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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Life is a sum of all your choices.  –  Albert Camus

1968 ImpalaHer sister’s phone call had plunged Liz into one of her periodic episodes of deep self-doubt.  While they had both gone to college, Mary had primarily used the experience as a means of finding a husband with prospects, while Liz had been inflamed by the spirit of women’s lib and decided she wanted a career of her own.  Mary had chosen well; her husband had just been made a full partner in his law firm, and they had a beautiful house and two newish cars.  They had two great kids and a third on the way, and it was obvious that they were still very devoted to one another.  And while Liz was doing OK and didn’t exactly regret her choices, they hadn’t made her either as happy or as wealthy as her sister seemed to be.  She still drove the dependable but aging ’68 Impala her father had given her when he bought his new Caprice a few years back, and insisted she didn’t really need a color television set.  And her rented house in a modest middle-class suburb had all the room she needed.

But now she had been offered a promotion and a big raise; one catch was that it required a move to the East Coast, and another, more serious one was that she wasn’t at all certain she could handle both the extra responsibility and a move to a strange city at the same time.  What if she made the wrong decision?  And which decision was the wrong one?  Staying here where she was comfortable but not really successful, or leaving her comfort zone in the hope of finding success?  What if she lost both comfort and success, and had to slink back home with her tail between her legs?  What if all this turmoil was the result of a poor decision in the first place, and she should’ve married Claude when he proposed?  She had heard through the grapevine he was doing nearly as well as her brother-in-law.  What if any decision she made now was wrong, because her previous decisions had been?  What if…

“May I have a cookie?”

The unexpected question startled Liz out of her ruminations; she turned to find a rather extraordinary little girl of perhaps seven standing outside of the open patio door.  She was dressed in soaking-wet blue jeans and a dirty T-shirt with a picture of Wonder Woman on it, and the state of her clothes and the fresh mud caked on her sneakers left little doubt as to how she had arrived in Liz’s backyard.

“Did you go into the drainage canal on purpose, or was it an accident?”

“An accident,” she said with a sheepish grin.  “I was trying to cross on the pipe and I slipped.”  The pipe in question was a conduit which crossed the canal from bank to bank, a few feet above the high water line; it was certainly wider than a tightrope, but Liz wouldn’t have felt comfortable trying to cross on it.

“I’m not sure I understand what that has to do with cookies.”

“Nothing, really,” the child stated matter-of-factly; “I just saw the package there so I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.”

“Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“Yeah, my mommy says that all the time.  I’m not sure what it means, though.”

Liz set a plate full of cookies and a glass of milk down on the patio table.  “It means if you don’t try something in the first place, you have no possibility of succeeding at it.”

“So if I hadn’t asked for the cookies, there was no chance of getting them.”

Liz handed her a paper napkin, realizing immediately how silly that was given her current state. “Right, and if you don’t try to tightrope-walk on a pipe, you’ll never know whether you could’ve done it.”

“Yeah, but you also wouldn’t have any chance of falling in the mud.”

“Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  I mean, you’re filthy and you smell like a swamp – ” (the little girl giggled) ” – and your mom will probably scream at you, but you got some cookies out of it.”

“And a new friend.”

“You’re very sweet,” Liz said; “I think you’re just saying that because I gave you cookies.”

“No, really, you remind me of my mommy.”

“Oh, how so?”

“Well, you actually look a lot like her, and you’re about the same size, and you’re smart like she is.”

“I think you probably inherited that from her.”

“Maybe from both; my daddy’s very smart too.  He and mommy met in college.  Did you go to college?”

“Yes, I did.  I think you ought to go too, when you’re old enough.”

“TINA!” came a female voice from the other side of the canal.  “Come inside and get cleaned up before dinner!”

“I’m guessing that’s for you?”  The girl nodded.  “I hope I didn’t spoil your dinner.”cookies on a plate

“Nah, that was just like an appetizer.”

Liz laughed.  “What’s your mommy’s name?”

“Beth.”

“How strange; I’m called Liz.  Your mommy and I have the same name, Elizabeth.”

“Oh, yeah!  But it’s like y’all chose different parts of the name to go by.”

“It seems we made different choices in a lot of areas.  But that’s part of what makes life interesting.”

“Well, I should go before she gets mad.  Thank you for the cookies.”

“You’re welcome, Tina.”  And with that the child sprang up and went through the gap in the fence, and Liz stood up just in time to see her reach the other bank after crossing perfectly on the conduit.  She laughed a little as she heard Beth’s exclamations of dismay a minute later, then went back inside and picked up the phone.  “Mr. Perkins?  It’s Liz.  I’m sorry to bother you at home, but you did say to let you know as soon as I had made my decision.  I’m going to take that promotion.  Yes, thank you very much; we’ll discuss the particulars tomorrow.”

Then she walked back out on the patio, picked up the plate and ate the one remaining cookie.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, she thought.  If you don’t reach for the cookies you’ll never know how they taste, and Liz had decided she wasn’t going to be afraid of a little mud.

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I’ve been seeing an escort whom I feel very intensely about.  We both agree that this must remain a provider/client relationship in which money is exchanged, but I like doing extra for her such as helping her with college tuition.  I have also promised that she can count on me for a certain number of sessions each month.  I’m in a sexless but otherwise great marriage, and of course she has other clients; I love that we can be so open and genuine with each other, but I feel like I’m trying to do something that has no precedent in my own experience.  If other men have these kinds of relationships I’ve never heard them talk about it.  Do you think this can work?  Have you seen it work for other men and women?  Am I being a fool, or can this be the semi-miracle it seems to be?

clockwork butterflyThe situation you’re enjoying is no miracle; it only seems to be because most people aren’t capable or willing to be both honest and pragmatic about their sexual relationships.  What you’re experiencing is what happens when two people are clear and open about their desires and expectations for one another, and refrain from trying to force a mutually-beneficial and mutually-satisfying arrangement into one of the restrictive boxes society tells them are the only acceptable forms.  I daresay such idyllic relationships might even be the norm, were it not for the stupid, impossible desire to own and control another person; this yearning for possession leads invariably to jealousy, frustration and conflict, and those weaken affection and may eventually destroy it.  My advice to you is to continue on exactly as you’re doing; enjoy your young lady’s charms and companionship and take pride and pleasure in the fact that you can be a benefactor to her, and never try to turn the relationship into something it isn’t.  The love and friendship between two people is an organic thing which has to be taken for what it is; any attempt to rebuild it into something else is as doomed to failure as a scheme to turn one animal into another by cutting it apart and putting it back together in a different shape.

(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 only issue is that the people having sex are consenting to it and anything else is an arbitrary moral judgement which no one has the right to make.  –  Stephanie Farnsworth

The Rescuers

Harassing streetwalkers to scare away their clients has become a popular “Christian” pastime:

Valerie Carter…has been prowling some of the toughest highways in Richmond, Virginia…for the past eight years.  She and her “streetwalking ministry” volunteers look for women and girls caught up in the local sex trade……they…pray with the women, hug them, give them a list of resources to help them get out of the trade.  They keep the visits short to avoid putting the women at risk of beatings from their pimps…Carter says. “No one dreamed about being in this kind of business.”  But they are in it, most of them unwillingly.  Someone else makes money by exploiting them, whether it’s a pimp or a trafficker…

Acting and Activism Amal Clooney

Apparently, she’s less human rights lawyer and more Hollywood propagandist these days:

Amal Clooney took her first trip to Dallas to…[speak] before a sold-out crowd at the annual New Friends New Life luncheon…The event raised more than $1 million for the anti-trafficking organization, which [claims to] offer…counseling, housing and other services to 1,400 formerly trafficked teens and women every year…

In actuality, the “services” this organization “offers” are the usual things: feel-good bullshit like art therapy and a photocopied list of government welfare programs.

Droit du Seigneur 

I just love watching them eat their own:

Federal prosecutors…have indicted two DEA employees for moonlighting as strip club owners and then purportedly lying about it to their bosses…Special Agent David Polos and Greg Glover, a telecommunications specialist, have been charged with conspiracy and making false statements in connection with the forms they submitted to renew their national security clearances…Polos and Glover conspired to conceal their ownership of the New Jersey strip joint, “Twins Go-Go Lounge”, and that Polos also failed to disclose an “intimate relationship” with one of its foreign dancers that lasted for months…the government [alleges]…prostitution, drug use, employment of illegal immigrants, and running the club during “DEA business hours”…

Divided We Fall

Go, Stephanie Farnsworth!

The fact that many LGBT people end up in sex work is an issue often overlooked rather conveniently by many activists and charities.  Sex work is still talked about in moralizing terms, and the…image of the LGBT world in recent campaigns has been that of white cisgender gay people in long term relationships, often with children…The heart of the demand for LGBT rights is the idea that all people should be granted autonomy over their lives and bodies, that anyone should be allowed to sleep with who they choose and that it only concerns the people in the relationship and not the government or bigots…People enter into sexual relationships for all kinds of reasons.  It is rarely a fairytale of two people falling in love.  Sometimes it is for fun, but many engage in [transactional] sex…or…to shut their partner up.  The list is endless and every reason is valid…It is simply hypocritical for LGBT activists to fight for bodily autonomy but deny it to sex workers, and given the huge numbers of people within the community who engage in sex work it also throws a lot of LGBT people under the bus…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

Norman Ochs is facing charges for allegedly hiring prostitutes…The 76-year-old was charged…with four crimes.  Each misdemeanor count carries up to a 93-day jail sentence…

Blunt Instrument

Massage parlors are popular targets of “anti-trafficking” pogroms because they’re low-hanging fruit and the sex workers, nearly always immigrants, can easily be pressured to “co-operate” or be deported:

…federal law enforcement has rebranded as a sort of national ministry for vice prevention…Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigators and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials conducted a widespread raid on Korean massage parlors in New York City, which the feds allege were…fronts for commercial sexual activity…11 massage-parlor owners were…charged with conspiracy to launder money and to violate the federal Travel Act…informants…who…[are] “cooperating with law enforcement in the hope of receiving a more lenient sentence”…[say] the alleged prostitution…was not being forced upon the staff.  Any money earned from such endeavors was split between workers and business owners, and workers were free to come and go as they pleased…Nonetheless, the indictment refers to the massage parlors as “commercial sex trafficking businesses”…

Monsters 

Though the reporter couldn’t resist mentioning a past criminal charge, at least NBC refrained from publishing her mugshot:  “…a transgender woman who may have been working as a prostitute…Keyonna Blakeney…was found dead, with trauma to the upper body, in a [hotel in] Montgomery County [Maryland]…

Cops and Robbers Adam LaRoche

The rescue industry provides many opportunities for wealthy white folks to play cowboy:

Adam LaRoche is a 36-year-old who played Major League baseball for 12 seasons before causing a ruckus by retiring earlier this year…the first baseman, a conservative Christian, “spent 10 days in November in Southeast Asian brothels, wearing a hidden camera and doing undercover work to help rescue underage sex slaves”…LaRoche…[and] Milwaukee Brewers pitcher…Blaine Boyer… “tried to determine the age of the girls…and identify their bosses”…

Safe Targets (#512)

My friend Tara Burns, still doggedly fighting for sex workers in Alaska, with the help of Maxine Doogan of ESPLERP:

…What Burns and Maxine Doogan really want is for prostitution to be decriminalized.  That’s the mission of the advocacy group they started, Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP)…[but in the meantime] they’re after the next best thing:  improved safety and protection for those in Alaska’s sex industry and equal protection as citizens under the law…The two women…stayed in Juneau the entire legislative session, pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 21…[which] grants prostitutes immunity for prosecution when they come forward as a victim or witness of a violent crime…

Doubling Down

This is mostly just ignorant cheerleading for a do-nothing law, but it contains a repetition of the moronic statement, “It is estimated that here in the United States more than 100,000 children are victims of human sex trafficking each year.”  For an analysis of what that would actually look like in the real world, click on the subtitle above.  I reckon it’s a good thing Aleeshia Carroll is majoring in social work, because basic math is obviously far out of her grasp.

The Widening Gyre (#616)

Misinterpreting ordinary interactions is common at the height of a moral panic:

The propaganda-created panic over sex trafficking in your own backyard!!!! has claimed yet another victim…Amanda Kalidy…was shopping at Target [in Edmond, OK] with her 4-year-old daughter when another young girl began following them and repeatedly asking her daughter for candy.  Kalidy says she asked the other child where her mom was, but the girl, who looked about 9 years old, did not answer.  Later the girl offered her daughter some gum.  That’s when Kalidy noticed a “strange” man nearby.  Obviously, the only explanation for the situation is that the man wanted to steal Kalidy’s daughter so he could sexually exploit her and was using this other child as bait…She reported the incident to a Target manager, who allegedly told her that that’s “what [sex traffickers] do is target places like Target.”  For the record, there have been zero reported cases of sex traffickers kidnapping children from Target in the history of the United States…

The Public Eye (#618)

Color me unsurprised:

The Las Vegas Madam: The Escorts, The Clients, The Truth is the tell-all memoir of Jami Rodman, the madam who came to fame by employing…Suzy Favor Hamilton...this book was…written more to play to outsiders’ expectations than to advocate for the people Rodman worked with…What really got to me, though, wasn’t the manner in which Rodman chose which stories to tell, focusing on titillating accounts such as nonconsent roleplays gone wrong and customers with pedophilic ageplay fetishes.  It was her disdainful attitude toward other sex workers and the industry…the book certainly doesn’t foster sex worker solidarity, nor does it paint a nuanced picture of escorts…At one point, Rodman cites statistics from [Melissa Farley‘s] “Prostitution Research”, a site which is heavily affiliated with rescue industry organizations…it became painfully clear to me that she was buying into the flawed statistics, salacious reporting, and misleading accounts of the wider industry put forward by abolitionists rather than trusting her own sex work experiences and those of the many women she worked with whose lives stand in direct contrast to prohibitionist tropes.  It’s funny that she quotes a website which would label her a trafficker…

Traffic Jam (#619)

Of course, even if Weyker and the department lose, the money won’t come out of their pockets. But the more lawsuits against the cops, the better:

A dozen or more people who say they were harmed by a discredited sex trafficking case soon could be suing the St. Paul Police Department and Sgt. Heather Weyker, according to the attorney representing…Yassin Abdirahman Yusuf [who] is seeking $20 million in damages for the more than four years he spent in jail on sex trafficking charges based on exaggeration and lies…[Attorney Robert] Bennett said he has another nine or 10 people preparing to sue, and other lawyers have several more.  Earlier this month, Hamdi Ali Osman…filed the first suit arising from the dismissed charges, seeking $12 million…

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Self-professed progressives fight for middle class utopias at the expense of the socially weak.  –  Cas MuddeMary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus

Book Reviews

An interview with Chester Brown about his newest graphic novel:

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus may be the most provocative comic book published this year.  Beginning as a series of short Bible stories, many of them with a sexual edge—Tamar grappling with her husband, Onan, Bathsheba’s affair with King David—it gradually transforms into a polemic.  Drawing variously on academic scholarship, apocryphal texts, and his own keen interpretative eye, Brown argues that Jesus’ mother was a prostitute—and that Jesus’ own appreciation of prostitution was suppressed by later authors.  Though he tells familiar stories, Brown often pushes them in surprising—and sometimes even shocking—directions.  In one especially memorable sequence, he suggests that the anointment of Jesus described in all four gospels may have been sexual…Brown defends this conclusion in a series of lengthy exegetical endnotes that capture both the scope of his inquiries and the shape of his own fascinations…

Remember, Chester will be signing books in Seattle tonight!

Sales Pitch

The Swedish model has virtually eliminated prostitution in Sweden!

Streetwalkers have largely disappeared from the sidewalks but prostitution remains alive and well in northern Europe where laws criminalising the purchase of sex have been in place for years, illustrating the limits of legislation…Sweden was the first country to do so in 1999, and Norway and Iceland followed suit a decade later.  But prostitution is far from being eradicated in these countries, despite the fact that sex clients risk heavy fines or even prison sentences…Authorities…however [pretend to be] satisfied with the effects the legislation has had…

Girls, Girls, Girls!

Laws banning alcohol in strip clubs are among the most Puritanical and asinine of all sex industry “regulations”:

For years, the city of Chicago has prohibited businesses from mixing alcoholic beverage sales with nude dancing.  Strip clubs within the Windy City limits have to choose between serving booze and featuring dancers that exhibit their “genitals, pubic hair, buttocks” or, if female, “any portion of the … breast below the areola”, though clubs may permit patrons to bring their own drinks.  But now some Chicago city lawmakers are trying to open topless establishments for alcohol business…of course the dispensation doesn’t come without strings attached: “If a would-be owner sought to open a new club with drinks and partial nudity, it could do so only if it obtained a cabaret license,” a new designation which would require meeting “strict zoning codes” and “a special-use permit that would require community hearings”…

Our descendants will view such laws with much the same horror as many Westerners view strict hijab laws.

The Course of a Disease

One can never have too many anti-Swedish model editorials:

…The so-called “Nordic Model” is a return to the darkest periods of left-wing paternalism, in which…the opinions of the “protected” are either ignored or dismissed by the “protectors”.  Sex workers, who in large majority oppose the criminalization of people who buy sex…are stripped of their agency, reduced to “victims” of the “sex industry” who suffer from “false consciousness”.  A recent editorial of The Guardian, the British standard bearer of the European progressiveness, gives an interesting insight into the increasing difficulties that progressives have with justifying criminalization of sex work.  It is a remarkable combination of confusion and desperation.  While it actually refers to some of the little reliable research that is out there, it largely ignores its implications and recommendations.  This is because most serious research shows that the “Nordic Model” has neither improved the situation of sex workers nor significantly decreased the “sex industry”…

Above the Law  

It’s hard to be sure, but this one may have really been an ex-cop:

A former Carolina Beach police officer is being accused of pretending to [still] be a cop and threatening to arrest women if they didn’t [submit to rape]…Joseph Adam Silva…[raped one] escort…on March 15…[but he] allegedly committed [others] between Jan.1 and Jan. 20…he reportedly told [one] victim he was a police officer investigating a prostitution sting…he is now facing a total of 18 charges.  [Six] women have come forward…and…Detectives [claim] that anyone who comes forward will not be incriminated…

I wouldn’t trust the cops, ladies; just because they don’t prosecute you now doesn’t mean you won’t go on a watch list for later harassment.

The Notorious Badge 

I don’t own a TV set, so I won’t be watching this show.  But Lux Alptraum’s review jibes very well with my impressions from watching the trailer, including my opinion that the lead was dreadfully miscast:

The Girlfriend Experience…is a strange beast.  Despite being made seven years after Soderbergh’s Sasha Grey vehicle, it feels, weirdly, more regressive in its attitude towards sex work.  The film sought to draw comparisons between escorting and other service industries…In contrast, the show seems determined to double down on the “exotic” nature of the industry…at no point does Christine seem like a woman who would be drawn to escorting.  I don’t mean that she’s “too smart” or “too driven” or that she has “other options” (many of the sex workers I know are smart, driven, and with plenty of career options). It’s more that she seems to completely lack any of the basic skills that are necessary for the job.  Escorts who cater to wealthy gentlemen tend to place a great emphasis on being able to blend into expensive environments, something Christine seems incapable of doing even in her straight life.  Most notably, she’s not very good with people — in most of her interactions throughout the episode, she seems distant, disengaged, and bored. In other words, she’s the exact opposite of what a good sex worker needs to be: empathetic and able to connect with other people…

With Friends Like These…

Janet Street-Porter basically argues that whores are passive animals who should be harvested by the state:

…the sex industry is thriving – and a huge amount of money changes hands every day, none of which is subject to tax.  This means millions of euros that governments could be profiting from…The vast majority…who offer sex for sale…are poor migrants…controlled by organised crime and a large number are addicts…Please don’t…tell me there are happy prostitutes who love their job…every time a massage parlour is raided in the UK, who do you see cowering in the police vans?  Vulnerable women who have been trafficked…Women regularly get beaten up by clients, they are rarely in control and abusive clients can make their lives a misery…

Apparently, Porter believes that people of other professions who are arrested by cops and know their entire lives may be destroyed go happily smiling, singing and dancing into the police vans.

Backwards Into the Future (#408)

Malawi continues to do what the US won’t:

Sex workers in Mwanza district have received a boost as the district’s council has revealed plans to recognise them and help improve their trade…the council hopes the female sex workers alliance will give the sex workers opportunities to find solutions to problems they face…Mwanza District Aids Coordinator, Pearson Mphangwe said the move will help curb the spread of HIV and AIDS…

The Rape Question (#409) Yes To Sex app

Considering the doctrine that consent can be retroactively revoked months or years after the fact, I sincerely doubt an informal contract without  a lawyer witness  would really offer much protection:

…A mother of three aims to…confirm mutual consent before sexual intercourse via Yes to Sex, an app…for both iOS and Android.  In less than 25 seconds, partners can whip out a smartphone, fire up the app and flash through a series of one-touch agreements that culminate in a request to record a short audio confirmation that the parties have agreed to intercourse.  A safe word is generated.  Both parties agree to stop having sex if one partner says the word.  The app essentially amounts to a technological record of consent.  Once a user closes out of the app, no information remains saved on any phone.  The date, time, place and voice recordings are stored on Yes to Sex’s secure servers, which according to a company news release…”can only be retrieved with court-endorsed orders, ensuring anonymity”…

Full of Themselves (#414)

Even though “massage therapists” are pushing back on this idiocy, they just can’t resist anti-whore posturing:

Owners of some of Evanston [Illinois’s] estimated 50 massage therapy businesses turned out…to protest a proposed city licensing ordinance that they said could force them out of business…James Specker…[of] the American Massage Therapy Association…said city staff had failed to reach out to the profession before developing the new regulatory scheme.  That failure to consult with affected businesses also marked a city effort four years ago to impose zoning restrictions on massage businesses — a proposal ultimately defeated after the massage therapists turned out in force to oppose it.  Sarah McLaughlin…said the ordinance’s definition of prohibited areas for massage is overbroad and raised objections to other provisions, including one that would forbid locks on the doors of rooms where massages were given…She suggested…prohibiting overnight operating hours, when, she said, no legitimate massage business would be operating, as ways to address the prostitution problem.  Steve Rogne [fantasized] a need for more regulation to protect against human trafficking…

Guinea Pigs 

Remember: they say it’s about “pimps”, but really it’s about sex workers and clients today, and about everybody once they get it perfected:

…21-year-old Emily Kennedy trawls through hundreds of online ads offering up women for sex.  The ads are posted publicly online, and they’re endless.  Emily’s trying to find patterns in ads posted by pimps in the illegal sex trade – consistent phone numbers, spelling mistakes, syntax, phrasing; any clues to link handfuls of ads together.  It’s 2011.  By 2016, those nights…have paid off.  Emily’s senior thesis research has become the basis for Traffic Jam, a piece of software that finds patterns in ads posted by pimps.  Those patterns now help detectives – even in agencies like the FBI – to figure out who’s behind each post.  Traffic Jam has helped detectives rescue hundreds of victims of human trafficking in the US, Emily Kennedy [claims]…

Dating Game

I don’t date outsiders except for money, but I think the way everyone just assumes breaking off with a woman because she’s a sex worker is the “right” thing to do, is kind of revolting:

The [UK] culture secretary, John Whittingdale, is facing calls to withdraw from his role in the regulation of the press following the disclosure that he had a relationship with a sex worker.  Whittingdale, who is divorced, was forced to explain…how he had a six-month relationship with a woman who he did not realise worked in a brothel.  But campaigners for tighter press regulation have claimed his position is compromised after it was reported that a number of newspapers had investigated the claims but decided not to run the story…Whittingdale described the situation as embarrassing…“Between August 2013 and February 2014, I had a relationship with someone who I first met through Match.com…She was a similar age and lived close to me.  At no time did she give me any indication of of her real occupation and…As soon as I discovered, I ended the relationship.  The events occurred long before I took up my present position and it has never had any influence on the decisions I have made as culture secretary”…

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic (#625) 

“Sex addiction” is the defense of choice for non-violent sex offenders:

Jeffrey Zapora…avoided jail, and was instead sentenced to four years of probation for three counts of indecent exposure…Zapora [claimed]…increasing stress in his life…led him to act out…[by using] masturbation and sexual behaviors as a coping mechanism, and the flashing was an extension of that…Zapora said he attends a 12-step program for sex addiction, as well as counseling, and started going to church again…Before his arrest, Zapora was a first-year plastic surgery resident with Lehigh Valley Health Network…he was terminated from the program following his arrest…

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China Nympho CreamWould you write something for me?

No.

You wrote something for So-and-So!

So-and-So is a personal friend of mine, and I rarely say no to friends.

Will you do it if I pay you?

Sure, as long as it’s on a topic I care about or think is important.

What if I want you to say a specific thing?

You mean like writing you an ad?  If I were any good at that, I’d make a lot more money than I do.

Well, could I write a guest post and pay you to publish it?

Don’t even go there.

But you have guest posts every month!

Yeah, from people I invite; they’re guests, not infomercials.

Well, some of your guests are definitely selling things.

Yes, and those people are friends.  Did you miss the part where I’m loyal to my friends?

Do you have something against monetizing your reputation?

You’re kidding, right?

So, what’s the harm in my paying you to call attention to my product?

Nothing, if your product is any good and I’ve actually used and liked it.  Like, for example, I don’t mind giving Steak ‘n Shake restaurants a plug because I freaking love Steak ‘n Shake and will eat there every time I get the chance.  Hell, I once did a whole column on Waffle House.  But if you’re, say, a Nevada brothel where I’ve never worked, I’m not going to sing your praises just because you paid me to.  I’m the Honest Courtesan, remember?  If I like your book, movie, restaurant, brand of lube or whatever I’ll praise it, and if you want to give me money to really emphasize that praise I won’t turn you down.  But if your product is shitty I’m not going to damage my reputation by endorsing it.

I think you’ll like my product; how do I get you to try it?

Well, publishers do it by offering me promotional copies.  And right now I’m testing out a service that I may end up endorsing pretty soon, provided it measures up as it looks like it might.  If you genuinely think I’ll like what you have to offer, and you think my name will lend respectability to whatever it is, and I think you’ll be a friend to the sex worker community, and you’re willing to support my work by giving me lovely money, please feel free to email me and we’ll talk.  The worst thing that can happen is I’ll tell you “no”.

(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 is an important article by my friend Mistress Matisse, cross-posted from Medium.

Notorious MGGIt’s ironic that journalist Melissa Gira Grant decided to write an article on how media attention can cause chaos in someone’s life, because in the life of a West Virginia woman named Heather, Melissa Gira Grant has become an agent of exactly that sort of chaos.

It began late last summer, when serial killer Neal Falls contacted Heather through her escort ad, and when they met, he tried to murder her. Heather fought back against Neal Falls and killed him. In doing so, she removed a dangerous predator from the world. Charleston police say she almost certainly saved the lives of other women Neal Falls would have gone on to kill.

At some point, a few weeks after the attack (she does not specify when), Grant says she came to Heather’s house and spoke with her. A lot of reporters came to Heather’s door after the attack, and many of them were vague about details such as to exactly what publication they wrote for, or when any piece they wrote about her would be published.

Fast forward to March 30th, almost seven months later, when Grant published a meandering and somewhat confusing Buzzfeed story about Heather. Part of it touches on the sex worker community’s peer outreach to Heather and our ongoing support for her. Grant portrays our efforts as problematic, and singles me out in particular as having questionable motivations for offering Heather my friendship. Bafflingly, she also chooses to spotlight the voices of three other people who, while they only had contact with Heather briefly, caused her further distress in that time: Kathy Brown, Laura Gandee, and a man known as Nostra-Thomas Koenig, aka Charles de Koenig. Brown and Gandee’s behavior towards Heather could be described as “well-intentioned but coercive”. Koenig, on the other hand, was openly controlling and abusive to Heather from the start, and quickly escalated into public harassment and threats aimed at not only Heather, but at the group of sex worker/activists who were supporting her, and all sex workers in general.

The hard truth is: sex workers (and sex worker’s rights activists) expect biased treatment from journalists who have no ties to the sex work community. But people could be forgiven for thinking Melissa Gira Grant was different. In her past, she did sex work herself, and since then she’s written extensively on sex workers’s rights. She uses that position to get insider-information about sex worker-centered stories as they develop. She watches such journalism closely and often critiques it in a territorial manner, calling such stories “her beat”.

Grant focuses exclusively on the weeks immediately following the attack, but she does not present a sharp timeline. Here is how the first stages of sex worker rights activists community’s outreach to Heather occurred.

The attack on Heather occurred July 18th.

July 29th, I talked to Kathy Brown and Laura Gandee, and also to the man calling himself Nostra-Thomas Koenig/Charles de Koenig, who were doing the already-existing fundraiser.

On July 31st, I talked to Heather personally for the first time. I was the third member of the sex work community to have direct contact with her.

Around Aug 2nd, desperate because money raised by Gandee, Brown and Koenig was not being released to her for rent and utilities, Heather asked sex work activist Tara Burns to set up a Crowdrise fundraiser that she could have direct and sole control over. A group of sex worker/activists coalesced to promote Heather’s fundraiser and offer her support: Tara Burns, Meg Munoz, Marisa Anne, Lily Fury, and myself. Kristen D’Angelo had also reached out to Heather in this time and was in frequent contact with our group.

On Aug 5th, an article was published in Cosmopolitan about Heather’s fundraiser, and the sex worker community outreach to her. “Meg Vallee Munoz, a former sex worker and co-founder of Abeni, an organization that offers individuals with experiences in the sex trades practical services and holistic support, is the spokeswoman for the new campaign.”

So for Melissa Gira Grant to say “Seattle dominatrix Mistress Matisse…led her own effort to help Heather” is incorrect. Grant either didn’t bother to research this, or she excluded these activists from the narrative for reasons of her own.

But more trouble arose in August, when Koenig began posting extremely abusive statements about Heather, and about sex workers in general, on the Facebook page he made about Heather. He began harassing and threatening her. He said repeatedly that anyone who contributed to Heather’s fundraiser instead of his would be arrested, and that Heather herself would be too. There was an article documenting this on Tits and Sass. (This article also documents the incident of Brown and Gandee calling the police to force Heather to see them.)

Upon getting Heather’s agreement, and after discussion of the group of SW/activists, I went to West Virginia on August 3rd and spent four days with Heather, to offer her coercion-free support. On this visit, we accomplished the following: we negotiated that Brown, Gandee, and Koenig would turn over all funds collected to her immediately. We opened a bank account (in Heather’s name only) that linked to her fundraiser, so that all funds would be transferred directly to her. We also bought her a new phone. During this period, I observed Koenig constantly harassing and threatening Heather and her mother by phone, and I related this to Maryclaire Akers, assistant prosecuting attorney for Kanawha County, who agreed to contact Koenig and warn him off.

In Grant’s presentation of the narrative, these behaviors are somehow suspicious. I think that says more about how she approaches Heather than how I do. There are many kinds of predators in the world, but they all have one thing in common: predators take, they don’t give. Neal Falls was a predator of the most extreme variety. Nostra-Thomas Koenig was a different type of predator in Heather’s life. But what about Melissa Gira Grant? Grant came into Heather’s life to get something of value to herself and her career. She gave nothing whatsoever to Heather. She certainly did not offer her friendship or support. At no time has she donated to Heather’s fundraiser, or promoted it using her platform. One might say that she could not have done so before she published her story, for fear of seeming to display journalistic bias. But she hasn’t done so since the article was published, either.

The other feature of predators is: they don’t get consent for what they do. There’s a lot of good discussion of what the word consent means, and who can give clear, fully informed, and unimpaired consent. I myself am a strong believer that consent in any interaction is crucial, and that the person who has the most control over the situation is morally bound to make absolutely sure they have fully-informed consent at all times. Consent cannot be assumed by silence, and it can be revoked at any point in the process. Melissa Gira Grant did not have Heather’s consent to publish their interview.

You may think, “But the question of consent doesn’t apply to someone who gives an interview to the media.” I would say perhaps it doesn’t apply to someone who has power equal to (or even greater than) the journalist, and who has put themselves forward to the press. For example, someone running for public office has given blanket consent to being asked questions, and to be quoted in ways that may or may not reflect what they think they said.

Heather SaulHeather is not such a person. She is a private individual, leading a quiet life, who was thrust into the spotlight because she was the victim of a terrible crime. Heather had never dealt with the media before the attack. I think it highly likely that when Grant approached Heather, she mentioned the names of sex workers who’d already befriended her, in order to gain Heather’s trust and make the visit seem more like friendly outreach, not an actual interview. Once Grant left her house that day, Heather was never given any further say over where, when, or how her words would be used.

After such a violent attack, a victim could be in a state of emotional and intellectual shock for weeks, and Heather was. Grant clearly describes Heather’s intense post-traumatic stress symptoms. She also notes that Heather was injured in the accident and has impaired movement, and that she’s in pain. So she knew that Heather was in shock, injured, in pain, and thus probably taking pain medication. No one can give meaningful, informed consent in that situation. To ignore that, and make use of someone’s extreme fragility and media inexperience like that is breathtakingly predatory.

Grant also knew that Heather was battling an addiction issue. Notice: Heather chose not to speak of it to Grant — Grant calls this “talking around it” — so Grant tells us about it in through the words of her abusers, with their shaming and stigmatization of her. This is what troubles me the most about this article: Melissa Gira Grant gives a platform to Heather’s known abusers. Nostra-Thomas Koenig harassed, insulted, and threatened Heather and her mother both online and by phone for months. His voice has absolutely no place in this article. To have him quoted talking about Heather’s life is intensely re-traumatizing to her.

Reporting the opinions of Laura Gandee and Kathy Brown is also highly questionable. They literally called the police to force Heather to see them. That’s a blatant abuse of social power. Why are the opinions of these people being reported as if they had value? And why would Grant then juxtapose non-violent peer outreach with the actions of an abuser and two carcerally-inclined ladies? To call this a false equivalency is to do it far too much justice. This article lends credence and legitimacy to the non-consensual brands of “help” that for Heather, ranged from controlling and coercive all the way to violent.

In that way, Heather’s experience is unfortunately not unique. For a sex worker who wants to exit the industry, especially women as isolated as Heather, there is almost no non-violent peer support available. Many anti-sex workers openly support the idea that arresting sex workers is a good way to get them services and protection — but statistically, police are the worst perpetrators of violence against sex workers, and being arrested makes any situation worse, not better. Grant does not go quite so far, but she does lend authority to the idea that sex workers offering non-coercive peer support to other sex workers is something to be viewed with suspicion, and discouraged. This is not acceptable to the sex work community.

I navigate consent for a living, and judging by the quotes of mine she pulled from another story, perhaps Grant took exception to my comparison of how that’s done within a BDSM scene to how I practice obtaining consent when I do outreach? Regardless of how you frame it, you either have someone’s consent or you don’t, and there are very clear steps that must be taken if you get this wrong. Heather has made her statement. Now Melissa Gira Grant needs to acknowledge that she violated Heather’s consent. She needs to take total responsibility for how her actions re-traumatized Heather. She needs to reach out to Heather, publicly, apologize to her, and do whatever Heather feels is appropriate to atone for her violation. Only then can she ethically continue to report on sex worker issues.

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What if a different attitude about pornography were the “alternative to pornography”?  –  Tina Horn

Rough Trade Brandon Cole Reed

I suspect they have the right guy this time:

King County prosecutors have charged a 31-year-old Kent man with three counts of rape, and Seattle police continue to investigate…in connection with five more sexual assaults, all involving women working as prostitutes on Aurora Avenue North.  Brandon Cole Reed was arrested…one day after prosecutors dismissed a second-degree-rape charge against…Andrew Tatum, who was arrested in February…[for] the rapes Reed is now suspected of committing…Reed “picks up prostitutes on Aurora Avenue, drives to a nearby location, and then rapes them, by brandishing a knife, threatening to hurt or kill them, handcuffing them or brandishing mace,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom wrote…Reed was 11 and his brother was 12 in 1995 when they dragged a 12-year-old girl into their house…and took turns raping her…[they] were found guilty of second-degree rape…and sentenced to 21 to 28 weeks in juvenile detention…Both were required to register as sex offenders for 15 years…Reed was also convicted in 2009 of second-degree malicious mischief for throwing rocks and damaging his ex-girlfriend’s car after she refused to get back together with him…

Lying Down With Dogs

This interactive map characterizes countries according to 11 different legal approaches to laws regarding prostitution, and 9 different legal characteristics, for the most complex and accurate analysis of the subject yet.  Please bookmark!

Check Your Premises 

I realize that idiots don’t actually understand what the word “average” means, but one would think they at least know it doesn’t mean “absolute minimum”:

The Canadian Women’s Foundation says…the average age for new recruits was 13…A 14-year-old at the centre of a human trafficking case is among the youngest girls allegedly forced into prostitution…in decades…Staff Sgt. Darrell Gaudet said…such cases are rare…in…more than 20 years, Gaudet said he has dealt with four cases of 14-year-olds…[and one] 13…

Moloch

Is this idiotic enough yet?  Can we stop now?

Police arrested a Longwood, Florida, 12-year-old girl for pinching a male classmate’s butt…Breana Evans has been charged with misdemeanor battery and was temporarily placed in juvenile detention.  Everybody involved…thinks the arrest is an overreaction…except the boy’s mom, who alerted police and demanded that they prosecute…police [pretend] that…they had no choice but to arrest Breana…[who] will have to complete community service, submit to drug tests, and [endure indoctrination sessions].  If she does all those things, the charges will eventually be dismissed…

Pity the poor “authorities”, who had “no choice”.  Because “prosecutorial discretion” is only for cops who rape or murder people, not for kids being kids.

The Last Shall Be First

Potty obsession is rotting politicians’ brains:

Fayetteville [Arkansas] councilman John La Tour is being accused of confronting a woman he assumed was transgender and threatening to wave his penis at her at a crowded restaurant…After the incident, a manager apparently asked La Tour to leave [the] restaurant…According to a Facebook post by…Gavin Smith: “la tour [sic]…[demanded my friend] pick a gender declaiming loudly that he couldn’t tell if she was a man or a woman.  She is not transgendered and does not in any way present any ambiguity about gender in any way.  She’s a woman.  He then explained that he was a man and could prove it by dropping his pants and showing his penis”…La Tour subsequently [pretended] he’d merely asked the woman — who is employed at the restaurant — to dance…

Above the Law  

Probably a longer sentence than he would’ve received in the US:

Derren Tomlinson, 44, with the West Mercia Police department was sentenced to 11 years in prison this week for…raping a girl under 13-years-old, sexual assault on a child, and bestiality.  His offensively short sentence is likely due to the fact that he was a [cop]…The department found out…after looking through his phone which revealed a number of photos showing him raping a child…[and] engaging in sexual intercourse with a dog…

Prudish Pedants

Steinem’s been peddling this malarkey since 1978, and I’ve been mocking it since at least 1984:

…one of the most vocal proponents of [the] damaging dichotomy [between “bad porn” and “good erotica”] is feminist icon Gloria Steinem.  And every time I hear her or someone else trot out this tired trope, I recoil—because it is indicative of our culture’s persistent stigmatization of sex work, classist attitudes about sexual morality, and suppression of healthy sexual expression.  It’s a dichotomy that demands to be not only challenged, but dismantled…Steinem has been repeating some version of this baseless definition game since 1978, when she published the Ms. magazine article, “Erotica and pornography: Do You Know the Difference?”  The answer to this question is:  No, we don’t, Gloria, because neither you nor anyone else has ever managed to provide a useful or convincing distinction…

Gingerbread House

And how does the judge plan to “keep” these “children” in the “safe house” to endure “therapy”?  Oh, yeah:

There are more than 3,000 minors in [Nevada’s] juvenile justice system, and many are victims of human trafficking.  “For…10 years, I’ve been advocating…for a safe house for our sexually exploited youth,” said Judge William Voy…”We have to identify better which kids really need to be locked up…with the kids who don’t”…the state needs a therapeutic…secured facility to keep these children.  He said if the state doesn’t get this kind of facility it risks losing the kids to the streets all over again…

So Close and Yet So Far

This article could’ve been so much better; it quotes a number of sex workers, including my close friend Savannah Sly and my acquaintances Chelsea Lane & Jill Brenneman.  It presents some pretty good arguments, and talks about Amnesty’s research.  But it also quotes prohibitionists, repeats bad data, confuses legalization and decriminalization, does not discuss the failure of the Swedish model, and sets up a false equivalence between those who want to be free to make their own choices and those who want to control others’ choices with state violence (as though they were two equal sides in an academic “debate”).  It’s also mind-numbingly boring; I sincerely doubt anyone will read the whole thing.  I know I couldn’t.

Hard Numbers (#340)

Whores in the so-called “developing world” are so much better at activism than those of us in the US:

…Gabriela Leite and Lourdes Barreto founded the Brazilian Network of Prostitutes (BNP) in the mid 1980s in response to police violence in the red light districts where they worked…The BNP earned seats at the policy-making table and was fundamental in developing peer-led HIV prevention initiatives.  Their partnership with the country’s National AIDS Programme gained international attention in 2005 when Brazil refused more than $40 million in US funds because USAID…demanded that organisations receiving funds condemn prostitution…[Prohibitionism] gained strength in Brazil at the start of the new millennium, fuelled by moral panic and by the growth of carceral feminism…and Christian conservatism…The prostitutes’ movement has responded with a two-prong strategy: on the one hand, it is engaging in street politics, guerrilla theatre, and practical initiatives; on the other, it is entering the forums and institutions that sprung up around human trafficking…

He Said, She Said (#448)

A lot of people are going to be really unhappy about this:

The chorus outside Old City Hall hit its peak once a judge acquitted former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi on all charges of sexual assault and choking, the outraged shouts of “I believe survivors” reverberating off the courthouse steps and in more than 10,000 posts online…Ontario Court of Justice Judge William Horkins said he simply could not trust the three complainants, given their shifting memories and evidence that at times strayed into outright lies…he said the 5,000 messages exchanged between actress Lucy DeCoutere and another complainant sounded like they could be plotting to ruin the former broadcaster… “Ms. DeCoutere and S.D. considered themselves to be a ‘team’ and the goal was to bring down Mr. Ghomeshi”…As Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan stood in front of a stand of microphones giving reporters his reaction, a topless female protester jumped in front of him, yelling “Ghomeshi guilty!” knocking over the stand.  Police tackled the woman to the ground and took her back inside the courthouse as she struggled and kicked the door.  She was handcuffed by police and led into the back of a police cruiser…

As a woman who’s endured several rapes myself, I understand the anger.  But what do the protesters actually want, for the state to be able to convict people on shoddy evidence?  I simply can’t side with people who believe that locking up as many people as possible to prevent some bad guys getting away with crimes is a good idea.  The carceral state is a far greater threat than any one rapist, or even than all unconvicted rapists put together.

False Witness

Anyone who understands the dynamics of group psychology should already have known this:

You would think securing a conviction against a suspected criminal would have to be helped if all the witnesses…independently identify the same culprit.  But new…research suggests that unanimity of witnesses should trigger a warning that perhaps police have the wrong person…the probability of a large number of people all agreeing in [difficult observation] circumstances [is] small…the error rate among [crime] witnesses…[is] around 47 per cent.  “So if…20 people all agree it is the same guy you should be now more suspicious of their agreement,” [lead researcher Professor Derek Abbott] said.  Their modelling showed even with just a 1 per cent error rate, confidence in a police line-up result would decrease after three unanimous identifications…

If you don’t understand this, please take the time to read my paper, “Mind-witness Testimony“.

Moving Pictures 

You know you’re living in a fascist state when there’s a whole industry glamorizing government actors who use violence to suppress consensual activity:

[US deportation agent] Keith Owens…[was featured in a] television series, Web of Lies…The episode [inanely] titled “Stolen Youth”…aired on March 2…being involved in this documentary is in line with his commitment to combating human trafficking…“This film will definitely wake the public up in regards to human trafficking that should be named modern-day slavery,” Owens said.  “These predators take possession of [their victims], and force and coerce people to do things they don’t want to do”…

You mean, like cops and other government agents do? Or do you mean a different kind of taking possession of people and forcing & coercing them to do things they don’t want to do?

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