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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

When I say by any means necessary that would be up to those in charge.  –  James Tomes

It recently came to my attention that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been uploading full episodes onto YouTube, so to call attention to that I’m going to feature their treatment of Prince of Space, one of my favorite so-bad-it’s-good movies (though it pales in comparison to the Starman movies).  The links above it are from Radley Balko (“necessary”), Mike Siegel (“sirree”), Jesse Walker  (“gaslight”), and Mark Bennett (“smug”).

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Inside of the White Slave TrafficWith Backpage in the news so much, and various government actors vomiting out so many egregious lies about it, I thought it might be a good idea to recap how this whole shitshow developed from its roots in the previous “sex trafficking” moral panic to the present political circus.  See, while the politicians want you to believe that Backpage is some sort of magical pimp machine the likes of which has never been seen before, the truth is that Backpage ads are the end result of a slow and steady progression of advertising starting roughly a century ago, just after prostitution was criminalized in the US at the height of the last go-round of hysteria over “sex trafficking” (or as it was called then, “white slavery”).  Once brothels could no longer operate openly, escort services appeared, while some women chose to frequent hotels and such and others preferred to take out personal ads in newspapers.  Once the alternative weeklies appeared in the 1960s, the latter approach became far more popular; escorts were able to be more blunt than they could in major newspapers, though not remotely as blatant as they later became once those weeklies went online.  Even the name “Backpage” is a tribute to the site’s origin as an online version of the back pages of alt-weeklies, where the classified ads (including escort ads) were located.  In fact, the only important differences between the online version and its print ancestors are those directly related to the differences between the online medium and the print medium, such as ease of access and speed of both posting and reply (ask a whore who worked prior to the late ’90s about going to one’s PO Box to pick up actual paper letters from clients answering one’s ad, requesting appointments days or weeks in the future).

So when Craigslist first appeared in 1996 as an online classified ad site, it was a foregone conclusion that whores would post ads in its classified and massage sections, just as they had in newspaper sections.  It wasn’t any kind of “revolution”; it just sped things up and made them more efficient.  But whenever a new technology is involved, you can be absolutely sure the Puritans and Luddites will insist that it’s the source of all manner of new evils, and that it will surely bring about the end of civilization (usually by corrupting women and harming children, naturally).  It took them over ten years, however; though Craigslist had a dedicated “erotic services” section by 2002 (I’m not sure of the exact date it was added), the “sex trafficking” fetishists, at that time far less numerous and vociferous than they are now, did not really begin to take note of it until sometime after 2005.  That was the year bureaucrats from the San Francisco Department of Public Health embarked on a campaign to blame the site’s personals section for a rise in syphilis among gay men, using the typical government argument that adults are so stupid and passive that they need to be “encouraged” or “facilitated” by some corporation or communications medium to do things like have sex.  The blame-game seemed to attract the attention of the “sex trafficking” fetishists, and by the following year they were starting to put pressure in the site to “do something” about their favorite imaginary problem.  A group of 40 state attorneys general demanded that Craigslist facilitate pigs’ attempts to arrest sex workers (under guise of “stopping “trafficking”, naturally) and the site responded by requiring a working phone number and charging a fee to post in the erotic services section (to keep underage people out).  Of course, that wasn’t enough; the following year Craigslist renamed the section to “adult services” while prohibitionists blathered about how much money the company was making from the fee they had forced it to charge.  Finally, in 2010 the site shuttered the section, putting up a “censored” bar over the link to it, and advertisers either migrated to Backpage (founded in 2004 specifically as a competitor to Craigslist) or went back to advertising in the personals & massage sections as they did before the “erotic services” category was established.

Drunk with their victory, the prohibitionists immediately turned to Backpage; within weeks of Craigslist’s defeat they sent a similar letter to the one they had sent Craigslist, no doubt expecting a similar reaction.  Instead, they got a fight which has gone on for over six years, with Backpage winning at every turn for the simple reason that the government’s demands are blatantly unconstitutional.  But the evil don’t stop being evil merely because they’re wrong; faced with repeated defeats in their attempts to take legal action against the company, government prohibitionists decided to simply take illegal actions instead, ranging from Tom Dart’s threats against credit card companies to Senate “hearings” of the same sort previously held to intimidate moviemakers, comic book publishers and the music industry.  Then in October, California attorney general Kamala Harris upped the ante by committing the blatantly criminal act of arresting the CEO and both owners of Backpage and filing charges against them that she absolutely knew were illegal for her to file.  Naturally, a judge slapped her down, and she replied by filing even more ridiculous charges, shitting all over the dying protection against double jeopardy in her quest to be a hero to fanatics.  Exhausted and facing the prospect of an infinite succession of similar nuisance charges from criminal tyrants the courts seem unwilling to charge or even rein in, Backpage finally followed in Craigslist’s footsteps and censored its adult ads one week ago today.

But while the mainstream reaction to Craigslist’s defeat was largely a collective yawn, the same is not true this time around.  While Craigslist’s resistance and eventual surrender was generally conducted rather quietly, the war on Backpage has been extremely noisy and impossible to ignore; as a result there have been many articles about it already.  The best of these, as usual, is by Elizabeth Nolan Brown; David Meyer Lindenberg of Fault Lines and Mike Ludwig of Truthout, both strong and dependable allies, also wrote on the topic, and Alison Bass ridiculed Nicholas Kristof’s predictably-ridiculous take on the subject.  Sex workers are coming together to help each other find alternative advertising resources, and other groups such as free-speech advocates and anarchists are chiming in as well.  Backpage has vowed to continue the fight, and I certainly hope they do, because as soon as they stop struggling the prohibitionists will need to find another advertising site to turn into a monster.  Their campaign of eternal outrage needs a target for its hate, or else it means the end of all the accumulation of money and power which is the true aim of this ugly anti-sex crusade.

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The government concedes it presented no evidence.  –  9th Circuit Court

We’ve all seen American propaganda cartoons from the Second World War, but here’s an interesting twist: a Japanese propaganda cartoon from 1936 in which the evil Mickey Mouse bombs Japan and is defeated by Japanese cartoon characters.  Like so many interesting videos lately, it was called to my attention by Jesse Walker; the links above it were provided by Rick HorowitzEd KrayewskiJason KuznickiTim CushingEmma EvansKevin WilsonDave Krueger, and Tim Cushing again, in that order.

From the Archives

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Dr. Kate Lister runs the wonderful, informative and entertaining Whores of Yore Twitter account, and when she recently decided to start a website to go with it I invited her to tell my readers about it.  Kate’s mission is much the same as mine: to demystify and destigmatize sex work by improving communication between sex workers and the general public.

whores-of-yore-logoLast month, on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (2016), I launched the Whores of Yore website; it was the culmination of a year’s hard work on a wonderful project that took me completely unawares.  Whores of Yore grew out of a Twitter feed, that grew out of a research project on medieval sexuality, that grew out of a PhD into women and medievalism.  I am a post-doctoral researcher at Leeds Trinity University (UK) and was reading into medieval attitudes surrounding sexual sin, when I found a London court record from 1340 of two “notorious strumpets”; Alice Strumpette and Clarice la Claterballock.  I thought that was just wonderful.  The wry wit in the aliases made me laugh, as I am sure they were supposed to.  But, beyond being funny, the fact that such names would be adopted said more about sex work in the fourteenth century then many academic texts I have read; there was a real humanity to it.  I started the Twitter feed @WhoreofYore to share snapshots of history like that.

I had not foreseen any interest in the feed, but very quickly the followers grew and online articles began to be published about the content.  I started getting feedback from followers who were reacting to the material I was posting in ways I could have never predicted.  Twitter is a great leveller; your voice is on an equal footing with everyone else, and the feedback is instant.  In the beginning, getting daily, uncensored and anonymous feedback about your work is daunting, but I learnt to listen, to respond and serve.  I do get trolled, but follower feedback also made the feed better; it encouraged me to break away from a western focus, include more trans voices and bring in a daily dose of #HistoricalHottie (photographs of handsome men from history to balance up the eye-candy on offer).  But, what changed my research was that Twitter allowed me to engage directly with the sex worker community.  Suddenly, the history I was researching was no longer dead and buried; it was correcting my terminology on Twitter, and calling me a cunt when I got things wrong.  Without realising it, I had been guilty of viewing sex work only through a historical, academic lens; it wasn’t real to me.  But when a sex worker from Australiawhores-of-yore-screencap made contact with me to say she enjoyed the feed, but please could I stop using the word “prostitute” and use “sex worker” instead, I finally got it.  History is powerful because it frames contemporary debate, but it is not to be archived away and accessible only to (well meaning) academics; it should engage with lives today.  I was using the word “prostitute” in a clinical, academic way, but that perpetuated narratives that exists outside of historical research and the ivory tower.  That was the moment that I saw a project that could make history relevant to contemporary issues.  I wanted @WhoresofYore to facilitate an active process of feedback, reciprocal communication and attribution between sex workers, historians, activists, and anyone else who had a view to express.

As sex workers are stigmatised, often criminalized people, historically, they have had little opportunity to speak without intermediaries.  Rather, their stories and voices have been assumed by journalists, activists, and academics (like myself – the irony is not lost on me).  However, with the advent of social media platforms, this is rapidly changing; social media has allowed sex workers a public voice, a space to engage with those speaking for them and about them, like never before.  Online sex worker communities have been formed, alliances made and agendas set.  “Nothing about us without us” is the mantra of the sex worker rights movement; the web and social media provide a platform for the sex worker voice to be heard, and invited academics to genuinely listen to the group they research.  I wanted to build on this dynamic with a website and further bridge the gap between academic, historical research, and the sex worker voice; I hoped the website would create a space that enabled a process of democratisation and facilitate a discussion, rather than a lecture into the study and history of sexuality.

I wanted the website to feature articles on the history of sexuality and sex workers, but to retain an emphasis on sexuality and contemporary voices.  To that end, I created a several article sections: sex history, sex talk, sex worker voices, LGBT History, politics and the law and an interactive timeline of sex workers throughout history.  I put out a call for article submissions on the Twitter feed, and articles started to roll in.  I have been extremely fortunate and BASIS Yorkshire (a charity who work with street sex workers and some of the most vulnerable members of the sex work community) have agreed to write a monthly blog about their work.  BASIS is very private and protective of the people they work with, so to be able to facilitate a space for them is a real honour.  I also have a sex therapist, Drew Lawson, who is regularly blogging on the site and answering all kinds of questions about sexuality.  I work with the archivist at Delta of Venus, the web’s largest collection of vintage erotica, to bring a selection of historical pornographic images.

kate-listerBut, this is only the beginning.  So far, the project has been entirely self-funded, but I am looking into investment to grow.  The project will expand to include podcasts, vlogging and interviews with historians, activists, members of the sex work community, and those who feel they are marginalised by their sexuality.  The history of sexuality will be placed side by side with sexuality today in the hope we can join up some of those conversations.  The purpose of this archive is not to create a goldfish bowl for others to stare into, but to provide a platform and invite people to share their experience and story; if you have an article to bring to the conversation, please email me.  Shame and stigma are broken down through conversation, and when we listen to one another; I hope that’s what this project can play a part in.  As Shannon L. Alder once wrote, “Never be ashamed of who you are.  True shame always belongs to the person that enjoys being ashamed of who you are.”

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Says he’s got a thing about burnin’ witches
Ooh, some of these were mighty fine bitches.
– Carl Douglas

Some of you may remember the catchy 1974 hit “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, who was apparently a movie fan because he also wrote & recorded “Witchfinder General”, inspired by the Vincent Price film about Matthew Hopkins.  The video was called to my attention by Jesse Walker, who also provided “cities”; the other links above the video are from Scott GreenfieldTim Cushing (x2),  ClarissaSkye, and Dave Krueger, in that order.

From the Archives

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Godspeed, John Glenn.  –  Mission Control, 1962

Holy shit, 2016, will you not fucking stop?  John Glenn now?  The last of the Mercury Seven, gone?  As the young people say, I can’t even.  The links above it are from Mike Siegel (“does”), Tim Cushing (“escalated”, “England” and “control”),  DBetzel (“drone”), Popehat (“RIP” and “old”), Jesse Walker (“movie”), and Mr. Science (“warrant”).

From the Archives

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Crushing people’s freedom is fine…until it happens to the elites or their friends.  –  Mike Siegel

Storyville

Cute little video explaining how sex workers brought civilization to the Wild West:

Scapegoats

Because obviously pigs still don’t have enough excuses to cage people yet:

Having sex with an animal is one step closer to being banned in Ohio after the state Senate unanimously approved an anti-bestiality bill.  The…law…will…require an offender to undergo “psychological evaluation or counselling”.  Ohio is one of a dozen US states that does not have a law banning bestiality…Jim Hughes, a state Senator, branded the lack of…[another excuse to cage people] “sickening”…

Above the Law  

“It’s hard to imagine a more predictable abuse of authority,” Maggie McNeill said:

…Lamont King…[is] an assistant family services worker in the…[New Jersey] Department of Children and Families, where his duties included transporting parents and children to and from court-ordered visits and supervising them.  He faces charges…after a State Police investigation found he was pressuring vulnerable women into sex acts by threatening their custody of their children…”It’s hard to imagine a more offensive abuse of authority,” the attorney general said…

Buried Truth

Vanillas who can’t recognize repressed kink when they see it are hilarious:

Garrett Jonsson ran 30 marathons in 30 days, handcuffed during each one of them, and then biked 3,800 miles across the United States dragging chains behind him–all to raise awareness about the harms of pornography addiction…29-year-old Jonsson explained that his first exposure to pornography was at age nine.  Pornography became a regular habit for him throughout adolescence…Everything changed when Jonsson discovered Fight the New Drug, [an anti-porn propaganda campaign]…”Handcuffs for me represented the addictive nature of pornography”…

Policing for Profit

A rare victory for victims of legalized robbery:

Iowa officials have agreed to settle a lawsuit by two California poker players who were robbed of $100,000 after they were pulled over by state police in 2013.  The state, which [pretended] that the poker winnings were…connected to [imaginary] drug trafficking, will pay William Davis and John Newmer­zhycky $60,000 in addition to the $90,000 that was returned before they filed their lawsuit.  Meanwhile, the Iowa State Patrol has disbanded the [official robbery gang] that was responsible for the traffic stop…

Little Boxes (#347)

Another example of the “limited hours for massage parlors” fad:

Massage businesses in Tacoma will no longer be able to operate in the late night and early morning hours.  The…City Council passed an ordinance…that limits their hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.  The move came at the suggestion of Councilman Marty Campbell…as a way to cut down on illegal sex trafficking and prostitution.  Campbell [vomited up a lot of nonsense about]…“human trafficking operations masquerading as massage parlors”…

The Widening Gyre (#348)

No torches, but a mob nonetheless:

One woman has been killed and some 40 people were arrested in a Peruvian shantytown after an angry mob tried to lynch two pollsters whom residents believed were butchering local children to take their organs…[“human trafficking”] rumors on social media claiming dead children had been found with their organs missing fanned mass hysteria in the shantytown Huaycan on the outskirts of Lima…

Wise Investment (#442)

Sex workers need to keep fighting prostitution charges, especially those resulting from “sting” operations:

A…jury has acquitted a [woman]…of prostitution charges that stemmed from a 2015 sting at a [Minnesota] massage parlor.  Yuanfen…Liu’s defense attorney Randall Tigue called the situation a “tragedy” for Liu…“It ruined her life…She wound up losing her business here and moving to Kansas”…[the vindictive and evil] prosecutor Rebecca Christensen [said she was]…“disappointed that” [she couldn’t destroy Liu’s life even more]…a [lying pig claimed]…she…grabbed his genitals…Liu denied that…Tigue also argued in court that even if Liu had agreed to a price and touched the detective’s genitals, it still wouldn’t amount to “sexual contact” as defined in state statute, because she didn’t act to satisfy her own sexual impulses…and, therefore, couldn’t amount to prostitution under the statute…

Lawyers:  this seems like a pretty silly defense to me, since whores act to make money, not for our own sexual gratification.  Is this actually an element in some state laws?

A Year Later

Unlike the US media,the Canadians are willing to call anti-whore bullshit what it is:

Sex workers are still not protected from exploitation and violence in Canada and their Charter rights are ignored, says a new report…by the Pivot Legal Society…[which] is calling for an appeal of the two-year-old Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act…the new legislation regarding sex workers makes it illegal to communicate to exchange sexual services, profit as a third party from someone else’s sexual services, procure someone to provide sexual services, and provide third party advertising for sexual services…“The PCEPA has been mischaracterized as targeting only those who harm or exploit sex workers, without criminalizing sex workers and others who may enhance their safety.  Analysis of the Criminal Code provisions in the PCEPA shows that the legislation has resulted in sweeping criminalization of the sex industry”…

To Molest and Rape molester-cop-charles-logan-abernathy

Go on, keep putting costumed rapist thugs where they can prey on your kids:  “Charles Logan Abernathy, a [cop] at East Robertson High School was arrested in Portland, Tennessee…He’s facing five counts of sexual battery by an authority figure…

Pyrrhic Victory (#683)

The dystopian future of Minority Report has arrived:

…Biometrica Systems describes its business as “creating software and systems…with the intention of minimizing…events that could lead to crime.”  The company’s encrypted Security & Surveillance Information Network (SSIN) is already used by law-enforcement and gaming, retail, and hospitality businesses to share real-time information about…individuals.  Now, the network’s newest iteration will give clients “the ability to run facial recognition scans of any individual or group on their properties and match them against a law enforcement verified database of criminals numbering in the millions, including more than one million registered sex offenders”—all using a convenient mobile app…Initially focused on the casino…sector, Biometrica has since expanded SSIN to serve “shopping centers, stores, malls, and movie theaters”…

The End of the Beginning (#686) 

Dare we hope this is a trend?

Last week federal courts overturned…unconstitutionally vague [“sex offender” laws from]…Hartford City…Indiana…[and the state of] North Carolina…Like last summer’s 6th Circuit decision against Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act, last week’s rulings go beyond the usual hand waving about child protection to ask whether the restrictions imposed by such laws can be justified by their purported public safety benefits…the 6th Circuit said…that there was “no evidence in the record that the difficulties the statute imposes on registrants are counterbalanced by any positive effects…the punitive effects of these blanket restrictions…far exceed even a generous assessment of their salutary effects”…

The Widening Gyre (#696)

The awesome Glenn Kessler won’t let partisans forget that the “Pizzagate” lunacy springs from the “sex trafficking” hysteria they’ve enthusiastically promoted, and demonstrates the ghoulish lengths to which prohibitionists will go to promote their narrative:

…The easy acceptance of [“Pizzagate”] underscores how bogus facts about sex trafficking – which The Fact Checker has examined extensively — are so easily spread.  Now…conspiracy theorists [are] speculating that Monica Petersen, an activist for sex-worker rights, was killed because she was investigating links between the Clinton Foundation and sex trafficking in Haiti…Petersen…passed away on Nov. 13, in Haiti…[apparently from] suicide but the circumstances are not clear…Petersen was active in promoting sex-worker rights.  Her last interview before her death was for a two-hour podcast, which aired in September…titled “Fighting the Trafficking Narrative from Alaska to Rhode Island”…she…was an advocate for sex workers who disdained the rhetoric of…anti-trafficking zealots.  Yet some people are so quick to promote and share false narratives that they tragically turned her professional focus into the polar opposite…

My friend Mike Siegel also had this to say:

…Unlike the Pizzagate business…[“sex trafficking”] myths are pushed by mainstream politicians and the mainstream media…These myths serve to support a “War on Sex Trafficking” that, in many ways, is replacing the “War on Drugs” as a way to seize money and put people in prison.  None of this is ever questioned…The media has invested more resources in debunking one crazy 4Chan theory than an entire massive law enforcement structure designed to crush people voluntarily exchanging money for sex.  As my friend Maggie McNeill said, here is the real story: our national hysteria over sex trafficking finally hurt a friend of the powerful.  This war is damaging the lives of thousands of consenting adults every day.  But they don’t matter because they’re not politically connected.  The owner of this pizzeria is a friend and fund-raiser for Clinton.  So suddenly, miraculously, it’s a national crisis…

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