Posts Tagged ‘agency denial’

Watching brouhahas unfold is always very revealing; even if different people agree that whatever it was that whoever it was said or did or thought was cause for concern, they may disagree about what particularly made it so.  The most recent major gaffe committed by the eternally-boorish Donald Trump is a perfect example.  For those blissfully unaware of the train wreck we call a presidential election, I’ll recap:  someone recently discovered a recording from 2005 in which Trump made comments to the effect that women let famous men get away with gross consent violations, such as kissing or groping them without asking.  Here’s the video if you’re interested:

Getting a clean copy of this wasn’t easy; most of the versions on YouTube were either censored or edited.  I’m rather glad that happened, however, because it actually reinforces my point.  In CNN’s version, for example, the very first thing a viewer sees is a “warning” that the video contains “graphic language” (as though anyone watching would actually have never heard the words “fuck” and “pussy” before).  Next, a description: “Footage from 2005 has surfaced featuring Donald Trump using vulgar language about women”, followed by a video in which a loud “bleep” has been inserted over the words (which rather makes one wonder what the point of the warning was).  Look at the emphasis there:  someone at CNN actually seems to believe, and undoubtedly many people agree, that the most salient point of the controversy was Trump’s language, that he had uttered taboo words which would presumably ritually pollute the dainty hearing of anyone viewing the video.  The fact that he used these common words about women is presented as though that somehow makes it worse than if he had used similar words in talking about men, children, mixed groups of people or Shetland ponies; the assumption seems to be that women are delicate china dolls who are magically harmed when men emit certain sounds from their vocal apparatus, even if the woman in question did not even hear them.  If he had joked about violating the physical boundaries of women without using those words, perhaps saying “I attempted to get her in bed” and “grab their crotches” instead, would that have made it all better in the minds of this unknown CNN editor and others like her?  Because that’s certainly the implication.

But if this social conservative spin on the incident is questionable, the “feminist” spin on it is even worse.  Yesterday morning I became aware of “Grab Her By The Brain“, a site whose founders apparently feel that the problem lies in the fact that Trump’s churlish comments were sexual in nature.  The implication seems to be that while grabbing a woman by her sexual anatomy is a horrible thing, grabbing her by some part that stupid, shallow people imagine to be non-sexual is perfectly OK.  As in the CNN video, the first words one sees upon landing on the site reinforce this: “Take part in the movement that refuses to accept the objectification of women – at work, on the sidewalk, at school, in the media, empower every woman by acknowledging her unique and immeasurable contribution to society.”  That’s followed immediately below by “Value her for who she is,” which is a direct contradiction of the pusillanimous and patronizing platitudes in the line above, which urge the reader to value a woman not for who she is but for her “contribution to society”, which is quite a different thing altogether.  For right now, let’s ignore the sexism inherent in the absurd notion that only women can be “objectified”, the infantilizing concept of “empowerment” as something granted to women from without as a gardener waters vegetables, the obsequious assertion that every single woman makes a “unique and immeasurable” contribution to society (a concept that’s ludicrous even on its face), and the tired neofeminist pretense that it’s somehow “better” or “more respectful”radio-assembly-line-1925 for women to be valued for the characteristics of one organ than for the characteristics of a different one; we are still left with the dangerously anti-sex mindset which imagines that so-called “objectification” can only be sexual while blatantly objectifying women as only valuable for our “contributions to society”.  This pretense derives from exactly the same mindset as that of the Republicans whose disavowal of Trump after the comments were made public was expressed in phrases like “our wives, our daughters, our mothers”; it’s the vile and loathsome collectivist obscenity that women’s rights derive not from the fact that we’re individuals, but from our relationships to men and “society”.

Human beings, no matter what their gender, are individuals and don’t need outside collectives to “empower” them. Their rights as individuals, including their right not to be molested by either individuals or the operatives of the state, are inalienable and don’t depend on whether anyone else thinks they’re of “value” (whether for their intellect, for their sex appeal or for any other reason) to the state, “society” or any individual.  So, please, stop pretending that “grab her by the brain” is superior to “grab her by the pussy”; you have no right to grab her, him or anybody by the brain, pussy or any other part without their consent.  Human beings don’t exist to serve you, to be “empowered” by you or to be defined in relation to you.  And only they have the right to determine what they wish to give to you, the state or “society”, and the conditions under which they will give it.

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The criminalization of sex work exposes not only sex workers but all women to more violence.  –  Alison Bass

The Proper Study

Yet another study confirms what we’ve been saying all along:

a recent study in…Las Vegas uncovers what anti-trafficking organizations might not like to hear.  The majority of youth selling sex on the streets have no pimps, or even third party managers, countering one of the key narratives of the sex trafficking movement that all youth involved are victims doing this work against their will…three fourths of the youth interviewed about the sex trade said they were not working with any pimp or other kind of third party manager…24 percent of the study’s participants reported use of a third party to find clients at some point in their lives, but only 4 percent…reported use of one at the time of the study…youth sex workers who do use pimps do so inconsistently and intermittently…[they] are finding their clients independently and negotiating their own prices…

It Looks Good On Paper (#340)

Remember that religious brainwashing program which “partnered with the Sarasota…Police Department…to bring victims into their care?

The conversations happening by phone are ones that the Sarasota Police Street Crime Unit hope will turn into a positive outcome.  “I want you to know you are not in any trouble,” [oinked a pig]…”We are just trying to reach out and let you know there are options”…Sergeant Robert Armstrong and his unit are [harassing and intimidating] women who have active ads online for escort services.  Many are involved in prostitution…The team is focused on connecting women with Selah Freedom…

“Many are involved in prostitution”?  Are these people actually pretending not to know what an escort is?  Look beneath the pious exterior; we don’t actually know what stated or implied threats these cops are using to try to intimidate women into this “program”, which is so unpopular the only way it gets participants is by cops literally forcing or frightening women into it.  If the tactic seems familiar, it’s because it’s much like Canada’s “Operation Northern Spotlight” except that the cops are (for now) merely terrorizing sex workers by phone instead of showing up at their doors.wesley-blackburn

If Men Were Angels 

“Youth pastors” are nearly as bad as cops:

A Pennsylvania pastor faces charges he impregnated a 15-year-old girl from his youth group during a seven-month sexual relationship…Wesley Blackburn, youth pastor at Faith Brethren Bible Church, told the New Paris church’s head pastor he had confessed to the relationship and asked for a divorce…church leaders immediately fired Blackburn…and alerted police last week.  He was charged Oct. 6 on hundreds of counts of statutory sexual assault and indecent assault…

Rough Trade (#446) 

A setback for women’s rights in India:

The Supreme Court…ruled that a sex worker cannot file a case alleging rape if her customers refused to pay her…The judgment…acquitted three people of rape charges in a case that is close to 20 years old…the Karnataka High Court had convicted them of raping the victim, who used to work as a maid; the victim’s roommate had revealed that she works as a sex-worker at night…the Supreme Court…[claimed] that the woman’s “conduct during the alleged ordeal is unlike a victim of rape and betrays somewhat submissive and consensual disposition”…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (#502)

In which po-faced twits with tape over their mouths walk down a street holding pre-printed propaganda cards:

A long, single-file line of people donned [sic] in black, some with their mouths taped shut, silently made its way down Stephen Avenue [in Calgary] to [promote anti-sex work propaganda]…The [po-faced] group remained speechless, but handed out [propaganda] pamphlets to bystanders…former Manitoba MP Joy Smith [spoke] at the event…part of a global initiative by A21…

The tape is supposed to signify that sex workers are “voiceless”, a convenient lie for those who wish to talk over us.  A21, the NGO which sponsored this charade, is infamous as the source of the high-water mark of the “clients per day” competition of a few years ago: 110.

Eternal Vigilance (#610)

Just a reminder that prohibitionism still exists in decriminalized regimes:

New Zealand celebrities will be donning aprons to serve dinner with a difference at Destiny Rescue’s Dark Secret Pop up Dinner on International Anti-Slavery Day, Tuesday 18 October…Another special menu, thankfully not available in New Zealand, will shine the spotlight on the dark secret of the near two million children trapped in sexual slavery in countries like Thailand, India and the Philippines…

The table-waiting gimmick is appropriate given that Destiny’s idea of “rescue” is to teach brown urchins to sew, wait table and draw with crayons.

Wise Investment (#673)

Picket-fence gay men are such wonderful, dependable sex worker allies:

In his recent attempt to revise the history of sex workers in Vancouver’s West End, Kevin Dale McKeown…erases the West Sex Workers Memorial Committee and our eight-year campaign to secure financial reparations and a formal civic apology from the City of Vancouver.  He instead claims that his recollections are more truthful and authentic than the voices of sex workers…In McKeown’s distorted revision…expelled sex workers become the villains.  However, our archival research found close to 1,000 news articles revealing that power elites in the early 1980s — including Mayor Mike Harcourt, MP Pat Carney, Attorney General Brian Smith, Concerned Residents of the West End (CROWE) and Shame the Johns — forged a “war on hookers” with lethal consequences…Residents like McKeown moved into the West End when it was a thriving [24-hour] entertainment zone…McKeown…frantically disavows his own and other white gay men’s complicity in hooker-bashing tactics…McKeown makes a failed attempt to hide his investment in a “quiet” and “peaceful” gaybourhood cleansed of “noisy” hookers…

Too Close To Home (#677)

These are the people who claim they want to “protect” women, and portray the men we choose to have sex with as “sexual predators”:

…after settling a sexual-harassment lawsuit for $1 million in 2013, the King County Sheriff’s Office…is again embroiled in a legal fight over its treatment of female officers.  This time, two…deputies and one sergeant are accusing the county of gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual-orientation based harassment, and retaliation…a former head of internal affairs [is] seeking whistleblower protections before he talks.  Central to many of these claims is King County Sheriff John Urquhart…[whose] tenure so far…has been ignominious, involving the two sexual-harassment lawsuits, a cop convicted of pimping his wife and selling his colleagues steroids, a bogus “sex trafficking bust,” a chief-of-staff with polygraph problems, and more…this latest lawsuit…specifically calls out the actions of Sheriff Urquhart, Major Sean Ledford, and Sergeant Dewey Burns…defensive tactics instructor Melissa Deer…claims [Burns] grabbed her crotch during a training exercise…text messages showed the sergeant making racist, anti-gay, and sexually explicit comments to other staffers, including…Deputy Amy Shoblom…who…is one of three plaintiffs in the current suit, along with Diana Neff…and Julie Blessum…[Burns’] antics included texting her half-naked photos of women he was sleeping with, asking during a roll call if she had “hooked up” with a male deputy, and drawing a penis on the hood of her car with hand sanitizer…

There’s a lot more, and it’s by the awesome Liz Brown so you should read it all.

Send In the Clowns dublin-clown

The most disturbing thing about the clown hysteria is the way in which it has so quickly given rise to organized violence and naked authoritarianism.  A “Clown Lives Matter” protest against the panic, to be held in Tucson, was cancelled due to amateur threats of violence, and the professional violence-inflicters are responding by criminally charging people and destroying young childrens’ lives.  The hysteria has also spread to Ireland, and while police in Dublin have responded calmly, those in Belfast have responded with US-style threats of violence and lifelong imprisonment.  Dutch police are moronically calling for a prankster there to turn himself in, and the ever-lunatic British tabloid press have found a way to merge the clown panic into “sex predator” panic:

The basic premise of [this] story is that some men get off on women dressed as creepy clowns, they’re causing a spike in clown-porn searches and clown-fetish requests at escort services, and soon their “sick fetish” may lead them to commit real-world sexual assaults “as the adrenaline junkies seek more ‘extreme thrills'”…what the story lacks in logic it makes up for in references to “sex-mad sickos” and quotes from an anonymous escort-agency head…[it] also quotes a woman who counsels rape victims and worries that the “clown craze” provides cover to predators…Popular millennial women’s website Elite Daily published a clown-sex-panic story…warning readers that “the sexual deviants partaking in the madness are allegedly dressing up as clowns and experimenting with BDSM” and “those who are involved in the aggressive clown porn are potentially dangerous.”

Power Play

Your periodic reminder that Dennis Hof is a revolting excuse for a human being:

Dennis Hof…said that while he supports law enforcement aggressively enforcing laws against underage sex trafficking, he believes that law enforcement in the United States would have an easier time doing its job if adult prostitution were [legalized]…using the [Nevada]…model…Hof said [independent sex workers spread]…sexually transmitted diseases…”My brothel business model [magically] puts the…pimps [who aren’t politically connected] out of business, [magically] stops underage girls from working illegally [?] and [magically] ends sex trafficking [even though 99% of Nevada sex workers prefer to work illegally than to submit to the onerous brothel regime]”…

In the first version of the press release, Hof actually cheered the arrests of the owners & CEO of Backpage; I guess he later realized that was vile even by his standards.

Challenge (#681)

The ACLU has finally done something to act on its theoretical support for decriminalization by filing an amicus brief in the ESPLERP case:

The ACLU brief supports the lawsuit’s contention that California’s penal code violates fundamental constitutional rights to sexual privacy and is enforced in a discriminatory manner…Lawrence v. Texas…recognized that “liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex”…The ACLU brief also argues that the California penal code is unconstitutional because the way it is enforced is discriminatory.  Certain groups, such as transgender women, LGBT youth, and female sex workers are targeted and arrested for prostitution in disproportionately higher numbers than other people…

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For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.
–  1 Corinthians 13:12

through-a-glass-darklyAuthoritarians always have some high-sounding excuse to justify why they have the “right” to meddle in others’ lives, up to and including rationalizations for inflicting violence (or recruiting proxies to do so).  Very often, those excuses involve imaginary villains (or real people cast as villains) upon which the authoritarians can project their own sick need to control others; they can then pretend that their own actions are intended to “protect” (and sometimes “serve”) those they wish to dominate.  It is the traditional duty of journalists to shine light upon claims publicly made by those in power or seeking it, but at some point in the past few decades most of the profession abdicated that responsibility in favor of becoming the handmaidens of the powerful and mindlessly parroting whatever narrative will increase their power.  And so we find journalists publishing dark, lurid sexual fantasies like this one:

A Texas teenager was lured into sex trafficking after meeting her alleged captors on Snapchat…John Clark, a Houston-area energy executive, turned detective to rescue his 18-year-old daughter weeks after she went missing in April of this year…Clark hired a private kidnap and rescue firm, consulted experts, and even bought his own 1-800 number to get tips…Clark [says]…his daughter was “groomed” by her alleged captor starting at age 16.  The trafficker was in his 20s…The teen…was still in high school when she went missing…Last month, Clark launched a petition to strengthen Texas’s anti-trafficking laws.  The petition, among other things, asks the state to increase the age to work in sexually oriented businesses from 18 to 21…in a Facebook post describing how traffickers and their recruiters groom their victims, Clark warned parents “never [to] worry about being over protective…The only luck we had with Snapchat was to literally grab my daughter’s phone unexpectedly… and look at recent communications, but even that had limited effectiveness”…

Such a brave hero!  He went above and beyond to protect his “child”, and now he wants to help others!  How noble!  But look a little closer: the daughter is a legal adult, and he hired thugs to literally abduct her…and if he actually admits to literally assaulting his daughter to grab her phone, what else did he do that he didn’t admit?  Elizabeth Nolan Brown, one of the minority of journalists who still practices real journalism, found out:

A Texas father’s story of “Snapchat sex traffickers” has gone viral as he pushes for legislation that would, among other things, allow parents to have their 18- to 20-year-old offspring involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities for engaging in sex work…John Clark…has claimed repeatedly that Heather was lured by a sex trafficker…But…the facts he offers suggest Heather left her parents’ home willingly, did not want to return, and only did so after Clark had her tracked down by FBI agents and private investigators…on Saturday, April 30…Heather ditched her car and cell phone and…didn’t return home…According to a May 21 Facebook post from John Clark, he and his wife…”went through her phone several times a week”…[she] wasn’t allowed to take her cellphone upstairs to her bedroom and “when she went upstairs she had to leave her phone on the kitchen counter, so we could check it.”  They required Heather to provide them with “all her passwords”…and installed a GPS tracker on her car…they “Facetimed her every time she went out to make sure she was where she was supposed to be, and she was with the people she was supposed to be seeing”…he writes:  “Children…have no right to privacy.  We have a responsibility to search EVERYTHING.  Install an application like mobistealth or Mobil-spy on your kid’s phone”…I can’t say I’d blame an 18-year-old for wanting to get away from that environment…

Since then, Clark has been meeting with Texas and federal lawmakers, circulating an online petition, and [demanding new laws]…Changing the minimum age requirement for working at a sexually-oriented business (such as strip clubs or adult-video stores) to 21 years old…[and] “Providing extended parental guardianship in specific circumstances and emergencies”…The guardianship period could be triggered if at least four of following six criteria are met: the young adult 1) lives at home, 2) is still in high-school, 3) is a full-time college student, 4) was claimed as a dependent by the parent(s) on the prior year’s tax return, 5) has never been married, and 6) has not been the subject of any child protective services (CPS) investigations…Here is a man who permitted his 18-year-old daughter almost no privacy, went to great lengths to track her down after she left home and told him she didn’t want to return, and has publicly assigned more culpability to Snapchat than his daughter…and…he’s now asking for…changes to…law that would allow him…to continue treating adult offspring like literal children…Under Clark’s proposal, a 19-year-old single woman who lives on her own, attends college, and makes money selling sex in her spare time could find herself back under her parent’s rule (and subject to their medical whims) so long as her parents were never investigated by Texas CPS and had claimed her on tax returns the previous year…

fogged-up-glassesThis is just one case; there are a myriad of others like it, all over the world, every day.  And in most cases, the tyrants trying to gain greater control over other people’s lives don’t even have the dubious excuse of a misguided sense of parental responsibility, because the people they want to control are not their children.  Furthermore, Liz didn’t have to go to any extraordinary lengths to discover the truth; all she had to do was look at Clark’s public Facebook page.  Kate Briquelet, the Daily Beast reporter responsible for the first version, could’ve done the same thing; she simply couldn’t be bothered (or else she intentionally spread Clark’s warped view of events on purpose, which is even worse).  And that’s the real tragedy of modern moral panics:  the facts which could dissipate the fog generated by authoritarians are readily available to all, but neither ordinary citizens nor those with the duty of disseminating facts are willing to put forth the minimal effort required to wipe the glass clean.

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We see no constitutionally adequate basis to criminalize sex solely because one consenting adult pays another.  –   Hayley Gorenberg  and Richard Saenz of Lambda Legal

Rough Trade 

Be careful out there, my sisters in Philadelphia:

Philadelphia police say a predator who’s attacked female prostitutes earlier this year may be responsible for two more recent attacks…the most recent incident occurred Oct. 1 when a man on a bike propositioned [a street worker] for sex…the man choked her until she lost consciousness…Police believe the same man also accosted another prostitute at gunpoint Sept. 19.  He took her to an alley and [raped] her while holding a knife to her face.  Police believe the same man attacked a prostitute with a brick then stabbed [to death]…on July 16. She died.  The same man, often arriving on a bike, is believed to have attacked at least one other prostitute, slashing her throat April 19.

The Lesser of Two Evils

As I’ve pointed out before, most laws governing sex work prior to the late 19th century were aimed at drawing lines between harlots and “good” women, rather than at advancing a quixotic crusade to “eradicate” the ineradicable.  Here’s a list of garments prostitutes were required to wear in various medieval European cities:

Beaucaire: a mark on the left arm…
Berne: red cap.
Bristol: striped hoods.
Castres: a man’s hat and a scarlet belt.
Florence: gloves and bells on the head…and high-heeled slippers.
Languedoc: a cord belt.
Leipzig: yellow cloak trimmed with blue.
London: striped hoods.
Mantua: white cloak and badge on chest…
Marseilles: striped tunic.
Milan: black cloak.
Nimes: a sleeve of a special colour.
Pisa: a yellow headband.
Strasbourg: black and white sugarloaf hat.
Toulouse: a mark on their sleeve.
Venice: yellow scarf.
Vienna: yellow scarf.
Zurich: red cap.

Saving Them From Themselves

Never call the cops for any reason whatsoever:

A man [in Australia] who found out that his 15-year-old stepdaughter was sexting her boyfriend proceeded to download the evidence to bring it to the school and the police to ask them to intervene…Now [Ashan Ortell] has been convicted on child pornography charges and placed on the sex offender registry…for eight years…

Frankly, I’m glad this idiot got what he deserved.  If anything, anyone who would report his own daughter to the pigs for the “crime” of having a sexual relationship deserves much worse than 8 years on the registry.

Gullible’s Travels

Even if this were true (which it isn’t), it’s a testament to the entrenched stupidity of authoritarians that they refuse to see that binge drinking on US university campuses only became common after the drinking age was raised to 21:

A growing number of college are banning hard liquor on campus in a move to curb extreme drinking — but students are still getting their party on, and some are adding an extra element of risk to their binges…the phenomenon dubbed “drunkorexia”…University of Houston Professor Dipali Rinker said in a study of 1,200 students, he found up to 80 percent were restricting calories, overexercising, purging or using laxatives in combination with binge drinking…


No, the sex trade in Ireland is no more “controlled” by “gangs” than it is in the US.  This is little more than a cop wanking fantasy of there being “bad guys” to target, aided and abetted by the pathological liars at Ruhama:

Five major vice gang members are behind three-quarters of the sex-for-sale business in Ireland, according to data taken from the most popular website used to advertise prostitution.  One gang this week has links to 80 advertised women and more than 10 transgender prostitutes, who can each make €1,000 a day.  Ireland’s multi-million euro vice trade is set for a massive blow as a new law to make it illegal to buy sex is due before the Dáil this week…

But just for fun, ask yourself:  If there really were mobsters behind all the sex work in Ireland, would they want decriminalization or increased criminalization?  Did the Mafia like the end of Prohibition?  And what happened to Mexican drug cartels’ profits when Washington & Colorado legalized cannabis?

The End of the Beginning 

This is what happens when you don’t fight tyrannical laws from the beginning:

A federal class action…challenges a Mississippi statute that requires people convicted of having anal sex to register as sex offenders.  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five Mississippi residents who say they were convicted under various sodomy prohibitions, including the “unnatural intercourse” law, and Louisiana’s “crime against nature by solicitation” law…the [registration requirement] is discriminatory and unenforceable in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas invalidating all state laws against gay sex as unconstitutional…

You know why they can get away with this despite Lawrence?  Because the Great Unwashed said nothing when federal courts established the precedent that the horrific persecution and ostracism inflicted on “sex offenders” are not punishments, but merely side effects of a record-keeping process.

Torture Chamber

Stop faking!

[In 1993] Anthony Gay…pled out to violating probation because of a “strong arm robbery.”  Gay was convicted of the robbery and hence the violation after nicking a hat and $1, resulting in a sentence of 7 years in prison…he was warehoused at the notorious…Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois [where]…”his actions…driven by his mental illness, resulted in years of solitary confinement and additional criminal convictions, chiefly due to a series of assaults on guards, including throwing feces and urine out of the food slot in his cell door.  By 2013, his sentence had been increased to 97 years and his release date pushed back to around 2091…he practiced self-mutilation, even to the point of cutting out one of his testicles and hanging it on a cell door in 2010“…He was literally crying out for help, and no one listened, save for his lawyers who managed to…convince…the court that the sentences Gay racked up while at Tamms had been improperly stacked…his new release date is set for August of 2018…Tamms has closed shop because its blatant incompetence and overindulgence in costly solitary confinement of people like Gay…

Making It Up As They Go 

Seattle pretends to be “liberal”, but it’s home to vile bullshit like this:

Escape to Peace launched…a…center for survivors of sex trafficking in Bellevue on Oct. 6….Carol Loya was inspired to create the non-profit after a 2012 mission to Thailand, during which she was shocked to see and talk to young…sex work[ers]…At any given time in King County, 300-500 underage girls are being trafficked.  The average age of entry is 12-14 years old, with some as young as 8 or 9…

Yes, they’re actually claiming that Greater Seattle has 20% of all coerced underage prostitutes in the entire US.

Checklist (#612)

More “beauty salon sex trafficking” idiocy from Ohio:

…100,000…cosmetologists throughout the state of Ohio…are now the latest allies in the fight against human trafficking…In Ohio alone, it is estimated that more than 1,000 girls and boys, between the ages of 12 and 17, are involved in the sex trade.  Last year, Ohio’s state cosmetology board approved a requirement that human-trafficking awareness training become a mandatory part of obtaining a cosmetology license…[fetishists fantasize that] traffickers or so-called pimps may take a victim to a hair salon in order to change their appearance to avoid detection…If stylists see anything suspicious, there are things they can do like get a license plate number and call police…

In a police state, even your hairdresser may be spying on you.

One Born Every Minute (#645) 

I’m pleased for the very small part I played in helping to expose this rapist:

Matt Hickey…has been charged by the King County Prosecuting Attorney with three counts of rape in the second degree.  The charges…contain allegations from three women, including two women The Stranger wrote about earlier this year…who said Hickey told them he was working with a female porn recruiter, and asked them to audition for them…Not long after the first piece came out, three more women came forward to accuse Matt Hickey of rape.  These women told The Stranger that Hickey got them blackout drunk and raped them while they were unable to consent.  Hickey denied all of the allegations…

Vendetta (#664)

A look at the aftermath of one of the private pogroms bankrolled by billionaire sociopath Swanee Hunt:

Cory Walcott, was chair of the Military Science Department at the University of Nebraska Kearney until he was busted in a highly-publicized national sting…Prosecutors have now announced they are dropping the charge against Walcott and another man, Maurice Briggs…Their arrests were both part of the “National John Suppression Initiative”…[in which] police departments across the country pose undercover as either sex workers or their clients, arrest a lot of adult men and women for things like prostitution and solicitation, then put out splashy press releases about all the “sex trafficking arrests” they’ve made…the ultimate arrest/rescue breakdown for Lincoln?

  • no underage or adult sex-trafficking victims discovered
  • no force, fraud, or coercion discovered
  • four women, ages 23 to 36, charged with misdemeanor prostitution
  • five men charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution
  • one man charged with felony solicitation of prostitution
  • one man charged with marijuana possession…

Send In the Clowns

The most interesting part of the clown panic isn’t the hysteria itself (which is kind of a yawn to anyone who’s studied such panics before), nor the copycats trying to get attention by mimicking the imaginary bogeys (ditto), but the bizarre things one finds in news stories about clown incidents.  One story says “Three ‘juvenile clowns’ were taken into custody in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under the influence of marijuana“; Holy Reefer Madness, Batman!  One wonders what the Kentucky man who “fired a semi-automatic rifle at a woman walking her dog because he thought she was a clown” was under the influence of; like some others, this story tries to blame the clown hysteria on Stephen King, specifically a new production of It which I doubt has anything to do with the panic.  Then there’s this Massachusetts Halloween haunted house which features “scary clowns” among its attractions, reassuring the public that “they would know if there was a clown impersonator among them.”  Self-important Australian “experts” pronounced the hysteria “dangerous” and “sinister” after it spread to Perth and to cities in Victoria (one wonders why they haven’t opined on the far-more-serious “sex trafficking” hysteria).  But those all pale beside the horrifying statements made by cops in (wait for it) Arizona:

The Phoenix Police Department reports five juveniles ages 14 and 15 were charged with scary clown threats. Mesa police [arrested] two juveniles…[one maniac said] “I would call it a hate crime.”  To prevent copycats, [pigs] and county prosecutors are taking a zero tolerance approach.  “Every image, every text, every mention will be investigated,” said [Commissar] Nik Rasheta…prosecutors plan to prosecute anyone else making scary clown threats to the full extent…[propaganda operatives] say don’t think social media will be a shield to make scary clown threats. Authorities have the technology to see who’s posting and spreading them…

Challenge (#679)

Lambda Legal has honored the commitment it made to sex worker rights last year by filing an amicus brief in the ESPLERP case:

…At the heart of Lambda Legal’s most groundbreaking victories and continuing mission is self-determination, including bodily autonomy.  When the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing same-sex relationships and gay identity in Lawrence v. Texas, it rightly rejected assertions against us that “public health” justified sodomy laws.  The movement for reproductive justice, from which we draw key legal precedents, similarly fights for facts over fiction when government tries to limit the right to contraception, abortion, or other similar personal decision-making.  Lawrence explained that the constitutional right to liberty protects all of us when we make our own decisions about adult, consensual sexual intimacy…sometimes relationships are transactional…consider prenuptial agreements, surrogacy, and hook-up websites; the fact that money is involved does not obliterate constitutional protections for marriage, parenting or sexual intimacy.  All of these truths animate Lambda Legal’s position that the government may not constitutionally criminalize consensual adult sex solely because it is bought and sold.

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The raid of Backpage.com’s Dallas office and the arrest of its CEO is an election-year stunt, not a good-faith action by law enforcement.
–  Liz McDougall

For the past five years, pompous politicians have repeatedly attempted to bully and threaten Backpage into removing its designated escort ad section in the same way they terrorized Craigslist into doing it, and like all bullies they’ve grown increasingly crimson-faced and apoplectic as the Backpage has not only ignored their toothless threats, but beaten them at every turn in court.  The reason this has happened is that career politicians are narcissistic sociopaths who can’t grasp when they’re in the wrong and are no more capable of rethinking their tactics than a tribe of rather slow-witted gibbons might be; because Craigslist backed down after a bit of posturing and saber-rattling, naturally the politicians assumed the same schoolyard tactics would work on Backpage.  Unfortunately for them,

Craig Newmark is a shy, timid fellow who may have Asperger’s Syndrome and was unable to cope with tyrannical demands and false accusations from people who relish upsetting others.  So he simply shut down his “adult services” section, thus granting the witch hunters their empty symbolic victory and allowing the whores who advertise on Craigslist to return to the personals and therapeutic services sections where they posted their ads before the government demanded the creation of an “adult services” section in the first place…[however] Village Voice Media is not run by gentle, socially-awkward souls who shrink from confrontation, and its owners have no intention of running from this fight; some commentators have observed that they actually seem to relish it, and why shouldn’t they?  The attorneys general don’t have a legal leg to stand on, and they know it; they’re just trying to blow down paper targets with hot air…

Time after time after time after time after time, judges have slapped down attempts to hold Backpage liable for the content of its ads, and for good reason: if publishers (whether traditional or electronic) were responsible for third-party content, nobody would dare risk hosting such content (from newspaper ads to WordPress blogs) for fear of being sued out of existence.  But neither common sense nor the common good ever stopped a politician, so last week Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California (who is running for US Senate) conspired with the attorney general of Texas to commit the blatant crime of falsely arresting Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer.  Though the headline writer is a slackjawed moron who uses the phrase “sex trafficking” to mean “sex work”, the author of this article agrees with my analysis:

It takes a lot to turn a publisher of sex ads into a First Amendment hero.  But the attorney general of California has managed the feat.  By charging Carl Ferrer…with pimping and sex trafficking in minors, Kamala Harris has seriously breached the constitutional wall meant to protect the free press.  Ferrer — and the two controlling shareholders of the online classified marketplace Backpage — aren’t charged with actually arranging sex for pay.  They’ve been criminally charged based on a claim that Backpage is designed to, and does, publish third-party ads for sex trafficking.  On this theory, essentially any publication that sells ads could be outlawed — and that’s almost any publication on earth…

Harris has knowingly and with malice aforethought arrested a publisher for publishing; that makes her guilty of several federal crimes I can think of, and I’m sure a creative prosecutor could come up with a lot more.  Not that she’s ever likely to be charged; witch-hunters rarely are, certainly not during the witch hysteria and not generally after it’s over either.  The reason is evident from that asinine headline and from the subtext of this article in the generally anti-whore publication hypocritically named Vice; though it quotes several sex worker rights activists, it gives just as much space to prohibitionist propaganda and is laced through with garbage like this:

Backpage notorious among law enforcement…the risk of physical violence or rape among sex workers who advertise…online is…still ever present…Backpage has become synonymous with sex trafficking…E.S. who said she was a forced into prostitution on the site when she was 13…The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has also said there has been a more than 800 percent increase over the last five years in reports of suspected child sex trafficking, with much of it happening online…Backpage made it easy to earn cash fast, which isn’t necessarily a good thing: If it wasn’t for the website, [one incarcerated sex worker] says, she might not have fallen into sex work in the first place…

With that kind of attitude so common among the people who are supposed to be questioning government pronouncements, is it any wonder Harris felt emboldened to her blatantly banana-republic actions?  Which, by the by, have now extended to Backpage’s owners:

All three top executives of Backpage.com are being held without bond in a jail in Sacramento, California, on sex-crime charges.  Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, listed as owners of the website through a Dutch corporation, were booked late Monday…Liz McDougall, a First Amendment attorney who represents Backpage…[explained that] the charges were…”flatly illegal.  They ignore the holdings of numerous federal courts that the First Amendment protects the ads on Backpage.com.  The actions…also violate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act preempting state actions such as this one and immunizing web hosts of third-party created content”…

All three men were granted bail yesterday afternoon after a secret hearing in which a judge slapped down the state’s argument that all of their money is contaminated by sex rays so they couldn’t use it to post bond.  Lacey & Larkin are going to fight this evil lunacy, and they’re no strangers to being arrested on bullshit charges by megalomaniacal politicians; Loony Joe Arpaio tried that in 2007, and when the dust settled Lacey & Larkin were awarded $3.75 million because of it.  So here’s hoping that history repeats itself, and that this time the award is at least 10 times as high and is accompanied by criminal charges against their persecutors.

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Sex workers are getting paid for what we do – you ain’t.  –  Miranda Kane


The older I get, the more deeply weird (and frankly, kind of disgusting) the idea of giving strangers sex for free seems to me.  So I’m fascinated by the looking-glass prohibitionist notion that being paid for sex is somehow degrading, especially when I read stuff like this about what amateur dating (which I’ve never really engaged in per se) is like:

…It is not, in fact, sex-work that puts me off men.  It’s dating them.  When I was a sex worker, when a client came to see me, he knew I was a luxury item.  My Dos and Do Nots were clear from the start, and if he asked me to do something I didn’t want to, I said no and that’s as far as it went…sex workers see the best part of men – they’re polite, friendly…On a date I’m just one click away from rejection…The sex workers of Twitter created the hashtag of #banfreebies, an ironic take on what people expect of us as obviously being so “oppressed and exploited”.  Remember that, won’t you, the next time he rolls over and starts snoring and you have to bring out the Rampant Rabbit…

And since I’m bisexual, I feel it needs to be noted that women aren’t really much better.

Check Your Premises

It’s pretty bad when they can’t even maintain their own paradigm for more than a sentence:

Nine people were arrested in Suisun City [California] in a human trafficking operation…Detectives posed online as would-be ‘johns’ to contact prostitutes [that they pretended to believe to be] underage…Once the…sex workers arrived, they were [arrested] and [cops tried to pressure them into claiming to be]…victims of sex trafficking…Seven women…between the ages of 18 and 28 were arrested…

Uncommon Sense natalie-hot

Is there any other kind of work that is so consistently treated as a subject for abstract “debate” by outsiders?

German porn star Natalie Hot will appear in court…to defend her right to work as a “webcam girl”…from her detached house in Ampfing, Bavaria.  The town is home to 6,000 residents, several of whom have lodged legal complaints over their neighbour’s chosen profession.  Hot is challenging a decision by local authorities that prevented her from undressing on camera, threatening a penalty of €2,000 if she doesn’t adhere to the ban.  Their reasoning is that her house is in a specific land-use area, which does not allow for commercial use…A judge will now rule whether the room Hot uses for her work could be considered a “home office”, a label which would allow her to continue her work…

Finding What Isn’t There

You know how freshwater crabs wave their claws around and foam at the mouth when one throws them in salt water to purge them?  Picture that:

There are no statistics to back up her claims, but the country’s Chief Immigration Officer Annette Mark believes the sex trafficking problem in Antigua & Barbuda is more prevalent than perceived…Mark [fantasizes that] nightclubs and strip clubs…are to be blamed for the [nonexistent epidemic]…She said…“what is unfortunate is that the women who come seem to be willing participants, so it’s difficult to [force them to pretend] that they are victims of trafficking”.  According to Mark, while women [use sex work]…as a means of income, it is part of a slave trade…

Pyrrhic Victory

Not a police state, no sirree:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an ambitious plan to [equip]…10 bridges and tunnels leading into the city…with facial recognition and license plate reading technology, giving police a comprehensive record of every car making the crossing…

I Saw My Brain

More terrifying insanity from the pocket police-state that is Polk County, Florida:

If you happen to be heading over to Polk County Florida, be sure to check to see if you have anything on or about your person that may have someone’s business name on it…That’s what Tim Troller found out when an ever vigilant deputy saw a Sunshine State Dairy Farms milk crate strapped to his BMX bike.  Polk County takes broken windows policing to the extreme, a milk crate strapped to your bike is a major indicator that you are a career criminal, or as the Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokes-prevaricator Debbie Horstman put it, undoubtedly with a straight face… “Deputies are…looking for people who are doing even the smallest crime, because, what we’ve learned is, those who will go out and steal a milk crate, for example, are the same people who are probably breaking into cars, breaking into your house”…

Frequently Told Lies

Caty Simon on the “sex work leads to drug use” myth:

You’ve heard the story:  A troubled woman prostitutes herself.  To numb the pain of belonging to this sordid underground world, she begins to use drugs…and her life continues to spiral out of control…“Multiple studies repeatedly and consistently … refute this narrative,” [says] Melbourne-based sex worker Fae Adams…In a study conducted in Sydney in the 1990s, for example, a sample group of 120 sex workers were found to be lighter drinkers than a sample group of women health care workers.  They were only 15 percent less likely to abstain from illegal drugs than the control groups of students and health workers.  And a 2002 British study correlated “problematic” drug use among sex workers with teenage drug use pre-dating entry into the industry, as well as homelessness and convictions…Yet the trope about using drugs to make sex work tolerable persists—and many drug-using sex workers find it infuriating because of how it reduces and flattens their lives and strips them of their choices…

Feminine Pragmatism (#553) 

Stupid assumptions about sex work often result in incredibly stupid concepts like the idea that working independently is somehow noteworthy, or that making a law against one aspect of the work is the same as criminalization:

Italy has yet to exit from…the worst [recession] in its postwar history — and the protracted crisis has seen the number of Italian sex workers surge more than 26 percent from 2007 to 2015…The extended downturn also has fueled a proliferation of “good” women generating badly needed income by engaging in prostitution on the side as “house practitioners”…35 percent of the 20,000 prostitutes in Italy, or some 7,000 women, are house practitioners…Michel Venturelli, a criminologist who has researched the issue…[says] “It’s do-it-yourself domestic sex work”…The Italian parliament banned prostitution in 1958, shuttering brothels.  Since then it’s been chaotic in the sex-for-sale industry…

No, the parliament didn’t “ban prostitution”, as the article itself mentions later; it banned brothels, but even while those were legal many if not most sex workers worked outside of them.  The only “chaos” is in the minds of cops, prohibitionists and reporters who listen to them.

Traffic Jam (#619)

Remember what happened the last time Minnesota “authorities” claimed they had busted a “sex trafficking gang”?

About a dozen people were arrested in cities across the U.S…for running what authorities [pretend is] a sophisticated sex trafficking operation in which hundreds of women were brought from Thailand to America under fraudulent visas and forced to work as prostitutes to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in bondage debts.  The women – including one who was forced to have sex with strangers for 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week- were not allowed to move about freely and were “effectively modern day sex slaves”…The arrests, along with the recent arrest of the organization’s boss in Belgium, will effectively dismantle the operation, said Alex Khu, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Minneapolis…

You may also recall that “sophisticated operations” is the excuse pigs use to rape sex workers.  And if you haven’t yet read Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s analysis of very similar claims made against Seattle-area Korean sex workers and clients, now would be the time.  See more of Liz’s work below.

To Molest and Rape 

The ever-vigilant Liz Brown looks at several cases of rape & sexual abuse by cops, several of which I haven’t yet covered:

…Allen Large…of the Horry County [South Carolina] Sheriff’s Office…was recently indicted by a grand jury on five counts of…[raping] multiple victims…Large…is also the subject of multiple civil lawsuits accusing him of activity such as sexual assaulting a woman who came to him to report a sexual assault, sexual harassment, and threatening to interfere with a woman’s child-visitation rights if she wouldn’t participate in nude “catfight” videos…Horry County [cop] Luke Green was indicted for [raping a sex worker]…during a prostitution arrest and the same with a confidential police informant…On September 21, New Jersey [cop] Ed Leopardi [committed]…suicide…[because he] was under investigation for [anally raping] a sex worker at a Trenton police K-9 training facility…”then allegedly wiped his penis on the headquarters’ curtains”…

The Prudish Giant (#641) 

It’s impossible to express how much this delights me:

On [October 4th]  Facebook introduced Marketplace, a new section on its mobile app that allowed its users to buy and sell things with their friends and strangers.  By the evening, the social giant was apologizing for an issue with the section, which featured some posts that would not have been out of place on the…Silk Road…Illegal drugs.  Dogs.  Guns.  Sexual services.  Baby hedgehogs…Mary Ku, a director for product management…who had cheerfully introduced the Marketplace app in a blog post earlier in the day, issued a statement saying that a technical issue had prevented Facebook’s reviewing system from identifying posts that violated its commerce policies and community standards…

Now They Notice (#666)

Note that we aren’t hearing a peep out of Gay, Inc about this any more:

The chief executive officer of a once-popular male escort website pleaded guilty…to promoting prostitution in a federal case that prompted accusations of anti-gay bias…Under a plea deal, Hurant agreed not to appeal a sentence of two years or less in prison.  His company also cannot appeal a penalty of $10 million or less…

Send In the Clowns

Watching how the clown panic develops is an example of a moral panic in miniature.  For example, note how the skateboard carried by this hoaxer myseteriously transformed itself into an “ax” for a more imaginative witness.   Everybody wants to get into the act; sales of clown masks have soared by 300% from this month last year, and the website Atlas Obscura has produced this interactive map of sightings which they say will be regularly updated.  They’ll need to expand it, though; the hysteria has spread to Canada and also the UK:

A masked man carrying a knife left a group of children aged 11 and 12 “upset and distressed” when he jumped out on their way to [school in]…County Durham…in Suffolk, a boy “younger than a teenager” was chased by “several people dressed as clowns”…Tom Jackson…a first year student at Leeds Beckett University [said]…he was “very scared” when he saw a man dressed as a clown near an underpass…Northumbria Police issued an appeal and warning after a series of incidents in Newcastle involving people dressed as clowns jumping out and scaring schoolchildren.  A 13-year-old boy was arrested…following [the] reports…In Essex, two…schoolgirls were approached by two people dressed as clowns who asked them if they wanted to attend a birthday party…People on social media have also reported clown sightings in Cheshire, North Wales, Dundee, Norwich, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.  A man dressed as a clown “wearing a hockey mask and a blood-stained poncho” was captured on camera in…Greater Manchester…

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I was wondering if it might be to big a jump for Americans to go from fearing sex to seeing it as a normal human activity; might not the Swedish model be a shorter step?  Decriminalization is best of course, but is it to much of a shift from criminalization to make all at once?

false-compromiseProponents of the Swedish model want you to see it as a sort of compromise position; that’s how it was sold in Canada, where the Middle of the Road is practically the national symbol.  But it’s actually nothing of the kind.  First of all, the Swedish model has never been adopted any place where sex work was already criminalized; it always results in the criminalization of behavior that was not previously criminalized.  Even if it were to be adopted in some US jurisdiction, the oft-heard claim that the model “decriminalizes the seller” is a blatant lie.  Because prostitution is a misdemeanor, arrested sex workers are usually charged with whatever the cops and DAs can think of to get a more serious crime, such as “promotion of prostitution” (ie pimping) or even “sex trafficking” if the cops’ victim was working with another whore; these laws are still in place under the Swedish model (described therein as “going after the pimps and traffickers”), and because there is no lesser prostitution charge the impetus for cops to level such serious charges against ordinary sex workers is actually increased.  But there’s another, more insidious and dangerous effect of the model: it establishes the legal precedent that adult women who behave in a way of which the state disapproves are not merely criminal, but incompetent.  As I explained in my essay, “Treating Sex Work as Work”:

[The Swedish model] is solidly rooted in an archaic and sexist view of women as particularly fragile and vulnerable, and…posits that paying for sex is a form of male violence against women.  This is why only the act of payment is de jure prohibited: the woman is legally defined as being unable to give valid consent, just as an adolescent girl is in the crime of statutory rape.  The man is thus defined as morally superior to the woman; he is criminally culpable for his decisions, but she is not…the law has been demonstrated to increase both violence and stigma against sex workers, to make it more difficult for public health workers to contact them, to subject them to increased police harassment and surveillance, to shut them out of the country’s much-vaunted social welfare system, and to dramatically decrease the number of clients willing to report suspected exploitation to the police (due to informants’ justified fear of prosecution).  Furthermore, these laws don’t even do what they were supposed to do; neither the incidence of sex work (voluntary or coerced) nor the attitude of the public toward it has changed measurably in any country (Sweden, Norway and Iceland) where they have been enacted…a Norwegian study found that banning the purchase of sex had actually resulted in an increase in coercion)…and…despite the hype, the truth is that even operations framed as “john stings” or “child sex slave rescues” end up with the arrest and conviction of huge numbers of women; for example, 97% of prostitution-related felony convictions in Chicago are of women, and 93% of women arrested in the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” initiatives are consensual adult sex workers rather than the coerced underage ones the program pretends to target…

And we haven’t even touched on things like Norway’s “Operation Homeless” (in which the cops sent letters to sex workers’ landlords, telling them they could be prosecuted as “pimps”, so as to get the women evicted); the forcible collection of “evidence” from the “crime scene” (i.e. sex workers’ vaginas); and the expulsion of student sex workers who refuse to pretend that they’re “victims”.

Tl;dr version of the preceding: “No”.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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