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Archive for April, 2014

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies.
  –  Robert W. Chambers

Tomorrow is May Day, and today May Eve; though the tradition has waned in the past century, it was once viewed in the same way as Halloween: a night for ghosts, haunts and dark doings.  In my first column for the occasion I shared my list of the ten scariest short stories, and in last year’s column the scariest TV show episodes I’ve ever seen.  This year, I present thirteen main selections (five movies, two poems, one television miniseries, four short stories and a fairy tale) plus a few lagniappe items, ranging from the fun to the beautiful to the horrifying; most can be described by two or even all three of those adjectives, and I doubt many of you will be familiar with all of them.  I’ve provided PDF copies of all the tales and poems, and links to view or buy the shows.

The Call of Cthulhu (2005)  A group of ambitious Lovecraft fans asked themselves, “What if his most famous story had been adapted for the screen shortly after it was published in 1928?”  The result may be the best of all Lovecraft film treatments, especially if you can appreciate silent film.

ChristabelChristabel (1816) is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s sadly-unfinished poem of a lesbian vampire.  Though it has other complexities of theme, it is this overt meaning which has had the strongest resonance; J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (1872) is basically a prose adaptation of it, and the lesbian vampire motif has appeared in many movies from Dracula’s Daughter  (1936) to the present.

The Kingdom (1994) Lars von Trier wrote and directed this bizarre Danish miniseries of ghostly, psychic and otherwise-weird goings-on at a super-modern hospital built on what was once a haunted bog.  Steven King adapted it for American television a decade later, with predictably piss-poor results; the original is much, much better.

Kwaidan (1964)Kwaidan is Masaki Kobayashi’s gorgeous film version of four Japanese ghost stories translated by Lafcadio Hearn.  The word “unforgettable” is badly overused in movie advertising copy, but this is one time it’s richly deserved.

Man-size in Marble (1893) by Edith Nesbit used to be very common in horror anthologies; it was one of the first horror tales I can remember reading, certainly before the age of ten.  But since it isn’t as commonly collected as it used to be, some of my readers may be unfamiliar with this chilling little example of the traditional English ghost story.

The Monster Club (1981) is one of the strangest and most uneven films ever made.  Vampire Vincent Price brings horror writer John Carradine to a London nightclub whose members are all humanoid monsters, and there tells him three stories: one sad, one absurd and one horrifying.  There’s also music and a stripper.  Don’t take this one too seriously; just enjoy the weirdness.

The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)  Though Vincent Price’s performance as the mad sculptor in House of Wax (1953) was superior to Lionel Atwill’s in this original version of the story, this two-strip Technicolor gem is better than the remake in almost every other way.  I especially love Fay Wray as Lois Lane prototype Charlotte Duncan, the ambitious and hardheaded “girl reporter” whose curiosity leads her to the brink of a gruesome fate.

Psychomania (1973) is another oddball British horror movie in which a sorcerer’s son turned motorcycle gang leader discovers how he and his followers can become undead, and after they do they embark on a reign of terror only his mother can stop.

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow was my favorite fairy tale as a wee lass; I must’ve asked Maman to read it to me hundreds of times.  You may wonder why a fairy tale is on a horror list, until I tell you it’s a Japanese fairy tale; if you still don’t get it, read the story.  Yes, I was a strange child.

The Vampyre (1819) is the only other surviving product of the famous “ghost story” contest between the Shelleys and Lord Byron that rainy summer on Lake Geneva.  Though Frankenstein eclipses it in every way, Dr. John Polidori’s entry (based on a plot by Byron) is the first known vampire short story in English, and influenced all which came after it.

Pauline and the MatchesThe Very Sad Tale of the Matches (1845)  Germany is probably the only country whose children’s literature is more horrific than that of Japan; I’m sure most of you are aware of what the original un-Disneyfied Grimm’s fairy tales are like.  Heinrich Hoffmann was a psychiatrist who wrote a cheery little book (originally for his son) named Der Struwwelpeter, in which minor childhood misbehaviors (such as nose-picking) precipitate horrific punishments (like having the offending fingers cut off by a man with gigantic shears).  This selection from the book has, in my opinion, the most striking disconnect between the tone and language and the awful goings-on therein.

What Was It? (1859) Fitz-James O’Brien wrote only a small number of tales before his untimely death in the American Civil War, but they reveal a talent which might have made him one of the greats had he lived to develop it.  This is the very first example of a story in which there is a creature who is invisible, yet tangible; it is not a ghost but a living being, and its invisibility is ascribed to an undiscovered scientific principle rather than a supernatural one.  If anything, the tale is even creepier because of that.

The Yellow Sign (1895) If you have watched the television series True Detective, you’ve heard references to the Yellow King and the city of Carcosa; both are borrowed from this story and others by Robert W. Chambers, which revolve around a mysterious play called The King in Yellow which brings madness to all who read it (or even own a copy).  Chambers’ work is of very uneven quality, but this one and “The Repairer of Reputations” (also included in this PDF) are outstanding.

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When we say “science” we can either mean any manipulation of the inventive and organizing power of the human intellect: or we can mean such an extremely different thing as the religion of science the vulgarized derivative from this pure activity manipulated by a sort of priestcraft into a great religious and political weapon.  –  Wyndham Lewis

tobacco ad pseudoscienceWhile unsupported arguments from authority are a powerful persuader for a certain fraction of the population (especially when they agree with existing cherished beliefs), they simply aren’t enough to carry bad policy any more.  Don’t get me wrong; they’re still the basis for the majority of laws, rules and regulations.  However, the internet provides a powerful tool for those who actually know something about a subject to present facts which refute the propaganda, no matter how heavily it is promulgated by establishment media.  This allows them to break the government’s information control over skeptics and people with at least a grade-school level of scientific literacy, who can in turn make their own arguments from authority to counter the official narrative.  Bogus studies have thus become a vital tool for keeping the masses sedated; since most people aren’t scientifically literate or well-informed enough to recognize a fake “study” when they see it, this gives the mythmakers their own “facts” with which to counter those disseminated by the real experts.  And even though those experts can debunk the faux “statistics”, the establishment’s lies are much louder and shouted through a far larger number of megaphones, so countermeasures may not be believed even when they’re heard.

This is why it’s always a relief to see debunking of “sex trafficking” mythology reported in large media venues; the moral panic will not end until our debunking of the fetishists’ claims begin to receive equal publicity to statements of those claims.  Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about:  the “trafficking” paradigm pretends that huge numbers of underage girls are forced into the trade by evil “pimps”.  But unfortunately for pimp-fantasy-lovers, this is not only false, it was disproven by a major study funded by none other than the US Department of Justice:

…the John Jay study…“thoroughly obliterated the…core assumptions about underage prostitution…Only 10 percent were involved with a…pimp…about 45 percent got in…through friends…Nearly all…said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.  In other words, the typical [underage sex worker]…is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp”…law enforcement “authorities” were very unhappy with the results…which is why they have been buried…the DoJ…immediately ditched [principal researcher Ric] Curtis in favor of his younger, hungrier and less-principled assistant [Meredith] Dank, who was obviously instructed to do another study which would find what the DoJ wanted found – that pimps run the whole show – so as to shore up “sex trafficking” mythology and justify the vast expenditures and rampant civil liberties violations of the War on Whores.  Since interviewing real sex workers would merely find the truth again, they were largely avoided except for an easily-manipulated handful in prison…And since interviewees might still tell some truth despite incentives to the contrary, the fantasies of cops and prosecutors were included to balance that…

White Slaves of ChinatownOf course, this countermeasure was touted far and wide; it was called a “landmark” study and its preordained “conclusions” were trumpeted in every news source in the US and many abroad, and the fact that it was as bad a piece of bogus “research” as anything Melissa Farley or the Schapiro Group ever produced wasn’t obvious to the average consumer of establishment infotainment.  Not to be outdone, Curtis and others performed a data analysis of the John Jay and several other studies to serve as a counter-countermeasure to Dank’s countermeasure.  While Dank interviewed 36 jailed street workers, the new study drew on interviews with 372 still in the business; while Dank encouraged 73 jailed “pimps” to tell tall tales, the new study drew on non-leading interviews with 85.  Naturally the results were totally the opposite, and best of all they were reported in several major venues.  International Business Times was first, though its headline bizarrely contradicts the article itself by claiming “half” of underage sex workers were “lured by pimps”:

…Although 87.2% of these young sex workers reported wanting to leave their line of work, none of them stated that a controlling pimp was their reason for staying…The most popular cause for staying…was economic status [and] problems with finding…alternative employment…only 10% of the minors had a pimp at the time of the research, only 1.6% lived with a pimp and 47% reported not knowing a pimp…pimps were only responsible for initiating 8.1% of the minors into sex work.  Instead, minors were coerced into joining the industry by their peers 47% of the time and their customers 23% of the time…

Slate’s coverage a week later was even better:

…the researchers…found…that the narrative of [underage prostitution]…they had been sold by local activists—one where knife-wielding pimps lure girls into prostitution then brutalize them into compliance—existed in only rare cases and didn’t describe most people’s experiences…“stereotypical pimps are far less common and important to street sex markets than would be expected…all sex workers in both Atlantic City and New York City described experiencing increasing, rather than decreasing, agency and control over their work over time.”  Many of the girls and boys they interviewed “had left pimps because they were violent, mentally abusive, lazy, poor business associates, unable to protect them, extracting too much money, or no longer fun to be around,” sometimes within days or weeks of meeting…Pimps, too, failed to fit the stereotypical mold.  “We were told pimps were not approachable because they were too dangerous and didn’t want to talk,” [said Dr. Anthony Marcus]…“But all they wanted to do was talk, talk, talk—that’s what they do for a living”…One pimp told them that going after underage girls constituted “pimp suicide…teenage prostitutes don’t earn enough money”…And while some pimps boasted about exerting control over “their” sex workers, the women working with them told a different story…

The war of information continues:  sex workers explain what the demimonde is really like, prohibitionists counter by pretending we don’t know what we’re talking about and presenting lies and exaggerations as though they were facts, then activists and sex work researchers debunk the bogus reports.  Measure is followed by countermeasure, which is in turn answered by a counter-countermeasure; though it may seem hopeless, big lies take a lot of effort to maintain, while we only have to keep repeating the truth.

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There are many, many things in the world which can be changed and many others which cannot, and those who learn to tell the difference are a lot better-adjusted and fundamentally happier.  –  “That Is So Hot!

dormouse in the teapotIn the first week of this month, my blog was discovered by the men’s rights community and linked at a rate I had never before seen; my total traffic for the month was one and a half times what it was in March, and my average per day was almost as high as my total traffic for the previous August.  Unfortunately, that also meant an influx of new commenters who were used to the ruder, more trollish, less civilized atmosphere which characterizes much of the internet outside of my walled garden here.  Two columns grew directly out of that; in “Pendulum” I made it clear to the new arrivals what my views on feminism and men’s rights actually are, and in “House RulesFrench cops with prostitutes I laid down a clear set of behavioral standards for commenters.  Even so, it took some time for things to settle down, and “That Is So Hot!” – a simple meditation on why men find certain things attractive in women – had the most active comment thread of all time until it was finally surpassed last August.  “What the Hell Were You Thinking?” and “Neither Cold nor Hot” touched on similar subjects, attacking poorly-considered feminist thought in the process.

The RobeSince statistical columns had proven popular, I turned out several of them this month: “A Tale That Grew in the Telling” introduced the awful Estes & Weiner study and the plethora of prohibitionist garbage which has sprung from it; “Out of Context” demonstrated how other such numbers are derived from similarly poor and inapplicable studies; “Who Watches the Watchmen?” exposed the truth about “child abduction” statistics; “The Pro-Rape Coalition” showed statistical evidence of the positive effects of porn; “By the Numbers” examined a way of verifying my American sex worker estimate; and “A Narrow View” introduced the John Jay study’s findings on underage streetwalkers.  Of course, there were also the usual monthly features:  an updates column, a two-part miscellanea column, a Q & A, a fictional interlude (“Faerie Tale”), and a harlotography (“Valeria Messalina”).  And I did both a serious column for Easter and a hoax (which almost nobody caught) for April Fool’s Day.

Schrodingers catBy April, we were nearing the end of a feature that had existed since the beginning, monthly biographies of people I knew personally; this month’s installment was “Lost Friends”.  Another profile-type column was “The Coffee Klatsch”, describing three bloggers I often chatted with in those days who have since retired; one of them, Brandy Devereux, is discussed at length in “Feminine Pragmatism” and provided me a lot of material back then.  But we also had a few firsts:  “Subtle Pimping” was the first appearance of AHF’s crusade to turn porn into condom commercials, “Creeping Rot” documented the introduction of the Swedish model into France, and “Real Men Support Sex Worker Rights” was my first discussion of how hard it is for men to openly do that of late.  Rounding out the month were  “An Island of Sanity” (an anti-sex law is defeated); “They Just Don’t Get It” (police attempt to make ordinary business practices look sinister); Their Lips are Moving (cops try to pin the Long Island murders on “hobbyists”); “…And Don’t Forget To Wash Behind Your Ears” (the nanny state invades online dating); and “Dr. Schrödinger and His Amazing Pussycat” (which defies simple explanation). Nicholas Alkemade

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How I love the way I get them to swallow all the sludge I hand out!
–  The Prodigy

Some people might look upon the situation in the first video with horror; I see it as a thing of beauty and a fine example of spontaneous order.  The video has been making the rounds, but was first called to my attention by Radley Balko  (who also provided all the links above it).  The second video was contributed by Kevin Wilson, and the links between the videos by Cop Block (“thoughtcrime” and “together”), Aspasia (“whip”), Carol Fenton (“police state”), Jesse Walker  (“Spider-man”), Popehat (“lawheads”), and AL 360 (“price”).

From the Archives

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The history of America’s first sex panic should give us pause before we latch onto a new cause whose benefits are likely to be minimal at best but will almost certainly put more women in jail and more cops in our lives.  –  Thaddeus Russell

R.I.P. Michael Glawogger Michael Glawogger

Acclaimed Austrian director Michael Glawogger, famed for his…documentaries on the lives of the…poor, has died while on a shoot in…Liberia after contracting malaria…Whore’s Glory (2011) examined the world’s oldest profession with portraits of working girls in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico…

Celebrities

one of the drivers from…Ice Road Truckers…Tim Zickuhr has been charged with…kidnapping, extortion, and coercion…[he hired a] prostitute…who goes by Snow White…[and] gave her his ATM card to withdraw her payment, but…later accused her of taking too much…[he] arranged a meeting…the next day to settle their money dispute — and he attacked, punching her in the face, and threatening to kill her if she didn’t get him the money…[he] tied her up…beat her, and…poured cold water on her…then locked her in his closet and demanded a phone number for someone who could get him the money…she gave Tim the phone number of a police officer she knew…and…he…called it, claiming he’d kill Snow White if $1,000 wasn’t delivered to him…[he then] forced [her] out his second story window…the cop met Tim and immediately arrested him…

Here We Go Again

Historian Thaddeus Russell:

…the movement against “white slavery” helped create, expand, and strengthen the police powers of an array of government agencies…[which] have imprisoned and sterilized hundreds of thousands of…prostitutes, taken their children from them, forced them onto the streets and into dependent relationships with male criminals, and made their jobs among the most dangerous in the world.  Those same government agencies also prosecuted [non-white] men for simply having intimate relations with white women; tightened restrictions on immigration; established precedents for some of the worst government violations of privacy and civil liberties in American history; and formed the basis of the modern surveillance state.  The contemporary movement against “human trafficking”…is strikingly similar…both in rhetoric and in implications for individual freedom and state power…

Well worth reading in its entirety.

The Camel’s Nose

In case you thought the government had given up on censoring the internet:

state attorney generals [sic] [are] pressuring Google to obscure sites that promote illegal activities…The gang…[want] Google to enhance content screening…and place increased “human scrutiny” on content uploaded to YouTube and Google Drive; to delist sites that sell…any…illegal materials…and to provide “swift responses” to law enforcement officials…Google, to its credit, wanted no part of the AGs’ evil schemes…and…patiently explained…it does not own or run everything on the Internet nor have a desire to be censor in chief…The…AGs aren’t satisfied, of course…they’ve threatened to pursue legal action…

Pay close attention, ladies; you know what “promote illegal activities” includes.

Maggie in the Media

Here’s a student article which quotes Ronald Weitzer, Barb Brents, Norma Jean Almodovar, SWOP Chicago and myself, but also cops and prohibitionists; it’s pretty uneven and has inaccurate graphics, but considering that the writer seemed pretty prohibitionist when she started the story it’s actually pretty even-handed.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

A…King County [Washington] sheriff’s deputy is under criminal investigation over an allegation that he helped his wife work as a prostitute…[by] using the county’s computer system to check the backgrounds of her clients…”  The investigation was apparently triggered when the moron thought he’d gain advantage in their divorce by outing her.

Old Men and Young Women

The grand-daughter of…Benito Mussolini has become caught up in [an]…underage prostitution scandal, after…her husband [was]…accused of paying for sex with teenage schoolgirls…

Rooted in Racism

The Swedish model is GOOD for women!

…three mothers [who were] stabbed and beaten…[were deported by] the police…[soon after a] similar case [in which]…nine Nigerian women…were thrown out of [their] apartment…after reporting rapes…when foreign prostitutes report violence or abuse…police investigate them and try to find reasons why they must leave Norway, said Bjorg Norli of Pro Sentret…The women…had permanent residence in Italy, and can therefore travel freely into Norway…The women thought they would get help from the police….instead, they were imprisoned…and [put] on a plane…[before finishing] treatment of [their] injuries…

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

…a woman called to report that a man she was paid to have sex with robbed her…sheriff’s deputies…[arrested] Imani K. Williams…[for] prostitution [instead]…

Uncommon Sense

In Switzerland, an oral agreement is…recognized as a binding contract…Every time a sex worker agrees with a client on the price, time, and…other terms of their exchange, a contract is made…[but] a contract…can be declared null and void is if a court decides it is immoral…[which] the country’s highest court…did around 30 years ago with prostitution.  So…even though prostitution is legal, sex workers cannot rely on the courts to uphold their legitimate employment complaints…

What the Hell Were You Thinking? (We’re Not Done Yet)

Here’s a new service called “Kitestring”.  Is it too much to ask for amateurs to at least be grateful to whores for thinking of these things?

Profit from Panic

The White House wants to blatantly expand fascism by courting an “elite group” of young billionaires:

…Patrick Gage, a 19-year-old heir to the multibillion-dollar Carlson hotel and hospitality fortune…is an industry leader in enforcing measures to combat trafficking and involuntary prostitution…Gage was among the presenters at a breakout session, titled “Combating Human Trafficking,” that attracted a notable group of his peers.  “The person two seats away from me was a Marriott,“ he said.  “And when I told her about trafficking, right away she was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I want to do that’”…

In other words, those who will never have to work a day in their lives want to ensure that the rest of us have as few options as possible besides working for their clique. Nathan Bantick

Above the Law 

A Royal Marine commando …[attacked] two…sex workers and another customer because he was unhappy with the service he received.  Nathan Bantick…was caught on a massage parlour’s CCTV…He was sentenced to 12 months after admitting assault, actual bodily harm and criminal damage, and faces being discharged from the Marines…[Bantick insisted] he hadn’t received his full 30 minutes and…threatened to hit two masseuses if they didn’t give his money back…he took out his military ID saying: “Who do you think the police are going to…believe, you or me?”…

The Birth of a Movement

As I’ve pointed out many times, the myth of French sexual tolerance is repudiated by the fact that France was the first European country to subject whores to the police, starting around the middle of the 16th century.  Here’s a long and interesting article on a police operation to spy on Parisian courtesans which ran from 1747 to 1771; the author subscribes to a couple of minor fallacies and hits a few sour notes, but it otherwise does a good job of analyzing how the demimonde appeared through the myopic spectacles of a narrow “law and order” police mentality.

Presumed Pimps

airport workers…are uniquely positioned to help rescue victims of child sex trafficking…Oakland…Airport employees…were taught how to recognize potential victims and their abusers, who take advantage of the fact that minors can fly without identification…a former sex trafficking victim…warned that abused children may deny being mistreated and are psychologically unable to escape their predators’ clutches…She told the airport workers to close their eyes and picture their own children being forced to engage in sex acts…a trafficked child might have a bar code tattoo on her neck, signaling she is owned…

With Friends Like These…

I’m sure Gena Korn really thinks she’s speaking up for sex workers by decrying due-process-free shaming tactics (and to some extent criminalization in general), but in the fifth sentence she launches into Swedish-style “what about the johns and pimps?”; she soon moves on to a false “villain or victim” dichotomy, followed immediately by “no little girl dreams of being a hooker”, “abducted into sex slavery”, childhood trauma and “selling themselves”, before concluding with praise for New York’s “diversion” program which defines all sex workers as damaged children in need of nanny-state “help”.

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #314)

Observation:  rapist subdues his victim with pepper spray.  Conclusion: sex trafficking!

…a teenage girl found naked and pepper sprayed…may have been the result of sex trafficking, police say.  The 16-year-old girl is still in the hospital after neighbors found her…she told police she had been raped…”The pepper spray looks to me, sounds to me like a buyer that has decided he’s going to take advantage of a minor he’s found,” [said] Vanessa Scott…of Love Never Fails…

“A minor that he’s found,” as though she were an inanimate object lying on the side of the road.  How can anyone take these warped perverts seriously?useful idiot Farley

Under Every Bed (TW3 #314)

This incredibly-bad article on “sex trafficking” in Montana reaches a whole new level of idiocy:

Melissa Farley…said…“Money entices, persuades and coerces a person to perform sex.  The payment does not erase the sexual violence, verbal sadism, domestic violence and rape”…Farley [pretended that only]…2 percent of female prostitutes [are escorts.  She fantasized that]…97 percent…are in the trade without a choice…performing…sex [acts] for a cheeseburger or a tank of gas…She also [imagined that] where men congregate in large numbers…human trafficking is likely present…

I was wondering when Farley would attach her medicine show to the “gypsy whores” carnival.

Sex Rays

When “Red” was a student…she worked as an exotic dancer…”I later told a history professor…I was asking for a recommendation and he asked me what I did, I thought he was a great guy…after that my grades immediately went down”…

January Q & A (TW3 #344)

Apparently this self-important little weasel realized that “anti-prostitution advocate” doesn’t quite have the cachet he craves:  “Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate Brian Bates…was outraged when he learned [an Oklahoma] prostitution bust had only resulted in traffic tickets.  ‘[If] the media doesn’t know about [these cases] they figure I’m not going to know’…says Bates…[who] is…cross referencing and checking names…

Something in the MilkP411 lily

A client post from the ECCIE board for Tennessee, dated April 16th [all sic]:  “P411 Client flips 5 High Dollar providers in Knoxville on Monday…Someone should have been screaming this on line since monday night.  Whats going on—nobody knew???  P411 Client Handle “Justin Credible”…Apparently he got caught in a sting so he helped LE catch 5 providers and an unknown number of Clients…”  The next day an escort added, “We had the same thing happen in Nashville on Monday…same account was used in both cities…

Train Wreck (TW3 #407)

Renewed Initiative Against Diseases and Poverty (RENAGAIDS), has challenged the recent raids, arrests and detention of sex workers in…Abuja…police…[were] assisted…by another NGO, the Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria…The executive director of RENAGAIDS, Mr. Alban Anonyuo…[said members of  the “task force”] raid sex workers to steal their phones, jewelry, money and other personal effects and most times rape them…

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #411)

Small-scale, short-lived gang sex attacks = “not credible”.  Immense ongoing global conspiracy involving millions = totally believable.

A rumour of a gang initiation in Winnipeg targeting nurses isn’t credible, police said…“Head’s [sic] up Nurses.  We just got a call from the hospital and police due to gang initiation’s [sic] this weekend looking to rape or stab nurses.  Especially ER staff”… Robert Ihme wrote in a [Facebook post] that has since been shared more than 300 times…

Rough Trade (TW3 #414) 

I’m not sure what the word “jilted” is supposed to mean in this context:

…Danford Grant…now claims the [women]…he’s accused of attacking are jilted prostitutes…Grant…attacked a massage parlor receptionist as she walked to her car…[after identifying] himself as a police officer, [he] drove her to a secluded area and raped her…he…went to a…masseuse’s home…forced his way in…and raped her.  Nine days later, Grant…grabbed [another masseuse], told her he wanted to marry her and recited her home address…[and] husband’s name…[he then] drew a folding knife and threatened to cut [her] face if she fought with him…he [then]…raped her…

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on March 30th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

There’s something missing from this story in Smithsonian magazine:

…since 2012, about 900 workers have died while working on  infrastructure in Qatar, in a building boom anticipating the World Cup…the Guardian reported that over 400 Nepalese migrant workers had already died at building sites.  Between 2010 and 2012 more than 700 workers from India lost their lives working on construction sites in Qatar, too.  A report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) says that if conditions don’t get any better, by the time the World Cup kicks off, at least 4,000 migrant workers will have died on the jobWorkers described forced labour in 50C (122F) heat, employers who retain salaries for several months and passports making it impossible for them to leave and being denied free drinking water.  The investigation found sickness is endemic among workers living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions and hunger has been reported…According to the ITUC, there are already 1.2 million migrant workers in Qatar, and about a million more will probably pour into the country to help with construction. These are essentially slaves…

vulva stadiumSo we’ve got migrant workers being imported to do jobs locals don’t want, for employers who hold their passports, pay them too little and force them to live in poor conditions…hmm, what’s the missing bit?  Perhaps if we look at another recent story which gave me a similar feeling, we’ll be able to figure it out:

African artists hired by a Korean museum have been laboring under conditions “similar to indentured servitude”…They…were promised salaries of…minimum wage…and comfortable accommodations; instead, they were…forced to live in cold, mice-ridden rooms…[and] their salaries barely covered the cost of three meals a day…Their contracts stipulated three performances per day, but they were often forced to do four to six…

No, I still can’t quite put my finger on it.  How about this one?

…in India’s handmade carpet sector…workers toil 10 to 12 hours a day for six to seven days a week [in buildings that are] “cramped, filthy, unbearably hot and humid, imperiled with stray electrical wires and rusty nails…and contaminated with grime and mold”…Workers were subjected to frequent beatings and abuse and…suffered from…long-term health issues because of the grueling nature of the work…The average adult worker was paid between 21 and 24 cents an hour, while children were paid less…

And it doesn’t just happen in Asia:

A company within Sweden’s home care services…mistreated migrant workers by making false promises about work conditions…Hassan…said that his official job offer stated that he would be employed full-time by…TPS Vårdteam…with a monthly wage of 26,500 kronor ($4,000)…”In the beginning I didn’t get any work at all…Then I had to work seven days a week….[for] only…8,000 kronor per month”…

It’s in the US as well:

…more than 150 Jamaican guest workers who clean luxury Florida hotels and condos walked off the job…They…borrowed to pay recruitment fees of $2,000 to $2,500, counting on promises of full-time work and good housing.  But…the cleaning company packed as many as 15 people into unfurnished two-bedroom apartments, for…as much as $5,000 a month.  Charges for rent and required extras like $70 for a T-shirt “uniform” reduced the workers’ net pay to subminimum levels, sometimes even zero, and…paychecks repeatedly bounced…Guest workers…are tied by law to the employer who sponsored their visas, which means that if they are found too “difficult” for any reason…the employer can…deport them and blacklist them from receiving future work visas…

Maybe we can identify the absentee in this one involving McDonald’s:

…the visiting students each paid $3,000 or more…and were promised full-time employment; most received only a handful of hours a week…“Their employer is also their landlord,” said [an advocate]…“They’re earning sub-minimum wages, and then paying it back in rent” to share a room with up to seven co-workers…management required [them] to be on call twenty-four hours a day, ready to show up for work at thirty minutes’ notice…

sweatshopI’m sure that by now, you’ve noticed what’s missing from all these stories: it’s the word “trafficking”.  In theory, “trafficking” supposedly means any worker recruited by fraud or coercion and held under exploitative conditions, but in reality the term is nearly always used to mean sex work or some other sex-related arrangement like surrogate motherhood or mail-order marriage.  When the employer is politically connected and the workers employed in providing entertainment, cheap goods or creature comforts for the bourgeois, you can be sure the word “trafficking” will not appear no matter how slavery-like the conditions nor how egregious the coercion.  But when sex is involved you can bet that workers’ agency will be denied, lurid details will be exaggerated, and employers will be demonized when they exist and fabricated when they don’t.  As I wrote in “Chauvinism”,

Nobody is concerned about immigrants doing awful work that middle-class people don’t want, so this is rarely labeled “trafficking” even when it clearly fits the standard definition; but because sex work offends both conservative Christian and radical feminist notions about “proper” female behavior, it is labeled “trafficking” even when it clearly involves neither travel nor coercion.

The saddest thing of all is that once the moral panic collapses and the public finds something else to obsess about rather than other people’s sex lives, the new fixation definitely won’t be the kind of evil described in the items above.  If people don’t even care about the exploitation of migrant workers in the midst of hysteria supposedly about that very subject, it hardly seems likely they’ll care once the topic becomes an obsolete fad.

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A book is like a child:  it is easier to bring it into the world than to control it when it is launched there.  –  George Bernard Shaw

Alta Moda by Negib Giha (2010)

Last Thursday I had my very first book signing at the Healthy Rhythm Community Art Gallery in Fairfield, Texas.  I had met the owner, Ken Vail, at the Southern Harm Reduction Conference in New Orleans last December, and he had graciously invited me to hold my very first event there.  A reporter from the local newspaper interviewed me; she also reviewed my book last week and had some very kind things to say about it (I have already posted a quote on Amazon).  Following that was the actual event; the crowd was small, but Fairfield is a small town so I didn’t expect a multitude.  What was really nice about it was that it turned into a sort of discussion group, and one young couple stayed after for quite some time after the official end of the event, asking the sort of intelligent questions I love answering.

One of the things I’m looking forward to is doing a number of different types of events.  I expect that some of them will be large and some small like this one; in some I’ll perhaps share the stage with others, while other times I’ll be alone.  Some events will be more book-centered, while others will concentrate more on my blog or activism.  But the important thing in all of them – large or small, lucrative or not – is that I’ll be meeting people, giving them a chance to ask questions, busting myths and showing that sex workers are neither vampires nor victims, but just people like anyone else they might meet.  And as long as I get plenty of opportunities to do that, I will consider this tour a success.

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