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Archive for the ‘The Dark Side’ Category

It’s been over a year since I wrote a new story, but this one has been slowly growing in my head since late autumn of 2014, and it finally came forth week before last.  I’m just going to tease you with the beginning; if you want a copy, you can either buy it on Kindle or get a PDF copy by becoming a patron of my blog.  If you’re already a patron, you should’ve received a copy one week ago today; if you didn’t, please let me know.

Dane retrieved his knife from the body of the dog and began to carve as many choice cuts from the carcass of the wild cow as he thought he could eat before they spoiled; it wasn’t that much, but he figured he’d be in Korneg within a few days anyhow, and then he could buy all the food he wanted with the gold & furs he’d taken from that trader he ambushed last week.  The job was easier than he had expected; he congratulated himself on having had the good sense to let the dog pack do most of the work of butchery before he started picking them off from the top of the ruined tower.  He knew they’d be back soon, once hunger overcame fear of the rifle; still, half a dozen precious rounds were a good trade for an equal number of big, thick steaks.  It had been a long time since he’d had beef, since that excellent roast in Westover; maybe he should’ve stayed there longer.  But Dane was a cautious man, and he figured it probably wasn’t wise to stay in any city after he’d killed, even though she was just a whore; sooner or later the local warlord’s peacekeepers would’ve figured out which of the transients currently in town had done it, and his career would’ve come to an abrupt halt at the end of a rope.  Or something both much worse and much slower, if the harlots’ guild had caught him first.

Still, it had been a good stay while it lasted, and a profitable one; besides the rifle and ammo belt, some fairly-new boots and a little gold, he’d managed to steal a good horse on the way out.  That put Korneg within reach; though he was a strong walker, no human could outrun a hungry wild dog pack.  And since it was high time he left the Valley, that was now a necessity rather than just a preference.  He’d heard talk of Korneg for years…of its wealth, of the succulence of its foods, of the impregnability of its walls…and of the powerful queen who ruled it.  He had always wanted to see it for himself, but though Dane was no coward, he was also no fool; he knew that no matter how soft its beds or its women, he could not stay in Korneg long before his way of life put a price on his head.  Still, it guarded the only known safe pass to the Cities of the East, and that meant he had little choice but to visit it if he wished to remain free and alive.

The next few days were unremarkable except for the rain, but even that was a blessing because it meant plenty of water for both him and the horse in a season when good water was usually a concern.  It also meant he’d be that much harder to follow, in the event some bounty hunter had picked up his trail.  So all in all, he was in an unusually good mood when on the next clear day he spotted the stone pillars marking the edge of Korneg’s territory, despite the fact that they made him vaguely uneasy.  They were unlike anything he’d ever seen in his three decades of life:  five times as tall as a man they were, carved in the likeness of two huge serpents which coiled around and around until they ended in heads whose baleful eyes stared down at him, glinting like purple gems in the early afternoon sun.  It was obvious that they were intended as a show of power, and the display was a successful one; even in the heart of Ghezhel, mightiest city of the Valley, there were no comparable monuments.  There was an engraved tablet at the foot of the one on the right, but that was of no help to Dane since he had never learned to read.  However, the road beyond was well-built and well-maintained; he knew he couldn’t be more than a few days from the city wall, and he might even reach a trading post before nightfall.  So he set aside his disquiet and rode on, steadfastly resisting the gnawing urge to look back to see if the stone guardians were watching him…

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Not all of the effects of the recent US government censorship drives are at the macro level, such as the castration or destruction of websites; some affect only individuals or smallish groups, but are still annoying and/or frustrating, and make work more difficult and less pleasant.  I’ve read that some Backpage girls who formerly worked on the street are now getting harassing phone calls or texts from pimps and pimp wannabes, offering them beaucoups clients in the hope of enticing them into a relationship.  And since the guys who used to use Backpage now don’t know where to go, they’re inflicting their ham-handed “Hey sexy” and untutored “qv* avail?” texts on sex workers who aren’t used to dealing with that (and in my case, lack the patience).  But worst of all, these police-state shenanigans have emboldened toads who want to harass & frighten sex workers.

A week ago yesterday, I got one of the automatic emails produced by the booking form on my escort site, and as soon as I saw nonsense like “Desired appointment length: forever” I knew I was being harassed by a troll.  And although I found his rather pathetic attempt to frighten me kind of amusing, I’m also aware that this sort of thing can be very disconcerting and upsetting to young, inexperienced escorts.  So I’m sharing this because if anyone reading this gets similar messages, you’ll know they’re from losers and not get upset or scared.  Anyway, below the gobbledygook he put into the fields for name, phone number, etc, I found this in the note field [all sic]:  “you are a dumb whore. prepare for your site to be shut down immediately. Dumb whore check out cabuyerbeware.com that is my work. Your information has been reported and forwarded to the proper authorites in seattle washington, FBI feild office”  Soon after I was done sharing this on Twitter for others to mock, I checked my emails again and found another one, clearly from the same lackwit, timestamped 41 minutes after the first; the note field contained this scintillating gem: “You are a whore. Your site will be taken down. You are a whore. THe proper authorities in the FBI field offices of seattle have been notified of your whore activities. good luck whore.

First of all, it’s apparent this moron has absolutely no idea who he’s dealing with, else he’d realize that the FBI undoubtedly already knows who I am and has a fat file on me, including my website address.  Secondly, the idiot apparently doesn’t get that the whole “buyer beware” scam is intended to scare clients, not sex workers, hence the name; of course they also want to scare whores, but indirectly.  To threaten us directly is to make their lies about wanting to “save” us transparent, and they don’t want that.  Thirdly, even if due to FOSTA my site’s domain name were to be seized by the feds at some point in the future (LOL at “immediately”), I would simply yawn & switch it over to the overseas domain name I’ve already prepared.  In fact, just before seeing this childish wanker’s pathetic attempt to frighten me, I was completing the last step to move my actual site files to a new overseas host; I’m sure most ladies are taking similar steps to protect their professional sites.  Lastly, it’s really quite pathetic that this wart seems to think that repeatedly telling me what I do for a living is some kind of insult; one wonders if he emails physicians with “You are a doctor” over & over.

It’s also possible this is the same fuckwad who texted me three days earlier from a Rhode Island number ending in 8550 (first name DeAndre, with listings on Verify Him as a psycho and harasser)**, ludicrously approaching as though he were a BDSM top and apparently expecting me to play along; he swore revenge when I humiliated him, and maybe he thinks this will accomplish it or at least make me nervous.  That guy kept calling me “bitch” over and over just as this one repeatedly used “whore”, and the writing style and self-important delusions are very similar.  But even if they’re different people (the two forms came from different IPs, so he was probably using a VPN and I can’t trace it to Rhode Island), the “bow to your king” dork is yet another example of the kind of loathsome vermin the government’s actions have caused to come crawling out of the woodwork.  During this time a lot of sex workers are nervous & jumpy, with good reason; assholes will use that in an attempt to get off on terrorizing women.  Don’t let them get to you, and even if you can’t help being frightened, don’t let them know you are or you’ll have a devil of a time getting rid of them.

*Quick visit, also known by the more vulgar term “blow & go”, is an extremely short (usually 15 minutes), very low-priced session favored by cheapskates.
**Ladies, if you think you may have been harassed by this nitwit and want his full info, email me.

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Nothing about the human animal is absolute; we’re all complicated organisms with the ability to feel several conflicting things at once.  So even though I’m among the most cynical creatures you’ll ever encounter, there is still a part of me that wants to believe that there is a limit to the stupidity of most of the creatures I encounter.  Alas, I am disappointed in that respect on the order of several times a day, with the result that my cynicism increases still more.  It is my fervent hope that sometime in the next three years I will achieve such a high density of cynicism that no hope of any kind will be able to resist it, and I will collapse into a sort of black hole of cynicism, from whose event horizon not even the slightest particle of faith in humanity is able to escape.  Then and only then will I be able to resist the urge to either beat my head against a wall or actually strangle every yahoo endowed with a one-dimensional sense of ethics who brays that the current sorry state of the American empire is the fault of whichever “wing” of the US Fascist Party he does not identify with.  The idiocy of this tribalism has only increased with the waxing of this century, and despite the fact that the venue in which most of it is displayed happens to be the greatest research tool ever devised by Man, we are still forced to endure deeply, deeply stupid pronouncements from deeply, deeply stupid people that it’s all the fault of Clinton Bush Obama Trump despite the fact that most of what’s wrong is the predictable result of processes going on at least since the Adams administration, picking up speed during and after the American Civil War, exploding during the Progressive Era and New Deal, and coalescing into the basis for their current form during the Reagan administration.  The latest example (and as most of you have probably surmised, the one which inspired this rant) is seeing apparent humans with the attention span of a goldfish and the research skills of a ficus tree blaming FOSTA (the 100% predictable end product of a War on Whores with its roots in the Clinton administration, midwifed by the Bush administration and raised to sturdy adolescence by the Obama administration) on a man who couldn’t find his own moral center with both hands, Google maps and a burning dumpster full of advisors.  No, this scheme for purging all sexual content from the internet is not the product of Trump, the GOP or even “Trump’s America” (whatever the fuck that intensely-moronic phrase means); it is a wholly bipartisan tyranny, and the only difference is that the Republicans are slightly more apt to claim that sex is “immoral” while the Democrats are somewhat more apt to claim it’s “demeaning to women”.  Don’t fucking take my fucking word for it; go fucking look at the fucking vote totals for every fucking “sex trafficking” law ever fucking passed, up to and including fucking FOSTA.  You will find overwhelming numbers of members of both official parties lining up to shred the Constitution, censor the internet, grow the power of police and other government functionaries, and heap every harm and indignity imaginable upon sex workers, our clients, or anyone else who dares to be openly sexual.  Hell, we’ve already got the concentration camps (though we now call them “correctional institutions”); all that remains is to see what final solution they dream up to “help” us.  And whatever it is, you can bet it will be passed with near-unanimity while a vast chorus of toadies cacophonously croak that it’s all the other party’s fault.

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Today is Friday the 13th, when I ask non-sex workers to stand up for us.  So when Stacey Swimme, one of the founders of SWOP-USA, started discussing this on Twitter a few days ago, I asked her to elaborate for this column.  This is the result.

Come out only to the people you know, and who know you, not to anyone else…Once they realize that we are indeed their children and we are indeed everywhere- every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all…. And when you do, you will feel so much better.  –  Harvey Milk, 1978

When I told my mom in 2008 that I was an escort, she was accepting, but she told me it’s not something she wants me to discuss with other family members.  I agreed, but later when I joined Facebook for a brief period, my personal and activism lives collided.  Any one of my extended family members could see my posts about International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, posts vehemently opposing the censorship of the Craigslist Erotic Services section, and if they chose to, they could read through commentary left on posts by me and my sex work friends.  I’m sure they have gossiped about it over the years, but nobody ever says anything to me about it.

It’s a strange sort of in-between place for me.  “Everyone” in my life knows that I’m a sex worker.  I am “accepted” by my family in a way that I can appreciate, but I don’t call them allies.  There’s no talk of disowning me, no exclusion of me or my son or my intimate partners from family occasions, but they won’t voluntarily make it known that someone they love is a sex worker.  It’s just another weird thing I do that they don’t understand and don’t want to understand, but they love me anyway.  I’m generally at peace with how this has played out with my family.  I have a compartment in life where I can keep feelings, priorities and responsibilities associated with my birth family neatly tucked away to pull out for holidays and birthdays.  Then I have a larger compartment, a space preserved for my Found Family, the people I get to share my full identity with.  This doesn’t mean that while we are together I am constantly in “sex work mode”; it’s more that these people don’t need me to suppress any part of my identity in order to keep them comfortable.

Prohibition forces most of us to keep our activities and our whereabouts a secret from those who care for us the most.  That secrecy makes sex workers more vulnerable to abuse; opportunistic predators seek out victims who are least likely to be reported missing by loved ones.  The fear our loved ones have of shame-by-association is an asset to those who aim to harm us- predators and politicians alike.  The Green River Killer said he targeted sex workers because “….they were easy to pick up without being noticed.  I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing.  I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.”  Sex workers need the world to know that we have people who care about us in our lives, in our communities, in our families.  Below is a micro-Call-To-Action for different communities who intersect with sex workers.  Find your own way; there’s something small and meaningful you can do for the sex worker in your life, something you can do within your own comfort zone.  No matter who you are, if you care about sex workers, please start with educating yourself.  There’s been plenty of writing on how to be an ally to sex workers.  This article from psychologist Marijke Vonk covers essential tips for allies plus links to even more resources for you; also go over to Black Girl Dangerous for a piece on allyship written by a sex worker.

Micro-Call to Actions:

Parents of sex workers:  Tell your child that you love them, no matter who finds out what they do; bonus points if you attend a sex work community event with them.  Get to know the area of their life that they traditionally hide from you; you’ll be relieved to find that the people you meet are just ordinary humans with an extraordinary job- and your child is not the one sane, stable exception in an industry reputed to be unsavory.

Partners of sex workers:  Support each other!  Yes, I’m sure you were expecting me to say, “go talk to media” or “post on social media” or “reveal to your parents that your partner is a sex worker.”  And yes, I do want you to do every single one of those things.  However, I don’t believe that you all, at this time, collectively have enough support, information and expertise to minimize the harms and maximize the benefits of coming out as a partner.  Please get there.  Figure it out, folks.  This needs to be peer-led; you all need each other.  Maybe a live twitter discussion by and for partners to kick it off?  Start with something small and achievable.

Friends of sex workers:  In recent weeks my friends have done some amazing things!  Several have made bold statements in support of sex worker rights on social media for all of their friends and family to see.  One friend of mine asked how she and her husband can help sex workers right now, so I sent her over to Red Light Legal to sponsor legal research for sex workers impacted by record seizures at BackPage and other ad sites.  Yes!  Married feminists can be allies to sex workers!  Donate if you can, make calls to lawmakers when we ask for it, correct misinformation when you hear it within your social networks.

Clients of sex workers:  Be good clients.  Donate to funds that support the most marginalized workers in the aftermath of FOSTA/SESTA.  If you are wealthy and can make a substantial contribution, do it!  If you’re paranoid about your financial statements showing something sex work related, give to SWOP Behind Bars or Desiree Alliance because their fiscal sponsors’ totally un-sexy name will appear on your statements.

Cannabis Industry:  It is time to retire the strain name “Jack The Ripper”.  This is insulting because it reveres a name that is infamous due to the brutal murders of sex workers in London.  It does not give due reverence to the long struggle of cannabis legalization and the healing properties of this wonderful plant.  In 2009, I pointed this out to a dispensary operator in San Fernando Valley; he said, “You’re right, I’m sorry to offend, I’ll change the name and let me hook you up with a free eighth, I didn’t mean to offend you ma’am.”  Boom!  Ally in action.  Nine years later, I have a new Call To Action for California’s cannabis industry:  Let’s collectively change the name of the Jack the Ripper strain to Jacq The Stripper, a true hero who deserves to have her name glorified in weed.  Also- hire sex workers for legal cannabis jobs!  As the legal cannabis industry booms, prison mongers are moving to recover lost profits by increasing legal penalties against sex workers.  It’s not a coincidence.

There are dozens of ways to actively support the sex worker in your life.  Ask your loved one what they need as an individual.  Be there for them first, then look at how you can support our community as a whole.  The next opportunity to both educate yourself and help us raise awareness is June 2, 2018 for International Whore’s Day; follow Survivors Against SESTA for organizing updates.  Sex workers have struggled for decades to build the peer-led resources, safety networks and community spaces that reduce the harms we face.  These resources are now under direct attack by policy-makers, law enforcement and misinformed advocates who believe that eliminating our safety resources will make sex work disappear from the world.  We will not disappear, but we need our allies to ensure that we are not silenced and excluded.  Please stand with us so we are not alone in this fight.

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Forbidding the promotion of prostitution on the Internet…would be “to burn the house to roast the pig.”  –  Alex F. Levy

Unless you were overseas, deeply inebriated or in a coma for the past two days, I’m sure you’ve heard that the massive internet censorship bill known as FOSTA passed the US Senate Wednesday as unanimously as bad laws based on moral panic always do; all it lacks is Trump’s signature to become law, and unless he pulls one of his bizarre reversals that’s pretty much a given.  The law is so blatantly unconstitutional (on several grounds, including flagrant violations of the first and tenth amendments, and article 1’s ban on ex post facto laws) that even the DoJ (which never saw an expansion of federal power it didn’t like) recognizes that, and it will indubitably be challenged as soon as it hits the ground; unless the judge who hears that challenge is some kind of incompetent lunatic he’ll issue an injunction against enforcing it until the case is settled, which could take years.  But that doesn’t mean we can relax; the big businesses which control the internet are so risk-averse many of them are unlikely to wait for the outcome of that ruling, and will simply start pre-emptively censoring sex work content as Reddit already has:

Sometime around 2 a.m. [yesterday], Reddit banned several long-running sex worker forums from the platform.  The move comes just hours after the Senate passed a bill making digital facilitation of prostitution a federal crime.  Under the new law, social media sites and other hubs of user-generated content can be held criminally liable…Even if individuals aren’t targeted by law enforcement for placing ads, and even if individual cases brought by state prosecutors are struck down as unconstitutional, a lot of platforms will preemptively ban anything remotely related to sex work rather than risk it.  So far, four subreddits related to sex have banned:  Escorts, Male Escorts, Hookers, and SugarDaddy. None were what could accurately be described as advertising forums…The escort forums were largely used by sex workers to communicate with one another…

Craigslist followed last night, removing its US personals ad section and posting this apology:

US Congress just passed HR 1865, “FOSTA”, seeking to subject websites to criminal and civil liability when third parties (users) misuse online personals unlawfully.  Any tool or service can be misused.  We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline.  Hopefully we can bring them back some day.  To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!

I and many others have explained why this law is so uniquely awful, but let’s just sum it up once more:

  1. It allows US government censorship of the entire internet, destroys social media in all but the most neutered form, and creates a de facto internet cartel controlled entirely by the wealthiest and most powerful media corporations;
  2. It criminalizes all sex work advertising and creates a new federal prostitution crime;
  3. It allows both ambitious DAs and greedy opportunists to attack any internet entity with either criminal charges or civil suits for activity that was perfectly legal when it occurred.

Even if you aren’t a sex worker or civil libertarian, you should be able to see the issues with this, and so should all of the politicians who voted for it, who are guilty of nothing short of criminal incompetence:

Notre Dame law instructor Alex F. Levy:

The law relies on the unsubstantiated idea that reducing prostitution will reduce trafficking.  Indeed, the legislative report defends the regulation by proclaiming, without citation, that “[p]rostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked, and where prostitution is legalized or tolerated, there is a greater demand for human trafficking victims and nearly always an increase in the number of women and children trafficked into commercial sex slavery”…But the claim that legalizing (or decriminalizing) prostitution leads to sex trafficking is widely controverted by scholars…Congress does not even inquire into the basic reliability of the premise that undergirds this sweeping content-based speech restriction…it…restricts Constitutionally protected speech, yet fails under both strict and intermediate scrutiny standards.  It is unconstitutional and should not be passed into law…

Tech law journalist Mike Masnick:

…Senator Richard Blumenthal — who has spent years attacking the internet, and who has already stated that if SESTA kills small internet businesses he would consider that a good thing…sent out a letter…[in which] almost everything stated…is 100% factually wrong…so wrong that it raises serious questions about whether Blumenthal understands some fairly fundamental issues in the bill he’s backing.  Professor Eric Goldman has a pretty concise explanation of everything that’s wrong with the statement, noting that it…shows that SESTA’s main sponsors don’t even understand the very basic aspects of CDA 230…you have to start wondering what the hell is happening in the Senate, and in particular in Senator Blumenthal’s office.  He is not just doing a big thing badly — he is gleefully spouting the exact opposite of basic facts about both the existing law, and the bill he sponsored.  I know that politicians aren’t exactly known for their honesty, but he seems to be taking this to new levels…

Even economist Scott Cunningham, whom I’ve castigated more than once for not grasping basic facts about the demimonde, sure understands this one:

…This bill claims to be all about sex trafficking, but it seems to have a deep ignorance about how these markets work and a deep ignorance about the benefits of these technologies.  The people who support it don’t know about the client screening, they don’t know about the movement indoors and they don’t know that women are using these online platforms in order to avoid danger.  They don’t know or they don’t care…

Though Cunningham is perhaps being cautious and/or polite in his last statement, I think it’s pretty obvious that the latter clause is far more likely than the former.  Don’t you?

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Last summer I saw a client whom I have good reason to believe is quite capable of violence, and he is now stalking me.  For about a month now he has parked in front of my house and watched almost every night; it may have been longer, because it took me longer than I am comfortable with to notice.  Last week he switched up his game: he got out of his car, prowled around my house, and left much sooner than he usually does.  Then later, I found a ladder and a flashlight near the easiest entry point to my home.  I called my attorney to tell him I wanted a restraining order, but he told me to first file a police report; I stalled a bit, but when I finally went to the cops they refused to take a report.  After that, I immediately fled town in terror and am writing to you from several states away from my home.  I want to return as soon as I can and get a restraining order, but is there a way to file such an order under a stage name?  Please tell me you have some advice.

I’m so sorry to hear about this horrible situation.  I’m not at all surprised the cops wouldn’t do anything to help you; cops don’t give a damn what happens to sex workers, and commonly write “NHI” (“No Humans Involved”) on reports about violence toward us.  I would also advise against putting faith in restraining orders; they don’t have magic powers, and can’t stop violent people from being violent even when the cops are willing to enforce them (which in your case they won’t be).

I think it was a very good idea to leave town for a while; that won’t get rid of him, but it may put him off your scent temporarily.  You’re going to need help from friends and associates to deal with this, and if I were in your place I’d contact the local SWOP chapter (I know there is one in your city) right away in addition to informing all the friends you can trust.  I think it would be best if you find another place to live; if possible, get a friend, family member or trusted client to sign the lease for you, and you may want to consider not living alone for a while.  In fact, if you’re not especially tied to the city you’re “currently based in” (that sounds like you might not plan to live there permanently), you might consider moving to another city entirely (one where you have friends).  If your stalker has a regular job (it sounds like he might if he only sits outside your place at night), send your friends (do NOT go yourself) to move your stuff while he’s at work; if you can’t be sure when he’ll be tied up, you’ll have to be sneaky about this because you CANNOT risk his following them.  And even after you move, I would suggest being very watchful for at least a year; he’s already proven he’s obsessed enough to follow you for over half that long.

Once you’ve ensured your physical safety as best you can, I suggest being extra-cautious with new clients from here on out.  If you’ve been a loose screener before, it’s definitely time to change that; he knows your stage name and contact info, and once he can’t find where you live he’ll almost certainly try contacting you through work, possibly pretending to be someone else.  So it’s absolutely imperative that you get good references from every new client, that you make sure you know his name & job so you can be ABSOLUTELY sure it isn’t the stalker, and that you talk to every new client on the phone so you can hear his voice before meeting him, to be sure in your mind that it really is a new person.  Finally, if you can afford it, you might also consider renting a separate place to be your incall, so that even if this dangerous person figures out where you work, it won’t automatically let him know where you live.

I’m going to publish this on Thursday (with identifying details removed for your safety) and ask readers for input as well; please look at my blog and Twitter feed on Thursday, because one of my readers may have been through something like this before, and may have some good advice.  That’s all I can think of at the moment, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not go home until you have a plan in place, and friends on alert who will come to you instantly if called.

(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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Though Laura Lee is gone, her friends will not let her be forgotten; there were many awful people who hurt her for her work, from Catholic nuns to “feminist” crusaders to pompous politicians.  But there is one we have kept silent about for years; no more.  Brooke Magnanti obtained permission from Laura’s surviving family to write this; she published it on Medium, and asked me to mirror it here as a signal-boost.

I first met activist Laura Lee at a signing for my book The Sex Myth in 2012.  We became friends instantly, united by our belief that no activism is more powerful than being honest to people about sex work.  That showing our faces is the only way to speak truth to power.  Both of us experienced the ups and downs of going public with our pasts.  From Laura Lee’s grilling in Stormont, or how we were spoken about and treated by the press, it’s safe to say that being known as a sex worker invites vicious criticism, to the extent that we both received threats of death and violence.  We bitched and bonded over it behind the scenes, but got on with life, because some things were more important than cowering while cowards raged.  Laura was always keen to show as full a picture of sex work as possible.  She had worked at almost every level of the industry and knew the business inside out.  As she liked to say, she’d been everywhere from chicken sheds to five-star hotels.  Laura had a knack of telling her story in a way that was relatable, especially to other single mothers and concerned parents.  She had a gift.

Unfortunately that producer was not successful in developing a show featuring Laura, so the plans were put on the back burner.  But he did have other media connections, and it was his acquaintance with a music journalist in Dublin that convinced Laura to give an in-depth interview to well-known Irish writer Olaf Tyaransen.  You already know the kind of man Olaf is:  middle aged but refuses to wear ties, brags about going backstage with Bono, tweets “edgy” comments about drugs.  But he was the friend of a friend, so we figured he was probably alright.  The interview happened in October of 2014.  With so much interest in Laura’s activism, I hardly paid attention to what surely would be just one of the many positive and impactful interviews she gave that year.  When she messaged me shortly after, I was stunned by what she said.  After the interview, Laura told me, Olaf had invited himself back to her room for more chat.  And it was there he drugged her, beat her, and sexually assaulted her.  Now, for those who didn’t know Laura: she was not only formidable in activism, she was just as formidable in person.  A tall, strong woman whose physical presence served her well in domination — the part of sex work that comprised the majority of her appointments.  She was no meek submissive, and experienced enough to follow her instincts on who was potentially dangerous.  In a business that is never risk-free, she handled herself.  He still beat her black and blue.

Laura was not the kind to throw around false accusations.  I believed her as soon as she told me.  But she even shared pictures of a chat with another friend describing what he had done.  She didn’t report it, not right away.  Sex workers know that feminist solidarity rarely if ever applies to us.  Laura was a strong person but also realistic.  What power does a sex worker, even a well-known one, have against a journalist?  Who would be believed?  Sex workers are the “surplus women” who absorb men’s violence, in the view of the mainstream press.  When attacks happen we do not expect to be cared for or supported.  At worst we can expect to be disbelieved; at best, to be told that we deserve it.  Take for example the case of Morgan Marquis-Boire, a hacker from New Zealand.  The violent abuse he perpetrated was covered up not only because of who he was, but because of who his victims were, including sex workers.  It is exactly this kind of stigma that Laura spent years fighting.  The stigma that is heightened by the Swedish Model and other anti-sex worker propaganda.  The stigma that suggests it’s “feminist” for sex workers to operate in the shadows and be victimised.  The stigma that says women are only valuable if they are sweet and virginal and blameless.  The kind that makes it difficult for sex workers who are attacked to go to the police.

The Hotpress piece by Tyaransen ran in December 2014, and eventually what she told me about the interview left my mind.  Laura continued to follow Olaf on Twitter after the assault, which was no surprise if you knew her.  She followed a lot of accounts she disagreed with, from Irish anti-sex work campaigners Ruhama to Abolition Scotland to Human Trafficking News.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer as the saying goes.  Life went on.  Or seemed to.  Then 2017 happened, and so did #MeToo.  The movement began with Hollywood and Weinstein but it didn’t end there.  Suddenly the floodgates were opening.  Powerful men in media who for decades had gotten away with harassment, abuse, and rape were being called out by their victims.  Some were even being held to account, losing projects and positions.  #MeToo gave Laura hope.  Hope that finally she would be able to go to the Gardaí and be believed.  Hope that she could tell her story and, if not put her abuser in jail, at least prevent any other woman from going through what she went through.  Now, there are all kinds of men who abuse.  In the case of people such as Harvey Weinstein, power covers their tracks.  But others are more insidious.  They lurk in the shadows, picking off the vulnerable, the liminal, the unlikely to be believed.  They attack people with complicated pasts such as sex workers.  And they present a blameless face to the world.  Consider, for example, this tweet from Tyransen in December 2017:

My tweet (now deleted) asked if there was a reason he in particular might be afraid of the ground shifting.  I wanted to let him know, if he was self-aware enough to realise it, that what he had done would not stay secret for much longer.  Rape is more than an edgy lifestyle choice for sad middle aged journos on a Hunter S Thompson trip.  It’s fair to say he either didn’t get the hint or was still confident a man’s insistence would win out over a sex worker’s evidence.  This was his response:

Twitter spats count for very little; what matters is holding abusers to account.  In November 2017, Laura, supported by Wendy Lyon, gave a statement of evidence to the police at Store Street Station in Dublin.  The weight of what had happened troubled her in the years since it happened.  In particular the thought that with no one speaking out, he might have been able to do the same thing to someone else.  With police and papers suddenly interested in exposing abusers, Laura felt that — regardless of the stress it would cause her, with so much else going on — it was time to speak up.  Wendy stayed with her on that day, while Laura gave her statement for over six hours.  Laura was a strong person, almost unimaginably so.  And this took every bit of strength she had.  We waited for something to happen.  And waited.  And waited.  Meanwhile, her attacker went about his life as if nothing happened, because for him, it probably was nothing.  We continued to keep tabs on him, noting how dismissive he was of the Presidents Club dinner wait staff who had been abused.  A subtweet meant for Laura?  Maybe.  A shudder-inducing insight into the mind of a predator?  Definitely. 

And then everything changed, again.  I wish I could say this is the part where the guards kick in a door, cuff the guy, and justice prevails but many readers will already know how this story ends.  It ends with Laura Lee’s sudden death.  It ends with Gardaí closing the case because the main witness is gone.  It ends with a man who preyed on someone he thought would never speak out just…getting away with it.  Now it is over three years since Olaf Tyaransen sexually assaulted Laura Lee in a hotel room, drugged her, beat her black and blue.  For far too long we watched and waited and hoped for something to be done only to be told, now, there will never be justice.  But I am alive.  And I don’t give a shit about legal threats and bluster and the egos of violent men.  Laura would have done the same for any sex worker.  In fact she did: staying on social media all night to make sure a friend who was raped on tour was OK.  Lambasting journalists for how they reported on the trial of Bala Chinda, who murdered sex worker Jessica McGraa.  She was not one to let violence against sex workers by cowardly men be brushed under the rug.  Laura Lee tried, in a world that little cared for our lives and safety, to be an advocate.  She tried to put her abuser behind bars.  She can’t carry that on anymore, and between the indifference of the #MeToo movement to the stories of sex workers and the failure of the police to move forward as soon as they had evidence, perhaps this will go nowhere.  Perhaps I am just pissing in the wind.  But I don’t think I am, and I don’t think Laura would believe I was either.  It matters for people to know her struggle and her pain.  It matters for people to know who the predators are, the ones who bide their time so they can attack women they perceive as vulnerable and sneer about it all later.  Olaf Tyaransen drugged and raped Laura Lee.  He beat her.  And he went on with his life as if nothing happened.  He did it because of who she was, counting on her never being able to tell her side of the story.  She tried to fight the stigma and use the system to her advantage, but now she is gone, and he wins.  Just the way they always did and always do.

Beware this man Olaf Tyaransen, abuser, vile slime in journalist’s clothing.  And never let him do this to anyone ever again.

Laura left behind a teenage daughter on her own; please consider donating to the ongoing fundraiser to help Cat, which runs until the first week of March.

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