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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

In the late Oughts, while we were building our house in Oklahoma, I received a phone call from a scientist who worked in wildlife conservation for the state.  He explained that a gas pipeline was going through our neighbors’ land; I already knew this because I had previously rejected the company’s offer to put it through mine, because the amount of compensation was inadequate to make up for having a 12-meter-wide path of destruction cut through my property.  The size of the right-of-way was the reason for the call; it seems our part of the state was one of the most important habitats for an endangered species of giant burying beetle, and this scientists’ job was to put out bait to draw the beetles out of the construction zone.  What he wanted was permission to come onto my land to throw out chicken leg quarters so as to attract the beetles, which bury small carrion (such as dead birds and squirrels) to lay their eggs in so the larvae have a food source.  I readily agreed, not merely because it was interesting, but also because I figured the more endangered species on my property, the more protection I’d have against gas companies trying to force their way in.  He didn’t have much luck with the bait, but mere hours after his final visit I happened to look down into the hollow where our water cutoff valve lay and saw a dozen of the critters, apparently unable to crawl or fly out of the piece of PVC pipe that kept the sides of the hole from collapsing.  So I dutifully called him to report them; I told him I wasn’t afraid to touch them, and could take them out one by one if he wanted.  He explained that since they were endangered, it was illegal for me to even touch them, and he asked me to put in a small slat of wood so they could crawl out (which they quickly did, each spreading its wings and flying off when it reached the top of the stick).

I thought about this last week because I saw a conversation on Twitter about the Fermi Paradox, with the participants expressing their opinions for why we’ve never seen any evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.  One not-unusual suggestion is that some authority (a galactic empire or whatever) has declared us off-limits to contact, but that generally raises the objection that it’s egotistical for us to believe we’re worthy of that kind of protection.  But if intelligent aliens are at all like us, that might not matter.  Now, I’m not talking about a Star Trek-type situation in which most civilizations look like humans in makeup and everybody is of roughly the same general level of technology; I’m not even proposing a species like the one in my story “Millennium“, whose attitude toward less-advanced races is…let’s just say far too human-like for comfort.  All I’m suggesting is that if intelligence is rare, advanced spacefaring civilizations might consider all of it valuable, and could conceivably think of any intelligent species confined to a single habitat as “endangered”.  Most Oklahomans have probably never even noticed burying beetles, and few of those who know about them probably give a damn whether they go extinct or not; however, our governments have established laws to protect all endangered species, no matter how insignificant or unpopular to the general public.  They are, in fact, willing to expend considerable effort and resources to protecting such species, regardless of whether those species are relatively interesting or important in any way.  In other words, it might not be at all egotistical to imagine humans as a “protected species” to an advanced extraterrestrial civilization; they may not care about us specifically, but rather their own principles.  In other words, they may treat all young civilizations that way, even those they perceive as creepy little carrion-eating insects.

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Unspeakable

When one studies primitive cultures, one finds they always believe that words have magic power, for example the idea of a True Name, or not speaking the name of God aloud, or whispering certain words so as not to tempt evil spirits, or the idea that the very act of writing is a form of magic; consider that the Egyptian Thoth was among the greatest gods because he invented writing, and the Germanic Odin was said to have crucified himself to induce the vision that led to the discovery of writing.  We really haven’t changed much.  Take offensive words, for example; any reasonably-polite person will avoid words that he believes might offend his listeners, but many people nowadays are so terrified of the magical power of words that they avoid using a “bad” word even in the context of discussing the word itself rather than using it offensively.  And so we are forced to endure endless kindergarten formulations such as “the F word”, “the N word”, “the R word” (which I encountered for the first time this week), etc, as though the speaker or writer thought even spelling the word in question would summon Voldemort or Hastur the Unspeakable.  But such asininities are ultimately futile; I mean, is there any English-speaking adult who doesn’t recognize “f***” as “fuck”?  Of course not; the bowdlerized form merely becomes a synonym for the unholy combination of sounds.  This is what is called the “euphemism treadmill”; any euphemism eventually becomes the semantic equivalent of the Forbidden Word in the brains of listeners, so that it, too becomes contaminated and must be replaced with a new euphemism.  The process only stops when the negative associations do, and there is no shortcut.  It’s why I use old, new, clinical, and vulgar terms for whores mostly interchangeably; slapping a nice label on a stigmatized group doesn’t make oppressive laws and ugly propaganda go away.  For example, though many reporters are now using “sex worker” instead of “prostitute”, they might as well use the latter because the way they use it (ie the tone, accompanying adjectives, infantilizing statements about us, etc) is no different. The words aren’t the problem; bigotry, hate, and evil laws are.  It’s the same for every oppressed minority group, and subjecting someone to the fucking Inquisition because sinful sounds slipped forth from his larynx will change nothing except to make the world a poorer, uglier, nastier place.  So please, stop wasting your damned energy policing other people’s speech, and start using it to speak against policing others.

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Anti-sex, pro-censorship gangs want to be called “abolitionist” because it lets them pretend their racist schemes are a continuation of the 19th-century campaign against chattel slavery.  But in actuality, they are a continuation of the 19th-century campaign to harass, spy upon, inflict state violence upon, and generally destroy the lives of people who did things the prohibitionists (whose movement was rooted in US evangelical Protestantism) disapproved of, such as alcohol, extramarital sex of any kind (including masturbation, homosexuality, and sexual imagery), abortion, interracial fraternization, etc, etc.  Only the most deranged of this warped cult of busybodies actually believe they can “abolish” human nature; what most of them really want is a permanent government-backed war on human nature, AKA Prohibition.  Prohibitionists not only live in a fantasy world, but demand that the rest of us live in it with them.  And they want the state to restrict the liberties of those they fantasize about, and enact violence on those who refuse to pretend their fantasies are real.  Supporters of Prohibition are properly called Prohibitionists, not “abolitionists”.  Words mean things; call prohibitionists what they are, not what they pretend to be.

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While we’re waiting for the rain to slack off enough to do some more work on the bathhouse, here are some of my recent Twitter musings:

 

 

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I thought y’all might enjoy this Twitter conversation I recently had, primarily with Matisse and Carol Leigh; it touches on a number of themes that recur frequently in my work.  Twitter conversations tend to branch, but I think I’ve managed to gather the main elements I want to share.

 

 

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How is it that the US mass media can simultaneously fret about the fraction of people who are obese, and proclaim foods or activities that promote a lower body mass to be “healthy”, yet simultaneously claim that, for women at least, obesity is “healthy”?  It’s because the word “healthy” is not, and has not been for decades, a semantically neutral one.  “Healthy” is one of the modern signifiers of moral purity, and “unhealthy” = “sinful” (as openly proclaimed on the packaging of both “decadent” and “guilt-free” desserts).  So even though obesity is objectively sub-optimal for “wellness” by medical standards, using that word in front of the Great Unwashed signifies a moral judgment on the overweight person.  In order to conform to the current rules of “wokeness”, media must proclaim that obesity is “healthy” when what they actually mean is, “Obese people are not lesser humans, and it isn’t your job to shame them for being fat.  It’s their business, not yours”.  In the popular media, “wellness” isn’t an objective word but a declaration of moral fitness, a judgement on a person’s character.  It would certainly be a lot better for society as a whole to stop pretending that illness is due to divine retribution for an “unhealthy” (read: sinful) “lifestyle” (a word long used by crypto-moralists to judge others, especially queers and sex workers).  But given the considerable energy US culture has invested in that myth (cf preachers who blame hurricanes on same-sex marriage, and busybodies who cast shame on, or even call the cops on, people for visiting their friends against politicians’ “orders”), that’s unlikely to happen anytime before the collapse of the Empire.

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Out of Touch

Most people who know me, friend and foe alike, are impressed or even intimidated by my encyclopedic memory.  And though I do indeed seem to have more memory space and better recall than most, I honestly think the apparent effect is boosted by my not devoting much memory space to popular ephemera.  No, that’s not strong enough; it’s more truthful to say that I’m astonishingly ignorant of popular culture, at least of the past four decades.   As I’ve often said, I stopped watching network television in 1980, and truth be told I was losing interest in it for several years before that, so I never watched a lot of the ’70s fluff such as The Love Boat that my younger siblings enjoyed.  For the next two decades I watched PBS and a few cable or independent stations, and by the turn of the century I had mostly stopped watching that, too.  Furthermore, I disliked TV news from time I was old enough to form an opinion about it (11 or 12 maybe?) and have only ever got my news from text sources.  Once I started being able to afford my own entertainment equipment in the mid-’80s, it was rare that I just turned on media (for “background noise”) that I wasn’t actively consuming; that’s probably largely due to my ADD, which makes it difficult to impossible to concentrate on reading or writing unless the room is fairly quiet.

The result of all this is, a lot of names and terms and phrases, etc, which most people would recognize might as well be drawn from medieval Chinese textbooks as far as I’m concerned.  Earlier this year I made a series of self-deprecating jokes on Twitter about my inability to recognize the various names associated with the various Trump administration scandals: “Lindsey Graham…wasn’t he in an ’80s sitcom?” or “Why are people complaining about Stephen Miller?  His music isn’t that bad.”  “Ooh, I know Mnuchin; that’s one of the little people in The Wizard of Oz!” and so on.  Last week, one of my gents texted me with something about bubbles and surges which I figured probably had more to do with COVID than with soup-making, but I wasn’t totally sure.  And in response to my query, an online friend said I was probably better off not knowing why Trumpaloons were making what appeared to be references to Ray Harryhausen’s last movie.  I suspect it does give me a bit of an “absent-minded professor” vibe, but c’est la vie; judging by the distress a lot of the stuff I don’t know seems to cause people, I think I’m better off keeping my head filled with facts, names, and even trivia that are important to me rather than letting all and sundry strew whatever rubbish they have on hand all over my mental front yard.

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Every so often I like to present a short collection of tweets that you didn’t see unless you follow me on Twitter.  If you enjoy them, you may wish to rectify that situation.

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 [A Biden victory] is not a victory for sex workers.  –  Penelope Saunders

A False Dichotomy 

Cathy Reisenwitz on the dogma that sex without “enthusiastic consent” is rape:

…most of our choices in life…[a]re not straightforwardly coercive or cooperative, but somewhere in-between…This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that consent versus coercion isn’t a binary.  It’s a spectrum…On one end of the spectrum you have slavery and rape.  On the opposite end you have enthusiastic consent.  But most choices fall somewhere in the middle…When we say we are “forced” to make a choice, we mean that there’s no acceptable alternative.  We say we’ve been forced to do something if the alternative is death or jail.  When we say we’re “pressured” to make a choice, what we mean is there’s no appealing alternative.  We say we’ve been pressured to do something if the alternative is unpleasant or inconvenient.  The difference then between force and pressure is a difference of scope, not kind.  They’re both coercion, but are different levels of coercion…

Don’t Take My Word For It (#873)

While it’s not surprising to see male sex work increase during the pandemic, I’m extremely skeptical of claims, such as those in this story, that the clients are predominantly female.  Anti-queer stigma is much higher in India than in the US, so naturally male sex workers there are going to claim – as some did for decades in the US – that most of their clients are female in order to save face.  But as usual, the claims in this story don’t ring true, and the quotes from the interviewees only serve to underscore that.

Pyrrhic Victory (#992) 

Seattle cops have a positive fetish for illegal surveillance:

…a…Seattle Police…detective…signed up for and used facial recognition app Clearview AI, which…i[s a] violation of the City of Seattle’s Surveillance Ordinance…Nick Kartes…signed up for Clearview in September 2019 using his “@seattle.gov” work email address…he logged into the service over 30 times, as recently as April 22…the devices used to log into Detective Kartes’ account were connected to the City of Seattle network…This follows an established pattern, highlighted this summer, where Seattle police regularly flaunt the law…

But don’t worry, toothless local laws will definitely stop this!

Panopticon (#993)

Amazon’s fascist collaboration with cops just keeps getting worse:

…While people buy Ring cameras and put them on their front door to keep their packages safe, police use them to build comprehensive CCTV camera networks blanketing whole neighborhoods.  This…allows police departments to [shift] the cost of buying surveillance equipment…onto consumers by convincing them they need cameras to keep their property safe…[and] evades the natural reaction of fear and distrust that many people would have if they learned police were putting up dozens of cameras on their block…Now…police in Jackson, Mississippi, have started a pilot program t[o convince]…Ring owners to patch the camera streams from their front doors directly to…police…footage [of] your…coming and going…your neighbors taking out the trash, and the dog walkers and delivery people who do their jobs in your street…can now be live streamed directly onto a dozen monitors scrutinized by police around the clock.  Even if you refuse to allow your footage to be used that way, your neighbor’s camera pointed at your house may still be transmitting directly to the police[, plus all cops need do is ask and Amazon will grant warrantless access to your camera without your consent]…


The Pro-Rape Coalition (#1033) 

Censors’ fixation on Pornhub spreads to Thailand:

Thailand’s government said…it had banned Pornhub and 190 other websites showing pornography, prompting social media anger over censorship…many Thai users trended the #SavePornhub hashtag on Twitter and criticised the shutting of a site in a country…which has a globally-known sex industry…A few dozen activists protested the block outside the digital ministry, holding banners saying “free Pornhub” and “reclaim Pornhub”…Internet research firm Top10VPN said it saw a spike in searches from Thailand for Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which help circumvent censorship, by 640%…after Pornhub was [censored]…

And India:

The Cyber Police agency of the Indian state of Maharashtra — the region that includes populous Mumbai — has formally accused several platforms of “transmitting sexually explicit and obscene content online”…[the sites include] Xvideos and Pornhub.  Inspector General of Police Yashasvi Yadav [made furtive movements in his pants while sharing his fantasy that]…”the actresses in these videos have been exploited, lured or compelled to perform the obscene acts. We will be treating the actresses as ‘victims’ and not ‘accused persons’”…

To Molest and Rape (#1048)

Since costumed rapists are essentially immune to criminal law, civil law has to do:

A new lawsuit [has been] filed against [typical and representative] Louisville [cop] Brett Hankison…a…sexual predator…who…[has] willfully, intentionally, painfully and violently…[raped at least 10 women over the years and achieved recent notoriety for the murder] of…Breonna Taylor…LMPD has…fired Hankison for his role in the [murder, but ignored all the rape complaints]…nine o[f the] women who…Hankison [raped have made statements in the lawsuit, filed by Margo Borders, a lawyer he raped in 2018]…

(State) Violence Against Women

Two hardline prohibitionists at the top do not bode well for sex workers:

…Phoenix Calida…[of] SWOP-USA…says of a Biden win, “I see things getting worse for sex workers, actually.”  Calida’s assessment is due in part to Biden’s sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill…“‘Tough on crime,’ which Biden has really promoted his entire career, is really not helpful at all to sex workers…Biden is like, ‘Let’s not defund the police, let’s give them more money!’”  Advocates’ concerns around…Kamala Harris, are both more numerous and concrete.  “You couldn’t get a candidate with a worse record on sex work,” says [Penelope] Saunders of [Best Practices Policy Project].  In 2008, Harris called San Francisco’s Proposition K—an attempt at halting the enforcement of laws against prostitution—“completely ridiculous.”  Harris also infamously pursued the shutdown of Backpage and the prosecution of the site’s owners despite warnings that shuttering the site would put sex workers in greater danger and make it harder to investigate sex trafficking cases. (It did.)  She also helped develop the devastating SESTA/FOSTA, specifically as a means of targeting Backpage…[and supports]…the EARN IT Act, a bill…which threatens sex workers’ ability to use encrypted messaging services…as well as free speech online…opponents of the bill…are calling it “SESTA/FOSTA 2.0.”…

Elephant in the Parlor (#1078)

Compare the ugly, racist, agency-negating whore stigma used by Democrats in this article to attack someone closely associated with Trump, to the ugly, racist, agency-negating whore stigma used by Republicans just a month earlier to attack someone closely associated with Biden, and then tell me again how they’re so different and why sex workers should trust either pack of fanatics:  “President Trump’s top campaign strategist, Jason Miller…admitted to hiring prostitutes and receiving sexual favors at multiple ‘Asian themed’ massage parlors, an industry known to have connections to sex trafficking rings…”  “Progressives” want sex workers to believe they’re on our side, but they go straight for the anti-whore slurs the second they think it will win them cheap points on the “other team”.

Social Distancing (#1084)

Prohibitionists don’t care who has to suffer to advance their twisted agenda:

India’s sex workers suffered a setback…following a U-turn by the country’s human rights body, which said [sex workers] should not be registered as workers or guaranteed financial aid from the government amid the fallout of COVID-19.  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last month asked state governments to recognise sex workers as informal workers, which would have entitled them to benefits and aid from a $23 billion fund for India’s poor during the coronavirus pandemic…the watchdog’s non-binding advisory was hailed by [human rights experts]… as a boon for the rights of an estimated 800,000 sex workers across India, [but prohibitionists, led by the evil and deeply-derangd Sunitha Krishnan, worked to intimidate the commission by issuing veiled threats of expensive and troublesome legal complaints based in bad “]sex trafficking[” laws.  In response to these threats]…The NHRC…issued a new statement that said sex workers could not be registered officially or categorised as informal workers….[but] should instead be given help on “humanitarian grounds” during the pandemic…

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Though I’ve been a Trekkie since childhood, I had never seen all of Deep Space Nine until recently.  The reason is simple: the series premiered in January 1993 and was midway through its third season when my first husband left me without warning.  My life was thrown into turmoil and it took two years for me to get it straight again, during which time money was much too tight for the relative extravagance of cable TV.  So though I saw all of the first two seasons, half of the third, and occasional episodes (at friends’ houses or via borrowed videocassettes) of the fourth and fifth seasons, I got rather lost due to the complex story arcs and decided not to see any more individual episodes until I could rewatch the whole show from the beginning.  I gave Grace the complete series on DVD for Christmas about a decade ago, but still never got around to viewing it until this year, after I moved to Sunset as my primary residence.  As I watched, I soon found that I agree with many reviewers’ opinion that the series is the best of all the Star Trek sequel series; though it was a direct spinoff of The Next Generation I find it very much superior to its parent, not only because of its greater consistency, better writing, and relief from the pressure of being THE Star Trek show of it decade, but also because it discarded the moral oversimplification which (unfortunately) permeates most of The Next Generation in favor of a universe full of greys in which few characters were either moral paragons or cardboard villains.

This realistic portrayal of the ethical tangle that is real life was on full display in a 6th-season episode we watched a couple of weeks ago, “Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night“.  In it, Major Kira Nerys discovers that her mother, whom she believed to have died in a concentration camp during her planet’s half-century-long occupation by the militaristic Cardassians, actually survived for seven years after the very young Nerys had last seen her…as a “comfort woman” claimed by the Cardassian governor, Gul Dukat.  At first, Kira (who started the series as a morally rigid, almost puritanical character, and only slowly grew to accept that real life rarely resembles such abstractions) refuses to believe that her sainted mother could have been guilty of collaboration horizontale, then as she explores the truth (with the help of a mysterious alien device which grants her visions of the past), she instead becomes terribly angry with her mother for literally sleeping with the enemy.  But as the vision goes on, she realizes that her mother’s position as the governor’s mistress not only resulted in better living conditions for herself, but also for her husband and children, who might otherwise have died in a labor camp.  By the end of the episode she has not forgiven her mother, but has come to accept that she did what she thought best for her family, just as Nerys herself had to make hard choices (including becoming a terrorist) in her own struggle to survive the occupation.

The episode is not a highly rated one; perhaps the topic is too uncomfortable for many viewers, especially in these neo-Victorian times.  But as a sex worker and hard-nosed pragmatist, I deeply appreciated the show’s willingness to recognize that sex work, even under duress, can almost never be fit into a pat narrative of villain and victim, and its repeated depiction (in this episode and many others) of war as a filthy business from which nobody emerges entirely clean.

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