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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

Maggie, have you written an article about why sex workers prefer older clients? You’ve mentioned this several times but I don’t recall you ever detailing why this is.

older man & young womanI don’t know that I’ve ever detailed it, either; in fact, I’m pretty sure I haven’t, because it’s such a given in our world that it may never have occurred to me that it actually needed detailing.  But since a very regular reader asked after last week’s Q&A, and another seconded the question, I was obviously incorrect in that assumption, so here goes.

I think there are four basic reasons why sex workers prefer older clients; two of them are purely pragmatic, one is related to professional satisfaction and the last is merely an amplification of a typical female preference.  Let’s take that last one first:  I don’t think anyone will disagree that most women tend to prefer men who are older than they are.  For most women it’s just a few years, but others prefer a larger gap and some tend toward a very noticeable disparity.  Yes, I recognize that there are exceptions to that rule, and y’all can argue whether the reason is nature or nurture if y’all want to (though I will most certainly not be participating).  But in general, I think most people will agree that at least part of the reason is that men mature more slowly than women, and (sorry, guys) never quite catch up.  So if a woman wants a sex partner of a comparable level of maturity, she’s generally going to have to select someone at least a few years older.  Since whores have to deal with a lot more men than the average amateur, we also have to put up with a lot more irritating male behavior than she does; since older men are more mature, they are much less likely to act like annoying boys than young men are wont to do (reread last week’s column in light of this and I think you may see this reflected in it).  And that makes our jobs easier, less stressful and much more pleasant.

Another thing about older men which makes them easier to deal with is that maturity tends to make a man appreciate quality over quantity.  Older men generally prefer better to more; in other words, the experience a sex worker gives him – her conversation and/or service, the atmosphere she creates, the subtle things she does that make her different from all other women – tends to become much more important than how many positions she is willing to try in one session or how many times she can bring him to climax.  On the one hand, that makes her job physically easier; having sex (or conducting a BDSM scene, or giving a sensual massage or whatever) can be both physically strenuous and emotionally draining, and that is multiplied when one’s partner is very energetic and demanding.  Consider that a sex worker may have to perform anywhere from several times per week to several times per day depending upon the kind of work and her price structure, and I think you’ll understand why clients who want to spend more time talking or cuddling than they do expecting her to turn handstands are so welcome.

sloppy eaterBut there’s another factor involved here as well:  sex workers whose professional model relies upon creating a holistic experience (such as courtesans, dominatrices, GFE escorts, tanrikas and many others) often spend considerable time, energy and effort on working out the minutiae of that experience, and it’s incredibly gratifying for that effort to be recognized and appreciated.  Imagine how a chef might feel if he were to see some hungry young athlete dump ketchup all over his lovingly-presented cuisine, wolf it down without pausing, belch loudly and then complain that the portion wasn’t big enough, and you might be able to grasp the reaction of an escort whose client does something very similar.  Mature men are much more likely to get it, and I don’t just mean appreciating the skill and savoring the experience; there’s a far greater chance that an older man will understand that sex workers are professional entertainers who deserve to be paid well for our mastery of our ancient and venerable art.  Young men are far more likely than mature ones to haggle, try to fuck for every minute of a session or even willfully misunderstand the nature of the transaction (“I’m young and good-looking, do I get a discount?”); older men are much more likely to tip, book longer sessions and honor the economic basis of the transaction rather than merely tolerating it.

That last, of course, is certainly due at least in part to the fact that as a rule, older men are more financially healthy than younger ones; they can afford to be more  generous and don’t need to squeeze every last Jackson until it bleeds.  And that brings us to the other pragmatic reason most sex workers prefer older clients:  in general, they have more money.  They don’t haggle, are less likely to short the fee, book more often and for longer sessions, tip better, bring more generous gifts and can often be counted on to come through in financial emergencies.  And even if all other factors were equal, that one would heavily tip the scales to age.

(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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glowing nudeSometimes, the most difficult part of doing my news columns is deciding what subtitle to use for a given article.  To be sure, many of them are obvious, but that’s not always the case; sometimes I remember a previous story I want to link back to, but for the life of me can’t remember what heading that one was under.  And even if I can remember a few details of the original to search on, that doesn’t always help; for example, a few months ago I was trying to refer back to an article on strip club restrictions, but searching for “stripper”, “strip club” and even just “strip” wouldn’t find it.  When I finally located it after half an hour of digging, I discovered the reason: the original article had used the phrase “exotic dancers”.  Another thing that can make a heading tough to remember is topical drift; new stories refer back to older stories, then newer stories refer back to the update and so on, and after a while the heading doesn’t actually apply very well to what’s appearing under it.  Sometimes I start using a new title for a certain kind of article, after a new full column on the subject appears (such as the recent shift from filing rapist cops under “Above the Law” to filing them under “To Molest and Rape“), and once in a while I even intentionally change the focus of a heading in order to collect stories on one theme which previously appeared under different headings (as I did two years ago with “Rooted in Racism“).

However, I think this may be the first time that I’ve ever written a new column expressly for the purpose of creating such a new heading.  I’ve recently run into several stories about the effects of sex businesses on neighborhoods, and every fucking time I have forgotten which title the last one ran under.  So then I’ve had to go through the pain of finding the last such article, but can’t remember the phrasing it used so the process takes forever.  Well, no more; from now on such articles will appear under this heading.  Previously, such articles have appeared under the not-terribly-intuitive title “What a Week!“, due to the aforementioned topical drift:  the original of that name was an early news column which featured a story about a mega-brothel being built in Spain, then a couple of later ones referred back to it for a mega-brothel being built in Sydney, then another discussed a study done for the licensing of said brothel which demonstrated that the concept of “negative secondary effects” is essentially bullshit.  And obviously, subsequent stories referred back to that.  “Negative secondary effects” is the term used by prudes and authoritarians to make the concept of “sex rays” seem something other than ludicrous; this disproven dogma claims that the very existence of an adult business magically draws crime, and turns men into drooling sex maniacs who then go forth and rape women (hence the pious charade of directing a portion of “pole taxes” to finance rape and domestic violence charities or anti-whore programs).  As a quick perusal of that last cluster of links will demonstrate, stories about claims of such effects mysteriously and malefically emanating from strip clubs rather than brothels or massage parlors have until now appeared under “First They Came for the Hookers” along with stories about former sex workers being fired from post-sex work jobs for having been sex workers.  From here on out, any articles either claiming the existence of such baleful effects or debunking such claims will appear under this heading, whether that business is a strip club, brothel, adult toy store or whatever.  So maybe now I won’t be quite so frustrated the next time I encounter such a story.

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Age Before Beauty

I’m thinking about calling an escort for the first time; do they take young guys seriously?  Or would I be treated differently from older men?

Some ladies have a lower age limit of 30 or even 35, but if one does it’ll be marked clearly on her website.  If a young man wants to see an escort, there are some very simple steps he can take to ensure she takes him seriously:

  • Read her website carefully and approach her exactly as she says she wants to be approached.  If you don’t have references, you need to find a lady who specifically advertises as “newbie friendly” or else you’re just wasting her time and yours.
  • Be clear, honest and polite about being young, and understand that this is a liability for you rather than an asset; one of the most asinine and annoying things a would-be client can say is something like “I’m young and good looking, so you’ll enjoy it” or “Do I get a discount because I’m young and fit?”
  • Don’t ask prying or lurid questions, and don’t try to get dirty talk for free; be polite and respectful.
  • Be patient if she expects you to jump through some hoops; give her whatever screening info she wants.
  • Read my “Advice for Clients” column and follow it.
  • If she won’t see you, tell her you understand, thank her for her time & try another lady.
  • If she does agree to see you, make sure you’re on your best behavior and tip her extra; the next time you want to see someone you’ll be able to give the first lady’s name as a reference, and she will speak well of you.
  • Treat all the first few escorts you see this way, and I promise you won’t have any trouble after that as long as you respect the wishes of those who have a posted lower age limit.  If you try to approach one of the ladies who do, she will take your ignoring her boundary as a sign that you’re impolite & disrespectful, and you still won’t get in to see her.

Good luck!

(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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Now I a fourfold vision see,
And a fourfold vision is given to me:
‘Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulah’s night
And twofold always, may God us keep
From single vision and Newton’s sleep!
 –  William Blake

William Blake constructed an elaborate artificial mythology full of original concepts, gods, places and terms.  One of these concepts is Ulro, an utterly fallen state divorced from all abstraction and transcendence; he imagined four states of being, with Eternity (also called Eden) being the highest and Ulro being the lowest.  Beings in Ulro have “single vision”; they see only mundane physical reality uncolored by imagination, inspiration or even fully developed eroticism.  Ulro is the state occupied by the dullest sort of human, who is unable to see any of the complexities of the world around them; it is a kind of spiritual sleep, dominated by the stomach and intestines, and people who exist this way can be visualized as going through the world with one eye closed, seeing everything flat and without proper perspective.  The second state, Generation, is the one in which more intellectually & spiritually aware humans exist; it is dominated by the genitals and can be imagined as seeing with both eyes.  The third state, Beulah, occurs when the individual is open to the spiritual or imaginative dimension; it is dominated by the heart and characterized by “threefold vision”, which one might think of as the “third eye” of mysticism, the “altered consciousness” experienced by psychedelic drug users, an ecstatic religious state or even a transcendent erotic experience.  Finally, Eternity, dominated by the head and characterized by “fourfold vision”, allows connection to the entire universe; it is a condition of total bliss which few humans can reach, and even then only for very short periods of time while existing in this plane.

I’ve been fascinated by Blake’s mysticism ever since I first studied it while working on my bachelor’s degree in English; my major concentration was on the Romantic Period, and Blake was the subject of at least one major term paper and a number of lesser ones.  I wove many of his concepts into the D&D universe I created, and I often find myself looking at the world through a Blakean lens, especially when thinking about the incredible, half-blind ignorance with which so many people view the world, especially when the topic is sex.  Traditional religions, authoritarian governments, power-hungry collective entities and the popular media all work  –  separately and in conjunction  –  to immerse the population in a dense fog of obfuscation, a Veil of Ulro which allows them to be just awake enough to serve their masters, but not awake enough to actually penetrate that fog and see the world around them as it is.  They believe in the most ridiculous nonsense about sex, imagining men to be such eunuchs that they can simply be ordered to be celibate by churches, military officials, prison officials or prudish wives, and women to be so asexual that the only possible reason they might engage in pragmatic sex is because some evil man forced them to.  They are “shocked” when government actors behave exactly like other men would under the same conditions, and refuse to understand that interesting costumes don’t magically make men into paragons, but rather make them much worse.  They actually think that the leaders they have chosen to follow are better and more noble than those on the evil Other Team, and obediently close their one open eye whenever those leaders order them to ignore spying, brutality, looting, racism and even mass murder.  And they’re willing to believe in grandiose fantasies utterly divorced from all known facts about statistics, economics, psychology, sexuality, anthropology and plain common sense rather than accept that some women can have pragmatic sex, that most men are willing to pay them for it, and that many people are happy to strive for truly Pinocchian levels of dishonesty in order to make a profit, seize power, get rid of people they’re bigoted against or even seek petty vengeance.  Even Blake himself only claimed to have fourfold vision in moments of “supreme delight”, and most of us need drugs, meditation or superlative sexual experiences to get our “third eyes” open.  But is it really too much to ask that people just wake the hell up and open the second eye that’s waiting and ready right there on the fronts of their heads?

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Increasingly…governments have criminalized more and more behaviors that are part of everyday life, adding harsh fines and possible jail time to misdemeanors and crimes that weren’t punished so harshly or even at all before.  –  German Lopez

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

Remember, cops: raping whores is OK; it’s paying us fairly that isn’t:

…Orange County [Florida] Sheriff Deputy [Mike Asbury] quit while he was under investigation for allegedly paying a prostitute for sex…the woman’s house was…under surveillance…after [nosy] neighbors complained of too many people going in and out…and…took pictures of men going inside the home…Investigators checked the license plate of Asbury’s car and it linked back to the Sheriff’s Office…

Peeping Toms

Trying to turn Lawrence into a “monogamous vanilla gay amateurs only” club:

In Sandy Springs, Georgia…“[a]ny device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs is obscene material…”  A marital aid shop…[argued] all the way to the 11th Circuit that a ban on sex toys interfered with the right to “[p]rivate, consensual intimacy” provided under the 14th Amendment…Flanigan’s…[tagged] out for a more sympathetic plaintiff mid-way through the process:  “Davenport suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses sexual devices with her husband to facilitate intimacy“…Another plaintiff claimed that he wanted to use sex toys in his artwork…Unfortunately for non-artsy couples and frisky singles in the Sandy Spring area, who doubtless strictly observe the prohibition, the 11th Circuit found that, per its previous opinion, there is no right to buy or sell…In fact, per its 2004 opinion, there is no right to sexual privacy…This is a surprising outlier opinion in a country where even Ted Cruz couldn’t persuade the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to keep a sex toy ban…the 5th Circuit didn’t hesitate to note that Lawrence v. Texas was pretty explicit about letting people be explicit, especially when the law banning “immoral” conduct was only sporadically enforced, suggesting that it was more about making a moral statement than actually fixing any sort of problem…

Droit du Seigneur Richard Silverthorne

Most politicians are a bit more careful when indulging in drugs with hookers:

The mayor of the City of Fairfax [Virginia] was arrested…for distribution of methamphetamine in an uncover sting…Richard “Scott” Silverthorne…was allegedly distributing meth…through a website used to arrange for casual sexual encounters between men…an undercover detective made contact with the…mayor after creating a [fake] profile… “Undercover detectives agreed to meet the suspect for a group sexual encounter in exchange for methamphetamine”…[a news] release said…

It Looks Good On Paper

This is, as we’ve seen before, pure bullshit; only a few sex workers even qualify to be considered for the “safe harbor”, and it’s usually contingent upon her producing a “pimp” to sate the bloodlust of cops and prosecutors…even though, as we well know, very few whores have anyone who could be thrown under the bus even if they wanted to do that.  The so-called “services” these big talkers claim to be able to “connect” people with are just ordinary welfare services anyone could apply for, and the so-called “connection” is rarely more than giving them a phone number.  What I find interesting, though, is the apparent move away from “end demand” tactics, possibly due to low conviction rates but possibly due to something more important such as legal liability from lawsuits from sting victims.  I can’t think of another reason a cop would say something as moronic as “The johns are very reluctant to respond to ads” while simultaneously claiming that “the situation has gotten worse”.

Universal Criminality

This is what happens when cops are allowed to “enforce” laws against acts that hurt nobody:

…low-level offenses can trap someone for life — and even to death — in the criminal justice system…It begins with one ticket or a traffic stop.  But if someone can’t afford to pay that fine, police might try to stop or arrest him or her again to get the person to pay up.  This can lead to someone getting fined again for not paying up the first time.  And again.  And again.  One ticket leads to a vicious cycle that can sink someone for life.  With each of these encounters, someone’s record piles up — giving [cops] more reason, in their view, to stop him or her, because they recognize the person, or perhaps see the person’s record when running a license plate…And with each of these stops, people are exposed to more instances in which a police encounter could go tragically wrong.  And it happens disproportionately to poor people of color.  As those who are already heavily policed, they are the ones who are more likely to catch a cop’s eye if they run a stop sign, fail to signal on a turn, have a broken taillight, or sell untaxed cigarettes…

Scapegoats

Pig invents new excuse for criminalization of sex with goats:

A Georgia man…was arrested and charged with bestiality…for engaging in inappropriate relations with a goat…neighbors of Freddie Wadsworth [ratted him out]…Bestiality “is the single greatest predictor of people who will molest children,” Detective Jeremy Hoffman, of the Fairfax County, Va., Sheriff’s Office [oinked, presenting no evidence whatsoever in support of this fantasy]…

Standard Operating Procedure

{Yawn}.  See me yawning there? Lots of other whores reading this are, too:

Malia Litman of Dallas TX describes herself as a stay-at-home mom…[who] has spent $100,000 suing the U.S. government to turn over 3,900 pages of secret records about widespread sexual abuse and misbehavior by the U.S. Secret Service.  “A culture of ‘wheels up; rings off’ meant even married agents could party on foreign trips…A [sic] agent who missed his flight later showed up drunk with two prostitutes.  He was not disciplined…Agents “engaged” with prostitutes in Amsterdam’s red-light district during an advance team trip…A supervisor took a subordinate to a sex show while on duty…A male agent’s gun was stolen by a male prostitute he solicited online.  The gun was never recovered“…Litman has had to pay $100,000 for the records out of her own pocket because [she is a dingbat]…

Amateurs who read this, be honest with me…does this kind of stuff actually shock y’all?  Seriously?  None of this is even good enough to share in shop-talking sessions.  Except for the stolen gun, this is all pretty typical.

Counterfeit Comfort (#52) Pokemon GO squirtle

New York is obsessed with the fantasy that people condemned to the “sex offender” registry use video games to abduct children:

New York state officials think Pokemon Go might be a great tool for sex offenders to kidnap children—gotta catch ’em all!—and now the governor himself, Andrew Cuomo, is calling for legislation…[which] would prevent sex offenders on parole from playing the game in which animated creatures—from Nintendo’s Pokemon universe—appear on your phone screen while you walk around.  The legislation…also calls upon the game’s creators to eliminate any Pokemon within 100 feet of a registered sex offender’s home…

Stupor Bowl

Yes, August is indeed “before the Super Bowl”.  It’s also before the year 2100, the collapse of human civilization and the heat death of the universe, and this sting is linked about as closely to those events as it is to “sex trafficking” or football:

A prostitution sting at a high-end Houston area hotel has resulted in ten arrests…Constable Alan Rosen…[lied that] the goal was not to make arrests, but rather to highlight the problem of human trafficking and see if his team of [sadistic perverts] could [get publicity]…It’s a huge issue as we get closer to the Super Bowl next year in Houston. That game is one of the busiest days for human trafficking all year, according to [thoroughly debunked prohibitionist propaganda]…Rosen knows he’s not going to rid the world of prostitution…To him, this effort is about [getting himself re-elected by ignorant morons]…

Hard Numbers (#426) 

Exactly like the World Cup two years ago.  Why can’t people learn?

…the expectation of earning more money during the Olympics has been frustrated in Brazil…Prostitution Observatory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, working with hundreds of prostitutes, estimates that, broadly speaking, the scenario that happened in the World Cup in Brazil 2014 will be repeated…The movement of customers fell by around 15% during the World Cup…and now, many of the local “fast and cheap” brothels are closing their doors during the Games.  According to anthropologist Thaddeus Blanchette…some of the local sex workers are even thinking of going on vacation during the Games…In [Blanchette’s] opinion, there are many prostitutes who end up believing the “expectations inflated by the media” and put much hope that the Olympic Games are a good deal but then find that this is “a myth”…it is also not expected that a large flood of prostitutes from other parts of Brazil will move to Rio, which researchers Prostitution Observatory say is another myth…

Bait and Switch

Whenever you see claims that a sting “caught pedophiles” or is “fighting the demand for child sex trafficking”, refer back to the original article in this heading:

As part of “Operation Someone Like Me” undercover agents posted ads on…Backpage.com, to find people [they could frame for seeking] sex with juveniles, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said…They got 485 responses [yet somehow only arrested…41 [victims]…18 [were] men [the cops successfully tricked]…Also arrested were six women and a juvenile…[the other 16 were]…charged with either patronizing prostitution [or] prostitution…One of the women was [jailed]…

The Course of a Disease (#510)

Because naturally a politician can’t recognize that a consensual activity should just be let alone by the government; that boot has to be on somebody’s neck:

Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan…said he strongly disagreed with criminalisation calls, saying that sex workers should be regulated and subject to regular health checks…“Why would we want to fine somebody or make it a criminal offence for two consenting adults to have sex?…would there not be lonely men out there?  Would there not be men who have a disfigurement or who are disabled?…So, there’s an opportunity for them maybe to pay for it and we’re saying ‘no’!  That’s cruel”…the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland said it was happy that a Government Minister was questioning the “dangerous proposals” contained in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2014…but [does] not support the type of “overly regulated” legalised sex industry which exists in Germany and the Netherlands…[where] “only the very privileged few workers who can jump through all the hoops and work independently”…

Something Rotten in Sweden (#651)

Slowly but surely, we’re forcing them to listen, and prohibitionists’ responses are showing them for the authoritarians they are:

…messages [from sex workers] came in response to a June article [about an anti-sex work propaganda campaign]…that featured billboards, radio spots, posters and videos aimed at [indoctrinating the public in] sex trafficking [mythology]…The…readers who contacted me about the story told me they were bothered because it was missing voices from sex workers.  Because prostitution is illegal in…California, I didn’t think the…article needed to explore that particular issue.  But the criticism was not lost on me, and the points [Norma Jean Almodovar & Maxine Doogan] raised struck me as worthy of further consideration…Summer Stephan, a chief deputy district attorney, said she has heard the criticism, but she remains proud of the San Diego campaign, which aims to “inform (human trafficking) victims that they are victims”…

Cut. Print.

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When Christina was considering sex work a few years ago, she discovered my blog and read voraciously before actually starting the work, so I’m her whore-mama.  She’s turning into a hell of an activist, and I’m very proud of her; she also has a blog of her own

He’s nervous.  His voice on the phone is shy as he introduces himself.  “Hi. I reached out to you on Reddit…?”

Of course.  I chime in on anonymous social media when the topic of sex work comes up.  In this case it was the recent sting at the Euro Spa which I wrote about a few weeks ago.  I received a message from one of the gentlemen who got caught in the net.  He felt lost, afraid, as if his whole future were at risk and he had no one to reach out to so he reached out to me.  I leaped at the chance to speak with someone who lived this experience and offered to meet for coffee or to talk on the phone, whatever he felt comfortable with.  A few days passed and I thought it likely that he wasn’t comfortable, maybe I had come on too strong, and I wouldn’t hear from him again but this afternoon a ring interrupted my poolside reading.  We agreed to meet at a nearby public park and just talk; I wanted to reassure him that he wasn’t alone, offer what help I could, and record a step by step walk-through of what he experienced.  I’ll refrain from describing him physically, to keep his anonymity as safe as possible, but my first impression was that he was nervous, relieved that I was who I said I was, embarrassed to go into details.  He is exactly the kind of client I would NOT like deterred from seeing sex workers and yet his experience may keep him from being one of the many kind and respectful clients who allow me and my sisters financial security and are enjoyable to see in session.

It started, as it often does, with stress and loneliness.  Intimacy is often difficult for shy, busy people and many turn to the professionalism and convenience of sex workers to find much needed human connection.  In this digital age, he went online to find a solution and found it in a Backpage advertisement for “massage” complete with a photo of “a scantily clad woman and a massage table.”  He reasoned that an establishment was a safer gamble than one of the many independent Backpage advertisers so, early on a Wednesday evening, he called to make sure they were open and then made his way to what he assumed would be an hour of intimate physical touch.  He had an idea that there would be sexual contact involved, and that was one of the attractions for him, but until he spoke to the woman working the room he wasn’t sure exactly what.  Walking in the door, he looked to his left to see a twenty-something woman behind a desk.  He remembers a black dress and a red bra, that she was very clear in both words and hand gestures what she was offering, that she didn’t show any signs of abuse or coercion or of being underage, and that as soon as she offered sex, he knew that was what he wanted.Seattle entrapment

“Hi. I’d like a massage.”

“OK, but extras cost more.”

“What kind of extras?”

“A handjob, or sex for a hundred.”

“Sex.”

He handed over his 100$ and she showed him down a hall into a dimly lit room with a massage table and pleasant but forgettable decorations in it.  He waited for her but before long, and much to his surprise, two plainclothes detectives entered the room and cuffed him.  The detectives walked him outside (in handcuffs!) and upstairs where he sat, still and quiet.  The entire process had taken less than five minutes.  Five or ten minutes later he was joined by another cuffed man, far less calm.  A few minutes after that the two were escorted to a car and taken to the police station where he spent the next six hours behind bars and undergoing various booking procedures including fingerprinting and changing into prison orange.  He didn’t want to say much about what the other victims of the sting said or did (especially the one he rode to jail with), because he didn’t want to try to tell someone else’s story for them; however it was clear to me that whatever they did and said left its mark on him.  Finally released at one in the morning, he went home and tried to forget about it.  When I asked how he felt, he said he felt calm the whole time, as if he was just an observer and this wasn’t really happening to him.

But two days later, a uniformed cop walked into his place of business and the reality of his situation hit him like a sledgehammer to the gut.  Thoughts raced through his mind: Are they here for me?  What if my boss finds out?  What if my coworkers find out?  As it turned out, the cop was only there to grab a bite to eat; three days prior that wouldn’t have given my new friend a second thought, but now it sent his heart rate through the roof.  That night he finally flipped through the documents police had sent him home with and began to worry.  He is, as of our meeting on July 29th, still waiting for his court date to be set.  He calls and asks every day so he knows right away how long he has to prepare.  Not that he can do much; mired in student debt and unable to get outside support, he will have an overworked and underpaid public defender as his counsel, facing an aggressive “end demand” agenda driven by vast private funds.  He will likely face fines upward of $2700, not including miscellaneous court fees and the cost of the ridiculous and ineffective “John School”.  Why?  In what universe is someone seeking services from an aggressively, provocatively dressed woman blatantly and casually offering sex for money the same as a “human trafficker” or an abuser?  How does financially crippling a young man just starting his life build up our community?  What good does it do to saddle someone, anyone, with the ambiguous and damning crime of “sexual exploitation” when all they did was offer payment to a willing, adult sexual partner?  Who benefits from traumatizing him for a nonviolent transaction?  Not me, not you, and not him.  The $100 he thought he was paying for some intimate human contact is a drop in the bucket compared to the cash SPD will net from this sting and from the continued financial support of privately funded anti-prostitution organizations; it will also provide free campaign publicity for pro-Swedish model public officials.  My heart goes out to him and his 203 fellow detainees, and I hope that we can help them.

NAUWUHe was brave to agree to meet with me after such an experience, and he was careful not to accidentally out his fellow clients.  He said he did it because he hoped that his story would help:  help the push towards decriminalizing sexual services; help someone else in his predicament find comfort; help humanize the clients facing criminal charges; and help lessen his own ordeal by letting him get it off his chest to someone who could listen without judging.  There are 203 other stories much like this.  Men from all walks of life who felt bored, horny, lonely, busy, curious or whatever, who sought a consenting adult to help them assuage whatever they felt, are all painted with the same black brush: evil, stupid, and shameful.  But it is the use of police resources to persecute consenting adults under the guise of ending abuse which is evil, stupid and shameful, and we need to call for its end.  If you are one of the 203 others, or another victim of law enforcement actions against those seeking sex workers, I invite you to contact me.  The sex worker community has done good work toward humanizing the providers of sexual services but we also need to humanize clients and advocate for their rights.  By striking down the laws against the simple act of exchanging sexual services for money, our government can focus resources on the victims and perpetrators of violent crime and leave the rest of us alone.

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The Peril

To what extent is the criminalization of prostitution in the U.S. tied into racism?  Obviously it’s not hard to trace the connection between the War on Drugs and racism, and the relationship between skin-color and enforcement of prostitution laws is obvious.  It’s also easy to notice that prostitution starts to become illegal not long after the Civil War, but to what extent does that relate to race, if at all?  

White Slaves of ChinatownThough the most pernicious form of racism in the modern US is that directed against black people, the country has a long and ugly history of bigotry against others as well (consider, for example, the literally genocidal racism inflicted on American Indians).  So while you’re correct that the criminalization of sex work in the US is indeed rooted in racism, the specific culprit which started the ball rolling was racism against Asian people, specifically the Chinese.  As I explained in my “Brief History of Prostitution in the US“,

…When Chinese immigrants began to pour into California…white Americans feared these new arrivals whose ways were so different from their own…most female Chinese immigrants of the time were either prostitutes or second wives in polygamous marriages, so in 1875 Congress passed the Page Law, which banned the immigration of women for “lewd and immoral purposes”.  In a way, the law backfired; Chinese men flooded into the country anyway (especially into California and New York), and since there was a shortage of Chinese women, many of them either patronized white prostitutes or set up small brothels and hired them; others married or cohabited with working-class white women.  The self-appointed guardians of public morality were scandalized, and the seeds of moral panic were sown…

The Page Law was only the first of many federal, state and local “morality” laws inflicted on sex workers, and while many of them were based in the imagined “inferiority” of non-Europeans, full-on criminalization was based in the imagined “superiority” of white Europeans:

…The existence of prostitutes required considerable cognitive gymnastics to reconcile with the Victorian view that women were intrinsically asexual…[most scholars believed] that prostitutes represented regressions to a more “primitive” type of woman.  This racist view could be used to explain away non-European sex workers or those of supposedly “degraded” nationalities, but those involved in the increasingly popular “rescue” movement soon discovered to their horror that there were more than a few Anglo-Saxon prostitutes, including some middle-class girls of “good breeding” and education.  It was therefore proposed that white prostitutes “had…fallen into the hands of ‘professional seducers’, who had manipulated their sexless victims into submission.”  This narrative of helpless young white women forced into a life of exploitation, had tremendous popular appeal; it was heavily promoted from the 1880s on by organizations like the Salvation Army and found especially fertile soil in areas where white prostitutes worked alongside those of other ethnicities or catered to a nonwhite clientele.  The myth of “white slavery” (as it was then called) also appealed to middle-class discomfort with female autonomy; if women who traveled large distances and made their way by either casual or professional prostitution could be cast as the victims of evil men, there was no need to rethink the notion of female helplessness…Like all moral panics, the “white slavery” hysteria thus cast a challenge to prevailing social norms as a threat from outside forces to be fought…

racist sex trafficking propagandaOf course, once prohibition of sex work was in place, it was enforced disproportionately against poor people and ethnic minorities, especially black people, just as all prohibitionist laws are (which is why I’ve repeatedly argued that support for any prohibition is a sign of naivety and, though I find it a very flawed term, privilege).  The Mann Act of 1910 (or to give it its official name, “The White-Slave Traffic Act”), the first federal anti-prostitution law specifically worded as such, was notorious for its use in persecuting black men involved in relationships with white women.  The modern recycling of the old “white slavery” hysteria, the “sex trafficking” panic, has spawned a whole host of laws which are disproportionately employed against young black and Latino men, especially those belonging to what the “authorities” label “gangs”.  And just as in the past, interracial relationships are an especial target of busybodies looking for “signs of sex trafficking” or even just plain prostitution.

Finally, racism has played a major role in the spread of “sex trafficking” hysteria in Europe; it’s easy to see how the xenophobia and hysteria grew as the major origin points for emigration to Western Europe shifted from Eastern Europe to the Balkans to the Middle East to Africa.  The darker the skin of the migrants, the greater the panic increased and the more those migrants were infantilized and those who assist in their migration demonized.  In the US, I feel that the primary driver of the current moral panic is anti-sex hysteria, fueled by reaction to the sexual revolution, the HIV epidemic & gains in rights for sexual minorities rather than ethnic ones (which is why one of the groups disproportionately persecuted under anti-prostitution laws is transwomen).  But both the hysteria itself, and the way in which it is enforced by “authorities”, are powerfully shaped by the racism and xenophobia from which criminalization first sprang.

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