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Archive for the ‘The Dark Side’ Category

The fatality rate of sex workers is more than twice the rate of the most fatal “legitimate” job on the books (logging), but from what I can find, the majority of fatalities are concentrated among street workers.  A lot of the things that make street work dangerous are the same things that make it dangerous to be a taxi driver:  working at night, working alone, handling cash, etc.  But sex workers are murdered at a rate ten times higher than taxi drivers, and I think it’s because of criminalization.  Street workers avoid arrest by getting off the street as quickly as possible.  They have no time to screen, very little time to negotiate, and next to no control over their environment once they get into the car, and can’t even go to the police if anything happens.  But the majority of sex workers are “indoor” workers, and their fatality rate is much lower than street workers.  Part of it is that they’re not forced to work at night or in high crime areas, but I think it’s also important that they avoid arrest by screening and just being extremely cautious in general.  Do you think that would change if sex work was legalized?  Without the threat of arrest to keep escorts cautious, would escorting become a more dangerous profession?

Fox in the HenhouseThe murder rate for street workers is not really as high as these studies claim; they’re based in the assumption that the sex worker population can be accurately estimated, which is a mighty stretch indeed.  It is extremely likely that the total population is dramatically undercounted in these studies, but nobody cares because they want the sex work murder rate to come out much higher than it really is to provide a pretext for banning it.

That having been said, the murder rate for outdoor workers is still outrageously high, largely for the reasons you surmise but also for the fact that violent men purposefully seek out sex workers because, as Robert Pickton pointed out, nobody notices or cares when they vanish.  That simply isn’t true for indoor workers, who tend to have better social networks; their death or disappearance would be noticed just as quickly as any other woman’s.  While it’s true that escorts are forced to be even more careful because of criminalization, that vigilance all goes toward the organized predators who inflict the lion’s share of violence on sex workers: the police.  So yes, removing criminalization might make escorts less careful…but they wouldn’t need to be so cautious because the most dangerous and numerous predators would also be gone.  Under decriminalization, violence against sex workers is much lower than even in legalized regimes, and much lower than under criminalization, a system in which the foxes are set to guard the henhouse, and nobody notices or cares how many chickens they satisfy their appetites upon.

(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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This is the curse of our age, even the strangest aberrations are no cure for boredom.  –  Stendahl

Nearly everything that had ever gone wrong in Ned’s life was due to the fact that he was so easily bored.  He rarely finished a book or continued watching a television series past the third or fourth episode; whenever he went out to eat he preferred to go to different places each time; he never kept a car for more than a year.  Even wives and girlfriends were replaced as soon as Ned began to tire of them, and eventually he couldn’t even be bothered with relationships any more.  So it was perhaps inevitable that he start hiring escorts.

clonemaidensAt first, Ned felt that he’d never grow bored with “the hobby”; he could see as many beautiful women as he liked, as often as he liked, without any major effort at all.  He figured if he never repeated a girl he would find it exciting for many years.  Eventually, though, the women all began to blend together in his mind, and one seemed like another.  For a while he sought out the quirkiest, least-conventional providers he could; the more uneven their reviews, the more the tattoos and piercings, the more outrageous their drama, the more he liked them.  Then they, too, began to fill him with ennui, and he moved on to fetish providers, dominatrices and every other kinky type he could find.  Ned’s sexual orientation was basically vanilla, though, so that couldn’t last long; he just couldn’t justify spending so much money on women who wouldn’t even spread their legs for him.  Then he tried street girls and amateurish-seeming Backpage denizens; they soon became just as blah as all the others.  Aside from the occasional robbery attempt, freakout or other surprise, whores in general simply weren’t interesting to him any longer.

It was the paying that created the boredom, he figured; he knew that as long as he paid her fee, any prostitute he hired would put out.  There just wasn’t any unpredictability in it, and few surprises, and since being able to predict what will happen next is the very essence of boredom, Ned decided paying to play was no longer acceptable to him.  Picking up regular women was a lot more fun; he was never sure what combination of smooth talk, presents, alcohol, drugs, lies or outright coercion would work to get any of them in bed, nor what would happen when he got them there.  And if he was really lucky, something unpredictable or even dangerous night happen, thereby providing the thrills he craved.

So it was that one night, Ned found himself in a crappy dive in a strange city, hunting his usual game; he had become quite practiced at sizing up his quarry, and so he was deeply intrigued when a woman he couldn’t quite read nonetheless succumbed to his charms and invited him back to her place.  On the way there, the conversation turned to the opposite sex, and Ned (who, truth be told, had imbibed more than was strictly prudent) blurted out how bored he was with women in general:  “They’re so damned predictable, all of ’em the same.  Now you, see, you’re different; you’ve clearly got class, yet you were in that low-class place.  You’re too smart to fall for any lines and too beautiful to go for a guy like me, yet here we are together.  Other women rarely surprise me, but you?  You’re full of surprises.”

“So you like surprises?” she asked quietly, her voice almost drowned out by the hiss of the rain and the blop-blop-blop-blop of the windshield wipers.

“Oh, yeah, I mean what’s life without surprises?  I even like the unpleasant ones in a way, because at least they alleviate the same-old same-old.”

“Yes, I understand.  Well, I’m glad you find me surprising; I think I can promise you at least one more big surprise tonight.”

“Now you’ve got me even more curious.  Care to give me a hint?”

“We’re here; I’ll show you in a few minutes.”  The house was another surprise; it wasn’t quite a mansion but it was still fairly large, and situated on a rather expansive piece of property for being so close to town.  The garage was under the house, and she took his wet things before they even went in; when he turned to go up the stairs she stopped him and pointed instead to another door on the same level.  “I want to show you my playroom.”

bourbonNed felt a bit disappointed; her playroom?  Probably a kink dungeon, in other words.  Ah, well, might as well go through with it, he thought; he was already here, and at least it hadn’t cost him anything.  It had been a while since he’d done anything like this, and maybe she had an interesting twist on it.  Besides, she was offering him a glass of high-quality bourbon from what appeared to be a very well-stocked bar, and that made up for at least a little disappointment.

“When you’re ready, we can go in,” she said with a quiet smile.

“No time like the present.”

“Oh, good, I was hoping you’d say that.  Close your eyes and let me lead you in, and don’t open them until I tell you to, OK?”

“Sure, baby, whatever you say.”

He did sneak a peek, but it hardly mattered; the room she had led him into was pitch-black.  But it was only a moment before she said, “Open your eyes,” and flicked on the light.  The place wasn’t quite what Ned expected; it looked less like a sex den and more like an abattoir, replete with stainless-steel surfaces and bloody knives, and a partially-butchered carcass that Ned did not like the look of at all.

The last word he ever heard was, “Surprise!”

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.  –  Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

red umbrella, rainy streetMost sex worker gatherings are either celebratory (such as our conventions and June 2nd events) or vehement (such as our protests and March 3rd events); many partake of both.  But on this one day a year they are more solemn, for it is the day we honor our dead.  Whether we would like to or not it is something we must do, because in places which would prefer to pretend we don’t exist, or places (like the US) where our very existence is criminalized, there is no one else to do it; were whores to fail to remember our dead, they would be forgotten entirely…and we refuse to let that happen.  Some prohibitionists say we bring violence upon ourselves by our choice to live outside of the sexual restrictions that repressive cultural norms have imposed on women for the past several millennia; others try to rob us of our agency, claiming that the violence comes from imaginary “pimps” and demonized clients.  But the truth these would-be social engineers don’t want you to know is that the majority of violence against whores is inflicted by the police, either with the blessings of the state (in the name of “fighting prostitution” or “rescuing victims”) or in the shadow created by the state’s definition of harlots as creatures outside the bounds of humane treatment.  The state, Western religions, and carceral “feminists” teach that a woman who has sex for practical reasons rather than emotional ones is robbed of her “purity”, and that an “impure” woman would be better off dead.  Furthermore, since they only value women for our sexual characteristics, they teach that a woman who sells sex “sells her body” or even “sells herself”; a person without a body is a ghost, and a person without a self is nothing at all.  Given these beliefs, is it any wonder those who adhere to them think dead hookers are of no great import?  As far as they’re concerned we were dead already, or worse than dead.  And if we are, is it any surprise that violent, weak-minded thugs in or out of uniform believe they can rape, rob, brutalize or even kill us with impunity?

Exactly one month ago tonight, I sat in a room with three of my sisters; we ate together, talked about our lives, swapped war stories, laughed and hugged and shared a kind of intimacy I’ve never felt with any group of amateur women.  That intimacy was itself one of the topics of conversation, and we understood that one of the reasons for its existence is that, in the eyes of the state, we are all outlaws – career criminals – fallen women whom the state has to use violence to cage lest we infect others with our dangerous notions about freedom, independence and self-ownership.  That was a night of celebration and joy, but I wish that tonight I could be with that same group again to mourn others who were not as fortunate in escaping doom as we have been.  Just as nobody else can understand our bonds of camaraderie in life, so too can they not understand how we can care so deeply for departed sisters we never met while they were still alive.  The answer to both is the same: we must love and care for each other so, because none of the “good”, “righteous”, “upstanding” members of “law-abiding” society will.

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Given that large numbers of prostitutes operate independently without panderers, it would be difficult to characterize prostitution as inherently rooted in subjugation.  –  Gail Heriot

Think of the Children! Jaqueline Laurent-Auger

The half-life of sex radiation must be over 40 years:

…[73-year-old] Jaqueline Laurent-Auger was a teacher at the Montreal private school, Le Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf…but…the school [fired] her [because]…as a young actress…in France, she starred in a handful of erotic films…[including] Le Journal intime d’une nymphomane (1973) and Dany la ravageuse (1972).  In a statement, school officials maintain that “We’re not talking about paintings or sculptures of naked bodies produced with artistry and aesthetics in mind.  There are erotic scenes destined for an adult audience…”

Dirty Whores

The headline makes the contagion sound voluntary and evokes the “dirty whore” myth:  “…a [Liberian] sex worker…suffering from Ebola…passed the deadly disease to [Floson Louise]…who unknowingly spread it to seven other soldiers…the army barracks are being decongested to ease the spread of the disease…

Rooted in Racism

I’m really pleased to see black intellectuals writing about this:

…the movement against “modern-day slavery” deploys non-racial language to…[solidify] the existing racial regime…and…is inordinately preoccupied with women’s sexual victimization…the focus on white women…working in commercial sex recalls the…late nineteenth and early twentieth century…[panic over] the “white slave trade”…the moral authority that anti-slavery mobilizes today partly stems from the memory of black liberation that it implicitly draws upon—all the while explicitly distancing itself from black historical struggle…

Surplus Women

[Darren Vann of Gary, Indiana]…may be a serial killer who has killed…as far back as 20 years ago…Vann…was arrested…[for the murder of] Afrika Hardy…[after she] did not return from [an]  appointment [with Vann, a friend]…went to track her down and found her dead from strangulation.  Once in custody Vann…admitted…Hardy’s murder and led police to the bodies of six other women, all in abandoned houses…[officials were] unable to say whether the other victims were sex workers…

Not an Addiction (TW3 #6)

Since when do “scientists” treat patients?

Scientists have treated…the first patient with internet addiction disorder brought on by overuse of Google Glass.  The man had been using the technology for around 18 hours a day – removing it only to sleep and wash – and complained of feeling irritable and argumentative without [it]…he had also begun experiencing his dreams as if viewed through [its] small grey window.  The existence of internet addiction disorder…is hotly debated among psychiatrists.  It was not included as a clinical diagnosis in the 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

It is not “hotly debated”; OCD is not “addiction”, no matter how much money-hungry scammers want to rebrand it as such.

Above the Law 

A Birmingham [Alabama] police officer arrested earlier this month on child sex abuse charges is now charged with rape of an adult woman.  Joshua Herbinger…was not in any kind of…relationship with the [victim]…In the earlier case…Herbinger was charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old…

Shift in the Wind

One of the members of the US government Commission on Civil Rights openly criticized “sex trafficking” hysteria in a dissent with the Commission’s predetermined rubber-stamp “findings”, and may have cited yours truly in it:

…terms like “sex trafficking”…obscure more than they enlighten, because there is little agreement on what they mean…claims that the Super Bowl is a magnet for sex traffickers appear to be more myth than fact…In the late 19thcentury, Great Britain was also swept by a wave of hysteria over “white slavery“.  In time, the panic spread to the United States…the Heriot dissent decries the tendency to view the complexities of so-called “international labor trafficking” as something inherently sinister…There is plenty of opportunity for fraudulent or coercive behavior in these transactions.  But there is also opportunity for gain by the most vulnerable of the world’s people, trapped in poverty…

Bottleneck

Why 90% of whores prefer to work illegally than submit to licensing:

…Dancers and managers at a Washington state strip club are…suing to stop their county from releasing their names, photos, and other identifying information to a man who has filed a public records request…because strippers in most areas of Washington must obtain an “entertainer’s license”, their identities are a matter of public record…it’s entirely likely [David A. Van Vleet]…is a crazy stalker or an anti-sex nutjob.  Maybe both…it’s hard to imagine many non-nefarious reasons for requesting personal information on a wide swath of individuals in a sensitive job…

Capricious Lusts (TW3 #37)

M.C. Nanaiah , chairman of the [Indian] expert committee to suggest measures for safety of women and children has favoured a wider discussion on legalisation of prostitution…to prevent rapes…

That Old Black Magic

The “Juju sex slaves” myth just keeps on going like a zombie:

Juju “magic” may seem strange, mythical and other-worldly but it is a problem that is all too real when it comes to the sex trafficking of women from Nigeria…Trafficking expert Siddharth Kara from Harvard University said:  “[Juju] exerts a kind of control that’s so much more potent than chains or locking someone up.  It’s control of the spirit which is far more powerful and insidious”…

Westerners have our own Juju faith in self-declared “experts” like Kara, a charlatan whose degree of ignorance is astonishing even in a field dominated by charlatans.Barry Freundel

Buried Truth 

One of the nation’s most respected rabbis…[is] accused of placing a camera in the women’s…area of a sacred bath…Barry Freundel is a…leader in the Modern Orthodox movement…with controversial opinions on everything from abortion to homosexuality.  He…was known to take a strict position on morality, [saying]…just weeks ago:  “The lack of sexual morality…pervades this society…Pornography and its accessibility is wrecking marriages”…

Scapegoats (TW3 #49)

Daily Beast writer (no giggling, now) says Denmark doesn’t have enough reasons to lock people up yet:

…A new law on the table in Denmark proposes to make sex with animals…illegal.  The Danish law currently states that humans can have sex with animals as long as the animal doesn’t suffer…[but] how would one know if an animal enjoyed human sex?…If the law passes…only Finland, Hungary and Sweden will remain lawless…[the bill’s sponsor] is…concerned that…Denmark…could become the [Mecca] of animal sex tourism…

I’m not sure what’s sillier, the writer’s conflation of “doesn’t suffer” with “enjoy” or her idea that “human sex” is fundamentally different from other mammals’ copulation.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #318)

How many moronic prohibitionist plays can the market bear?

Tony-award winning playwright…Sarah Jones…has been publicly “workshopping” her newest one woman show, entitled Sell/Buy/Date…The play is really one insult after another…Everybody was a “prostituted woman” except for a Russian male pimp who self-described as a sex worker.  And the sex worker rights activists are caricatured as dimwitted and undereducated supporters of Sarah Palin…Jones seems to be under the impression that the sex worker movement is funded by big corporate interests…Jones’ monologues [are set in an imaginary future dystopia] where…prostitution could not possibly exist…emergency medical treatment will be necessary to cure male porn addicts…However, magically, there will be a “re-sensititization” of men by forcing them to watch Thelma and Louise

Cops and Condoms (TW3 #330)

a 30-year-old female sex worker [has been sent] to prison for at least nine years under Germany’s “preventive detention” law, because she has shown a pattern of not disclosing to clients that she was living with HIV before they chose to have condomless sex with her…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #337)

Sex workers in Northern Ireland are overwhelmingly opposed to…a law that could criminalise those who pay for prostitutes…only 2%…are in favour of the so-called “Swedish model”…61%…thought [the]…law…would make them less safe.  And…only 16% of…clients…said such a law would make them stop seeking to pay for sex…

Unfortunately, facts don’t concern politicians.

Damned If You Don’t (TW3 #343)

Charles CouchA man arrested in a police operation to harass and jail gay men was not only abused and threatened:  cops also stole his property, trashed his reputation and seriously jeopardized his career.  “Charles S. Couch…is suing the city [of Manhattan Beach, California]…Chief Eve Irvine and five police detectives, seeking $5 million in damages for mental distress, aggravation and loss of work.  He is being represented by civil and gay rights attorney Bruce W. Nickerson, who specializes in litigation surrounding police sting operations…

Rhinoceros (TW3 #403)

It turns out COAST is even sleazier than I thought:

…The majority of the board members of COAST’s backing group, the Association of Club Entrepreneurs (ACE), have been sued by their own employees for violations of labor law including wage theft, intimidation, charging debt-inducing illegal fees, and even sexual harassment…one of COAST’s co-founders, Michael Ocello, got involved in anti-trafficking efforts after the Illinois club he owned was raided by federal agents…

The Missing Word

The ridiculous claim that 42% of all UK sex workers are male derives from a bad study which makes two false assumptions: that each sex worker takes out one and only one ad at a time, and that all sex workers use all advertising platforms equally.  But that’s not the interesting thing about this article; it’s the fact that when men are the subject, agency is not denied and the word “trafficking” is nowhere to be found.

Property of the State

Women’s advocacy and drug-policy reform organizations are calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “publicly renounce” enhanced criminal penalties for pregnant women.  It’s an issue that’s been gaining more attention since the July…conviction of Lacey Weld…[who] was pregnant at the time she made (and used) meth…[and] received an extra six years of prison time…Many object to charging a pregnant meth user with “child endangerment” on the grounds that an embryo or fetus is not yet a “child”.  But we also…[know] that heavy drinking and poor nutrition are much more dangerous to developing fetuses than exposure to meth…

The Roof Caves In

The Somaly Mam Foundation…shuttered its entire operation…and urged its followers to support other anti-trafficking groups…The SMF website on Saturday appeared to be stripped of all its content except for the announcement on its homepage…

Of course, the same bunch have already started a new “rescue” scam.

If Men Were Angels

A man who claims he can “cure” gay people…raped a teenage boy and threatened to kill him with his “warlock powers” if he told.  Kentucky police have arrested…youth pastor Rex Allen Murphy…the 16-year-old [victim said Murphy]…told him…that by brushing his skin or shaking his hand…he could tell his sins…Murphy reportedly asserted he thought he would be able to help the victim with his “battle with homosexuality because he, too, had experimented with homosexuality”…

Schadenfreude (TW3 #434) 

Five Women in Whitechapel (TW3 #437) 

It was supposed to have been the definitive piece of scientific evidence that finally exposed the true identify of Jack the Ripper…However, the scientist who carried out the DNA analysis has apparently made a fundamental error that fatally undermines his case…it would mean his calculations were wrong and that virtually anyone could have left the DNA that he insisted came from the Ripper’s victim…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (TW3 #440)

following the mass eviction of over 1,449 prostitutes from…Dolly…it would appear that Papua has become a destination of choice among a small portion of the evictees…Papua is by far the richest province in Indonesia in terms of natural resources, boasting some of the largest gold, silver, copper and timber reserves on earth…nouveau riche mining capital has ensured that sex workers in Papua are among the highest paid in Indonesia…

The Face of Trafficking

I’m going to use this subtitle for stories refuting the myth of the evil client:

A woman who was lured to Dubai by promises of a job [in a beauty salon] but was then forced into prostitution was rescued by her first customer when she burst into tears and told him her story…the victim [said]…“He…booked me a ticket back to Morocco and even drove me to the airport”…she was not allowed to leave the country because…her employment contract had not been cancelled, so she headed to airport police and told them the whole story…

There was an earlier example here.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on October 12th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

The Black CatAs befits a girl who was born on Halloween night, I’m a big fan of horror films, horror stories, horror TV shows, horror comics, horror poems and just about anything macabre and creepy.  I’ve written about horror fiction on my blog more than a few times, especially (though by no means exclusively) in October, which is my favorite month in part because it’s Halloween season.  But this is not merely a deviation from my usual topic; in fact, as I explained in “Eros and Phobos”, fear and sex are inextricably intertwined:

…the trappings of BDSM would be equally at home in a gothic horror setting, the rape fantasy is as popular as ever and the lurid fantasies of “sex trafficking” fetishists can be found in mainstream news outlets every day, forced up from the collective unconscious by the pressure of the return to Victorian levels of prudery.  Nor does one always have to look outward to find the connection; I’m sure many of my readers have realized that the things that sexually excite them most are often related to things that frighten them.  For example, some of you may recall my mentioning that I have a phobia of being trapped (including in traffic jams), and I think even the veriest psychological amateur could recognize that I have a tremendous aversion to authority.  Yet at the same time, I’m turned on by bondage and themes of dominance and submission

I hardly think it’s necessary to point out that when an individual tries to suppress sexual desires, they usually pop out somewhere else; the same thing is true of society as a whole.  The neo-Victorians who now dominate our culture are so afraid of sex they’re trying to completely neuter and domesticate it:

They imagine that engaging in sex for the “wrong” reasons, or without the benediction of elaborate rituals of consent, or with people separated from one another by more than a very few years of age, is terribly harmful.  They believe that merely taking pictures of the taboo act creates a kind of Gorgonic icon which drives its viewers mad, and that the mere existence of such images harms women and children who are not even in close proximity to it.  And they fervently assert that it is so incredibly dangerous to the sacred “innocence” of “children” (a term which refers not to true children, but to a ritual category which actually includes some adults), for strangers to even imagine sexual contact with them causes such tremendous harm that those who indulge in these Forbidden Thoughts deserve penalties greater than those for violent assault, followed by lifelong social ostracism

But this only results in the suppressed desires popping out somewhere else.  As I explained in “Eros and Phobos”, horror fiction is one of those points of eruption; it’s a “safe” way to way to deal with feelings that one is afraid to admit to, a way to separate the taboo “dirty”, “bad”, violent or otherwise forbidden aspects of sex from wedding-cake images of romantic love and Utopian talk of mutual pleasure and “enthusiastic consent”.  The more rigid the social demands for 100% clear, legally-provable consent, the more rape fantasies we should expect to see.  The more society insists that the only acceptable sex is between age-peers, the more Lolita imagery will appear.  The more loudly “thought leaders” insist that love and mutual pleasure are the only acceptable reasons for sex, the more attention will be paid to whores.  And the more fixated conformists are on marriage and monogamy, the higher the number of clients the harlots strolling down the streets of their imaginations must have.

Given the draconian sexual regime our increasingly-repressive culture has imposed by use of both violence and shame, we should expect to see a great deal of horror fiction in which very young girls are abducted, raped, enslaved as prostitutes and forced to see exorbitant numbers of men.  And so we do; the lurid, sensationalized tragedy porn narratives that make up the body of “sex trafficking” mythology are nothing more than Gothic horror tales that opportunists pretend are real.  But do the members of the general public actually believe these stories, or are they just outlets for psychosexual tension accepted with the same mixture of credulity and doubt with which our ancestors greeted the spooky tales told around campfires?  It has been pointed out that if anyone actually believed that one in five young women on campuses were raped, nobody would ever send their daughters to coed universities; similarly, if anyone actually accepted the claim that “Young ladies are being grabbed off bus stops and forced into prostitution”, we’d be seeing a constant parade of abductees’ pictures on the news and demands for armed guards at bus stops.  Perhaps one of the reasons for the popularity of such folklore is that on some level people know it isn’t real (even if they consciously deny it); just as the old tales shared certain motifs and were repeated in a ritualized fashion that branded them as fabulous, so do these modern legends.  Perhaps the “sex trafficking” hysteria is at its heart nothing more than a succession of horror plays, sequels to (or remakes of) those in the very popular “Satanic Panic” series of the 1980s and ‘90s, and like them serving as “safe” outlets for anxieties caused by the onerous puritanism of modern Anglo-American culture.  “Safe”, that is, for the audience; in this horror drama the actors, unlike those in Hammer films or Grand Guignol theater, are both involuntary and unpaid.  And as long as this panic goes on they will be forced, like the imaginary sex slaves of the narrative, to play out the scripts drawn from their captors’ twisted psyches at the cost of their own freedom, happiness and lives.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 14th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work.  The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.  “Let Me Help” discusses the first two factors, but I recently discovered a fine example of the third:  a situation of genuine coercion which nonetheless runs counter to many “trafficking” claims.

…Pardip Singh [of Indianapolis, Indiana]…was convicted…of promotion of human trafficking, criminal confinement, intimidation, battery and domestic battery.  On May 11, 2012, Singh called several men and told them that for $500 they could come to his…apartment and have sex with a “teacher’s daughter from India”…The first potential client to show up learned that the victim was Singh’s wife and witnessed Singh hit her…that man “told Singh he should not treat his wife that way and then left”…Just after midnight on May 12, 2012…police…responded to a domestic disturbance at the couple’s apartment…the victim, “visibly shaken and crying,” told the officer she needed help…

Pardip SinghRight from the start, the true story belies the familiar “trafficking” porn.  Singh is clearly no slick, mastermind pimp with insidious hypnotic powers, but a crude bully.  He didn’t have a dozen slave-captives confined in dog kennels or controlled via “Stockholm syndrome” or magical mind-control philter, but one wife that he attempted to control through garden-variety brutality.  He didn’t advertise her on Backpage or any other site used by sex workers, but by contacting people personally.  Though the rescue industry’s professional victims entrance their salivating audiences with tales of daily parades of dozens of callous, uncaring men oblivious to their plight, the very first man who answered Singh’s advert was disgusted by what he found and refused to participate.  And while those same prohibitionist shills claim to have been successfully held captive for years, Singh’s wife escaped the very next day after he started trying to “traffic” her.

…Court documents describe a devastating chain of events that began March 13, 2006, when the victim became Singh’s wife in an arranged marriage in their native India…Singh was living in the United States but traveled to India for the marriage…After the wedding, he returned to the United States while his new wife stayed in India to attend college.  In 2012, after obtaining a nursing degree, the victim moved to the United States to live with Singh in New Jersey…Within a few weeks, Singh began physically abusing [her]…Singh was angry that the woman’s family did not send the couple more money [so he] took her to Atlantic City to try to get her a job in a strip club…which he believed would generate a more immediate windfall.  Singh would not allow the woman to speak with her parents except when he was within earshot…and regularly hit and abused her.  During one week when Singh worked as a semi truck driver…he forced [her] to remain in the back of the truck cab during a long interstate trip.  At stops, he would get into the back…and force her to have sex with him…The events in Indianapolis occurred about a week later…

The conventional narrative tells us that huge cartels of slick international gangsters abduct teen girls by the tens of thousands and reap vast profits without detection, but what do we see here instead?  A greedy, pathetic wife-beater who tricked a grown woman (and university graduate) via a venerable social institution.  This sort of “pimp” is much closer to the norm than the racist stereotype in clownish attire, yet I don’t see anyone screaming for the criminalization of marriage.  Prohibitionists are fond of saying that sex workers “believe pimps are their boyfriends” because they can’t face the uncomfortable truth that neither emotional attachment nor a license from the state is a guarantee against emotional or economic exploitation in a relationship, and that the main difference between a “pimp” and a “sex trafficking” fetishist’s own abusive spouse is the label. tractor-trailer

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It is an obnoxious and unacceptable conceit, a form of abuse, to deny sex workers their agency.  –  Graham Scrambler

Think of the Children! buttle opener

Sex rays are so insidious they can even radiate from pieces of plastic via the principle of sympathetic magic:

A week after Mark Gregory was elected chairman of the Williamson County school board, an online petition was launched  …demanding [he] step down from the post because of his role in creating the ButtleOpener, a novelty bottle opener shaped like a female rear end…

The Red Umbrella

Matthew Carney, 18, walked with [a sex worker] to a secluded area…after paying her…But as soon as they were alone Carney…repeatedly [punched] and [kicked] her in the head, causing severe injuries to her face.  He then walked off with her handbag…the courageous victim went to the police…[and] Carney was sentenced to seven years in prison…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

[Pittsburgh-area cop] Joshua Rush was [arrested]…[for] texting a prostitute he had a sexual relationship with…When police busted [her]…she showed them a string of text messages…in which he allegedly said he would distract officers from [going into her stroll]…

Check Your Premises

Earlier this year, Bensalem [Pennsylvania] police participated in Operation Cross Country…While the overt goal was busting pimps and prostitutes, the underlying objective was to create connections to help law enforcement find and stop child sex trafficking…“You need an approach that develops trust”…

You read that correctly:  these cops are so disconnected from reality that they think deceiving, raping and caging women is a good way to “develop trust”.

Validation

It’s always nice to be backed up by academics:

…the wealthy and powerful should not be permitted to swap policy-based evidence for evidence-based policy…Stereotypes of sex workers are simplistic, replete with errors of commission and omission…most public health researchers…respect…sex workers and oppose…any attempt to (further) criminalize them…[but] the weird admix of radical feminists and Christian…right-wingers who [push] “sexual trafficking”…are resistant to data:  they…wish the public to believe that [all] sex workers…have been trafficked.  Their…”moral crusade” is to legislate for the abolition of the industry…

Public Service Announcement Brooks Newmark

Just in case you thought only American politicians were this foolish:

…Brooks Newmark quit as Minister for Civil Society after he was caught sending an explicit photograph of himself…to someone he believed was a woman…as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation …Mr Newmark initiated a private message conversation on a social networking website and sent a graphic picture exposing himself…

Surplus Women

Authorities are looking for the killer of a woman found in Lake Lucerne and identified…as a 36-year-old Bulgarian prostitute…Work colleagues…[contacted] police… because they had not been able to contact her for a long time on her cell phone…

Legal Is as Legal Does

Almost all countries criminalise some aspect of sex work, including…Australia…sex work under “legalisation” is still…conceived of as a crime for which the law makes allowances.  These laws that govern sex work can be found in the criminal code…and…the police [enforce the]…regulation.  When I asked Jules Kim…of Scarlet Alliance…about the effect of all these regulations on the lives of sex workers in Victoria, she pointed out that many were deeply invasive of privacy…

See also “Bottleneck” below.rapist pig Michael Arnold

Above the Law 

Michael Arnold sexually assaulted a female prisoner shortly after she gave birth in 2012:  He pleaded guilty…[but spent] no time in jail…a just-filed lawsuit [names]…Arnold…the [rent-a-cop] firm for which he worked…[and]  Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher…Angela Weishoff…was [still] groggy [from an epidural] when [Arnold orally raped her until]…a nurse noticed the dimmed lights and entered the room, causing Arnold to quickly re-zip his pants…

An Example To the West

I hope this is available outside of India, too:

…a music band led by children of Sonagachi sex workers…[launched] their maiden album…Nijhum Raater Taara (Star of the Silent, Still Night)…[is a] compilation of seven adhunik gaan (Bengali modern songs)…The band [is backed by] DMSC…

Wise Investment (TW3 #23)

Let’s hope we see many more cases like this:

Fairview [New Jersey] has agreed to pay $145,000 to a [massage] business that had accused police officers of trespassing and…illegal search and seizure…during a prostitution sting…After five years of legal wrangling…the parties this week agreed to settle rather than go to trial…

The Widening Gyre

All it takes to be a “sex trafficking expert” is to declare yourself one, and to be able to tell tall tales with a straight face:  “Detective [Bill] Woolf said he’s seen some horrifying things working with victims.  ‘Girls have been…locked in refrigerators as punishment for not performing various sex acts’…

Bottleneck

Despite the fact that she found some sex workers to support this precursor to criminalization, remember that about 90% of whores worldwide prefer to work illegally than submit to licensing:

A…[politician] wants to force sex workers in Buenos Aires City to register their names with authorities…[as] part of a larger bill that seeks to impose regulation…in order to “distinguish sexual work from human-trafficking”…Maria Rachid…insists [the registry] will be confidential and only accessible to competent authorities…

The “competent authorities” are the most dangerous ones.

King of the Hill

Prince George’s County…[is] seeking to crack down on human trafficking…by banning hourly rentals of hotel rooms…The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force has called the state a “hot spot” for trafficking on account of…Interstate 95…bus stops and truck stops…The state ranks eighth in the country for…human trafficking-related reports.  Police in Prince George’s County have conducted a number of high-profile prostitution stings in recent years…

With Friends Like These…

I’ll bet this delusional ignoramus thinks he’s being “fair” and “sensible”:

…Most of the women who enter the sex trade have done so before a true age of consent.  They are…dependent on their pimps and usually on one or more narcotic substances, they have entered the sex industry as serfs…They age at an exponential rate of maybe 5 to 1…The average age is 13.  Some victims are as young as 9 and 10…many…are…literally…abducted…the reality for most…lured into this work is…a seven-year life expectancy…I think that regulating the sex work industry — granting and renewing licenses…would give sex workers some of the protections they want and make it possible for…authorities to rescue teen sex slaves…this…recognizes both the reality of human behavior…and this new…exploitation of children…There is an explosion of pornography…and…perversion.  Americans are oversexed…Something is deeply wrong in our culture and…spiritual life.  And I have to think that this is related to the sexualizing…of children…

Dysphemisms Galore 

“Authorities” have no idea how moronic they sound:

Ramona Judith Mora Garcia…pleaded guilty…to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit pimping…Garcia is a pimp/ modern-day slave owner who exploits women and/or children for financial gain.  She required the victims in this case to turn over half the payment they received for performing unlawful sex acts from sex purchasers…

Book Review:  America’s War on Sex

At long last, Dr. Marty Klein has made a public statement against “sex trafficking” hysteria:

…if you define trafficking broadly enough, it does look like there are a million or more victims…Some…define [it] to include all prostitutes…[and] porn actresses…No wonder these…“researchers” get such enormous, scary, numbers…activists keep warning of the number of people “at risk” for being sex trafficked…because they’re poor, or unloved, or drug-addicted, or have trouble with English.  Using that logic, 45 million Americans are “at risk” of dying in plane crashes every month, and twenty million Californians are “at risk” of dying in car crashes every week…

A Procrustean Bed (TW3 #339)

Ohio now has “trafficking court” as well:

Judge Paul…Herbert’s five-year-old human trafficking court…[is] the first…in Ohio…The court is an intensive two-year commitment that starts with women arrested for prostitution pleading guilty before Herbert.  They’re required to enter counseling programs…Erica Cortez said…”I had to completely surrender to what they were trying to show me”…

China and Vietnam recently abandoned coerced “re-education” for sex workers, but Americans are embracing it.  Welcome to the future.

Rough Trade (TW3 #351)

Jillian Keenan is proving herself a worthy ally:

…If history is any evidence, serial rapists target sex workers first.  And when they get away with it, they’re…free to hunt all women…Prostitutes who report sexual assault to police can be laughed at, ignored, accused of lying, arrested, or worse…New York State’s…rape shield law—which protects rape victims from having their sexual histories used against them in criminal proceedings—explicitly does not apply to anyone with a prostitution conviction…And when an…Oakland [California] sex worker…applied for state-funded victim compensation after…rape left her unable to return to work immediately, she was denied support…The police and criminal justice systems treat sex workers as though rape were a mere “occupational hazard” of their work — an accusation that would never be thrown at a bank teller who survived a robbery…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410)

This parody springs from the absolutely true observation that “if the risk of sexual assault on campus were truly one in five…no parent in their right mind would send their daughter to coed universities.”

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (TW3 #431)

File this one under “100% predictable”:

…Surabaya…mayor…Ibu Tri Rismaharini…[assumed] that Dolly’s sex workers would be eager to take up a lower-paid…vocation, such as cookery or garment making…[but] only 476 sex workers bothered to claim their $400…severance package…the overwhelming majority of ex-Dolly sex workers are now…undercover – working Surabaya’s streets, hotels and karaoke bars…prior to the shutdown the sex workers…told us that they would…go on selling sexual services no matter what…But…the shutdown went ahead regardless…

Bait and Switch

If you believe this, I suggest you reread the original of this title:

Long Beach police…arrested 91 suspected pimps and johns during an eight-month investigation aimed at combating sex trafficking.  Authorities also recovered 22 young women who they alleged were working as prostitutes…In one case, a man arranged to have sex with two children under the age of 10…When the trunk of his car was searched…a large roll of carpeting, several rolls of duct tape, handcuffs, and a magazine full of bullets were found…

“Recovered” means “abducted and caged”.

Surplus Women (TW3 #439)

Peechington Marie on the lack of media concern for Tjhisha Ball, Angelia Mangum and black sex workers in general:

…Little has been said about the murder of…these young women, and what has been said either glosses over or luridly magnifies one very important factor…Tjhisha and Angelia worked as exotic dancers…Even in…mostly positive [articles]…I walked away…feeling both shameful and shamed, as if they were written to say, “News reports say they were exotic dancers, quick, let’s fight to erase that so the girls can appear deserving of our sorrow and rage”…

The fundraiser for their funeral expenses is still open for donations.

The Roof Caves In (TW3 #439)

Somaly Mam’s…comeback scheme…hinges on that one Marie Claire interview, acquired in the course of four and a half days on the ground by Abigail Pesta…the interview is spurious.  It paints all of the allegations against Mam as unique to Newsweek, when in fact they are of a compendium of years’ worth of investigative work…Simon Marks…had done at the Cambodia Daily…one of the…Marie Claire sources, Thou Soy, works for AFESIP…and…holds a stake in seeing Mam’s reputation restored…only 49 percent of…women and girls at AFESIP shelters…could be considered “trafficked” under any definition of the term…and…the job training…[they] receive…is largely suited for employment in the service industry and Cambodia’s $5.53 billion garment sector…It’s one reason the global garment industry may be one of the primary sources of funding for anti-trafficking NGOs…C-36 hearings

Whither Canada? (TW3 #439)

Unlike their US counterpart, the Canadian media are not only politicians’ lap dogs:

…Alan Young…had a lot to say…about the constitutionality of…bill [C36] and where his focus would be if he…[challenges] it.  Few Conservative senators seemed terribly interested…apparently they’re content with assurances from Justice lawyers that the bill is constitutionally sound.  This is the same Justice Department, of course, that argued the previous law was constitutional…I wouldn’t trust these people to tell me it’s raining…What does it say about the Senate if everyone already knows what they will do with one of the most hotly debated and controversial bills in recent memory?  Forget about sober second thought.  Can we at least get some thought?

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