world turned upside-down!”  Mother and I tried to explain to her that the Emperor had done no such thing, and everyone was free to worship whatever gods they chose, but it was no use; she just kept mumbling about “keeping Saturn in Saturnalia.”

Perhaps Granny has done me a favor by showing me how not to think.  After all, I enjoyed the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti of my youth just as much as Granny enjoyed her Saturnalia, and even if my grandchildren turn Christian will they not enjoy the festival as well, even if it has some new name and a new rationale?  Though I can no longer embrace the holiday as a child I can embrace it in another way, accepting the change rather than fighting it.  Perhaps the specific reason for the season isn’t actually important, as long as there is one; maybe it’s the celebration itself that actually matters, rather than any single reason any given group of people try to impose upon it.  And if I can only keep that in mind, maybe I’ll enjoy my holiday this year after all.

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Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?  –  Robert Redus, last words

Behold the power of prior planning:  despite being in New Orleans since Wednesday and having a horrible sinus headache yesterday, I still managed to get this Links column done on time.  The first video is the Beatles’ Christmas record for 1966; these were sent to members of their fan club every year from 1963 to 1969, but this one is IMHO the best of the lot.  Everything above it was provided by Jesse Walker, the second video was provided by my cat and the links between them were provided by Eugene Volokh (“Dalek”), Radley Balko  (“metadata”), Grace (“suicide” and “sarcasm”), Mike Siegel (“Shakespeare”),  Cop Block (“body slam”), Popehat  (“eventually”), and Mike Riggs (“together”).

From the Archives

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In reality, what’s degrading is not sex work itself, but the language [prohibitionists use] to describe it.  –  Joyce Arthur

The Red Umbrella Red Umbrella

This coming Tuesday is The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and Siouxsie Q has compiled a list of events (some of which will be held tomorrow).  Take a look, and please consider participating if you live in any of these cities.

Down Under

[A court ruled that] a [New Zealand] man who promised to financially support a prostitute…won’t be able to get back $500,000 he gave her…He…met…[her] at a massage parlour in…late 2007…and suggested…that he would support her financially…[if] she…[gave] up work…[he paid her] $5000 a month and…lavished her with money, travel and various gifts…

Droit du Seigneur

A D.C. police officer is being investigated for allegedly “pimping” teenage girls…Linwood Barnhill, 47, was found with a girl who had been reported missing…Neighbors [said] they would often see young girls going in and out of his apartment…this investigation is not connected to the…arrest of another D.C. police officer on child porn charges.  In that case, officer Marc Washington…went to the home of a 15-year-old girl…ordered her to remove her clothing and took photos of her…

And in Arizona:  “A Maricopa County juvenile probation officer is accused of running an illegal massage business ‘providing acts of prostitution’…apartment resident Ashley Martinez [said] ‘It could be bringing in pedophiles…and my kids could be getting caught into that’…”  The jaw-droppingly stupid quote from the imbecilic neighbor was too good to omit.

Wise Investment

Apparently, American courts hate oil companies more than whores:

BP has…been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses that filed damage claims after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster – even though they weren’t really affected…the court-appointed [supervisor] has confirmed he approved a $173,000 payout to an “adult escort service” that BP said was filed with unsigned and undated financial documents…The company contested the escort service payment…but lost before a court-appointed appeals panel…

For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea (October Updates)

As police go on strike in Argentina’s second largest city…the people have…[looted] every supermarket…the governor of Cordoba…claims that the police strike is a direct result of his decision to close 140 brothels…which had provided a steady income stream to a large number of corrupt officers…

Elytte & Miranda Barbour
Where Are the Protests?

A [newlywed] couple…lured a man to his death with an ad on…Craigslist…because they wanted to kill someone together…Elytte Barbour told officers…that he and his wife, Miranda…[lured] Troy LaFerrara…[with an escort] posting…Elytte [said]…Miranda…regularly…made anywhere from $50 to $850 by meeting with men for such activities as having dinner together or walking around a mall.  The ads she placed…all said upfront that sex was not part of the deal…”She is not a prostitute…she…meets with them and has delightful conversation”…

I’m sure that conversation is wholly delightful.  Somebody want to tell Elytte the Simpleton that the majority of American escort ads say “upfront” that no sex is involved?  NB:  This is the second time we’ve seen a deranged hooker expecting people to believe she truly doesn’t have sex with clients.

A False Dichotomy (TW3 #8)

Panicked policy reactions to human trafficking and an over-emphasis on the issue of sex trafficking can cause more harm than good…trafficking expert…Pardis Mahdavi said…“Policies are made as a knee-jerk reaction based on moral panic…People like to put distance between themselves and the sex industry, whereas…the domestic workers who clean our homes, the nannies who care for our children, the people who pick the tomatoes that we eat, these are often people who are involved in forced labour…over ninety percent of trafficking is not in the sex industry, it’s forced labour…”

Finding What Isn’t There

A peek inside the mind of a bureaucrat:

…Of the 50,000 T-visas that have been offered over the last 10 years, the government has issued only 6,206 of the little-known visas meant to protect victims of human trafficking and their family members…despite the fact that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. every year…those who apply…have to be willing to testify against the traffickers…and…are not allowed to work while waiting for the visa, which can take a year or more…

Of course the estimate can’t possibly be wrong, and asking people to live without income for a year is perfectly reasonable.  The FBI claims “authorities would assist victims, even if there is not a trafficker who can be prosecuted,” but that’s clearly bullshit; the whole “trafficking” narrative depends on producing “traffickers”.Elizabeth Romero

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #314)

Observable fact:  14-year-old girl runs away with her 19-year-old boyfriend.  Conclusion:  a giant worldwide conspiracy selling infants for snuff sex:

The search for Elizabeth Romero and her alleged kidnapper Edwardo Fabian Flores Rosales continues…officials believe that the duo have already crossed the border into Mexico…Some people believe that she is voluntarily…with the 19-year-old man she met on the internet…others believe that…[she] could…be the victim of sex trafficking…Children as young as infants are…wrangled up from every corner of the globe and herded from one master to the next…as sex slaves until they are “used up”…which usually ends in their murders…the scenario of this 14-year-old girl being a willing runaway is far easier to stomach than the idea of her being sold for unimaginable sex acts and then killed…

It’s hard to see how this lurid fantasy can be called “unimaginable” when the author is clearly able to imagine it.

The Crumbling Dam (TW3 #315)

Another good article from Joyce Arthur, this on language used by the media.  While I myself use some of the terms she advises against, that’s only in an informal and personal context; I think she is correct in advising use of more neutral terms in mainstream articles.

Monsters

A [New York] attorney…argued that his defendant’s hefty sentence  for murdering a transgender woman should be reserved for someone who kills “certain classes of individuals”…Rasheen Everett was convicted of the 2010 murder of Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, a transgender prostitute…but…defense attorney John Scarpa…argued…”Shouldn’t that [sentence] be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain classes of individuals?…Who is the victim in this case?  Is the victim a person in the higher end of the community?”…Justice Richard Buchter…[replied] “This court believes every human life in sacred…It’s not easy living as a transgender, and I commend the family for supporting her”…

Dysphemisms Galore

Still not dark enoughThere’s probably an entire research paper on the Jungian implications of yellow journalists describing anything to do with sex as “dark”:  “Korea has long been criticized for its lax control over its…entertainer visa…exploited by human traffickers to smuggle foreign women into the country to do sex work.  Authorities…promised to strengthen monitoring of the seedy establishments where the women have been forced to sell sex…”  The evidence presented for this supposed epidemic of “trafficking”?  US government propaganda and a supposed phone call from one anonymous informant who claims to have been a “victim”.

An Example to the West (TW3 #324)

The Bolivian Parliament is preparing a new law to regulate and recognize sex work…This is the result of an initiative by Organización de Trabajadoras Nocturnas (OTN)…to prevent “the physical and psychological abuse and discrimination” suffered by sex workers from police and nightclub owners…

Safe Targets (TW3 #332)

That’ll show them dirty photographers!  See the last line for the police motive.

Authorities have shut down Hong Kong’s largest prostitution website…sex141.com…was believed to have been controlled by a criminal syndicate, which police say they have now broken up.  “When they knew there were sex workers coming to Hong Kong, the syndicate would arrange a make-up service and photographers,” a police spokesman [said]…While prostitution is legal in Hong Kong, soliciting and living off the earnings of prostitutes are against the law…114 people have been arrested, which includes 78 prostitutes…arrested on such charges as overstaying or violating the conditions of their visitor visa.  Police also said about HK$15 million ($1.93 million) worth of assets related to the group had been frozen…

Under Every Bed (TW3 #333)

I know real people are endangered by this idiocy, but I just can’t help laughing every time “authorities” pretend that North Dakota is a “sex trafficking hub”:

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has introduced legislation…to crack down on sex trafficking, which experts fear is on the rise in…North Dakota due to the large influx of men coming to work in the state’s western oil patch…”North Dakota could be ground zero for this type of behavior,” Heitkamp…said…

The only thing that keeps me from adding that claim to “King of the Hill” is that they use qualifiers like “fear” and “could be” rather than stating it as a “fact”.

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #341)

New excuses for another Soho pogrom:

Hundreds of police officers launched a massive Soho swoop on premises allegedly linked to rape, sex trafficking and muggings…22 people were arrested in the raids on…premises suspected of being…fronts for handling stolen goods…a dozen women…were taken to safe locations where they will be questioned.  Police believe that some were trafficked into the country and forced into prostitution…The English Collective of Prostitutes…condemned the raids saying some “immigrant women were taken into custody on the pretext that they may be victims of trafficking, despite their protestations that they were not…police are raiding premises where women are working together safely…with friends…most of the women…have now lost their livelihood”…corrected graffiti

More from the West End Extra:

Nikki Adams from the ECP…[called] it…an “out­rageous fabrication”, adding: “At least two of those women I know well and they’ve been in the UK for years and speak perfect English and come to all our meetings…People fear that the evictions are aimed at making way for large-scale development”…

A press release from Sex Worker Open University added, “The media presence included Sky news, BBC and the Evening Standard.  It would seem that ‘victims’ of sex work need to be publicly humiliated and shamed…in order to be properly saved from their work…”

Little Boxes (TW3 #343)

It’s not a “front for prostitution”, it is prostitution.  However, note the equation of sex with rape; cops and prosecutors imagine everyone to be as twisted and evil as they are:

…For $60, customers at the Snuggle House can spend an hour hugging, cuddling and spooning with professional snugglers…but Madison officials suspect the business is a front for prostitution and…fear snuggling could lead to sexual assault…police have talked…about conducting a sting…and city attorneys are drafting a new ordinance to regulate snuggling.  “There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen”…city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said.  “No offense…but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle”…

Imaginary Evils (TW3 #348)

More from Frank Furedi on the myth of “modern slavery”:

…promoters of this urban legend about modern-day slavery [argue] that what is really significant about this hitherto unrecognised crime is not what can be seen by the naked eye but rather the often “invisible” problem of mental enslavement.  These are slaves who are not physically chained into a life of servitude, but rather are wrapped up in “emotional chains” by their psychologically manipulative captors.  [A term like] “brainwashed”…can transform even normal features of human life – such as being in an unpleasant relationship or feeling pressured to do something – into something…criminal…Such an exercise in rhetorical acrobatics allows campaigners to expand the number of “invisible slaves”…

And yes, he does mention Kevin Bales’ “30 million slaves”.

Number Puzzle (TW3 #349)

The American media would have you believe Alice Schwarzer’s revolting demand for imposition of the Swedish model on Germany has widespread support, but here’s a more typical German view of her:

Alice Schwarzer is an enemy of freedom.  She is condescending, she’s manipulative, she does not tolerate contradiction and therefore has no sense of what makes people, in all their contradictions, essentially human…She loves to divide the world into good and evil, victim and perpetrator…she has a Manichean world view, especially with regard to human sexuality…this…leads to very unpleasant consequences in the debate about prostitution…in [her mind] there is no room for autonomous, free men and…women…who decide…what they want…

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No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;  any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.  –  John Donne, Meditation XVII

London red umbrellaIt’s Friday the 13th again, and since the last one was so recent and the next sex worker rights occasion (the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers) is this coming Tuesday, I think it would be a bit much to subject y’all to another entire column on the subject; so, I’m going to do something a little different this time by letting our allies speak.  Y’all may remember that back in September I wrote that “every single post y’all make today will be announced and linked in my next Friday the 13th column, only three months down the road on December 13th.”  All in all, 23 people responded to my call:  Amazing Susan, Aztec Lady, Eve’s Tempations, Rhonda and Sex Hysteria  reblogged that column, and 17 others wrote the original posts listed below:

Sasha Castel, “Friday the Thirteenth
Mark Draughn, “Boys and Harlots Beware
Emily Dubberley, “Support Sex Workers on Friday 13th (and every day)
Elf, “The Right To Say Yes
Eve’s Temptations: “Friday the 13th
Leonard Fahrni, “Triskaideka-whora-philia” and “A Nation of Malvolios
Ally Fogg, “White Slave Traffic: A Friday 13th guest post by Emma Goldman
Formerly Dave, “What’s Wrong With Sex Work?
Chris Hall, “Stigma and Bad Laws Hurt Everyone
Keen Observer, “Sex Workers’ Rights Day (Friday the 13th)
Korhomme, “Challenge the Givens
Ed Krayewski, “Don’t Blame Sex Workers for Your Failed Marriage
Lily White LeFevre, “Courtesans in Romance
Georgia Lewis, “Why Sex Workers’ Rights Matter
Daniel McNally, “Why You Should be Against Sex Work Prohibition
Not Just Bitchy, “Prostitution Should Be Decriminalized
Skepticism First, “The Ethics of Sex Work
Ken White, “For Their Own Good: Friday The Thirteenth Reflections On Society’s Treatment of Sex Workers
Tim Worstall, “Hey, Preacher, Leave the Whores Alone

Finally, Eric Barrier reblogged the Ed Krayewski article from Reason.

I’m letting class out early today because I want y’all to read as many of those as possible…then bookmark the rest and read them later.  That’s because they’re all good and they’re all important.  Some are short and some are long; some are intellectual and some passionate.  Some are directly on-point, and others are tangential but still mention the cause.  And some are even by people who personally disapprove of sex work, yet understand that governments have no right to restrict peaceful, consensual, private activities, or recognize that attempts to suppress such activities invariably harm those they suppress.  I was very happy to see such a wide variety of responses, because that’s the very essence of this observance: good people from all walks of life working together to call attention to a wrong which, while it may not affect them directly, still offends their sense of how free human beings ought to be treated.

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An old horse knows the road. –  Chinese proverb

Départ pour le Sabbat by Albert Joseph Pénot (1910)I’m back in New Orleans today!  It’s been almost two years since the last time I was here, in February 2012; my husband’s schedule simply didn’t permit our usual midwinter trip this year, and actually he isn’t with me this week, either.  However, the Southern Harm Reduction Conference was in New Orleans this year, and much later than last time; since Denise was willing to put up with me for a few days, it was a great opportunity to do my Christmas visiting before the holiday this year rather than after.  So I drove down yesterday, and the conference is today and tomorrow; that gives me two whole days to visit friends before I go home Monday.  But don’t worry, everything is all set to go; if I hadn’t told you I was away, you probably would never have noticed.

As I’ve explained before, one of the important things I do while I’m there is to stock up on groceries; we ran out of coffee with chicory months ago, and my dried green onions and granulated garlic are getting awfully low.  Then there are the ethnic foods I get from Mona’s, and I always treat myself to a new dress from my friend in the flea market; maybe I’ll even get Grace to take a picture of me in it when I get back.  I’m also going to try to make time for a walking tour; the young lady who gives it consulted me on whore lore because she wanted to be accurate and respectful, so I’d like to see how that worked out.  All in all I’ll be pretty busy, but I’ll try to pop in here tonight and tomorrow to see how everything’s going.  Fortunately, I’m well ahead on my work, so even though I’ll lose a few days this week and a lot more in the last two weeks of the year, and probably more in January for some stuff I haven’t told y’all about yet, I’m really not too worried about falling behind.  Well, that’s not exactly honest; I’m always worried.  I just mean not more than usual.

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