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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

Whole libraries of sex work laws have been written and enforced because lawmakers listened to nothing other than their own fears and paternalism.  –  Chris Hall

R.I.P. Sashimani Devi Sashimani Devi

Sashimani Devi, the last [devadasi]…at the Jagannath Temple in eastern India, died on March 19 in the city of Puri…She was 92…she was one of about 25 women assigned to care for Jagannath and other images of deities at the temple, conducting ritual baths, rubbing the statues with lotion and performing private songs and dances at bedtime…Sashimani…remained proud of her status until the end of her life, though she complained that temple authorities had reduced her role in temple rituals and paid her a miserly pension.  She told one interviewer who asked about the god Jagannath: “He is my husband and I am his wife.  There is no dispute about it.”  She was the last to perform a dance that had been practiced in the temple for 5,000 years…Laws criminalizing the dedication of devadasis began proliferating in the 1930s, and elite temples like Jagannath began to turn away from the practice, though “thousands and thousands” of devadasis are dedicated, to this day, at smaller temples throughout India…

Here We Go Again

Chris Hall looks at the connection between the belief in snuff films and the belief in “sex trafficking”:

Of all the myths about porn, sex and crime to get a footing in popular culture, the belief in snuff films is one of the most improbable, yet enduringly resilient.  For decades, journalists, politicians, law enforcement officials, and anti-porn crusaders talked about snuff films as if their reality had been as firmly documented as the address of the White House….[despite the fact that] no actual snuff films have ever been found…snuff movie hysteria is just a single link in a very long chain of moral panics around sex and sex work which stretches back centuries…the myths of white slavery and snuff films…depicted vast networks of deliberate, organized evil preying on society’s most innocent.  There are actual videos of murders by serial killers or terrorists, but…a true snuff film would be one where the victim is specifically kidnapped and murdered in order to make the film and distribute it through a vast, secret criminal network.  Similarly, white slavery would necessarily involve a nightmarish web of kidnappers and pimps working cohesively in a well-organized criminal subculture…the existence of snuff films and white slavery would reveal a shadowy, near-omnipotent “other” infiltrating respectable society…

Above the Law 

A…New York [City cop]…has been charged with multiple counts of rape related to a sexual relationship he’s alleged to have maintained with a teen girl more than 20 years his junior…38-year-old Vladimir Sosa…was arrested in the Bronx [after the girl]…confessed to her mother about the relationship last month…

The Notorious Badge 

Here’s an amusing example of prohibitionists’ obsession with the film Pretty Woman:  On its 25th anniversary, a “sex trafficking” fetishist publishes a letter asking Richard Gere to espouse the “end demand” creed of the “sex trafficking” religion and denounce clients.  I am not making this up.

Hall of Shame

Mistress Matisse: “If you’ve eaten poison and need to make yourself vomit, you should watch Dennis Hof and Nancy Grace debate sex work.”  I concur; Grace is one of the few creatures who can make Hof seem less-than-wholly-vile in comparison.

Shift in the Wind

More editorials like this, please:

It is unfathomable why adults are still being prohibited by law from engaging in sex work – whether as an individual providing or receiving such services – in and outside of Jamaica.  To make matters worse, it is also illegal for you to “knowingly” benefit from the proceeds of sex work regardless of your relationship to the individual…This is preposterous….a child whose parent works tirelessly as a sex worker to send him or her to school…can, in fact, be charged for benefiting from their parents earnings from sex work….if you are the parent of a sex worker with a chronic illness such as cancer, you can be charged for allowing your daughter to pay for life-saving chemotherapy.  What would you do if the person who supports you financially is a sex worker?  Would you still feel the law is justified – that prostitution should be illegal?

Standard Operating Procedure

Yawn.  Are people still pretending this was unpredictable?

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department…In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties…The stunning allegations are part of an investigation…into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI…[ATF] and the U.S. Marshals Service…The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation…

“Stunning”. LOL! Prostitute tester advert

Sex Work is Work

A brothel is advertising what many would consider a dream job: prostitute tester.  The job entails rating sex workers for overall quality, cleanliness, value for money, and safe sex practices.  The advert by the Berlin brothel…reads:  “Practical experience with many years of brothel visits necessary.  You should enjoy having fun with people and you should not be afraid of contact.”  Ideal candidates for the position would hold a university degree (preferably in business), have experience with brothels, and be able to show a health certificate indicating they are disease-free…a multilingual individual is desired, with knowledge of French a plus…

Torture Chamber 

[Florida prison guards] contaminated inmates’ food, sprayed them with chemicals for no reason and threatened to break their fingers and to kill them…These practices flourished under former Warden Samuel Culpepper…inmates…said they were stripped naked or down to their boxers at the whim of guards and had all their belongings and their mattresses taken away, then left around the clock on a cold metal bunk for 72 hours or more…[where] they would shiver, cold and petrified, waiting to be gassed…guards would sometimes heat up the gas canisters before activating them, making the chemicals more potent and stick more stubbornly to inmates’ skin…

Bait and Switch

Here’s a long, detailed account of how an ordinary man was tricked and railroaded by cops and prosecutors, his life destroyed for their profit:

…he believed she was nineteen, and he adamantly denied at all times that she looked underage.  He…thought she was lying about her age to try to get more money from him.  It took cops almost half an hour of merciless interrogation and lie after lie to get something even arguably incriminating out of him.  They kept telling him about how he tried to have sex with “that girl” who was sixteen.  When he asked why they were fixated on the fake age of a fake escort, the police report noted that as him seeing no problem with the age of sixteen…

Marching Up Their Own Arses (#452)

For a change, many outside the demimonde recognize anti-whore douchebaggery for what it is:

All sex workers are trafficking victims who desperately want out of the industry.  That’s the premise…of the new A&E show 8 Minutes, which is slated to premiere April 2….vigilante pastor (and former cop) Kevin Brown…sets up dates with sex workers, only to ambush them with attempts at rescue instead of payment—all filmed, hidden camera-style.  The…series has been called “awful” by the Daily Beast, while VICE referred to Brown and the series creators as “manipulators seeking out women for their own gain.”  A Change.org petition…garnered just under 2,000 signatures.  And…even local law enforcement condemned his methods…But none of this criticism has deterred A&E from airing the show…[so] about two dozen…groups that work with…sex workers signed a letter demanding a meeting with Tom Forman, the producer…

Worse Than I Thought (#524)

We can always count on Elizabeth N. Brown:

…the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” (JVTA)…was [stalled]…by party-line disagreement over an abortion-funding provision.  Thank goodness.  This is one time that lawmakers using abortion as a political tool may actually be a boon for civil liberties…One should always be skeptical when politicians insist on new laws to target things that are already targets…it belies efforts to grant government agencies new powers and more money without people paying much attention…One under-looked but worrisome aspect of the bill would set up several cybercrime-fighting units within the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement…By conflating all prostitution with sex trafficking, organizations that receive federal anti-trafficking grants can use it to go after prostitution more generally — something conservative rescue-orgs like because it fits their anti-prostitution agenda and police departments like because they can now use this money toward existing vice efforts.  And the more arrests and/or “rescues” they make, the more money they get…

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on February 22nd; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

wood splitting wedgeAs I’ve written many times, tyranny always starts with unpopular minorities, but it absolutely never stops with them.  Every time a new kind of law, legal procedure or police tactic is dreamed up by those with the sick need to control others, it is invariably tested first on some group that the “authorities” know few others will defend; then by the time it’s expanded to the general population, it’s much too late to do anything about it.  For example, US surveillance methods which were first excused as being necessary to uncover “terrorists” were quickly expanded to drug investigations, then to the entire population (as Edward Snowden revealed); similarly, the license-plate readers which were first used in the Drug War and “end demand” operations against sex workers’ clients were recently revealed to be employed in vast numbers to build a nationwide database of all automobiles.  Last year, I explained how men were being arrested for talking to a computer program intended to trick them into thinking it was a young girl, and in Florida and Arizona huge police operations (with cops in place of the program) have predatorily arrested hundreds of men whose only “crime” was looking for women their own age on dating sites.  In the UK, an internet censorship regime which was sold to the public in the name of “protecting children” from “extreme porn” is now being used to block anything some government official decides he doesn’t want the public to see.  And “asset forfeiture” proceedings, which were first touted as weapons against “drug lords”, are now being used to rob ordinary people who have done absolutely nothing wrong of their cash, cars and even real estate.

“Sex trafficking” has proved a bonanza for those who wish to install ever-greater tyranny without the slightest opposition from the populace; besides the increased surveillance, expanded asset seizure and new laws that criminalize ordinary behaviors, fanatical politicians are working to entirely destroy the internet as we know it by subjecting website owners and operators to criminal charges for third-party content.  And even if they fail, other nosy parkers are trying to harness the power of computers to spy on otherwise-anonymous citizens by analyzing what they post online:

…researchers have developed software that allows police departments to mine online ads offering prostitution services.  Traffic Jam gives police a rapid way to sort sex ads, spotting indirect language that may suggest sex trafficking, or grouping ads with similar language that may have been written by the same person… research analyst Emily Kennedy said more than 100 sites are commonly used in sex trafficking…

Regular readers know this is arrant nonsense; “sex trafficking” is here being used as a dysphemism for “sex work”.  Promoters of this incredibly misogynistic myth pretend that women are too asexual to choose sex for pragmatic reasons, and too stupid to place our own ads or plan our own travel; this article hilariously claims that women fly into towns “with a handler”, which is especially funny because four-year-old interviews with the same cops from the same podunk little Pennsylvania town mention no “handlers” of any kind.  These imaginary persons are almost literally pasted into the line to fit the “sex trafficking” narrative that is used to justify gross invasions of privacy.

But the aforementioned cops, who are well-known for the grotesque and evil lengths to which they will go to harass and victimize sex workers, fit right into the rogue’s gallery quoted in support of this Orwellian surveillance program; another such collective entity is the Arizona State University School of Social Work, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz’s highly-criticized factory for generating bogus prohibitionist studies and the academic leg of the awful Project ROSE.  And who, pray tell, financed the development of this data-mining program?Guinea pigs  Why, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which sunk $3.6 million into the project.  Another, similar platform was funded by the CIA.  But you just go right ahead believing that the US military-industrial complex is so very concerned with commercial sex that it’s willing to spend considerable funds just to stop people from having it; I’m sure that’s a lot more comforting than recognizing that whores are just the guinea pigs for yet another oppression that will soon be extended to everyone.

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Fadeaway

I’ve never been very confident with women, so at the age of 28 I lost my virginity to a sex worker.  I continued to see other professionals since then as time and money allows.  Then two years ago I met a sex worker who was exactly my type; she soon gave me her personal phone number, and we texted a lot about upcoming meetings and about other things.  The last time we met in person she trusted me enough to let me take pictures of her (she advertised without showing her face), and invited me to karaoke with her.  A few weeks later I texted again, and her sister replied to me, saying she was in hospital and wouldn’t be working.  I wrote to her booker (who knew she liked me) and asked if she knew more, and she led me to believe that the problem was mental health related.  Not knowing what else to do, I’d send a little “get well soon” text to her every few weeks.  Eventually she responded, saying she was out of the hospital but unlikely to ever work again.  She seemed to appreciate my messages, and we continued to text for most of last year.  Eventually, I offered to take her out to a platonic dinner in August.  She said yes, and I made arrangements.  A couple of days before, she pulled out and begged forgiveness, saying she still didn’t feel physically up to anything.  I took this well, and continued to text her every other week as I had been before, but she soon stopped replying.  She’s been out of hospital for a year now, and I haven’t heard from her since summer.  I’m wondering if there’s anything else I can do.  I just don’t know how to deal with silence.  If she told me to “please stop” I’d absolutely respect that, but I’m worried she may have had a relapse or something like that too.Ghost Woman on Train Track by epica3

Human beings are complicated creatures; not only is it possible for us to feel multiple conflicting emotions at the same time, but we do it with astonishing frequency.   What this means in your case is that, though the lady does seem to have been genuinely interested in you, it’s also pretty clear that she doesn’t want you in her life any more.  Why?  There’s no way to know for sure, but I suspect it isn’t coincidental.  If the reason she ended up in hospital was indeed mental health-related as you suspect, it could be tied in with burnout or with ambivalent feelings about her work, and if that’s the case it’s no surprise that she no longer wants to communicate with a client, even a cherished one…especially a cherished one, really.  My guess is that she wants to break entirely with her old life, and that includes you.  But since she really does like you, she doesn’t want to hurt you and is instead pulling a classic feminine move called the fadeaway.  In a way, this breakup method is even more cruel because there’s no closure for the one rejected; however, it feels less cruel to the one doing the fadeaway, and in her mind that’s what counts.  You don’t have much choice but to move on; at this point all you’re accomplishing is hurting both of you.  Enjoy your memories of her, send her prayers or good wishes, and then close that chapter in your heart so you can be ready to love someone else.  Because she did give you one priceless gift: your first love.  And you may find that, painful as the experience was, it has prepared you for other intimate relationships, paid or otherwise.

(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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The text of Eden folded seamlessly into the curriculum of U.S.-based anti-sex trafficking efforts with its images of taped mouths, chained wrists risen toward the heavens, “in our own backyard” and “stolen innocence” messages, and the idea that the average age of sex trafficked girls in the U.S. is age 13.  –   Kari Lerum

A Tale That Grew in the Telling

The only interesting thing about this tired rehash is that its fake numbers aren’t nearly as absurd as usual:

In 2010, there were 50,000 victims of human trafficking identified, with many more still being forced to…sell sex. But even the experts admit, the number of victims is difficult to quantify and largely unknown…Of…eight human trafficking cases, [Louisiana] prosecutors…[managed to win] only one [conviction]…

Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (#134)

One of the women who is suing the police after discovering that her former boyfriend was an undercover…[cop] has found a tracking device in her car…The woman – known as Lily – had a two-year relationship with Mark Kennedy without knowing his real identity.  She is part of a group of women taking legal action against the police for the emotional trauma they suffered after forming intimate relationships with men who were later revealed to be spies…the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung reported that a tracking device – wrapped in tape – was found near a wheel of her car…while she was at a conference…in Spain to discuss surveillance and censorship…

Profit from Panic 

The rescue industry is getting so successful it now has mergers and acquisitions:  “The Elizabeth Smart Foundation and Operation Underground Railroad have announced that they will now be working hand-in-hand in a joint effort to save children by merging the two organizations…

Worse Than I Thought

The [Utah] Legislature passed a bill…that would clarify that a person is guilty of prostitution not only when engaging in sexual activity with another for money but also for trade of goods…

Profound Ignorance 

Another astonishingly-stupid “study” produces predictably-stupid results:

Researchers with Mount Royal University and The Hindsight Group…[released] findings from a survey of men who were ordered to attend…“John schools”…66%…watched online pornography by the age of 15…67%…viewed online sites before venturing out to purchase sexual encounters…58%…said the Internet has made it more difficult for them to quit paying for sex…they’ve laid the groundwork for further investigation into prevention models that curb the demand for sex trade workers…

monkeysFor those who know nothing about the social sciences, here are a couple of hints: a “captive audience” is going to produce badly skewed results, and assuming the conclusion before the data is even recorded isn’t very likely to result in anything resembling actual data.

Diary of a Sad Man

In the coming weeks, the UK will see what must be a legal first – someone suing for libel over claims that they are not a former prostitute.  The development has come in the legal drama surrounding Dr Brooke Magnanti, who…[wrote] under the nom de plume “Belle de Jour” about her secret life as a £300-an-hour call girl, and her ex-lover Owen Morris…The adventures of Belle de Jour spawned the long-running TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper.  But in 2013, Morris – known as “The Boy” in Magnanti’s book The Intimate Adventures of a Call Girl– claimed she had lied about her history as an escort and sued for defamation and breach of privacy.  Morris claims that…his career has been damaged by the…revelation of her true identity…Magnanti is now counter-suing.  She claims that Morris’ assertions that she was never a prostitute are defamatory to her reputation…

Schadenfreude (#429) 

An in-depth analysis of how Eden and its ilk harm sex workers:

Does it matter when popular stories about “sex trafficking” are based on half-truths, junk science, and/or religious beliefs?…it is critical that we face the consequences of stories told in the name of rescuing girls and women…many individuals still derive most of their knowledge about human trafficking from sensationalistic media stories about so-called “sex trafficking….Hollywood action-adventure characterizations of victims and villains are deployed; complex structural problems are squeezed into personal morality tales; and the stories are then used by anti-sex work politicians and activists to justify heightened forms of criminal punishment.  While the stories may have popular appeal, evidence suggests that more criminalization actually hurts all sex workers across the continuum of privilege and oppression…

An Example To the West (#504)

A campaign by Thai authorities to crack down on human trafficking has led to the arrests…of…as many as 150 refugees and asylum seeker…Pakistan-based media and some Christian groups say the number may be as many as several hundred.  Among those arrested were people fleeing religious persecution and sectarian violence in Pakistan…

The Mote and the Beam (#510)

It’s interesting to compare coverage of the same “sex trafficking” story from two different media outlets. The Christian Science Monitor tells us:

…the women of the Senate…decided to take on the “despicable, vile issue of human trafficking”…Sex trafficking crosses party lines…the House passed a dozen, bipartisan anti-trafficking bills…about 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked…it can happen to anyone.  The average age is 11 to 14 years old…[cop] Michael Ferjak…[denied the agency of adult women and said] “We must…stop thinking that a 14-year-old can actually [think]”…

While in Reason, Noah Berlatsky writes:

According to the logic of many lawmakers, those engaged in prostitution are always victims.  And once you have victims, you need victimizers—people who can be heroically beaten back by courageous law enforcement personnel.  Generally, the victimizers are identified as sex traffickers or pimps.  But a bill from Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) targets another popular bete noire:  classified advertisers…the hope seems to be that negative publicity will cause the site’s owners to shutter Backpage, or at least its “adult” listings section…Kirk’s website throws around numerous frightening and dubious statistics, such as a claim that 300,000 children are “at risk of being trafficked for sex in the United States” every year…The implication, of course, is that the Internet makes prostitution more dangerous and exploitive.  But is it really less safe for women to advertise online than (as one obvious alternative) to work on the street?…

Profound Mental Disabilities (#512) Alissa Afonina

Though the court’s statements and the media coverage of the story both came across as “doing sex work is evidence of brain damage”, Alissa Afonina doesn’t see it that way:

My brain injury is supported by far more than just the sexual symptoms, which is all the media decided to focus on…I have brain scans, countless assessments and [a] history of behavior that is totally congruent with my type of brain injury…I worked…because making that amount of money felt good and I wanted to save as much as I could…

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I have friend who dated an escort, and he said she liked to pay for things; she always grabbed the check at dinner, and also bought him gifts.  Later I read a Reddit post which described the same thing, and a Google search then found other, similar results.  Is there a reason for this?  One commenter said that it was because she wanted the relationship to feel different from work.

woman getting moneyI’ve never had that impulse myself; in fact, quite the opposite (and I know a lot of girls who feel as I do).  I’ve only had the one non-commercial relationship with a man since I started full-time sex work, but even in the dilettante days of my youth I felt the same way:  I’m already bringing something of economic value to the table, and it’s up to him to match it with financial support.  I’m only talking about the economic dimension of the relationship; I see the emotional and social dimensions as totally reciprocal by necessity.  But frankly speaking, if I were to pay a man’s way I’d feel as though I were paying for his love rather than for sex, and though that may be perfectly OK in some women’s minds it certainly isn’t in mine.  Now, it’s completely different in my lesbian relationships; with another woman I feel as though we’re both bringing sex and love to the table, and the question of “Who pays?” has less to do with the mating dance and more to do with the pragmatic question of who can afford it.

That’s not to say, however, that my way of looking at it (in either heterosexual or homosexual contexts) is “correct” or even typical; everyone has to do what works for her, even if it’s unconventional or would be seen by many others as “wrong”.  And if being the paying partner works for some of my sisters, who am I to judge them?  Perhaps they like the novelty (“she wanted the relationship to feel different from work”) and/or perhaps they get a sense of independence or even control by paying.  Or perhaps they simply view it pragmatically, as I do when I’m dating a woman.  And be sure to watch the comment thread below, because if any of my sex worker readers have other reasons she may tell them there.  If it were me, I’d worry that a guy I was paying for all the time might only be there because I was doing that, or that he was developing a sense of entitlement to it, or that he secretly resented it or felt emasculated.  However, I’m the Princess of Paranoia and often overthink such things; none of them might be true, and even if one were it might not matter to the lady in question as much as it would to me.  The most important thing is that both partners feel comfortable with an arrangement, whether it’s “normal” or not; it’s only when one or both of them isn’t (or allows outsiders to convince him or her that he or she isn’t) that problems arise.

(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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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on February 8th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

As I’ve pointed out many times, moral panics do not slowly decline until they vanish; rather, they continue to grow until they begin to rot from within like an overripe fruit, then they burst and spread their noxious juices everywhere.  Seen from some angles, though, the panic may seem as robust as ever right up until the end.  One of the areas in which this is so is the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), the anemic American counterpart to the BBC; because both networks (and the US equivalent to BBC radio, National Public Radio [NPR]) depend on government sufferance for their funds, it is completely unsurprising that they have pandered shamelessly to the “sex trafficking” narrative both the UK and US governments have used to excuse xenophobia, asset seizure and an expansion of the police state.Somaly Mam and Nick Kristof  Still, it’s fascinating that at a time when the paradigm’s critics are becoming ever-bolder and getting increasing attention from the media, that PBS feels comfortable getting behind yet another self-aggrandizing project of the pathologically-smarmy Nick Kristof, especially one which shamelessly doubles down on the absurd claims which have become the hallmark of “sex trafficking” hysteria.

The nonsense starts right from the lede of this adulatory Guardian advert for the show, with the ludicrous claim that “each year 100,000 American girls and women are coerced into prostitution.”  Setting aside for a moment that there are only about 450,000 sex workers at a time in the US, let’s just judge the claim exactly as presented.  “Sex trafficking” fetishists are also very fond of pretending that the average “sex trafficking victim” only lives for 7 years once she starts seeing clients, so that would mean there were about 700,000 “sex trafficking victims” in the US at any given time (we’re also told that the average “victim” is 13 and dies at 34, but let’s not think too hard right now about how one can subtract 13 from 34 and arrive at 7).  Claims for the number of clients per day range from a high-but-reasonable 5 to a literally-impossible 110, but for the sake of argument let’s go with the not-atypical claim of 20-48, which is to say 34 (related to the spurious death age by magical numerology, perhaps).  This would mean that on any given day, 700,000 x 34 or 23,800,000 American men – roughly a fifth of the entire adult male population – was paying for sex with such a “victim”.  Unless we believe that every one of these monsters can afford to pay for sex several times a week, the inescapable conclusion is that every single adult American man, including Nick Kristof, is paying for sex with a “sex trafficking victim” every single week of his life.  Yet other ignoramuses tell us that only about 10% of men have ever paid for sex; are you beginning to understand why I find the pronouncements of prohibitionists so ridiculous?

The rest of the article is no less absurd.  There’s the usual bootlicking presentation of every asinine proclamation of cops as though it came straight from the Delphic oracle, the typical demonization of clients (which as we have seen above, include every single American man including the cops and Nick Kristof), the denial of the agency of every single sex worker, the mythmaking about “pimps” who in real life barely even exist, the libeling of escort services as “sex trafficking”, and the reiteration of the same dubious statistics as every other “sex trafficking” scare story.  There is also the grotesque lionization of the vile Tom Dart,Tom Dart on fire a monster who tries to make it look as though he’s targeting “demand” by charging male and transwoman sex workers as clients, and of course the lurid presentation of underage-streetwalker porn for the wanking pleasure of the oh-so-moral audience who salivate at the thought of young girls being dominated by stereotyped “pimps” and raped by cops.  In short, it’s an ugly, repetitious pile of filth standing in obscene disregard of the increasingly-publicized truth about “sex trafficking” hysteria, but you can bet Kristof and his “rescue” cronies will continue to milk it for all the cash and publicity they can get, right up until the point it erupts like a turgid pustule.

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I think I can safely speak for virtually all sex workers when I say that we don’t want to be passive tools used by governments and NGOs as the excuse for tyranny; we simply want to be left alone to live our lives like anyone else, with the same rights, privileges, duties and legal protections as people in every other profession.  –  “Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

sex workers uniteToday is International Sex Worker Rights Day, a day for protest and activism held on the anniversary of a 2001 sex worker festival in India which succeeded despite efforts by prohibitionists to stop it via their usual means, collusion with the “authorities”.  I think that has tremendous symbolic value:  prohibitionists would like to stop our whole movement if they could, to silence us, suppress us and turn us into the helpless, voiceless victims who populate  their masturbatory fantasies; it’s therefore important to celebrate a major victory over them so we can remind ourselves that no matter how strenuously our enemies fight to hold us down, and no matter how many cops and politicians they conspire with, we must still win in the long run.  Furthermore, the fact that the observance started in India is in my mind very important; Indian sex workers are an inspiration and an example to their American sisters, and what we take lying down or weakly protest in small groups, they shout down with the thunderous voice of tens of thousands working together.  When I first wrote about the day four years ago it was barely even known in North America (though well-observed all over Asia and Africa), but has since caught on and gets more press every year.  I don’t think we’ll ever have anything like the sheer numbers the Indian groups can boast, but maybe by observing their day we can fortify ourselves with some of their indomitable spirit.  I don’t mean by some sort of sympathetic magic, mind you, but rather by keeping their example in our minds.

Today of all days is especially important to me personally, because it will be the first group sex worker rights event I’ve ever participated in.  I’ve been writing about sex worker rights online for almost eleven years now, and collecting those writings in one place (and under one name!) for five of them; last year I spent months travelling across the country speaking on the subject to anyone who would listen, from individuals to groups of dozens to TV audiences of many thousands.  But everything I’ve ever done as an activist was undertaken either completely alone, or with the help of sympathetic outsiders.  And I’ve come to realize that, as effective as I’ve been, I’ve never had the experience of working with other whores on a concerted action.  It’s one of the things I moved to Seattle for; if you read yesterday’s column you already know another, equally important reason.  As I said on New Year’s Day, I’ve broken out of the cocoon in which I had wrapped myself for so long; though I’m still going to do a lot of my fighting from behind this keyboard, I’m also going to be doing a lot of hands-on work.  And though much of my most important activism will still be solitary, a lot of it will follow the example of my Indian heroines, battling side-by-side in the trenches with my sisters.

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