Archive for the ‘The Dark Side’ Category

I dazedly chose or hired the companionship of unsavory and insipid types. Regardless of their saltless reputations, I always led with condoms and honesty when it came to my condition.  –  Charlie Sheen

By now you’ve probably all heard that Charlie Sheen is HIV positive, and that in his Today show appearance he basically blamed it on sex workers.  He also claims to have “led with condoms” and denies any IV drug use.  Now, I’ve never seen Mr. Sheen professionally, but as it turns out I know someone who did in ’07.  This is her story, exactly as she told it to me yesterday; I have not changed a single word except to correct a few minor typos.  As you will see, it disagrees with two points of his denial of risky behavior; I have heard rumors of another, even riskier behavior, but unless someone is willing to write a firsthand account of that one I am not at liberty to mention it.  Normally, accounts like this one are outside my ethical bounds, but I’m not going to sit idly by while my sisters are blamed for something that they had nothing to do with.

“He’s a major player.  Don’t screw this up.”

That was the injunction issued to me by the booker of my agency in Los Angeles.  Curiosity piqued, I touched up my lipstick and ran down the stairs to get in my driver’s car.  The first words out of his mouth were, “Don’t you have anything more…revealing?”

Exasperated, I replied, “I can’t even sit down in this dress without starting a riot.  What do you want me to wear, a Band Aid?”  My driver informed me that this particular client was a known connoisseur of adult performers, and my chic little black dress was a bit too conservative for his liking.  I asked why he called our agency in the first place; we were a well respected escort service with a strict ” no adult performers” policy.

“He’s used us before.  He’s got money to burn and he’ll take good care of you.  Just don’t be…yourself.”  My driver soared up the Sherman Oaks side of the Hollywood Hills.  We turned into the Mulholland Estates and the guard cheerfully waved us through the gate.  I groaned, since I never had much luck in this neighborhood.  Something always seemed to go wrong.  A couple of muscular gentleman came to the car and told my driver he couldn’t stay.  My driver clearly expected this, patted me on the head and told me to go make money.

Charlie Sheen July 19, 2007Heart sinking, I walked to the garage with the security guards.  They checked my purse for a weapon.  After I passed that, one of them asked me if I knew who I was going to be seeing.  I replied that this wasn’t my first high profile client and certainly wouldn’t be my last.  He looked at me and started laughing.  I batted my lashes and laughed back.  “Oh, he’ll like you.  I’ll walk you up.”  We started the long trek uphill to the house.  The door opened and I heard a man yelling on the phone.  The security guards told me to have fun, and walked out of the foyer.  I heard a thud, as if something was thrown at the wall, and my client descended down the staircase…and his smile dissolved into one big question mark.

“Hi, I’m Charlie.  Nice to meet you.”  He stepped back and said “I expected you to be a little more…endowed?”

“My agency has a model quality guarantee.  If you don’t like me, the cancellation fee is $150, and I’ll go.  No hard feelings.”

I put my hands on my hips and turned to leave.  “No wait.  Please don’t go.  I just didn’t expect someone so…conservative.  You’re really pretty, I just like porn girls better.”  I asked him if he was sure.  He gave me a bear hug and said “Of course I’m sure, gorgeous.  Let’s go upstairs.”

We walked upstairs into a small bedroom.  I could tell by the smell someone had been smoking some form of narcotic.  Porn was playing on one television,baseball on another.  The smell was getting to me.  He watched my nose twitch.  “It’s crack, and I only do a few hits a night.  I try to be a good boy when I’m working.”  He asked me if I partied.  I replied that it depended on what it was.  He flashed his trademark grin and told me he had literally anything I desired.  I politely asked if we could take care of business first.  He turned and unlocked a drawer that had an astonishing amount of cash in it.  The amount he gave me was basically enough to ensure I would be staying a while.  He bragged that two well known adult stars had seen him last night.  I knew one of them, and I asked why he hadn’t called them back tonight.  “Cause I pay them to disappear, sweetheart.  Now come over here and sit on my face.”

Things took a turn for the awkward a few minutes later when he requested bareback.  I explained as delicately as I could that my agency didn’t allow that, and I personally preferred to use condoms as well.  He took the news in stride, but it was clear the condoms were interfering with things.  We proceeded to engage in other forms of contact.  After he finished, it was clear he didn’t hold it against me.  I cleaned him up, cleaned myself up, and I asked him what his call time was.  “Early!” he laughed.

I asked him if he wanted me to leave, and he gripped my hand and said he really wanted me to stick around longer.  I said that was just fine, and asked if I could party with him.  He located my drug of choice on the table and asked if I smoked it,snorted it or shot it.  I asked for a line.  He said most girls he knew smoked it or shot it, and that his nose was so messed up that he had to smoke most of what he did.  He also told me he had overdosed when he had mainlined years ago, so he only had needles around if someone he called over liked doing something that way.  I asked him if he was scared of someone ODing in his bathroom.  He said he had enough money to hush people up if they did.

His cellphone rang.  “I’m sorry, sweetie.  I’ll be right back after I take this call.”  He went into the other room and I heard him in an argument with a very pissed off woman.  He returned and it was clear he was agitated.  “That woman is going to be the death of me.”  I looked at him quizzically.  “My girlfriend.  She’s jealous of EVERYTHING.  Even my kids.”  I told him I was sorry about the drama.  “This is why I like porn chicks.  They don’t give a shit and they don’t wanna marry you.  It’s just awesome sex and they’re off.”

By now, it was 2 AM.  We dropped some Ecstasy, and he just wanted to hug me.  And he would not shut up….it was irritating and endearing at the same time.  He spoke of his love for women, and how he needed women as much as he needed alcohol, but his 12 step program at least helped him control the alcohol.  That, and something called gabapentin.  He droned on about how “nice girls” were just glorified whores, so dealing with actual whores was a pleasure by comparison.  “The world is better off with girls like you.  You’re an honest fuck.  And you have a pretty pussy.  Get out of this business while you can.”

I’m not sure if he knew what all he was saying.  He was rich and famous and he had the luxury of not making sense.  Behind the bravado, I saw a man who seemed genuinely terrified of being alone, yet also terrified of leaving his house.  Although it was clear he was a volatile individual, he wasn’t necessarily the monster he has been made out to be.  He complied with the rules of my agency, and we had a nice time.  I do think at the time he considered himself indestructible.  As I was leaving, he asked me if I knew any girls I could send him.  He said all he needed was titties and a hole.  I half jokingly told him I wasn’t doing my agency’s job for him.  That made him laugh.  “You are a very smart girl.  Don’t ever change.”

I watched his descent into madness a couple years later, and it saddened me; that wasn’t the man I had seen in 2007.  I do think the shock of his diagnosis sent him into a free fall.  The first stage of grief is denial and I think he genuinely wanted to believe he was fine, and the people he kept company with would be fine as well.  Unfortunately, I don’t think he had any idea of what potentially exposing the women in adult industries to HIV could mean for their careers.  The current stigma against people in the sex industries means that if they contract HIV, they can’t do their jobs.  And if they get caught by police while doing their jobs, they could be arrested under California’s draconian criminal transmission laws.  A felony charge makes it really hard for a former sex worker or adult performer to find a straight job with insurance benefits.  I think it behooves Mr. Sheen to pay for the testing of the sex workers he saw from 2011 to 2014 and if they do test positive, to set up a trust contributing for their medications.

lambskin condomsWhich brings us to the million dollar question:  did Charlie Sheen maliciously expose dozens of sex workers to HIV?  I honestly don’t think so.  I doubt that he knew that the lambskin condoms he preferred can’t prevent HIV transmission.  I also think the antiviral medications he is taking have lowered the virus to an almost undetectable level.  As far as informing people of his status…I wouldn’t want to be a straight celeb saying they’re HIV positive for all the money in the world.  People will sell anything to a tabloid.  Although his allegedly not informing partners that he is HIV positive is wrong, if nobody so far has come up with HIV, how is this the public’s business?  Selling pictures of his medication to the highest bidder was wrong.  And if the person who did so had previously signed a nondisclosure agreement, it’s just as illegal as deliberately exposing someone to HIV.

As for the infamous open letter and the Today show interview…I don’t think writing it was his idea.  His PR team is shitting bricks right now and knows this is the only real defense he will have if he is named as a defendant in any potential lawsuit in the future.  He also has his children to think about.  He could afford to be honest and testify for Heidi Fleiss in 1996, because he wasn’t in the middle of two separate child custody cases.  Right now, he and his team are in damage control mode, so the spin doctors have to take advantage of the stigma against sex workers.  Otherwise their client would be forced to take responsibility for his own actions, which in Hollywood carries even more stigma than sex work does.

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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?”


“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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Equating the temporary, paid provision of sexual services to the “buying and selling of human beings”…only makes sense if you also think paying your hairdresser, landscaper, and barista are forms of slavery.
–  Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Good Fantasy, Bad Reality

I don’t think this is as much a “subculture” as it is a few isolated psychos inspired and encouraged by “sex trafficking” hysteria, and perhaps in some cases even created by it:

In March 2014, Steven Currence gave undercover agents a grand tour of the dungeon hidden inside his Montana home.  The subterranean hellhole contained a heavy wooden cross…The walls were covered in whips, chains, and torture devices.  Currence boasted of blacking out the windows to dash any hopes of escape…One kidnapped woman would sleep in the basement torture chamber, while the other would be chained to his bed—with a chain long enough to reach the bathroom…Currence believed he would soon purchase the women from the agents, who posed as human traffickers…the feds cuffed him two months later when he traveled to Arizona to buy two women at what he believed was a slave auction…he was one of four men nabbed in an FBI sting operation targeting an extreme slice of the human trafficking underworld: people seeking sexual and domestic slaves…The goal was to find any victims who might need to be rescued. “We didn’t find any victims…but the market is definitely there”…

If the market is “definitely there”, why didn’t they find any victims?

License to Rape

Cops raping sex workers is so ubiquitous, non-cop rapists often pose as cops to facilitate the crime:

Gary Mariner, the son of a one-time…police chief, used his dead father’s badge and a gun to intimidate a prostitute in Portland last month into [submitting to rape]…Mariner…picked up the 25-year-old [woman] in his car…and told her, “It’s not (your) lucky day,” as he showed her the…badge…He allegedly told the woman that he had been called back from retirement to work for the Maine State Police as part of a special prostitution unit…

Real People 

The title and lede say it all: “Escorts describe first day at work in Reddit thread that dispels misconceptions about sex work…The vast majority on the thread describe their experiences as positive”.  Naturally, this surprises stupid people despite the fact that women like me have been saying exactly the same thing forever.

Higher Education

An Italian porn actor and director is starting an academy to teach aspiring adult film actors and actresses the tricks of the trade…Rocco Siffredi…will document his training in the reality show, Universita del Porno to air in Italy…Classes will be in session on the set of “Siffredi Hard Academy,” in which the porn veteran will instruct a group of 21 hopefuls on different techniques and tactics on how to be a believeable porn actor on screen…

The Course of a Disease

One can never have too many anti-Swedish model editorials:

…the Nordic approach has been packaged as “progressive” and “woman-friendly”.  However, it is completely untenable on three grounds:  first, the evidence of Sweden’s “success” at stopping prostitution is deeply suspect; second, the dangers to women’s health and well-being are ignored; and third, “gender equality” becomes an imposition on people’s rights, namely, those established through contractual agreements…Prohibitionists have lauded the act’s achievements, claiming that it has reduced prostitution…deterred male clients and changed societal attitudes toward prostitution.  In reality, however, sex workers in Sweden have begun using other means to find clients, and vice versa…Sweden’s claim of “successfully” decreasing the demand for sexual services appears highly unlikely since it is impossible to monitor every transaction or sexual encounter…

Above the Law 

Fake rapist cops like the one in “License to Rape” above are often convicted; real ones usually aren’t:

A South Florida cop accused of raping a woman at gunpoint while on duty was acquitted…after a jury determined she had asked for it and was merely acting out a fantasy by allowing the cop to penetrate her as she bent over the hood of his car.  After all, defense attorneys argued, the woman had posed for a photo back in high school where she bent over the hood of a car with her hands behind her back in a “strikingly similar position” to how…Stephen Maiorino…raped her…it is not clear how the photo was even admitted as evidence…Maiorino [claimed] the sex was consensual.  And his attorneys said that he even gave her his business card, indicating that he wanted to continue having sex with her.  They also said that because he did not bother cleaning up the DNA evidence from his uniform after they had sex – or try to hide the used condom later found at the scene – then it was obviously consensual.  However, the woman denies receiving his business card and said she was afraid for her life…

So Close and Yet So Far

I guess Dick Cady is pretty credible, for what he is:

The veteran journalist who co-authored a book filled with explosive allegations against the University of Louisville men’s basketball program said…that the escort he wrote with is “pretty damn credible.”  Dick Cady, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist based in Indianapolis, insisted that Katina Powell — a Louisville prostitute who claims a former Louisville staff member paid thousands of dollars and gave game tickets to her and other escorts…to provide sexual services to players and recruits — “never tried to back down or amplify or gussy something up…Every time we hit her with a new question or an explanation, she came through…I thought she was pretty damn credible for what she was”…

Dutch Threat

What’s Dutch for “bottleneck effect”?

Sex workers without brothel licenses will soon risk a prison sentence of up to six months…the Act Regulating Prostitution (WRP)…[will] criminalize all sex workers without a license, including independent prostitutes and camgirls/camboys. This is the first time that the Netherlands has criminalized sex workers…Many prostitutes are willing to work legally, but…because municipalities refuse to issue permits to them, more and more sex workers choose to work without a permit, often from their own homes.  The WRP considers these…brothel owners (operators) without a permit and allows them to be punished as such…


Nope, no hate here:

A transgender woman…was attacked by a group of men before being fatally shot…Police are treating the case as a homicide — not a hate crime — though that could change as the investigation continues…[Kiesha] Jenkins was jumped by five to six men, physically assaulted, then shot in the back…

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#555) 

Take a good, hard look at who the “feminists” are in bed with:

The anti-porn activists at Morality in Media, recently rechristened the “National Center on Sexual Exploitation” (NCOSE), are launching a coordinated attack on human-rights organization Amnesty International (AI) for its support of decriminalizing prostitution…It’s also urging supporters to email, tweet at, and otherwise contact AI with the message: No Amnesty for Pimps…In NCOSE’s ideal world, protecting the “human rights or persons in prostitution” would involve throwing them, their employers, and their customers in prison…When not trying to diminish the human rights of sex workers, NCOSE also enjoys chastising the Department of Justice for not enforcing federal obscenity laws more aggressively, accusing shitty erotica of normalizing domestic violence, and calling out the American Library Association as a conduit for sexual exploitation…

Welcome To Our World (#559)

I’m awaiting apologies from those of you who doubted me:

…New York City nail salon owners and employees mobbed The New York Times’ office in protest of the paper’s coverage of their industry…Reporter Sarah Maslin Nir said she wanted to highlight the pervasive worker exploitation she [claimed] took place in the city’s Asian nail salons…New York authorities had been on a crusade since at least year to regulate nail salons more tightly…Nir’s article provided the impetus and public support enabling the city to do just that.  But you know who hasn’t been so psyched about the new worker “protections?”  The people who actually work at nail salons.  Because of citations and new regulations, some salons have been forced to close, costing the women who worked there their jobs.  Because of rules mandating extra pay for overtime work, manicurists saw hours cut back…

Business As Usual (#566)

Rapists sue because their names were revealed, thus warning potential victims:

Three [vice pigs] whose names were made public after prostitution busts at massage parlors are suing the city, county and state.  The [rapists]…claim that data on undercover officers is private and the defendants violated the Minnesota Data Practices Act…The prostitution busts got media attention when they were dismissed…after the judges said the [cops] went too far when they [raped] the [sex workers].  The police department has since suspended its use of undercover details in massage parlors.  The lawsuit says that since the [rapists’] names were disclosed, [they] and their families have received negative comments and have suffered “stress, anxiety, and emotional damage.”  [They] have also been harassed at work and their reputations have been damaged, the lawsuit claims…one of the [rapists] has been shamed because of [his committing rape] and “has been excluded from the ability to practice his religion [because rape is a sin]”…

FYI, the suppressed names of the three rapists are Steven Lecy, Christopher Reiter and Abubakar Muridi.

Where Are the Protests? (#576)

Well, that didn’t take long:

Motorists visiting car washes across North Wales are being “offered sex” by migrant gangs using them as a front for brothels…Such incidents are [claimed] to have occurred at three garages across the region with migrant workers allegedly inviting drivers to “go inside” and see two waiting women.  The head of a task force set up to crack down on human trafficking and modern-day slavery said there was a risk vulnerable people…could be targeted by unscrupulous traffickers who would force them into sex work…

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I knew he was there to kill me.  –  the woman who stopped Neal Falls

lady who took out Neal FallsI’ve written a number of times about “NHI” (“No Humans Involved“), the informal police policy that (in the absence of some sort of public outcry) violence against sex workers is to be ignored and left uninvestigated.  Even a serial killer preying on whores is usually allowed to continue the slaughter unimpeded by police action unless he mistakenly includes an amateur in his spree, and even then you can be sure the cops are going to let everyone know that the reason they’re taking action is to protect the “good” women and not the harlots.  Sometimes, the cops even go as far as to deny that there’s a serial killer in the first place, to cover up for him or to announce more persecution of potential victims, just so everyone knows they’re no friends of dirty whores.  So generally, the killing will continue until the murderer widens his appetites to include amateurs, or the cops catch him for something else (and then pretend it was part of their “investigation”), or he stops on his own, or someone else takes him out.  Remember the serial killer operating in Chillicothe, Ohio?  Well, he was stopped in nearby Charleston, West Virginia, by a woman he tried to add to his tally:

Neal Falls, the man shot to death by a prostitute after he attacked her on Saturday, had a cache of weapons and a list of online escorts inside his vehicle…police…suspect he may have been involved in other unsolved crimes.  “He had a machete, shovel, two axes, a bunch of knives, a double-headed ax, a bulletproof vest, numerous sets of handcuffs, as well as the firearm used to kill him,” [said] Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston, West Virginia, police…”Nearly immediately after he stepped into her apartment, he said ‘live or die’ and a struggle ensued,” Cooper said. “[Falls] laid his gun on a counter so that he could get a firmer grip around the victim’s throat with both his hands and she was able to scoop that weapon up and fire one round, killing Mr. Falls.”  The escort, who has not been identified, was hospitalized with multiple injuries, including broken vertebrae.  Authorities have determined the shooting was a justifiable homicide…

The Daily Dot had more detail:

When Falls began to strangle her, she…reached for a nearby rake.  Falls put down his gun to try and wrestle the rake out of her hands—that’s when she grabbed the gun and shot him.  Falls died from the gunshot wound, and she ran outside to get help…police…found an extensive “kill kit” in the trunk of Falls’s Subaru…[including] knives, a shovel, a machete, several axes, a sledgehammer, a pair of hiking boots covered in dirt, trash bags, and cleaning supplies.  In Falls’s pocket, said police, they found a list of names of future targets:  all sex workers who advertised on Backpage.  Police have not released the names, or the exact number, of women on the list…Falls…previously worked as a security guard in Oregon, and may have been living “off the grid” out of his car…

Besides the murders in Chillicothe, he may have committed four in Las Vegas:

…according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal…Falls…has been linked to the deaths of four young women:  Lindsay Harris, 21, Jodi Brewer, 19, Jessica Foster 21, and Misty Saens, 25…Harris, Brewer and Saens…were found dead near highways.  Foster has yet to be located…

Neal FallsMaybe, or perhaps cops in various parts of the country are just going to try to pin unsolved murders of sex workers on Falls so they don’t have to waste their time on “NHI” crimes; after all, time spent investigating violence against whores is time they can’t spend harassing, raping, robbing or brutalizing us.  One has to have priorities, after all.  But for now, the as-yet-unnamed sex worker is a heroine to her sisters all over the US, and if she reads this I ask that she let us show our gratitude to and solidarity with her.  She’s an inspiration to all of us, and I hope the next sex worker to be threatened by a monster like Falls is able to follow her example and do for herself and the rest of us what the cops can’t and won’t.

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When I published “Empathy” three years ago this month, I was confronted in the comments by the dumbfounding realization that some otherwise-intelligent people do not understand that the protagonist of a story need not be good, morally-upright or even admirable in the author’s eyes; she is merely the person the story follows, not some moral exemplar.  Marilith is a courtesan on an Earth very different from the one we know, who has used her paranormal ability to excel in her profession and climb the social ladder.  This tale takes place three years after the first, and if you haven’t read that one yet I strongly suggest you do so before embarking on this one…but do yourself a favor and skip the comments.  You’ll be glad you did.

decanterMarilith’s guest was ten minutes late, and even the aftereffects of the laudanum could not calm her agitation.  It was not the disruption to her schedule that upset her so; Prince Jamal was her only client scheduled for the day, nor were any set for the next.  The disquiet was at least partly due to the empathic focus she was struggling to maintain in the face of nearer, stronger voices, but the rest of it…

“Mistress, please,” begged her handmaiden; “let me bring you something to calm you.  I have never seen you in such a state.”

“No!” snapped Marilith.  “It’s too late for that, Cynthia; he’s long overdue already, and I’ll need all my willpower for this.  I’ve done all I can do, and now all that remains is to wait.”  As if in punctuation to her sentence, the soft gong which signified a new arrival on the landing stage sounded in the antechamber.  And yet Cynthia hesitated with uncharacteristic inefficiency until her mistress ordered her to go.

The trip to the roof and back was not a long one, yet today it seemed interminable; by the time the Prince was announced, his hostess felt as though she was about to scream.  But luckily for her, the emotional communication enabled by her psychic gift was unidirectional; he had no idea of the turmoil which raged behind her penetrating purple eyes and her soft, enigmatic smile.  “Welcome back, Your Highness.  It has been too long.”

“Lies do not become you, Marilith,” he said, and a wave of panic engulfed her; did he know what she was planning?  How could he have discovered…”You would be just as happy if you never saw me again, except for the fact that you would then be cheated of the ridiculous fee I pay you.”

“Your Highness does me an injustice; surely you don’t believe I could hide such unkind thoughts without wearing them on my visage.”

He laughed, an especially unpleasant laugh even by his standards.  “You must think me a very great fool, woman; even a common whore knows how to disguise her true feelings for the men who pay her, and you are no common whore.”

“As you say, My Lord.  But if you believe this of me, perhaps you should find another courtesan more to your liking.”

He pulled her up against him, and the wave of anger and hatred which engulfed her almost drowned her doubts and fears.  “I would, if there were another fit to wash your feet,” he said in a tone which weirdly mingled resentment with admiration; “besides, you know very well I couldn’t trust anyone else.”

“So you have said, My Lord,” she said, suppressing a shudder as his right hand moved down from her waist, “but I fail to comprehend what makes me especially trustworthy.  I can sense your feelings, not the other way around.”

“You do more than just sense feelings, witch,” he spat; “they become a part of you and overwhelm your own.  I had prepared quite a dossier on you ere I approached you the first time; my advisors feel you would be incapable of violence because your victim’s terror would overwhelm you.”

“That is true, My Lord,” she whispered in his ear, “but I am not the only one here.”

weaponized nailsThough she had experienced it many times, Marilith never failed to be astonished by the incredible silence with which Cynthia could move when necessary.  And though she had been fully apprised of her attendant’s capabilities before she even purchased her, the reality was more terrifying than she could have dreamed.  Two extra pairs of arms shot forth from her gown with the speed of striking cobras; six sets of razor-sharp fingernails glinted like gems for only an instant before they were coated in blood; thirty powerful digits ripped out the princely entrails with the ease and energy of a child scattering shredded paper from the interior of an eagerly-awaited package.  And Marilith was not sure if she would ever stop screaming, much less sleep again.  She drew her ornate dagger and plunged it into her servant’s body over and over and over again; for her part Cynthia quietly accepted the attack, each wound closing instantly as though the blade had been plunged into water rather than flesh.  And when the hysterical girl finally collapsed into wracking sobs and let the blade drop from her nerveless fingers, the dispassionate handmaiden gathered her up as gently as one might handle a sleeping kitten, and bore her toward the bath after stepping through the gore that had until recently been a human being.

Once she had pressed the prepared wine to her mistress’ lips, bathed her tenderly and tucked her exhausted body into bed, Cynthia returned to scrub the carnage from the other room; she was unsurprised to find another man waiting there, surveying the scene with satisfaction.  “So it’s done?” he asked unnecessarily.

“As you see, Your Highness.  My mistress’ plan worked perfectly; she was able to remain focused on your emotions and thereby exclude Prince Jamal’s, at least until I could strike.  The kinsman who so troubled you is no more.”

“Good, very good.  And my other operatives have informed me that all of his precautions have been foiled; he will not return this time.”

“Forgive my boldness, Your Highness, but are you absolutely certain there is no chance my mistress will be implicated in this?”

“None whatever.  Once you physically clean the area with the fluids you have been provided, my people will arrive  before morning to remove the more intangible residues.  If the investigators come here at all – which I doubt – they will find nothing.”

“She has done you a great favor this evening, Mighty One.”

“I am aware of that, Cynthia, and she will be handsomely rewarded as we agreed.”

“You know that she will never be the same again.”

“Indeed she will not; her patent of nobility is already in process, and once that’s done it will be a small matter to negotiate an advantageous marriage for her.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.”  Before she rose from the deep bow, the lifelike image had faded from view.  And as she began the arduous process of cleaning, Cynthia thought to herself that though it might be disrespectful, she was very glad indeed that she was not human.

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That is how we ended up in the church, without knowing how it would all end, without knowing if we would get out dead or alive.  But it was really the last thing that we could do to try and save our skin.  –  Maria de Lourdes

Protest at St. Nizier's 1975Forty years ago today, the sex workers of Lyon, France protested the unrelenting torment the cops inflicted upon them by occupying the Church of St. Nizier.  Despite its bawdy reputation in the English-speaking world, France has never been friendly to whores; beginning in the 16th century the French pioneered many of the laws and tactics used to harass us throughout the world to this day, and the Code Napoleon officially gave the police power to “control” prostitution (with results any regular reader could predict).  The severity of the maltreatment ebbed and flowed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries until the government decided to revenge its humiliation at the hands of the Nazis on the bodies of sex workers, and France became officially “abolitionist” in 1960.

By August of 1973 the cops’ depredations had become so severe a street protest was organized, but it did not end well and the police were only emboldened to make things worse.  Early in 1975 they closed down the hotels de passe, cheap establishments where street workers took their clients, then proceeded to harry them with fines; the department decreed that each girl was to receive two or three fines per day, but because multiple cops were involved it could sometimes be five or more.  If a woman went to pay her fines, she was intentionally delayed in the police station for several hours so she would lose most of her night; if she didn’t pay she would be arrested and jailed, and her children abducted by the state if there were no relatives to take them.  Meanwhile, the tax department would present them with huge bills assuming numbers of clients that would fit comfortably in the masturbatory fantasies of “sex trafficking” fetishists.

Something had to give, and on June 2nd two sex workers named Ulla and Barbara led a group of 100 prostitutes to occupy a church in hopes of calling attention to their plight.  They had an ally in Father Louis Blanc, who secured the cooperation of several other priests; they planned to occupy the Church of St.Bonaventure, but the police found out and began to prepare for mass arrests of the protesters as they arrived.  Fortunately, Ulla was tipped off in time and diverted the protesters to St. Nizier instead; volunteers waited inside to direct each arrival out through the side doors while the cops waited outside in their cars, thinking they would wait until they could get a good crop of victims before springing their trap.  Father Blanc remembers, “The police officers looked as if they were having fun in their cars.  But after a while, they were having less fun because…’what is happening?’ We have disappeared!  In the meantime the prostitutes have entered the Church of St. Nizier, where there are no police.”  The priest at St. Nizier was Father Béal, and with his help over 100 whores were able to congregate there before the cops realized where they had gone.

By the evening of June 3rd, the news of the protest had spread across France, and over the next few days to other countries as well.  Sex workers all over France began to occupy other churches; in Paris 200 whores occupied the Chapel of Saint Bernard.  The media interviewed Ulla and other sex workers, allowing them to air their grievances for all to hear and they issued a “Letter to the People of Lyon” which read, in part,

…we haven’t taken up prostitution because we are depraved.  Prostitution is the only means we have found to deal with the problems of life…People regard us as “dirty” or “abnormal” women, but at the same time they say we are needed…Prostitution is not forbidden under French law and theoretically we are citizens like everyone else.  But because society is ashamed of the fact that it needs us, it treats us as criminals, people who can be subjected to the full repressive might of the police…

Most feminists of 1975 still actually supported women’s choices, and figures like Simone de Beauvoir spoke up for the sex workers; other activists protested outside the church in a show of solidarity. Their demands were simple; as stated in a pamphlet they circulated outside, “We will only leave the church once you have given us the guarantee that you will stop throwing us in jail each time you think there is a repeat offense.  Our children do not want their mothers to go to jail.”  The protesters told the media they wished to speak to Madame Giroud, then State Secretary for Women, but before the request could even be officially made Giroud refused, claiming this was not a women’s issue at all but rather the responsibility of the Minister of Interior; the latter politician, Michel Poniatowski, decided to reply with violence, and at 5 AM on June 10th ordered the police to remove the protesters from all of the churches.

In Paris and some other places, the removal was accomplished with the usual police tactics of smashing down doors and beating women with truncheons, but at St. Nizier they decided to use a trick.  A cop called Father Béal pretending to be a reporter who wanted to speak to Ulla, and when the church door was unlocked to admit the priest with his fake message, armed cops sprang from hiding; they pushed him aside and swarmed into the building 120 strong, accompanied by 20 dogs and equipped with tear gas.  Most of the women were simply ordered out, but Ulla and Barbara were beaten so severely they had to be hospitalized.  Father Béal lodged a formal protest against the violation of the ancient principle of asylum, but Poniatowski replied that police could enter anywhere when “public order” was disturbed, citing a law from 1905 in support of his actions.

Hooking vans in LyonBut despite the government’s refusal to peacefully grant the demands, officials must have been anxious to avoid similar embarrassment in the future; the harassment stopped, the cops with the highest numbers of sex worker arrests were reassigned to other duties, and the ludicrous tax bills no longer appeared.  By 1994 the culture had shifted sufficiently for “pimping” to be defined more narrowly, thus ending for a time the harassment of partners, roommates, adult children, etc with “avails” charges.  Of course, that didn’t last long, and regular readers have seen the tide once again turn toward repression in the form of the “Swedish model“, laws against “looking like a whore” and even repeated parking fines for the vans from which most street workers now operate.  But the protesters and their successors have not passively watched all this happen:

…the whores began holding regular meetings and soon formed the French Collective of Prostitutes, on which the English Collective of Prostitutes was later modeled.  Women in a number of other countries were also inspired to form groups, and a number of these came together with Margo St. James’ COYOTE to form the International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR), the organization whose work and example helped to win prostitution law reform in a number of European countries and provided an example which inspired similar campaigns in many other parts of the world.  In a way, the modern sex worker rights movement was born on that June 2nd in Lyon, so we celebrate it now as International Whores’ Day.

I’ve written about this occasion before, but the greater detail in today’s column was made possible by a French-language documentary being broadcast today on both Radio France and Radio Belgium; it was produced by Australian sex worker rights activist Eurydice Aroney, who called it to my attention about six weeks ago and reminded me of it again recently.  You can listen to the show at the link above, and Eurydice kindly provided me with this English translation of the transcript.  She and I both think it’s very important that sex workers know about the history of our movement; please help us accomplish that goal by publicizing the documentary and this column on social media!

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Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
My hatred.

–  Gwendolyn Bennett

Today is the twentieth anniversary of an event I’ve alluded to often and described once, and though I did say I was going to write about it again today, I have changed my mind.  Perhaps I should’ve realized this would happen; as I wrote in the last-linked column,

By the time it was over, I felt as though my psyche had received the equivalent of a sustained beating with a wide assortment of blunt instruments; it took me years to recover from the accumulated stress, and I was still subject to panic attacks (often provoked by unpredictable stimuli) until about 2003.  Even to this day I dread being alone with my own thoughts unless I have something like writing or a book to focus on; when unoccupied by work, reading or conversation my brain is wont to start dwelling upon things best left shut up in mysterious boxes under my mental stairs…

I don’t often have panic attacks any more; not from flashbacks to the Year of Disaster, anyhow, and I’ve learned to contain them well enough that only people very close to me can tell something’s wrong.  But though my intellect says it’s ridiculous to let a specific day on the calendar affect me to that degree (no matter what else is going on in my life), I woke up in a depressive, uneasy mood Monday morning, and it took Jae hours to get me out of it; I suppose next Memorial Day will be the same, as it has been for the last 20 years.  I still prefer to avoid thinking or talking about that part of my life even when it isn’t the last week of May, so it probably won’t surprise you when I tell you that even though I had the opportunity to write this essay earlier in the week I kept putting it off and doing other things instead.  As of this writing posting time is only six hours away, and I can’t procrastinate any more…but neither do I have to punish myself further by dwelling upon awful memories.  I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the violent execution of the last pathetic vestiges of my faith in any kind of government actor, but creating more tragedy porn won’t serve any constructive purpose.  As much as it’s humanly possible, I’d rather leave those memories to howl in their crates and never give them the satisfaction of knowing with certainty that I can hear them quite as well as if I were sitting right on top of them.

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