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Posts Tagged ‘age of consent’

Registries deter the good guys without having much effect on the bad ones.  –  Alexandra Levy

We Told You So

Oh, what a surprise:

A…couple’s agency obtained a $1.5 million federal grant to [harass sex workers]…in Toronto…[but] the…project appears to be a sham…[La Passerelle I.D.E. used the names] of 26 Toronto women…[who] work in marketing, public relations, consulting and government…[as supposed sex workers]…in danger…La Passerelle is [also]…in hot water over misusing thousands of dollars of sports and concert tickets…The lawyer for La Passerelle, Peter Downard, [claims] the anti-prostitution program…will help young, immigrant francophone women escape from “informal prostitution,” which he describes as [actually getting something of value for their time instead of giving it to useless men for free]…

Ad Absurdum

Age of consent laws were always intended to criminalize teen sex:

The age…[of] consent…is set at the state level in the US…In states such as Montana, and Kansas, anyone over the age of 16 can engage in sex with whomever they choose…while…a 16-year-old high-school junior who has sex with someone in the year below them is…committing statutory rape…in states such as MassachusettsIllinois and California, two minors who engage in sex…might land one of them on the sex offenders’ registry for life…statutory-rape law can be a powerful tool in the hands of parents who want to prevent their teenagers from dating people they don’t like or from dating at all…this means the law disproportionally affects queer and interracial couples…Age-of-consent law as we know it today is a late 19th-century invention…In 1981…the…Supreme Court…held that “because their chastity was considered particularly precious, young women were felt to be uniquely in need of the state’s protection”.  Then the 1990s brought a push to shore up age-of-consent law in order to prevent teen pregnancy…age-of-consent law has always been…primarily focused on preventing consensual teenage sex…

AoC laws became popular as a way for parents to have revenge on young men who got their daughters pregnant, thus ruining their chances for an advantageous marriage.  All that modern crap about “child protection” is just rationalization to cover up the ugly, dehumanizing truth that despite the phrase “statutory rape”, AoC laws are more closely related to vandalism laws than they are to rape laws.

Cardboard Cutouts

Dutch sex workers are being threatened by Swedish plague carriers:

A [prohibitionist] petition is to be handed into the Dutch parliament demanding [the Swedish model]…”I am [worth]less” is the name of the social media-led campaign…[based in] Christian and feminist [dogma]…the group have posted Instagram photos showing [idiots with printed signs]…bearing [inane mottoes like]…I’m [worth]less…[and] “what if it was your sister?”…

A Load of Farley (#571)

Farley’s evil bigotry is finally coming back to bite her:

Florida lawmakers are rapidly advancing a bill they say will tackle human trafficking that would [condemn]…sex worker…[clients] to…a public registry.  But…the measure…relies on the work of [Melissa Farley] an…anti-sex work clinical psychologist who has referred to women sex workers as “house n****rs” [sic] and ”receptacles” and equates consensual sex with a sex worker with “rape”…other psychologists have described her work as “questionable”, “unqualified”, “inflammatory” and “demeaning propaganda”.  In 2010, Farley appeared as a key witness in a prostitution hearing in Ontario. The judge, Justice Susan Himel, dismissed Farley’s testimony [as]…”problematic”…[and] “inflammatory”…Several academics, writers and organizers wrote a scathing commentary on one of Farley’s reports in 2008, citing its biases and ignorance “of even the most basic legal principles”….Farley…initially denied using the racist slur, but when HuffPost sent her the archived link to the 2009 article, Farley said she was comparing “the structural similarities between prostitution and slavery”…

To Molest and Rape

This week’s typical and representative cop:

A Dartmouth [Massachusetts cop]..is facing…charges…[after raping] two children…Shawn Souza was arrested by state police…following a report from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and an investigation by the DA’s special victims unit…

Stalkers in Blue

She was “found dead” after a cop stalked her. Just a koinkydink:

A Denver [cop] will [get] a 10-day [vacat]ion and a fine for leaving work early to go to a strip club and then using a police database to look up a dancer, who was later found dead.  It is the second time in less than a year that…Shederick Dobbin has [received a light slap on the wrist] for abusing his access to the database…Dobbin was not a suspect in the [stripper’s death even though]…he [stalked]…her…and…two of [her] friends…Dobbin…previously [was rewarded with a] four day…[vacation] for [stalk]ing…the girlfriend of a man [accused] of assaulting a city employee…Denver [cops stalking women via computer]…became a focal point for the city’s Office of the Independent Monitor in 2016…

Imaginary Evils (#833)

It’s almost like feds use high-stigma accusations to force guilty pleas to lesser charges:

Allison Mack…pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and one count of racketeering conspiracy, for threatening to release secret photos of two women if they didn’t engage in “acts of love” with [cult leader Keith] Raniere.  Mack was…arrested along with NXIVM co-founder Raniere in what federal authorities widely described as a sex trafficking case…another example of the FBI using its new favorite buzzword (and desperately trying to rack up actual prosecutions for the same) even when the charges were a huge stretch…There a lot to criticize NXIVM for…and evidence that Raniere is guilty of a host of ethical and legal transgressions…Just not for sex trafficking

Original Sin (#913) 

Nobody wants to admit that forced celibacy exacerbates these issues:

Indian authorities…charged a bishop with repeatedly raping a nun in…Kerala, the first case of its kind in the country and a development that comes just weeks after Pope Francis acknowledged a continuing problem with sexual abuse of nuns in the Catholic Church…Bishop Franco Mulakkal had been charged with raping a nun nine times over a two-year period starting in 2014…The charge sheet includes statements from 83 witnesses, including a cardinal, three bishops, 11 priests and 25 nuns…Nuns have tried for years to call attention to sexual exploitation in the Catholic Church.  They have recently stepped forward to accuse clerics of abuse in India and Italy, as well as in African and Latin American countries.  But they have also struggled to move the conversation forward among church leaders…

An Avalanche of Bullshit (#926)

“Sex trafficking” fetishists are desperately trying to turn the recent racist Florida pogroms into a huge international conspiracy:

…Yujing Zhang…was charged with illegally “entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds” and with lying to a federal agent…But as of now, any links between Zhang and Li “Cindy” Yang are…circumstantial at best…Despite dramatic insinuations, there’s been no evidence that Yang was actually “selling access” to the president (or other political figures) in any meaningful way…Her consulting company, GY US Investments, arranged tours, visits, and attendance at an array of political offices, business conferences, and political, networking, and cultural events for Chinese and Chinese-American entrepreneurs…Until recently, she ran a chain of massage businesses…one of those businesses she closed in 2013.  It was opened under a new name by a woman with no apparent ties to Yang and, earlier this year, the site of a Homeland Security–assisted prostitution sting that netted…Trump supporter…Robert Kraft on misdemeanor solicitation charges…And yet some people are quickly weaving a new narrative of shady “influence” with her as some sort of centerpiece…congressional Democrats called on the FBI to investigate Yang, even though no one has produced any evidence she’s doing anything illegal…

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Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.  –  Thomas Jefferson

To hear the cops tell it, they’re the “thin blue line” that stands between civilization and a species of chaos resembling Mad Max meets Lord of the Flies in the midst of an immense drunken free-for-all in Somalia.  Never mind the fact that full-time police are a comparatively recent social development, that violent crime was  declining for centuries before their invention, and that police spend the majority of their time collecting revenue and harassing people for consensual behaviors; we’re just supposed to accept their word for the fact that they do a vital, dangerous,  thankless job, and that those of us who criticize them would be on our knees kissing their boots and thanking the gods for their timely arrival were we to be menaced by keyboard-wielding perverts, pimps with broken taillights or drug dealers thumbing their nose at the social order via “rolling stops”.

Groundskeeper WillieAs in so many other cases, the myth police want you to believe is almost nothing like the truth.  Despite dramatically-increased armament and out-of-control “officer safety” policies justified by the pretense that police work is incredibly dangerous, the truth is that mechanics, commercial drivers, farmers, linemen, garbage men, steelworkers, roofers and pilots all have more dangerous jobs than cops.  Logging and fishing are dramatically more dangerous; cops’ level of on-the-job peril is roughly equivalent to that of groundskeepers and professional athletes.  Moreover, the “lawbreakers” they supposedly “protect” society from are mostly productive members of that society who are robbed at gunpoint for breaking arbitrary rules, violently attacked for amusing themselves in ways the “authorities” have forbidden, and tricked into breaking laws which carry lifelong penalties for “crimes” that didn’t actually happen and which the cops’ targets had no intention of committing in the first place.  The reason for this evil fuckery?  To continue the myth of the “thin blue line”, naturally; since there aren’t enough actual criminals to justify the existence of even a fifth of the cops we have (and not a hundredth of their weaponry & equipment), they have to manufacture “dangerous criminals” in order to convince the Great Unwashed that they are not merely a necessary evil but heroic defenders of “innocent children.”  Here’s a recent example:

…Jason Lee…maintains that there is a stark difference between intending to buy sex and intending to buy sex from a minor…After a few text messages with his chosen escort, Lee was told that she was [supposedly] a 16-year-old runaway.  The ensuing scenario is familiar to many of the men whose sullen mugshots are posted online and featured in media reports…Phoenix-area officers have used similar tactics to net dozens of suspects who police [pretend] were ready and willing to exploit young girls…But many child-prostitution defendants say police’s use of the adults-only section of the site is bait-and-switch technique that makes felons of those guilty of misdemeanor intent and no actual crime.  Media attention is typically quick to follow the arrests, unjustly branding average “johns” as pedophiles…Lee admits he planned to pay for sex with an adult and said several factors led him to believe the woman at the other end of the text message was 18 or over, despite her claims.  How else would she book a hotel room?  If she was really a runaway, wouldn’t her parents track her down by her cell phone or credit card?…Lee believed the woman was just…lying…about her age to squeeze more money from him, he said.  Further…the age of consent in Maryland, where Lee was visiting from, is 16…police [pretend that magical] code words in their [fake] ads…are…searched by those who aim for the young.  Defense attorneys say the opposite is true — their clients don’t know to weed out these words.  [But] few suspects, even those with a reasonably strong defense, opt to fight the charges at trial…

Nor is it only in Phoenix that such sleazy con games are played; Polk County, Florida, home to another Neanderthal Nazi of the same noxious mold as Phoenix’s Joe Arpaio, is in some ways even worse:

…While detectives used to post ads suggesting an underage teen or child was available for sex, they now routinely post more innocuous personal ads of adults on traditional dating sites.  When men – many of them under 25 with no criminal history – respond, officers switch the bait and typically indicate their age is really 14 or 15 years old…law enforcement is also now routinely making first contact with men…responding to their ads on dating sites…after men start conversing with what they think are adults, officers change the age they claim to be, but try to convince the men to continue the conversation anyway…If the men indicate they [aren’t] interested, they [are] still often arrested for just talking to [a cop]…

Even if the men have the resources to hire a good lawyer, the damage is already done because Judd splashes their pictures across the media and insists that they’re “perverts” even after they’re exonerated by a court:

…Judd…either didn’t realize – or didn’t care – that a number of the 132 men whose faces appeared on his mugshot “big board” had already been cleared of committing crimes…”It’s fair…Because…when we arrest them as ‘sexual perverts on children,’ I’m going to call them [that]…”

Sooner or later, people are going to start waking up to the fact that cops are not their friends and nothing like their servants; they lie constantly, are willing to do anything to enrich themselves and can arrest, jail and destroy anyone they take a dislike to as easily as they pick their noses. They can do all these things without oversight, checks or consequences because the majority have willingly eaten their shit for several generations; our only hope is that they stop swallowing and making “nom nom nom” noises before every last one of us is condemned to prison, probation or some registry of artificial “offenses”.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on May 26th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

real ouroborosReductio ad absurdum is a form of argument which follows the logical consequences of the thing argued against until they reach a point the opponent must agree is false, ridiculous, harmful or otherwise undesirable.  Laws against consensual behavior could easily be defeated by such arguments were those who support them open to considering their possible consequences; unfortunately they never are, and so the laws are enacted and those harmful consequences must happen in fact to real human beings before most people will even begin to consider that they should be repealed.  It takes even more than that to move the really staunch prohibitionists, especially those whose power or livelihood depends upon criminalizing as much of the spectrum of human behavior as possible; no matter how awful the consequences of their beloved laws, no matter how great the costs in money and ruined lives, no matter how damaging to the fabric of society or destructive to the principle of justice, they will just keep chanting “the Law is the Law” or “society needs to send a message” or “perhaps you want to legalize murder as well” while shutting their eyes, ears and hearts to the evil their policies cause.  The chief weakness of the reductio ad absurdum technique is that some people are unable to recognize absurdity when they see it, or else unwilling to admit it when they do.  And when the situation involves sex and adolescents, some people will adamantly refuse to acknowledge the wrongfulness of even the most outrageous outcomes:

…Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, faces two felony counts of “lewd and lascivious battery on a child”…after the parents of her 15-year-old girlfriend pressed charges…Kaitlyn Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt-Smith, wrote in [a] statement posted to Facebook…”They were out to destroy my daughter.  [They] feel like my daughter ‘made’ their daughter gay”…police arrived at the family’s home Feb. 16 and put her daughter in handcuffs…Indian River County [Florida] Sheriff Deryl Loar said that age difference, not sexual orientation, determined prosecution…”If this was an 18-year-old male and that was a 14-year-old girl, it would have been prosecuted the same way,” Loar said…The state attorney’s office has offered Kaitlyn Hunt a plea deal which includes two years’ house arrest and a year of probation, which would stay on her adult record and limit her career choices…

I have absolutely no doubt that the sheriff is telling the truth, but that only increases the absurdity rather than acting as a defense as he seems to believe.  Age of consent laws are currently justified by the pretense that they “protect” girls below that age from adult “sexual predators”, but that was neither their original rationale nor is it the way they’re usually applied: 80% of young men prosecuted under these laws have an established, consensual relationship with the so-called “victim”, and fewer than half are more than six years older; 55% of them are under 21, and 75% under 24.  In other words, the great majority of such prosecutions are initiated to eradicate and punish boyfriends of whom the girl’s parents do not approve; as in the case at hand, the age difference is merely a convenient excuse.

Kaitlyn HuntBut while one might (justifiably or otherwise)  raise the specter of teen pregnancy or venereal disease to object to a heterosexual relationship, one would be hard-pressed to find such grounds for a lesbian one; though a few STIs (namely vaginosis, chlamydia, herpes, HPV, trichomoniasis and pubic lice) can be spread from woman to woman, several of these could also be contracted via behavior that even the most bloodthirsty prosecutor would hesitate to use as the basis for a criminal charge.  And really, does anyone believe that the younger girl’s parents were truly concerned about the possibility of their daughter contracting a disease whose name they probably can’t even spell?  If so, would Kaitlyn’s providing a clean blood test have caused charges to be dropped?  OK, I’m indulging in a bit of reductio ad absurdum myself there, but I think y’all can see what I’m driving at.  None of the possible negative side effects of this relationship, whatever they might be, justifies destroying a young girl’s entire life; morally infantile rubbish like “it’s the law” or “we mistreat everybody equally” is even worse.  And if those of us who are sane can agree that these laws create monstrous injustices when inflicted on young women, perhaps we can also agree that they’re just as horrible when inflicted on young men.

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Adulthood is the ever-shrinking period between childhood and old age. It is the apparent aim of modern industrial societies to reduce this period to a minimum.  –  Thomas Szasz

A few months ago, when Amsterdam raised the legal age for prostitution from 18 to 21, one sex worker commented that this was a good idea because a woman of 18 is “still a child”.  Now, I’m not going to rehash the obvious arguments which made the rounds when the prohibitionist fad of raising the legal drinking age to 21 seized America like some kind of suicidal mania; nor will I point out that any sane and reasonable person must recognize that selecting leaders, driving a car, getting married and joining the military all have more serious effects on both the individual and society as a whole than the specific reasons one might choose to have sex; nor explain that narrowing a legal bottleneck invariably results in more people doing whatever-it-is illegally (except insofar as I just mentioned them).  Instead, I’d like to briefly consider this bizarre legal fiction that a person capable of reproduction can nonetheless be a “child” in any meaningful way, and to wonder how far this trend can go before it collapses into complete absurdity.

The delusion that some adults are actually children is a fairly recent one, dating back only to late 19th century.  In “The Shape of the Spoon” I quoted psychologist Robert Epstein on why it’s so spectacularly stupid and destructive:

…the whole culture collaborates in artificially extending childhood, primarily through the school system and restrictions on labor…This infantilization makes many young people angry or depressed…we have completely isolated young people from adults and created a peer culture.  We stick them in school and keep them from working in any meaningful way, and if they do something wrong we put them in a pen with other “children.”  In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil.  Many cultures do not even have a term for adolescence…But [in the West] young people can’t own things, can’t sign contracts, and they can’t do anything meaningful without parental permission—permission that can be withdrawn at any time…American teens are subjected to more than 10 times as many restrictions as mainstream adults, twice as many restrictions as active-duty U.S. Marines, and even twice as many as incarcerated felons…What’s more, since 1960, restrictions on teens have been accelerating…

Billy Batson becomes Captain MarvelI’m not saying that young people should be given adult responsibilities at about 13 as they once were, and I certainly don’t think Epstein is either; what I am saying is that referring to teenagers as “children” and pretending that label represents anything other than a legal fiction is not only counterproductive and generative of psychopathology, but also inevitably gives rise to the evil absurdities I regularly mock by comparing them to young Billy Batson turning instantly into a super-powered adult with the magic word “Shazam!”  The idea that equal-to-four-year-olds suddenly become equal-to-forty-year-olds at a mystic ritual moment is idiotic in every respect, but nowhere is it more ridiculous than in the area of sex:  “…it is the hormones of puberty that drive young people to have sex, not knowledge or culturally-induced ‘sexualization’, yet Americans are committed to the self-destructive delusion that if we keep teens in ignorance about sex they’ll stay ‘innocent’ and never think of having it themselves…”  That quote is from “Too Young To Know”, wherein I address the issue of prostitution by legal minors:

There is no material difference between sex for compensation and sex for social reasons except that those who fall into the latter are less likely to use condoms or good judgment.  So, the state needs to pick an age of consent and stick to it, thus eliminating criminalization of motives for having sex.  This is not to say that the state shouldn’t set some higher age at which a brothel or escort service can legally hire a girl, as long as the state recognizes that doing so means that the only sex work an underage teen can do will be on the street, and that the law isn’t going to stop her if that’s what she intends to do…

But obviously the rulers of Amsterdam are far wiser than some sex-addled harlot, and obviously have some foolproof magical means of absolutely preventing women below 21 from working, just as they effectively stop every single “illegal” whore from doing so now.

Ahem.

Anyhow, is there actually any factual basis to the notion that some biological adults are somehow childlike in any way that could be reasonably declared a valid cause for restricting their rights to some degree?  Well, kind of, but not in any sense where the numbers 18 or 21 would be significant.  A lot of brain research suggests the frontal lobes aren’t fully mature until about 25, so maybe we should prohibit university-age people from voting, drinking, marrying or doing meaningful work (most especially enlisting in the military).  But still other research suggests the brain isn’t fully mature until the 30s or even 40s, so perhaps we had better declare anyone below 40 “still a child”.  Or maybe that should only apply to men; a recent highly-publicized “study” by television network Nickelodeon (which I’m sure was conducted with unimpeachably-rigorous scientific methodology) trumpeted that while women mature at 32, men don’t do so until 43.  Obviously, we need to declare people younger than those ages “juveniles”, restrict their sexual and labor choices and try them in special juvenile courts.

teens in diapersThe fact of the matter is, the brain keeps changing throughout life; while it’s getting more powerful in some respects it’s weakening in others, and any increase in maturity after 30 is offset by a loss of adaptability and plasticity.  It is the height of fatuity to declare that the rights of some biological adults  should be restricted due to incomplete brain development, because some fail to attain by 50 the cognitive abilities others have at 15.  The only fair measure of adult competence is experience, and the only way to gain that experience is by doing; that cannot be accomplished in a playpen.  Perhaps we need to return to the medieval practice of dividing growth into thirds: people are given some limited responsibilities at 7, assume self-governance at 14 and take on full citizenship at 21.  But however we divide it, one thing is clear: only an imbecile equates a person of 16 with one of 12 or 6, and no law grounded in such imbecility is worthy of obedience or even serious consideration.

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Words that are saturated with lies or atrocity, do not easily resume life.  –  George Steiner

Busybodies simply adore dysphemisms; they’re one of the moralists’ chief weapons in transforming a fact of life into a “menace”, a statement into a “shocking revelation”, a thing they dislike into something “seedy” or discussion of a taboo subject into a “conspiracy”.  The ignorant, naïve or spineless are actually influenced by these words, while the better-informed and more reasonable may simply dismiss them as empty rhetoric.  But when one takes the time to actually look, one begins to see that they’re not simply insulting and manipulative, but ludicrous and self-evidently wrong.  Here’s an illustrative example on the South Korean sex industry, which is extremely typical for articles of its kind:

South Korea, a wealthy, powerful Asian…technology hub and stalwart U.S. ally, has a deep, dark secret.  Prostitution…[flourishes] in South Korea just under the country’s shiny surface.  Despite its illegality…the sex trade is so huge that the government once admitted it accounts for as much as 4 percent of…Gross Domestic Product — about the size of the fishing and agriculture industries combined.  Indeed, paid sex is available all over South Korea – in coffee shops, motels, hotels, shopping malls, the barber shop, as well as the so-called juicy bars frequented by American soldiers and the red-light districts which operate openly.  Internet chat rooms and cell phones have opened up whole new streams of business for ambitious prostitutes and pimps.

super-secret (and DARK) Seoul red light districtThe self-contradiction begins from the very first line:  If the sex trade is so all-pervasive, how can it also be said to be a “deep, dark secret”?  The fact is that it’s not a secret at all, and never has been; it’s just that the phrase “deep, dark secret” is actually code for another, more obviously subjective word: “shameful”.  A secret is something which is hidden, which the South Korean sex industry isn’t; “dark” implies something unpleasant or harmful, which almost nobody in South Korea really believes despite the extensive lip service paid to the notion in Korean culture.  Prostitution was only criminalized in 1961 (at the urging of the United States, naturally), and police, whores and clients alike virtually ignored the law for more than 40 years, carrying on just as they always had.  But American cultural imperialism refused to be denied, and in 2004 harsh new Swedish-flavored laws were implemented in response to US demands that Seoul “do something” about the nearly-nonexistent “problem” of “sex trafficking”.  The fixation with the word “pimp” probably dates to this period; I see it used more often in stories about South Korea than in any other articles (discounting pure prohibitionist hatespew).

The…Ministry for Gender Equality estimates that about 500,000 women work in the national sex industry, though, according to the Korean Feminist Association, the actual number may exceed 1 million.  This means that 1 out of every 25 women in the country might be selling their bodies for sex — despite the passage of tough anti-sex-trafficking legislation in recent years.  (For women between the ages of 15 and 29, up to one-fifth have worked in the sex industry at one time or another, according to estimates)…

The phrase “selling their bodies for sex” is such a clichéd inanity I almost hesitate to call attention to it, but I find it almost incomprehensible that it’s still being passed around.  It’s almost as though some people actually believe that after one transaction whores become spiritual beings (after all, when one “sells” something the buyer generally takes it with him when he leaves) who then, presumably, reincarnate like the Dalai Lama and return to the brothel to “sell” their instantly-grown, identical new bodies again.  One wonders what happens to all the old bodies, however; I reckon once the men are done with them, they flush them down the loo like unwanted goldfish or “child sex slaves”.  For comparison: if it’s true that 4% of South Korean women work in the sex trade, that’s roughly comparable to 19th-century Europe and America, which given the comparable levels of industrialization and similar social hypocrisy about sex is wholly unsurprising.

Indeed, the sex industry…is so open that prostitutes periodically stage public protest demonstrations to express their anger over anti-prostitution laws.  Bizarrely, like Tibetan monks protesting China’s brutal rule of their homeland, some Korean prostitutes even set themselves on fire to promote their cause.

Korean sex worker fire protestA reporter who lives in New York (where prostitutes periodically stage public protest demonstrations despite criminalization) considers it “bizarre” that people strongly resist tyrannical attempts to destroy their businesses and virtually enslave them.  I wonder how he would react to the police violently smashing their way into his office, arresting everyone, forcing him into “rehabilitation”, then consigning him to work he hated at 5-10% of his former salary?  Besides, since he apparently believes Korean harlots have the power of voluntary metempsychosis, it seems as though he would consider their behaving like Buddhist monks to be entirely predictable.

…According to the government-run Korean Institute of Criminology, one-fifth of men in their 20s buy sex at least four times a month, creating an endless customer base for prostitutes…

One-fifth of American men buy sex “occasionally” (i.e. closer to four times a year rather than a month) and only 6% “frequently”.  If the Korean figure is correct, it makes the claim that the sex industry is a “secret” even more absurd.

From here, the article rapidly proceeds into the typical “child sex slavery” garbage, liberally sprinkled with phrases like “descending into the business of sex” and “illicit trade”; young women are intentionally conflated with “children” in the American style, so that the well-known Asian preference for youth is equated with pedophilia.  Furthermore, the age of consent in South Korea is 13, while the age of legal majority is 19 by Western reckoning (20 by the Korean calendar).  So when “Yun Hee-jun, a Seoul-based anti-sex trafficker, told the Times:  ‘On online community websites, you can easily find information about prices for sex with minors and the best places to go’,” he was being extremely duplicitous; up until 2011 it was completely legal for a South Korean man to have sex with a “minor”, presuming she was at least 13 (which as we know, the vast, vast majority are).  But beginning with the 2008 “Trafficking in Persons Report”, the US began to pressure the government to “crack down” on what American law defines as “sex trafficking” (whether it actually is or not), and early in 2011 Seoul decided to “out-Herod Herod” by raising the age of consent to that of legal majority…possibly the highest in the world.  It is unclear whether the new law applies to all sex, or only that in which the older person is somehow “superior” to the younger (wealthier, in a position of authority, etc); try googling “age of consent South Korea” and you’ll see that nobody in or out of the country is entirely sure.  And that makes moralizing about “underage prostitution” disingenuous at best, and at worst flagrantly dishonest.

Filipino juicy girlsMoving on, we find author Palash Ghosh either drinking deeply of the Kool-aid or expecting his readers to.  He says that “women from…The Philippines, flock to South Korea to work as prostitutes and ‘bar girls’ (lured by the promises of legitimate work as waitresses or entertainers)”; Dr. Rhacel Parrenas  demonstrated that parenthetical comment to be an outright lie.  We are also told that “The prevalence of prostitution in contemporary South Korea provides an ironic counterpoint to the passionate political activism of elderly Korean women who relentlessly criticize Japan for their servitude as prostitutes and comfort women during Tokyo’s brutal occupation of their country”, but only a moral imbecile could find irony in the idea that people who choose to do something for good pay under pleasant conditions have very different attitudes about it than those who were forced at gunpoint to do it without any pay under horrific conditions.

The fact that Korea has had a thriving and legal sex industry since at least the Middle Ages is pushed down nearly to the bottom of the story, as is the fact that Park Chung-hee “actually encouraged the sex trade in order to generate much-needed revenue…[from] thousands of U.S. troops stationed in the country.”  Ghosh then quickly changes the subject to North Korean refugees who work to pay off “people-smugglers”, and refuses to recognize that the poor conditions under which these unfortunates work are made possible by criminalization.  He even seems surprised that Korean sex workers have challenged the 2004 law, the injustice and tyranny of which is easily recognized by anyone whose mind is not enveloped in a fog of dysphemisms and burdened by the misapprehension that they represent something even remotely akin to reality.

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The industry is so much more about providing care and human nurturing than anything else.  –  Lance Gilman

Spotlight

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher…announce[d] their decision to continue the…DNA Foundation, [which] will [now] be called “THORN: Digital Defenders of Children”…the foundation will focus on battling digital crimes, especially…[child] sexual exploitation.  “For the past three years we have focused our work broadly on combating child sex trafficking…technology plays an increasingly large role in this crime and in the sexual exploitation of children overall…We believe that the technology-driven aspect of these crimes demands its own attention and investment”…

In other words, one of their advisors realizes that “sex trafficking” hysteria is on the way out, and suggested they shift the foundation’s efforts toward a crusade with a longer shelf life.

Tyranny By Consensus

As in the case of Proposition 35, Californians who voted for Measure B really had no idea what they were supporting:

In an article published today…CalOSHA made it clear that when Measure B’s text refers to “condoms,” it is actually referring to the full roster of “barrier protections” set forth in California Code of Regulations…the section labeled “Personal Protective Equipment”…reads, “Where occupational exposure remains after institution of engineering and work practice controls, the employer shall provide, at no cost to the employee, appropriate personal protective equipment such as, but not limited to, gloves, gowns, laboratory coats, face shields or masks and eye protection“…CalOSHA admits that now that…enforcement will not be just about condoms, but will require that no person’s bodily fluids or “possibly contaminated” areas of skin will be allowed to touch the “skin, eyes, mouth or other mucous membranes” of another person—and what that quite obviously boils down to is, there’ll be no sex in sex movies after Measure B is put into force…

Presents, Presents, Presents!

Krulac meant to send me a copy of The Night Walker soundtrack for my birthday, but a mixup in the order meant it didn’t arrive until Monday.  That doesn’t matter to me one bit; I’ve wanted this disc for a very long time, and for me horror isn’t limited to Halloween.  Thank you so very much, Krulac!

Welcome To Our World Again

Uganda will pass a new law against homosexuality by the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift” to its advocates…Rebecca Kadaga [claimed] that Ugandans were “demanding” the law.  Homosexual acts are already illegal…but the bill…proposes jail terms…including a life sentence in certain circumstances.  It prohibits the “promotion” of gay rights and calls for the punishment of anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality” or “abets homosexuality”.  But a clause which calls for the death penalty against people found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – is to be dropped…The bill was strongly condemned last year by Western leaders…[and] international donors have threatened to cut off aid to Uganda if the country does not do more to protect the rights of gay people…

Though Kadega claims the law was “demanded” by Ugandans, in reality it has been pushed since 2009 by Christian fundamentalists from the US who have bought Ugandan politicians to advance their agenda of hate.

One Year Later

It’s good to see yet another evil “controlling prostitution” charge defeated:  “Marie McKinlay, 40, was said to have employed dozens of high-class escort girls…that made her more than £350,000 between 2008 and 2011…But…was cleared of controlling prostitution for gain over two and a half years after insisting she had been no more than an agent…”  Remember, in the UK escort prostitution is legal; only working together for safety or working from a specific place are illegal.  However, police often accuse women of “controlling prostitution” so as to have an excuse to rob them under the “Proceeds of Crime Act”.

Above the Law

The British cops who created fake identities, seduced women into thinking they were having real relationships, got them pregnant and then vanished without any concern about child support are now being sued by their victims, and Scotland Yard is trying to force the trials into a star chamber:  “the Metropolitan Police…[argue] that some cases should be hard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal…in secret…

Broken Record

It takes a kind of perverse talent to fit so many myths into such a small space:

The Florida Classic weekend draws football fans from across the state…but…is also known for attracting another type of tourist: prostitutes…Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation…Director Larry Zwieg [said] his agency launched an undercover operation…to catch the women who are in town to find illegal work — and the men seeking their services.  “We’ve noticed a pattern” among the prostitutes, Zwieg said.  “They go from city to city, where ever there is a particular event going on”…Authorities say it’s a familiar story whenever there’s a large event…Sometimes, the prostitutes…are…victims of child-sex trafficking…Child-welfare experts say many teens who are trafficked don’t see themselves as victims and won’t cooperate with authorities.  The girls are often fearful of their pimp or his associates.  The FBI estimates 293,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation in America…

Let’s see:  we’ve got the “gypsy whores” and the cop insistence that they’ve “noticed” something which doesn’t exist; then agency denial, the pretense that all underage hookers are “trafficked”, and the dogma that the reason whores won’t confirm police masturbatory fantasies is due to fear of nonexistent pimps.  Then top it all off with a misattribution of Estes & Weiner’s magic number to the FBI instead.  Remarkable.

Too Young To Know

Cambridge historian Mary Beard on the arbitrariness of law, the Shazam! fallacy, and what the age of consent in Great Britain has to do with “white slavery”, “child” prostitution and William Stead, the Victorian version of Nicholas Kristof.  Stead arranged to “buy” a girl from her destitute alcoholic mother by telling her that he wanted the girl as a servant for a wealthy family, but then claimed in his series of articles, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, that the mother had knowingly sold the girl into “white slavery”.  Beard points out that the articles were “probably as inaccurate and exaggerated as some more recent newspaper campaigns have been in the area of child sex.  But the articles kick-started pressure…so the age of consent was raised, while, with a certain illogicality, the minimum age of marriage for girls remained 12 until 1929.”

Obfuscation Via Dysphemisms

The truth of this is buried under such a heap of dysphemisms it’s very tough to sort out what’s really going on here.  As I’ve explained before, “money laundering” is a bogus charge used to persecute and loot suppressed businesses; you’ll notice all the other “crimes” they’re charged with are either consensual activities or else vague administrative infractions.  Note the anti-Village Voice propaganda and the way these “officials” reduce women to infantilized, passive objects:

Taking action to break up a tri-state, prostitution-based money laundering operation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the unsealing of a 180-count indictment charging 19 individuals and one corporation with enterprise corruption and a variety of underlying crimes, including money laundering, falsifying business records, narcotics sales and prostitution…investigators found two women who were the victims of human trafficking…and…brought them to a safe haven…Somad Enterprises…created, monitored, facilitated and employed online (on Backpage.com, for example) and print (in the Village Voice, for example) advertisements and cable television commercials to knowingly and systematically promote prostitution for its clients’ large- and small-scale prostitution businesses – or pimps for which Somad and its employees, as well as the prostitution business clients, profited handsomely…Commissioner Kelly said, “All anyone has to do is open a copy of the Village Voice to get a good sense of how classified advertising and prostitution go hand in hand, particularly in the prostituting of Asian women.  Our focus remains the profiteers and johns engaged in promoting prostitution – not the women exploited by them”…

The Public Eye

No matter how this turns out, it’s part of the picture which will eventually force people to realize that sex workers are no different from anyone else:

…Mark Suben, the DA in Cortland County [New York]…since 2008…[said] he had lied about his past…”[Reports]…have…[alleged] that I was involved in the adult film industry about 40 years ago…Those allegations are true…I was an actor in adult films for a short period in the early 70s.  I was also an actor in…soap operas and commercial advertisements.”  He apologized for his actions and said he used “bad judgment” by acting in porn and by lying about it.  He…will not resign…IMDB…says Suben…[under the name] Gus Thomas appears in films such as Lecher and The Love Witch

And though Suben hid his sex-industry past from the voters, Mustang Ranch brothel owner Lance Gilman did not; last week he was “elected…Storey County commissioner by a wide margin…[he] is the first such owner to win election to public office in Nevada since prostitution was legalized…in 1971”.  And though he obviously supports legalization over decriminalization because the former benefits him (no surprise), he did make the positive statement which forms today’s epigram.

Pathologization

Not content with the pathologization of maleness and adolescence, quacks have now proposed that throwing tantrums be considered a mental disorder:

…”Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)” [is] a controversial new child psychiatric disorder proposed for inclusion in…DSM-5…kids will be deemed DMDD if they show “severe recurrent temper outbursts that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation”…Pittsburg psychiatrists David Axelson and colleagues have just shown that the…concept is deeply flawed…[the committee introduced DMDD as a replacement for the recent fad diagnosis] “child bipolar disorder”  – a disease considered extremely rare everywhere else…

Metaupdates

Think of the Children! (April Updates)

Anyone who really believes that teenage boys are “children” who can somehow be harmed by seeing naked women should seek professional help immediately:

…Parents of a child who was turning 16 apparently hired two strippers…and invited the boy’s friends…the mother of a 15-year-old…[said] she was shocked when her son told her about the lap dances given to teens…Jim Murphy, Saratoga County District Attorney…[said] “a parent…could be charged with endangering the welfare of a child”…the party was in a private room at the bowling alley…[which] could be in trouble with the State Liquor Authority…[and] the D.A. says the strippers could face charges for having sexual contact with minors…

In other words, Murphy sees nothing wrong with trying to destroy the lives of at least five people (possibly more) over something he would’ve given his eyeteeth to experience when he was 16.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #35)

The government of Denmark has rejected the Swedish model, rightfully recognizing that the scheme harms prostitutes, is largely unenforceable and wastes resources.  Though prohibitionists were “disappointed”, human rights advocates and the two-thirds of the Danish population who are opposed to the Swedish evil will no doubt be pleased.

Blackball (TW3 #46)

Emi Koyama’s slide presentation at a recent harm reduction conference described how Portland, Oregon’s bad date line, which was started by a sex worker peer organization, changed when it was taken over by social service agencies.  Hint:  not only didn’t it improve…

This Week in 2010 and 2011

Beside my two previous Thanksgiving columns, two looks at halfway whores, and two indictments of neofeminist “choice” hypocrisy, this week saw essays on wife swapping and French colonial concubines, my very first column on the “gypsy whores” myth and its sequel, and the tale of an angry love goddess.  I also compared US treatment of sex workers with that in the UK and a number of repressive regimes, and featured short articles on a TV show’s involvement in “child sex trafficking”, good advice from a newsreader, tips for dealing with cops, Sasha Grey, Escorts.com, the growth of a rumor and a mobile sex worker rights billboard.

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Most adults would not dream of belittling, humiliating, or bullying (verbally or physically) another adult. But many of the same adults think nothing of treating their adolescent child like a nonperson.  –  Laurence Steinberg

I’ve written before about the “Cult of the Child”, that strange Victorian belief system which has made a comeback in the past few decades and teaches that children exist in what cultists term “innocence”, a state of divine grace which can only be violated by direct or indirect action of adults.  The die-hard child cultist imagines that if children (and their definition of that term extends far beyond that Nature uses) could somehow be kept from “bad influences”, they would be pure, asexual little angels until granted the right to be otherwise by the adults who own take care of them.  Furthermore, child cultists believe that the longer childhood is extended, the better; many parents are now working assiduously to carry it at least into college.

This is insanity; in pre-industrial cultures people assumed adult responsibilities as soon as they could, usually by about 14, and in those cultures there was no such thing as adolescent rebellion.  Indeed, the concept of adolescence itself is a relatively modern one, dating to the establishment of compulsory education and child labor laws in the late 19th century.  And though I don’t think anyone wants to see 8-year-olds working on assembly lines again, it isn’t necessary to restrict teenagers as we do in order to prevent that.  Though these laws are intended to protect teenagers, there is considerable evidence they have the opposite effect; as psychologist Robert Epstein explains,

…infantilization makes many young people angry or depressed…In most nonindustrialized societies, young people are integrated into adult society as soon as they are capable, and there is no sign of teen turmoil…But [in the West] young people can’t own things, can’t sign contracts, and they can’t do anything meaningful without parental permission—permission that can be withdrawn at any time…They are restricted and infantilized to an extraordinary extent…American teens are subjected to more than 10 times as many restrictions as mainstream adults…and even twice as many as incarcerated felons…[there is] also…a correlation between infantilization and psychological dysfunction.  The more young people are infantilized, the more psychopathology they show.  What’s more, since 1960, restrictions on teens have been accelerating…

I’m not arguing that teens should be given adult responsibilities as soon as they hit puberty; modern culture is too complex for that now.  But what I am saying is that Americans as a group suffer from the peculiar delusion that if a little of something is good, a LOT of it is better; if you believe that, how about a nice plate of salt for dinner?  Some restrictions on teens are helpful to them, but equating them with toddlers helps no one, neither the teens nor the parents who are held legally liable if they are somehow unable to control young people who may be just as competent, intelligent, resourceful and strong-willed as they are.  And nowhere is this more true than in the area of sex; it is the hormones of puberty that drive young people to have sex, not knowledge or culturally-induced “sexualization”, yet Americans are committed to the self-destructive delusion that if we keep teens in ignorance about sex they’ll stay “innocent” and never think of having it themselves (in exactly the same way dogs, cats and other animals remain celibate for life unless humans teach them to have sex).

With rare exception, teen runaways leave home for a reason; they’re not lured away by “bad influences” or abducted by “traffickers”, but rather pushed away by factors such as physical or sexual abuse or parental rejection of their homosexuality or transsexuality.  But because our laws define people under 18 as chattel, they can be arrested by cops and forced back into the situation from which they fled, or else sentenced to “child welfare” systems so horrible many of them return to the street as soon as possible.  Child labor laws keep them from getting regular work (and such work would expose them to capture by police anyway), which leaves them with roughly three alternatives:  theft, begging or prostitution; the latter is nearly always the easiest and most lucrative.  The “trafficking” dogma is based in the “innocence” fallacy:  the child cultists want to believe teenagers could never think of prostitution on their own, but this is total nonsense; teen runaways don’t need to be forced or indoctrinated into a form of exchange which predates the human species, and in fact (as revealed by a recent DoJ-funded study) 90% of them are not.  Yet, nearly all current programs for dealing with teen prostitutes are based on exactly the opposite assumption, and if such a girl denies she has a “pimp” she is assumed to be lying.

Anyone who buys the “trafficking” narrative (or its underlying assumptions) might not understand why I was so critical of disguised prisons like “Freedom Place”, but even those who recognize it for what it is might rightly ask, “What’s the alternative?”  Here are a few ideas that have been suggested by sociologists, human rights activists, sex worker rights activists and others who have looked at the issue from a harm reduction perspective rather than from a moralistic or legalistic agenda:

1)  There is no material difference between sex for compensation and sex for social reasons except that those who fall into the latter are less likely to use condoms or good judgment.  So, the state needs to pick an age of consent and stick to it, thus eliminating criminalization of motives for having sex.  This is not to say that the state shouldn’t set some higher age at which a brothel or escort service can legally hire a girl, as long as the state recognizes that doing so means that the only sex work an underage teen can do will be on the street, and that the law isn’t going to stop her if that’s what she intends to do.

2)  Stop pretending sex is some horrible, life-destroying thing; treat AoC violation like any other status offense such as underage drinking, and place the consequences equally on the minor and whoever assisted her.  Furthermore, strict liability (i.e. penalties are inflicted even if the accused can convince a judge or jury he honestly didn’t know he was breaking a law) is an abomination no matter what the crime.

3)  Stop pretending that people under 18 are “innocent children”; if the state intends to criminalize sex below a certain age, it needs to do so and eliminate the legal fiction that teens are literally unable to give consent.  When a young adult is held responsible for violating a law (however arbitrary or unjust in her eyes) she can deal with the consequences, but pretending she’s a passive victim denies her agency and subjects her to indefinite confinement and open-ended, dishonest punishment.

4)  Recognize that 90% of underage whores sell sex to survive, because laws prohibit their doing any other profitable work and applying to any standard job would expose them to arrest and return to whatever situation they’re running away from. They don’t hook because some “pimp” abducted them from their perfect, loving parents; they hook because they ran away from some awful situation and they’re hungry, cold and dirty.  If the state really wants to reduce the number of runaways selling sex, it should establish (or allow charitable organizations to establish) drop-in shelters where runaways can come for food, a shower and a bed without fear of arrest.  If you allow such shelters to confine the young people, or let even one cop ever walk through that door or hang around outside to harass them, the project is doomed.

5)  If the state wants to reduce the number of runaways in the first place, it’s going to have to make it easier for minors to lodge civil complaints against parents for sex abuse and other serious mistreatment, seeking not criminal penalties but emancipation against parental approval; this should be granted not on factual findings, but on the basis of competency tests.

This isn’t a perfect world, and nobody is suggesting that any of these suggestions will create a Utopia in which no teen ever suffers or is exploited ever again.  The philosophy of harm reduction is that rejecting compromise solutions because they “send a bad message” sacrifices real human lives on the altar of an unattainable perfection, and that the greatest good we can hope for is to establish policies which reduce the harm from people’s own (perhaps unwise) actions, and eliminate the harm inflicted by the brutal and mindless enforcement of ill-considered and moralistic laws.

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Overload the police with victimless crimes and other minutiae and eventually only creeps and bullies remain cops. –  Rick Gaber

Four short articles about whores and cops drawn from friends’ blogs and correspondent tips.

Get Out of the 19th Century Often?

In Brandy Devereaux’s column of February 10th she called attention to this story from WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi in which the reporters interviewed “Major” Nick Clark of the Hinds County sheriff’s office (I guess a captain isn’t good enough to handle all the crime in the big booming metropolis of Jackson, population 175,000).  Apparently, Colonel Clark is jealous of the big cities’ claims of being major hubs of “human trafficking”, but since neither the Super Bowl nor the Olympics are scheduled to come to Jackson any time soon he has to content himself with the Dixie National Rodeo.  He can’t use the internet too well, though, or he might’ve discovered that claims of prostitution booms at sporting events have been repeatedly debunked.  But his computer illiteracy is unsurprising given his 19th-century views:

“Yeah, unfortunately, they follow the internet, too, and they realize, they’ve got a lot of extra people in town and being the bloodsuckers that they are, they prey on innocent, unsuspecting people and try to find a way to ply their wares,” Clark said.

Apparently, the old Victorian “whore as monster” rhetoric is alive and well in Mississippi, at least in the brain of Brigadier Clark, who obviously hasn’t read the memo that we’re all trafficked victims now.  I guess Field Marshall Clark believes that all the poor, innocent, unsuspecting Christian men of Jackson would never have cheated on their wives if those wanton vampire hussies hadn’t bewitched them.  Hmm, on second thought maybe Grand High Warlord Clark is stuck in the 17th century rather than the 19th.

A Fate Worse Than Death

Apparently February 10th was the day to report on Neo-Victorian attitudes in the American South; Dave’s Sex Hysteria blog for that day featured the news that Georgia apparently believes that prostitution is a fate worse than death, because a proposed law makes patronizing a prostitute below the age of 18 a crime worse than murder.  And what makes this even more bizarre is that the age of consent in Georgia is 16; maybe this legislator’s been reading too much Schapiro Group propaganda.  But wait, there’s more!  Apparently, the people behind this bill have either been talking to Operation Broken Silence or the Surrey Police, because the bill grants the state the power to loot the property of “traffickers”…which are defined so loosely and vaguely that even a whore’s husband could be prosecuted for it.  This of course creates a tremendous financial incentive for anyone and everyone associated with a hooker to be charged with “trafficking” so the government can rob them.  Thus, as usual, voluntary adult prostitutes are persecuted and the real bad guys driven further underground to thrive in the dark.

Big Deal

I’m always fascinated at how big a brouhaha amateurs raise when they “discover” some aspect of harlotry which has existed for years.  Brandy called my attention to this one as well, in her column of February 11th; apparently, some naïve French people are up in arms about a new escort service called Loue Une Petite Amie (literally “Rent a Girlfriend”).  The author of this article excitedly expostulates, “Loue Une Petite Amie…actually allows guys to rent female companions, legally!  The French website assures its clients they have nothing to fear from the law, because this isn’t actually prostitution, but a simple case of renting a person…which apparently isn’t illegal in France.”  It ain’t illegal in the United States either, Bubba; that’s what an escort service is, and you’ll see the phone books are full of them.  It only becomes that bugaboo “prostitution” if the escort offers her client sex for money (or accepts his offer of money for sex), and since smart escorts never do that the police just lie about it.   But in France, prostitution isn’t even illegal, though “living off the avails” is so escort services have to dodge the busybody law by playing dumb just like they do in the States.  In other words, there’s no story here, folks; calm down and go back to your regularly-scheduled moral panic.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Members of the ruling class believe they have the right to all the pleasures forbidden to the citizenry; laws are for the “little people”, and cops may violate them at will.  Oh, sure, those who get caught on camera beating the living hell out of reporters, motorists and women sometimes lose their jobs, but anything less than murder is generally covered up and vice laws are flaunted as a matter of course.  But once in a while somebody in internal affairs gets a bit out of line and forgets he’s supposed to cover up for his “brother officers”; when that happens the responsibility for excuse-making and hand-slapping passes on to higher levels, sometimes all the way to city hall.  That’s what’s going on right now in Raleigh, North Carolina, in this story reported in Sex Hysteria on the 10th; a bunch of cops had sex with a streetwalker and were caught by a hidden camera, triggering internal affairs to act and thereby necessitating a cover-up involving police brass, the district attorney and even the mayor’s office.  How much you want to bet the internal affairs officers end up being punished more severely (after an appropriate excuse is invented, of course) than the cops they caught?  After all, screwing whores is the privilege of cops, but embarrassing politicians is a capital offense.

And lest you think it’s limited to the East Coast, here’s a report of a similar incident from Bakersfield, California thanks to regular reader Joyce.  This cop was a solo sleazebag who according to the police chief “…became interested in prostitution enforcement and has a record of conducting enforcement on prostitutes.”  Any normal person could guess that a male cop who is “interested in prostitution enforcement” either has ulterior motives or serious issues, and should therefore be kept as far from hookers as possible.  Unfortunately, police departments aren’t staffed with normal people and therefore he was given exactly what he wanted, a chance to rape streetwalkers by threatening to run them in.  This has been going on since August, until one of the women he threatened  decided to take her chances by reporting him.  It’s unlikely any of his victims will come forward, but maybe they’ll decide to make an example of him and charge him with “human trafficking” instead of just “disorderly conduct”.

And in New Orleans, a cop was just convicted on Tuesday of kidnapping and attempting to rape a prostitute; she testified that he actually did rape her, but since the defense was allowed to repeatedly refer to her as a whore and as “trash” in addition to badgering her into confused testimony the jury was too unsure to hand down a life sentence.  Well, at least he’ll get a total of 15-90 years, and it’s poetic justice that one of the tactics the prosecutor used to establish him as a sexual deviate was that he had condoms in the trunk of his police car.  I’ll bet that shoe is rather tight on your big foot, isn’t it “officer”?

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I never guess. It is a shocking habit—destructive to the logical faculty. –  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four

The Schapiro Group’s newest sex trafficking manifesto revolves around their highly dubious claim that it is possible to scientifically guess the ages of women in photographs with a degree of certainty that allows those guesses to be equivalent to fact:

The key to the technique described in the marble example [see yesterday’s column] comes from the phrase “if  we knew from previous experience.”  The problem is, there is no scientifically reliable previous experience on which to base the probability that a girl selling sex who looks quite young is, indeed, under 18 years.  Therefore, we conducted a separate study to serve as this previous experience.  Basically, the study involved asking a random sample of  100 adults to guess the ages of  a variety of  females in photographs.  Some of  these pictures were of females whose ages were known (teenagers to young adults), and some were not…the pictures of  unknown girls came from erotic services postings on the Atlanta Craigslist web site…subjects were posed provocatively (e.g., a picture of  a female licking her lips).  Pictures of females of  unknown ages were selected because the subject appeared “young.”  In selecting the pictures, multiple reviewers agreed that there was at least some chance that each of  the females of  unknown ages in the pictures was actually under 18.  This is how we operationalize “young” throughout the study.  Study participants viewed each of  these pictures and estimated the age of each pictured female.  Importantly, study participants rated the average age of females from Craigslist (whose ages we did not know) the same as the average age of  pictured females whose ages we did know.  Study participants were balanced by race and gender, though the results indicated conclusively that participant demographics did not have an impact on age estimations, nor did the demographics of  the pictured females have an effect.

…study participants tend to overestimate the ages of provocatively posed females…across all ratings of known-age females, participants tended to assume the females were 2.5 years older than they actually were.  When a girl under 18 poses provocatively, participants tended to overestimate her age by 7-8 years, whereas when the subject was closer to age 22 or 23, the age estimate was much more accurate than the average overestimate of 2.5 years.  In fact, women age 24 and over tend to be estimated as younger than they actually are when posed provocatively.  This effect, which is represented by a curvilinear mathematical equation, allows us to speak definitively about the probability that a female of  a given estimated age is actually under age 18.  In fact, the study showed that any given “young” looking girl who is selling sex has a 38% likelihood of being under age 18.  Put another way, for every 100 “young” looking girls selling sex, 38 are under 18.

Reread that if you need to; the truth is cleverly hidden, but there.  Assuming that everyone could agree on what is “provocative” (which men and women don’t, but we’ll leave it there anyhow), the only ages of which the authors could be certain were the ones whose ages were known, none of whom were prostitutes!  This experiment might have been somewhat valid if the ages of ALL the pictured women were known, but since the experimenters improperly introduced an “x” factor into what should have been a controlled experiment there is absolutely NO way to know which percentage of the girls were actually under 18.  This is such a glaringly obvious mistake that I can’t believe the authors were unaware of it; what seems more likely is that they initially conducted a proper study which produced results too low to satisfy them (like New Zealand’s 3.54%, perhaps) and so were forced to redesign the study with an unspecified percentage of photographs of unknowable age (“some” is not a valid mathematical expression of percentage) in order to get the results they wanted.  Simply put, there is no way for the authors to know whether the girls of unknown age (who, since they came from Craigslist escort ads, were presumably automatically considered “provocatively” posed whether they were or not) were 7-8 years younger than they appeared, 2.5 years younger or actually older; the 38% figure is therefore completely invalid even if 100 cherry-picked experimental subjects were a large enough sample to derive such conclusions (which they aren’t).

The paper then goes into a long obfuscation about escort services (designed, no doubt, to convince the reader that the authors know what they’re talking about) which as I discussed in my previous column on these scammers ignores the fact that the vast majority of escorts tend to revise their ages down.  The section contains such portentous sentences as “Escort service operators have told our callers they have 17 year-old escorts specifically” and “we also know that many of  these phone numbers go to just a handful of call centers.”  Since the age of consent in Texas is 17 and many escort services have multiple phone numbers, these sentences actually have no semantic value but are included to make the services seem “shady”.  The use of the term “call center” makes it sound as though a third party was answering the phone, which is entirely incorrect; multiple phone numbers go to one business, not multiple businesses to one external “answering service”.  But even if they did, what of it?  Many doctors may use the same answering service; does that make them criminals?  The whole thing degenerates into a silly song and dance about “CSEC victims per service” which in the end translates (again) into “we guessed”.

The next section starts out with a statement which is either unbelievably ignorant or an egregious lie: “As of  November 2010, the tracking data do not include any content from Craigslist, as it closed the ‘adult services’ section of  its website in the U.S.  Recently the story was completely different. There were many websites, but only one main source for paid sex services ads in states across the U.S.: Craigslist.”  Yes, this paper is actually making the astonishingly stupid and easily disproved claim that prior to this year, there were essentially no other online sources of escort ads worth noting.  Backpage, Eros and all the various hooker boards did not, according to the Schapiro Group, exist.

This stunning idiocy is followed by the comparatively subtle “There were an estimated 52 CSEC victims advertised each day across all major websites…the data show that many of  these girls do not stay long on these sites, a finding that is consistent with the notion that many girls are trafficked state-to-state.”  Now,  this is a sensible statement if one makes the unwarranted presumptions that all young prostitutes are involuntary, controlled by others, and “trafficked” from place to place; unfortunately for the Schapiro Group, none of those presumptions are true.  The reason many of the ads disappear quickly is very simple:  Many young girls decide to try escorting, place an ad, discover in a call or two that they don’t like it, and never renew the ad.  Every escort service owner has had to deal with young girls who quit after their first call or two; this is no different from any other entry-level job (telemarketing, for example, has a very high attrition rate).  The only reason the authors’ assertions are not instantly perceived as ridiculous by their target audience is that they all buy into the underlying assumption that sex work is intrinsically different from all other work.

After a few more pages of mumbo-jumbo to justify still more guessing, the authors present their final numbers drawn from a hat, then claim that these self-generated numbers exceed the number of women who die by suicide, homicide, accidents, AIDS and childbirth combined.  Yes, I realize that comparing prostitution with causes of death is like comparing apples to hamburgers, but obviously the Shapiro Group hopes its readers won’t catch the non sequitur.  The rest of the paper consists of self-congratulatory statements about the “reliability” and “credibility” of their guesses (apparently they’ve never heard of that inconvenient thing called “peer review”) and advising readers on how to use the propaganda to convince legislators to divert money from programs dedicated to helping real victims by “provid[ing] you with a high degree of  perceived credibility among various audiences.”  I don’t think it would be inappropriate for me to apply the term “shameless” in this context.

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We should know clearly before we discuss this matter; to guess is one thing, to know clearly another. –  Aeschylus

Regular readers will remember the Schapiro Group, a marketing firm which specializes in producing bogus “studies” to prove whatever it is their clients want them to prove, often by the use of redefinition (such as the study in which an “adolescent” was defined as someone under 22) and guessing.  In my column of November 29th I dissected their “study” on what they term “CSEC” (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) in Georgia, which claimed to “prove” that 58% of prostitution transactions in Georgia were conducted with “trafficked children” (i.e., prostitutes under 18 who may actually be of legal age of consent), but actually proved absolutely nothing except that the Schapiro Group thinks its readers are fools.  Well, they’re at it again; Brandy Devereaux called my attention to a new study by these same con artists, this one paid for by a group calling itself the “Dallas Women’s Foundation”.  The study is just as fundamentally flawed as the last one, but even more insulting to its reader because it attempts to justify wild-ass guessing (WAG) as a valid determiner of the age of a woman in a photograph; the approach was first used in a previous scam (excuse me, “study”) published last May for the “Women’s Funding Network”, and indeed most of the new paper is lifted directly from the older one (I guess the Schapiro Group believes in recycling).

As before, the report opens by redefining young women as children, but this time (perhaps in response to criticism of its previous boondoggles) the authors actually attempt to justify the redefinition:  “There are several ways to define a ‘child’ according to federal and state laws. Not only does  ‘under age 18’ align with important federal laws defining childhood, but it is a definition widely accepted among the general public.”  In other words, “because many ignorant Americans confuse the term ‘child’ with the term ‘legal minor’ we’re going to let the error stand since it serves our purposes, even though we know quite well that not only are they different concepts, but that the age of consent in Texas is 17.”

It is safe to say that this research methodology is designed to count, over a one-month period, the number of  adolescent females who are acutely commercially sexually exploited, and actively marketed within the local sex trade…collectively the results indicate a significant number of  adolescent girls caught in the Texas sex trade during the month: 28 through escort services [and] 712 through Internet classifieds websites.

No, it’s safe to say (as the reader will soon see) that the methodology is not designed to “count” anything, but rather to produce the exact results the authors wish it to produce, as revealed by the fact that these numbers don’t remotely reflect the percentage of adolescents among arrested prostitutes in Texas or anywhere else.

To understand why it is difficult to study CSEC, it is instructive to define it, as CSEC is both simple and challenging to define.

Translation:  “We have to figure out how to define it so as to prove what we have been paid to prove despite the facts.”

There have been documented attempts to quantify the problem of  commercial sexual exploitation of  children in the United States, however very few of  these involve direct empirical investigations…Most academic and government quantifications represent educated guesswork.

No, most of them represent numbers made up from whole cloth in order to support a panic in the ignorant populace so the government can justify prohibitionist laws against whores.  This represents educated guesswork, and as you can see it generates far more realistic numbers.  Scientific detachment does not produce language like this:

…the majority of  girls trapped in the industry are in their teenage years.  Johns soliciting these girls are engaging in a despicable act, but typically not because the johns are pedophiles.  It seems that most of  the girls they solicit are, in a biological sense, sexually mature.  In fact, it is distinctly possible that johns looking for “young” girls sometimes do not know that the young woman they are soliciting is actually under age 18.  One critical aspect of  this study shows just how dramatically people fundamentally overestimate the ages of  girls posing in mildly provocative ways.  Adolescent girls still appear quite young—which we also document as central to their appeal to johns—but often do not appear to be unambiguously younger than 18.

The authors fully admit that it’s extremely difficult to know the age of a girl by her picture, and also that many teenage girls are sexually mature, yet still insist on referring to male attraction to such girls as “despicable”!  And of course the fact that it’s 100% legal for a man in Texas to have sex with a 17-year-old is ignored; I guess that law is “despicable” as well (what must they think of Hawaii and Idaho?)  Anyhow, it only degenerates from there; the next section insists on using emotionally-loaded but semantically-poor terms like “exploited” and making broad and totally unsupportable statements like “children…are regarded as nothing more than assets to their exploiters” (not to mention self-congratulatory ones like “the study is a quantum leap forward in determining…the magnitude of  the problem”) while continuing to maintain the pretense of scientific methodology.  And here’s the methodology:

When researchers count events that occur at varying degrees of  uncertainty, they typically count probabilities rather than discrete cases.  For a simple example, consider a drawer of  40 identically shaped red and blue marbles.  Imagine trying to count the number of  red marbles while wearing a blindfold.  This, obviously, is an impossible task.  If we knew from previous experience, however, that 25% of  the marbles are red, we would count each marble—without seeing its true color—as .25 red.  We count each of  the 40 marbles in the drawer this way, and sum up the red probabilities to arrive at a red count of 10 marbles.  The problem is, there is no scientifically reliable previous experience on which to base the probability that a girl selling sex who looks quite young is, indeed, under 18 years.  Therefore, we conducted a separate study to serve as this previous experience.

Like all good con artists, the Schapiro Group begins the scam with a reasonable-sounding proposition.  By the authors’ own admission there is no way to objectively know which percentage of whores are under an arbitrary age, so there can be no “previous experience”.  In part two tomorrow, I’ll show you the sophistry they designed in order to trick the careless reader into accepting the proposition that WAGs at girls’ ages are actually “scientific evidence”.  In the meantime, take a look at the article and see how many flaws you can find in it; to list all of them would take a whole week of this blog!

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