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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

jenny-williamsonAlmost a month ago, I featured the story of yet another “rescue” scam shut down.  But as sometimes happens in such cases, the con artist behind it refused to cut her losses and move on; instead, she’s decided to fight to keep the gravy train coming in.  And it appears that her motivation is not solely monetary, though given her hefty salary that’s obviously a large part of it; no, it seems that a large portion of what’s driving this is a sick need to control other people without their consent.  The unsinkable Liz Brown tells it like this:

Once girls arrived at the house, they were expected to hand over their cellphones.  Internet access was also strictly limited—Jenny’s rules.  For “her girls” to stay in good graces, they were expected to do as she said, go where she told them to, and be available when she wanted to show them off in photos or at events.  It’s the kind of controlling, exploitative situation police warn us that runaway teens are likely to end up in at the hands of…traffickers.  But in this case, control came via the people ostensibly helping…under the auspices of an organization called Courage Worldwide…founded in 2011 by Jenny T. Williamson (on direct orders from God, or so she claims)…the girls were supposed to be able to heal in comfort and privacy.  Instead, they found themselves cut off from the outside world, with services and staff lacking (one former employee said she was told there was only money for two of the six girls per month to see a psychiatrist), while being subjected to the invasive publicity demands of Williamson…”who micromanaged her trained staff and…frequently…fired [staff] for raising questions about ‘the vision’“…Williamson acted more like the proverbial controlling pimp or madam than someone truly dedicated to helping exploited teenagers…the people who “rescued” them are employing the same sort of isolating and controlling techniques they [supposedly] escaped, treating them more like Courage Worldwide products than people, and publicizing their images and past horror stories to the whole community.  DeAnne Brining, a licensed therapist who had contracted with Courage House, described the situation as “abusive” and said Williamson routinely “paraded the girls around” for marketing purposes…

It seems like Williamson’s greed may have been more an extension of her narcissism and control-freakishness than a specimen of garden-variety avarice:

…For her work as CEO of the nonprofit, Williamson paid herself $115,000 in 2015…The group reported net assets of $1.4 million that year.  In addition to accepting donations from numerous local businesses, it received about $9,100 in government support per month per girl it took in……[yet] services and staff [were] lacking (one former employee said she was told there was only money for two of the six girls per month to see a psychiatrist)…”state inspections that found numerous violations, including inadequate staffing levels and no current administrator“…Courage Worldwide’s website still touts the organization’s expansion plan, which includes opening 10 new cottages for underage [girls labeled as] sex-trafficking victims…

threadbareIn keeping with her usual thoroughness, Liz doesn’t merely quote and comment upon the original Sacramento Bee expose as I did last month; instead, she also links another commentary on the item from Broadly, quotes Dr. Laura Agustín, reminds readers about arch-fraudsters Somaly Mam and Chong Kim, and calls attention both to Anne Elizabeth Moore’s Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking, and to her report in Truthout on the incredible amount of money taken in by US anti-prostitution organizations.  As I mentioned last Friday, I’m incredibly grateful for Liz’s hard work; she and other journalists like Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post have relieved me of the burden of debunking “that up until recently I was conducting almost solo, and have brought…anti-whore bullshit to the attention of far more people than this blog ever could.”  But apparently, some other writers on this topic are more concerned with something other than winning the war authoritarians have relentlessly waged against us for over a decade now; how else can one explain a tweet from a fairly well-known journalist (who was a sex worker herself years ago) in which she appears to accuse Liz of near-plagiarism (from Broadly), or at least laziness?  Part of this may be due to the fact as one of the (former) sex workers who has a weird and inexplicable attraction to socialism (despite that ideology’s consistent attacks on whores and whoring), the critic I speak of has issues with Reason (despite the fact that she herself has been published there).  However, given that Reason has consistently supported sex worker rights for years (and in theory, for its entire existence), while Vice (Broadly‘s parent publication) has been happy to enrich itself by frequently publishing anti-whore propaganda, this makes even less sense than the idea that said critic is simply envious that Brown is doing a better and more consistent job of reporting on sex worker rights than she’s ever done.  If we’re going to win this war, we’re going to have to set aside petty jealousies and foolish devotion to pie-in-the-sky ideologies; the only important thing is demolishing criminalization and the edifice of lies that’s been constructed to further it, and absurd criticisms of our strongest warriors only work against that goal.

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Allied for Change

The only way to stop this will be for those who approve of it to suffer actual consequences, and that isn’t going to happen until all of you clients out there get off of your duffs and fight…gentlemen, I suggest you had better rethink your current silence, unless you want to be the next one with your name and picture splashed across newspapers, TV screens and websites.  –  “Scrupleless in Seattle

anonymous-clientWhen one puts as much time and energy into a cause as I have invested in this one over the last decade, it’s gratifying to see support for that cause slowly grow and become more visible to the general public.  Despite the fact that I’ve always had a lot of praise and encouragement from within my own community, for a long time it looked like the only people who were listening were those already in the demimonde and our natural allies such as libertarians and human rights advocates.  But every Friday the 13th I’ve called for more allies, and I’ve watched the wind gradually shift toward recognition of the fact that criminalization of any aspect of sex work is a gross violation of human rights; I’ve seen universal, credulous acceptance of the “sex trafficking” paradigm crumble, powerful new allies like Amnesty International come on board and the government sabotaging its own propaganda by indulging in ill-considered pogroms like the prosecutions of Rentboy and The Review Board.  Over the past year many groups and individuals, emboldened by Amnesty’s stance, have condemned the War on Whores and attacked its dogma-driven underpinnings, while energetic journalists like Glenn Kessler and Elizabeth Nolan Brown have taken up the task of debunking that up until recently I was conducting almost solo, and have brought the government’s anti-whore bullshit to the attention of far more people than this blog ever could.

But until recently, one group of important natural allies was conspicuously silent.  Men who pay for sex at least occasionally outnumber whores by a factor of sixty to one, yet (with rare exceptions like Chester Brown and Jim Norton) are almost never heard from.  This certainly isn’t hard to understand; the majority of them are married, and so stand to lose their wives and families, plus even their jobs and social standing due to our culture’s increasing sex-negativity.  Add to that fashionable “end demand” client demonization and legal persecution, and the fact that some silly whores (who think of activism as a kind of social club rather than a war) actually oppose their support, and one can certainly understand why clients prefer to keep their mouth shut.  I’ve been working to change that for a long time, but against such a mountain of stoic silence what can one loudmouthed harlot accomplish?  But finally, the seriousness of the situation seems to be sinking in: official persecution of clients has become so aggressive, vicious and sociopathic (especially in cities suckling at Swanee Hunt’s filthy tits, such as Seattle) that clients’ lives are being destroyed by the hundreds in schemes that couldn’t pass constitutional muster even if the judges were all stoned.  Christina Slater’s recent telling of a busted client’s story and Dan Savage’s quoting me in calling clients to arms have inspired a group of clients, activists and attorneys to start a new website dedicated to client activism; the group is called Clients of Sex Workers Allied for Change, and their mission statement is below:

This website is for clients of sex workers to share experiences and resources, and to dispel myths surrounding participation in paid sex.

We affirm that sex workers and clients have the same right of sexual expression as other consenting adults.

We support social services that empower sex workers to improve their lives and aid those choosing to leave sex work.

We condemn force, fraud or coercion in any sexual encounter, and we call for safe and effective means for sex workers and clients to report abuses without fear of prosecution.

We condemn efforts to stigmatize sex workers, their clients, and interested third parties.

We join the growing number of diverse organizations calling for the full decriminalization of sex work.

They’ve flattered me by asking for my input in an advisory capacity, and once the site gets well and truly going you’ll be seeing a guest column here from one of the founders.  In the meantime, please check the site out; it’s been a long time coming, and I’m damned glad it’s here.

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Fair Trade

I know a handful of people who have seen sex workers for trade.  I have no issue with the idea that sex can be exchanged for money or (as in “traditional marriage”) other benefits, and I’m not at all bugged by, say, a photographer exchanging website photos for a domme session; however, I get a little nervous when I hear about a lawyer or a doctor trading for some sexual pay-off.  I guess legal and medical coverage hint at a greater power differential; they are so expensive and so very important, and so many people need them who don’t easily have access to them, that my mind wonders when consent ends and coercion begins if one is charged with a crime or needs an appendectomy.  I certainly don’t think that just because a sex worker wouldn’t have sex with someone in their personal lives, it’s somehow automatically coercion when they are doing it to pay their bills/survive.   So when is one right to feel squicked out?  Is a for-trade situation ever just totally inappropriate?  Or is this some ghastly Puritanical reflex that I need to consider unlearning?

Though you may find it an interesting exercise in introspection to try to figure out why you’re squicked out by the exchange of sex for what we might call “high level” professional services, I don’t think you should feel compelled to do so because there isn’t anything “wrong” with your feeling that way.  Now, I suspect that the reason is some sort of entanglement with the idea of a powerful person demanding sexual services as payment for a favor; I think we can agree that a cop saying, “Give me sex or I’ll arrest you”, or a company boss saying, “Give me sex or I’ll fire you and destroy your career”, are forms of rape.  And though I don’t agree that for a professional who does not have actual power over a person to offer valuable and/or expensive services in exchange for sex is morally wrong, I can imagine circumstances in which the line would be mighty thin; for example, the only doctor in a remote village demanding sex and refusing any other form of payment from an extremely ill woman in dire poverty without means of travel to find a different doctor.  So it’s not at all surprising that the one type of interaction could “cross-contaminate” the other in your psyche.

However, it doesn’t actually matter why you feel squicked out by that particular interaction, as long as you respect the right of others not to feel that way.  As I wrote in “Out of the Dark”, “The human brain is not rational, and we don’t get to choose what turns us on….sexual likes, dislikes, kinks and fetishes emerge by mysterious paths from the murky swamp we carry deep in our brains, and there’s no known way to reroute those pathways once they’re established.”  Lots of people are squicked out by the fact that I have sex for money with strange men, some of whom may be extremely physically unattractive; others are uncomfortable with my bisexuality, or with the fact that I’m extremely turned on by some kinds of BDSM.  At the same time, I’m unmoved or even turned off by other kinds of BDSM, and also by some vanilla sex acts that millions of people enjoy.  And that’s all perfectly OK, as long as everyone respects everyone else’s right to have different feelings and refrains from inflicting violence on them or otherwise trying to persecute them, such as by lobbying for laws (enforced by violent thugs) to criminalize behaviors not because they objectively harm others, but merely because they don’t like them.  The most important thing to remember is that aversions and squickouts are properties of individual psyches, not of the things those individuals are squicked out by; they are personal idiosyncrasies, and therefore harmless and not really a cause for concern unless they cause one distress or drive him to act in a way that abrogates the rights of others.

(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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Chester Brown is one of the most renowned and respected cartoonists in the world; he and I first met online about four years ago and quickly became friends.  And while I did give him a little help with his revised edition of Paying For It, and he drew the cover for my book Ladies of the Night, his new book is the first one I’ve been privileged to see developed from the very first kernel of the idea (shared in a letter to me several years ago) all the way to distribution and book signings.  So once the initial release whirlwind had died down and I figured he might have some time, I asked him if he’d like to do a guest column introducing the book; he sent this the very next day.  Oh, and one more thing:  Chester now has a Patreon account, and if supporting outspoken allies of sex workers is important to you, you really should consider signing up to that.  Just sayin’.

While the subtitle of my new book is Prostitution And Religious Obedience In The Bible, and there are stories about several biblical prostitutes in it, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus is mostly about the connections that Jesus had to prostitution.  I’m proposing three interrelated ideas:

  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a prostitute.
  • Mary of Bethany, the woman who anointed Jesus as a christ, was a prostitute.
  • Jesus’s parables about The Prodigal Son and The Talents indicate that he didn’t see prostitutes and their clients as sinners to be forgiven but, rather, saw paying for sex as socially beneficial.

The Prodigal Son (page 164)I’m not going to try to convince you that I’m right about all that here; that’s what the book is for.  Instead I want to talk about the issue of bias.  Some critics have dismissed my ideas because I have a bias; for example, see this piece in the A.V. Club.  It is true that I have a bias; I’ve been a client of sex workers for seventeen years and do happen to see the profession as socially beneficial.  I’ve made no attempt to hide that fact.  The question is, does having a bias on a particular subject necessarily invalidate one’s views on that subject?  Should Martin Luther King Jr’s views on civil rights have been dismissed because, being a black man, he had a bias?  I think it’s precisely because I have a bias that I was able to see certain things in the Bible that haven’t been obvious to others.  And it’s not like others who’ve written about Jesus and prostitution before me did not have a bias on the subject of sex work; in fact, I’d venture to guess that the vast majority of biblical scholars, past and present, had and have a whorephobic bias against sex work.

Let’s talk about two relatively recent examples that I came across while researching for my book.  Karen King is a biblical scholar whom I have a lot of respect for.  Her fascinating book What Is Gnosticism? transformed my understanding of that subject.  In 2003, she published a book titled The Gospel of Mary Of Magdala.  In it, King translates and analyzes an ancient text known as The Gospel Of Mary, which presents a woman named Mary as Jesus’s wisest disciple.  Most people assume that the woman is Mary Magdalene, and they’re probably right; I would recommend King’s book to anyone who wants to understand this difficult text.  On page 3, King writes that The Gospel Of Mary “exposes the erroneous view that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute for what it is — a piece of theological fiction”.  However, reading the text of the gospel, one finds no mention of prostitution; there’s no indication what Mary’s source of income was.  (Even a spiritual person in first century Palestine needed some sort of income, whether it was from begging or some other source.)  There’s no sign one way or the other in The Gospel Of Mary, as we have it, that Mary was or wasn’t a prostitute, nor is there any mention of sex; furthermore, King doesn’t interpret any of the material as relating to prostitution or sex.  Now, since there are many pages missing in the two surviving manuscripts of the text, it’s possible that one of those missing pages mentioned that Mary was a prostitute.  (I hesitate to get conspiratorial, but perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that certain pages went missing in both surviving manuscripts.)  But even if those missing pages didn’t mention that Mary was a prostitute, that still wouldn’t prove she wasn’t one.  So why does King think that the The Gospel Of Mary PROVES that Mary never had sex for pay?  King doesn’t explain her reasoning, but there can be only one reason:  The gospel presents Mary as the most wise and spiritual of the disciples of Jesus, and King whorephobically assumes that a prostitute could not be wise and spiritual.

In the 2006 book Secrets Of Mary Magdalene, edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, there’s an essay by the respected historian James Carroll in which, on page 24, he quotes Luke 8:2-3.  In that biblical passage, it’s mentioned that Mary Magdalene and several other women “provided for them [Jesus and the male disciples] out of their own resources.”  Carroll reads this as an indication that Mary and the other women must therefore have been “well-to-do, respectable figures.”  In other words, they could not have been prostitutes, because, of course, only well-to-do, respectable women had money — prostitutes had absolutely no way to get ahold of money.  This isn’t quite as obviously whorephobic as the Karen King example, but it does indicate a desperate over-eagerness to distance Mary Magdalene from prostitution.  Why wasn’t it obvious to Carroll that, while evidence that Mary Magdalene had money could indicate that she was “respectable”, it could just as easily be evidence that she was a prostitute?  There’s a probably unconscious bias going on there, and one sees it over and over while reading books about biblical prostitutes in general and Mary Magdalene in particular.

Tamar (page 27)On the question of whether Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, I don’t have a definite opinion one way or the other.  It’s true that none of the biblical books link Mary Magdalene with the profession, but Jesus was close with Mary of Bethany, who definitely was a prostitute, and it could be that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person.  It’s also possible that they were two separate women, since the name Mary was popular at the time. (See pages 245 to 253 of Mary Wept for more on this.)  A basic rule: when a scholar claims with certainty that Mary Magdalene absolutely could not have been a prostitute, that scholar probably has a bias against sex work.  That doesn’t mean that all of that scholar’s conclusions should be dismissed, any more than my pro-sex work bias means that my conclusions should be dismissed.  All it really means is that readers should keep authorial bias in mind when reading any book.

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Our perception of what makes a service “safer” isn’t always universal.  –  Lux Alptraum

Bad Jobs

Like something Melissa Farley would make up, only true:  “A new survey shows 90% of social care workers [in Ireland] have experienced violence in the workplace…75% experienced physical assaults – some on a daily basis…

Somehow, I Doubt She Thought This Through

Never call the cops for any reason whatsoever, especially if you’re a whore:

A prostitute was arrested after she told police a clients handcuffed her and robbed her of $2,000 in cash and her belongings…At some point after the man paid her…he pulled out a police [badge], claimed he was a [cop] and handcuffed her with fake cuffs…He took his $190 off the hotel room dresser, swiped $2,000 in cash…and…the woman’s $1,000 iPad Mini, a $40 backpack and a $100 MetroPCS phone…Police arrested the woman and charged her with prostitution…However, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case…

Above the Law  creepy-cop-neil-hempsall

There’s nothing here saying he harmed or threatened any of the sex workers he looked up, but of course there’s no way to know that given that he stalked them by looking up their fucking police records:

A disgraced cop who used his force computer to contact sex workers…was allowed to keep his job…[Neil Hempsall] admitted four charges and escaped with a community order…[the prosecutor said] “He…had been using the services of sex workers and accessing their record on the police computer system”…There was…[also] evidence he was tracking down a former lover…

The Pygmalion Fallacy (#46)

I can’t help laughing at pathetic losers wanking to their fantasies of superhuman sex robots, but but the ones who suffer reaction formation from such fantasies elicit a mixture of pathos and disgust:

According to a [soi-disant] expert in the field, we’ll need to be careful we don’t get addicted to artificial-intelligence lovemaking.  Joel Snell is an [academic who fantasizes]…there’s a real risk linked to the robots…because they’ll offer great sex at any time of the day and night…it’ll never be able to turn you down.  “People may become obsessed by their ever-faithful, ever-pleasing sex robot lovers,” he warned.  “People will rearrange their lives to accommodate their addictions”…

Bonus stupid anti-sex trope: “sex addiction”.

Lack of Evidence (Extra Edition)

It’s a sign of our culture’s deeply-sick sexual attitudes that people still believe in “virginity tests”:

[Dear Dr. Petra, my boyfriend is] like me…a virgin.  But when he checked my vagina he said he could tell I wasn’t a virgin and he doesn’t feel able to be with me until I can be truthful.  I don’t know how to convince him that I am a virgin and don’t know what signs he can see that tell him I’m not…I’m now worried I might be mistaken about myself…[Dr. Petra Answers:] I’m sure everyone reading this [is]…wondering what the circumstances were that led up to him checking your vagina?…You may have told him to get better educated about virginity and women’s bodies.  You might have told him his actions felt alarming and controlling…You could have said he clearly had no idea what he was talking about.  Any or all of these responses would have been reasonable.  And all of them are a good enough reason…to end the relationship without further discussion…There will be other people who are kinder, more sexually informed, more respectful, better communicators and won’t subject you to virginity checks…

Cardboard Cutouts

Note that 1.5% is my standard estimate of coercion among Western sex workers:

This week new statistics on human trafficking in The Netherlands where presented by the Dutch National Rapporteur Human Trafficking [and]…the city of Amsterdam…the Dutch Rapporteur reported…1,321 possible victims of trafficking…66%…from the sex industry…these are not proven victims, but simply people of whom other people (police, marshals, city officials and social workers) have (slight) suspicions about that perhaps they could be victims…if…there are about 827 possible victims in prostitution, and the total amount of sexworkers in The Netherlands are estimated at around 20.000…it would come down to about 4,1%…only 102 possible victims in prostitution where reported in Amsterdam…[which] would come down to about 1,5% of all the sexworkers in Amsterdam…what’s interesting is to compare the suspected victims with the actual number of victims that annually actually press charges…in 2015…33 victims actually [pressed] charges for human trafficking, which is almost the same as the year before (29 in 2014) and the year before that (32 in 2013).  In short, quite a bit lower than how many people are being reported as “possible” victims…

Feminists and Other Puritans

Once again:  NO, a coalition between two different fundamentalist groups to fight what they perceive as a common enemy is in no way “surprising”:

…the surprising nexus between radical feminists and Christian Right culture warriors has been with us a long time.  In the 1980s, anti-porn feminists like Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin teamed up with anti-porn conservatives like Edwin Meese, leading to the passage of laws censoring sexual speech in the name of protecting women.  In the last decade, anti-prostitution feminists have joined forces with fundamentalist Christians to prosecute sex workers under the aegis of sex trafficking laws.  And now, some essentialist feminists – pejoratively nicknamed TERFs, for “Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists” – have provided the pseudo-philosophical basis for fundamentalist Christians’ anti-transgender laws…[while] TERFs…approvingly cite…anti-trans [Christian]…right-wing scholars and writers…Feminists…and…Conservatives don’t oppose porn because they want to protect women; they oppose porn because they oppose sexual licentiousness and free sexual expression.  Just like they oppose protecting trans people because transgender reality scares them, disgusts them, or offends their outdated theologies.  A similar shell-game has recently arisen in the context of sex trafficking…This was a deliberate deception on the part of anti-sex activists like the anti-prostitution group Demand Abolition.  As exposed by The Washington Post in 2014, that group’s internal document said that “framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support”…

Hey, Jay Michaelson:  I appreciate your mentioning my work, but the standard practice when doing so is to name the author rather than just the publication, and to include a link to the piece cited.

Guest Columnist:  Kaytlin Bailey

My friend Kaytlin Bailey, on coming out to her father:

…I was afraid to tell him about my having been a prostitute because he was a great dad.  I didn’t want him to think one had anything to do with the other.  I didn’t want to burden him with this indulgent, selfish secret because I feared the images that “your daughter was a prostitute” would conjure might break him, even when his various tours of duty didn’t…We talked for hours, never addressing my prostitution directly. We got tipsy, and…he said…that he was proud of me, and that I could always come home.  “No matter what.”  I could see he wasn’t angry.  He was nervous for me the same way he’s always been…

Go read it.  Please. playing-cowboy-in-cartagena

They Never Learn

Since this self-aggrandizing fascist wankfest hasn’t sold as a TV show, they made a pilot movie:

“Just like the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought awareness to slavery and helped start a civil war, this movie can instantly turn that dial of public awareness to sex trafficking,” [fantasizes] director Chet Thomas.  Toward the beginning of The Abolitionists, a film with a limited release…the audience is introduced to “Batman”…a flawed hero with a troubled past who now works largely in the dark of night, protecting the vulnerable from unimaginable horrors…Batman…spent 15 years laundering money for drug cartels in Latin America…[until he had] a Christian epiphany…Nowadays, he works undercover, largely with a former Homeland Security officer named Tim Ballard.  The two of them set up sting operations worldwide that result in the capture of those who sell children as sex slaves…The directors of the documentary…also are working on a TV show.  They say they have enough video — taken with cameras disguised as sunglasses, pens and phones — for 25 episodes…Ballard’s organization, Operation Underground Railroad, has rescued 573 children worldwide and put 160 criminals behind bars…

Choke Point (#610)

The government-encouraged gentrification of the internet is tightening the noose on sex workers:

Lately, it seems like every website wants to see my ID.  Facebook was the first…then Airbnb started asking me to submit both a Facebook account and legal identification…And now Twitter’s opened up its verification process to all sorts of users—provided, of course, those users are willing to send the staff a copy of their legal identification…this push towards a verified internet…makes me concerned that the next iteration of the social media sites that have been essential to the destigmatization of sex work…won’t be quite so amenable to sex work…It should be relatively obvious why a tweeting escort would want to avoid providing her legal information…but even practitioners of legal sex work such as porn and stripping might not be too keen on the idea…it’s…possible that the potential chilling effect on sex worker voices is more than just an unintentional side effect…

The End of the Beginning (#668) 

A reminder that in most of the US, the situation is still worsening:

When he was 18, David Clark had sex with a 14-year-old.  In 1982 he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct…and was sentenced to four years of probation.  The following year, the state legislature passed a law that retroactively required Clark to register as a sex offender.  In 2009 he was arrested for failing to register…He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.  Last week a federal appeals court [pretended] there was nothing constitutionally amiss about this series of events, because the law threatening to put Clark behind bars is [supposedly] not punitive…retroactive application…violates the Constitution’s ban on ex post facto laws…[but politicians and courts pretend that] forcing sex offenders to register is not a punishment…

Of Course It Is

It’s nice to know that at least a few reporters get this:

…TV stations plastered [Celeste Guap’s] image on newscasts.  Reporters hounded her for interviews and shared images from her social-media accounts on their websites.  During this time, Guap was [using heroin]…to cope with depression related to her [sexual abuse by cops]…last week…Florida deputies arrested Guap and charged her with felony battery…How did the Bay Area media react to this news?  At least four local outlets — including KTVU, SFist.com, ABC 7 and KRON — published Guap’s true identity and legal name, along with a “mug shot” from Florida jail…some local journalists are arguing that Guap’s case already was widely publicized, so it was OK to disclose her legal name…Bullshit.  The only reason her story is news…is because she was an underage victim of sexual assault [by cops]…And her legal name and identity should be protected as such…and…what the hell was Guap doing [in Florida] in the first place?…She’s a witness to…crimes committed by numerous Bay Area [cops, including]…human trafficking, statutory rape, interfering with a police investigation, illegal use of a police computer system, and pandering…she’s…trapped with a $300,000 bail and detoxing from hard street drugs cold-turkey, and…experiencing [jailhouse] harassment from [jailers]…

It’s What They Do

Thanks, Iain, but we don’t want to be “legalized and regulated”; we just want to be left the Hell alone:

The politician in charge of the Commons committee reviewing the laws on prostitution is caught in a prostitution scandal.  It is right for Labour MP Keith Vaz to resign as chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee for the time being…But beyond that, Jeremy Corbyn is right about it being “a private matter”…Mr Vaz has done nothing illegal.  Even the “poppers” he was alleged to have taken are a legal stimulant.  But a lot of people seem to believe that Mr Vaz should now stand down as an MP simply because he was unfaithful to his wife…Yet…people have always had affairs…gay men should surely not be forced do disclose their sexuality if they feel uncomfortable about doing so…Some of the criticism has clearly come from supporters of what is called the “Nordic model” who believe that the buying of sex should be illegal.  But this story vividly illustrates the problems associated with changing the law to criminalise men who purchase sex…I can’t really understand why the sale of sexual services should ever be illegal unless it involves trafficking, pimping, compulsion or other forms of coercive behaviour.  The Vaz case – if the allegations are true – demonstrates why prostitution should be legalised and properly regulated.  So long as it is underground, the sex trade will remain in the hands of the criminals and blackmailers…

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Sex workers’ rights will continue to roll on regardless.  –  Brooke Magnanti

Once again, we’ve been forced to endure another round of the press pretending that politicians paying for sex is somehow shocking.  I’ve got news for you, kiddies: virtually all of them do.  If I had to come up with figures, I’d guess that politicians basically fall one percentage-category higher than ordinary men, so that 20% of them pay regularly, 50-70% occasionally and essentially all of them at least once or twice in their careers.  Yes, this is a completely gut-level guesstimate based mostly on the number of politicians I’ve had between my legs and the secrets I know from having been around the block so many times I’ve lost count, but…is it actually so difficult for amateurs to believe, despite all of the known histories of courtesans throughout history, the frequent “scandals” of our day and the hard-to-miss fact that the client lists of prosecuted escort services are literally never revealed?keith-vaz  Throughout history, powerful men have lusted to keep all of the tail for themselves, and prostitution laws are just the latest incarnation of that; “democratically elected leaders” are just as keen as hereditary nobles to use armed thugs to keep the peons from getting notions that they’re allowed to have sex with other people merely because those others consented to it.  It’s just what “leaders” do.

This particular round of “BREAKING NEWS:  BEAR SHITS IN WOODS!” stars a UK politician named Keith Vaz:

A married Labour MP has stepped aside as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee after allegedly paying two male escorts for sex…at his London flat eight days ago…Mr Vaz, a father of two…made it clear that he will step aside as chairman of the committee, which is currently examining prostitution in the UK, after the allegations were made public…he said: “I am genuinely sorry for the hurt and distress that has been caused by my actions in particular to my wife and children”…

First of all, what is this obsession the UK press has with reporting whether anyone involved in a news story has spawned or not?  Frankly, I fail to see how it’s at all fucking relevant; it’s like reporting how many bowel movements the subjects have had this week.  Unless the children are somehow involved in the story, why should anyone care about this?  I don’t fucking care what some politician had for fucking breakfast, nor where he buys his underwear, nor how many times he managed to impregnate some chick.  Second, are people so stupid that they actually think it’s notable that a sex worker’s client is married?  Because most of them are, you know; in my experience it’s about 70% or so.  If anything, being married makes a man more likely to come to us, not less, because there’s a greater need for his sex to be discreet and string-free.  And third, why is nobody commenting on the fact that the Sunday Mirror appears to have set Vaz up?  As he said to the BBC, “It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals to have acted in this way.”  That seems to imply that the paper was an active participant rather than merely paying two sleazy, unethical escorts (who ought to be taken out back and shot) to violate the most basic principle of our profession, and that breach of confidence could potentially end up hurting all UK sex workers.  Dr. Brooke Magnanti writes:

…This soon turned into calls for the Committee’s recommendation to decriminalise sex work to be discounted…If you think Keith Vaz is singlehandedly responsible for sex workers being treated like human beings, you are very stupid, stop writing now.  The “Swedish Model” favoured by anti-sex work campaigners complaining about Vaz kills women.  And y’all still go apeshit over who puts a consensual dick where and when.  The money governments spend on anti-trafficking  puts women in abusive jails and detention centres worldwide…Press, public, and governments put ideology before lives…People who weren’t there trying to rewrite Home Affairs Select Committee’s hearings on prostitution…Maybe you remember; it was in a lot of papers…All of the contact with the Committee before that hearing had been skewed  heavily towards the Swedish Model…Go on, watch the video.  This was not softball.  Paris Lees and I…got into actual arguments with MPs who…don’t seem to believe they answer to taxpayers or need input from sex workers, you know, the very people who would be affected by any changes to the law.  99.9999% of the people commenting on Vaz today weren’t in that room, and if they are saying the investigation was biased towards sex workers, they are lying…[we] had to stomp hard on bullshit lines of questioning to get any of our points across.  We went there fully expecting, and pretty much got, a beasting…Sex workers influenced the outcome of the inquiry in spite of, not because of, Keith Vaz…paris-lees-eyeroll

She concludes with the point that experienced activists knew that something like this would happen; prohibitionists are evil authoritarians who will stop at nothing to harm sex workers, and they know they’re losing so they’re going to get a lot more desperate in the months and years to come.  Lots of allies are going to be outed and worse in a prohibitionist attempt to put heads on poles to scare the others away.  But it’s much too late for that; the movement is past the watershed now, and the momentum will continue to build no matter how many bodies these sick control freaks try to throw in its path.  But now I’m guilty of the same thing I complained about at the beginning, namely feigning shock at the obvious:  Of course people who think “sending a message” trumps human lives aren’t going to care how many lives they need to destroy to advance their cause; it’s what they do.

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Uncoupled

How do I hate myself less for only being able to feel intimacy with sex workers, due to a history of having been abused?

In ancient times, if a culture was going to survive and thrive, it was vital that its people “be fruitful and multiply”.  Social pressures evolved to encourage people to marry and have children, and laws were designed to encourage this as well, and over the millennia we managed to trick ourselves into a mass delusion that lifelong exclusive monogamy is “natural”, despite the fact that it barely even exists at all (and then largely due to the existence of my profession).  So even though we are no longer in danger of civilization collapsing if women aren’t popping out babies as fast as they can, a lot of people still act as though that were the case: older parents gripe if their adult children aren’t giving them grandchildren; the entire GLBT rights movement got sidetracked into a quest for official government fucking licenses; and expressing aloud a lack of interest in coupling will generally elicit either a stare of the sort otherwise employed when meeting someone with two heads, or else a smug reassurance that one simply “hasn’t met the right one yet”.  Even many people who recognize the inherent instability of monogamy go instead for polyamory, an attempt to fix the problems inherent in ongoing committed relationships by multiplying them.

All snark aside, committed relationships work for many people, and emotionally-monogamous but sexually non-monogamous ones work for many others; hell, even actual monogamy (or a reasonable approximation of it) works for roughly a third of the population.  But there are also a lot of people who are unable or unwilling to maintain romantic partnerships for one reason or another.  Some may suffer from mental health issues; others like their sexual freedom too much to commit to a partner; still others simply feel it’s not practical; and many would love to have a partner, but are too shy or unpleasant or socially-awkward to attract and keep one.  And some, like you, have suffered too much at the hands of people who professed to love you to ever give that level of trust again (not for the foreseeable future, anyway).  And how does society respond to the (voluntarily or involuntarily) unpartnered?  By telling them that there’s something wrong with them, or at least with their situation, and that the condition is one to be cured, shunned or even mocked.  And sexual prudes and control freaks of every flavor want to add still another level of torment by declaring that sex is only for the coupled, so that those without the comfort of a partner should also be denied the simple, natural joy of feeling their skin against another’s.

Given those pressures and messages from both the well-meaning and the authoritarian, it’s no wonder you have succumbed to self-loathing, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to feel that way.  To Hell with those people who are telling you, directly and indirectly, that there’s something wrong with you for preferring your sexual intimacy unspoiled by the fear of getting hurt again.  Those who judge you don’t understand what you’ve been through, and they don’t want to understand because having to admit that a large fraction of so-called romantic relationships are abusive to one degree or another, some severely so, would upset their pretty little happily-ever-after weltanshauung.  You still need sexual intimacy, so you get it from people with whom you have no personal connection, and can therefore trust not to hurt you; I think that’s a brilliant solution, and anyone who encourages you to hate yourself for it is an asshole who deserves only scorn.  Fuck them and their fucking rules about what you “should” do with your body, money and time.  Perhaps one day you’ll decide to trust a romantic partner again, and perhaps you won’t; either one is perfectly OK if it’s what you decide is right for you.  But one way or another, sex workers will always be there to provide sexual intimacy without judgment, entanglement or the danger of falling into another abusive situation.

(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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