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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

Fucking over sex workers is a way [Democrats] can be bipartisan.
– Sean McElwee

Life Imitates Artifice

Prohibitionist tactics remain the same no matter what they’re trying to prohibit:

Members of Congress…held a press conference…to announce a letter signed by 56 GOP lawmakers calling for investigations into a report from discredited anti-choice group Live Action Network accusing Planned Parenthood of covering up child sexual abuse…[this] follows a familiar game plan, including coordination between an anti-choice activist group and Republican lawmakers.  This round of attacks come as the Trump administration looks to reinstate a…restriction blocking federal family planning funds from organizations that provide abortion services in the same location as Title X-funded services…The Live Action report…includes discredited and extensively edited “sting” footage originally reported in 2008 and 2011…

This laudatory article from Christian Post has a bit more meat:

Laura J. Lederer, president of Global Centurion…[fantasized] that abortions and the sex trade are “inextricably linked.”   She recently conducted a study…in which the findings revealed that approximately 30 percent the trafficking victims surveyed reported multiple abortions.  Traffickers would routinely threaten their lives and beat them if they became pregnant, Lederer said.  One survivor whose abuse was especially brutal at the hands of her trafficker “said that she had 17 abortions over the time she was trafficked, all of them at the same clinic”…

I’m honestly surprised that the “forced sex trafficking abortions” myth didn’t become more popular, given the considerable overlap between anti-whore and anti-abortion activism.

Moloch 

Is this idiotic enough yet?  Can we stop now?

…18-year-old Mariea Starr…[of] Waynesboro, Pennsylvania…was caught by another student allegedly performing oral sex on a boy in a school stairwell…Because Starr had turned 18 two months before the incident and the boy she allegedly engaged in oral sex with…was [16, school pig Matthew Gordon]…charged [Starr] with…felony unlawful contact with minors which carries a Tier II sex offender designation…for 25 years, including being photographed by Pennsylvania State Police twice a year…Gordon brought the case without oversight from the district attorney’s office or school district administration because in Pennsylvania [pigs have absolute power to inflict charges on students]…Franklin County District Attorney Matthew Fogal…reduced the charges against Starr to open lewdness.  She was sentenced to 12 months’ probation and will not be placed on the registry.  Nonetheless, Starr will graduate from high school with a criminal record, which will significantly affect her educational and job opportunities…Starr is far from the only student that Gordon…has [fed] into the criminal justice system…

Dirty Laundry

And yet the Times supports the evil of Ruhama, the Magdalene orders’ rebranding:

…220 survivors of Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Laundries convened for a state-sponsored meeting in Dublin…The laundries were filled not only with “fallen women” — prostitutes, women who became pregnant out of marriage or as a result of sexual abuse and those who simply failed to conform — but also orphans and deserted or abused children…The Magdalene Laundries were part of an interlocking system of orphanages, industrial schools, “mother and baby homes” for unwed mothers and church-run institutions in which Ireland…confined…At least 10,000 women and girls…between independence from Britain in 1922 and the closing of the last one in 1996…

The Spiral of Absurdity 

Why do reporters repeat this egregious nonsense without fact-checking?

A sting on the sex-trafficking trade in metro Atlanta netted dozens of arrests and the rescue of dozens of children forced into sexual servitude, the FBI announced…Operation Safe Summer was a collaborative effort between the FBI’s Atlanta field office and 38 law enforcement agencies…The sting ended with nearly 160 children rescued, including one as young as 3 years old, and nearly 150 arrests, convictions or sentences…

Really?  If cops had really discovered 160 kids being held hostage, this would be international news, not a minor local story.  Looks to me like some mouthpiece repeated the number of arrests as the number of “rescued children”.

Between the Ears (#407)

Velvet Swing is the first female sex aid that actually works:

…it’s not exactly surprising that [Mistress Matisse] ended up in the cannabis industry…It’s even less surprising that her first product is a weed lube, called Velvet Swing.  While weed lube—rightly touted as the first truly effective female sex aid—is nothing new, Velvet Swing is the first water-soluble version.  Which kind of means it’s the first one that really qualifies for the term weed lube.  Oil-based lubricants are…not condom safe, meaning that products like Foria or Bond Sensual Oil are effectively restricted to people in monogamous partnerships…

And naturally, Matisse uses the interview to wake up pot-business folks to sex worker rights.

Bait and Switch

Entrapment so blatant even a judge couldn’t swallow it:

…In 2014…Skagit County [Washington] detective Theresa Luvera…posted a sex solicitation on Craigslist’s casual encounters…Craigslist’s rules required all participants to be 18+. something that has undermined sex stings in the past…After some online exchanges between the detective and the defendant, the detective claimed she is underage (“almost 15 but waaay advanced”).  Even further in…the detective brought up money-for-sex.  At every step along the way but the end, the defendant seemingly made it clear he was seeking free sex with a female adult.  Eventually the defendant shows up at the designated rendezvous point baitwith the requested items…The trial court dismissed the prosecution because the “State engaged in outrageous misconduct in violation of a defendant’s due process right to fundamental fairness”…Now that Craigslist has shut down its personals section, I’m not clear where law enforcement will conduct its online sex stings…

The Crumbling Dam (#709)

Alas, Seattle “officials” think harm reduction principles only apply to drug use:

Seattle’s efforts to find a location for its…supervised injection site has turned up nothing, and now the mayor’s office is looking to go mobile.  Jeff Sakuma…point person in finding a site…[said] there are no city or county-owned buildings that meet the criteria…the $2 million the council had set aside is to low to purchase an existing building or buy land and build…a private party that could partner with the city to allow the use of their property as an injection site, “could be subject to seizure by the federal government”…As an alternative…Seattle & King County would purchase a recreation[al] vehicle and remodel it…The mobile [unit] would park either on the street or in a parking lot near a facility that would provide space for a reception area, a waiting area, restroom storage and utility space…

Worse Than I Thought (#745)

Another shitty law specifically designed to harm sex workers:

Phoenix is ramping up the penalties for [adult consensual sex] as part of the city’s ongoing effort to curb [adult consensual sex].  The City Council voted…to fine individuals convicted of soliciting sex workers $2,000 for a second offense, $2,250 for a third offense and $2,500 for each additional conviction. The mandatory fines will be in addition to jail sentences of 15-180 days.  “If we catch you … we’re going to make it as unpleasant for you as we possibly can and I don’t feel bad about that at all,” said Councilman Jim Waring, chair of the Phoenix [anti-consensual sex] Task Force…

The Widening Gyre (#764) 

Yeahno.  This still smells like a publicity stunt gone wrong:

British model Chloe Ayling has thanked those who “believed in me from the beginning” after a Polish man was jailed for kidnapping her.  Lukasz Herba held Chloe Ayling captive for six days in a farmhouse near Turin in Italy, after abducting her during what she thought would be a photo shoot last July.  He was arrested after releasing her at the British consulate, and has now been sentenced to 16 years and nine months in jail…Ayling…has always insisted she has told the truth about her captivity.  She told police she never tried to escape because she was terrified and believed Herba’s threats that he was part of a bigger criminal gang that was watching her constantly…

Pyrrhic Victory (#836)

Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free.  But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly building what will likely become the largest database of biometric and biographic data…in the United States. The agency’s new Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) database will include multiple forms of biometrics—from face recognition to DNA, data from questionable sources, and highly personal data on innocent people.  It will be shared with federal agencies outside of DHS as well as state and local law enforcement and foreign governments…HART will chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate…face recognition makes it possible to identify and track people in real time, including at lawful political protests and other gatherings.  Other data DHS is planning to collect—including information about people’s “relationship patterns” and from officer “encounters” with the public—can be used to identify political affiliations, religious activities, and familial and friendly relationships.  These data points are also frequently colored by conjecture and bias…

Blunt Instrument (#841)

With the demise of Backpage, anti-whore pogroms turn back to low-hanging fruit:

Three indictments were unsealed…alleging massage parlors in Topeka and Lawrence were fronts for prostitution…Five people were charged in federal grand jury indictments alleging prostitution businesses generated millions of dollars in revenue.  Charges included conspiracy, interstate racketeering, bank fraud and money laundering…

Note the way pigs try to make this seem like a big-time cartel by throwing around terms like “millions”; any business that doesn’t gross at least $1 million over a five-year period is probably failing.

Safe Position

If the Democrats were smart, they’d adopt this as their official platform:

…when it comes to the rights of…sex workers…elected Democrats still overwhelmingly side with the religious right and consistently fail to consult the people most affected by their policies…Now, however, a small but growing group of…candidates are heeding the outrage of their constituents and have turned against laws that make it harder for sex workers to safely practice.  At least three Democrats running in competitive House primaries are currently campaigning on their opposition to SESTA/FOSTA, legislation that passed in April and holds websites criminally liable for any [claims of] sex trafficking that occurred on their pages…the bill effectively shut down the websites that were the safest venues for sex workers to ply their trade.  Following its passage, Backpage.com and the personals section of Craigslist immediately folded.  Their collapse has already prompted many sex workers to return to the streets, where conditions are much more dangerous…

Lack of Evidence (#848)

The recrudescence of a public health nightmare:

…If you believe that all prostitutes are forced into it against their will…then prostitutes are victims.  If you believe it’s possible that it’s just a transaction between consenting adults, then it shouldn’t be a crime at all.  If you’re just a prude determined to tell other people how to conduct their sex lives in accordance with your sniffling sensibilities, then it doesn’t matter…As advocates like Maggie McNeill have made clear, there are women who choose prostitution as their occupation without shame or excuse.  This is what they choose to do, and they don’t give a damn about your Victorian mores.  You don’t have to like it, but…the demand exists and always has, and despite your sniffling, it’s not going away.  But is the answer to force prostitutes, and their customers, to risk the choice between contracting a loathsome, if not deadly, disease or enhance their time in jail?  That’s what Allegheny County is trying to do…the possession of condoms means the difference between a summons and a custodial arrest…

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As many sex workers and clients know, having a degree and/or certification is no guarantee that a therapist will not be completely clueless about sex work.  Disinformation about our work and lives is so widespread, and the stigma against properly investigating it so entrenched, that it’s possible for someone to earn a PhD in psychology or social work or whatever without even having a passing acquaintance with anything resembling a fact on the subject.  Moreover, interest in psychology is not equivalent to a belief in human rights or a desire to promote happiness and sexual health; there are just as many control freaks dressed up as therapists as there are dressed up as teachers, doctors, clergymen, judges or any other “authority” figure you can name, and people like Melissa “13” Farley and Dominique “Body Fluids” Roe-Sepowitz are perfectly happy to design fake “studies” to “prove” whatever anti-whore belief they want to lend credence to.  So when a sex worker or client goes looking for a therapist, they’re much less likely to find an Alyxx Berg or a David Ley than they are a misogynistic quack who insists that literally no woman is capable of making pragmatic decisions about sex, and knows nothing of any of the copious research disproving myths about sex work, sex workers, clients, third parties or any other aspect of the demimonde.  Therapists well-informed about sex work are so rare, in fact, that when I see an excellent article like this one by Katie Bloomquist I experience a palpable sense of relief that there are at least some members of the psychiatric community who live in the real world rather than in some Victorian fantasyland of male sexual predators and helpless, asexual female victims:

Assuming therapy clients who pay for sex have traits of sexual narcissism and feel “entitled” to women’s bodies is based on harmful myths and stereotypes about those who pay for sex.  As systemic mental health providers, being curious about the needs the client is getting met when they pay for sexual services is key– is it an emotional need?  A physical need?  A need to express a type of sex that is not “allowed” in the relationship”…Examining the systemic function the behavior of paying for sexual services plays usually reveals more about our clients’ needs and wants in their relationships and sex lives…Conversely, the antiquated notion that women should only have sex with men “for free” is based on male entitlement to women’s bodies and grossly gendered ideas of emotional and sexual labor.  This notion is also based on gendered assumptions…that women who engage in sexual behavior in exchange for money are either deviants or victims, as the stereotype of women who have any type of sex is that their sexual behavior must be “intimate” or “emotional”.  Gendering sex in this way is inaccurate and harmful – as it often results in female-identified people being expected to provide sex and intimacy “for free” and discounts emotional and sexual labor as a valuable type of work…

This isn’t Bloomquist’s only article on the subject, and informed therapists are not as rare as they were even ten or twenty years ago.  But they’re still rare enough that when I see reality laid out like this in a short, concise article, it gives me hope that many years of hard work by activists and ethical researchers is finally beginning to have lasting cultural impact.

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Sex work is first and foremost a livelihood strategy.  –  Borislav Gerasimov

Moloch 

How many kids need to be sacrificed to this obscenity before it’s enough?

New Hampshire’s state Supreme Court has upheld a young man’s harsh sentence—which includes lifetime registry on the sex offender list—for propositioning a 15-year-old girl over the internet.  The man, Bailey Serpa, was 18 at the time.  According to New Hampshire law, Serpa would have been guilty of a mere misdemeanor had the two actually had sex. But online solicitation of a minor is considered a felony.  Serpa appealed the sentence on grounds that it was “unconstitutional and grossly disproportional”…Teens expressing sexual interest in each other isn’t weird or abnormal, and it certainly shouldn’t be a crime…

Broken Record

Top this one, “sex trafficking event” hysterics:

Lynne Barletta is the founder of Catch the Wave of Hope, a[n]…organization designed to [spread] human trafficking [hysteria].  She says during the summer, traffickers are at beaches, in malls – anywhere children could be unsupervised…13-year-old girls and 11-year-old boys are the prime target.  The recruiters are the same age…[Fetishists fantasize that] modeling or a summer job is the most popular technique…

Believe it or not, we’ve seen this one before, but both Google and WordPress searches are so poor and non-Boolean that I can’t find the previous claim. I think it was quite early in the blog’s history, prior to 2012, but I might be wrong.

The Widening Gyre 

Observation: homeless camp in woods. Conclusion: sex trafficking!

A homeless veterans advocacy group stumbled upon an abandoned campsite on the night of Tuesday, May 29…Dani Ward, a volunteer, [said]…she thinks it’s a child trafficking camp.  She pointed out children’s clothing, toys, luggage and strollers.  Ward [breathlessly fantasized] that straps tied to trees were used as restraints.  Also described was an underground bunker where they [fantasize] children may have been kept.  [Reporters] toured the site…and noticed structures in the camp were tied together using similar straps that they described as restraints.  The area…where they claim the children may have been kept could also have been used as shelter to get out of the heat or place to sleep…

When you’ve lost local news reporters, your moral panic is dying.

An Example To the West (#343) 

Thai sex worker activists are made of awesome:

Sting operations staged to crack down on human trafficking in the sex industry violate human rights, and lead to stigmatisation and discrimination against women who are working as sex workers of their own volition…Empower Foundation…said that in order to rescue 10 victims of enforced or underage sex workers, on average some 100 innocent women are also arrested. These women suffer distress from violation of their human rights and dignity. The women’s rights group urged the authorities to decriminalise prostitution…as a legal career in order to give them protection and welfare as per labour law, which will also be a sustainable solution to suppress human trafficking in the sex industry…Thanta Laovilawanyakul, Empower Foundation coordinator, said…“Many of them face the charge of adultery and are publicly exposed for working in the sex industry. Even the victims of human trafficking are mistreated…they are detained in an improper detention area for a long period and they are unable to contact their family”…

Property of the State 

Condemning a young man to frequent, horrific seizures is “standing up for a child’s welfare”:

Georgia recognizes cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy and notionally lets certified patients possess up to 20 fluid ounces of “low THC oil”…that contains a…substantial amount of cannabidiol (CBD), the ingredient that reduces seizures.  That privilege is mainly theoretical, however, since there is no legal way to produce or obtain cannabis extract in Georgia.  Given that glaring defect in the state’s medical marijuana law, it is easy to understand why Matthew and Suzeanna Brill let their 15-year-old son, David, smoke cannabis in a desperate attempt to control his epileptic seizures…David was having several seizures a day…and the drugs he was prescribed for his epilepsy did not work.  But after he started smoking marijuana in February, he went more than two months without a seizure…David’s doctors knew why he was suddenly doing so much better, and they did not object.  But his therapist ratted out the Brills, which led to a visit by Twiggs County sheriff’s deputies, who demanded that David stop taking his medicine…The Brills were charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor, and Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services took David away.  He has been living in a group home for a month now, away from his parents, his medicine, and the dog that is trained to detect imminent seizures.  His parents are fighting to get him back, a process they say may take as long as a year.  They are trying to raise money to cover their legal expenses on GoFundMe…Twiggs County Sheriff Darren Mitchum defended his department’s handling of the case…[with] “somebody’s got to stand up for the child’s welfare”…

Where Are the Protests? (#578)

Before swallowing this, I suggest you compare it to the “nail parlor slavery” myth, which it resembles even to the point (see title link) of claims of “sex slaves” hidden in the back:

…a shocking investigation reveals that many of the 20,000 hand car washes operating in this country are criminally exploiting workers.  They are typically staffed by immigrants from Eastern Europe who have been trafficked into this country on the promise of paid work – but without immigration papers they find themselves trapped in debt to their new bosses.  Often unable to speak English they are forced to work up to 11 hours a day for as little as £1 an hour, with even those pitiful wages docked to cover the cost of accommodation.  Those who try to quit are threatened with violence and deportation.  The exploitation extends even to putting their health at risk, with ruthless bosses providing little or nothing in the way of safety equipment or protective clothing despite the strong detergents used by many washes.  Latest figures show that about a 10th of the police operations tackling slavery in Britain involve car washes – double the figure of a year before…

Something Rotten in Sweden (#628)

Cops busting kids’ lemonade stands isn’t news any more, but they usually have the law behind them:

Everybody was having a good time on Memorial Day until somebody called the cops on the children selling lemonade to neighbors across the street from a park in Denver…police wasted no time in shutting the lemonade stand down for operating without a permit, putting a good scare into the kids, including the 6-year-old who took off running and the 4-year-old who started crying.  Jennifer Knowles, mother of the two boys, later learned there is no law or policy requiring kids to obtain a license to set up a temporary stand for neighbors…she encouraged her children to set up a lemonade stand…to teach them business and entrepreneurial skills…But if the kids learned anything, it is to not trust police…

Lack of Evidence (#659)

Just in case you thought this particular insanity was over:

…police charged people with both prostitution and possessing an instrument of crime in 100 cases last year in Allegheny County [Pennsylvania].  In 15 of the cases, condoms were an alleged instrument of crime.  In 14 others, police seized condoms as evidence.  In…the remaining cases, people faced instrument-of-crime charges for allegedly using cellphones to set up meetings…Authorit[arians think this is OK because]…filing condom-related charges or using condoms as evidence gives police and judges more leverage to win guilty pleas in prostitution cases and allows [pigs] to [arrest] sex workers…By filing an additional instrument-of-crime charge, a suspect is immediately processed and their fingerprints and photos are stored in a [pig] database.  It ensures police will be aware of their prior criminal history if they [are arrested] elsewhere…

Banishment (#779) 

This Orwellian tyranny is part of how governments are getting around the push to reduce prison populations:

In early September 2015, guards fanned out across Texas…to round up about 200 men, rousing some from bed as early as 3 a.m. and demanding they stuff whatever they wanted to keep into black Hefty bags…The state calls them “sexually violent predators,” men required not only to publicly register their whereabouts but also to participate in a court-ordered monitoring and treatment program meant to cure them of “behavior abnormalities”…most were living in boarding homes and halfway houses…[they] were frisked, loaded onto vans and prison buses and driven hundreds of miles to Littlefield, a remote, sparsely populated corner of the Texas Panhandle, where guards shuffled them into…a prison that had been empty for six years…the men [were forced to] surrender…their IDs, Social Security cards, birth certificates and credit cards, along with cash…Guards dug through the Hefty bags, tossing out all sorts of personal items now considered contraband…But officials at the detention center were adamant:  This wasn’t a prison.  They [demanded] the men…call their [cells] “rooms,” not prison cells…the new inmates couldn’t come and go.  It wasn’t clear when their sentences would end, if ever.  Two and a half years…[later] only five men have been released — four of them to medical facilities where they later died.  State officials claim Texas’ new civil commitment program is designed to rehabilitate the men….[by] stash[ing] them in a for-profit prison…far away from the support services they’ll need if there’s any hope of transitioning back into society — the supposed goal of the facility…

The Cop Myth

Alex Vitale on the development of modern policing:

The first modern police force—the London Metropolitan Police—was established by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.  He developed his ideas about law and order, Alex S. Vitale writes in his book The End of Policing, when he was “managing the British colonial occupation of Ireland and seeking new forms of social control … in the face of growing insurrections, riots, and political uprisings.”  The “Peace Preservation Force” was meant to serve as a less expensive alternative to the British army…Appointed home secretary in 1822…Peel would run the London Metropolitan Police along the same lines…Boston adopted the London model in 1838, and New York established a formal police force in 1844…But well before then, cities in the southern United States, such as New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston, “had paid full-time officers”…charged with preventing slave revolts…The motto “to protect and to serve”—adopted by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1955 and later used by others around the country—has been a highly effective public relations tool for the police, as it obscures the main function of their work, which since its inception has been to act in an adversarial manner toward the wider community…

The Pygmalion Fallacy (#784)

Never underestimate the human capacity to obsess about things that don’t exist:

There’s “no evidence that having sex with robots is healthy,” The Washington Post wants you to know.  Similar headlines grace the pages of USA TodayThe VergeCNBC…and many other outlets, sometimes with an added dose of alarmism (“Sex robots could empower pedophiles and sex offenders“) or millennialism (“There’s literally no research proving sex robots are good for society“).  These headlines are all true, more or less, but they omit an important fact: There’s also “literally no research” showing…sex robots unhealthy…There’s just no evidence about sex robots period, because at present they don’t really exist.  The authors of a new article in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health—the study behind all those headlines—admit as much…

Sex Workers Against Trafficking (#812)

The world’s largest “anti-trafficking” organization recognizes that sex workers are the best guardians against actual coercion in our industry:

In February 2018 the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) published our new report, Sex Workers Organising for Change: Self-representation, community mobilisation and working conditions.  The report documents how organising has enabled sex workers to deal with the on-going stigma and discrimination they face from society and the authorities, and to prevent and address the violence, coercion, and exploitation occurring in the sex industry…At least one sex worker organisation in each country took part: Stella and Butterfly (Canada), Brigada Callejera (Mexico), Hetaira and Genera (Spain), SWEAT and Sisonke (South Africa), SANGRAM and VAMP (India), Empower (Thailand) and New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (New Zealand).  These countries were chosen because they represent different world regions and cultures, span both the global north and global south, and are considered as both countries of origin and destination for migration and trafficking…

Perquisites (#840)

Are amateurs really so sheltered that this sort of thing shocks them?

Just a week before the World Cup starts, Mexico’s national team is embroiled in scandal…El Tri held a farewell party in Mexico City…the…day the team claimed victory over Scotland…where players were joined by “30 VIP escorts”…Mexican officials won’t sanction players because it took place on their day off…

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If you’re a regular reader you’ve probably noticed that I’m fond of metaphors, and I’ve used a number of different ones over the years to describe the way public opinion about sex work has been slowly changing.  I’ve used the cycle of day and night, shifting winds, and crossing a watershed, but today I’m going to return to one I first used almost three years ago, the turn of the tide.  I rather like that image right now because, like the tide, the apparently-sudden shift seems to have surprised those unable to read the signs I’ve been telling you about for quite a while now.  The turning started when Amnesty International announced its support for decriminalization, but most prohibitionists were unable to read that and so encouraged the US government in what is beginning to look like a fatal overstep, the awful FOSTA censorship law which is designed to gut the internet in its haste to force sex workers back into the shadows under the pretense of fighting “sex trafficking”.

I call it an overstep because it’s fairly clear that its proponents had no idea it would not silence sex workers, but rather amplify our voices instead; US sex workers have finally begun to come out in unprecedented numbers to fight for our rights:

…over 300 sex workers and allies gathered…in downtown Oakland for International Whores Day…The rally’s focus on FOSTA shows just how dramatically the legislation has shifted the sex work debate…the rally mobilized hundreds of sex workers—in the past…events like this might have drawn only 15 people.  “People are hungry, people have lost their screening tools,” said Hunter [Leight].  “They’re coming out because they’re desperate, they’re stressed, and they’re under attack”…

in other words, FOSTA has finally made US sex workers aware that we’re being backed into a corner, and that we are at war.  For decades US sex workers, pushed into the shadows by criminalization, have been afraid to mobilize to the same levels as our sisters in the majority of the world, where our work is at least legal (albeit heavily stigmatized and persecuted by cops); these new laws have forced American whores to understand that our enemies will not stop until we’re dead, and that our only alternative is to fight back.  And we’re not alone; the mainstream media are finally beginning to notice us, and it’s no longer politically fatal for politicians to support sex worker rights.  But perhaps one of the most telling signs of how much the tide has turned came last week from Down Under; Australia and New Zealand aren’t all that different from the US culturally, though they stayed with the British Empire instead of breaking away as the US did.  And since they’re more advanced than the mother country in the area of sex worker rights, we got to see this

Named in [New Zealand’s] twice-year allotment of knighthoods…is life-long advocate and founding member of the nation’s prostitutes’ collective, Catherine Healy, who has been made a dame companion for her services to the rights of sex workers…While working as a school teacher in the ’80s, Dame Catherine signed up for a receptionist job at a brothel to earn extra money for travel.  She was the collective’s national coordinator by the end of the decade.  She built the group into an internationally-recognised organisation, becoming the country’s leading voice for sex worker rights, health and education and eventually organised the charge towards decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003…

And this:

Julie Bates laughs at the way she instinctively responded when the emblem of the Crown bobbed up on an email in her inbox a few weeks ago.  “I thought ‘Oh my God, what have I done now?’” It’s been 23 years since the sex industry was decriminalised in NSW, and still,  sometimes, “the only thing you expect first thing in the morning is a knock on the door from the cops…that kind of trauma and instinct still sits with you, no matter how many years ago it was.”  The email, however, bore good news: the 68-year old becomes an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen’s Birthday honours, recognising the work she’s done over decades to champion the rights of sex workers and mobilise the sex industry against the spread of HIV/AIDS…

Naturally, the prohibitionists are furious, but they’re as helpless against this as sea creatures washed up on the beach are to stop the retreating tide.  For US politicians and staid Commonwealth governments to feel comfortable supporting something, that thing must already have considerable public support.  The prohibitionists put all of their hopes into “sex trafficking” hysteria, and as that hysteria dries up – in part due to their own incredible overconfidence and total lack of restraint in inventing absurd numbers and outrageous lies – they’re going to find themselves abandoned in the dirt and slowly dying of neglect as the rest of humanity leaves them behind.

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It’s easy to see the vast gap between the reality of sex workers’ lives and the bleak fiction peddled by the anti-sex work industry.  –  Lux Alptraum

Against Their Will 

The Indian press just can’t let go of the word “rescue”, even when it’s patently absurd:

Eight sex workers from Thailand, who were rescued from a spa at Bapuji Nagar on May 19, were deported…and were given 48 hours to leave the country…

Gorged With Meaning

Posturing, hair-splitting and moral panic create a strange stew out of normal and age-old behavior:

…”part-time girlfriend” is a euphemism often used by young women in the city who may be studying or have jobs, but who also offer sex on the side.  By using variations of the hashtag #ptgf as shorthand, they connect with men on networks such as Instagram and then switch to direct messaging to offer services and arrange to meet.  Instagram says it has made #ptgf and #hkptgf unsearchable, but a host of new alternatives that add Chinese characters or initials to the original tag circumvent the block…[as usual, busybodies blame a lot of nonsense other than] financial pressures [as] key motivators for young women …Bowie Lam, executive director of Teen’s Key…[claims] the age of “part-time girlfriends” is getting lower…These young women often do not see themselves as sex workers because the…[propaganda has misled them as to what sex work is like]…Hong Kong police said they have taken action against websites, chat rooms and discussion forums to combat illegal prostitution activities.  The act of prostitution in itself is not illegal in Hong Kong…but soliciting is…

Cops and Robbers

Bigots try to cover racism and misogyny by blaming imaginary “gangs” for this:

Prostitutes blamed for robbing and pick-pocketing British tourists in Magaluf, Spain, have been chased off the streets by angry protesters.  Spanish taxi drivers led a [mob]…against the women by recording them with their mobile phones and chanting: “No prostitutes on the streets”…It is claimed that the women have come to Spain via organised crime in Nigeria, and they are blamed by local businesses for a drop in tourist trade…

End Demand (#638)

Swanee Hunt can recycle this propaganda from Seattle because modern “reporters” never fact-check:

Nearly two dozen businesses and institutions joined…a new initiative called Employers Against Sex Trafficking (EAST) to create a coalition of business leaders who have committed to zero-tolerance policies on sex buying…[propaganda invented] by Demand Abolition…showed that nearly 13 percent of calls responding to…decoy ads originated from local businesses, and that the peak time people are searching online to buy sex is during the workday, at 2 p.m.  The…study revealed…more than 9,000 searches for sex-buying opportunities happening in Boston each day and that more than 20,000 ads selling people for sex are posted online every month, with each ad receiving an average of 52 responses.  Many sex buyers have said they buy illegal sex while traveling for business…

If you don’t recognize businesses “partnering” with government to infringe on civil rights as fascism, perhaps the horrific phrase “illegal sex” might give you a clue.

Traffic Jam (#704) 

How many moronic prohibitionist  plays can the market bear?

After a year of co-writing, directing and now acting in Jane Doe in Wonderland, Erin Johnston is even more adamant about the play’s impact in [spreading propaganda against] sex [work].  “We’re excited about this production,” she said.  “It allows people to get used to theater to tell the story and the performance is digestible and accessible.  And…we don’t curse or show physical violence.  The focus is on the emotional and psychological process that’s experienced.”  As part of the [rescue industry] Game Over organization, Jane Doe in Wonderland visits around 20 Bay Area cities on its current tour…

Spotlight (#715) 

I wonder if Asstoon will ever get professional help for his delusions of grandeur?

Ashton Kutcher’s non-profit organisation Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children [claims to have] identified almost 6,000 child victims of human sex trafficking last year…Impact reports from the organisation for 2017, show that Thorn’s software allowed law enforcement and investigators to identify 5,791 child sex trafficking victims…They were able to [arrest] 103 [legal minors]…Thorn uses web application Spotlight which provides [cops] with information and leads on [sex workers]…in order to [arrest them]…In 2016, during an appearance on the Today show, the actor said “We’ve identified and recovered more than 6,000 trafficking victims this year.  We identified and recovered more than 2,000 traffickers.”  He also stated his next mission was to eliminate child pornography from the internet…

The same figures for two years in a row, and the Mail doesn’t find it fishy.  The reporter also didn’t bother to read Liz Brown’s debunking (see title link).

Monsters (#730) 

All around the world, monsters torture sexual minorities under the excuse of “helping” or “curing” us:

When he was 15, his family found out that Ibrahim…was gay…from that moment on, local mullahs and “old wives” (faith healers and local women reputed to be witches) “tried to ‘treat’…my homosexuality…[with] bloodletting…herbs (after which I had hallucinations, nausea, stomach pains), strong pressure on the painful points of the body, and…electric shocks onto the penis.  There were also some ‘spells’ or nashidas (though to no effect)…It went on and off…till I turned 18.”  Ibrahim is all right, for now, having escaped Chechnya.  He is living under the care of Stimul, a Russian LGBT organization…that…arranges safe housing and advice and advocacy…for…LGBT people seeking asylum from Central Asian countries…and…Chechnya, where homosexuality is not only against the law…but…viciously persecuted…Stimul aims to…place LGBT people…in European countries, the U.S., and Canada…

Hard Numbers (#756)

Good news from South Australia:

South Australian Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman, says she will sponsor a bill to decriminalise sex work when it comes to the state’s Lower House, boosting its chances of becoming law…The Decriminalisation of Sex Work Bill was introduced by Greens MLC Tammy Franks last month and is the same as one sponsored by Liberal Upper House MP Michelle Lensink in 2015.  That bill passed the Legislative Council but failed to go to a conscience vote in the House of Assembly before the March election…

Choke Point (#767) 

“Choke Point Mark II” would be statutory rather than mere policy, and laser-focused on sex workers:

…Of four quick and easy tests for bad legislation, the [End Banking for Human Traffickers Act] passes three:  First, it’s “bipartisan”…Rubio and Warren are aligned on both elements of the issue.  Both of them want control of your genitalia and both of them want control of your bank account.  Secondly, it exploits moral panic to discourage scrutiny of its actual effects.  In this case, the trending buzz word is “human trafficking”…another excuse for harassing adult sex workers trying to make a living and, contra all the “for the chillllllldren” posturing, taking food out of the mouths of THEIR children (if not taking away their children entirely).  Thirdly, it doesn’t even bother to hide the fact that it’s yet another attempt to conscript supposedly private sector actors into conducting…intrusive search-like activity that, if done directly by government employees…might be held accountable to inconvenient standards like probable cause, warrants, etc.  The only test the bill fails is the “warm, fuzzy, and/or patriotic-sounding acronym” test…if this bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, sex workers — already pushed to the economic margins in various ways by law enforcement, social stigma, and…poverty…are going to have an even harder time opening or keeping…accounts at traditional banks…

As I wrote in the title-linked piece: “Since ‘Choke Point’ was never declared unconstitutional by a court nor officially banned by a law, there’s nothing to stop future tyrants from simply bringing it back.”

Comfort Zone (#774)

Sometimes the attempt to hide migration control behind the “sex trafficking” narrative is especially apparent:

In France, two separate…activists are [on trial for] human trafficking for helping migrants on humanitarian grounds.  The law on which they are being charged is currently under review in the Constitutional Court.  Martine Landry, a 73-year-old pensioner working with…Amnesty International, faces up to five years in prison and a 30,000-euro fine…[for] facilitating the passage of two Guinean boys, then aged 15 and 16, into France…a separate trial…[concerns] two Swiss nationals…and one Italian…who accompanied migrants through a mountain pass on 22 April 2018.  They face up to 10 years in prison, 750,000 euros in fines and a ban from French territory…“If I become friends with a migrant who has no papers and invite them to sleep on my sofa, I become a criminal, and if I become a trafficker and have Nigerian prostitutes come into France, I am a criminal under the same provision,” says Lucile Abassade, a lawyer in the Paris region…As the trials open, France’s Constitutional Court is reviewing the law…to decide whether the law violates the French constitutional principle of fraternity…Such cases have become relatively common in France in recent years…

Legislators Gone Wild (#833) 

One can never have too many debunkings of prohibitionist bullshit:

…The No Little Girl campaign has argued that Nevada’s brothels have a negative effect on the state.  In reality, research shows that the lives of Nevada citizens have improved due to the legalization of sex work in the state.  Nevada’s system isn’t perfect — but it’s a considerable improvement over the national policy of criminalization.  No Little Girl has three major [claims] for shutting down the legal brothel industry:  Brothels do not significantly contribute to their counties’ economies while deterring other businesses from setting up shop; they increase violence against women who don’t work in the sex industry; and they’re inherently abusive (because, as the campaign’s tagline reminds visitors, “no little girl grows up wanting to be a prostitute”)…combing through the data — even the data the organization links to on its site — suggests that many of No Little Girl’s claims are exaggerated at best and misleading at worst…

Elephant in the Parlor (#844)

My irony meter just overloaded and burned out:

President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said…Stormy Daniels has no credibility because of her profession…”If you’re going to sell your body for money, you just don’t have a reputation”…Giuliani said in Israel…”If you’re involved in a sort of slimy business, (that) says something about you — says something about how far you’ll go to make money”…

Disaster (#844)

When a highway is destroyed, the traffic has to go into side streets:

Wall Street Journal has an article on the potentially negative impact of our country’s new “anti-trafficking” law—not on sex workers, mind you, but on the big business of online dating.  Yes…FOSTA…is endangering sex workers’ livelihoods and lives—but, oh, won’t someone think of the multi-million-dollar companies?  As the article warns its conservative, money-minded readers, “The booming business of online dating faces new risks from a law designed to prevent sex trafficking and prostitution”…The bill’s opponents warned that it would lead to sweeping censorship and, in its few weeks of life, it already has…As Heidi Vogt and John D. McKinnon write, FOSTA has led to the shuttering of sites used by sex workers—and “some worry that could drive the pay-for-sex market to legitimate dating platforms.”  They continue to explain, paraphrasing a legal expert, that “it could easily create liability for legitimate services if sex workers simply use their platforms.”  The article is filled with moralizing language that poses “legitimate dating platforms” and “legitimate services” opposite “prostitutes”.  It’s Match.com versus “bad behavior”.  OKCupid versus “illicit behavior”.  Tinder versus “those peddling sex”…

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I recently found an escort with several ads, but one of them is basically blank.  The other sites she advertised on had more information and pictures, but were of lower quality.  I had a feeling like her ads are illegitimate, so I traced her number using Pipl and apparently it’s her own personal number; it seems like she was arrested two years ago in a different town.  So now I’m a little spooked; how do big ad sites verify? Do they make the advertisers provide personal information?

One of the most important pieces of advice I give to sex workers on the topic of screening is, “trust your gut”.  Sometimes one’s mind unconsciously picks up on cues that, though they don’t trigger conscious recognition, still set off alarm bells.  Sure, it’s possible to get so spooked that one begins jumping at metaphorical shadows, but when that happens it’s time to take a vacation so as to allow one’s instincts to reset.  In general, it’s best to heed that funny feeling or little voice that says something is wrong, and wait for another client who doesn’t trip any red flags.  I think that advice is probably good for clients as well; if something about a sex worker’s ad strikes you as “illegitimate”, it’s probably best to just pass her by and move on to another provider who doesn’t make you feel that way.  As I explained in my recent Reason article, “check whether she has a blog, a Twitter account, message-board posts, pictures whose image searches lead you back to a website, and other signs this is a real person.”  While it’s unlikely that cops are going to go to the trouble and expense of setting up high-quality fake ads on sites like Eros or Slixa (and those sites do perform some verification), it’s still not a bad idea to exercise due diligence for your own safety and peace of mind.

(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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Jeremy Malcolm is the founder and director of the Prostasia Foundation, the first sex-positive and pro-civil rights child protection organization.  He’s an IT and intellectual property lawyer and consultant, and a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum; prior to Prostasia he was Senior Global Policy Analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation. When he asked me to be on Prostasia’s advisory council I gladly accepted, and when it came time to start getting the word out I naturally offered this space.

As a child, I remember how terrified I was by a rerun of the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which the lead character attempts to sound the alarm about a stealth alien invasion of Earth.  In the final scene of the movie, mounting panic overcomes him as realizes that he is too late, and that the vehicles passing him by on the roadside are already carrying the alien pods that contain the seeds of humanity’s doom.  The movie was widely interpreted as a cold war allegory, because it reflected how the public fear of infiltration of the United States by communists had been worked up into such a frenzy by Senator Joseph McCarthy that it empowered the government (for a while) to get away with taking repressive measures in response—measures that would never otherwise have been considered justified outside of wartime.  Although the red scare has passed, the public feeling of creeping terror about existential threats to our society, and the shrewd and calculating management of that feeling, remains part and parcel of contemporary politics today.  So much so, that international relations scholars have a specific a word used to describe what happens when governments manipulate public fear in this way: it’s called securitization.

When a public policy issue is not merely politicized, but securitized, it is constructed in such a way that authorities assert the right to take extraordinary and otherwise impermissible measures in response.  Whatever the issue happens to be—it might be terrorism, ebola, or migration, for instance—if politicians are able to whip up enough hysteria about the threat that it poses to the integrity and long-term survival of a society, concerns about human rights, public debate, and due process can be hand-waved away.  Too much is at stake—our lives, our liberty!  And very often too: our children.  So it is that we often observe this pattern of rhetoric when child protection laws are put forward.  It is quite right that we should do all that we can constitutionally do to protect children from sexual abuse, and that the political process should be a part of this.  It’s also normal that politicians will selectively use the evidence that supports laws that they favor.  But a healthy political process is one in which that evidence is at least open for debate, and in which the effects of proposed laws on our rights and freedoms as a society are carefully scrutinized.  These democratic safeguards are frequently bypassed when it comes to child protection laws, because of how child sexual abuse is securitized, framed as an existential threat that has to be purged from society at any cost.  This construction of the issue transforms Congress from what should be – a sober, deliberative legislative body (a filter for the views of the people, as Alexander Hamilton would have it) – into a mirror of a society in moral panic, willing to accept with a minimum of scrutiny almost any measure that purports to address the problem.

Proponents of such laws know this full well, which is why they invest heavily in fueling and manipulating the moral panic that gives child protection this privileged status in political discourse.  One way in which they do this is by playing on emotions, rather than evidence—and since child protection involves very strong emotions anyway, all that might be needed to push a law over the line might be the performative retelling of the story of the victim chosen to be the law’s public face (Megan’s Law, the template for America’s ubiqituous, although ineffective, sex offender registration laws, is a good example of this).  It was much the same in the case of FOSTA/SESTA too, for which it was a movie about sex trafficking, along with a series of increasingly fever-pitched (if largely fictitious) stories about the commercial child sex trafficking industry, that made the law unassailable against evidence of its flaws.  In the end, all but two Senators voted for a law that has actually made the fight against sex trafficking harder, while also harming sex educators, putting adult sex workers in physical danger, and seeing a rash of privatized censorship sweeping the Internet.  Even aside from these laws’ harmful side-effects, they aren’t even fit for purpose, because the vast majority of sexual offending isn’t a result of child sex trafficking, nor is it committed by those who are already registered sex offenders.  In fact, notwithstanding popular belief to the contrary, most child sex offending isn’t even committed by pedophiles.  That’s not to say that prevention interventions can’t be aimed at these groups, but if that’s where we stop then we are barely scratching the surface of the problem.  Politicians and the public alike rely a lot on the stereotype of the child sexual abuser as a creepy old man hanging around a schoolyard in a van, or the brazen sidewalk pimp with links to organized crime.  Just as the stereotype of the psycho serial killer represents the much larger problem of violence in America, it can be perversely comforting to be able to focus our attention on these sorts of outlying abusers, as it helps us feel that we have a handle on the problem.

What was scariest about Invasion of the Body Snatchers wasn’t the fear an alien might come and kill you or a loved one.  The most terrifying part of the movie (spoiler alert!) was the revelation that your loved one was already an alien, and you didn’t even know it.  The “red scare” was so scary not because of the reds over the ocean, but because of the reds under the bed.  So too, potential child abusers are in every neighborhood, and in many families; they don’t identify (nor would be clinically diagnosed) as pedophiles, and they certainly aren’t going to be prevented from offending by laws aimed at the sex industry or at those who have offended in the past.  It’s a sobering thought.  But the good news is that the scale of the problem doesn’t have to make us feel paralyzed into inaction.  There are things that we can do—it’s just that politicians aren’t going to do them, or at least not for as long as self-righteous morals campaigners and “tough on crime” ideologues control the child protection agenda.  What’s needed is a broader primary sex-positive prevention approach that respects the civil and human rights of all.  Prostasia Foundation is the first child protection organization to simultaneously champion such an approach, while also criticizing laws and policies that while putatively for child protection, are really nothing more than child protection theater.  Formed following the passage of FOSTA/SESTA by a diverse group including child sexual abuse survivors, civil rights campaigners, medical health professionals, and sex industry experts, we are currently crowdfunding with the aim of a full launch next month, and we could use your support.

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