Posts Tagged ‘brothels’

If we believe what we’ve heard, the sight of a female breast, either inadvertent or deliberate, immediately transforms men into raving sexual predators who rush to the nearest restroom and kidnap children.
–  Bob Stephens

The Scarlet Letter

It looks like Vice is slowly ditching the anti-whore bullshit and supporting our rights:

…Montreal sex worker support group Stella…says that…law enforcement’s crackdown on johns forces sex workers into isolation.  An environment where clients are trying to avoid police means sex workers are more likely to meet up with johns in dangerous areas, or get into cars without properly negotiating their terms…Client shaming isn’t a new tactic:  In the US, police have taken to sharing johns’ mugshots on Facebook or with the media…or they…send them letters that would be opened by their loved ones…

Public Service Announcement Jud McMillin

Are politicians actually stupider than other people, or does it just seem that way?

The controversial House Majority Leader in Indiana…resigned suddenly on Tuesday after a sexually compromising video was sent to all of the people on his “Contacts” list…After news of the mass-texting began to circulate, Representative Jud McMillin (R) claimed that his “phone was stolen in Canada and out of my control for about 24 hours. I have just been able to reactivate it under my control. Please disregard any messages you received recently. I am truly sorry for anything offensive you may have received.”  But his…defense apparently didn’t convince many of his “Contacts”…and so Tuesday night he released a statement in which he said that the “time is right for me to pass the torch and spend more time with my family”…McMillin has crusaded to “protect the integrity of the institution of marriage,” but the Advocate reported that the woman on the video he texted was not, in fact, his wife…


Are the sex rays produced by bestiality different from other sex rays?

[A Queensland] woman who was filmed having sex with a dog is appealing her conviction after she lost her blue card to work with children.  The woman…answered a Craigslist ad in 2013 from a man looking for a woman willing to perform sex acts online.  The pair had ­intercourse and she briefly had sex with the man’s dog…She pleaded guilty to bestia­lity…and received two years’ probation…the Queensland Court of Appeal was…told the conviction should not be recorded because it was manifestly excessive…

End Demand

The term for a symbiotic relationship between government and big business is “fascism”.

…[Members of] Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST)…have agreed to block websites where sex is advertised, update personnel policies and make it clear to employees that [their private sex lives are subject to their employers’ control]…King County…[and] the city of Seattle [are]…founding member[s]…With an estimated 27,000 buyers soliciting online sex through 130 different websites in King County every day, it wasn’t hard to deduce that a sizable number were likely on the clock and using work phones and computers to browse ads and connect with women and girls in the sex trade, [prosecutor Val] Richey said.  He said court cases and [interviews with a few prohibitionists]…bolster that supposition.  The BEST Employers Alliance is an extension of the county’s two-year, Buyer Beware program launched a year ago to increase the risk of arrest for men through street-level stings and undercover operations.  “No other jurisdiction in the country has tried this [collusion] with employers to [control private behavior]”…said Richey’s boss, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg…

King of the Hill

Remember, Feinstein thinks that the way to keep people “safe” is to spy on them and destroy their civil liberties:

Senator Dianne Feinstein…applauded the Department of Justice’s $1.5 million grant to the Los Angeles County Sheriff and Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) to create a new task force to investigate and prosecute [sex workers]…California is one of the top four destination states for trafficking victims and they are moved throughout California at an alarming rate…

Where Are the Protests? (#51)

It’s growing!

…“car wash slavery” has become a major problem in the UK and other European countries in recent years.  Romanian gangs have been…trafficking men from their country into other parts of Europe and putting them to “work” in car wash businesses…Gangs can establish themselves on vacant lots which they rent for insignificant amounts of money and set up business with minimal outlay.  If the businesses attract attention from the authorities, they can be shut down with no losses incurred and re-established immediately in other locations at little cost.  Those familiar with the growing phenomenon say…scenarios to trap victims are fabricated by gang members…The victims’ passports are retained by their minders-cum-gang enforcers…

Hollow Claims

No, there aren’t a “growing number” of prohibitionists in Germany; they’re just being given more airtime due to the prevalence of “sex trafficking” hysteria:

…former prostitute Huschke Mau has joined a politician and a social worker to found a new anti-prostitution organization – Sisters e. V. – to help prostitutes out of the sex trade…Hydra Berlin…already offers counseling for prostitutes – including, but not limited to those who want to get out…Sisters [is] a kind of missionary service that “rescues” prostitutes, working from a premise of moral judgment that closes the group to a broad range of sex workers…Sisters…volunteer supporters [are]…women…[who] think prostitution is terrible…”Anyone who wants to do something against prostitution can come to us” [said Mau]…

Little Boxes (#138)

A recent “Free the Nipple” rally in Springfield, Missouri, elicited swift action from the city—but not in the direction activists were hoping for.  Rather, the Springfield City Council voted that women should actually cover up more of their breasts in public than was previously required.  The new indecent exposure law prohibits women from showing too much of the sides and bottom of the breasts—aka “underboob”…The issue was contentious among city officials, passing the city council by just 5-4.  Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens voted against it, condemning proponents’ claim that keeping women’s breasts hidden is necessary so as not to encourage sexual assault…But the new law’s instigator, Councilman Justin Burnett, said it was important for protecting the city’s “family-friendly image” and ensuring “the safety of the most vulnerable among us.”  It is unclear who Burnett thinks is made unsafe by the public presence of underboob…

Under Every Bed 

This is jaw-droppingly stupid even by Washington state standards:

…”I have never seen nothing [sic] worse than I have in Snohomish County,” Charlotte said. “It’s all over…it’s constant”…forensic nurse Paula Newman-Skomski…[is] motivated by her own past of sexual abuse…[and] her daughter was kidnapped…for four hours…she’s specially trained to do things like…advocate for victims of sexual abuse and slavery…”Just being a teenager puts girls at risk for being…coerced into trafficking by pimps…A lot of times you won’t see the girls with their…pimps or controllers”…

Remember, this comes from the home of the infamous crusade against coffee stands.

Policing for Profit 

Anyone who thinks £166,000 ($250,000) a year is some tremendous amount for a small business is an ignoramus:

Mark Cass…registered his business…with the local authority and employed six staff who…[used] time sheets in order to keep track of their busy schedules…Cass netted an average of £166,000 a year and…[employed] his brother as a…manager…police are trying to [steal his] assets…[including] his £47,000 home…a BMW car worth £4,000…[and] £87,499 [in other assets.  The cops want Cass] rendered homeless…[carless] and unable to work…The prosecution [admitted] that [his employees] were not under duress, not corrupted and not imprisoned…Exotic Thai was [such] a popular place to work [that] Cass got calls from Thai girls in London asking for jobs…

In other words, he was a rather ordinary businessman running a rather ordinary business, but the cops want to steal his moderate middle-class assets because sex.

Catastrophic Consequences

Glasgow is the center of official anti-whore sentiment in Scotland:

Glasgow is to be named a White Ribbon City in recognition of the work it does to tackle violence against women…[including] the End Prostitution Now campaign, Sixteen Days of Action, the Routes Out of Prostitution project, the Trafficking Alliance Raising Awareness (TARA) project and ASSIST, the support project linked to Glasgow’s domestic abuse court…

Catastrophic Consequences (#430)

This sleazy tactic has spread from Canada to Scotland to England:

A pioneering new tactic could be launched in Cambridge to rescue sex slaves from city brothels…police are considering visiting brothels…to talk to sex workers to discover if they are consenting or have been trafficked and exploited by brothel keepers.  Police hope to both rescue the women from modern-day slavery as well as gain information about gangs operating in the city’s sex trade.  Detective Chief Inspector Lorraine Parker…said…”We would make regular visits to make sure a sex worker is not being forced and exploited and offer them support as well as refer them to agencies that can help”…

Because unannounced intimidation visits from cops are just so helpful to sex workers.

New Excuse (#568)

Have I told y’all yet today that I love Liz Brown?  This was Reason‘s cover story this month:

…Lawmakers touted harsher penalties for drug offenses. The war on drugs raged. New task forces were created. Civilians were trained how to “spot” drug traffickers in the wild, and students instructed how to rat out drug-using parents. Politicians spoke of a drug “epidemic” overtaking America, its urgency obviously grounds for anything we could throw its way.  We know now how that all worked out.  The tactics employed to “get tough” on drugs ended up entangling millions in the criminal justice system, sanctioning increasingly intrusive and violent policing practices, worsening tensions between law enforcement and marginalized communities, and degrading the constitutional rights of all Americans. Yet even as the drug war’s failures and costs become more apparent, the Land of the Free is enthusiastically repeating the same mistakes when it comes to sex trafficking. This new “epidemic” inspires the same panicked rhetoric and punitive policies the war on drugs did—often for activity that’s every bit as victimless…

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Raising the minimum age perpetuates the notion that sex workers are naive individuals with little to no agency or understanding of their own situation.  –  Laura Marks

Lack of Evidence

A fine example of barking up the wrong tree:

During a recent trip to Miami, San Francisco residents Heather Cox and Gigi Otálvaro-Hormillosa visited Dean’s Gold strip club in North Miami Beach…they were denied entry…[because] they’re women and weren’t “accompanied by a man”…”The message that women must be accompanied by men is totally infantilizing,” says Otálvaro…”it’s a direct statement of exclusion targeted at bisexual women and lesbians”…

Nope and nope. It’s not “infantilizing” and it isn’t “targeted at lesbians”; the Florida policy is an anti-whore measure intended to keep us from “poaching” clients from the clubs.  Don’t like it, lesbians?  Fucking lobby for decriminalization, then, because as long as we have no rights yours will continue to be infringed.  And guys, don’t think these laws don’t affect you, too:

…The YouTube video’s original caption to the video…“Bought a burger and pulled over to have a few bites. I suppose that constitutes probable cause?”  Fortunately, the citizen…pulled out his phone and started recording when the Austin cop  approached the vehicle…Rick asked, “Why am I getting pulled out of my car?”  “Because you’re being detained.” answered the unknown Austin PD officer…Rick immediately asked, “Why am I being detained?”  “Let’s see. It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you’re in a parked here by yourself in a high prostitution, high drug area”…

They Still Don’t Get It

This “editorial” cannot have possibly been written by an actual editor, unless this paper hires its editors from the local eighth-grade class.  It is also virtually fact-free and if its nose were any higher up the arse of authority it would suffocate:

…Prostitution has always been a money-making endeavor.  It generates an income for the women and the men who often control them.  But, the profession has become more dangerous because many of the prostitutes are desperate for money to support drug addiction.  That, of course, means crimes related to prostitution have increased dramatically…Most of the women are not street-walkers, but advertise themselves on a website called The Back Page…police respond to ads to snare women, and place fake ads on the site to entice the male customers…Fewer women are now advertising on the site, but the demand from male customers was still too high…prostitutes were more numerous 40 years ago and they frequented the heart of the downtown.  Development in the center city that has attracted families chased the prostitutes away.  We appreciate the police for continuing to work on the prostitution problem and…the developers who continue to make the downtown a better place…

End Demand

Ever wonder what kind of sick propaganda men are subjected to in “john school” for the “crime” of sexual desire?

Imagine your mother or the person you think of like a mother.  Now picture her on the street, offering sexual services for $10 at least a half-dozen times a day…The goal of the day was to outline not only the “what ifs,” such as being assaulted and robbed, but to impart that many prostituting are forced there by circumstances, whether that’s another person, addiction, or mental illness…the men also hear about possible health impacts, from HIV to pubic lice, sexual addiction, and the impacts of prostitution on communities…


All anti-sex laws are repeatedly supported by courts until the day they aren’t:

A…judge has refused to find the laws that outlaw prostitution in Ohio unconstitutional in the case against two women who were operating a massage parlor…“Ohio prostitution statue compromises the protected right to sexual privacy by denying consenting adults the right to make decisions about sexuality in the commercial market place,” [defense attorney] Blake Somers wrote in his motion. “Such an instruction is not justified or mitigated by societal moral concerns…making the sale of sex illegal violates the right of sexual privacy derived from the due process clause and the defendant herein seeks nothing more that to invoke the principals of liberty that already exists”…

Still a Child 

Twenty-five years ago, Jim Kelly argued before the New Orleans City Council that women ages 18 to 20 shouldn’t be allowed to work as exotic dancers…The proposed ordinance was approved…but after a recent murder case involving 19-year-old dancer Jasilas Wright, Kelly realized it was not being enforced.  In July, he returned to City Hall to put teeth into the existing ordinance…Local dancers say the ordinance shouldn’t exist at all…”Don’t tell women they can’t work a f—king job when they’re adults,” says Lilith, a 27-year-old dancer at Babe’s Cabaret who started when she was 20. “To assume we’re all victims and have no other options or are forced to be there is simply disrespectful.”  Kelly says he is trying to protect young women…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes Zoo Weekly

Bauer Media announced that Zoo Weekly would be closing “due to tough retail conditions”.  It has been declared that its October edition will be its last…it is a victory that Collective Shout, Australia’s most vocal anti-porn campaigners, is claiming as its own.  In August…Zoo Weekly was removed from Coles’ shelves after a “successful online campaign” was waged by Collective Shout…history has shown that Collective Shout’s real problem lies with the idea of women displaying their bodies in men’s magazines…The women who appear in these magazines, often dressed in string bikinis, have done so consensually and have been paid for their work…there have been no instances where Zoo Weekly has placed a woman on their cover without that woman’s approval…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (#419)

Americans disapprove of teaching kids about sex, but they’re all for filling their heads with stupid anti-sex propaganda:

…North Carolina Senate Bill 279 would amend state sex-education standards to require all schools teach age-appropriate info on “the threats” of sex trafficking…The bill also says school administrators must collaborate with law enforcement agents when developing or presenting this material…Training cops on sex trafficking issues is often a collaborative effort by religious nonprofits and the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) who preach the new gospel of prostitution: that almost all women…were…forced into it and should be treated as victims; that the Internet fuels a thriving child sex-slavery trade; that “ending demand” for adult prostitution by targeting johns and using other tough-on-prostitution measures are necessary to stop children from being sold into sexual slavery; and that there’s a rampant and escalating problem with sex trafficking in the United States.  But there is no solid evidence that any of these things are true.  A DOJ-orchestrated, law-enforcement-centered sex trafficking “awareness” program for public school kids seems likely to spew the kind of fact-lite, panic-heavy propaganda that fueled school anti-drug programs like DARE…

The Course of a Disease (#423)

The Israeli journalist who wrote this article on brothels in Tel Aviv presents a much more nuanced view of sex work than one would see in the American media:

…Reports on prostitution tend to focus on exceptional cases, such as…an underage sex ring…[or] human trafficking, a phenomenon of the 1990s…They concentrate on…“notorious drug and prostitution den[s]”…[such as] the Hasan Arfa area…a warren of tin shacks and garages supposedly overrun by drug users and sex workers…[prohibitionist]  Rebecca Hughes…writes, “Most women do not choose to be prostitutes.”  The actual face of prostitution is more nuanced.  There are hundreds of brothels in Tel Aviv. Many of them operate openly, advertising their services on the street with business-sized cards scattered on sidewalks throughout the city by young men…

Innocence Never Had (#428)

Yet another attempt to cast young people as passive vegetables without agency:

On Tuesday night Sean ’Diddy’ Combs tweeted a petition asking the Associated Press to stop using the phrases “child prostitute” and “child prostitution” in their style guides and news stories.  “They are victims [and] survivors of rape,” he wrote, sharing a link to the Change.org campaign…Because the terms deal with the issue of people who are too young to consent to sex, let alone sex work, the group argues that saying “child prostitute” or “child sex worker” is both insensitive and factually inaccurate.  Instead, the group suggests that outlets refer to these children as “victims and survivors of child rape”…

No.  The number of underage sex workers who are “children” in any meaningful sense is virtually nil; the vast majority are above the age of consent, albeit below 18.  To call them “victims of child rape” is both insulting and factually inaccurate.

Imaginary Crises (#445) 

The people who profit from rape panic just won’t stop creating new bogus “studies” designed to uphold their cherished “1 in 5” myth:

More than 20 percent of female undergraduates at an array of prominent universities said this year that they were victims of sexual assault and misconduct, echoing findings elsewhere…The survey from the Association of American Universities drew responses from 150,000 students at 27 schools…Researchers acknowledged the possibility of an overstated victimization rate because there was evidence that hundreds of thousands of students who ignored the electronic questionnaire were less likely to have suffered an assault…

Here’s another hint: counting everything under “sexual assault and misconduct” as assault is the same as counting everything under “murder and assault” as murder.grumpy Gloria

The Leading Players in the Field, Not (#449)

This Indian critique of anti-whore “feminists” has especially strong words for Gloria Steinem:

…[Steinem’s] opposition to the AI proposal is based upon a rather parochial view of what sex work means to impoverished women, especially in developing countries…Since 2010 I have been engaged in ethnographic research with Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC)…Steinem visited  Sonagachhi in April 2012 on a six-day “learning tour”, under the guidance of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-[sex work] organisation…She called this tour a “life changing experience” because she met several women who were…victims of unspeakable abuse.  However…In the last five years I have only met a handful of women in Sonagachhi who were trafficked.  In the initial phase of this research I gathered stories of how the women arrived in Sonagachhi and a pattern soon emerged consisting of abject poverty, abandonment, hunger, motherhood, familial responsibilities, and finally survival.  Most women told me that they arrived in Sonagachhi through a friend, a relative, or a neighbour who was either working in and/or had contacts in Sonagachhi…The women also do not necessarily see their work as “making a choice” in the classic dyad of forced into, or chose to engage in, prostitution or sex work.  Rather, it is the absence of choice and the structural barriers of poverty that lead them to sex work…

Seizing Power (#567)

Backpage wants a federal appellate court to prohibit Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart from pressing credit card companies to de-fund the site…The company set the appellate process in motion…when it filed…paperwork to appeal U.S. District Court Judge John Tharp, Jr.’s refusal to grant a preliminary injunction against Dart…

Now They Notice

In another example of how the Rentboy raid is being treated differently from the many raids on female escort sites which preceeded it, here’s an interview with a gay Rentboy client; how often have you seen interviews with the clients of female sex workers, despite their far greater numbers?

…I now enjoy my sexuality in a way  in which I don’t think would have happened unless I hired escorts.  It’s specifically because the cash makes it professional.  It’s bad customer service for him to judge me for my interests…I’m not saying he has to put up with everything I want.  In fact, there’s some things that I’ve asked for that he says not to…If he says no, then it’s no…That professionalism and that distance is profoundly helpful.  It takes me to a place where I can just enjoy sexuality.  It’s nice and clean…I see laws against prostitution as intolerant…We know from Romer v. Evans, that mere moral prohibition against something is not sufficient grounds for making a practice illegal.  In Lawrence v. Texas, for the life of me, I cannot see how Kennedy’s reasoning about an ordered liberty about private choices between consenting adults doesn’t cover prostitution.  He has that weird declaration at the end of his opinion that this case has nothing to do with prostitution.  It comes out of nowhere, he just stuck it in there to cover his ass…It strikes me as profoundly cruel for people who have more barriers to an enjoyable sex life, to just criminalize a method that works for both parties…

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The forms of “rescue” and “victim rehabilitation” promoted by…NGOs often contradict their benevolent positions, because the labour requirements of such minimum wage work perpetuate the…restriction and coercion that they associate…with sex work.  –  Elena Shih

Think of the Children! 

The City of West Linn [Oregon] has ordered a local man to stop operating a bondage and discipline-sadomasochism room out of his home…Mead Hall Dungeon is advertised as a private play space available for rental.  David Levine said he hosts parties at the space twice a month…after a neighbor complained about several cars parking along West A Street…police determined no criminal activity was taking place, but the city then issued a cease and desist letter when they learned Levine did not have a business permit…The dungeon is in a soundproofed, converted garage that sits off a long driveway…[a pearl-clutching busybody] said she was shocked when she found out about Mead Hall, especially because it’s located a few blocks down from West Linn High School.  “I just find it just totally inappropriate…in a neighborhood”…

For Their Own Safety

Prostitutes in Italy will now be forced to replace their miniskirts and revealing tops for a reflective jacket and trousers worn by road workers…sex workers gathering on a main road into Milan…face a 500 euro fine if they refuse to wear the unappealing high-visibility attire.  Authorities…[pretend] the prostitutes caused a road-safety problem…and should be treated as construction workers…

A Moral Cancer

The crypto-moralists have been relatively quiet for a while:

People with a family history of cancer should seriously consider stopping drinking alcohol altogether experts have warned…The study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) concludes that drinking just a small amounts of alcohol increases the risk of cancer in women and men who smoke…After allowing for other risk factors…they found that light to moderate drinking – less than two drinks a day for women, and three to four drinks daily for men – is linked to…a 13 percent increased risk of cancer regardless…no association was found in men who had never smoked…

13%!  Why, that’s a virtual CERTAINTY!!!!!!

Against Their Will

In India, the…[law] equates prostitution with commercial sexual exploitation.  [Arrested adult] women…ostensibly…victims, are then placed in institutions from which they are forbidden to leave until released by a court.  The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act (ITPA) of 1956 prescribes state…custody for them until the suitability of their families or guardians to “take charge of them” is verified…activists have long questioned the constitutionality of this provision vis-a-vis the fundamental rights to life and liberty…After verification, courts can either order their release to a suitable guardian’s custody, or commit them to be detained in the protective home for one to three years for “care and protection”.  To appeal against detention orders, women must approach an appellate court, for which they seldom have the resources…Rainbow Love

Size Matters

The Seattle prosecutor claims that whores “have nothing to fear from us”:

Rainbow Love…dodged jail time in 2010 when she was caught running “temples” in Seattle and the suburbs.  Now, though, the Marysville woman could see prison as King County prosecutors accuse her of operating a string of brothels out of apartments in and around Seattle…Love is alleged to have admitted…to taking thousands of dollars in prostitution earnings from women she managed…Love has now been charged with three counts of second-degree promoting prostitution related to a sting operation conducted in May 2014…Last prosecuted five years ago, Love had been caught in mid-2008 running a chain of “goddess temples” deemed to be brothels by investigators…Prosecutors claim Love was again operating brothels presented as religious spaces…

I’ve never met Rainbow, but some of my friends have (some have even worked for her). The idea that she’s some sort of criminal, and that her beliefs are insincere, is evil coppery of the highest magnitude; note the dysphemistic phraseology here such as “taking thousands of dollars” (in other words, receiving thousands in fees like any agent would).  This is the “new and improved” regime of sex work policing we aren’t supposed to fear.


The only “training” women receive at Prey Speu is in how to be beaten, robbed, gang-raped and starved:

Authorities in the capital’s Daun Penh district rounded up dozens of sex workers…before sending them..for “re-education” at the notorious Prey Speu detention centre…43 sex workers and 10 homeless people were arrested…as part of ongoing efforts to rid Phnom Penh of its so-called “undesirables”…Since it opened in 2004, Prey Speu has been plagued with allegations of abuse.  Staff and former detainees have [reported] that it is ill-equipped to offer any of the advertised training…

The Public Eye

This story on Seattle sex workers’ reactions to the pompous posturing of prohibitionist politicians quotes three friends of mine:  Maggie McMuffin, Vignette Velo & Savannah Sly; the show mentioned in the text was this one, and in the recording you can hear a tiny bit of my attempt at emceeing at the very end.  Unfortunately, the ignoramuses get to vomit out their lies and agency-negating myths in the story, too.

Skin To Skin

Deliciously Disabled held its first official event…at Toronto’s Oasis Aqualounge…it was not an “orgy” like so many media outlets had purported it to be…the event was there to allow people with disabilities of all forms to interact with each other in a space where they felt both comfortable enough to express themselves and safe enough to retract and just watch the show….[it] was designed to be fully accessible, with gadgets like hydraulic lifts and harnesses being set up to allow participants to explore each other sexually and, if they want to, even get some good ol’ banging going on.  There was also booze—lots of booze—along with various forms of entertainment, from DJs to burlesque dancers, all for the reasonable price of $20…

Little Boxes (#138)

It amazes me how worked up some people can get about tits:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is promising to take action against women who pose nearly naked for photos in Times Square in exchange for cash.  The practice seems to be on the rise…many…wear only body paint and a thong.  They charge a few dollars to pose for photos with tourists.  Police say they can do little to stop it, and some local politicians and newspaper editorials are calling for a ban of the practice.  De Blasio says…he believes the practice is “wrong”…

Tamara Dominguez
Ever notice that consensual transactions prudes want to ban are always claimed to be “on the rise”?


Gee, I can’t imagine why they think this was done hatefully: “Kansas City police say they still cannot say if the murder of a transgender woman was a hate crime.  Tamara Dominguez, 36, was hit by a truck early Saturday morning, then driven over by that truck again and again…

Business As Usual

What makes this newsworthy is that the cases were actually thrown out:

Three prostitution cases have been thrown out this month by…judges and the Minneapolis city attorney, who said Minneapolis undercover police investigators went too far.  The officers’ [rape of sex workers] also drew a sharp denunciation from the county’s chief public defender, Mary Moriarty…two of the cases were dismissed…in rulings that found the officers’ actions constituted “outrageous government conduct”…Minneapolis police said the department has discontinued such undercover investigations pending a full review of its policies…[but] none of the three officers involved in the cases is [being charged]…

Unfortunately, Moriarty then rudely follows up her denunciation of the cops by vomiting prohibitionist filth all over the reporter.

Schadenfreude (#434) 

anti-trafficking NGOs have created a cottage industry of “victim repair” through vocational training…Numerous faith-based and secular NGOs…focus on selling wares made by the women they employ…Jewellery, tote bags, blankets, and placemats are among the many products sold online and at anti-trafficking conferences and fairs..for most of the women [their wages] represents only one-third to one-fifth of their previous monthly earnings as sex workers…NGOs rely heavily on moral rehabilitation to “repair the victim”.  The NGO employing [one Chinese intervewee] requires workers to contractually agree to neither sell sex nor patronise their former entertainment establishments in the future.  They are also required to live in mandatory shelter housing, have a nightly curfew, and are forbidden from receiving male visitors during the weekdays.  There is also optional daily Bible study, but if they choose not to attend, they must work through the hour making jewelry…

Worse Than I Thought (#532)

Under the new Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA)…anyone who solicits or engages in prostitution with a person under age 18 is subject to federal sex-trafficking charges…So why wasn’t former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle booked on federal sex trafficking charges?  In addition to Fogle’s alleged child-porn collection, he is accused of traveling to New York City on two occassions to pay for sex with 16- and 17-year-old girls.  Whether these girls were forced into the sexual activity is irrelevant as far as federal law is concerned; the JVTA makes very clear that anyone paying for sex with a teen is…guilty of the crime of human trafficking…But the feds didn’t even attempt to book Fogle on sex trafficking charges, instead charging him with “traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor”…not even the media have been throwing around the words “sex trafficking” in conjunction to Jared, though they seldom miss an opportunity to work the phrase into coverage of consensual sex work of any kind…

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My not existing is more important to [prohibitionists] than my safety.
–  Tara Burns

Rough Trade 

Tara Burns offers a personal account of how criminalization harms sex workers:

…the FBI brought Operation Cross Country to Alaska…arresting 10 customers near Anchorage…Out in my cabin…I didn’t hear about the sting…until I got to town to work and learned that two of my regular customers had been arrested…Fear of the FBI had spread…and…I had only one client scheduled. I…had an inquiry from a new client…he was a clusterfuck of red flags.  But I felt desperate, so I told him to come on over…I didn’t blame this guy for taking advantage of the opportunity offered to him by a legal system that condones my rape.  I blamed the system that told him women like me could be raped with impunity.  I blamed the system that scared away good clients and left me with this…

Safe Targets

The reporter blames the advertising venue, and the cops blame the victims.  God forbid anybody blame either the rapists or the prohibitionist laws that made their victims vulnerable:

Fernando Sandel…Isaiah Rivera…and Joey Cruz…were detained [for the rape and robbery of three sex workers]…the women were…sprayed in the face with Mace or another debilitating substance, or placed in a precarious position — before being raped and subsequently robbed of cash or other valuables…representatives for Backpage.com could not be reached…a spokesman for the Police Department said, “You run the risk of meeting anybody when you engage in that kind of activity.”

If the women had been maids who advertised in the Yellow Pages, would the Times have tried to contact the phone company for comment, and would the cop mouthpiece have helpfully vomited out “You run the risk of meeting anybody when you engage in that kind of activity”?

Godwin’s Law

I resisted this at first because, well, Godwin’s Law!  But when everyone started to praise it I succumbed, and found it extremely funny and well-done.

A Procrustean Bed

What actually happened here is anybody’s guess; prosecutors had a narrative to uphold, and used threats and promises to get everyone involved to pretend it’s true:

Ricky T. Wallace…of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was sentenced…to 12 years in federal prison for trafficking a 17-year-old[woman]…for the purposes of commercial sexual activity…he also brought a 20-year-old woman from the Boston area to Rhode Island where she was directed to pose in photographs that were posted on Backpage.com and then offered for commercial sexual activity…Two co-defendants in this matter, Kemont Bowie…and Raechyl Spooner…are scheduled to be sentenced in September…

The women are treated as though they were volitionless dolls, picked up and passively “trafficked” in the trunk of a car.

Pyrrhic Victory

Older readers will remember that when we were kids, one of the reasons communism was bad was that communist countries didn’t allow their people to travel freely:

Canadians who travel to regions of the world that are hotbeds of Islamic terrorism could be prosecuted under legislation that would be enacted under a re-elected Conservative government…The…government has already made it a crime to leave Canada with the aim of taking part in terrorist activities.  This new measure would go further, criminalizing the act of travel to specific countries.  “There is absolutely no right in this country to travel to an area under the governance of [people we label as] terrorists.  That is not a human right,” [Stephen Harper] told supporters…

Traffic Jam 

Huffington Post asked a prohibitionist, a legalization proponent and my friend Mistress Matisse about “sex trafficking”; here’s what Matisse had to say:

…There [is] not…a hugely widespread problem in the US of people being forced to have sex for money…The terrifying numbers and statistics quoted by anti-traffickers have been debunked over and over.  “Sex trafficking” is the boogeyman of our day, just as ritual Satanic child abuse was in the 80’s and 90’s.  So saying “I’m an anti-sex trafficker” simply means “I’m anti-sexwork.”  Nonetheless, the myth of “sex trafficking” is a very useful idea…the Rescue Industry…get lots of money from government grants and private donations.  The myth of widespread, organized sex trafficking also dovetails neatly with America’s love affair with mass incarceration…So police, politicians, and Rescue Industry NGO’s work hard to conflate sex work with “sex trafficking”, because it suits their purposes…

The Widening Gyre 

Lock up your children!  Sex traffickers are EVERYWHERE!!!

Pedophilia in the U.S. is “unprecedented” and has reached an almost “epidemic level,” according to…FBI…[bureaucrat] Joseph Campbell.  Although the FBI rescued 600 children* last year, the FBI believes that tens of thousands of children are still being sexually exploited.  Hundreds of children are sold every night for sex, the BBC reported in a [scare story]…”The level of pedophilia is just unprecedented right now,” Campbell said…”it just seems to be almost an at epidemic level”…Women from the East Coast to the Midwest tell “frighteningly similar and horrific stories,” reported the BBC…

As I explained in “Mind-witness Testimony“, the striking similarity of “sex trafficking” accounts is an argument against their veracity, not for it.

*Translation: “arrested a couple of hundred underage sex workers and abducted the children of hundreds of adult sex workers”.

Available Weapon

As long as these laws are on the books, cops can use them against any woman they like:

In March 2012…several [pigs] stormed into a…spa and arrested a woman…[they performed an] invasive strip [on her and stole] thousands of dollars…the woman, Min Liu, was soon charged with prostitution…the woman’s employer…Bin Cheng [is] the wife of J. Robert Port…investigations editor at The Times Union of Albany…Port accused the police of targeting his wife’s business in retaliation for a series of articles…that called into question the tactics and practices of an Albany County sheriff’s drug unit…Ms. Cheng…was not at the spa during the raid, nor was she ever charged with any crime, but the implication [was] that she was involved in nefarious activities…A…judge in Albany last month dismissed the charge…against Ms. Liu, after county prosecutors concluded that the case should be dropped “in the interest of justice”…

Quite Possibly the Most Uptight Nerd Ever (#418)Ohlala

I’ve got news for you, Pia:  we don’t want our market disrupted, and the power is already in our hands; that’s why we can charge.

Last year, Berlin-based entrepreneur Pia Poppenreiter created Peppr, an app that connected clients to sex workers…[but] the booking process didn’t really facilitate “on-demand”…[also] escorts…preferred more control over their profiles.  Poppenreiter killed the service and went back to square one, consulting heavily with the women who work in the industry to find out what might actually work:  “Because I still believe after all that this market needs be disrupted”…Today she launches the new concept, Ohlala, in Berlin first but with an English language rollout soon…A key aspect is this is that the old tradition of women being “picked” by men is turned on its head and puts the power back in the hands of the women… If Ohlala is successful it could remove the middle-men from the escort business entirely…

You mean middlemen like Poppenreiter & Company?  Or some imaginary other kind of middleman?

Eternal Vigilance

Because prohibitionists are determined to cut off sex workers’ noses to spite their own faces:

…Hornsby Shire Council, one of several Sydney councils that has employed undercover investigators to try to close down “illegal” brothels, says the NSW government is better placed to license and regulate such premises…Janelle Fawkes…of the Scarlet Alliance…said decriminalisation had been highly successful in NSW and it was only councils calling for changes.  “This is about some councils shirking responsibility to implement decriminalisation and to do their part of what is a very effective whole-of-government model of regulation…NSW has reaped the benefits of decriminalisation over the last 20 years and there will be widespread outcry by the health sector if it is…replaced on a whim to appease councils who refuse to work within the intent of the laws”…

Yellow Fever (#509) 

Remember “trafficking town”?  Not to be outdone, Al-Jazeera wants us to believe in a whole “sex trafficking” country:

…in…Romania…most teenage girls…as young as 13 — have long quit school, with many disappearing into the realm of sex trafficking…one-third of Romania’s trafficking victims are underage girls…According to ADPARE, a [rescue industry] group…fueling the problem is the region’s emergence as a sex industry destination…Since its 2007 accession to the EU, Romania has become a major sex market in Europe — a development that can be seen…in online advertising of Romanian erotic massage parlors…

Something Rotten in Sweden (#510)

Seattle politicians just keep doubling down:  “Human rights? What are those?”

…Decriminalization supports the very root of sex trafficking…the demand for commercial sex.  By chilling the demand for sex buying, we chill the economic incentives for sex trafficking.  Sex buying [magically] causes harm — we must have no illusions about that.  The vast majority of women in prostitution are physically assaulted by the men who buy them — one study showed 86 percent.  The women are 18 times more likely to be murdered, and their death rate is 200 times higher.  An estimated 90 percent of prostituted people worldwide are pimped.  Proponents of decriminalization suggest that “sex work” is just another form of labor.  In fact, it is exploitation of the worst kind…

Debut at 13, “Our children are at risk”, hundreds of “child sex slaves”, “pimps”, etc; you get the idea.  The most shockingly appalling statement is that “decriminalization [is a]…failed experiment”, which is about as blatant a lie as it’s possible to make.

Repeat Offenders (#535) 

Why is it that prohibitionists who want to “rescue” sex workers invariably push them into menial garment-related work, like laundering or sewing?

…Sex worker support centre St Kilda Gatehouse is ramping up the sewing classes it has run for two years, teaching sex workers to hand stitch, mend and style garments…Andie Patchett said the informal and encouraging environment had been empowering for the women wanting to exit the industry…Ms Patchett said the classes were “a bridge” out of the sex industry…As an incentive to complete the program the women will be given an essential piece of sewing and craft equipment at the end of each week, in the hope they will graduate with a complete sewing kit and machine…

In the 19th century, sewing provided such a meager living that seamstresses nearly always supplemented the work with prostitution; indeed, “seamstress” was often a euphemism for “whore”.  Yet in an age of cheap, mass-produced garments, these fanatics expect women to support themselves by sewing?  Completely delusional.

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They’re parroting back what they’ve been told to say, as actors do, and they got their names in the headlines, as actors like.  –  Mistress Matisse

Just in case you somehow missed it on Tuesday, and in my news column on Wednesday:

Amnesty International has at long last come out in support of absolute decriminalization of sex work, as sex workers ourselves have wanted for decades.  Amnesty has a tremendous amount of clout; this will strongly affect small countries, and even in big countries like the US some politicians may now begin to doubt the wisdom of backing laws that allow the cops to persecute adults for consensual sex.  It will also undermine the prohibitionists’ arguments; they can no longer pretend that their views are common-sense and mainstream…

Here’s a video from Amnesty, answering the propaganda attacks prohibitionists have hurled at the organization in the past few weeks:

Sex workers all over the world were jubilant; tens of thousands of tweets went out in minutes.  I retweeted many of them, texted Mistress Matisse, called Matt to tell him; the news spread like wildfire through the demimonde, and many a cheer and victory dance ensued.  But as you might suspect, there was no joy in the Mudville occupied by prohibitionists; the ones on Twitter who dared to show their faces at all tried to piss on sex workers (without negotiation, consent or payment), only to be chased back to their troll-caves.  The staunchly prohibitionist New York Times huffed,

…The proposal…provoked an aggressive lobbying campaign by international groups opposed to sparing buyers and pimps from penalties.  Competing petitions were organized by women’s groups and celebrities— including former President Jimmy Carter…appealing to the group to…“stay true to its mission”…

It’s rather telling that the prohibitionists, including the senile evangelical Carter, are so blinded by their bigotry that they can’t see that Amnesty is staying true to its mission, which has always opposed criminalization of non-violent consensual behavior.  Of course, the Times couldn’t be bothered to ask any uppity whores for our opinions; rather, it quoted prohibitionists foaming at the mouth about “pimps”:

“It is a myth about the happy prostitute who does this as a free choice.  Unfortunately, I can now hear people saying ‘hurrah’ — all those johns and pimps who run the brothels. It’s a multibillion-euro industry.”

For those who have been asleep for the past few years, prohibitionists pretend that all the millions of sex workers who ask for decriminalization are disguised “pimps and johns”, or else poor victimized drug addict women with “Stockholm syndrome”.  Stockholm, you know, like in Sweden.  The Guardian was even worse:

…Many former sex workers have criticised the decision.  “We feel that Amnesty International are supporting the men who are killing our women and it’s a slap in the face,” said Bridget Perrier, [a disgruntled former sex worker]…Fiona Broadfoot, [a former teen runaway, pretends that]…“The vast majority of women working in this industry are abused on a massive scale…Legalising it will not take away that abuse”…Broadfoot is a strong advocate for the Nordic model…Rachel Moran, [a paid shill for the violent prohibitionist group Ruhama who has never actually done sex work]…called the…decision “breathtakingly disgraceful”…

Yes, they quoted three prohibitionist “survivors” and not one single current sex worker.  But as I’ve pointed out before, The Guardian is in business to make money, and so was happy to also carry this:

…criminalising sex workers contributes to their vulnerability to violence, exploitation, and HIV.  Evidence from New Zealand and New South Wales…reveals that [decriminalization]…led to increased use of sexual health services…encouraged greater condom use and yielded fewer reports of harassment by police.  Conversely research shows that countries that continue to prosecute sex workers have higher HIV rates, increased stigma and discrimination, increased violence and abuse against…sex workers, and limited access to health services and condoms.  At the Elton John Aids Foundation, we continue to support organisations fighting for sex workers’ rights…We stand with Amnesty, and applaud it for its wise and bold approach.

Amnesty International logoThat was written by the Foundation’s head, Scott Campbell, but given the number of songs he’s written about sex workers I suspect it closely mirror’s Sir Elton’s own sentiments.  And because I’m not a prohibitionist, I’m going to close with the words of an actual, current sex worker, my dear friend Mistress Matisse:

…Phrases like “pimping” have a heavy sound—but technically if I call a friend and say, “I have a client who wants to see both of us—come on over,” that’s pimping.  When I was 24 years old I managed a massage parlor…I was not coercing or harming anyone, but I was technically and legally a pimp…There are…bad and abusive husbands and boyfriends but we don’t outlaw marriage.  There are bad abusive bosses in non-sex work jobs…In a decriminalized system a sex worker with an abusive pimp can go to the police and complain.  And in countries where sex work has been decriminalized—Australia and New Zealand—that happens now…There are all sorts of institutions, and all sorts of legal employers, that harm women but there no other jobs that we point to say say, “The women doing that job have to be arrested—and arresting them is rescuing them!”

Fortunately, the world’s most respected human rights organization is not afraid to say that infantilizing sex workers and criminalizing our choices is bullshit; let’s hope some politicians (even in the deeply prohibitionist US) begin to recognize that the wind is shifting, and decide to stand with Amnesty and sex workers as we look toward the future and away from the fear of consensual sex.

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Kristof is the sort of acute observer who, upon witnessing plantation slavery, decides that farming must be abolished.  –  Jacob Sullum

Amnesty At Last

The biggest story of the year so far is that Amnesty International has at long last come out in support of absolute decriminalization of sex work, as sex workers ourselves have wanted for decades.  Amnesty has a tremendous amount of clout; this will strongly affect small countries, and even in big countries like the US some politicians may now begin to doubt the wisdom of backing laws that allow the cops to persecute adults for consensual sex.  It will also undermine the prohibitionists’ arguments; they can no longer pretend that their views are common-sense and mainstream.  To me the most important lines in the document are these:

…the need for states to not only review and repeal laws that make sex workers vulnerable to human rights violations, but also refrain from enacting such laws…the harm reduction principle…Recognizing and respecting the agency of sex workers to articulate their own experiences and define the most appropriate solutions to ensure their own welfare and safety…the evidence from Amnesty International’s and external research on the lived experiences of sex workers, and on the human rights impact of various criminal law and regulatory approaches to sex work…

A Procrustean Bed

Super-ally Elizabeth N Brown again:

A four-part series from Capital News Service (CNS) looks at human trafficking in Maryland…[and] contends that “Maryland has some of the lightest penalties in the nation for human trafficking of adults”…yet a bill to enhance criminal penalties…recently failed to pass…it was a rare moment of legislative sanity on this issue…advocates for the increased penalties claim that sex trafficking of adults is a mere misdemeanor in Maryland…[but they] aren’t really talking about human trafficking.  They’re talking about prostitution.  Which they want felony punishments for…”misdemeanor human trafficking” is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.  And what does this category entail?…driving a sex worker to a job…letting a sex worker work from your…building…taking money from a sex worker for any reason…

Profound Mental Disabilities

A man in Orlando is suing a local dominatrix, accusing her of taking more than $500,000 and his house…Judith Gumbrecht…[offers]…“financial slavery”…[and] former client Alex Abrams…[alleges]  Gumbrecht took more than $500,000 after he added her name to his financial accounts, and took ownership of his 1,450-square-foot townhome…the lawsuit accuses Gumbrecht of exploitation of an elderly person, theft, and unjust enrichment…Abrams’ attorney, Brian Mark, claims Abrams suffers from clinical depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and said this affected his decision when adding Gumbrecht to his bank accounts and signing a deed…to transfer his home to her.  Abrams met Gumbrecht after he divorced his wife of 32 years about four years ago…“She went with him to the doctor when he was diagnosed. She was fully aware,” [said] Mark…”When you’re in that professional relationship with them, you cannot exploit them”…

If Gumbrecht really did know that Abrams was demented, it was both unethical and unwise for her to take this kind of advantage.  However, I must point out that A) if she had married him this deal would be a great deal harder to break; and B) it’s amazing how often a submissive’s supposed mental incapacity is used as the excuse for a legal attack on a dominant.  Also, was Abrams suddenly & miraculously cured of his Alzheimer’s, so that his actions now are assumed to be lucid, while his previous actions are not?

Real Men Support Sex Worker Rights (#4)extra-stupid kristof

I really, really love it when Jacob Sullum tears into Nick Kristof:

Kristof says some…teenagers are exploited by pimps who take out…ads…on Backpage.com…He mentions two examples…[but] wisely does not include the source who claimed to have been advertised on Backpage before it existed…Kristof…is condemning Backpage because some of its customers are criminals.  Would he apply similar logic to the carmakers that produce getaway vehicles, the sporting goods stores that sell baseball bats occasionally used in vicious beatings, and the cellphone companies that help terrorists communicate with each other?  Probably not…it’s clear (as usual) that Kristof’s concern is not underage prostitution or coerced prostitution but prostitution in general…by [his] reasoning, alcohol should be prohibited because of the parallel underground market serving minors, all sexually explicit material should be banned because some of it involves children, and housework for pay should be forbidden because rich Saudis have been known to beat domestic workers and hold them against their will…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

An 87-year-old man is fighting allegations he was soliciting a prostitute when he approached an undercover officer during a police sting [in Grand Rapids Michigan]…police and prosecutors say this is likely the oldest person ever charged with this crime.  Howard Arthur Klein…claimed he thought the woman he spoke to was someone he knew from church.  Nevertheless, Klein faces a maximum of 93 days in…jail if convicted…[though he] has no previous criminal record…he has pleaded not guilty…

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#316)

Lone man on a crusade manages to censor adult content on the internet by circumventing a court order.  Sound familiar?

…[An] Indian lawyer’s formal request for a nationwide ban on access to 857 specific pornographic websites was rejected by the country’s Supreme Court but appears to have been enacted by the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi…Kamlesh Vaswani, a lawyer who failed to persuade the Supreme Court to block online pornography, gave thanks…to [the] Prime Minister…for [ignoring]…the Supreme Court…Vaswani [said]…“pornography…is worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic…It is more catastrophic than nuclear holocaust, and it must be stopped”…

Traffic Circle

It’s becoming possible for mainstream journalists to question central tenets of the “sex trafficking” religion:

…Researchers agree that labor trafficking is the leading form of human trafficking, but sex trafficking is the focus of more federal prosecutions…In 2012, the Department of Justice successfully prosecuted 138 traffickers, with 76 percent of the cases predominantly sex trafficking and 24 percent predominantly labor trafficking…

Checklist (#345)

Now useful idiots don’t even need to dial a phone to snitch!

Anyone with a smartphone can do their part in the fight against human trafficking thanks to…The GPS-based app…called Redlight Traffic.  It’s a free download designed to help police [persecute sex workers]…Greater Seattle is [pretended] to be one of the worst areas in America when it comes to human trafficking.  Police [fantasize] hundreds of children are worked every day in King County…Amin and Jessica Haq…say…their app…has helped rescue 25 children from sex traffickers…

Proof of that last statement? Oh wait, there is none, because you’re lying.

Number Puzzle (#349)brothel ad

Ah, so “flat rate” isn’t actually flat rate; no wonder the girls like it!

In [Germany]…”flat-rate”…brothels…are a familiar sight, there are at least six in Berlin alone…On an average day, six or seven girls will be working, with the numbers rising to nine or ten at weekends.  Some of them may have sex up to 20 times per shift…The women are able to refuse a customer if he is particularly unpleasant or aggressive but it’s rare.  Once in the bedroom, “extras” are negotiated by the women, who keep 100% of any further money that changes hands.  Not much is off limits, with the exception of unprotected sex…the flat-rate model works from a financial perspective because men over-estimate how many times they can have sex…From the women’s perspective, he says the guaranteed daily pay is the main lure.  Of the entrance fee, 49 euros goes to the club and 50 euros to the women…

An Example to the West (#412) 

Imagine the NOW going to bat for sex workers like this:

The National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW) and women’s rights organisations in India have expressed outrage over…Swati Maliwal calling sex work…akin to “rape” and calling for its “eradication”.  “We call on her to immediately withdraw her statement and tender an unconditional apology to the all women in sex work,”…[said] Meena Saraswathi Seshu…At a national consultation on Human Trafficking…Maliwal equated prostitution with rape and said, “It is a ‘blot’ on society which needs to be eradicated with [more violence from] the state”…

License to Rape (#502)

Charnesia Corley was…detained by [Houston] police for allegedly running a stop sign…the deputy…asked her to step out of the vehicle after “smelling what he believed to be marijuana.”  However, during a search of Corley’s vehicle, without her consent, no illegal plants were found…a…female deputy…then stripped [Corley] down in public and forcefully penetrated [her]…“I bend over and she proceeds to try to force her hand inside of me.  I tell her, ‘Ma’am, No. You cannot do this’,” Corley explained.  Corley maintains that at no time did she ever consent to be raped by deputies…

Dutch Threat (#504)

“Politicians lie” = “the sky is blue”.

Warner ten Kate, the public prosecutor [for] human trafficking in Holland…claimed there was…research that showed that 70% of the prostitutes were forced in Holland…during [a radio] interview…Kate was specifically asked about the 70% and…claimed [it came] from…research done by…Erasmus University…[but the] University never did any such research…the Sneep case [cited by Kate] also doesn’t say 70% is forced, but claims it’s 50 to 85%…Warner [says he wants]…to “stop talking about numbers”…[but] this whole debate started because he…and the police keep mentioning numbers which are pure bullshit

Acting and Activism (#559)

A group of 20 academics in the fields of law, medicine, anthropology, sociology and other fields, some of whose names have appeared on this blog before, wrote a letter to Amnesty International in support of decriminalization:

AI’s general policy is to be wary of criminal law regulating gender and sexuality…We focus on two specific issues: 1) why existing credible research supports the rejection of the so-called Nordic model…and 2) why rigorous studies on the relationship between human trafficking and the sex sector supports total decriminalization.  In particular we note empirically and analytically sound research that debunks the Nordic model and refutes claims that legalization or decriminalization of sex work will “increase” the risk of trafficking into the sex sector…

And in The Nation, Melissa Gira Grants writes:

Using the criminal law to control sex work means police are pitted against sex workers, and sex workers can pay the price with their lives…as has also been documented by Amnesty—and others, like Human Rights Watch, UNAIDS, and the World Health Organization, all of whom support the decriminalization of sex work, a stance also backed by recent research in the medical journal The Lancet.  Sex workers’ own rights groups, such as the 237 organizations in 71 countries under the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, report the same from their own experience: Criminal laws only add to the challenges…that many sex workers already face…Amnesty’s sex work proposal has drawn the ire of campaigners who support the [Swedish model]…precisely because it illustrates how these laws, marketed as compassionate towards sex workers, have exposed them to danger.  They argue for more criminalization at a time when on most other issues, the public is turning away from using the police and prisons as a solution…

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The whore is despised by the hypocritical world because she has made a realistic assessment of her assets and does not have to rely on fraud to make a living.  –  Angela Carter

Because of the stigma against it, sex work is often taken up by women whose choices are otherwise limited; in other words, it is often the best of a limited range of options.  And for much of recent history, it was virtually the only worthwhile option available to women viewed as sexually “soiled” or “ruined”, often through no fault of their own.

Squirrel Tooth AliceTake Mary Elizabeth Haley, for example.  She was born in Belton, Texas in 1855 to James and Mary Haley, a fairly well-to-do couple.  Unfortunately for Libby (as she was called), if her family hadn’t had bad luck it would’ve had none at all; first they were financially ruined by the Civil War, and then the nine-year-old was abducted by Comanche Indians in 1864.  It took her father three years to raise the ransom the Comanches demanded, and even after she was released her ordeal was far from over:  “civilized” whites assumed she had been raped by the Indians, and her parents found themselves with an unmarriageable daughter.  Her father seems to have been deeply in denial about her ostracism, however; when young Libby’s looks and personality attracted a suitor mature enough not to care about her “reputation”, her father responded by shooting the man to death because he was too old.

Libby was both intelligent and pragmatic, and thus understood that her hotheaded father would either murder or frighten away any man willing to overlook her history, so at 14 she ran away to Abilene, Kansas and became a dance-hall prostitute.  Nobody in the boomtown knew anything about her, so it wasn’t difficult for her to find a boyfriend:  a professional gambler and sometimes-cowboy named Billy Thompson, younger brother of the gunslinger Ben Thompson.  From 1870 to 1876, the couple drifted across (mostly) Kansas and Texas, following the cattle drives or running from the law and/or people Billy had cheated; each brought in money by their professional skills, and they were married in 1873 after the birth of their first child.

Near the end of 1876, however, their luck began to change.  In October, Billy was arrested by Texas Rangers and extradited to Kansas to stand trial for the 1873 murder of Sheriff Chauncey Whitney; miraculously, he was acquitted, and for the first time they felt as though they might actually settle somewhere.  Both Billy and Libby were quite good at their professions, and had put aside a sizable stake;kissing prairie dogs they purchased a ranch and a dance hall/brothel in Sweetwater, Texas, and moved into management (Billy as a rancher, Libby as a madam).  During the years they had spent much of their time on the range, Libby had developed a fondness for prairie dogs; now that they lived in town she started keeping them as pets (some said she even walked them on leashes).  From this and the prominent gap between her front teeth, Libby at last gained the name by which she is known to history:  Squirrel Tooth Alice.

The next twenty years went quite well for them; both businesses prospered (especially the brothel), and Alice’s fame spread across the West.  They had nine children in all and their marriage lasted for 24 years, until Billy died of some sort of stomach condition in 1897.  Alice continued to run the brothel until she retired in 1921 at the age of 66.   Alas, her declining years were not as happy as they could have been; though several of her daughters followed their mother into our honorable profession, several of her sons inherited their father’s worse characteristics and turned to crime.  Alice lived in the homes of several of her children who had settled in Palmdale, California, and when she became too ill to care for themselves she moved into the Sunbeam Rest Home in Los Angeles.  There she died on April 13, 1953, at the ripe old age of 98.

Prohibitionists are fond of pretending that because sex work is often a constrained choice, that this is an argument for criminalizing it (as though it made any moral or logical sense to remove the best choice from a limited range of options!)  How would it have helped young Libby Haley to cut off the means of her escape from the narrow-minded bigots of her home town?  Prostitution not only allowed her to make a living, but also to find love, acceptance, fame and personal satisfaction; I guess the prohibitionists would prefer she had died a lonely charity case, unsullied by either men or money.

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