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When one of the men caught in Seattle’s anti-sex pogroms offered to write about his experience in “john school” (i.e, coerced “re-education” sessions), naturally I accepted.  Also naturally, I gave him a pseudonym to protect him from retaliation by Val Richey and company.

I was mandated to attend the Organization of Prostitution Survivor’s STOP Exploitation class (in other words, “john school”) in Seattle, WA.  It’s well-known that such classes have no actual deterrent effect; the only things they actually achieve are enriching the organizations which hold them, and disseminating radical feminist dogma.  Over the ten weeks I was forced to attend, the most consistent elements of the sessions were the use of fear and shame to induce conformity, and the toxic perpetuation of sex worker stereotypes and tropes.  Indeed, the existence of sex workers is only barely recognized in this course, and when they are mentioned at all it’s as a “privileged minority”; most sex workers are claimed to be “prostituted persons”, passive objects subjected to constant violence and coercion by “pimps”.  Ironically, it’s parasitic organizations like OPS which are the real exploiters of sex workers; they are manipulated through court mandated diversion programs, lied about by professional “Prostitution Survivors”, and oppressed by law enforcement and prosecutors to perpetuate a cycle of violence via the criminalization of sex work.  Sex workers are not even afforded a voice in a “school” that should have been focused on them and their struggles; instead they are extinguished as individuals with free-will to fuel an anti-sex agenda.

The hypocrisy and falsity of STOP are well-represented by its chief facilitator, Peter Qualliotine; his plastic smile and smarmy manner are inadequate cover for the dangerous oppression he helps enable.  The local media has been unfriendly and unbalanced regarding the topic of sex work.  Sex workers are claimed to be “sex slaves” or “victims” and the lies and disinformation promoted by opportunists like Qualliotine and professional “survivors” like Alisa Bernard are accepted without question or the most rudimentary fact-checking, despite the fact that SWOP Seattle is extremely public and it would be the work of only a few minutes for any reporter to get a statement from them about these claims. Interestingly, even Qualliotine himself seems to know there’s something fishy about his claims; though there’s a gleam in his eye when he tells us that he “enthusiastically endorses masturbation!” as an alternative to seeing sex workers, his shoulders slump, his arms are crossed and he looks down at the floor when he claims that decriminalization will never work and that independent sex workers are a very slim minority.  And disturbingly, he brightens up again when discussing Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer (which he does often over the ten weeks).  The fact that Ridgway claimed it was wrong to pay for sex, just as Qualliotine himself claims, is not ever mentioned.

I paid attention as closely as I could because by the third week I realized that I wanted to write this, but it wasn’t easy; when Qualliotine isn’t quoting Melissa Farley’s bogus “statistics” and infantilizing women by claiming they aren’t psychologically able to make their own sexual decisions (because of “PTSD” and “trauma bonding”), he’s regaling his captive audience with the grade-school baseball analogy for sex, talking about “toxic masculinity” and claiming that simply looking at a woman exists on a “Continuum of Sexual Violence” that leads to rape and murder, with paying for sex at about the halfway point.  He also alluded to BDSM, conflating it with domestic violence, and though he branded male-dominant relationships specimens of “male privilege”, he paradoxically also claimed it’s men’s responsibility to end “sexist” sexual interactions (including money for sex) even if a woman prefers them or demands them.  Almost as an afterthought, he added that the cops need to “go after” madams and female escort service owners as well as male “pimps” and clients.  In a session mostly devoted to intimate partner violence, Qualliotine lists public shaming, outing and debt as forms of violence; presumably, the shaming, outing and debt inflicted by police stings don’t count.  It was all so stultifying a number of attendees slept; Qualliotine either didn’t notice or didn’t care.  I assume he gets the same amount of money per warm body from King County whether anyone actually listens to him or not.

Valiant Richey, King County Prosecutor (in other words, Demand Abolition’s local propaganda officer) claims most sex buyers are white and well-to-do, a proposal that promotes the concept of patriarchy.  But that’s not what I saw in these sessions, which are at least half men of color, many evidently working-class; one couldn’t ask for clearer evidence that, as with all prohibition, the consequences of criminalization fall upon the marginalized despite OPS’ claims to the contrary.  Qualliotine is an entitled white man bloviating against entitlement, whiteness and masculinity in order to play the hero and set himself up on a pedestal.  His pretense of personal outrage is so clearly false it’s embarrassing; during one of his rants about whiteness I saw two of the men of color firmly close their eyes, as though they could no longer bear to look upon this vulgar hypocrite.  This isn’t about feminism or justice; it’s about feeding Peter Qualliotine’s ego.  His sense of entitlement is immense; he actually expects attendees to trust him and OPS before even working with them, demanding one-way respect before earning it.  There exists no independent review of this dangerous and banal reductionism; it’s a middle school curriculum produced by an art student that reduces complex life issues to abstract polemic theory with no expectation of producing any effect.  Indeed, it reinforces the very stereotypes that it claims to want to expose.  If the goal of STOP was to make an ally, it failed.  Rights, not rescue; I’ve never believed in it more.

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Julie Bindel, the well-known British “feminist” and prohibitionist, likes to call herself a journalist; however, I can think of a few more apt labels:  Huckster.  Charlatan.  Fruitcake.  And most of all, lazy twit who can’t even keep track of her own lies.  She’s been hawking a new book for a while now, but despite the help of a major UK newspaper giving her plenty of free column-inches in which to vomit out her regurgitated feces, it looks as though it’s going to flop in a big way.  And though I lack the intellectual endurance to even scan her overpriced doorstop, fortunately my friend Brooke Magnanti has far more critical wherewithall than I do, and was happy to volunteer this synopsis so none of y’all have to bother touching it, either.

This week Julie Bindel releases a new text which I have been privileged to see an advance copy of.  Unlike her previous efforts it’s aimed more at a scholarly market than a popular one, with aspirations to be a summary of investigations into sex workers’ organizations.  The newspaper coverage in Britain has been unescapable in the run-up to its release, with Bindel herself penning vicious invectives against sex workers in all the major papers.  Bindel initially crowdfunded the book to the tune of £7000.  Backers could pay £250 for the honor of having lunch with the woman herself (ironic when criminalized sex workers are also often forced to advertise their services as “lunch dates”).  On top of this, the book had an advance from Palgrave, so the punters end up paying twice.  The title, The Pimping of Prostitution, is ironic given anti-sex work crusades demonstrably attract and spend far more money than shoestring operations like rights orgs do; it is offered at an eye-watering $39.99 for the paperback (and an unbelievable $37.99 for the Kindle edition).  But while supporters paid a premium for the content, does the book deliver?

In a word:  no.  While advertised as a scholarly work it lacks any academic rigor.  Most of the references are self-citations of privately published reviews written by Bindel and Melissa Farley.  Peer review?  What peer review?  A few debunked statistics are trotted out as well.  There is no content of note here, which is unsurprising given Bindel’s most famous quote is that if given a gun and forced to choose between shooting a pimp and an academic, she would shoot the academic.  Bindel claims to have interviewed 250 people in 40 countries about sex work – by her own admission they are journalist friends of hers, police, and “regular members of the public who knew very little, if anything, about the sex trade”.  If this were a middle school project it would be laughed out of class for its utter lack of quality.  She notes in the acknowledgments that “the other side” trusted her to “represent their words and views fairly”.  Is that so?  She has called legalization and decriminalization the same thing when they are not.  Despite being told many times sex workers support decriminalization, not legalization, Julie is too dishonest to admit this, setting up a straw (wo)man and knocking it down over and over.

She states over and over again that there is a “pro-prostitution lobby”.  Who?  She never exactly says and cannot produce any paper trail.  That is for the simple reason that it is she and her friends who are lobbying politicians, setting up All Party Parliamentary Groups stuffed with MPs who want to see more women imprisoned, and paying for events to try to sway lawmakers to their ideology.  The other side, such as it is, is sex workers unpaid for standing up for their rights, and a handful of front-line organizations trying desperately to make sure any sense is heard in the prohibitionist din.  In any case, the claim she interviewed sex work activists is false; she has not so much interviewed her opponents as hand-selected people uninvolved in activism or sex work.  Why are her lengthy conversations with Peter Tatchell about gay men and the age of consent here, if not to stoke pedophilia fears on the back of homophobia?  Why does she place so much importance on tearing down sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim, whose area of research this is not?  How is politician Keith Vaz’s relationship with male escorts related to violence against women?  A few contextless quotes from Conner Habib and Janet Mock are thrown in to prove – well, it’s not clear what, actually.  It’s a mystery:  a bunch of unconnected hit jobs padding out an otherwise shoddy book.  The rest is a collection of personal anecdotes, old feminists she once met, and so on.  She also details the time in the ’70s she was pen-friends with imprisoned sex worker Emma Humphreys, while dodging the question of why the laws she supports would still put women like Emma in jail.

When discussing sex workers condescension drips from every sentence and it is clear she is used to having the floor to herself.  Unable to take criticism or debate (the launch party for her book at “independent intellectual venue” Conway Hall expressly forbade sex work activists), disgusted by the humans she so profitably claims to save.  Her schtick would be funny if it didn’t have real and damaging repercussions on people’s lives.  But the main takeaway from the book is its desperation.  The money she raised appears to have gone towards an all-expenses-paid international jaunt with only the slenderest of results to show for it.  The text reads less like a new movement and more like a last gasp.  If this is Bindel’s final shot at the history books than let it also be the epitaph for her career.  Here lies prohibition: illogical, illiberal, and entirely without merit.

If you want real scholarship about sex work, including hard-hitting debunking of Bindel’s lies (and those of her cronies), please purchase Brooke’s new book Sex, Lies and Statistics (with a foreword by yours truly).  And until Monday evening, Brooke is donating 100% of the profits from ALL preorders globally to SWOP Behind Bars, the nonprofit organization which specializes in helping the women Bindel and her ilk want to keep locking up in cages.

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Brooke Magnanti has released a new, revised edition of her book The Sex Myth, retitled Sex, Lies and Statistics.  This was adapted by Brooke from her afterword (the foreword was written by yours truly), and I hope it will serve to encourage you to buy the book, which demolishes the shoddy garbage prohibitionists hold up in place of actual facts.  And it’s on sale now!

Media are obsessed with promoting a view we would previously have dismissed as Victorian.  There are indeed parallels.  The end of the 19th century and start of the 20th brought new technologies to add to the dissemination of ideas through mass media (much like the Internet today)…with the predictable horror and blame that brought then, just like now.  The political class made some unexpected alliances as a result; again, we see this happening.  Feminism has joined the anti-sex bandwagon in a big way.  Not just by blaming men for inequality between the sexes, but perhaps more profitably and successfully by blaming other women.  Many mainstream feminist critiques gloss over old “man-hating” attitudes and place blame squarely on other women.  Instead of embracing women who challenge convention, the preoccupation is with shooting them down.  On the one hand, we’re told that anyone who believes women and men should have equal rights under the law is a feminist, whether they know it or not.  On the other, we are told that one or another group of women are traitors.  It’s the feminists who have taken up the finger-wagging role of the patriarchy.  Take, for example, this quote by Julie Burchill:  “When the sex war is won prostitutes should be shot as collaborators for their terrible betrayal of all women.”  Advocating the murder of large numbers of women is such a great way to win supporters to the cause, no?

The more you look at the key players behind some of the stories, the more you notice odd pairings.  A group working closely with the anti-gay, anti-abortion US lobbying group using a female MP as the mouthpiece of their opinions on porn.  The well-known feminists signing up to work with far right groups.  Celebrities lending star power to issues they don’t understand at all.  Almost all approaches to these issues fail to consider the diversity of factors involved.  The “Swedish model” of sex work is an example of this.  Lots of hype, not a lot of data on whether paid sex work has stopped or whether anyone’s life has been improved as a result.  Columnists like Joan Smith can gush about jumping in to a cop car to see how the law is panning out, all while ignoring the fact that sex workers repeatedly confirm that the police are their greatest source of harassment, assault, and rape.  Proponents of the Swedish approach mention how “pressure” is ramping up on this topic – pressure that they themselves have generated through unchallenging media coverage.  When in doubt, follow the money.  Over and over again the people fronting these campaigns are connected to industries with vested interests, radical right-wing think tanks, or anti-LGBT lobbyists.  The deputy editor for the New Statesman previously worked at the Mail and is rumoured to have subedited Jan Moir when she wrote a viciously homophobic column about Stephen Gately’s death.  Arch-feminists like Julie Bindel write for staunchly right wing, regressive magazines like the Spectator.  There’s a saying where I come from:  you got to dance with the one who brung you.  I wonder, when everyone gets to the end of their dance cards, what promises feminists have made and what obligations they’ll have to honor.

Before 2009, when I wrote books under a pseudonym about my experiences as a sex worker, there was no small amount of grumbling in the press.  After I won the Guardian Best British Weblog award in 2003, a number of female contributors to that paper signed a letter vowing that if I was commissioned to write for the paper, they would quit.  Yet I continued to believe that if they knew I was real, they would feel differently.  It’s probably not a surprise to you that I was unprepared for what any fool could have predicted would happen.  Since coming out as a former sex worker, I have been criticized for being too middle class, too well educated, too independent.  As if my very existence in sex work was, somehow, unique.  But data across the spectrum of sex work shows this not to be true.  In any case, if I admitted to a drug addiction instead, or had been homeless?  That would have been used to write me off, too.  It is bizarre to read articles by people who’ve never met me attempting to dissect this or that bit of my life.  Some lazy commentators “blame” me for the existence of other call girls, or whatever new student sex worker is uncovered by the tabloids.  As flattering as that is, it is not true.  Prostitution is called “the oldest profession” for a reason.

After a while all such nonsense became background noise.  I assumed the combined forces of feminists and the Rescue Industry had nothing worse up their sleeves.  I was wrong.  When the first edition of this book was published in Britain in 2012, it was embargoed before publication day and available to fewer than 20 people to review.  Journalists who saw the book signed confidentiality agreements.  So it was a great surprise to wake up on the morning of publication slapped with a libel lawsuit from Eaves For Women, the domestic violence charity whose hapless forays into research are touched on in this book.  If their work had been published in academic journals, anyone writing to correct their numbers would have been treated professionally, but this was not academia I was dealing with.  Obviously, I did not write anything about Eaves that could not be verified, and just as obviously, they had not been sent a pre-publication copy of the book by my publisher but had been given one by book reviewer – and Eaves board member – Julie Bindel.  The firm representing Eaves in this lawsuit threat?  The one with Bindel’s wife as a founding partner.  The Eaves claims would have been hilarious if they had not been so ludicrous.  They claimed I “hacked their servers” to get information about their income and expenditures (as with all UK charities, it’s public information available on government websites) and “broken confidentiality agreements” to discuss their research (I looked up their publications from conferences, also available online).  Their arguments depended on evidence so far-fetched it could have served as a bad science example in the book itself.  I later learned this was not the first time this had happened.  Eaves had threatened to sue so many people, so often, they even served legal threats on Bindel’s own employer at the time, the Guardian newspaper for an article by Belinda Brooks-Gordon (Bindel is no longer on Guardian staff, but freelances for them).  The intellectual dishonesty of someone like Bindel, who claims to be “silenced” and a “free speech” advocate yet uses archaic laws to try to silence opposition, is staggering.  Unsurprisingly the threatened suit was without merit and quickly dropped.

Meanwhile, the media feminists of the UK rounded on me.  Julie Burchill wrote one article claiming I was a “sex addict”, another calling me a “human toilet”, and compared me to a convicted (and executed) Nazi war criminal; this was especially offensive as I am of Jewish heritage.  The “feminist” literature magazine that published those last two tidbits claimed they did not know what the words meant.  Sorry, Mslexia, but ignorance is no excuse.  They did not apologize.  One feminist turned up at a talk in Edinburgh to shout to the audience that I was a pedophile and claim my screenshots of the Glasgow City Council’s website (showing how much they paid for anti-strip club consultations) were faked.  Others picketed talks and book signings, sent death threats, and harassed me so frequently by phone that I gave up on carrying a mobile altogether.  They contacted my former editor at the Telegraph in an attempt to get me fired – long after I’d already quit.  Few in journalism seem to care that the people doing this are all a couple of degrees of separation from known anti-LGBT and white supremacist orgs in the US.  All anyone wants is to see the naughty, naughty sex lady be punished.  They don’t care how it’s done or who does it.  This, I was told, was the price of being a sex worker in public.

Writers with the left-leaning New Statesman magazine, many of whom launched careers by harassing trans women and sex workers, also got the boot in.  Their assistant editor, Helen Lewis, sits on the board of a charity that is anti-sex work and anti-trans women.  She and other feminists joked on social media when a former partner tried to sue me for reporting his abuse (he later dropped the suit to much less fanfare).  They encouraged Breitbart to run a week-long campaign of harassment and abuse.  They egged on nasty “investigative journalist” Jeremy Duns who made sexual threats against me and my husband.  They examined photos from my escorting days, speculating on whether I was “hot enough” have been a sex worker, and speculating about what diseases I might have.  They circulated a list at public events suggesting that I and others were employed by a shadowy “Pimp Lobby” and financially benefitting from trafficking (if that’s the case, I have yet to receive a paycheck).  The laughable list, compiled by Julie Bindel, included a number of people uninvolved with sex work at all, including an artist who died in 2010, so it’s clear fact-checking is not a valued quality among these people.  The abuse peaked when they outed a trans camgirl whose Twitter account they thought had been written by me.  It wasn’t – but in the process they humiliated a woman who was not yet out to her family.  Their supposed evidence?  We both supported Scottish independence, and both, at different times, used the phrase “snake oil”.  In spite of having got it drastically wrong, no apology to the woman they doxxed was forthcoming.  Why would anyone do this?  In short, to control the narrative.

It would be unthinkable – to most people, anyway – to have a discussion about women’s rights that did not involve any women.  Or a discussion about race that did not include people of color.  But time and again when the topic is sex work, sex workers themselves are not simply ignored, they are actively excluded.  What do sex workers want?  A seat at the table.  To be able to work together for safety.  To report crimes against them without fear of arrest.  For services to be made available that are not dependent on them giving evidence against others.  To not live in fear of deportation or abuse by police.  In short:  they want the same protection under the law that any other worker can expect.  And not only is this what sex workers want, it’s what the evidence supports as best practice.  We’ve seen the benefits of decriminalization in New Zealand, in New South Wales Australia.  We’ve also seen what goes wrong in Sweden, in the Netherlands, and in the US.  International agencies from the WHO to Amnesty agree.  But this evidence-driven support for decrim hasn’t come out of thin air.  Much has been written on the disruptive effects of social media, but this much is true:  if not for the internet, people like me would never have been able to challenge the stereotypes with facts.  Marginalized people with multiple oppressions – black trans sex workers, drug using sex workers – who would otherwise fear being outed, are being taken seriously by a mainstream that otherwise would never have known they existed.  The infantilized victims who need rich white ladies to save them, it turns out, are fully capable adults who can make their own decisions and won’t hesitate to tell you that.  And that makes some folks with vested interests very upset indeed.

What happened to me was not the first nor even worst example.  Entrenched second-wave feminists in media have harassed trans politicians out of their jobs, driven black cultural commentators off of social media, and consistently outed and trashed any sex worker who crosses their paths.  Heaven help you if you happen to belong to more than one of these groups.  They reserve the worst treatment for the most marginalized, secure in the knowledge that society does not care because they told society not to.  The disinformation campaign used to sustain sex myths was a glimpse into a post-truth world where what matters is not what is right, but who can get the most money.  Some of those folks were so threatened by one woman and one book that they tried to bankrupt, discredit, and silence one blogger.  A movement backed by billions of dollars in international grants is so susceptible to people seeing the real data, they will stop at nothing to keep the truth from getting out.  And they are not interested in ethical debate; they demand that their point of view be bowed to in any discussion, even (and especially) if that means keeping the discussion centered on their feelings rather than other people’s right to exist.  They use the media not to understand, but to bludgeon.  They simply do not care if their information is incorrect.  I started off believing that open debate was the best way to win hearts and minds; I ended up realizing that some people will use that to drown out anyone who does not agree with their own intolerant, hate-filled views.  There simply is no way to have a debate with people who characterize you as an “orifice” who “should be dead in a ditch.”  There is no common ground to be found with people who willingly promote your abusers.

And yet, in all the negativity, there are signs of light.  In the years from when I was a sex worker in 2003, since I came out in 2009, and after the first edition of this book in 2012, the ground has rapidly shifted.  When Amnesty International rejected threats from famous feminists and backed the decriminalization of sex work based on the evidence, it was a win for a sex workers’ movement that far predates and will long outlast any one person.  When I gave evidence to UK Parliament in 2016, the MPs – to my surprise – took the suggestions of sex workers on board in their report, rather that listening to entrenched and well-funded special interests.  In Scottish Parliament, Rhoda Grant (who receives funding from the anti-gay, anti-abortion charity Care) has tried three times to introduce criminalization of sex work, and been defeated all three times.  Evidence really does win out from time to time; it might not seem that way in the moment, but things are changing, slowly and surely.  In 2009 and 2012, it felt as if every week brought new abuse from a media obsessed with surfaces instead of content.  So-called progressives shame and reject us, even when sex workers were early supporters of feminism, gay rights, and other movements that have since gained public acceptance on the back of that effort.  In particular, the most marginalized sex workers from black and trans communities were the ones most likely to be erased, people like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, and many more.  Slowly and surely their legacy is being reclaimed, too.  The pendulum of attitudes about sex and sexuality is always in motion.  I hope that in my lifetime the burden of shame felt by so many for so long will be lifted.  With evidence and hard work we can reclaim the narrative – and take back our lives from the playground bullies of shame and fear.

Brooke doesn’t pull any punches in this new, US edition; it’s a vital debunking resource for those who support sex worker rights, and you really, really, REALLY ought to read it!

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At the beginning of July, Lynne reached out to me via Paul Maginn to ask if I’d host an essay she wanted to write about her late daughter Pippa (October 18th, 1987 – October 12th, 2015), better known to the world at large as Grace Bellavue.  I was deeply touched that Lynne chose me to help her honor the memory of her daughter, one of the first sex workers in the world to use social media in the way so many of us do now, and one of the first to show us that we could show our faces without fear; Grace touched the lives of many thousands of people she never met, and her untimely death (just a few days short of her 28th birthday) robbed the world of a powerful, amazing woman.  I originally wrote “unique” in the previous sentence, but that’s not entirely true; as you will understand after reading this essay, her mother Lynne is in her own way just as amazing, and her desire to continue her daughter’s work is one of the most beautiful examples of maternal love it has ever been my privilege to witness. 

Can death really stymie a spirit that continues to be heard?

I wonder if you have ever set an intention?  Did you ever wonder how you were going to start, especially when you have an emotional investment in what you believe in?  For myself, it started with fear, then I realised that if you have fear, then there is no love.  I was going to be confronted with things I didn’t want to know or feel.  I was going to grieve all over again for my beautiful daughter Pippa O’Sullivan, AKA Grace Bellavue:  Sex worker, Escort Extraordinaire, real life Advocate, Writer, Social Justice Warrior and observer of all things nefarious locally and internationally.  As a wordsmith, her reach was incredible and life-changing to many who loved her.  Most life-stories begin with a beginning, but this one starts with an end:  A life lost tragically to suicide, which I felt could have been prevented.  A tragic loss of SELF!  I’ve often felt being a mother is about learning strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.  A numbness of thought told her it couldn’t get any worse, but unfortunately it did for me.  My beautiful, amazing daughter gone.  A person so full of life, yet extinguished so quickly that I hardly had time to grasp her essence as she grew to adulthood.

I do believe in a life where there are no mistakes or coincidences.  All events are blessings given to us to learn from.  My daughter was a blessing from the start: half of me, yet unique.  She stood out amongst her contemporaries as gifted and talented; her wisdom and her deep understanding of the human psyche knew no boundaries. I’ve often thought, “How can someone that had enough inner fire to light a city die so tragically?”  There is no sense or reason to it for us, but Grace had personal reason enough to kill herself, alone with her thoughts and just her cat for company.

While I have no wish to openly talk on her early life just yet, it would be remiss of me not to mention that an escort was what she had always wanted to be.  I realised when she turned 18 that if I didn’t support her I would lose the daughter I loved, so I set about accepting what she did and gained a little insight into the industry.  It wasn’t something I talked about openly with family and friends at the start, but I gained respect for her written word and the real love she had for the working girls.  Grace was a chameleon who lived two lives, one as a sex worker and the other as a daughter who was loved and accepted by her family.  She never crossed that line when she was with us.

Grace was one of the first in the world to use social media as a means to be heard; she lived her life as she saw fit, and said just what she wanted to say without barriers.  Many who lived vicariously through her soaked up her words as water into the sponge of their mundane lives.  Grace had an amazing understanding of the human psyche which she shared with the whole world; her fans often wrote to her when they were depressed, at loggerheads with life and in need of reassurance and comforting words.  I saw many she saved with her written word when she was burnt out and had no energy for anyone, let alone herself.  My daughter was the kindest, most thoughtful, most selfless and empathetic person you could come across; she crossed barriers to help the disabled in her sex work, worked in the assimilation process with new immigrants, and won real love with her honesty and openness.

As a campaigner I’ve found that advocating for the empowerment of women is a passion of mine, and I stand right behind Grace and all the work she did toward decriminalization. I am a firm believer that to be an expert in anything you need to time to understand your subject, but also to passionately understand the heart that goes with it.  My continuation of Pippa’s work began when I spoke in a parliamentary hearing last December with a cohort of other sex workers; she had been dead for over 12 months and I wanted to act on her behalf.  I worked within the social justice framework as a clinical nurse for 40 years, advocating for others that couldn’t have a voice, and I drew on that experience to speak about the fact that the rights and safety of sex workers should be seen as an essential component of community expectations about the status and treatment of women.  South Australia has long denied sex workers their human rights and the protection that should be offered to paid workers anywhere, but our politicians have begun to realize that decriminalisation strengthens the ability of sex workers to report intimidation, extortion and any exploitation that is taking place.  In June of this year, our decriminalisation law for South Australia was passed in the Upper House; we hope that this month the Lower House accepts the bill unopposed and we can see some results that accept accountability and safety for all Sex Workers in this state.

While my daughters life is still fresh in our minds and our hearts, we need to honor her advocacy for the labelled and stigmatised, the people she saved on the streets, her fight for decriminalisation of the sex industry in South Australia, and her reach within the social/interactive media and the sex worker network.  I am looking at it as a capacity building measure, where we build on what is working in the world and embrace a “new voice” here in South Australia and further afield.  I will be collating her life works into a book in the near future, and have a WordPress account called ouramazinggrace.com in which I would like anyone to put their thoughts/words and perhaps the contact they had with Grace/Pippa and how she influenced their lives.

It is with Grace…… that I accept her life and all she contributed, to continue her final work.

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I asked Brooke for a quick introduction to her new book, and she wrote: “You Don’t Know Me is a follow-up to The Turning Tide, though you don’t have to have read that book to read this one.  It’s set in the same universe: a medium-sized town in the Highlands called Cameron Bridge.  It all starts (as so many crime novels do) with the disappearance and death of a call girl.  However that is only the beginning.  As the investigation unfolds in the here and now, her best friend’s flashbacks reveal a woman who is anything but the expected ‘dead sex worker’ trope.  It’s a story about sex and secrets, but also about women and passionate friendships.  How far would you go to avenge your best friend and soulmate?  That’s the question one woman will have to answer.”

It is the second half of her master’s course in Newcastle.  Her first spring in the city, after a winter of freezing rain and baffling lectures.  Denise’s cheap coat, good enough for the London cold, is insufficient here and beginning to come apart at the seams.

She logs her hours in the computer lab, turns in every piece of work on time, and phones her parents twice a week whether they answer or not.  Usually they do not.  She waits for the answerphone, leaves a message as if everything is the same as it was before.  Before she moved to Newcastle to start a master’s course in genetic epidemiology.  Before her brother died.

There is money in her account, far too much.  One hundred and fifty thousand pounds.  The number glares at her every time she has to use the cash point.  She can’t spend it and she doesn’t want to keep it.  But giving it away is no good either; it would be like giving away the last photograph of a loved one.  It would be unthinkable.

Denise throws herself into her master’s project.  She analyses single nucleotide polymorphisms in genetic samples of families with a history of colon cancer.  A text-based program calculates risk predictions for future generations in those families.  She tweaks the code, pleased when she shaves microseconds off the runtime of each simulation.  It is like the swimming practices she and Darwin did as teens.  Working over weeks, months, even an entire season to prune down their personal bests.

One night Denise is at the bus stop when she sees some of her course mates in a pub.  It looks warm inside, the bus is almost 20 minutes late, and she has five pounds in her pocket she forgot to spend on lunch.  She crosses the rain-slicked road and goes in.

“Denise!” a man at the bar waves.  “I’m getting a round in.  What are you having?”

“Hi, Jack.”  Denise smiles.  “That’s very kind, thank you.  Diet coke and lemon, please.”  Jack has blue eyes and wears his hair long but it suits him.  His smile is kind and his eyes seek her out in lectures, exchanging a look that seems to indicate they are in on some kind of secret together.

He always seems so nice, at ease in any group, charming and smart.  She realises she has probably had a crush on him for some time now.

A crush she can never act on.  Because he has a girlfriend.  This girlfriend is called Miriam.  His eyes go soft whenever he mentions her, as if the sound of her name has a sort of power.  Denise has never met this woman, but the others have, and they agree she is wonderful.  She is not sure what to imagine.  A petite and serious brunette, perhaps, the kind of studious woman who is primly perfect when she takes her glasses off?  Or else a tight-bodied, hockey-playing blonde, the sort of country girl already settled into Jack’s family, accompanying his parents on weekend trips to the garden centre?

The other students are dressed more formally than usual, a woman in a short purple satin frock, the men in trousers and jackets.  Is there something on she has forgotten about?

“Didn’t think you’d be out tonight.”  The woman’s teeth look dull yellow next to her lipstick.  “Or did you get a ticket in the end?”

Denise accepts a glass from Jack at the bar.  “A ticket to what?”

The group erupts in a peal of laughter.  “To the Medics Ball?  At City Hall?”  A hot redness blooms on her cheeks.  The epidemiology students aren’t medics even if they are in the medical school; why would it occur to her to go?

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Jack says.  “I went last year.  It’s not all that.  Terrible meal.  The disco is dire.  You’re not missing anything.”

“Are we ready or are we ready?” a voice calls out behind them.  Denise follows the others’ eyes as they look to the door.

“Miri!” Jack says.  “Finally.”

The woman in the green velvet dress enters the pub.  It is a cold night, but she is wearing no coat.  Probably local to the area, then – one of the first things Denise noticed about Newcastle was that the rumours were correct:  true Geordies went out in all weather without jackets or hats.  Her hair has the colour and movement of fire.  The crushed velvet clings to her pear-shaped body and reveals plainly that she is wearing nothing underneath.  A long string of garnets, dark as the shadows in her hair, is looped once around her neck and hangs almost to her waist.  She is wearing the kind of strappy sandals Denise often looks at in shop windows but can never bring herself to buy:  too impractical, too showy.  But the black patent straps look just right around her narrow ankles, not too showy at all.

Her only concession to the cold is a pair of black satin gloves that come past her elbows.  Denise looks away but not before she notices Miri slip an arm around Jack’s neck and his twist to kiss her on the cheek.

“Who’s this?” she asks, meaning Denise.  “I don’t think we’ve met.”  Miri’s voice is smoky and deep, a surprising contrast to her pink cheeks and baby skin.  She detaches her arm from where it is snaked around Jack to offer a hand.  Denise mumbles her name, first and last.  “Are you coming?” Miri smiles.  Her smile is a sweet tiny bow, the face of a Victorian valentine.

“I was on my way home,” Denise says.  “I don’t have a ticket…”

Miri laughs, full throated like a goose.  “You shouldn’t let a thing like that stop you!” she says.  “Come with me.”  She grabs Denise’s elbow and leads her to the toilets, shouting to the rest of the group to go on ahead, they will catch up.

Inside are two toilet stalls, one missing a door.  Miri indicates for Denise to take off her coat, which she does.  Miri folds it and stuffs it into Denise’s bag.  Suddenly Miri is peeling off her dress.  “You can wear mine,” she says.  “You can’t walk in there dressed like that.  Give me your clothes.”

Denise hesitates.  As she suspected Miri is wearing nothing underneath.  Miri tilts her head and smiles, slinky green fabric in her gloved hand.  The dress looks smaller off her body, hardly more material than a swimsuit.  “Go on, it’s stretch, it fits everyone,” she says.  “You’re almost as flat up top as I am.”

“But what will you wear?”

Miri smiles.  “Your clothes, obviously.  Don’t worry.  I know the doormen, it won’t be a problem for me to walk in.”

Denise doesn’t know what to do.  It is impossible to look at the girl standing in front of her wearing nothing but gloves, a long necklace, and heels.  It is almost as hard not to stare.  Miri is slim up top and heavier below.  She has the kind of seal-like limbs, smooth, that Denise often thinks of as boneless.  Her legs taper from firm round thighs to tiny narrow ankles.  It is not the type of body that is fashionable now, not the body celebrated in haute couture shows and women’s magazines.  But the way she is standing tells her that Miri is more comfortable in her skin than she with her angular limbs and narrow hips ever will be.

Denise doesn’t want Miri to laugh at her for being a prude.  She does not want to have to see Jack and the others later, tomorrow or the next day or next week, in the library or in an exam, and explain what happened.  She closes her eyes and begins unbuttoning her shirt.  The hands feel as if they belong to someone else, as if all of this is something she is watching in a film.  Miri pulls the velvet dress over her head.  To Denise’s surprise the dress does indeed shrink and stretch in the right places to fit.

“Hair,” Miri says, and reaches forward, her arms encircling Denise’s neck.  Her eyes, which looked blue at a distance, are green and violet close up, flecked with yellow, the fire of opals in her pale face.  The scent of her is sweet and sharp, sweat and vanilla.  Miri’s small hands untangle Denise’s pigtail, arrange the strands over shoulders.  “Not bad,” she pronounces.  “Do you have makeup?”  Denise shakes her head.

“That’s OK, we’ll make do.”  Her face suddenly darts forward, and she plants a firm kiss on the lips.  She leans back and examines Denise’s surprised face.  “Perfect,” she declares.  “Now you have some of my lippy.”

She tells Denise to look in the mirror.  Denise’s cheeks are flushed as if she has been running and her lips are a bright pink like Miri’s.  The ends of her hair graze her collarbones, now exposed by the low neckline of the dress.  Denise stares at her reflection as if she is looking at someone else entirely, someone who resembles her but not quite.  A close relative, perhaps.  A twin.  She had a twin once.  Then her twin was lost and she has been alone ever since.  If the mirror can be her twin, perhaps she isn’t alone after all.

She glances down at her watch.  “We should hurry,” she says.  “We don’t want to be too late.”

“Is being on time important to you?” Miri says.

“I guess so.”  Denise hesitates.  Wasn’t being on time important to everyone?  “It’s rude to be late, isn’t it?  Like, you would get in trouble if you were late for work—”

Miri’s throaty laugh cuts her off.  “There are only two kinds of people who are paid to be on time,” she says.  “Train drivers and call girls.  Anyway, what’s the rush?  Let’s have a drink, get to know each other a little better.  Jack tells me nothing about his friends.  I want to find out more about you.”

“What’s to find out?  I’m very boring.”  But Miri is standing there, expecting something.  “OK, my name is Denise Ang.  My family is from Macau, I was born in London.  My parents have a chip shop.”  She is about to mention Darwin but stops herself.  She looks at the mirror again, it is almost impossible not to.  Twin-Denise moves her mouth when Denise does, but she is different somehow.  Both her and not-her.  She has a thrilling, guilty feeling of looking at herself too long, as if someone has caught her staring at them.  She clears her throat and looks away again.  “I have a degree in maths.  So I guess I’m kind of a walking cliché.”

Miri tilts her head.  “How so?” she says.

Denise is confused.  Is she taking the piss, or does she really not know?  “I’m very boring,” she repeats.

“Nonsense,” Miri says, and her reflection smiles at Denise’s.  “In my experience, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.”

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My friend Brooke Magnanti’s last book, The Turning Tide, is now available in the United States!  So I asked her to provide an excerpt so as to entice y’all to buy it…especially since her new one is coming out this summer!  If you live in the UK, buy it here instead.  And just in case you don’t remember, she did a series of video promos when the book was first published last year!

Of all the things that Daniel Wallace had hoped to do on holiday, finding a dead body was not one of them.

The kayak trip from Skye to Raasay was perfect. Daniel had planned this leg of the trip carefully: a mid-February journey starting on Skye, going up the long east coast of the island of Raasay. Although the water was cold, there was little wind and the only snow was on the mountaintops. They would paddle past the steep cliffs and fossil beaches with views over to the mainland and lunch on the cobble beach below castle ruins, then continue on to a romantic bothy inaccessible to walkers and unlikely to be occupied at this time of year.

Maya teased him for being such a list maker, but as the day went on he was pleased at having planned it so well. There was a slight chop on the water and late winter light on the wavelets sparkled like sequins. It became glassy smooth as they rounded the tip of Raasay and turned north. There was a superpod of dolphins spanning the sound between the island and Applecross on the mainland, hundreds of them leaping and squealing for the sheer fun of jumping around. Maya was nervous about the large mammals at first. She clutched the shaft of her paddle tightly, but was soon laughing with the joy of it all.

They landed on the northern tip of the island. Maya pulled her kayak above the tide line onto the shingle beach while Daniel hung back. ‘Something wrong?’ she asked.

‘I think there’s something caught in my rudder,’ Daniel said, ‘bit of seaweed, maybe. You go on ahead and find the bothy, I’ll catch up.’

‘Sure,’ she smiled. Daniel watched her buttocks cased in her kayaking drysuit disappear along the path. Three years in and he still fancied this woman as if they just met. A good sign, right? That she was a keeper. The One.

So far, so good. Tonight they would watch the sunset from the beach and share a bottle of whisky. He would make them a simple meal of bacon and tuna pasta on the gas camping stove.

Then there was the ring, tucked safely away in his dry bags. He planned to pop the question after dinner: maybe on a moonlit walk, maybe sitting by the bothy fire later. With the day going so well he could afford to play that part by ear.

That was tonight sorted. Tomorrow? Tomorrow they would paddle around the smaller nearby isle of Rona before heading down the other coast of Raasay and back to Skye. He had booked a table and room at an inn that specialised in local seafood and folk music, and they could toast their engagement with a pint of ale.

He tugged hard on the deck lines. The kayak would not budge. Daniel took off his gloves and felt along under the boat to the rudder. Something was caught on it. He pulled but it wouldn’t give way. So it was not seaweed then. It felt a bit like rope. ‘What on earth…’ he murmured. Maybe a belt? Someone’s old climbing gear? The cliffs further down the island were popular with climbers and the waters were trawled by fishing vessels. You never knew what could wash up on the beaches here.

As he gave one last pull something came loose. Daniel crossed to the bow and dragged the kayak up the shore. He flipped the boat on its side and saw what looked like a holdall with one long strap that must have caught on his boat in the shallows. He sighed. Maybe the bag fell off a hiker on a hill somewhere. ‘Someone wasn’t having a great day,’ he said to no one in particular.

Probably there would be a wallet inside, or a tag perhaps, and they could get this back to its rightful owner. He didn’t relish the thought of carrying someone else’s luggage around for the next day or two, but he hoped someone else would have done the same for him.

The zip came unstuck with a little effort. Inside it looked like – well, he wasn’t sure what, exactly. Something the size of a melon poked out, round. It had a slippery, translucent quality rather like a jellyfish. But it was too early in the year for jellyfish. He poked at it with the toe of his neoprene boot. The stench hit him at the very moment he realised what it was he was looking at. The contents of Daniel’s stomach bubbled into his throat as a wave of shock ran up his body. He collapsed on the ground.

‘Maya!’ he shouted. ‘Maya!’ He tried to clamber to his knees, but his legs felt rubbery and uncertain.

Maya was only seconds away but to Daniel those moments felt like hours. She put her hand gently on his shoulder. ‘Are you OK?’ she said. Daniel did not often lose his cool, not even the time they went out for a routine paddle that turned into force eight gale conditions off the Islay. This had to be serious.
Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head. He tried to raise one arm and point back to the boat.

‘What is it?’ Maya asked.

‘You tell me,’ he said.

Maya went for a closer look. The sight and smell knocked her back for a moment, but she recovered quickly and leaned in to see what was in there. There was a body inside the bag. No doubt about that. Three years of a forensic science degree had prepared her, but only just, for something like this. She had seen plenty of specimens in the lab or in the morgue but that was different. Those were lifeless, static things that looked more like oversized dolls than anything else.
This however was… well, it was kind of great, actually. Her first cold one in situ. ‘It’s dead,’ she said. She picked up Daniel’s paddle and poked the remains with the end. ‘Human.’ There was a retching sound behind her. ‘Daniel?’

He was sitting upright, head between his knees. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Sure it’s dead, or sure it’s human?’ No reply; only the sound of more heaving. ‘Yeah, I’m sure,’ she said.

Maya frowned at the remains. A head, bald. A shoulder and arm pulled back, maybe tied? A slender elbow joint poked through the grey, gelatinous scraps of flesh and connective tissue. If the body hadn’t been in the bag, odds were the rest of its extremities would have fallen away from the trunk by now. This had been in the water some time – weeks, at least.

Daniel’s chest rose and fell heavily. ‘What now? Do we radio this in? Pull the GPS beacon?’ Of all the emergency situations he had prepped for over the years, this was not one of them.

Maya inspected the outside of the bag for clues. It was covered in black algae. There was no sign of ID.

‘Pulling the beacon might be too far,’ she said. ‘Whoever it is, he’s already dead.’ If someone was dead it was a collection job, not an emergency.

Was it an offence to leave a dead body unattended? She couldn’t remember. Maya surveyed the horizon in all directions. There was the tiny island of Rona to the north and six miles of heather bog to the south; Skye on one side, mainland Scottish Highlands on the other. No place within walking distance of where they were unless she fancied a four-hour yomp to Raasay’s only village in wet boots. Plus Daniel didn’t look in any shape to do it. She popped the covers open on his kayak and rifled through his dry bags for a phone. ‘Do you have reception? We could call the police station in Portree.’

‘No reception here.’

‘I’ll get on the VHF and radio the coastguard,’ Maya said. ‘They can pass it on to police. Looks like we might not be staying here the night after all.’

Daniel’s five-star instructor’s course had offered no guidance on what to do if you ended up having to haul a sack of decomposing human remains on a sea kayak. ‘Please tell me we’re not paddling this – this thing – to shore.’

‘No,’ Maya said. ‘Best not to move it more than necessary – in case there’s any evidence to be found at the site.’ She sat down next to her boyfriend. ‘We’ll see if we can get a lift off the coastguard and grab a B&B on Skye tonight,’ she said. ‘It’s not the end of the world.’

Daniel nodded weakly. Maya repacked his bags. She spotted a tiny jewellery box among his things and her heart skipped a beat. ‘Oh my God! Daniel… is this what I think it is?’ She tugged off her gloves to slide the half-carat sparkler on her left ring finger. ‘And it’s a perfect fit!’

Her fiancé rolled to one side and chucked a mouthful of foamy spittle on the grass.

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Dr. Laura Agustín, author of the blog The Naked Anthropologist and the book Sex at the Margins, the seminal work on “sex trafficking” hysteria (in which she coined the term “rescue industry”), has written The Three-Headed Dog, a novel  dramatizing the problems faced by migrants.  It’s another way of introducing readers to the issues the “sex trafficking” paradigm attempts to paper over, which Dr. Agustín has studied for over 20 years and understands in a way very few others do.  I recently read the novel, and Dr. Agustín graciously agreed to answer some questions about it.

MM:  Sex at the Margins has been and continues to be a work of major importance to the sex workers’ rights movement; I know it really helped me to shake off the dualistic thinking about “willing” vs “coerced” sex work, and it’s invaluable in getting people to look at their preconceptions around why people (especially women) leave their original home countries to work.  So why did you decide to write fiction instead of a 10th-anniversary edition?

LA:  The essence of Sex at the Margins doesn’t need updating, by which I mean women’s migration to work as maids or to sell sex, the use of smugglers, the rise of the Rescue Industry.  Someone else can document the growth and proliferation of that last, if they can stomach it, but the core ideas haven’t changed.  I wanted to write stories to reach people who don’t read books like Sex at the Margins and who only hear about the issues from mainstream media reports.  The Three-Headed Dog provides a way to learn about social realities and be gripped by stories at the same time.

MM:  I write fiction myself, so that makes sense to me.  But what made you choose the crime genre?  Why not do a “straight” novel?

LA:  Crime seemed like the right frame, because everyone thinks smuggling and undocumented migration are at least technically crimes – leaving the idea of trafficking out of it.  I am a fan of some kinds of mystery writing, and the formula of a detective who searches for missing migrants provides infinite opportunities for all sorts of stories and characters.

MM:  I think you just started to answer one of my questions!  At the end of the book several questions are unresolved, and I would have liked to know more about Félix, the detective.  Is this the first of a series?

LA:  I’ve got too many stories to tell for one book.  The Dog was getting long and complicated, so I decided to make it the first in a series.  In the detective genre it’s common for some questions to remain dangling, and readers know they can learn more in the next installment.  If I’d been writing 150 years ago I might have done weekly installments in a magazine, as Dickens did with The Pickwick Papers.  In the next book, which I’ve started, Félix’s search takes her to Calais and London.

MM:  I was very intrigued by Félix, and it seems to me that she might be based on you.  Would I be correct?  And are any other characters based on people you know?

LA:  The characters created themselves in my mind out of the many thousands of migrant friends and acquaintances I’ve had in my life.  Including myself.  But they sprang forth and told me who they were.  I identify with much of Félix’s character, but I identify with much of the smuggler Sarac’s character, too.

MM:  I like that Félix has some history of sex work, and that she still seems to be comfortable taking gigs that dip into the edges of sex work.

LA:  She certainly was a sex worker during the European tour she did when younger with her friend Leila, who now lives in Tangier.  I think she still takes sexwork gigs when it suits her. I expect she’ll tell us more about that in the future.

MM:  Not many novels have well-developed and nuanced sex workers as major characters, and when we appear as minor characters we’re mostly there to be rescued or murdered.  But these characters, even the minor ones, are much more developed than that.  There was one character, Marina, who was clearly intending to do sex work, but what about the others?  I couldn’t be sure.

LA:  This is Marina’s second time sexworking in Spain.  Félix looks for two other characters in spas (massage joints) in Madrid, and one of those is adamant about not intending to be a maid.  They’re Latin Americans who belong to a long tradition of working in indoor businesses like bars and flats, or sometimes in the street.  They arrive with contacts and some prior knowledge of what they’re getting into, so it’s a serious problem when the smuggler makes them de-plane in Madrid instead of Málaga.  Of the other characters, Promise, the Nigerian, planned to sexwork in the street, and Eddy, the boy who goes missing, doesn’t intend anything but is moving in that direction.

MM: It seemed to me that their ending up in Madrid was a very big issue, even beyond the lack of connections.  Is Madrid so very different from Málaga?

LA:  Yes, Madrid is a harder place, a capital city and centre of echt-Spanish culture.  Málaga is on the Costa del Sol, crossroads for many kinds of migration, smuggling, tourism and crime.  It’s a long stretch of coast that ends in a point only 32 kilometres from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea.  Nowadays many non-Spanish Europeans from colder climates have homes there in quasi-closed communities.  The coast is by no means a piece of cake, but it’s not a cold, self-important northern city.  Personally I feel a great sense of history there and lived in Granada during the years I worked on Sex at the Margins.

MM:  So it’s a good place to find jobs that aren’t strictly legal?

LA:  This is about informal economies that exist in parallel to formal ones (which means they’re included in government accounting).  Informal economies are even larger than the formal in some developing countries.  In Spain it is not illegal to sell sex, but undocumented migrants have no right to be in the country at all, much less work there.  The same is true when they get jobs in restaurant kitchens, on construction sites, picking fruit and working as maids and cleaners.  The informal economy rolls along, the jobs are available and migrants are more or less glad to get them despite the clandestinity.

MM:  And as you discussed in Sex at the Margins, it’s this informal economy that’s depicted as “trafficking” nowadays, even when there’s no coercion involved per se.

LA:  The group that arrives by plane at the beginning are undocumented migrants.  They’ve got papers to show at the border: passports and tourist visas.  Fakery was involved, and these young people are planning to get paid work, so they’re going to misuse the visas.  A guy who’s part of the smuggling travels with them.  The project is based on the migrants getting jobs and income so they can pay back debts they or their families took on when they bought travel-agency-type services (known in crime-circles as smuggling).  Technically they’re all committing crimes, but to the migrants they feel like minor crimes, given the well-known availability of jobs when they arrive.  Everyone knows people who’ve done it and sent money home.  Do smugglers sometimes resort to nefarious practices?  Of course; it’s an unregulated economy.  But if smugglers want to stay in the business they guard their reputation.  Word spreads.

MM:  I’m sure the rescue industry folks would find fault with the fact that the book isn’t about people “rescuing” these migrants from their smugglers.

LA:  I wrote this book out of love, not as polemic.  I’d have to get paid very well to devote myself for long to analysing moral entrepreneurship; I don’t find crusader-figures interesting.  I don’t see the world in black-and-white, I like ambiguity and shifting ground.  In Félix’s interior life, questions of helping and saving play a part, but she refuses the rescuer-role.

MM:  And really, even the villains aren’t the mustache-twirling cardboard characters so beloved by those who promote the “sex trafficking” narrative.  I’m thinking about Sarac, the smuggler, and Carlos, the sex club owner.

LA:  The smugglers are squabbling amongst themselves and not very appealing, but they aren’t monsters or driving anyone into bondage.  They charge for their services.  Sarac worked as a soldier/mercenary, now does “security” and is involved in people-smuggling.  He wants to do something new, but not pimping.  Carlos operates hostess clubs in Madrid.  Those are not illegal, but he may employ illegal migrants.  He’s part of an established tradition, and he makes good money on the women’s work.

MM:  I think American readers have some very confused ideas about the sex industry and migration in Europe.  Do you think The Three-Headed Dog will appeal to them and help clear up some of those misconceptions?

LA:  Undocumented migration and working in underground economies are worldwide phenomena no matter what local culture or national laws prevail.  Ways to earn money by selling sex vary in the details, but sex workers recognise each other across national borders and talk about the same problems and solutions everywhere.  Sometimes places where laws are uglier provide more opportunities.  Since the migrants are working illegally in Spain they have a lot in common with all sex workers in the USA, right?

MM:  True; all of us are illegal here, whether we were born here or not.  Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers that I haven’t thought of?

LA:  Yes, I want to point out that even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can still buy the Kindle version of The Three-Headed Dog and download a free reading app right there.  And you can read more about sex industry jobs here at my blog.

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