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Posts Tagged ‘Déjà Vu’

If we [can’t] get the prohibition on sex work repealed, we [will] never end up hanging on to our abortion rights…it’s the same piece of property.  –  Margo St. James

Amsterdam

Dutch “authorities” narrow the bottleneck again and will no doubt be surprised when illegal prostitution increases:  “The city of Amsterdam…will raise the legal age of prostitutes from 18 to 21 and…close brothels during the early morning hours…Amsterdam says it wants to decrease the number of sex workers…to fight crime generated by prostitution…

The Slave-Whore Fantasy

Yet another example of what real sex slavery looks like:

A sex worker who was…held hostage for two…days broke her legs and back when she jumped out a sixth-floor window…Benjamin Gaston and Johnny Jackson have been charged with kidnapping and raping the…woman…Gaston…stole her cellphone, money and identification…hit her and held a pillow over her face, telling her, “You’re…working for me and making me money.”  The next day, [she] was taken to another apartment…where there were six or seven additional men waiting to have sex with her, including Jackson…The woman tried to escape…by using her jacket as a rope…[but] fell to the ground…Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya (c 1820)

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I just love it when they feed on one another.  In Stockholm, “Police…were surprised…to find that a man they had arrested for buying sex from a prostitute was the duty prosecutor to whom they were obliged to report the crime…”, and in New York, “Officer Luis Gutierrez…was on duty when he allegedly offered a prostitute money…[but she] was an undercover cop…

Decentralization

Bitcoin is now the world’s best-performing currency:

…The number of coins in circulation grows very slowly–there are about 10.8 million…now, and that will increase to 21 million by 2140…growth…[can’t] keep up with demand and so the value of the currency [grows]…The U.S. dollar value of a Bitcoin is up from…$4.87 [a year ago]…to $31.09 today.  It has appreciated by over 100% from the end of 2012 alone, when the quoted price was $13.48…And it’s also going mainstream, reports in the Guardian and Forbes  suggest…

The Forbes article reports that “Silicon Valley Bank…and…Coinlab….will [soon] allow North America-based…users to directly convert money from dollars to bitcoin, without having to pay the hefty transaction fees associated with transferring money abroad…

Against Their Will

Spanish police were puzzled when thirty Romanian whores they “rescued from exploitation by a network of pimps” immediately returned to work; “none of [them] asked for protection or availed themselves of assistance…to return to their country” despite police claims of beatings and debt bondage.  Meanwhile, Filipino “authorities” continued their weird crusade against “cybersex”:  “…police raided…[an] alleged…cybersex den…[and] rescued 12 [young men]…“They referred to themselves as ‘chatters’ because they chat online…as they perform sexual acts in front of the web cam,” said…officer…Romano Cardiño…

Peeping Toms

Dennis Green admits he offered another man $20…for sex…[but his] defense…could have a far-reaching impact…legalizing prostitution in Ohio…Scott Nazzarine, Green’s public defender…believes there’s no way what Green did can be deemed a crime in today’s society.  He compares it to other acts that at one time were illegal – premarital sex, the sale of sex toys, abortion, contraception…but now are legal, protected rights…“It’s about privacy rights and constitutional rights and the government’s intrusion into them…Any justification for prostitution laws is just a pretext for morality”…

Nazzarine is of course totally right and the judges know it, but I don’t think this is the case that will do the job because there’s still too much hypocrisy afoot.  Still, this won’t be the last one, and eventually individual rights must triumph just as they have in other sexual matters.

We Told You So

Who victimizes sex workersThe Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women is the only large “anti-trafficking” organization which fights the use of bogus statistics and conflation of sex work with exploitation; it’s calling for papers for its Anti-Trafficking Review on the topic “Following the Money: Spending on Anti-Trafficking” …“Lacking is analysis of…anti-trafficking funds – where they come from, who they go to, what they are meant to do, what they actually achieve, and indeed whether they are needed.”  Two of the suggested topics are analysis of the motives behind “anti-trafficking” funding and questioning ties to law enforcement.

An Ounce of Prevention

A baby…who got immediate treatment now has no detectable [HIV] in her blood…within 30 hours of birth…she…got a cocktail of three drugs at a dose normally reserved for more advanced cases…There is still virus in [her] body.  But…it doesn’t seem to be able to spread from one cell to another…[or damage her] immune system…

The Law of Averages

Emi Koyama exposes journalists who knew the falsity of the “average age of debut in prostitution is 13” myth for three years, yet kept repeating it anyhow:  “While I was glad to see that The Oregonian now officially acknowledges that there is no basis for this…everything…Janie Har…wrote…was already in my three-year old blog post…[written after] I first read the claim…in [Oregonian reporter Elizabeth] Hovde’s column…” Emi details her July 2010 correspondence with Hovde, in which the reporter acknowledged her analysis but made excuses rather than issuing a retraction.  Then finally, last Saturday,

The Oregonian acknowledges that the claim is baseless! (But why is it rated “half-truth”…and why did they not mention any other study that contradict 12-14 claim?)  I have a feeling that Janie Har read my blog post…she mentions the same Shared Hope report and points out the same problems…If she did read my blog, why did she not speak with me or give me credit…The Oregonian had the opportunity to stop perpetuating the myth for almost three years, and yet failed to do so as recently as this January.Secret Lives  While Janie Har’s column is to be commended, The Oregonian and Hovde need to take responsibility for their part in the falsehood…

Presents, Presents, Presents!

While I was in New York last week, Secret Lives and A Natural History of Rape arrived as gifts from reader “M”.  Thank you very much, both for the books and the good wishes!

Little Boxes

When Melissa King [aged out of] the Delaware foster care system at 18, she did some porn, entered some pageants, and enrolled in college…Last November, King was crowned Miss Delaware Teen USA…[but] she gave up her crown after an explicit video…surfaced on an amateur porn website…Now she’s being publicly shamed by former friends and international news organizations…Pageants and porn are…two sides of a very thin sexual boundary.  And for a young, pretty girl who’s strapped for cash…only one of [them offers it] up-front…

Naked Truth

Melissa Gira Grant continues a strong run of good articles with “Unpacking the Sex Trafficking Panic” in Contemporary Sexuality, the newsletter of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).  When sex-worker-penned items criticizing a popular narrative appear under the imprimatur of a relatively-conservative organization, it’s clear the tide has begun to turn.  Also, here’s a good interview with veteran activist Tracy Quan by Caty Simon on Tits and Sass; I promise, I’m not just linking it because it mentions me.Margo St. James in Washington

The Birth of a Movement

In this interview with Bitch magazine, Margo St. James discusses the beginning of the sex worker rights movement, how the neofeminists turned mainstream feminism against us, “sex trafficking” hysteria and the future of sex worker activism.

Coming Out

Dear Prudence” gives what I think is a reasonable response to an unconsciously-bigoted man wondering if he should “out” a sex worker friend to his other friends.  Unfortunately, the graphics give the impression that the woman goes around looking like a Hollywood streetwalker when in reality, the uptight questioner’s issue is that she looks just like any other woman.

Much Ado About Nothing (TW3 #44)

An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez…paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator…a local lawyer had approached her and a fellow escort and asked them to help frame Menendez…That lawyer has in turn identified a second Dominican lawyer who he said gave the woman a script and paid her to read the claims aloud…

Texas Tall Tales

Facebook PimpThe “Facebook pimps” myth just keeps growing and growing, which really isn’t a surprise since it combines three of the moral panics du jour: “sex trafficking”, gangs and the evil, evil internet.  This sort of thing has been happening for as long as there have been exploitative men and naive, sheltered girls with romantic delusions; it’s not a “trend”, not limited to Facebook and not an international conspiracy.  CNN also fails to understand that three cases in a country of 300 million do not an epidemic make, and that 18 isn’t “underage”.

Genetic Fallacy

Yet another example of judges ignoring a law’s unconstitutionality on the grounds that those challenging it have not been sufficiently harmed by it:

The Supreme Court…[dismissed] a challenge to a…federal law that allows…interception of electronic communications…[on the grounds] that the lawyers, journalists and human rights organizations that brought the suit cannot prove they have been caught up in the surveillance and thus may not challenge [it]…the 5 to 4 ruling did not touch on…constitutionality…and challengers said it will be almost impossible now to get that issue before a court…

Profound Ignorance (TW3 #51)

An even more thorough refutation of the moronic prohibitionist claim that sex is somehow different from every other human activity:

The assumption that liberal prostitution laws lead to an increase in human trafficking is refuted.  On the contrary…since…liberalisation, there has been more police activity but…significantly less suspects, convicts and victims.  That’s…an indicator that…disentanglement of prostitution from criminal environments is increasingly successful.” – Volker Beck, MP…“In the year 2000…[German officials] registered…926 victims.  In the year 2011, there were 640.  This equates to a decrease of just under 31 per cent.  If one compares the figures…in 2003 [a year after the prostitution law was passed] and 2011, one sees a certifiable decline of just above 48 per cent”…The…German government thus refutes the claim by Neumayer, Cho and Dreher  that legalised prostitution increases human trafficking…

Déjà Vu (TW3 #135)

More evidence of the evangelical Christian basis for “sex trafficking” mythology and a look inside the perverted minds of prohibitionists:

In the fight against sex trafficking, the Church needs to address the root causes – the ideas…that break the linkage sex has to love, responsibility and children, [said] Lisa Thompson…of…the Salvation Army…Thompson asked [her audience] not [to] divorce…sex trafficking from…prostitution [because]…all prostitution dehumanizes women…”God did not create any woman for the purpose…that she be a cum receptacle.  God did not create the female to be a human being that [johns] are basically masturbating into…sex was never intended to be a job, so let’s not use the language of ‘sex work'”…

That Thompson had to deny that sex work is work is a very good sign indeed.

Caring Professionals

lone red umbrellaI have long held that professional sex workers need to develop a code of ethics just as other professions have, not only for moral reasons but in order to push back against “authorities” who think they are more qualified than we are to set standards for work they’ve never done.  So I was pleased to hear that the Australian Sex-Positive Sex Industry Association (ASPaSIA) is working on just such a code, and I’ll report on it at full length once it’s finalized later this month.

Unclean Situation (TW3 #138)

Labour TD, Eamonn Maloney, said he did not accept the [claims] in the report on the [Magdalene] laundries…“They…made lots of money,” he said…adding that most commercial laundries in the 1940s and 1950s closed because of competition from the Magdalenes.  “Not only has the church as yet to apologise for their role in operating these prisons, they do also have a role…in compensating people,” he said…The Government has so far refused to say what contribution, if any, it will seek from the orders…

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Sex workers have a special place in society that is never rewarded or recognised.  –  Derek Freedman

No Other Option

Vrbas wheelchair basketball clubMy Cliterati article for last Sunday was “Skin To Skin”, a strong criticism of the cruelty of denying commercial sex to men who can’t experience physical intimacy in any other way; the very next day an English council provided a perfect example of that cruelty by announcing an “investigation” of a nursing home which allowed residents to hire sex workers, and I explained what was wrong with that in this week’s essay, “Caring Professionals”.  Then there was this item from Bosnia:

Members of a…wheelchair basketball club are launching a campaign to legalize prostitution…to help disabled people “achieve their right to love.”  Marinko Umicevic, president of the club Vrbas, said Wednesday that Bosnia had to catch up with 21st century Europe, where…some people with disabilities “even get state subsidies to pay for sex.”  Umicevic said some of his players had never had sex and legalizing the sex trade would help people like them achieve their basic rights…

Something Rotten in Sweden

Prostitution stings are disgusting no matter how they’re justified, but there’s something particularly vile about using “sex trafficking” as an excuse and then arresting hookers as well:

A multi-agency prostitution sting conducted earlier this month on behalf of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month has netted the arrests of…46 [people]…most for misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution…[but] five [for] women alleged to have posted sex ads…Sen. Leticia Van de Putte…[says] she intends to propose…a bill that would pave the way for victims of human trafficking to sue websites that make money off prostitution ads…

Senator Van de Putte could save the state of Texas a lot of money by simply researching the fate of similar ideas.

Decentralization

Bitcoin has become so popular, and its value has risen so much against that of national currencies, that Bloomberg is concerned that “virtual money could undermine the role of central banks”, which as Reason explains is exactly the point.  The end of governments’ ability to directly meddle with the world economy can’t possibly come soon enough to suit me.

Dirty Whores

Dr Derek Freedman told the Irish Sun:  “People from all strands of society use prostitutes from time to time.  It ranges from [politicians], the clergy, the judiciary to people who are socially deprived, physically disabled and people who may be regarded as unattractive and may not be able to meet people”…while people often feel anxious about contracting infections after visiting a prostitute, he believes that “you’re probably safer with a professional than with a gifted amateur”…he added:  “What we forget is that often sex workers give great comfort to people who are lonely”…Other Dreams of Freedom

Déjà Vu

When even Christians are starting to see this, “trafficking” hysteria’s days are numbered:

…In her new book Other Dreams of Freedom, Yvonne Zimmerman, a professor of Christian Ethics, argues that the theoretical basis of US government anti-trafficking efforts derives directly from Protestant theology and traditional ideas of what she calls “sexually pure and pious womanhood”.  Zimmerman challenges this basis for anti-trafficking efforts, saying that it ends up limiting the freedom of trafficked people, especially women, by conceiving of their “rescue” as them ending up in traditional, heterosexual marriages – or at least refraining from sexual relations outside of marriage…

What the Hell Were You Thinking? (We’re Not Done Yet)

A big improvement on the phone “app” described previously:

…a team [of students]…has invented a mobile panic button for street…sex…workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  A voice or text message is first recorded onto a SIM card, which is inserted into a GPS-enabled device such as a pager…Pressing a button…activates the GPS and sends an emergency message and GPS location to a contact who can get help.  Because the GPS is not activated until the device is activated, the anonymity of the user is preserved…Once prototype devices are ordered, the three students will hold focus groups to determine which type of device is more useful…[then] will launch a six-month pilot project by giving devices to 100 women…The group is currently holding a fundraising initiative online…$8,140 [will] cover…the entire pilot project…

Change a Few Words

Arch-prohibitionist Paul Chabot helpfully explains not only that prohibitionism really works, but that all prohibitions are equally valid:  “When asked…why we keep marijuana illegal, Chabot responded:  “Why do we keep heroin, LSD, prostitution, child pornography illegal?’”  As Matthew Feeney points out, “Comparing marijuana to child pornography is a great way to insult millions of people by comparing them to pedophiles.  Chabot is a free gift to those of us who would like to see drugs legalized.”  And of course, the same goes for prostitution.

The More the Better (TW3 #4)

Sheri's RanchOn Monday I received a press release from Sheri’s Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, a brothel resort on 20 acres (8 hectares) with a swimming pool, spa and tennis court which actively markets itself to couples as well as single men.  It’s now added “Sheri’s Playland”, a group of bungalows fitted out like movie sets so clients can enact any of six different sexual fantasies with working girls.  As I’ve said before, this is a very positive trend; “it was after Vegas casinos started ‘gentrifying’ in the ‘80s that people from other states dropped their prejudices against gambling, and now casinos are everywhere in the US.”

The Course of a Disease

Sex workers fight an attempt to impose the Swedish model on Indonesia:

Prostitutes and activists…are calling on the government not to prosecute men who pay for sex…The chairwoman of Yogyakarta Women’s Sex Workers Association (P3SY)…said…that [client] criminalization…would decrease the bargaining power and income of sex workers…[and] drive prostitution further underground…[hindering] HIV/AIDS education and mitigation programs…arresting customers would lead to the closure of brothels…and force sex workers to seek customers on the streets…Ignatius Praptoharjono of the Atma Jaya Catholic University’s HIV/AIDS Research Center in Jakarta…cited the cases of Sweden, Canada and other Asia-Pacific nations, where a crackdown on [clients] led to the decline of red-light districts and reduced fees…forcing sex workers to charge less and work more.  “Such a regulation will not protect women, but instead expose them to even higher risk,” [he] said…

Bullies With Badges

Heroic cops display their courage and fortitude by saving the helpless citizens of Connecticut from the menace of a 71-year-old whore: “an undercover cop…met her inside a room…[after] Sygun Liebhart placed a backpage.com ad…

Little Boxes (TW3 #25)

Forcing massage parlors to close at 10 PM is the latest anti-whore fad:

…a new [Florida] bill…would ban massage establishments from operating between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m…to crack down on human trafficking and sexual exploitation…[it] also would make it illegal for massage establishments to allow anybody to live on the premises…the Florida State Massage Therapy Association questioned the hours restriction…[because] there are legitimate late-night clients including airline pilots and theatrical performers…[bill sponsor Dave] Kerner, a former…police officer, said…late-night massage establishments are a “hotbed” of illicit sexual activity…

Anyone who actually uses the phrase “illicit sexual activity” with a straight face should be barred from public office as a delusional busybody.

I Swear To God

Here’s another article on the PEPFAR “anti-prostitution pledge”, the efforts to overturn it and the importance of doing so from a health perspective, a human rights perspective and a free speech perspective.  It really is beginning to seem like now that the gay rights culture war has essentially been won, many activists are starting to at last turn their attention toward the persecution of sex workers.

Shift in the Wind

Here’s a cute little promo video made at the Sex Worker Freedom Festival, the parallel AIDS conference held in Kolkata last summer by sex workers who were excluded from the US:

False Target

My fellow hot smart chick Amy Alkon wrote this week about that Jezebel favorite, social constructionist and penis apologist Hugo Schwyzer; his latest absurd claim (one which I called him to task about on Twitter a few months ago) is that older men are only attracted to young women because of “social construction”, and that before the advent of television guys were lining up to date old hags (presumably when they weren’t burning them as witches).  In the process Amy discusses the evolutionary basis of lust, debunks the “rape is asexual” myth and quotes good sense from Dr. Gad Saad.

Bottleneck

The story of New York City’s “cabaret card”, an artificial bottleneck imposed on nightclub performers from 1926-1966, is an excellent example of why prostitution licensing doesn’t work; the corruption such a system engenders and the destructive consequences to individuals are virtually the same.

Dirty Laundry

A divorced couple involved in running a brothel in north Dublin have avoided jail with fines and suspended sentences…Judge Mary Ellen Ring…ordered [Istvan Zeffer] to pay €1,000 to prostitute-support group Ruhama…Bernadette Kiss…is to pay €3,000…”  Ruhama is the new frontTom the Dancing Bug 1-31-13 for the orders of nuns who ran the Magdalene laundries which enslaved whores and many other women; calling them a “prostitute support group” is equivalent to referring to the Nazis as a “Jewish support group”.

King of the Hill

Most of this story is the typical credulous stenography of an evangelical “rescue” organization’s claims, but this passage stood out:  “The United States is the No. 1 destination for human sexual trafficking, with Oklahoma near the top of the most-active state list, the State Department reports…”  As you probably know, the State Department “reports” nothing of the kind.

Change of Heart (TW3 #41)

Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills…threw out 46 of the 59 counts against the alleged co-conspirator in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case, setting the stage for another appeal to the state’s highest court.  Mills’ decision…dealt prosecutors a…blow hours before opening arguments…were expected to begin…jury selection…[has already taken four days though] Mills said…it has never taken her longer than one day to seat a jury in her 19 years on the Superior Court…[charges were dropped after defense attorney Daniel] Lilley [argued]…that the notion that Maine privacy laws protect individuals engaged in criminal activity is “ludicrous.”  The invasion of privacy charges are tied to the fact that the alleged sexual interactions…were videotaped without the [clients] knowing…the defense…is [also] free to pursue its…argument that Strong was the subject of police retaliation…

We Told You So (TW3 #131)

Slowly but surely, the press is waking up:

The sad tale of a prostitute being held captive in Chattanooga highlights a problem that appears overstated…it is the only one ever reported, according to area police.  Meanwhile, a 2011 report co-produced by Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation estimated there were more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking in Hamilton County.  The study is, apparently, based on erroneous surveys and severely lacking in verifiable facts…

First They Came for the Hookers… (TW3 #132)

More “stripper licensing” idiocy, complete with “sex trafficking” nonsense:

…officials in Moorhead, Minn., are expected to pass an anti-prostitution measure requiring erotic dancers, nude models and adult escorts to obtain licenses and submit to background checks…North Dakota counterparts across the Red River in Fargo and West Fargo are pushing similar ordinances and the regional approach will attempt to stem “a fairly prominent problem here” with prostitution trafficking between their cities and the oil fields…[police hope] the regulations will reduce “a huge problem of runaways and minors trafficked into the sex trade”…adult entertainers would likely have to pay $150 to $250, carry a photo ID and divulge their real names, aliases and criminal histories.  Background checks revealing prostitution or drug convictions would disqualify applicants from receiving permits…

Pompous “authorities” just love creating bottlenecks that turn businesswomen into criminals, don’t they?

Due Consideration

It never takes control freaks very long to prove my points:

A…lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill…that would…require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term…as evidence for a sexual assault trial.  House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown…would charge…[violators]…with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence”…

The bill is unlikely to pass, but only due to partisanism rather than because it’s a total abomination.

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Why?  It paid the rent.  –  Marilyn Monroe (on posing nude)

Ten updates from the seventh week of 2012.

Whore Madonnas (August 29th, 2010)

The classic Madonna/whore fallacy teaches that women can be one or the other, but as I’ve said many, many times before this is complete and utter hogwash.  Any normal woman is capable of playing either role as required or even both simultaneously, and about half of the girls who worked for me had children.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that many women enter prostitution because of their children…”  Case in point, from Offbeat Mama:

…I have the perfect suburban mommy resume [but] I keep a huge secret from my family, neighbors, and friends…I’m an escort…Scoop those jaws up off of the floor, moms and dads, because…it could happen to you.  I don’t mean you’ll be trafficked into sex work by some skeevy creeper on the internet — I mean that you may some day be in a position you never dreamed you’d be in doing things you never saw yourself doing in order to make ends meet…And you know what?  It’s not horrible.  I don’t hate my life.  In fact, sometimes I think I have it better than most American moms.  I work on the evenings and weekends the kids are at their father’s place…They never even know I’m gone.  Then when they are with me, I get to be a devoted single stay-at-home mom…

The piece is well worth reading in its entirety, and even the comments are overwhelmingly positive!

BDSM (Part One) (September 15th, 2010)

OK, I like abduction fantasies as much as the next healthy woman, but most of us have the sense not to act them out in public:

…Nikolas Harbar, 31, [of Portland, Oregon] was only “role-playing” when he…tied up his naked girlfriend, 26-year-old Stephanie Pelzner and threw her in the back of his Subaru [on Valentine’s Day]…but…a concerned witness [called the cops and when they arrived]… Pelzner confirmed that “she was voluntarily bound and nude”…[the couple was] arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, but released later that day.

Real People (February 6th, 2011)

Bethany St. James is a brothel prostitute who advocates extending the Nevada model to the whole United States.  And while I disagree with her belief that women can’t be trusted to manage our own sex lives, her recent essay in Huffington Post is excellent:

…when I recently appeared on a daytime talk show to discuss an article…I wrote…I was shocked to find that it was nearly impossible for the…audience to…fathom that a woman who works in the sex industry could be educated, happy and goal driven.  The stereotype that all prostitutes are drug addicted women with sad childhoods who’ve been reeled into a life of shame and disease…remains…prevalent.  No matter how I attempted to explain that just as in all professions, there are a multitude of factors and variables, my words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears…Not all sex workers and adult entertainers are the same, just as not all people within the same ethnic background are the same.  Although many women in the adult industry have problems, couldn’t the same be true of every profession?…there are college educated professionals with problems far worse that any prostitute I’ve known.  Job description alone should not be the sole factor when forming an opinion of a person…

Interview:  Jill Brenneman (Part Four) (February 24th, 2011)

One year ago today I published the final installment of my interview with activist and sex trafficking survivor Jill Brenneman; coincidentally, a Dutch website named Nederlandse Debatbond recently reposted her July 2010 article “Prohibitionists’ Comparing Sex Work and Straight Work:  They are Dead Wrong”, which originally appeared in Bound, Not Gagged.  If you’ve never read it, now’s your chance.

It’s Different Because It Involves Sex, Part Umpteen (June 16th, 2011)

Last year, judges in New York ruled that dancing isn’t dancing if it’s sexy.  That bizarre belief appears to be shared by a California woman who claims porn can’t be copyrighted:

…Hard Drive Productions…demanded $3,400 to make their threatened lawsuit go away but [Liuxia Wong] not only says she’s innocent and harassed, but also that porn cannot be copyrighted…In a lawsuit filed at the end of January, Wong says that she did not download the work in question and goes on to attack Hard Drive on a number of fronts…the alleged infringement [took] place [on] March 28th, 2011, but…the movie…wasn’t officially registered until April 22nd…[and though]…Hard Drive insist[ed] that [she] would be liable…even if her router was unsecured and someone else [used it] without her knowledge…Wong’s suit dismisses that…as “erroneous”.  But perhaps most interestingly, Wong is challenging the notion that Hard Drive can own the copyright to its own work – indeed, that porn can be copyrighted at all.

“…the Copyright Clause [of the US Constitution] empowers…Congress: ‘To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries,” the lawsuit details, adding:  “Early Circuit law in California held that obscene works did not promote the progress of science and the useful arts, and thus cannot be protected by copyright”…Wong is asking the court to…[declare] that not only is she not liable…for infringement, but that the company’s movie is not copyrightable and is illegal due to Hard Drive engaging in “solicitation, conspiracy to commit prostitution, pimping and/or pandering,” during its production…

While I’m sympathetic to Wong’s right to defend herself against those who misuse the law, that defense doesn’t require actions which are just as immoral as Hard Drive’s and could potentially cause a great deal of trouble and expense for others who aren’t even involved in the dispute.

Déjà Vu (June 25th, 2011)

This column examined the strong resemblance between the Victorian and modern incarnations of anti-whore rhetoric, and its epigram was from a letter sent to The Times by an anonymous prostitute in 1858.  Well, on February 11th Dr. Laura Agustín discussed the “fallen woman” metaphor and the persistent idea that whores need to be “rescued” from our “plight”; she also wrote of Charles Dickens’ involvement with a “rescue home” and mentioned that he once tried to “save” a woman who didn’t want “saving”…the very lady who wrote the letter from which my epigram came.  If you’d like to read that letter in its entirety, take a look at Dr. Agustín’s February 14th column.

An Ounce of Prevention (October 15th, 2011)

More news about potential HIV vaccines:

The discovery of HIV-resistant sex workers in Africa could pave the way for a more effective AIDS vaccine, according to a new study by University of Montreal researchers.  “Studying women who are naturally resistant…[may enable] researchers to…[develop] vaccinations or . . . gels that could prevent transmission of HIV,” said lead researcher, Dr. Michel Roger…”Our research shows that…we should turn to the entry points…to find a means for blocking the virus.”  The year-and-a-half-long study involved 52 commercial sex workers who were uninfected with HIV, 44 sex workers who were HIV-positive and 71 uninfected [non-prostitutes]…in Benin…researchers found that the…uninfected sex workers had fewer inflammatory molecules in the vagina than [HIV-positive] women…working under similar conditions.  “We have identified prostitutes, who of course, are highly exposed to the virus and some of them, they don’t get infected even though they practise in the same way as others, in the same building, with the same clients.  They don’t get infected after four, five, seven years of prostitution,” Roger [said]…this group of HIV-resistant women [even] had fewer inflammatory molecules than [non-prostitutes]…”we need to understand better the mucosal response against HIV in order to design an efficient vaccine,” he said.  This new kind of vaccine could be administered through the nose and would immunize all mucus membranes in the body…

Bad Fantasy, Good Reality (October 27th, 2011)

Another Western female academic studied Asian hostess bars and discovered that the women there are neither “degraded” nor “victimized”, but rather following a deliberate strategy:

…seven years of in-depth research into the hostess bar scene in Phnom Penh has revealed…that…aspirations and obligations drive the girls from the countryside to the cities in search of opportunity.  For many…it was…a personal desire to earn money, after seeing friends…return to the provinces bedecked in gold, make-up and new clothes…Upon arrival in the capital, the easiest and most fruitful job for a newcomer is work in a hostess bar, where the monthly salaries range from $60-$100.  On top of that, tips and ‘ladies drinks’ (a $1 surcharge added to drinks bought for them by customers, which is then given back in their wages) can increase their earnings to as much as $300 per month.  In a country where the average monthly salary for a teacher or police officer is approximately $60-$80…bar work is incredibly lucrative…and is considered by many to be more ‘fun’ than other unskilled employment options, such as garment factory work or street trading…Most women arrive unable to speak English, but learn within months…they enjoyed the friends they made and the financial power it gave them.  All people…need money to survive; they work because of economic…motivations.  These young women are no different.  This is not to glamorise the bars – there are plenty of downsides, such as structural inequalities, exploitative bosses, large fines and gropey customers who are sometimes racist and rude.  However, [they] can also be viewed as places of opportunity, which the women exploit in order to empower themselves and improve their lives…

…these women are highly stigmatised by wider Cambodian society.  And those who…supplement their incomes by trading in sex…are considered srey kouch or ‘broken whores’…traditionally strict moral and social rules…require ‘good women’ to stay at home and take care of their families, be indoors before dark, and remain virgins until marriage…[but] within their families, the ability to speak English, learn about life outside of Cambodia, socialise with foreigners, and use the internet to communicate are also all markers of prestige and status…On the one hand, they completely defy all the social rules of respectability, such as being submissive and ‘virtuous’.  Yet the high status their families receive as a result of material goods provided by the women sometimes helps [them] improve their reputations.  In the end, they are virtuous for the help they give to their families…bar workers and professional girlfriends…don’t want to be viewed as bad women or helpless victims of exploitation that are in need of rescuing…

The author, Dr Heidi Hoefinger of the University of London, is the author of the upcoming book Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia.

Legal Is As Legal Does (December 14th, 2011)

US law allows politicians and cops to tyrannize whores as they like, but in New Zealand even prohibiting streetwalkers from working in certain areas requires a new law:

…A bill that will allow Auckland Council to ban street prostitution in specific places is to be considered by the local government select committee.  Other city councils including Christchurch are expected to show interest and may seek to have the same powers applied generally…Chairwoman Nicky Wagner, who is MP for Christchurch Central, said…street prostitution in the inner city had moved out to the residential areas…[Manurewa MP George] Hawkins said he would have preferred to have had a bill amending the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 to outlaw street prostitution nationally…[but] the committee believed [that] would negate the intentions of the…Act…

The story also illustrates that freedom can never be taken for granted, because there will always be those who want to criminalize anything that isn’t currently criminal.

Moloch (January 29th, 2012)

Here’s another story of American “authorities” sacrificing kids to their filthy devil-god; the February 10th episode of the public radio show This American Life tells of attractive young police women posing as students in Florida high schools in order to ruin the lives of teenage boys by using their sex appeal to trick the boys into getting marijuana for them.  Once again, the sickness of American culture is revealed for the world to see:  Independent whoring to support one’s kids = degraded criminality, but whoring for the State Pimp to destroy innocent teenagers = heroic and laudable.

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You railers of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, you the pious, the moral, the respectable, as you call yourselves, who stand on your smooth and pleasant side of the great gulf you have dug, and keep between yourself and the dregs, why don’t you bridge it over or fill it up…Why stand you there mouthing with sleek face about morality?  What is morality?  –  an anonymous whore in a letter to The Times, 1858

Yesterday’s column was inspired by scanning the 19th-century sections of Whores in History while preparing to write my column of June 19th, and while researching it I was struck by how little most anti-prostitute rhetoric has changed since the Victorian Era.  Oh, many of the moralists now cloak their need to control others in neofeminist jargon instead of Christian jargon, but that makes very little difference and today I’d just like to point out a few examples of it so you can see exactly what I mean.

The general consensus among Victorian “scholars” was that normal women had no sex drive whatsoever, so it was therefore impossible for any normal woman to choose to be a prostitute.  Some argued that all whores were driven to the trade by extreme privation or forced into it by pimps, while others claimed it was due to “laziness” and a desire to avoid “real work”.  But the most popular view of all was that whores were atavisms, throwbacks to a more primitive human type, and many a 19th-century researcher (especially in Germany, Italy and Russia) eagerly sought prostitutes (always streetwalkers, of course) who would allow themselves to be studied and measured; Cesare Lombruso of Italy claimed that all prostitutes, without exception, had receding foreheads and large jaws, and that some had “exaggerated” growth of the labia or clitoris.  He and his cronies claimed that this cherry-picked “evidence” proved that “primitive” African and American Indian women shared these same features, thus demonstrating that whores were more like “savages” than like highly-evolved Europeans.  And since prostitutes were primitive they were also stupid, and thus incompetent to make their own decisions; this of course was used to excuse tyranny like the Contagious Disease Acts discussed in yesterday’s column, because the government could claim it was forced to arrest, incarcerate and “rehabilitate” prostitutes “for their own good.”

Sound familiar?  Except for the modern replacement of “nature” arguments (whores are born defective) with “nurture” arguments (whores are made defective early in life by sexual abuse), the propaganda is virtually identical.  In both cases non-prostitutes with no personal experience of normal female sexuality (then it was men, now it’s lesbian neofeminists) claim that it’s impossible for a normal woman to choose prostitution, and that all of us are driven to it by extreme privation or forced into it by “pimps” or “traffickers”.  As in Victorian times streetwalkers are studied and the observations are then manipulated and distorted to fit the “theory”, which is applied to all prostitutes; we are all victims of child abuse or rape, all drug addicts, blah blah blah.  Many prohibitionists openly call us stupid, selfish and neurotic, and even the ones who don’t insist that we’re incompetent to make our own decisions.  Just as in Victorian times, these bogus claims are used to rationalize tyranny like the Swedish Model or American-style criminalization on the grounds that it’s “for our own good”.  And though one doesn’t hear the claim that we’re “lazy” from neofeminists very often (because they couldn’t blame that on the almighty Patriarchy), it’s still very popular among religious or lawhead prohibitionists (hence the popular decriminalization slogan, “sex work is work”).

By the late 19th century the varying nonsense claims about prostitutes were eclipsed by the lurid propaganda of the social purity movement, which promoted the “white slavery” and “child prostitution” scares in order to further its agenda.  I’ve written about this moral panic, and its modern reincarnation as the “human trafficking” (and more specifically “child sex trafficking”) hysteria on a number of occasions, but this time I’m going to let Nickie Roberts have the floor.  This is a passage from Whores in History describing the “white slavery” hysteria:

…the social purity campaign looked to the lurid to create its agenda, its two abiding themes being ‘white slavery’ and child prostitution.  The ‘white slave trade’, supposedly an organized international traffic in women, was a Victorian fantasy which formed part of the stock repertoire of melodrama in fiction and theatre at this time.  The typical story involved innocent white adolescent girls who were drugged and abducted by sinister immigrant procurers, waking up to find themselves captive in some infernal foreign brothel, where they were subject to the pornographic whims of sadistic, non-white pimps and brothel-masters.  Middle-class moralists were convinced that a ‘traffic in women’, operated by well-established underworld networks, was going on under their very noses, and they had little difficulty in whipping up a public panic about this non-existent outrage.  In fact the reformers based their evidence for the ‘white slave trade’ on the actual international migration of whores, which had begun to be a sizeable phenomenon during the latter part of the century.  With the internationalization of capitalism and the opening of trade routes to the far outposts of the Empire, millions of people were on the move, migrating from Europe to hoped-for better lives in the Americas and the colonies.  Whores were no exception; taking the migratory option to escape poverty and oppression in their home countries, they travelled thousands of miles to live and work in the cities of the USA, Latin America, Egypt, South Africa and Asia.  Men often moved with them, acting as chaperones and intermediaries who would on arrival in foreign cities introduce whores to sex-trade contacts.

How few words we would have to change for this passage to apply to “human trafficking” hysteria!  But this was published in 1992, almost a decade before the hysteria was reborn under its new name and Laura Agustín began writing on the way voluntary migration of prostitutes is intentionally misrepresented as an organized slave trade.  Let’s hope this iteration of the hysteria collapses more quickly than the last one, and that this time we as a culture can drive the stake through its heart well enough to keep it from crawling out of its well-deserved grave ever again.

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