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Archive for October, 2015

I think I just wasted my time doing all these other jobs before I did sex work.  I should have been doing it a long time before.  –  Mai Jantawhite slave girl

It Looks Good On Paper

Another bullshit story touting bullshit “safe harbor” laws that allow “perfect victims” to expunge their records of prostitution charges after going through the hell that is the US “justice” system:

…states have dramatically changed laws…to distinguish between voluntary prostitution and the trafficking of women and girls…Before the new laws, states primarily dealt with the sex trade by charging sex workers, usually women, with prostitution.  Many of those laws remain on the books, but states are supplementing them with “safe harbor” laws that protect minors—and sometimes adults—who can prove they were coerced into selling sex…

There’s so much wrong in this one short section: the organized crime myth; agency denial; the pretense that only “many” prostitution laws remain (they all do); the pretense that “safe harbor” laws protect anyone; the reversal of the burden of proof…it’s truly staggering that people can’t see this for what it is.

The Punitive Mindset

Authoritarians think people can simply be ordered to be asexual:

…Sexuality in prison is a controversial topic, and the rare studies that explore the subject focus mostly on the impact of conjugal visits or on the same-sex relationships that develop behind bars.  The general consensus, though, is that helping inmates relieve sexual tensions can actually lead to a reduction in violence and prison rape.  Still, many governments around the world have refused to offer prisoners the “privilege” to watch racy content.  French judge Nina Califano, author of Sexualité, Incarcérée (Sexuality, Imprisoned), [says]…”Sexuality is a basic need that doesn’t go away when you are incarcerated”…[she] argues that allowing inmates to cater to their basic sexual needs — through erotic visual stimulation and masturbation — does more than calm inmates who are behind bars; it is also an important part of ensuring [they]…can later be reintegrated into society…

Change a Few Words

All prohibition is the same, so any move away from it affects all types:

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession…but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew a briefing paper under pressure from…the U.S. government.  More than 1.5 million drug arrests are made every year in the U.S. – the overwhelming majority for possession only.  Roughly two dozen countries, and dozens of U.S. cities and states, have taken steps toward decriminalization of drug use and possession.  “There is simply no good basis in science, health or ethics for bringing someone into the criminal justice system solely for drug possession,” [said Ethan] Nadelmann [of the Drug Policy Alliance].  “This will hopefully help accelerate the global trend toward ending the criminalization of drugs”…

St. James Infirmary

This fundraiser for the St. James Infirmary met and surpassed its goal in only a few days, but they’re such an important organization that I’m not going to miss giving it a mention and ask that you consider helping out.

Comfort Zone (#320)

Sometimes the attempt to hide migration control behind the “sex trafficking” narrative is especially apparent:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)…called on governments to more closely monitor sex trafficking and lend specialized assistance to the 1.5 million refugees expected to enter the European Union this year, warning of a surge in sexual assault against women being smuggled across the Mediterranean Sea from West Africa…

Perquisites (#340) 

Dear Dave Zirin: please STFU and stop trying to get free pussy from feminists by parroting their nonsense:

In revelations that the University of Louisville basketball program may have paid a…madam to supply recruits with strippers and sex, the reactions have congregated into two camps: moralizers and cynics.  The moralizers are bleating that this scandal has forever tarnished the innocent joys of amateurism…the cynics…[are] fashionably bored by all of this.  They shrug, saying that these kinds of things happen everywhere…But both of these reactions miss the most urgent issue—the NCAA’s political economy of misogyny…

An Example To the West (#343) Not Drowning - Waving

The writer hasn’t got much of a sense of history; not so long ago, a substantial fraction of the bars in the US were owned by sex workers:

The stereotype of trafficked Asian women exploited by sex tourists means that few people in the west expect Thai sex workers to be at the forefront of a radical push for sex workers’ rights, but…Can Do bar represents just that…it…is the only bar in Thailand, if not the world, that is owned and run by a collective of sex workers, and designed to model exemplary working conditions in the industry…[Liz] Hilton explains.  “One day a group of sex workers here in Chiang Mai said, ‘Actually the government doesn’t get it, nobody understands what we’re talking about, we’re going to have to build it ourselves, we can’t wait anymore.’  And so they pooled their money and raised a million baht [almost $30,000] between them all and created the bar”…

Secret Squirrel (#344)

I’ve written about this issue before, but this is a new low:

Halloween…is a totally subversive day, proving to kids that however much they are supervised the rest of the year, they obviously don’t need it.  They can go out with their friends, roam the neighborhood and have a great time.  So, naturally, this rebellion must be squashed.  Enter…child tracking devices that are pitching parents on the necessity of electronically monitoring their kids’ spoooooooky journey to…the neighbor’s homes. AireLive’s press release promises that its livestreaming capacity will allow “kids to communicate with their parents in real time should any questions arise.  Parents can view the livestream and assess the situation should a teen ever be in need of assistance.”  Nooooooo!  The whole idea is that if “questions” arise, kids should solve them on their own…

Legal Is as Legal Does (#440)

As Leona Hameed once wrote, “Sex work under ‘legalisation’ is still…conceived of as a crime for which the law makes allowances“.

…The ECP and [MSP Jean] Urquhart are campaigning for decriminalisation.  This is not – as has been suggested in countless media reports – legalisation.  Insisting on clarification isn’t petty quibbling.  The models are so distinct that when York Union…changed the title of its debate to “This House believes the legalisation of prostitution would be a disaster”, both sides thought they were arguing in favour of the motion…The York mix-up wasn’t unique.  Since Amnesty released its draft proposal for the decriminalisation of sex work, countless articles have conflated the terms, inaccurately holding up Germany and the Netherlands as examples of “decriminalisation gone wrong”…under legalisation, sex work is controlled by the government and is legal only under certain state-specified conditions.  Decriminalisation involves the removal of all prostitution-specific laws, although sex workers and sex work businesses must still operate within the laws of the land, as must any businesses…

Surplus Women (#550) 

I’m honestly not sure why the writer chose to link this woman’s death those of a serial killer’s victims merely because they happened in the same town:

The body draped over the fence was so bruised and mangled, passerby thought it was a Halloween decoration…Rebecca Cade, a 31-year-old resident of Chillicothe, Ohio…is the seventh Chillicothe woman found dead or missing in the past 16 months—a staggering number for a town of just 21,000 residents.  Then there’s the media coverage of Cade’s murder.  As news spread of the grisly discovery, websites across the nation used Cade’s own mugshot from a previous arrest to illustrate articles about her death—a confusing and ethically murky editorial decision that strikes at the heart of why women like Cade become victims at all…Donnie Couchenuer Jr., 27, was charged with murder and is currently in jail awaiting trial.  But it was Cade’s mugshot that dotted the digital landscape all week long…

Challenge (#559)

California legislators heard from a diverse range of voices about human trafficking and prostitution in America.  The proceedings before the Assembly Public Safety Committee provided a rare chance for people with divergent viewpoints…to come together and have their say.  And then something even more rare happened: some California politicians even seemed to come away with new perspective…Fox News Sacramento reported on the hearing with the headline “Some Suggest Legalizing Prostitution Would Put an End to Sex Trafficking“, noting the “odd mix of legislators, policy wonks, (and) sex workers” in the room…Actually, sex work and human rights advocates tend to focus on decriminalization, not legalization, of prostitution…Nonetheless, the Fox article presents an atypically nuanced perspective on prostitution…It goes on to note that “many adult sex workers say they won’t be able to protect a child, or show her how to stay safe on the streets, for fear of being arrested as a trafficker”…

Innocence Never Had (#574)

Even when authoritarians do something right, they can’t resist warping it into something wrong:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced Wednesday that his department will immediately stop arresting children on prostitution charges.  “They are child victims and survivors of rape,” McDonnell wrote in a letter to his employees.  “We must remember that children cannot consent to sex under any circumstance.”

No, no, fucking no.  Young adults are not “children”, and the notion that they “cannot” consent is a legal fiction, not a reality.  The article goes on to delineate that these young people will still be coerced into “help” by cops, such as by confining them in the foster care system many of them fled in the first place.  At the end, the story quotes a prohibitionist named Withelma Pettigrew as saying “Labels are a big deal.” I agree, and labeling young adults as “children” and passive “victims” both demeans and infantilizes them.

Celebrities (#580)

The phrase “sanctimonious bullshit” comes to mind:

Dennis Hof is not paying the 2 hookers who cavorted with Lamar Odom at the Love Ranch brothel, because he now believes they may have had something to do with Lamar doing drugs at the facility…The…deal with Hof was to split the $75k Lamar paid — so they were to get $37,500 which they would equally divide.  But now Hof says…”They will not answer questions about Lamar or possible drug use while he was here.  I’m suspicious”…

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Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.  –  Edgar Allan Poe

vintage Halloween cardIt’s time once again for my annual collection of spooky stuff for the Halloween season!  If you’ve started reading my blog this year, you may want to look at my last two such columns, “Trick or Treat” and “More Trick or Treat“, and of course my most recent annual thanatopsis, “Even This Shall Pass Away“.  Other horror-themed columns of the past year include “Unreal Horrors” and “To the Ground” (sort of), and my stories “Serpentine“,  “Left Behind“, “Magna Mater“, “Surprise“, and this month’s “Athena“.  I also featured either scary or creepy-fun videos in Links #226, #242, #258, and #275, and here are some spooky links:

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Last year, my husband had a drunk night out and called several prostitutes, but claims that no actual sex ever occurred.  I have all of the numbers he called.  Is there any way I could approach these women and ask whether one of them saw my husband that night?  I feel like I’m fairly open minded, but in my book, sex outside of a marriage is cheating, period, and I just need to know.  Is this a foolish endeavor?lips sealed

Well, it’s a futile one.  It is extremely unlikely that any of the ladies will answer that question; our professional ethics forbid it.  More than anything else, what a man is paying for when he sees a professional is discretion; if it got around that a sex worker had betrayed one of her clients to his wife (or anyone else), word would quickly get around and her reputation would be sunk.  There is a small chance someone might slip and give you info that she absolutely shouldn’t, but the chance is vanishingly small; you’d probably have similar luck calling a clinic to ask if your husband had been treated there.  Even if he really did see a pro that night, please understand that it has absolutely no bearing on his feelings for you; men sometimes just think with the wrong head, and it’s our job to minimize the harm that can come from that.  And if it continues to bug you, you might consider talking to a wise friend or counsellor so as to let off the stress before it ends up hurting your marriage over something that may not even really have happened.

(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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Why is it so hard for us to see how profoundly a $100 billion illegal market in anything, even in popcorn or “My Little Pony” toys, would distort a society?  –  Danielle Allen

Good Fantasy, Bad Reality Dr Blakemore

So how would Dr. Blakemore react to an amateur physician injuring someone through incompetence?

A female GP who left her businessman lover covered in bleeding welts following a caning session has been cleared of assault.  The sex life of Elvira Blakemore, 41 and James Austin, a 57-year-old businessman, culminated in a trial…the couple began to experiment sexually after Dr Blakemore was said to have been interested in the fantasies portrayed in the film, 50 Shades of Grey…At the heart of the case was whether the caning amounted to assault or was, as the GP insisted, purely consensual…On one occasion, Mr Austin told the court, she hit him with the cane after he had passed out on their bed.  “She was violently hitting me with the cane very many times on the back.  There was a cut on my cheek also, but she just kept going and by the end there was blood on the bed,” he said…

Forward and Backward

The fact that “prostitution-free zones” are unconstitutional never deters politicians:

Police in North Carolina could soon have the authority to designate “public safety zones” and ban citizens arrested for certain crimes within those areas from returning for up to a year.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials are flirting with the plan, which was tried with limited success in other cities and briefly used to target prostitution in Charlotte a decade ago…The plan…would allow police commanders to designate a section of the city as a “public safety zone” in response to specific crimes and aggressively police that area.  Anyone arrested for one of the targeted crimes inside the safety zone would face a one-year ban…

Change a Few Words

Need I point out that the War on Whores is the same?

…The drug war is a perfect example of the breakdown of the rule of law and the knock-on effects of such a breakdown.  Our drug laws are fundamentally unenforceable, and this distorts the judicial system, including by producing prosecutorial overload, which is a driver of low homicide clearance rates, which beget a culture of increasing violence, which puts more fathers of young children behind bars or under the ground, makes it harder for children in poor, urban areas to walk to school safely, and forces on those children a choice between the culture of the schools, inside the rule of law, and the culture of the streets, outside the rule of law…

The Sky is Falling!

Radhika’s clutching her pearls so hard she’s about to break them:

…Porn is no longer shocking.  It has become normalised to the point where young children are getting their first sex education lessons via RedTube.  Recent studies show that pupils as young as 11 watch pornography…The consequences have been severe.  These porn videos showed a one-sided, male perspective of sex – with overly-eager girls and absolutely no emphasis on female pleasure.  A number of my peers now have sexual issues they directly relate to porn, such as struggling to orgasm, hating pubic hair and needing “stimulants” such as rough sex in order to come.  As scientists have previously suggested, many can also struggle with intimacy…While girls of my generation would watch porn simply to learn what third base was, now a new generation of girls is watching it for career advice…

Buried Truth Donny Pauling

Vociferous opposition to anything sexual should be considered strong evidence of an attraction to it:

[Porn prohibitionist] Donny Pauling Jr. pleaded no contest…to four felony sex charges involving two minors, a plea deal that would send him to state prison for six years…Pauling, 41, acting as his own attorney, admitted to oral copulation and having sexual intercourse with a victim 14 years old in 2012, continuing into 2014…Pauling also must register as a sexual offender for life…A former Chico-based pornography producer, Pauling had said he found God and traveled to churches around the country as an anti-pornography activist…

Innocence Never Had

Prax(us)…will shutter its doors this December.  The nonprofit set itself apart from the army of Christian anti-sex-trafficking organizations that demand participants be abstinent and sober, by focusing specifically on homeless youth in exploitative situations and offering individuals support without judgement.  Prax(us) didn’t require youth be sober.  It didn’t require them to work with law enforcement.  It didn’t stigmatize youth for criminal activities or participating in sex-work…encouraged clients to reduce harm by learning about and practicing safer drug use and safer sex.  Staff handed out condoms, dental dams and lube, and referred clients to the local syringe exchange where they could trade dirty needles for clean ones…Refusing to turn away active sex workers limited the amount of money Prax(us) could get from government grants.  Foundations preferred money that went to clear-cut human trafficking cases — not services for sex workers who don’t feel exploited…

Femme Fatale (#409)

Since neither medical episodes nor deaths suffered at Nevada’s brothels are publicly available statistics, how often does it actually happen?  And what are the protocols for when they occur?…We interviewed employees at three of Nevada’s 20-plus legal brothels, all of whom denied that anyone has ever had a medical episode at their establishments…Bella Cummins, owner of Bella’s Hacienda Ranch…[claimed] the prostitutes are all so good at their jobs, no John so much as passes out…However, according to one Swiss report, seven customers died while visiting brothels between 2004 and 2014.  And that’s just in Switzerland.  An American Heart Association report found that 93 percent of married men who died of sudden death during sex did so due to extra-marital sex in unfamiliar settings—both of which increase stress levels…

Stupor Bowl (#424)

The Bay Area tries desperately to cash in on the “gypsy whore” myth before it collapses completely:

Preparation for Super Bowl 50 has been well underway for more than a year and includes a massive collaboration amongst local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the FBI as criminals engaged in human trafficking are anticipated to take advantage…officials are certain federal and local agencies must work together to crack down on pimps and Johns while assisting victims.  For the ninth year, the FBI is setting up a human trafficking operation center while bringing in additional agents and intelligence analysts specifically in response to the Super Bowl…In previous host cities, there’s been “an increase in activity with respect to…sex trafficking and the exploitation of juveniles and minors around the Super Bowl”…[FBI agent Bertram] Fairries [lied]…

Dysphemisms Galore (#565)

Amber Batts, convicted as a “sex trafficker” for running exactly the same kind of business I did, has sent a letter to supporters from prison:

I have lost much through this ordeal, but the one thing I cannot ever replace is time…I am…unable to call my family or friends unless there is an expensive phone account set up and prepaid…I ran an escort agency…but I was more than that person.  I was a mom and a friend.  I paid my bills, my taxes, I was a wife, I had hobbies…I will continue to have hope as I live what feels like a surreal nightmare at times…

New Excuse (#568)

I love Liz Brown, and I mean that in whatever way she finds most appealing:

…the tough-on-crime approach to sex-trafficking is about arresting as many people as possible and wresting as many assets as possible from them, not legitimately helping sex trafficking victims (legitimately helping people means paying attention to what they actually need, not threatening them with arrest if they don’t testify against others or sending them to church-run “prostitution diversion” camps or giving them bags filled with socks and toiletries and calling it a day.) Just look at the language used by Marinus Analytics, a company getting lots of attention for using big data analysis to aid in human trafficking investigations. In its intro, Marinus promises to help cops and prosecutors “focus your attention to high value criminal targets” and “track the highest value criminal targets in less time.”  The assets that can be seized are the prize, the teens selling sex are just convenient cover…

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Diary #277

0818152252-1Another thing I’ve learned about the medical bureaucracy:  discharges sometimes happen unexpectedly and with lightning speed.  One can go to bed after being told, “discharge will be in the next few days”, and wake up eight hours later to “it’s happening right now!  Why aren’t you here yet?”  It happened to a friend of mine when she had a baby; it happened to another friend after major surgery.  And yesterday, it happened to Jae.  After over two months of constant hospitalization in four different facilities altogether, the doctors suddenly decided that it was time for her to go home.  And then it was wham, bam, here are your discharge papers and sayonara.  Needless to say, we weren’t ready; we still thought we had several days in which to make preparations, but nope!  That all went out the window.  I started moving about 8:30 yesterday morning, and only stopped about 12 hours later; I didn’t even realize I hadn’t eaten dinner until sometime after 9 PM.  And now tomorrow is her first outpatient doctor appointment, and I still haven’t filled out the rehab application that I originally planned to do first thing yesterday morning.  But at least she’s home, and I reckon that by the end of the week we’ll be more or less where we should’ve been today.  Ah, well, what’s life without stress?

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“I hate computers!”

“If it weren’t for computers, you’d probably be working for a service taking half of your money.”

“Don’t be an asshole.  You know what I mean.”

“Actually, I don’t, Athena.  Honestly, it seems like kind of a stupid thing for you to say, considering how well you’ve marketed yourself using them.  You could never have gotten this kind of exposure without the internet, and that exposure is the main reason you’re so fucking successful.  If you don’t want all those clients, you can give some of ’em to me.”

“You’re not exactly hurting yourself, Heather.”

“I didn’t say I was, but I’m not the one about to buy a new Lexus without financing it.”

“I’m not going to be buying it either, unless these stupid computers stop fucking with me!”

“What computers?”

“The ones at the New York state vital records office.  They keep saying my birth certificate doesn’t exist.  See this? ‘Record not found.’  That’s what it says every time I try to get a copy.”record not found

“Why do you want one?”

“Because I need it to get a driver’s license so I can buy the goddamned Lexus!”

“OK, calm down.  Don’t you have an old copy somewhere?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Doesn’t your mom have a copy?”

“I’ve never met my mom.  CPS took me away from her when I was a baby and I was raised in foster homes until I finally ran away and started living on my own eight years ago, when I was 16.”

“Hey, you told me your mother was a teacher.”

“That’s part of the backstory I tell clients.  I also tell them I’m studying to be a psychologist, when in fact I don’t even have a GED.”

“So much for my suggestion you call your old high school.  Damn, honey, don’t you know any of your relatives?”

“Not a one.  And I’m beginning to think that what I thought was my real name isn’t my real name at all, but one somebody gave me somewhere along the way.  Which is why it isn’t showing up in the computer.”

“Well, that’s hardly the computer’s fault.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?  What fucking difference does that make?  Holy shit, Heather, I’m trying to vent here and you’re giving me this Pollyanna bullshit about assigning blame!”

“OK, I’m sorry, you’re right; my dad is a scientist and my mom says I sound just like him sometimes.  But there’s gotta be a way to crack this; I mean, you were in the foster system, so there must be a record of you there.  Have you tried them?”

“Of course; just because I’m a dropout doesn’t mean I’m stupid.  But they won’t give me any information without a social security number.”

“Wait, you don’t know your social?”

“Would we be having this fucking conversation if I did?”

“But Athena, how the hell have you even managed to survive until now without a social security number?”

“Cash.  Prepaid Visa.  Renting places from little old ladies who don’t do credit checks.  And I don’t know about you, but none of my clients have ever required it as a condition of seeing me”.

“Point taken.  So what made you decide to go on the grid?  You’ve been doing a great job living outside of it, and…shit, you’ve never paid taxes either, have you?”

“Nope.”

“Girl, are you crazy?  Why the hell do you want to ruin a sweet deal like this?  So you can’t get a car; who needs it?  Just call a freaking Uber when you need a ride, just like you always have.”

“Because now I’m scared!”

“Of the IRS?”

“No, not the fucking IRS!  I’m afraid because as far as I can determine, I don’t have any past at all prior to eight years ago!”

“Well, you have your memories…no, you don’t, do you?”

“Not before I started working.  My earliest memories are of living on the street, trading sex for food and a place to stay; I just started talking about foster care because the other street girls I knew talked about it.  And somewhere along the line I guess I started to believe it, but all this has forced me to confront the truth that I don’t actually know who I am or where I came from.  Everything I say about my life prior to moving out here and taking out my first Backpage ad five years ago is a lie, and even my memories of street work are pretty vague; the more I think about it, the more contradictions I find.  It’s as though I didn’t really exist before that.”

“But you sure do exist on the internet.  I mean, you are all over the place; I’ve never seen anybody use social media as well as you do.  You use it like…”

“Go on, like what?”

“Like your life depended on it.”

“As you said yourself, my income does.”

“Of course.  Hey, sweetie, this conversation has gotten way too heavy; what say we go get a drink?”

“Sure, sure, that’s a great idea.  I’m sorry I got so upset at you.”

“Don’t apologize; you’ve got a lot on your mind.”

“Thanks.  It’s just really hard not knowing who I am.”

“I know exactly who you are; you’re Athena Logan, the most popular escort in the whole freaking country.”

“You’re full of shit, and I love you for it.  I guess one advantage of not knowing my real name is that I don’t have to answer to some stupid, boring name I didn’t choose.”

“Do you remember why you chose Athena?”

“Nah, I’ve always used it since my very first ad; don’t you think it suits me?”

“Oh, definitely, babe; I can’t imagine your being called anything else.”Birth of Athena by Rene Antoine Houasse (before 1688)

 

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Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.  –  Franz Kafka

Even though it’s in German, I think you’ll appreciate this short animation of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” provided by Ed Krayewski (or else you won’t).  The links above it were contributed by Nun YaScott GreenfieldWWAVMike Siegel,  Brooke Magnanti, and Michael Whiteacre (in that order).

From the Archives

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