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Archive for April, 2015

May Eve 2015

Today is May Eve, long recognized as the spring equivalent of Halloween.  For the past few years I’ve presented lists of scary things to enjoy on the day; in 2012 it was my list of the scariest short stories, in 2013 my list of the scariest television show episodes, and in 2014 a collection of all sorts of different scary things.  In the leadup to Halloween each year, I usually call attention to spooky links and horror-themed columns, and of course a lot of my stories are horror; since Halloween “Left Behind“, “Magna Mater” and “Surprise” all fall into that category.  So if you’re unfamiliar with the May Eve traditions, read up on them in my previous columns, and if you’re a fan of horror fiction there are a number of treasures here for your enjoyment.  Blessed Be, dear readers, and pleasant dreams!

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The enforcement of anti-trafficking laws…[has always grown] the power of the state while criminalising the behaviour of migrating women.  –  Jessica Pliley

Whore Madonnas

Social wisdom would have us believe that sex industry workers are terrible parents who routinely jeopardize their children’s safety by bringing “perverts” around, leaving them to raise themselves, and setting an example of depravity.  Social wisdom is INCORRECT.  Children of sex workers…are more likely to be level-headed, socially aware, critical thinkers.  Rather than putting their parents through a lot of grief, they are strong allies of their parents.  Gutsy, confident, young people who speak their minds and care about others…

The Red Umbrella 

Gail Brown…worked as a private escort and [Warren] Mann, a long haul truck driver, was a regular client.  But Mann fell in love and wanted a relationship.  When she wouldn’t give him that, he flew into a cold rage and tried to kill her July 26, 2012.  Brown’s teenaged daughter, Kayla…ran into her mother’s room…as Mann straddled her and repeatedly smashed her head on the floor…she ran for help while Mann made an eerie 911 call…to report [himself]…Brown’s liver was busted into multiple pieces, she suffered severe head trauma, her throat and larynx were crushed…For two months, Brown lay in coma…her memory is poor, her health is bad, and she suffers permanent physical and emotional pain, she can still walk, although with a limp…

My Readers Write Kirsten Gillibrand

Absolute genius from Mark Draughn:

Last summer, on June 28th, I saw Arizona Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand place an 8-week old calico kitten in a DeWalt 5-quart blender and press the start button, killing it instantly. She then feasted hungrily on the bloody remains, consuming the poor creature, scales and all. It is the single most vile act of animal cruelty I have ever witnessed, and by coming forward now, I hope to put a spotlight on the problem of animal cruelty…

And it gets much, much better from there.

Full of Themselves (#4)

One of the latest examples of shaming strippers comes from a community that appropriates stripper traditions, but vehemently denies any association with the sex industry. Many pole dance hobbyists, or women who practice the pole dancing fitness trend, are on a mission to distance themselves from exotic dancers.  That’s what happened last weekend in Beijing, when competitive pole athletes at the World Pole Dance Championships set the record straight to the AFP that their sport is inspired by ancient Indian and Chinese dance traditions and has absolutely no relationship to strippers who might claim otherwise…

Above the Law 

This article is no surprise to regular readers, who know that cops commit rape at a rate several times that of men in the general population.  But it’s nice to see SOMEBODY in the media acknowledging that rapist cops aren’t “a few bad apples” engaging in “isolated incidents”:

…sexual misconduct is the nation’s second most reported allegation of officer misconduct, according to a 2013 report by the Cato Institute.  Nevertheless, broad narratives of police brutality tend to ignore both female victims and the often specific nature of the violence leveled against them in favor of focusing on the highly visible use of weapons to kill men…Women are subject not only to differential forms of violence by police, but also to entrenched stereotypes surrounding sexual assault, which may further inhibit their seeking justice for this abuse…

The Widening Gyre 

This rather ordinary anti-streetwalker nonsense bears clear signs of infection by “sex trafficking” tropes:

…[Luton] residents who say the area has become a “designated hub” for prostitution…The police, who are two years into a five-year anti-prostitution strategy, said they have seen “significant improvements” in ending the trade…Mr Khadam said:  “The new girls are teenagers and one of them I saw was quite short only about 5’2” and I am quite concerned about that”…Matt Ryan said:  “High Town has become a processing hub/centre for street prostitution”…Wendy Walker…said…”You get kerb crawlers stopping and asking if you want business, even if you are a disabled, old pensioner or a pregnant woman.”  A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman said…”The operation has also resulted in the detection of other criminality…including alcohol and drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour…Our multi-agency approach aims to support women to leave sex work and to lead crime free, healthy and happy lives.”

busybodiesIt’s hard to pick the funniest part of this; is it the cop pretense that the world’s oldest profession can be “ended” by cop violence, and in 5 years no less? Is it the old lady’s sexual fantasy that punters still find her desirable? Or is it the notion that a woman who’s 5’2″ tall must be a teenager?

So Close and Yet So Far

Dear would-be allies, please talk to the actual experts on sex work – sex workers ourselves – before belching up a bunch of asinine myths, bogus statistics and wrongheaded opinions in an attempt to speak up for us:

It often feels like the only barrier is a society of puritanical simpletons, but there are legitimate concerns…If legalized, the unsafe, archetypal pattern of pimp and hooker and trick could be readily dissolved.  In a study of 854 street prostitutes, 95 percent had been physically assaulted and 75 percent raped.  This exploitative model could be easily transformed to the healthier brothel system.  Nevada is already ahead of its time with 19 legal brothels, all requiring condoms and weekly tests for sexual transmitted diseases…pragmatic legalization could end the unhealthy reality of street hooking…

Bread and Circuses 

The “sex trafficking” circus needs victims to die for the crowd’s satisfaction:

…the FBI…trumpeted the federal jury conviction of “sex trafficking ring leader” Hortencia Medeles-Arguello, a 71-year-old Houston woman…was…found…guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor aliens, aiding and abetting to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  She…faces life in prison.  The feds also seized $2.5 million in assets…So who is this apparent criminal mastermind, and how did she oversee an enterprise involving at least 13 sex-traffickers and countless trafficking victims?  Well, she owned a bar. And she didn’t ask too many questions about what people were doing in rented rooms upstairs…The FBI contends that Arguello “should have known” that some of those selling sex in her establishment “were either underage or victims of the beatings by their pimps”…

There will be many more such travesties before this is over, and they’ll rot in prison for about two decades until their convictions are reversed as those of Satanic panic victims have been.

Here We Go Again (#504)

The more of Jessica Pliley’s work I read, the more I like her:

In its 140-year history of fighting sex trafficking, the United States has always prioritised law enforcement, border control, and national security over aid to victims or concerns about privacy…the Immigration Bureau sought to build a stronger moral wall at the border in order to better identify sex workers who were evading the law.  It asked Congress to fortify the 1875 law with the Immigration Acts of 1903, 1907, 1910, and 1917.  Combined, these outlawed the importation of sex workers, women coming for other “immoral” purposes, and men demonstrating “moral turpitude”.  They also made the acts of procuring, pimping, and sex work deportable offences.  With each additional law, the Immigration Bureau found itself in need of more manpower to carry out its mandate, surveilling the borders and the interior of the country in order to ensure both remained secure…

Marching Up Their Own Arses (#525)

The truth about the anti-whore “reality” show, 8 Minutes:

…one woman, who goes by Kamylla…received a call on her work number from the producers of the show, who immediately identified themselves as such (this is in contrast to the premise of the show, which implies that the women believe they are coming to a normal appointment)…She agreed to tape a segment for the show, in which she said she wanted help getting out of the business…She never heard back from them, and instead reached out herself, but no meaningful help was to come.  Kamylla found herself broke and needing to work again.  She posted an ad…and was arrested in a sting.  Now she was broke, frightened, and facing criminal charges, and when she reached out for help from 8 Minutes, Brown offered to pray for her…Kamylla wrote to Dan Savage after seeing a mention of the program on The Stranger’s blog, and Savage put her in touch with prominent Seattle sex worker activist Mistress Matisse.  Matisse leapt into action and began soliciting donations from trusted friends to help Kamylla with her immediate crisis.  Other members of the community soon followed: Domina Elle and Tara Burns helped create a website to tell her story…Kamylla’s own description of her experience in this Storify…[makes] it clear how little help she received in exchange for being fodder for reality TV…

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Diary #252

Endza with Monk's treeThough I’m continuing to get busier in some ways, I’m also finally done with most of the crap related to relocation and re-adjustment.  Everything, that is, except getting my Washington state driver’s license…about which the less said, the better (they do NOT want this to be easy).  But even that is mostly done, though I have to bring in some more documents today; the good news is that a helpful DMV supervisor (yes, I just typed that phrase) seems to have tracked down the computer error which caused all the trouble with my passport and other government records, and within a couple of weeks that should be all resolved, too.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be traveling much overseas, because my terrible motion-sickness can’t be corrected by bureaucratic paperwork; it will, however, re-open Canada and Mexico to me for the first time since the police state started demanding passports to return to the US from there.

But last week wasn’t all paperwork; on Friday night I attended the Seattle Erotic Art Festival accompanied by the lovely Endza, who was a volunteer docent at the festival and was able to tell me something about nearly every piece there (including one that she introduced with, “and of course you recognize these models because you live with one of them.”)  The next night Jae and I attended our friend Abby May’s burlesque performance, and the rest of my funtime activities for the week are not anything which could be described in non-pornographic language, except for the ones involving chocolate.  Today I’m getting my hair done professionally for the first time in years, and tomorrow…oh, let’s just leave something for next week’s diary!

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Back Issue: April 2012

They want so badly for there to be a vast international conspiracy of slavers shuttling helpless, wide-eyed ingénues around the world to feed the demand of millions of perverts who just can’t get enough sex with terrified, crying thirteen-year-old girls, that they’re willing to invest huge sums of money and effort and even stake their public reputations on their filthy, lurid fantasies.  –  “Finding What Isn’t There

BUtterfield 8By April, we were nearing the end of a feature that had shaped the blog since the previous July, namely “One Year Ago Today”.  A fair number of posts were direct sequels to those of the year before; “Oscillation“, “They Still Don’t Get It“, “Guided Tour“, “Hard Numbers” and “Stand-Up Guys” all fall into that category.  Others fall into established categories; “What Gets Into a Man…?” was this month’s fictional interlude, and there were four holiday posts: “Easter 2012“, “Walpurgisnacht“,  “Vinalia Urbana” and “Veneralia“.  Two of these were semi-“listicles”; “Walpurgisnact” contained my list of the scariest short stories, and “Vinalia Urbana” a list of aspects of the goddess Venus.  The latter two holidays were Roman ones, and the last contains a link to actual pictures of my pussy.  But while April saw the Pony the orangutan whoreapproach of the end of one tradition, it also marked a couple of beginnings.  Though I had done a few “My Favorite…” columns before, this month’s “My Favorite Books” and “My Favorite Authors” were the first of a monthly series that ran for over a year.  And “Much Ado About Nothing“, my comment on the Cartagena Secret Service prostitution scandal, was the first column which attracted the attention of the national media.

Black AdamThis month had a number of columns which examined the public perception of sex workers; “Held Together With Lies” looked at the bogus statistics used to support “sex trafficking” mythology, “Finding What Isn’t There” ridiculed those who refuse to accept evidence that such beliefs are false, “Ad Scortum” discussed fallacious dismissals of sex workers’ statements, and “Little Boxes” castigated false and artificial distinctions between sex workers.  Related to those are “Never Too Many“, a Friday the 13th column asking readers to speak up for sex workers; “The Notorious Badge“, which listed actresses who have played whores in movies;  “Ruined Maids“, which presented poems about whores; and “An Example to the West“, which explained why Asian and African sex workers are my heroes.

Rounding out the list are “The Rape Question“, which looks at how the crime was politicized; “Feet of Clay“, a look at some of Nick Kristof’s previous debacles; “A Knight There Was“, a reminiscence about my favorite cousin; “Two-Way Street“, an analysis of male-female differences; and “A Necessary Evil“, an explanation of why that government is best that governs least.courtesan and creature

 

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I just had it.  –  Lucas Hinch

This week’s video is…well, see for yourself!  The links above it are from Radley Balko (“law” and “close”), Popehat (“protect”), Jesse Walker (“irony”), Lenore Skenazy (“reading”), and Jason Kuznicki (“government”).

From the Archives

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To force through a bad law you seize on a convenient…victim, and declare that its sufferings trump all the traditions and rights of free citizenship.  –  Lloyd Evans

The Red Umbrella Hardeep Sandhu

A man who raped a prostitute for TWO HOURS after knocking her unconscious with a brick has been jailed for 15 years.  Hardeep Sandhu, 39, beat his victim with a brick until she passed out and then repeatedly raped her for two hours as she went in and out of consciousness.  She suffered multiple injuries to her head, face, arms and hands during the prolonged attack in a garden near Hartington Street in Derby…

Size Matters

This ain’t gonna work, y’all:

Last fall, The Social Club of Nashville left its current quarters for an isolated office park a few miles away.  Owners spent $750,000 on the building and began renovations fit for “a private club for the enjoyment” of sexual activity.  But when neighbors figured out the nature of club members’ intended socializing, they packed the city council in support of a zoning change which would prevent The Social Club from opening…So…it will now open as the United Fellowship Center, a house of unorthodox religious worship.  The dance floor is now a “sanctuary.”  The dungeon is now a choir room.  And dozens of small, private spaces have been designated “prayer rooms.”  The United Fellowship Center has even gotten a city permit to meet as a church…

Stand-Up Guys 

We need a LOT more men to write like this rather than licking neofeminist boots:

What strikes men about feminism’s approach to the sex trade is that it relies on a simplistic dichotomy: victims/abusers.  Female victims…and male abusers…Feminists like to promote the “predator myth”…which argues that porn and prostitution…encourage men to attack women.  However, the most basic statistic overturns this theory.  How many men use porn?  All men.  How many men assault women?  Few men…I’ve never seen a single erotic scenario featuring coerced or battered women…the idea that porn converts men into rapists…sends…the individual [sex worker]…the message…”Dressed like that you’re asking for it”.  Quite a familiar line.  But not often heard from women’s rights campaigners…the law’s supporters…say [it] is part of the war against slavery…Trafficked people…pick lettuces, but we don’t ban salad.  They hoover carpets, but we don’t outlaw rugs and vacuum cleaners.  They care for children, but should we all sterilise ourselves?…

The Scarlet Letter (#19)

Greece’s government announced…the abolition of a controversial health and hygiene regulation that allowed authorities to publish the details, including photographs, of workers that had tested HIV positive.  This is the second time the regulation has been abolished since its first introduction in 2012…the law led to the publication of women’s photographs in the press, arrested as prostitutes, as a means to “protect” public health.  Its implementation had led to a storm of protests and reactions over the public humiliation of the women involved, as well as for trampling their fundamental rights and the patient-doctor confidentiality…

The Widening Gyre 

This is extra-stupid and dishonest even by prohibitionist standards:

Women rent their bodies as a choice: a myth. Pornography is a harmless spectator sport: a lie. Both enable slavery, often with teenagers plucked from American neighborhoods. Sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry worldwide. That only marginalized women fall prey is another false assumption…Pimps will recruit anyone, and white girls are more profitable,” said Audrey Morrissey…of My Life, My Choice…American culture lifts up female independence, which includes personal sexual choices…Many argue that stripping, for example, is a way to pay for college or to support a family. Fact: only 5 percent of female sex workers make and keep their money. The rest are prostituted through force and coercion in an industry led by men…

The Day of the Dead (#44) we don't buy it

China is cracking down on exotic dancers at funerals, the Ministry of Culture said April 23.  Although such entertainment is not widespread, strippers are thought to attract more people to a funeral, which is a sign of respect for the dead. Two recent cases “have been punished”…

The Public Eye (#324)

Another good profile of my friend Laura Lee:

Dubliner Laura Lee has the self-assurance of someone who has packed several lifetimes into her 40 years.  After a couple of cul-de-sacs in law and banking, Lee has returned to the job that funded her first law degree: sex work…“I’m not going to say, ‘I love my job’.  I don’t know any of my friends who leap out of bed on Monday morning and go, ‘Yes, work!’ ” she says.  “But I do choose to do it.  I enjoy the freedom is gives me in terms of managing my finances, spending time with my family and studying”…

Traffic Circle

As I predicted, articles questioning “sex trafficking” are now becoming more common in mainstream media:

…the Global Slavery Index (GSI), which received fawning publicity, including in The Washington Post….estimated that there were 29.8 million people in “modern slavery” around the world.  In November 2014, the GSI unveiled what it described as a more precise estimate: 35.8 million people.  That’s an increase of 6 million people!  What’s going on here?…there is a large gulf between the estimates of tens of millions of victims and the actual number of identified “survivors” — 44,000 at last count.  (This number is also a bit dubious)…the GSI figure has come under attack from other researchers for having a murky, inconsistent and questionable methodology…Clearly there is a problem with the numbers when the U.S. government cites a figure of 20 million and a well-funded, media-savvy organization touts a figure of “slaves” that is almost twice as high.  Media organizations are complicit in fostering misperceptions by often citing these figures as established fact, without even an explanation or examination of the methodology…these Pinocchios are for all-too-credulous acceptance of them…

Business As Usual

On 30 January, a mesmerizing report was launched at the Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV in Bangkok:  The Right(s) Evidence—Sex Work, Violence And HIV In Asia: A Multi-Country Qualitative Study.  It is a ground-breaking piece of work for several reasons.  It involved an unusual collaboration among governments, sex-worker organizations, communities, UN agencies, and regional agencies in Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka.  It is full of fascinating insights into the lives of women, men and transgender people in the sex industry.  It finds compelling evidence of widespread violence…and…points to a culture of impunity among the police, doctors, and other powerful players that in turn increases the threats of violence, trauma, disease and despair among sex workers, and by extension their families, communities, and customers…you’ve never heard of it…[because] it was greeted with “absolute and total silence”…the media is scared to touch it [because] the data is very clearly saying that the police are the biggest violators…

Worse Than I Thought (#531)

“…even if they appear to have been staked and beheaded“:

With an agreement now reached on (not) funding abortions for trafficking victims, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously…to pass the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” (JVTA)…with little fanfare or discussion, Senators tacked on a late amendment to the legislation which radically alters the rules for Internet publishers.  Known as the “Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation” (SAVE) Act, the change is vehemently opposed by a broad coalition of free speech, web publishing, and civil liberties advocates.  If the SAVE amendment ultimately passes…it would go against decades of precedent related to web publishers and user-generated content.  In general, the owners of websites and online publications cannot be held criminally liable for the things that random people post. Under the new rules, however, these entities could be charged as sex traffickers if it turns out any trafficking victims are advertised on the site.  Sponsors have specifically stated that their intent is to shut down, or at least seriously cripple…Backpage.com…

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Magdalen laundryFor many years, Irish sex workers dreaded being captured by cops and imprisoned in the Magdalene laundries, where they were enslaved by nuns and forced into a life of unremitting toil to “cleanse” them from their “sins”.  The last Magdalene laundry was closed only 19 years ago, but the nuns who ran these torture chambers did not merely go away; their zeal to torment and punish whores was so great that they re-invented themselves as Ruhama and rebranded their anti-whore crusade as a fight against “sex trafficking” and “pimps”, whom they depict as hiding behind every bush and lamppost like some sort of oversized fetish leprechaun.  Longtime readers will remember that Ruhama is the chief force behind “Turn Off the Red Light”, a campaign to impose the Swedish model on Ireland; to that end they have fed tons of bullshit to obsequious Irish politicians and employed shills and sock puppets to sell their tragedy porn to the credulous press.  My friend Laura Lee has been at the forefront of the fight against them for years, and on Wednesday she called my attention to the testimony of a sex worker who went in undercover to see what Ruhama really offers sex workers who come to them for help:

I decided to go to Ruhama after seeing their posters around train stations whilst touring.  The posters advertised a number to text as part of their REACH Project, so I decided to contact them directly.  I was aware that there was a lack of resources for sex workers to access support, and the one organisation that seemed to dominate the media coverage of the issue was Ruhama, so I decided to see what they would offer me.  The Services Manager, Sheila Crowley, called to give me an appointment to see her, and a week later I found myself standing outside a pub across from St. Patrick’s college waiting to meet her.  As we walked down towards her office I was told about the religious history of most of the buildings that we passed; going through the entrance to Ruhama felt like entering an old church, as their offices are located in All Hallows College (which has been run by the Vincentians since 1892).

I sat down with Sheila and discussed my financial concerns; I told her of my desire to go to full time education and the consequent worries of paying for the fees and not having enough time to work to earn the money to pay my bills and college fees.  She discussed the different supports that Ruhama offers to sex workers, and explained that some women don’t want to leave the industry and just want practical support.  However, she then said that after meeting with a Key Worker, it usually turns out that they do want to leave after all.  She seemed to be telling me that sex workers don’t really know what we need, but that people who don’t live our lives would be able to convince us that what we need is to leave the sex industry.  It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that Ruhama would be eager to offer whatever practical support we was necessary to achieve that end, but such was not the case; as the meeting went on, it became clear that practical support wasn’t on offer.  In fact, Sheila told me that they don’t have the financial resources to offer the kind of practical support I was expecting.  This surprised me as I was aware that the EU had awarded a grant of €284,302 to the REACH Project; the beneficiaries of which are the Irish Department of Justice and Equality and Ruhama.  In fact, as I write this, Ruhama have just launched a new campaign targeting the clients of sex workers; it would seem to me that Ruhama are more invested in awareness campaigns with no substance behind them instead of actually providing us with any real help when we come to them.

PrintI’ve heard the audio recording this young woman secretly made during the interview; Crowley tells her to go on the dole for a while because she isn’t going to be able to get a regular job without references.  No assistance, not even a job program; just emotional support and verbal urging to stop doing sex work.  What struck me the most, however, was that Crowley clearly understands the reality of sex work quite well, despite Ruhama’s promotion of nonsensical “pimp” and “exploitation” mythology; she understands touring and advertising, recognizes that independent girls outnumber those with managers (“traffickers”) and even gets that most clients are very decent.  Her issue with sex work seems to be due to some sort of belief in contamination, so that if three girls work together and the landlord doesn’t evict the one with a boyfriend, that makes the other two complicit in “trafficking” (or something like that; I had trouble following her “logic”).  It just goes to show Ruhama’s incredible duplicity, spreading lies they know to be lies in order to further their rotten agenda.

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