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Archive for May, 2014

Preteens selling goodies, the police…lectured [her]…was unfair to establishments…like Starbucks.  –  Robert Fernandes

Juxtaposition

Popehat suggests we compare and contrast this:

Just days after Iran’s president denounced Internet censorship as “cowardly,” six young Iranians were arrested and forced to repent on state television…for the grievous offense of proclaiming themselves to be “Happy in Tehran,” in a homemade music video  they posted on YouTube…The arrest of the young dancers, and their televised public humiliation, angered Iranians at home and abroad…

And this:

U.S. Park Police arrested five people…at the Jefferson Memorial.  Their offense?  Dancing.  The dancers were protesting an appeals court ruling…that the national monuments are places for reflection and contemplation — and that dancing distracted…

Real People Maria Isabel

Photographer Bénédicte Desrus spent six years…documenting Casa Xochiquetzal, a home in Mexico City for…retired sex workers…She only took photographs of the women who gave her permission and provided them with prints, which often inspired other women to participate…Desrus then teamed up with journalist Celia Gómez Ramos, who began interviewing and transcribing the residents’ stories.  They eventually decided to publish…as…Las Amorosas Más Bravas (The Toughest Lovers)…

Check Your Premises

34-year-old…Vanessa Gumataotao of Sacramento…was arrested on suspicion of prostitution…as well as child abuse and endangerment for allegedly using [a] 17-year-old [boy] as her pimp.  The…boy was arrested on suspicion of pimping…

If It Were Legal

Too bad he lost the suit; this kind of ethical breach is unforgiveable:

A top London solicitor who had sex with a Chinese law student [and sex worker]…has lost his claim for damages after she told his daughter and colleagues about previous affairs.  The solicitor…identified only as AVB, sued the young sex worker, known as TDD, for breach of confidentiality…after she found information about past liaisons on his laptop.  Senior…Justice Tugendhat…said TDD broke a duty she entered when she accepted money for sex.  But…AVB…would not receive damages because although he experienced “some embarrassment” he “has suffered no real distress”…

Something Rotten in Sweden (July Updates, Part One)

Cops busting kids’ lemonade stands isn’t news any more, but this is a new low:

[San Francisco cops busted] two…lemonade stands…the 11-year-old proprietor of one…was informed that simply giving away the fudge brownies and lemonade the police forbade her…to sell would result in a $1,500 fine…Not long after police cleansed the…area of unlawful lemonade dispensaries…they returned due to complaints about “a live band.”  This stemmed…from a neighborhood tradition of setting up a drum kit during [a public event] and allowing local kids to keep the beat.  At the time the police showed up, the unlicensed live bandmember was…a toddler…

The Punitive Mindset

Because obviously, female guards’ delicate ladyfeelings are more important than men’s lives:

…Bradley Ballard, a…schizophrenic [inmate at New York’s Rikers Island] died…after he was confined to his cell…for seven days for making a lewd gesture at a female guard…Denied…his medication, the agitated inmate tied a rubber band tightly around his genitals…Ballard was found naked and unresponsive on the floor, covered in feces, his genitals swollen and badly infected.  He died at a hospital of…[massive systemic] infection…

Above the Law

Two [Atlantic City cops] have been arrested on charges they sexually assaulted a 16-year-old in separate incidents…Andre Corbin and…Ralph Pereira…were…[each] charged with…sexual assault…endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct…

That Old Black Magic

A man was killed by a mob…in…Burkina Faso, after being accused of making another man’s penis “disappear”…a local mechanic…claimed that his penis had been “stolen” by the second man, who was not from the district.  The first man called the police.  But by then…the residents decided to lynch the man in the middle of the street…

I’ve mentioned West African “penis stealing” hysteria before in Links #141.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #51)

The acquittal of the 13 people “sex trafficking” fanatic Susan Trimarco implicated in her witch hunt provoked such an outcry among her disciples that two of the three judges were pushed into retirement, the third has been threatened with impeachment and the Argentine president swore to “reform” the judiciary because it is too objective and not sufficiently influenced by public opinion.  A higher court then convicted ten of the 13 defendants on charges of running an “evil network of sexual exploitation…with…international connections, and satanic rituals.”  Still think this hysteria is different from the Satanic Panic?

The End of the Beginning

The California Sex Offender Management Board…[recommends] that lawmakers…overhaul registration laws so that some offenders can be removed from the list after 10 or 20 years.  The list — which currently includes almost 100,000 registered offenders — is too large to be useful to law enforcement or the general public.  Under current laws, all sex offenders must register for life regardless of the offense they committed…[the list] includes…almost 900 [people] who have not committed a sex-crime in more than half a century…Ninety-five percent of sex-crimes are committed by individuals who are not on the registry, and the existence of the registry has not worked as a deterrent…

Comfort Zone (TW3 #320) Louie Gohmert

The endgame of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

…U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said the debate over…immigration reform is prompting undocumented minors to enter the United States… “And…you know that some get sucked into sex slavery,” Gohmert said…adding…“This administration, and this Congress also, is complicit in helping lure people into sex trafficking”…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #349)

The [French] National Consultative Commission on Human Rights  (CNCDH)…has [rejected] the law…which seeks to punish “the purchase of sexual acts”…[The Commission] consulted many experts…and…[outlines] the three-point position of the committee:

  • “Chosen prostitution” is legal, so clients are not criminals.
  • Legal prostitutes should be easier for clients to access.
  • Victims of trafficking and exploitation need better support…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #351)

Mobs with torches are back in fashion, it seems:

An international association of Catholic nuns has launched a public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking and prostitution during the World Cup in Brazil.  The nuns will use social media, billboards and rallies…to draw attention to the heightened risk of exploitation…Sister Gabriella Bottani said…that for previous World Cups in Germany and South Africa, the level of “exploitation” had gone up by 30 per cent and 40 per cent respectively…Among past and upcoming initiatives will be…a torchlit procession in Brasilia…and handing out pamphlets at…beach resorts…

Naturally, the usual predators are taking advantage of the anti-whore hysteria:

…police…invaded…a building where…prostitutes operated…in [the suburbs of]… Rio…Without a warrant, police…[arrested] more than 100 women…and seized their goods.  Women were attacked and raped – police forced them to perform oral sex and put their hands on the women’s genitals…One woman…had…[her] whole week…[of] money…robbed, including any money to take the bus home…

Guest Columnist:  Sarah Woolley (TW3 #406) 

Amnesty International has urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to ditch plans to criminalise the purchasing of sex.  The human rights organisation wants a clause contained in a bill against human trafficking to be excised because…it would create a “hierarchy of criminal liability” among sex workers…Amnesty stressed it was not taking sides on the debate over sex work and prostitution, but said sex work and human trafficking were “two very complex social phenomena” that required different laws…

“Those who…sit on the fence do indeed side for a political party: The ruling party.” – Max Frisch

Sex Work is Work (TW3 #407)

Another blow against the absurdity of consensual crime:

…Italy’s national statistics office, will include estimated dealings from drugs, arms trafficking and prostitution in its GDP figures from now on…This move should increase Italy’s economy by at least 1.3 per cent in the first year, helping it to comply with EU rules on indebtedness, which limit member countries to spending no more than 3 per cent of their GDP…the calculation would also include revenues from contraband tobacco and alcohol…The Bank of Italy estimated the value of the criminal economy at 10.9 per cent of GDP in 2012…The move…is motivated by the EU’s desire to measure its member countries’ economies more closely…

Traffic Jam (TW3 #409)

community members carrying information and harm reduction supplies were threatened with arrest and were not allowed to communicate with sex workers…who had been…forcibly transported to Project ROSE…[which has] come under intense scrutiny because of a long list of rights violations…advocates from the Best Practices Policy Project and SWOP Phoenix traveled to the United Nations to raise concerns about these abuses to the Human Rights Committee…a group of social workers, Social Workers United for Justice, is petitioning the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to “demand an end to Arizona State University School of Social Work’s involvement with Project Rose” because it violates socials work’s core professional principles…

Gorged With Meaning (TW3 #410) Alyssa Funke

Unfortunately, not every outed sex worker has Belle Knox’s incredible strength and resolve:

Nineteen-year-old Alyssa Funke…bought a shotgun, drove to her family’s boat, and killed herself there on April 14.  Students at her former high school had outed her as the star of a “casting couch” porn video, and her parents say the subsequent online harassment contributed to her suicide.  Funke…did her first and only porn video…earlier this year…Soon after the video went up, Funke  started getting nasty Twitter and Facebook messages from students at her former high school in Minnesota, calling her a slut and worse…Funke’s parents said she had long suffered from depression, but they believe the harassment…played a major role in her [suicide]…

Belle also wrote an open letter to Alyssa after hearing of her death.

Deafening Silence (TW3 #413)

discussion of whether the sex trade should be legalised [in China]…came to the fore…after Huang Haibo, a 39-year-old actor best known for his “nice everyman” roles, was arrested…for allegedly soliciting prostitutes…The news led to a surprising outpouring of sympathy on social media…after the crackdown in…Dongguan…[there were many] online comments like “Dongguan, hang in there” and “the public has your back”…

The Missing Word

Silly preacher, only politically-connected companies are allowed to do this:

A South Carolina pastor has been accused of turning his Bible College into a forced labor camp for foreign students.  Reginald Wayne Miller…made the teens toil for no or little pay for more than 50 hours a week while housing them in rooms without hot water, heating or air-conditioning.  He…threatened to revoke their student visas if they complained or failed to comply with his demands…Students reportedly told [federal] investigators that classes “were not real” and that the main focus of the school was to have them working full-time at its campus and Miller’s home…In 2006, [Miller] was…detained on charges of lewdness and prostitution for exposing himself to an undercover cop in a bathhouse…

Three Steps Back (TW3 #418)

A bill designed to help New Orleans police crack down on prostitution is headed to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk…The legislation…makes it illegal…to solicit money or rides with the intent to exchange it for sex acts.  Marjorie Esman [of the ACLU says the law]…does nothing that isn’t already covered by Louisiana law.  Esman also had problems with an earlier version…[that banned] solicitation for any purpose…which…would have effectively outlawed panhandling…the bill gives police a mechanism to [harass] suspected prostitutes…enough so they might move on…

The Mote and the Beam (TW3 #419)

The US House of Representatives passed all five of the “sex trafficking” bills before it; most of them are the usual political boondoggles, but one creates a “criminal advertising” crime to stack on people being railroaded for “sex trafficking”, and the most dangerous one allows the federal government to give even more money to local cops for sex work stings under the guise of “fighting sex trafficking”.  But the most shocking example of political hubris comes from Representative Randy Hultgren of Illinois, who seems to imagine that the U.S. Congress has the power to criminalize prostitution in foreign countries; he supports this with a lot of nonsense including the discredited Neumayer, Cho & Dreher report.

Blood on the Sand

[Vanessa] Stiviano…is now the subject of a criminal probe…[due to] accusations that Stiviano sought money from Sterling to stop her from releasing more recordings…Stiviano’s attorney has denied she leaked the recordings that set off the scandal, saying a friend did it without her permission.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on May 4th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

In cinema and television, the goodies and baddies are usually distinctly different and in opposition to one another; the enemy of the baddie is a goodie, and anything done to bring down the baddie is automatically good.  But real life is rarely like that; in the real world, the enemy of a baddie is nearly always another baddie (often a worse one), and things done to bring down baddies often have such terrible implications for others that it really would’ve done less harm to simply let the baddie keep doing whatever it was he was doing.  As I’ve pointed out before, “Oppressions always start with those nobody is willing to defend.”   When civil rights are eroded to “catch” scoundrels, it’s never long before the precedent thus set is extended by stages to cover everyone; furthermore, when some awful behavior becomes acceptable for ordinary people who lack legal “authority” over others, it’s inevitable that government actors will start doing the same thing.  In the recent controversy over the leaking of billionaire Donald Sterling’s racist rules for his mistress,Sterling and Stiviano virtually all the media attention has been focused on his behavior, as though it were the whole story; in fact, nearly every person involved in the sordid affair has behaved abominably, and the episode is part and parcel of a deep illness in modern society.

Though many people have incorrectly cast this as an issue of censorship, it’s actually much more insidious.  As prominent free-speech attorney Marc Randazza explained,

The First Amendment protects you from the government punishing you because of your speech.  The NBA is a private club, and it can discipline Sterling all it wants…The First Amendment does not insulate you from criticism…Nevertheless…What happened to him may have been illegal and was morally wrong…In California, you can’t record a conversation without the knowledge or consent of both parties…We all say things in private that we might not say in public…Think about what [Sterling’s] public character execution means.  It means that we now live in a world where if you have any views that are unpopular, you…not only need to fear saying them in public, but…to fear saying them at all — even to your intimate friends.  They might be recording you, and then that recording may be spread across the Internet for everyone to hear…The Sterling story is not that we found a bigot and dragged him to the gallows in the middle of the marketplace of ideas.  The Sterling story is about how there is no more privacy.  We live in a world where you can share your intimate photos with your lover, and they will wind up on a “revenge porn” website.  We live in a world where our intimate conversations will be recorded and blasted to billions of listeners.  We live in a world where, say a gold digger can spy on her sugar daddy, and the world says that the creepy old guy is the bad guy…In this story, there are two villains.  Sterling represents the bad old days.  But Stiviano’s behavior represents the horrifying future…

Actually, I think Randazza grossly underestimates the number of villains here.  Since the entire media apparatus is already focusing on Sterling, I need not waste words on further commentary about him.  But what about his treacherous mistress, Vanessa Stiviano?  Let’s dispense with the “girlfriend” and “archivist” nonsense:  she is a courtesan, albeit an amateurish, unethical one.  She didn’t “fall in love” with him, and he wasn’t so impressed with her librarian skills that he gave her a Ferrari, two Bentleys, a Range Rover, a million-dollar Los Angeles duplex and $240,000 in cash.  Maggie the Librarian finds the claim that we share a profession preposterous, and Maggie the Whore finds the claim that we don’t equally so; both sides are outraged by her lack of professional discretion.  As an archivist she is duty-bound not to divulge private recordings, and as a harlot she is duty-bound not to divulge anything about her patron; if she has a moral issue with something he says or does, she needs to find another patron or another line of work.     

But there’s no evidence that she revealed the recording out of some high-minded principle of justice or primitive impulse to defend “her people” (Sterling’s comments were anti-black and Stiviano is half black).  Indeed, she claims that some other party stole the recording and sold it to the gossip website TMZ; if true, there are two more villains for our list.  However, Sterling claims that Stiviano released the tape herself in retaliation for his wife’s lawsuit against her (more next paragraph); specifically, it’s because Sterling and the LA Clippers basketball team (which he owns) have publicly embraced the suit and claimed that Stiviano “embezzled” her various fees and gifts.  Given that a settlement is already under negotiation to ensure that no more tapes are released, and that Stiviano appears to be shopping for a “kiss and tell” book deal, I find Sterling’s version far more credible.

About that lawsuit:  in this whore’s well-considered and experience-informed opinion, Rochelle Sterling launched it as a petty and ill-considered means of revenge against Stiviano, and her husband went along with it under threat that an expensive and embarrassing divorce would surely follow if he did not.  I say “petty” because the total value the wife seeks to steal from the mistress is a paltry $1.8 million; Sterling’s net worth is $1.9 billion.  In other words, she filed an aggressive and high-profile lawsuit for less than 1/1000 of her husband’s accumulated wealth…the equivalent of a middle-class wife suing an escort her husband saw once or twice.  In the past, wives had more sense than to risk the Streisand Effect by calling attention to their husbands’ dalliances; many now apparently lack the sense and dignity of their forebears, however, and have abandoned discretion entirely to the keeping of ethical sex workers.

The baddies listed so far represent only a miniscule fraction of the total number involved in this story.  Whether the tape was released by Stiviano herself or by this supposed third party she has declined to name, it was the existence of the tabloid media which made the release possible; however, those media are only commercially viable because of the public’s taste for the lurid and its jackal-like desire to watch and even participate in the humiliation or destruction of others.  If there were no audience for the salacious details of others’ private lives, no lust to fondle the dismembered bones of the skeletons in everyone else’s closets, there would be no tabloid press, no profitable gossip mills, and very little blackmail; unfortunately, we all have that shameful curiosity to some degree, so there will always be a ready market for stolen secrets.  At one time, discretion was the mark of a professional or a person of quality; now it’s increasingly becoming a quaint relic of the bygone past.  And though the mob may cheer when some awful person’s sins are exposed, it will react with equal exuberance when the blood on the sand is yours.

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Though the women of Femen defend their own right to use their bodies as swords, they wish to deny other women the right to use theirs as plowshares.  –  “A War for Peace

dog breathBy May of 2011 I was normally about 10-14 columns ahead; I know this because I mentioned it in “Extra, Extra!”, one of the first signs that my established system of update and miscellanea columns was starting to break down (another was that they were nearly always multi-part now, this month three and two respectively).  But while I was writing them in advance, I still waited to post them until after breakfast each day; I didn’t start posting them upon writing and letting WordPress do the work until later in 2011.  Certain patterns had developed over time; for example, update columns were usually near the beginning of the month and miscellanea near the middle,Brainiac while Q & A was either on the last day of the month or close to it.  The harlotographies (this month Nell Gwyn) had not yet settled into the five-week pattern they reached by autumn, and the fictional interludes (this month’s was “Necessity”) still bounced about quite a bit, but at least the holidays were predictable:  this month saw “May Day” and “Another Friday the Thirteenth”, plus “Maman” (a reminiscence on my paternal grandmother) on Mother’s Day.

Electrawoman and DynagirlThat wasn’t the only column on my childhood that month; “Wild Child” appeared the day before, and “Heroines” (all about my love of comic books) the week after.  And while we’re on the subject of superheroes, I discussed a real-life group of them in “Real Heroes”, providing a sharp contrast to the federal prosecutor and her assistant who imagine themselves as such in “Where Are the Victims?”  That month was full of deranged control freaks who envision themselves as heroes, such as the cops in “Clueless Wonders” the crusading Puritans in “A Procrustean Bed” and the super Swedish saleswomen selling sleazy snake oil in “Sales Pitch”.  Many of them were neofeminists:  in “A War for Peace” they used their sex appeal to stop other women from doing the same;Alanna in “A Fantasy of Hate” they defined most of the human race as “rape supporters”; in “Another Example of Swedish ‘Feminism’” they “rescued” a young woman from “false consciousness” by expelling her from university; and in “No Fun Shall Be Had” they destroyed a respected physician’s career to save womynkind from dumb jokes.  Some of them even have magical powers:  in “Projection” neofeminists turn sexual women into “living embodiments of their sick obsession with humiliation, rape and degradation”; in “Chupacabra” fetishists turn starving, mangy curs into mighty predators; in “Harm Magnification” governments turn ordinary people into “criminals” with the stroke of a pen; and in “Conjuration” the Great Holderini produces thousands of “child sex slaves” out of thin air.

Finally, rounding out the month were “The Eye of the Beholder” (containing my famous spinach analogy); “Parable” (which describes a country where restaurants are illegal); “New Reviews for May” (The Pyx, Soylent Green and Three Felonies a Day); and “Validation”, in which an economist realizes that most competent sex workers prefer not to be confined to Nevada brothels. Angry woman biting a pencil

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Since I left home for my book tour today, I thought this would be a good day to answer questions about the book and the tour.  Some of these are actual reader questions, while others are questions I anticipate I might get or information I think you could use in Q&A format.  If you have another I didn’t include, please ask it in the comments below and I’ll get to it tonight in the hotel.

Is this book wholly composed of stories which already appear on the blog?  If so, why should I buy it?

detail from Ladies of the Night coverAll of the stories except the last, “Nephil”, already appear on the blog (if you’re wondering what the title means, here’s a hint).  There are a number of reasons why you might want to buy it besides that story, though.  If you’re anything like me, you just like paper books and enjoy the experience of holding one in your hands, turning the pages, being able to lend it to a friend, etc.  You might give it as a gift to someone who would enjoy my stories, but isn’t much of a blog reader.  You might just like having all the stories in one place, bound together and topped off with fabulous Chester Brown cover art of yours truly.  Or you might just want to support my work, in which case you could think of the book itself as the gift you get for donating to a Kickstarter or public TV pledge drive.  Even the Kindle edition fulfills all of these but the first; I selected the setting that allows you to share your copy.

My favorite story isn’t in the book!  What’s up with that?

I wanted to keep this one as close to the whore theme as possible, though I did make a few exceptions, including the aforementioned “Nephil”.  Most of the stories that weren’t included, or that have been published since last November, will be in the next collection (currently scheduled for January 2016 and entitled The Forms of Things Unknown) along with a couple of older stories I haven’t shared with you and at least two or three new unpublished ones.

When will you release a book of your essays?

I’m going to start compiling Whore’s Eye View after I get back from my tour; it will include some of my favorite essays in their original forms, others in revised and/or expanded forms, still others in combined and rewritten forms and others which I originally published elsewhere, assuming I can get permission to reprint them.  I’m going to try to get it out by the end of January.

Will you be visiting my city on your tour?

Here’s my tour schedule; if your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).  Notice that the calendar is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.

What if you aren’t coming anywhere near my city?

Seattle skylineUnfortunately, I had to plan this to be doable with the time and money allotted, which meant leaving out large sections of the country (especially the North and Northwest).  However, as I explained I’ll be doing another book quite soon, and since I’ll be better at this tour thing by then I will probably be able to do a better job next time.  Seattle will definitely be on next year’s tour, and if you’d like me to come by your city as well, read the question above for suggestions on how to make that happen.  If you represent an organization well-funded enough to pay for my travel and accommodations, you needn’t even wait for next year; just email me with the details.  But it’ll have to be by train or rental car; I fear and despise air travel.

Why aren’t you visiting anyplace outside of the US?

Beside the problem with air travel mentioned above, there are currently issues too complex, boring and ridiculous to explain (nutshell version: bureaucratic incompetence) that prohibit my getting a passport until I can afford the lawyer to clean it up.  Maybe one day, but not in the next few years.

Are you dedicated to self-publication, or do you plan to use a traditional publisher later?

I don’t take rejection well, and I’m not really good at asking people to do things for me, so I couldn’t handle finding either a publisher or an agent.  The whole “proposal” and “sample chapter” thing is also anathema to the way I think and write; I can’t do something halfway.  In other words, if I’m going to write a book I just write it, and once this one was written I had no desire to waste months or years shopping it around.  Now it’s out, and if a publisher sees it and wants to do a new edition or suggest a deal for my next book (or books), I’m certainly interested in hearing the offer.  But I’m much more comfortable with someone approaching me and asking, “Would you do x for me if I pay you?” than with having to approach someone and ask, “Will you pay me to do x?”  The former sits much better with my harlot’s soul.

Will you ever publish your memoirs?

Almost certainly, but not until at least five years down the road; I want to do the other books I’ve mentioned first, plus one tentatively entitled Dear Maggie and an analytical history of the “sex trafficking” hysteria once it starts to die off (that one will probably appear in 2018 if my predictions hold true).  I think it would be premature to do my memoirs before I know how well all the other stuff will sell, and how well-known I’ll be after publishing those.  Gossip fans take note:  I have absolutely no intention of naming any names in my memoirs.

(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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A large number of organizations…[use] children to raise funds…the truth is distorted or the stories invented to attract more compassion and money.  The impact on the lives of these children is terrible:  If they come from an abusive situation, such a process re-traumatizes them and in any case it stigmatizes them forever.  –  Sébastien Marot

It’s starting.  “Sex trafficking” hysteria has run its course, and we’re now beginning to see the signs of its inevitable implosion.  Two and a half years ago in “Crystal Ball” I wrote,

…If things run according to form, we can predict that over the next three years skepticism about “trafficking” (especially in regard to its conflation with sex work) will slowly increase, and by about 2015 it will be possible for a major media outlet to publish articles critical of both the statistics and the very concept.  By 2017 public funding for anti-sex worker hate groups will begin to dry up, and by 2019 or 2020 we should expect it to virtually disappear from public discourse except for a wave of books and documentaries by “experts” who couldn’t be bothered to speak out against it while it was going on but are happy to make a quick buck from it after it’s safely over…

In the summer after that was published several UN agencies came out in support of decriminalization, and a number of human rights organizations followed; I also began to chronicle the increasing absurdity of “trafficking” claims.  Then last year, articles which were openly skeptical of the myth began to appear here and there, and ever-larger numbers of academics and journalists began to attack the fake statistics and the Swedish model so beloved of “trafficking” fetishists.  This past January the “gypsy whores” myth began to fall apart, and soon articles challenging the official narrative (including some by sex workers) began to proliferate.

Newsweek 5-30-14But perhaps the biggest blow yet came last Wednesday:  Simon Marks, who has been investigating rescue industry icon Somaly Mam for several years, published a full-length expose in the current issue of Newsweek.  Most of the story is not new; I’ve reported on Marks’ findings (and those of others) since the autumn of 2011, but as I explained in “Crumbling House”, neither the mainstream American press nor any of Mam’s many celebrity enablers seemed interested.  The Newsweek story, however, seems to have changed that; many US journalists who ignored or overlooked Mam’s lies while they were only being reported in blogs and foreign newspapers have now awakened to her incredible career of deceit.  And while regular readers already know about the fake “trafficking victims” and the daughter who was supposedly kidnapped and gang-raped by traffickers in retaliation for Mam’s activism (but actually just ran away with her boyfriend), the new article does contain one bombshell.  In November I reported that Mam’s ex-husband had cast doubt on her own claims of being “trafficked”, saying, “She was a prostitute.  Was she abused?  Yes.  Was she trafficked?  I doubt it.  No one has proof.”  But Marks now has much more:

…In her autobiography, Mam tells how “Grandfather” turned her at a very young age into his domestic slave.  He would gamble and drink, and when he came home, he sometimes beat her until she bled.  He eventually sold her as a virgin to a Chinese merchant and then forced her to marry a violent soldier when she was just 14.  She was later sold to a brothel in Phnom Penh, where she [claims she was] tortured with electrodes hooked up to a car battery…

Interviews with Mam’s childhood acquaintances, teachers and local officials in the village where she grew up contradict important, lurid details in her autobiography.  Many of the villagers in Thloc Chhroy say they never met or even saw Mam’s cruel “Grandfather,” the rich Chinese merchant who allegedly raped her or the violent soldier she says she was forced to marry.  Orn Hok, a former commune chief, remembers well the day Mam arrived in the village, noting, “Somaly came here with her parents.  She is a daughter of Mam Khon and Pen Navy.”  Pen Chhun Heng, now in her 70s, says she is a cousin of Mam’s mother and rejects the notion that Mam was adopted or that she was raised (or kept) by “Grandfather.”  Sam Nareth, a childhood friend of Mam’s, says Mam first attended school in the village in 1981 and remained there until she got her high school diploma.  “She finished secondary school in 1987, and Somaly and I went to sit the teachers exam in Kompong Cham together.”  Thou Soy, who was the director of Khchao High School in Thloc Chhroy, distinctly remembers Mam attending classes between 1981 and 1987, as does the current commune chief, Thorng Ruon, and his two predecessors.  Mam was well-known and popular in their small village, a happy, pretty girl with pigtails.

Not even Mam can keep the story straight.  In February 2012, while speaking at the White House, she said she was sold into slavery at age 9 or 10 and spent a decade inside a brothel.  On The Tyra Banks Show, she said it was four or five years in the brothel.  Her book says she was trafficked when she was “about 16 years old”…

There’s also additional information about the horrible way she treats her employees, but even more important are passages like this:

…Experts in sex trafficking say that…the scale and dynamics of the situation are often misunderstood, in part because of lurid, sensationalistic stories such as those told by Mam and her “girls”…In an interview for Euronews in 2012, Mam said girls as young as 3 are being held in Cambodian brothels.  Experts in the field say that is almost unheard-of.  Patrick Stayton, who formerly ran the…International Justice Mission (IJM) in Cambodia, says, “They may have had a supply of younger girls between the age of 14 and 17…We’ve never seen prepubescent girls, or very, very rarely”…Thomas Steinfatt, a professor of statistics at the University of Miami, has done several reports on sex trafficking for the U.N…he estimated there were no more than 1,058 victims of trafficking in Cambodia and has said the situation has improved markedly since then.  The number of children, both those observed as sex workers and those mentioned by management or…sex workers…was 127…

Kristof says OKThe comments, including many from other rescue industry folks who’ve known about this for years but were afraid to speak up against Somaly the rock star, are also very interesting; some are from a woman who calls herself “Angel” but appears to be either Somaly herself or a fanatically-loyal follower, dismissing all the evidence as lies against her fallen hero.  Nicholas Kristof, who has borrowed much of his anti-whore propaganda from Mam, has not yet made a statement; I’ll be surprised if he does, because like all rats he will desert a sinking ship.  But while Kristof and others like him will move on to new crusades as this one goes under, the days of the victim pimps who directly profit from “sex trafficking” hysteria are numbered.  Somaly Mam is only the first of the big names to crash; look for many new scandals and exposes to follow in the next two years.  But even after they’re all gone, it will take the better part of a generation to clean up the havoc they’ve wrought and to try to salvage the lives they’ve destroyed for their own profit, political advantage and self-aggrandizement.

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I always say, keep a diary and someday it’ll keep you.  –  Mae West

Sometime this week (we’re currently planning for Wednesday) I’ll be leaving on my tour.  The first stop is San Francisco, about three days by car; my husband and I have done it in two, but that requires longer driving days than I care to attempt without him at the wheel.  This is the longest single stretch of the whole tour; as you can see from the schedule none of the other cities are more than about six hours apart, and I can get home from New Orleans at the end in less than a day.  I’m both excited and (yes, I’ll admit it) a bit frightened; though in my younger days I would boldly go off to the far corners of the country alone in a car as long as I knew I had a place to stay at the far end, that was when I had no blog to maintain and enough cash not to care if I had unforeseen expenses.  Still, as I’ve said before, personal “growth and development…are driven by confronting adversity and overcoming obstacles”; coping with nervousness, self-doubt, uncertainty, homesickness and other, less definable negative emotions make one stronger and bolder, and I suppose I could stand a bit more of both.

As I explained in “Something Has To Give”, I’ve had to make some changes in the way I do things so as to decrease the amount of time I need to keep the show going while I’m on the road.  For the past two months, I’ve been writing as many columns ahead as humanly possible; normally I’m a full month ahead except for weekend columns and usually-Tuesday current event columns, and even then the “From the Archives” sections of my Links columns are done a month out.  But with prodigious effort I’ve done all of those through September, all the holidays and special occasions before Mabon, all the harlotographies and back issues through August and most everything else through July; I’m even four weeks ahead on my Cliterati columns and four scheduled reprints will help me to keep up with those.  But I’m also doing one more thing that I hope y’all will like: every Tuesday for the next 15 weeks (Monday in the week of July 22nd because of Mary Magdalene’s feast day) I will present “Tour Diary”, a feature in which I’ll tell y’all what I did, who I met and any other thing of interest from the previous week.  Since chatty, narrative-style columns are much quicker to write than those requiring extensive research of heavy linking, this will make it easier for me to continue to give you the daily reading you expect without exhausting myself; I also flatter myself that y’all will find my escapades worth reading, and hope that this makes up for possibly-less-polished-and-timely-than-usual TW3 offerings over the next three months.  Other nuts-and-bolts details: the columns won’t bear epigrams because those often take a lot of time to locate and select, and the pictures will be ones I take during the week described.

Please send me your prayers, good wishes, positive thoughts or whatever occupies that niche in your personal beliefs, and watch this space in eight days for the very first installment!

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Whiter Shade of Pale was a great song but you’ve gone too far in Nigeria.  –  Wise King Aido

This week, our videos are a couple of commercials.  The first (via Zenon Evans) is a Danish PSA intended to encourage young people to vote; it was pulled after only 24 hours, not for its mockery of nanny-state micromanagement but rather for “sexism”.  The second (via EconJeff, who also contributed “Tom Lehrer”) is a sweet ad for a new airport in a remote part of Turkey; you don’t need to speak the language to appreciate it.  Everything down to the first video was provided by Radley Balko, and those between the videos by Jesse Walker (“headline”),  Furry Girl (“Pygmalion”), Wikileaks (“Sweden”), Dave Barry (“crocodile”), Rick Horowitz (“electrocute” and “contempt”), Cop Block (“together”), Ally Fogg  (“conspiracy”), and Grace (“libertarianism”).

From the Archives

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