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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
 –  Samuel Francis Smith

homeland-securityI’m always a little astonished when I encounter someone, online or off, who says something like “The United States is becoming a police state” or “may become a police state” or the like; I can only assume it’s because the realization that what was once called “The Land of the Free” has been a full-blown police state for over a decade now is too terrible for many people’s minds to accept.  The term “police state” is not a well-defined one, but I think most people would agree that such regimes are characterized by extensive surveillance of the population; a huge number of arbitrary laws punishable by disproportionate penalties; a slow and arbitrary court system in which the outcome of important cases is essentially pre-ordained; a requirement that ordinary citizens carry identity documents everywhere and present them to officials on demand (“papers, please!”); a bloated police force whose powers are limited only by the imaginations of officials and whose members are able to inflict violence upon anyone they choose without any consequences whatsoever or recourse of any kind for the victims; and a powerful bureaucracy which regularly violates the laws which supposedly constrain it and ignores due process when it proves inconvenient.  For good measure, let’s throw in worshipful reverence of officials and a media which largely parrots every press release those officials come out with, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to come up with some way in which the US isn’t a police state.

One might be tempted to be somewhat pessimistic about the US’s descent into naked fascism; after all, the country was founded on the right of the individual to be free of tyranny, and our present governmental system practices nearly every one of the abuses Jefferson and Company complained about in the Declaration of Independence.  But this is nothing new; the Roman Republic was founded on anti-royalist principles, and yet the Roman Empire which replaced that republic was as bad as any monarchy.  Nor was it obvious when the tyranny replaced the republic, except in retrospect; Romans went right on thinking of their country as the same one their ancestors had loved and died for.  Many Americans who would recognize that another country had changed beyond recognition are blinded by the myth of “American exceptionalism”, the irrational belief that the United States is somehow magically different from any other country in history…you know, kind of like how kings ruled by Divine right because they were just so much better than other human beings.  This is not fact or even politics; it’s religion, an irrational faith held in defiance of mountains of proof to the contrary.  “Freedom” has become nothing but a worship word, and the flag is venerated like an idol; cops are the priests and politicians the bishops, and those who violate – or even question – the holy Laws are dealt with like heretics.

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You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. – Sam-I-Am

Green Eggs and HamTwo and a half years ago I published “Due Consideration“, in which I discussed issues on which I had changed my mind due to the persuasive arguments of others:

Despite my steady progress toward cronehood, I find that I still do change my mind on some things from time to time.  Really, this isn’t surprising; while most people become steadily more conservative as they age, I have become steadily more radical.  The reason should be obvious:  as many of you have observed, I am unusually pragmatic and unafraid to follow ideas and observations to their logical conclusions…

But that column only discussed areas in which my political ideas had changed; my personal ideas hadn’t shifted at all, not for a very long time.  And while I guess that isn’t especially unusual, neither is it conducive to personal growth; there were some things I had done the same way, or refrained from doing at all, or felt a certain way about, that were supported by absolutely no good reasons…or at best for reasons that ceased to be relevant twenty years ago.  In fact, some of these things were counterproductive, impeded my happiness, or were downright harmful.  So when I started looking at myself last autumn in the wake of my tour and my impending divorce, I began to see clearly that there was a lot of emotional, behavioral and psychosexual baggage best left behind at the station when I boarded that train for Seattle last November.  I resolved to open myself up to new ideas and experiences; to refrain as much as possible from continuing to do things merely because I had always done them that way; and to recognize that “I’ve never done that before” is an argument for trying something rather than an argument against it.  Though all of my friends (including Matt) have encouraged me in my journey of discovery, Jae & Matisse have been instrumental in making it happen; Jae encourages (some might say “goads”) me to keep an open mind about things and refuses to let me sell myself short, while Matisse is a genius at making me comfortable and providing me with irresistibly-attractive opportunities for exploration.  You might say that Jae pushes, and Matisse pulls, and my other friends cheer me on or even strap roller skates to my feet, and in the end I nearly always discover that I really do like green eggs and ham, after all.

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I agree with you that “a whore is a whore is a whore”, but it’s one thing to say that and quite another to practice it personally.  I have nothing against women who advertise on Backpage – two of my best friends fall in that category – but the prospect of doing it myself results in a special kind of revulsion.  How would you propose that a whore more accustomed to the “high class call girl” route get over that kind of internalized whorephobia?  It’s not morality, and it’s not even logic; my mentor has suggested that my earnings would improve considerably if I’d get off my damn high horse, work in the big cities at the market rate taking callers on short notice, and quit waiting on men to book long sessions well in advance.  I just can’t stomach the idea of myself as “that kind” of whore, even though I was once previously successful working like that and could use the money.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.  None of us can help what squicks us out, and sometimes the squick factor is stronger than the desire for money.  There’s also the simple fact that we’re all good at different things; “high-end” GFE is so natural and easy for me I can practically do it in my sleep, but domination takes effort and PSE is so hard it’s practically impossible.  But I have friends for whom the order of difficulty is different, and some tell me GFE is so difficult for them they prefer to avoid it entirely.  I don’t think preferring to stick to what one is good at and avoiding what’s difficult or revolting is necessarily a sign of whorephobia; it could just be that you prefer to take a little pay cut to make your life easier (a sin against commerce of which I, too, am guilty).  If it doesn’t bother you that your friends do mid-range touring, and you don’t look back on your own past with disgust, and you don’t treat other sex workers any differently or talk down to them, your problem may not be whorephobia but rather the kind of genteel indolence which causes many of us to pick sex work over our other options in the first place.  If a woman prefers to do sex work because it gives her a higher return for less effort than “straight” jobs, it’s certainly no surprise if she chooses to do a form of sex work she personally finds easier and more palatable over one she finds less so.

(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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Ridin’ the range once more
Totin’ my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again.
 –  Gene Autry

Though I hinted at it in the comment thread of “An Ending and a Beginning“, stated it explicitly in “Diary #245” and have referenced it in a number of diary posts and tweets, it seems as though many readers haven’t quite realized that I have returned to active sex work.  You won’t find my escort website by Googling my name, and I’m not going to post rates or anything like that here; frankly, they’re in the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” category anyhow, though I’m wholly willing to negotiate for regular readers and references from my many sex worker friends.  And though I do have a new work name (that I’m not going to share here), I’m not really concerned if anyone figures out that she is me; in fact, at a recent multi-escort, multi-client party I told the ladies not to fret if they slipped up and called me “Maggie” in front of the gents.  The important thing is that there not be a direct link between one and the other, and if you can’t understand why you haven’t been paying attention.  Simply put, I’m sure there are a number of vice cops who would just love to have my pretty head as a trophy on the wall, and I’m not going to facilitate that any more than I inevitably must (my appearance is, after all, pretty distinctive).  Just last week a reader recognized my picture on a sugar baby site, and messaged me to say hello; my reply was quite friendly because I have absolutely nothing to hide or be ashamed about.  I am a whore; I have always been, and I always will be.  I make my living by entertaining men (and, to a lesser extent, women) and the only thing that has changed about that for 18 years is the exact nature of the entertainment and the details of the contract.

That last is a very important point that I can’t possibly stress enough: the exact details of the contract are of no importance whatsoever from a moral or logical standpoint, and the pretense that some forms of transactional sex are “better” or “higher” or “purer” or “less skanky” than others is pure bullshit rooted in the deeply-dumb attitudes about sex held by the human race in general, and Western society in particular.  Just because I had a state-issued license to take money in exchange for sex and companionship to one particular man (that I happen to have great affection for) did not make my life from 2007 to 2014 any better or nobler or safer for the eyes of children than my life before ’07 or since my return to a more directly commercial form of sex work.  Nor was that return as recent as you might think; soon after starting this blog in 2010 I went back part-time (with Matt’s blessing) under my old stage name, partly for pocket money and partly to put myself in the right frame of mind to write the blog.  Rather than attempt to work for an agency I took out an ad on Craigslist for a week or so, then on Backpage for a couple of weeks, then on a national escort board.  “But Maggie, Craigslist?  Backpage?”  I hear some of you cry.  Yep, and if you don’t understand why please reread the first sentence of this paragraph.  I wanted to see what that form of whoring was like so that I could write about it with understanding and compassion, and I’m planning to eventually do a stint in a legal brothel for the same reason (if any Nevada owner or manager reads this and wants to negotiate a deal for this, please email me at your earliest convenience).  Mistress Matisse has been schooling me in domination, and my sugar baby profile?  That too.  Maybe I’ll even do a few weeks in a massage parlor.

cowgirlNow, I’m not saying that I’m going to stop being a courtesan; it’s the style of sex work that suits me best given my education, eloquence, presence and economic needs.  I eventually hope to get a solid group of dependable, generous, long-term clients who recognize the importance of my work and are willing to either travel to see me or give me space to be sick in the day I travel to see them.  I also plan to continue writing, speaking and advocating just as I have for the past five years.  That doesn’t mean I plan to stand up and orate in restaurants or lecture my gentlemen in bed about the harms of criminalization; what it does mean is that I consider my sex work and my sex work advocacy to be two parts of one unified whole.  Though it may look to y’all as though I’m back in the saddle again after an eight-year absence, in truth I never actually left it.

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It’s no exaggeration to describe Elizabeth Nolan Brown as one of the strongest, most stalwart allies of sex workers writing today; she covers several sex work stories per week in her space at Reason, and never flinches or missteps.  Regular readers have seen me praise her in many a news item, so I’m sure y’all can guess that I was thrilled when she agreed to contribute my first guest spot of 2015. 

If You Give a Masochist a Cookie

Elizabeth N BrownIt wouldn’t be quite accurate to say I had my first kinky boyfriend at age 25.  My most significant college beau and I dabbled in all sorts of not-totally-vanilla play, from ice cubes and hot wax to strangling and faux non-consent.  But for the most part, these endeavors felt clumsy and inauthentic, two 19-year-olds parroting what we thought kinky* sex was supposed to be.  For years after that, I dated people who seemed perfectly content with perfectly “normal” sex lives—I think the kinkiest thing I did with my post-college boyfriend was watch the Paris Hilton sex tape together before fucking.  I wasn’t unsatisfied, at least not with the sex (monogamy, my friends, is another story).  But I also had no idea what I was missing.  And then along came the man I’ll call “Chris”.  He had a beautiful body, a giant cock, and a sexy voice, but easily the best part about him when it came to sex was that he knew what he liked and wanted.  These days I still loathe asking men to do this or roleplay that in bed, because as it turns out I have a very strong sexually submissive streak.  But I couldn’t have told you that at the time–I didn’t have the vocabulary.  I needed someone like Chris not because I was hesitant to ask for what I wanted, but because I honestly had no idea what that was.

Thank goodness Chris and I were on the same kink wavelength—had my first dom liked dressing in leather, or insisted I call him master, or been into ball-gags and caning, I may have balked and thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak; I don’t mean to disparage any of these activities, but they are just not for me.  Instead, Chris and I sometimes role-played realistic situations where he might be in a position of power over me—boss, professor, etcetera.  I remember one time asking, early on, if he was going to punish me, and his answer was an emphatic “no”—punishment was cruel, he explained; what he was meting out was “discipline.”  Part of this discipline involved him slapping me across the face from time to time during sex; I loved it, and I fell in love with him.  For the first time in the history of my sex life, I was never, ever bored during sex.  The relationship with Chris didn’t last, but my conviction that I needed a little kink in my sex life did.  Not all the time, mind you—I am not a fetishist.  But I am also never going to last with someone who isn’t at least a little bit dominant, a little bit weird, and a little bit rough in bed.

The reason I bring all this up has to do with a series of tweets I saw from Jillian Keenan in late December.  Earlier in the year she wrote for Slate about enjoying being spanked, an essay she called “the first piece that truly demanded courage” for her to publish.  Why should Keenan, a seasoned writer published in places such as The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and the New Yorker, feel such trepidation admitting to such a little thing as liking spanking?  Especially in these post-50 Shades of Gray times in which we live?

A few incidents give us a clue, the first involving 50 Shades film actor Jamie Dornan.  Dornan recently told Elle magazine that after visiting a dungeon for research, he had to take a “long shower” before touching his wife or child.  Despite starring in a movie about BDSM, Dorman apparently thinks he can catch kink cooties just by being near people who like a little real life BDSM action.  The other incidents comes from Keenan herself, who relayed them in the aforementioned series of tweets.  An acquaintance “apparently used to hang out in a building with an adjacent dungeon, and watched people as they entered and left it.”  The dude’s “major takeaway—the biggest ‘shock’ of watching this dungeon entrance—he repeated several times: ‘They were all businessmen!’chocolate chips  Another person Keenan had talked with recently, a private investigator, was shocked when she followed a man to an “S&M party” and found that “they served cookies there!  At this S&M thing—cookies!”  Keenan concluded, “Stigma is subtle, but it’s real…We’re still seen as ‘creepy’ anomalies rather than as what we are:  cookie-eating, job-having humans.”

Since my time with Chris, I’ve encountered all sorts of respectable, cookie-eating, job-having humans who enjoyed engaging in any number of kinky activities (many of which I went along with, some which I did not).  There was the amiable real estate agent and local kickball star obsessed with face-fucking, enemas, faux-incest, and someday having a submissive housewife.  There was the professor and family man who liked to leave me dirty messages about tying me up and cumming on my face.  There was the high-powered lawyer who flew women from around the country to an apartment decorated with expensive bondage art and featuring a medieval-looking spanking chair and a wide assortment of canes.  There was the sadistic civil liberties activist who genuinely scared (and also thrilled) me with his unflinching roughness…the professionally-conservative couple who invited me into a threesome…the shy writer who wanted to pick out slutty clothing for me and then watch from afar as I paraded publicly in it.  There were run-of-the-mill rough-sex fans who worked in architecture, journalism, tech entrepreneurship, financial planning, education, construction.  A shocking (to me) number fantasized about watching a girlfriend with another man, sometimes multiple men.

Beyond the realm of my personal lovers, I’ve met more polyamorous people than I can count over the past few years.  I’ve lived with women really into whipping and spanking.  I’ve known lawyers and art curators and students to slip easily in and out of various forms of sex work.  I’ve also never gone to any sort of kink meetup, joined any sort of fetish website, or otherwise specifically sought these people, with the exception of one Craigslist paramour.  When you open up with friends and lovers about kink, it’s kind of amazing what you can uncover.  Most people have at least some sexual fantasies that are much “weirder” than the easily-scandalized would dream.  And the kinkiest people I’ve known are the sorts you’d never suspect if your idea of kink only involves large women in leather corsets and “creepy” losers in flasher trenchcoats.

Regular readers of Maggie’s blog are certain to be unsurprised by any of this—I know I am preaching to the proverbial choir here.  But while I’ve hinted around about my own kinky side previously, I suppose I’ve never come right out online and said it.  I’ve certainly never noted the normalcy of all my own kinky lovers and friends.  And in the interest of doing my little part for destigmatizing, it’s probably about damn time I did so.  Am I feeling a little of the trepidation Keenan felt when admitting to an enthusiasm for spanking?  Of course.  I’m a professional writer, also, often about quite serious subjects.  And there are those who will use any hint of sexual “deviance” to try and discredit you.  As a woman, there are those who will use writing about your sex life at all as evidence you’re not fit for more intellectual pursuits.  But to bluntly use one of my favorite idioms:  fuck that noise.  My vagina and my competence actually have very little bearing on one another.  And isn’t that the crux of the kink issue?  People want certain sexual activities to stand for so, so, so much more than they do.

To those who can’t imagine liking bondage, group sex, submission, latex, cuckolding, strap-ons, spanking, or whatever, enjoying any of these things must be part of some pathology, or at least indicative of more widespread weirdness.  (Much the same way people think about sex workers who don’t fit their victim narrative.)  But sometimes sex is just sex; turn-ons are just turn-ons.  They say nothing about who someone is as a person, what their life must be like, or their larger value system.  They reveal nothing more than that someone likes bondage, group sex, submission, etcetera.  Human beings contain multitudes, y’all.  And even sexual sadists eat cookies.

*I kind of hate lumping all sorts of dissimilar sexual activities together under the term “kink”, but for purposes of this essay it will have to do. I’m equally un-fond of describing some sex as “vanilla”, but (like hipster) it’s an imperfect yet appropriately connotative term.

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Every thing teaches transition, transference, metamorphosis:  therein is human power, in transference, not in creation; & therein is human destiny, not in longevity but in removal.  We dive & reappear in new places.
–  Ralph Waldo Emerson

So here we are again, for the fifth time; I daresay this is becoming a habit.  That’s really not surprising; ever since I retired from sex work in 2006, my life has been bound by habits and schedules, like a cocoon I wove to give myself structure and meaning at a time when the framework that had defined my life for nine years had suddenly been taken away.  That self-imposed bondage was comfortable and safe; it allowed me time to think and to explore, to figure out who I was now and to decide what was important to me and where I wanted my life to go.  And as I slowly, haltingly learned about the power of the internet, I also became aware of a great restlessness and dissatisfaction in myself; I found myself talking about sex work and sex worker rights on message boards that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject, and began to resent prissy moderators who could delete anything I wrote on a whim.  By the time I had been retired for four years, I could stand it no more; I had to stake out a place in this new digital world where I could share the truth about my life, my sisters and the only work I ever loved.  At first, I was extremely anonymous; in May of 2012 I even turned down an offer to host a TV show on the History Channel because I was just not ready for that kind of exposure.  I had not yet broken out of my cocoon, but merely reshaped it for purposes of my activism.

But in the summer of 2012, that all began to change when I accepted an invitation to appear at the Southern Harm Reduction Conference; a few weeks later I agreed to speak at Albany Law School’s symposium the next February.  The cocoon had become too small and much too restrictive, and I was breaking out of it; people began to hear my voice in interviews and see my face at events, and when I decided to go on my tour last summer I shook the last tatters of silk from my newfound wings and proudly revealed my face (and the rest of me) for the world to see.  There’s no turning back now; the die, as the man said in Latin, is cast.  In the past few months I’ve been recognized twice in the small town I live nearest, and that’s just fine with me; I wouldn’t turn down a TV hosting gig now as easily as I turned down the reality show offer I got last spring.  Flitting under my own power from coast to coast last summer was the scariest, craziest, least-scripted thing I’ve ever done, and also one of the most rewarding; this year I plan to explore even more widely.  Sometimes I miss the coziness of that cocoon, but the warmth of the sun and the smell of the flowers and the feel of the breeze under my wings are far better, and the work Aphrodite wants me to do can’t be done while tied up in the dark.

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Boxing Day 2014

While it’s true that we can no longer put the entire world on hold for twelve days, I’m sure most of you can manage two.Maggie McNeill

Xmas kitty sleepingDoctors, so it is said, make the worst patients; they will not heed the advice they give to everyone else.  I guess I’m the same way; though I’m always giving others advice that is generally lauded as good, I never seem to heed my own counsel.  One timely example is the advice I always give in this blog on Boxing Day, as stated in the epigram above; though I’m always telling y’all not to be in too much of a rush to get back to work, I myself tend to be in motion every waking hour…and that’s sometimes as many as 20 per day when I’m on tour, and 18 per day at home.  And yes, holidays too.  But I had a lot of time to think when I was alone in the car this summer, and that was even more true on the long train trip from Chicago to Seattle, over 48 hours without internet.  And right after that came the visit to Seattle itself, which affected me profoundly for a number of reasons; the end result is that I realized I really don’t have to knock myself out quite so much, and I really can relax just a little bit.  Oh, don’t worry, I’m much too tightly-wound to slack off for very long; however, when one is over the top of a hill and rolling down the other side, there’s no harm in stepping on the clutch and just letting gravity and momentum do the work for a little while.  Things will continue here as they always have, but right now I’m just enjoying the last bit of three days of coasting.

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