How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone. – Bob Dylan
Rolling Stone magazine was born in the autumn of 1967, and for years was an icon of music and counterculture. But sometime in the 1980s its reputation began to wane; it was repeatedly criticized as being stuck in the ’70s, and the political views it espoused, which once seemed to speak for so many, faded into irrelevance and self-parody. In 2014 the sinking of its fortunes was accelerated by the publication of a badly-flawed, libelous piece of yellow journalism about a supposed gang rape that never actually happened, and the tone of anti-sex moral panic set by that fiasco has apparently become one of the dying rag’s editorial lodestars because last week it published a dreary recitation of prohibitionist bullshit from a lawyer for the US Department of “Justice”. Let that sink in for a moment: the former champion of sex, drugs and rock & roll has been reduced to printing a hysterical anti-sex screed written by a mouthpiece for the US government which not only praises prohibition, defends the police state and attacks the world’s most respected human rights organization (which Rolling Stone has always lionized in the past), but does so via a tissue of lies so dense that I was literally able to find only four basically-truthful sentences in the whole thing (the 1st sentence, the ones starting “Amnesty argues” & “Amnesty also claims” under #2, and the sentence beginning “In discussions with Amnesty” under #5).
It would be pointless to attempt to deconstruct this mess; most of it is such blatantly false, repeatedly-debunked propaganda that nearly any of you could tear it apart as easily as I could, especially if you kept “Frequently Told Lies” open while doing so. It opens by arguing that dysphemisms describe our profession more accurately than objective terms; quickly progresses to confusing legalization and decriminalization while mis-defining the latter; quotes debunked prohibitionist “research” while arguing that sex work magically violates every known economic principle; argues that the problems with legalization are actually problems with decriminalization; states that women who are poor or who have suffered sexual trauma are forever incapable of giving sexual consent; trots out the “age of entry” myth; descends into asinine navel-gazing about “rape culture” and “objectification” while simultaneously giving credence to the grossly-misogynistic “raping a whore is theft of services” trope; and winds up with a blatant argument that economic freedom is bad and women are moral imbeciles who need a paternalistic government to “regulate” our lives, sexualities and economic activities, concluded with an appeal to the Swedish model and a bunch of meaningless prohibitionist mottoes. As the young people would say, “Go home, Rolling Stone, you’re drunk.”
If this, along with the trotting out of senile nonagenarian Christian evangelical politicians with white savior complexes, is the best the prohibitionist movement has to offer, its days are numbered. These arguments are so obviously false and intrinsically unconvincing, even people who have never before heard of the Swedish model are able to immediately recognize them as tripe. Of course, authoritarians don’t actually care about either truth or public opinion; they’re perfectly happy to demand people comply with their bizarre and evil notions upon pain of violence inflicted by armed thugs. But the period in which the War on Whores, like its sibling the War on Drugs, could be seen by anyone without an agenda to enforce as anything other than a moral abomination, is rapidly drawing to a close. It will be interesting to see which cultural institutions see the writing on the wall and take the side of human rights, and which line up with cops, moralists and profiteers on the side of repression. And though I was never really a fan of Rolling Stone, I must say I’m disappointed (though not actually surprised) that it has chosen the latter.