Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Diary #282

Maggie's new car 11-23-15While you were reading last week’s diary column, I was out in the rain looking at a new car.  The good news is that once again Grace employed her mojo to find me a great deal, and I’m really quite pleased with it (especially since it didn’t cost all the money the insurance company gave me for the Hyundai).  Speaking of Grace, I’ve bought her an airline ticket to come up to Seattle for Christmas; I’m really rather excited about that, since I haven’t seen her since early August and I’m looking forward to introducing her to all of my friends here.  More good news:  after all this time I’m finally beginning to get control of my schedule again, and I may soon have the time and motivation to get back to work on my next two books.  Other projects are on the way, but for right now I’m just enjoying the more languid pace of my personal life and the increasing pace of my professional one; the opposite situation was not one I care to repeat anytime soon.

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Sex workers will only put up with being misunderstood and harassed and arrested…for so long.  –  Cameryn MooreCynthia Payne

R.I.P. Cynthia Payne

The former brothel owner Cynthia Payne…has died aged 82…She first achieved notoriety in 1978 when police raided a “sex party” at her home in Streatham, south London, that was, in her own words “in full swing…When the case came to court in 1980, I was sent to prison for 18 months…but on appeal, this was reduced to six months and a hefty fine”…In a second trial in 1987, Payne was acquitted of controlling prostitutes…Her colourful life inspired two films, both released in 1987: Wish You Were Here…and Personal Services

The More the Better

thanks…to [the success of] a monthly storytelling event in Manhattan known as “The Red Umbrella Diaries”…sex workers are telling their stories to an even larger audience with the release of a new documentary of the same name…the original storytelling event launched in 2009…[and] was a chance for sex workers to openly share the kinds of stories they had long kept to themselves…Most media about sex work strives to be sexy, says Audacia Ray…but that’s not what the film is about…Ray says she hopes the documentary will “complicate” common notions about sex work…

Above the Law 

Sometimes cops even rape other cops:

A [fairly typical cop]…who stole public funds before faking his own murder also abused his position to bully a junior colleague into sex…Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, 52, was mourned as a fallen hero in Lake County, Illinois after he was gunned down by “armed suspects” on the eve of his retirement.  But investigators revealed…that…he…shot himself in the chest and staged the crime scene because he feared his corruption was about to be exposed.  Gliniewicz…embezzled a “five figure sum” from the Explorers youth training scheme and instead spent it on vacations, mortgage payments and adult websites…in 2009 a letter was sent to then then-mayor, Cynthia Irwin…alleging sexual harassment of a dispatcher…he [also racked up]…complaints from bouncers at local bars for being drunk and belligerent, as well as…[raping] Denise Sharpe Gretz, a [policewoman]…on five occasions…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

The brave heroes of Washington DC put a stop to the menace of rogue twerkers:

A Las Vegas woman has been arrested for sexual assault after she and a friend twerked up against and groped at a male stranger in a D.C. convenience store.  One of the women also put her arms around him and attempted to kiss him…22-year-old Ayanna Marie Knight…[is] charged with third-degree sexual abuse.  If convicted, Knight could face a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in prison…”The search for the other woman in the video continues,” DCist reports…the man in the video—a D.C. teacher who wishes to remain anonymous—suggested that the women may have been trying to solicit him for prostitution or steal his wallet, and also that they might have been “men dressed like women”…As a proponent of gender-blind law, I understand…men have as much of a right as women not to be grabbed at by strangers in public.  Yet something about the whole business rubs me the wrong way…we seem to be headed toward a world where there can be zero ambiguity about even the mildest romantic or sexual advance without it being considered sexual assault…

Bottleneck (#135)

The narrower the neck, the more “illegal” sex work there will be:

Playboy.com took a peek into “New York’s underground lap dance parties” recently.  Essentially pop-up strip clubs sans the pole dancing, the parties feature pretty women willing to offer lap-dances and sometimes make-out sessions for $20 a song.  They switch locations around the city to avoid hassle from regulators and law enforcement…The piece goes on to…women working these clubs, strangely fixating on the fact these women are “girl next door” types, more wholesome than your average stripper allegedly is.  It’s the sort of distinction you also see made in pieces about “sugar babies,” and seems to work as a defense mechanism for both women working these gigs and men availing their services…While underground lap-dance clubs in New York City may not be new…New York City has also been cracking down on traditional strip clubs, using zoning and liquor laws to shut them down…These measures have also made it incredibly difficult for new strip clubs to open…

Policing for Profit 

Little Tin Gods

People sometimes ask me why I moved out of Louisiana.

…the names of the [cops] who [murdered] 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis…were released to the public.  It didn’t take long for local press to uncover extensive rap sheets for both officers, which included two indictments for aggravated rape.  Derrick Stafford…also has five pending civil suits against him for various complaints of excessive force, including breaking the arm of a 14-year-old girl on a school bus as well as assaulting and pepper-spraying a 15-year-old boy…Norris Greenhouse Jr…is named in several of the same suits for acting in tandem with Stafford…

Something Rotten in Sweden (#445)

With the exception of a few ideologues, the field of economics has pretty much come over to our side:

Peter Antonioni, co-author of Economics for Dummies…described how…criminalising…clients was akin to the economics of a banking crisis…”if you are in the nice guy category [and paying for sex is criminalised] you are probably not likely to take the risk or at least at some level you are going to be less likely to do so.  That then leaves in the market only the customers that the sex worker would prefer to reject.  Because half of their customers have dropped out of the market they are now under pressure to take anything available.”

Vendetta (#568)

They’re “changing hearts and minds”, all right, but against their tyranny:

City leaders are stepping up their attack on sex buyers in Phoenix in the wake of a prominent billboard campaign that began in July.  “This…is going to be a consistent effort for years and years until [Swanee Hunt’s money runs out]”…Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said…Cindy McCain had been [conspiring] with the Polaris Project, an anti-[sex worker corporation]…Angie Bayless is local coordinator for [Swanee Hunt’s front organization] CEASE…“We are changing hearts and minds about prostitution,” Bayless said…

Pearls Firmly Clutched (#571) 

Tits and Sass interviews Suzy Favor Hamilton:

…I wish that every time I express my pride in my own sexuality, or speak with any degree of positiv[ity] about my experience, about fellow sex workers, or about consensual sex work in general, the public did not immediately go to the “she’s not well” assumption.  Listen, I’ll always be bipolar.  I’ll be manic some days.  I’ll be depressed some days.  I’ll be “off” some days.  But the whole idea that any degree of support I offer for sex work and sex workers means I’m not well is insulting…

Against the Tide

With all the real information about sex workers available, and the receding support for prohibitionism, ignorant, pearl-clutching screeds like this are beginning to seem almost quaint:

…About 80 percent who work in the sex industry aren’t there by choice.  They are coerced.  They are threatened.  They are trafficked…These women are beaten.  Their families are threatened.  Their pimps, who are really their captors, hold their car deeds and immigration status and sometimes their families’ safety hostage.  When they aren’t monsters, they’re manipulators who use affection, love and security to lure women and girls deeper into their dark worlds.  Prostitution is now a crime against humanity, and we’re glad to see law enforcement cracking down on it, the pimps who run it and the johns who perpetrate it…We need to support our legislators who push for even tougher laws to punish pimps keeping the girls captive…

Welcome To Our World (#584)

The New York Times apologizes for libeling nail salons, kind of:

In the wake of an exhaustive three-part series by Reason‘s Jim Epstein, New York Times‘ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has acknowledged that the paper’s May expose of the nail salon industry “went too far” in its claims…alas…she defends the Times‘ slowness to respond to Epstein’s criticism by legitimating epistemic closure of the worst kind:  “Until now, The Times has not responded…because they think the magazine, which generally opposes regulation, is reporting from a biased point of view.”  That’s a pretty amazing admission that the Times will do whatever it can to avoid uncomfortable scrutiny.  Yes, Reason is explicitly libertarian…What that has to do with factual assertions and a very clear, step-by-step refutation of Nir’s account, remains unclear…a Times reporter can have “admirable intentions in speaking for underpaid or abused workers” and the Times‘ public editor can be “glad” to see her colleagues “take on situations in which the poor and voiceless are exploited.”  But when Reason‘s Epstein suggests that illegal immigrants—who are certainly among the poorest and most voiceless souls in America—have a right to improve their lives through hard work, well, that’s just really problematic…

The More the Better (#585) 

The amazing Tara Burns interviews Margaret Cho:

…The burning question on pretty much all the sex workers’ minds was whether (or how) Cho would help us achieve decriminalization and basic human rights.  “I don’t know,” Cho told me when I asked. “I was one, not a great one, but I was around a community for many, many years far after my short career was over.  I loved the sex worker community.  That’s my family…I think that they need to be protected and it should be legalized so that law enforcement protects them.  I’m in the process of learning about what needs to be done.  Fortunately there are a lot of people who can help me learn and talk about it in a more educated way”…

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Diary #281

The Great UnknownIt’s been over a month since a careless driver wrecked into my car, and the slow wheels of his corporate insurance company have finally almost finished grinding; once the car was in the shop the damage was discovered to be far more extensive than it outwardly appeared, so the company decided to total it.  Luckily, I got a good deal on it, so I should actually be able to replace it with something at least as good; I’m looking at something today, and even if that doesn’t work out the insurance company is covering the rental until Friday.  So I reckon it’s all going to work out, but I’m still very annoyed at the whole affair; I didn’t think I was emotionally attached to the Hyundai, but I guess I was.  It was bought for me by my readers, carried me across the country several times, then dependably took me back to Idaho to tend to Jae and bring her home after her accident.  It served me well, never once stranded me and got excellent fuel mileage; this new car is going to have to go a long way to beat it.  Ah, well, all things must pass.

Today also marks the anniversary of a very memorable dinner party with Jae, Mistress Matisse and Savannah Sly; how much my world has changed since then!  If you had asked me two years ago, I would have predicted that my life would change only slowly and predictably in the future, but the gods delight in proving me wrong; I suppose the only way to stop that is to stop making predictions.  And maybe that’s for the best.

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Thanks for your concern but we’d rather have your respect and the right to work how we choose.  –  Thai sex worker

R.I.P. Carol Doda Carol Doda

Carol Doda, who…gained worldwide fame as a topless dancer in the 1960s and ’70s, died Monday of complications related to kidney failure.  She was 78…Doda was…a waitress who go-go danced on top of a piano at the Condor 51 years ago when the club’s publicist, Davey Rosenberg, handed her a Rudi Gernreich topless swimsuit…It was a sensation — the first topless dancing act of widespread note in America.  So many customers packed the club that Ms. Doda spent $1,500 to boost her bust size from 34B to 44DD through silicone injection, which was then a new technique…At the height of her fame, Ms. Doda’s breasts were dubbed “the New Twin Peaks of San Francisco.”  At one point they were insured for $1.5 million with Lloyd’s of London…Doda’s only arrest in the profession came in 1965, when police raided the Condor on indecency charges. She was found not guilty and continued to dance until 1985, when she quit, saying she was never paid enough…

Subtle Pimping

Another example of profiting from sex workers’ images while giving us nothing:

…If you follow independent and/or luxury lingerie brands, chances are you’ve seen an ad showing a woman decadently sprawled in strappy black lingerie…body bathed in red light from an out of frame bulb.  She may be seated in a high-end hotel room, looking wry but effortlessly detached, while a man in a suit stands nearby, frozen in the act of either removing his coat or undoing his tie…these images are all enticing and racy, but it may not have occurred to you that they intentionally allude to the models being sex workers.  Escorts.  Peepshow girls.  Pro-Dommes.  The industry not only benefits from sex workers’ money, it also uses their imagery to peddle product.  This wouldn’t matter if not for the fact that these same brands never want to admit these ties for the sake of appealing to a civilian…public.  Yet, every season, it seems like they push the envelope by co-opting sex work more and more…

Saving Them From Themselves

Go ahead, Colorado; prosecute all of them.  Put an entire generation on the “sex offender” registry.  Surely that’ll teach ’em to not be sexual:

Authorities in Colorado are investigating widespread sharing of hundreds of nude pictures at a high school…Officials in Cañon City say an unspecified “number of students” — both boys and girls — exchanged nude photos of themselves…The district said it received anonymous tips about the alleged sexting…and that it has turned the investigation over to the Cañon City Police Department.  Police are looking at whether adults were involved, or if any of the photos were coerced…officials are warning parents that students apparently used apps to hide the photos on their phones.  District Attorney Dan May [bloviated] that having nude pictures of minors could be considered child pornography — regardless of whether the picture is of oneself or someone else.  He said teens caught could also be put through a diversion program instead…

Change a Few Words

Another move away from prohibitionism:

Mexico’s Supreme Court…ruled that individuals should have the right to grow, possess, and consume marijuana…the court…concluded that the right to “free development of the personality” includes the freedom to engage in recreational activities, subject to restrictions “necessary to protect health and public order.”  In the court’s view, the damage caused by consumption and noncommercial production of marijuana is not “of such gravity as to warrant an absolute ban.”  The court was responding to a lawsuit brought by activists who asked COFEPRIS, the national agency in charge of regulating drugs, for permission to use marijuana.  When COFEPRIS said no, the applicants challenged the its decision in the courts.  According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court’s ruling applies only to the cannabis consumers who brought the case.  “For legal marijuana to become the law of the land…the justices…will have to rule the same way five times, or eight of the 11 members of the full court will have to vote in favor”…

Above the Law 

This week’s rapist cop cost Los Angeles taxpayers $6.15 million:

…the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to a payment of $6.15 million to a woman who was raped by an on-duty sheriff’s deputy…The rapist is Jose Rigoberto Sanchez, who was sentenced to nine years in prison last year.  He admitted to the rape as well as another instance of offering a bribe of sexual activity to a different woman.  He is also to register as a sex offender.  The incident took place…on September 22, 2010…Lindsay F…was stopped by Sanchez who [claimed]…she was driving under the influence of alcohol and had a suspended license…Sanchez offered not to arrest her in return for sexual favors, but she refused…so he drove her down a distant dirt road…and…forced her to have oral, vaginal and anal sex with him against the hood of his patrol car.  Then he…asked Lindsay to give him her phone number in case he wanted to “mess around” again…

Red in Tooth and Claw

Just a reminder of how nasty Mother Nature really is:

…some male spiders lop off parts of females’ genitalia to prevent [them] from mating again, a new study says.  The behavior, which guarantees that the male will father all of her offspring, is the first to suggest that males evolve behaviors to maim external parts of the female genitalia…A male spider delivers its sperm via pedipalps, a pair of leg-like appendages near its mouth that latch onto the female’s scapus from above and below…the L. jeskovi pedipalp grasps and twists the scapus as the male dismounts, snipping it off as if with scissors.  Without this crucial handle, other males can’t grasp the female at all, preventing her from having another sexual partner.  It’s a twist on the typical arachnid battle of the sexes.  Many female spiders have sex with multiple males but fertilize their eggs with only one suitor’s sperm.  This competition has prompted some species’ males to take drastic action, such as castrating themselves to plug the females’ reproductive tract.  In this case, however, “males have found a very clever means to prevent females from remating without mutilating themselves…Female spiders can store viable sperm for years, so having only one sexual partner might not hamper their fertility…

Stupor Bowl

Stories like this are much more common now:

The Winnipeg Working Group for Sex Workers’ Rights is speaking out against claims that a major sporting event will increase “sex trafficking” in their city.  In the lead up to the Grey Cup…government officials have set up over $45,000 CAD worth of funds to combat “human trafficking” in Winnipeg.  The funds will be used to set up a phone hotline and an awareness campaign called Buying Sex is Not a Sport…the Winnipeg Working Group has organised to counter these claims. “Despite media hype and police enthusiasm, there was no evidence that large sporting events increase trafficking for prostitution,” they wrote in their press release on October 29, 2015…

If Men Were Angels

The inevitable result of people being given power over others:

Settlement talks are set to begin in the Baltimore City public housing sex for repairs scandal.  So far, 11 women have joined the federal lawsuit…in which housing maintenance employees are accused of demanding sex before repairing deplorable, even life-threatening, conditions inside public housing apartments.  Eleven women say they were forced to live with dangerous mold, no heat and rodent infestations, all because they rejected maintenance men’s advances.  “We uncovered a union investigation, which found many, many more victims,” said attorney Cary Hansel…[who] says some housing officials were aware of the allegations and did nothing…

Welcome to the Future (#543)

“Swedish model” propaganda pretends that women are “decriminalized” under the law; look at the proportion of arrests here:

Police in Northern Ireland have arrested the first person under the new laws that [claim to] target the buyers of sex.  During a [raid on] a brothel…police arrested [one] man for paying for sexual services…and…three females…for keeping a brothel…The new legislation…aims to mirror the so-called Swedish model…

Naked Truth (#544) Loubna Abidar

Whore stigma affects amateur women, too:

The star of a film on sex work in Morocco…was savagely beaten in Casablanca last week, sparking an outcry on social media over social taboos that activists say can be enforced by violence.  Loubna Abidar, who portrays a Marrakech sex worker in Much Loved…said police and hospital workers refused to help her.  Instead they humiliated her, she said…

Uncharted Seas (#552)

It’s only a matter of time now:

…in Brazil…three women have defied deeply conservative trends…and wider traditional mores by celebrating a polyamorous civil union.  The happy trio, who reportedly have shared a bed for years and say they want to raise a child, took an oath of love…in the presence of…notary public Fernanda de Freitas Leitao.  “This union is not just symbolic,” because it defines “how they intend to have children,” attorney Leitao said…The union is not a formal marriage, because under Brazilian law that would be bigamy.  Neither are they automatically allowed to declare joint income or join a healthcare plan for spouses.  But the civil union is still a big step…”If they seek these rights before a court, they could obtain them — and I think they will,” Leitao said…

Eternal Vigilance (#563)

Twenty years of successful decriminalization in New South Wales is threatened by politicians:

A new police unit should be established to stamp out organised crime and exploitation in the NSW sex industry, a parliamentary inquiry…[recommended]…the…committee…[proposed] the biggest overhaul of the NSW sex industry in more than two decades with police receiving “greater powers” to enter premises and monitor illegal activity.  Police background checks will also form part of a revised license approval process…The reforms are…criticised by sex [workers] who [point out that] police were stripped of such powers, and the industry decriminalised, in the mid-’90s because of corruption…

The Mother Learns From Her Children (#586)

After years of moralistic ideology prevailing over evidence, and policy being formed about, but not with, sex workers…the English Collective of Prostitutes’ (ECP) event in the House of Commons…saw sex workers and their allies, including politicians from all of the main parties, presenting compelling evidence in favour of decriminalising sex work.  Also this week, the Sex Worker Open University (SWOU) are holding four days of conferences, workshops, parties and even a sex worker film festival.  Next week MSP Jean Urquhart’s Bill to decriminalise sex work in Scotland will be launched in the Scottish Parliament…Until recently…sex workers and allies were forced to focus their energies on constantly putting out the fires instigated by those driven by radical feminist or fundamentalist Christian ideology.  Just a year ago MPs were voting on an attempt by…Fiona McTaggart to shoehorn the criminalisation of the purchase of sex into a bill about something entirely different…[backed by] the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade…They still manage to waste Parliamentary time pushing their ideology…but…the mood has changed so significantly that they are no longer seen as a substantial threat, just a strange club where self-described radical feminists and evangelical Christians come together to dream about creating a moral utopia at whatever cost…

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Diary #280

Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the day I arrived in Seattle by train on the visit that was to change my entire life.  I thought it was just going to be an ordinary, albeit extra-nice, tour stop; I had no idea that I would bond so deeply with my friends here, nor that I would develop such deep feelings for Jae so quickly.  By the time I left I knew I would return for at least a visit; within a few weeks I had decided to relocate.  And before 90 days had passed since my departure, I was back.  But that was no mere change of residence, oh no; those who have followed this diary feature over the past year know what a long, strange trip it’s been.  Where will it take me next?  I have absolutely no idea, and I’ve given up on trying to predict; I can barely even keep on schedule with this blog.  But I’m going to keep on working, and keep on writing, and keep on fighting the good fight, and keep on expanding my horizons, and chronicling the whole thing right here.  And maybe one day, I’ll even figure out what it all means.

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Diary #279

1030152107aSlowly but surely, I’m getting back into the swing of things in Seattle.  Last week I attended a lovely party at which I got to meet quite a few inhabitants and habitués of the Seattle demimonde, and to catch up with some friends and fans I hadn’t seen in a while.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for my birthday; in a few days I’m going to be marking the occasion by getting together with a small group of friends, but I still wanted to do something on Halloween and Jae goes to sleep quite early these days.  She doesn’t like horror movies anyway, and since that’s my usual Halloween entertainment I was at a bit of a loss.  But Abby May came through for me by taking me out to Guillermo del Toro’s new release, Crimson Peak; it was a treat to see a Gothic on the big screen again, and since it’s been years since I’ve been to a theater at all that was already a treat in itself.  Late in the (rainy, spooky) afternoon I got a lovely flower arrangement from Grace, along with a card that had me crying like a baby.  And Jae displayed her knack for clever gifts by presenting me with the lady in the picture, who now occupies a place of honor atop my desk; if you don’t understand why this gift is appropriate, I call your attention to my book cover and several stories I published almost a year ago.  And if you know me in person, you might want to pay attention to a certain recurring theme in my wardrobe.

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Diary #278

1027152344So here we are 9 days after Jae was discharged from the hospital, and we still haven’t got everything in place; I’m waiting for appointment-setting callbacks from two different rehab and therapy agencies, and she has a follow-up appointment with her primary doctor in just a few weeks.  On Monday I need to make some necessary changes to her health insurance, and it will still be another two weeks before my car goes in to be fixed by the insurance of the guy who hit me.  My stupid cell phone carrier sent her replacement phone to the wrong address, but it should be here today so she’ll be back to answering her own calls and making her own tweets.  What that means is, this will be the last column dominated by news of her recovery; I think it’s important that she start taking control of her own life again after two and a half months of other people doing that for her.  I’m still going to be managing a lot of the paperwork so as to keep her from getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume and depth of bureaucratic bullshit, but she should be in charge of her own story again; from here on out I’ll only be talking about her as she impacts my life, just as it was prior to the accident.  And that is the way it should be.

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