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Posts Tagged ‘France’

In Sweden…the fact that [sex workers] are more vulnerable is considered a success.  –  Luca Stevenson

R.I.P. Charles GatewoodCharles Gatewood

Famed photographer, videographer and cultural anthropologist Charles Gatewood passed away peacefully [on April 28th]…at San Francisco General Hospital.  The prolific 73-year-old was known as the “anthropologist of the forbidden” for his exploration of subcultures like BDSM, body modification, fringe fetishes and more.  Gatewood photographed numerous celebrities…and…worked on assignment for [major] publications…Among his more erotic works, Gatewood produced Tales of Submission and his photos were also frequently exhibited…A memorial service is currently being scheduled to be held at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco…

Rough Trade 

Oscar Luis Urbina was…charged with rape as King County prosecutors contend he brutally raped [a sex worker] at his home.  Investigators took a DNA sample from Urbina as part of that investigation.  Now, prosecutors contend that DNA test solved another violent sexual assault that saw a 25-year-old woman bitten, beaten and raped…on April 13, 2014…

License to Rape

Cops raping sex workers is so ubiquitous, non-cop rapists often pose as cops to facilitate the crime:

A New Jersey man was convicted…of impersonating a [pig] and raping two prostitutes on the Las Vegas Strip…Mark Picozzi…somehow sneaked into a room not registered in his name on the 32nd floor of The Cosmopolitan and called the Las Vegas Dream Girls escort agency…After the woman arrived, Picozzi…told her he was with the police…and…raped…[her]…as she left the hotel…she was arrested [by an actual pig on bullshit charges]…and [since] she had [nothing to lose she reported the rape]…another woman…contacted police after seeing news coverage of the allegation against Picozzi…[and] told police Picozzi arranged a date with her on Jan. 18, 2014…then claimed he was a police officer before [orally raping] her…and [stealing] $2,000 from her safe…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I really love it when they feed on each other:

…[Los Angeles school cop] Mauricio Edgardo Estrada..surrendered to federal authorities following his indictment…by a…grand jury…[on] charges…[of] attempted sex trafficking of a child and use of the Internet to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.  The case against Estrada is the result of an undercover operation by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force…[Estrada replied to a fake] Craigslist advertisement…and subsequently engaged in a series of text messages with a [cop pretending to be]…a 15-year-old girl…

Surplus Women 

Call me cynical, but I wonder what these prosecutors and cops would’ve said about Ashley Masi if she had been arrested instead of murdered:

Daniel Tejeda might have thought Ashley Masi didn’t matter, but to the 30-plus family, friends, prosecutors and Providence police on hand…to see him be found guilty of strangling her to death, she sure did…Tejeda…[murdered] Masi, an escort and mother of three…by pulling a zip-tie so tightly around her neck that its diameter shrunk by more than three inches…prosecutor…Daniel Carr Guglielmo…called Tejeda “the face of danger to prostitutes. “A prostitute dies … Who cares?…Maybe that’s what the defendant thought.  Who cares?”…

The Course of a Disease

A basic primer on the fight for sex worker rights, focusing on France and Belgium:

…on 6 April, the French National Assembly, not without difficulty, adopted the Scandinavian model of [criminalization]…Whilst many [prohibitionists]…rejoiced…the move…represents a real threat for sex workers.  As denounced by the French sex workers’ union, the STRASS, in a declaration co-signed by around a hundred associations, including Médecins du Monde and the French human rights league, LDH, these workers risk finding themselves being driven underground and into danger…In Sweden and Norway, where this model has been in place for several years, the results are not as encouraging as the governments would have us believe…

Above the Law  

If only there were a short, specific word for the cumbersome phrase “coerced into having sex”:

A lawsuit by 10 women says they were coerced into having sex while they were inmates at a jail in southwestern Michigan…the federal lawsuit…names Berrien County and four current or former sheriff’s deputies who worked at the jail…two of the deputies resigned and one was fired after an investigation started in September into misconduct by jail employees while they were off-duty.  The fourth deputy named in the lawsuit remains employed by the department…

Let’s see; it should be more specific than the umbrella phrase “sex crimes”:

…Santa Clara police Sgt. Thomas Leipelt…was sentenced to 45 days in jail and will have to register as a sex offender after being convicted of exposing himself in front of his girlfriend’s co-worker…San Mateo County Sheriff’s Deputy Galen Underwood was [convicted of]…molesting a female relative…for 6 years, starting when she was 11.  Underwood…was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison plus 38 years…

Oh, I know just the word!

[Memphis cop] Michael Smith…has been arrested and indicted for raping a…woman…on April 16…at a parking garage.  The victim was leaving the Purple Haze night club…and…part of the [rape]…was caught on security camera footage…

Gee, I wonder why the mainstream media won’t use it when the criminals are cops?

Buried Truth 

In 2003, Dennis Hastert urged Congress to “Put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives”:

Former House speaker Dennis Hastert…was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison…for a bank fraud case linked to allegations he sexually abused teen boys more than 30 years ago.  Federal Judge Thomas Durkin called Hastert, 74, a “serial child molester” and…also fined Hastert $250,000 and sentenced him to two years of supervised release after leaving prison.  Hastert must register as a sex offender…Hastert…admitted for the first time [molesting] some athletes when he was a high school wrestling coach in Illinois before he began a political career that saw him become the top Republican in Congress…Zachary Fardon, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, said…Hastert would have faced more serious charges for sex abuse had the statutes of limitation for the criminal sexual misconduct not expired years ago…

Hastert is best known for the so-called “Hastert Rule”, but I’d like to remind you of the McNeill Rule:  “Any man who crusades against any sex act is almost certainly a practitioner.”

Where are the Victims? (#325)

We’re so lucky to have cops qualified to diagnose us as “victims” no matter what we may think:

Blackburn [Lancashire] Police…said despite the best efforts of officers, both victims found at the property refused to provide statements to confirm they had been trafficked…Det Sgt Tony Atkins…said…“This intervention resulted in the safeguarding of the two females, who, although not making complaints as victims, clearly were, but could not see it”…

I hope Atkins fails to see one of the 4000 holes in his vicinity, and falls into it.

Whimsical Notions

Retired Gen. Charles C. Krulak, a former commandant of the U.S. Marines and president of Birmingham-Southern College, is calling on the next president of the United States to ramp up spending on fighting human trafficking…Krulak complains in a CNN op-ed that “each year the federal government dedicates less than $150 million to combating human trafficking—compared to $30.5 billion for the War on Drugs.”  Considering that the War on Drugs is now roundly viewed as one of biggest boondoggles in U.S. history—a fiscal and humanitarian disaster of such scope that even conservative Republicans and many former Drug Warriors can’t deny that it’s not working—I’m not sure why that’s supposed to serve as an endorsement.  But consider this one more clue that America’s war on human trafficking—which in practice is seldom more than a war on adults consenting to commercial sex—is indeed the next target of all that displaced Drug War effort…Citing the same bad statistics that have routinely been debunked by myriad sources, Krulak announces the launch of Generation Freedom.  This coalition of more than 70 organizations has come together to [lobby] for greater “financial investment [in the rescue industry] by the U.S. government”…

Cops and Robbers

Another sleazebag takes it upon himself to persecute strangers for consensual sex:

Amit Prakash…had no idea what [he and his brother] were getting themselves into.  The prostitution.  The johns.  The pimps…For decades, human trafficking has existed in a shadowy world.  That has started to change, though, as authorities at all levels of government have taken up the issue, shining a light on it, even as solutions to stop people from being bought and sold and forced into work as prostitutes have remained largely elusive…As criminal enterprises go, it’s growing faster than the drug trade…women start in the sex trade as teenagers, forced into prostitution by their fathers, brothers or uncles.  Others are coerced by their boyfriends…Prakash says he is determined to find a way stop prostitution – not just at a single hotel, but at hotels and motels throughout the Sacramento region…“The goal isn’t to go after the girls,” he said. “The goal is to go after the guys. The johns. We want to let them know we’re watching you”…Security guards are a must.  So are cameras, preferably ones that cover every inch of a property, so workers can see if unregistered guests enter rooms…Prakash also is a big advocate of…a universal Do Not Rent list…

Guinea Pigs 

Even when the perpetrators are loser guys rather than cops and other government actors, new surveillance weapons are usually used against sex workers first:

The developers behind “FindFace”, which uses facial recognition software to match random photographs to people’s social media pages on Vkontakte, say the service is designed to facilitate making new friends [by stalking them]…On April 9…users of the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) launched a campaign to [out]…actresses who appear in pornography.  After identifying these women with FindFace, Dvach users shared archived copies of their Vkontakte pages, and spammed the women’s families and friends with messages informing them about the discovery.  The effort also targeted women registered on the [escort] website “Intimcity”…The [losers] behind the doxing campaign say their motivation is moral outrage, claiming that women in the sex industry are “corrupt and deceptive.”  (Tellingly, Dvach users also complained that such women typically ignore the kind of men who make up Dvach’s audience)…

Vendetta (#607)

Another group of technically competent but woefully naive kids is exploited by the police state to attack sex workers:

Human Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that enslaves nearly 21 million people around the world.  Reliable data remains a major challenge at the heart of anti-human trafficking efforts…Our inaugural ATHackathon will create innovative tools to track & analyze data related to trafficking…

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Let us not treat prohibitionists as misguided people who care, any more than we should waste breath over whether it is right or wrong to lynch black people or gas Jews.  –  Jerry Barnett

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I hope they keep feeding on each other:

A [New Jersey cop] who claimed he was retaliated against after [ratting out] a former public safety director [who] sought prostitutes has been promoted and awarded $80,000.  Frederick Walz was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015…Walz also got wages equal to a year’s difference in salary between the sergeant and lieutenant positions, a year of pension payments retroactive to his promotion, and $80,000 in compensatory damages and attorney’s fees…

Backwards into the Future

Yes, Zimbabwe is actually ahead of the US in this area of human rights:

Sex workers in Zimbabwe have welcomed the recent court ruling that outlaws police arrest on charges of “loitering for the purposes of prostitution”…The ruling builds on another Constitutional court ruling last year that ruled against the arrest of women on allegations of soliciting for sex in the streets…

Rooted in Racism

ICYMI:  a tiny minority of French politicians managed to impose the Swedish model last week:

…it takes a truly Orwellian mindset to believe that one can outlaw the buying of a service without hurting those who sell it.  This is, of course, designed to hurt sex workers.  The bigotry of the anti-prostitution movement is there for all to see…It is well known that criminalising any aspect of the trade clearly harms sex workers…unlike last time around, the driving force of French fascism is the the political left.  A few days ago, for example, French Socialist government minister Laurence Rossignol said that women who wore veils were like “negroes who supported slavery”.  The anti-veil law was presented with a thin progressive veneer, using “secularism” as an excuse…to viciously abuse minorities…in the UK, a Labour-led parliamentary inquiry is also trying to ban prostitution.  Open anti-sex attitudes, and veiled racist attitudes are now commonplace on the political left everywhere…

The Pygmalion Fallacy toasters

Those trapped in magical thinking can’t see that a human-shaped toaster is still a toaster:

Touching a human-shaped robot in areas that would be considered “intimate” if they were on a person, has the power to arouse humans, a new study suggests.  Researchers from Stanford University…looked at how humans would respond when asked by a machine to touch parts of its robotic body; from the more accessible regions like hands, to the more “intimate”, like eyes or buttocks…test subjects…were wired up to a skin conductance sensor to measure their reaction time as well as their physical responses, while sitting next to the robot and following its instructions…when the…robot told test subjects to touch its “intimate” body parts, participants were “more emotionally aroused” but also “more hesitant”—suggesting potential discomfort—compared to touching less intimate regions, which saw subjects deliver a more natural, and typically quicker response…

So Close and Yet So Far

I believe J.R. Thorpe wants to be an ally; I really do.  But this listicle is more interested in being “cute” than it is in being accurate:

It’s important not to judge sex workers, assume that we know what motivates them or what experiences they have had — especially when we’re basing our ideas on film and TV depictions of sex work, as many of us are…It’s equally important to not glorify what can be an intensely exploitative and dangerous industry…particularly in countries and states where regulation doesn’t exist and workers are operating without state or government protection…a [really bad] study of…advertising…in the UK found that…over a third [of sex workers] identified as transgender or male…(The Urban Institute has a detailed exploration into the economics of that, including average pimp income and the various restrictions pimps place on their workers…in decriminalized places, the incidence of STDs among sex workers is really low

Smoke and Mirrors

Another case in which the truth is so obscured by exaggeration, dysphemisms, myths and lies that we’ll probably never know what really happened:

A woman chained to a stripper pole.  A man with four wives.  Child pornography photos.  This is what authorities stumbled upon during a raid in Detroit, where a house-of-horrors tale is unfolding in federal court, with prosecutors accusing one man of enslaving women, selling them for sex on the Internet and…[sharing] sexually explicit photos of [children]…The suspect is Ryon Travis, a 32-year-old unemployed Detroit man…“Sex trafficking occurs all around us, and the victims are sometimes hiding in plain sight,” [bloviated] U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade…

Long-time readers may recall that we’ve seen Babs McQuade (AKA Electrawoman) before, and she was spouting “sex trafficking” bullshit then, too.

Policing for Profit 

Burn. It. To. The. Ground:

…[UK] police [routinely robsex workers] under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA)…Janice [said] “They took my life savings, including money from my mom…They even tried to take my home. I was left with nothing after a lifetime of hard work”…Janice’s story isn’t unique.  Last year, Kent Police [stole] nearly £40,000 from two women accused of running a brothel in Folkestone.  One woman was forced to sell her home…or face an additional jail sentence…Jenny…called the police when men threatened to torch her working flat.  Police didn’t pursue her attackers; instead, they charged her with brothel-keeping and…[stole] her home and life savings…Niki Adams of ECP [said] “Their powers are draconian and they can take every penny earned from years of hard work—her house, her savings, her car, her jewellery, even her children’s and other family members’ money”…

An Example to the West (#349)

Indian sex workers are getting tired of bullshit:

Sex Workers in West Bengal are using the upcoming election to remind politicians they need to keep their promises…Many politicians have not shown commitment to taking action on the demands of sex worker-led organisations…Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC)…have made it clear they want “concrete” actions and measures [including]…Pension rights…Decriminalisation of the profession…and…self-regulatory boards to stop minors from being forced into the profession…

Cops and Robbers 

“Christian” vigilantes playing with people’s lives and lying to men in an attempt to steal income from sex workers who may need it to pay rent and feed their children:

Bait and Switch (#545)

If you’ll look back at what I’ve previously reported on Grady Judd, I’m sure you can guess what kind of tactics were used to entrap these people so Judd could destroy their lives for his self-aggrandizement:

A Florida sex sting targeting [supposed] child predators netted…Eighteen [victims of the sting] face multiple charges…Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.  They all allegedly responded to fake online ads from undercover detectives posing as children…

Signs

It was only a matter of time before male “survivors” started cashing in:

Hundreds showed up for a first-of-its kind symposium to train…San Diego’s hotel and motel employees to recognize and respond to the warning signs of human trafficking…in preparation for upcoming summer events such as the MLB All-Star Game and Comic-Con…[religious nut] Jamie Gates [said]…”There are about three to eight thousand survivors in a year”…experts say…70% of transactions [utilize]…social media.  “You’re groomed into a certain…mind frame that makes you susceptible to anyone’s demands,” said Tom Jones, a sex traffic survivor…Sex trafficking in San Diego is a $810 million dollar industry…and is run mostly by more than 100 local gangs.

Ridiculous numbers!  Facebook pimps!  Magic pimp mind control!  Gangs!  Gypsy whores catering to comic book fans!  And more, coming up in the next episode of They’re Coming for Our Children!

Choke Point (#610) 

A few journalists are starting to see where this is going:

…In a cashless society, the cash has been converted into numbers, into signals, into electronic currents.  In short: Information replaces cash…But wherever information gathers and flows, two predators follow closely behind it: censorship and surveillance…Where money becomes a series of signals, it can be censored; where money becomes information, it will inform on you…Operation Choke Point…[was actually] a policing of vice…One pundit wrote, “[W]hile abortion clinics and environmental groups are probably safe under the Obama administration, if this sort of thing stands, they will be vulnerable to the same tactics if a different administration adopts this same thuggish approach toward the businesses that it dislikes”…The choke points are private corporations that are not only subject to government regulation on the books, but have shown a disturbing willingness to bend to extralegal requests—whether it is enforcing financial blockades against the controversial whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks or the website Backpage…A little bit of pressure, and the whole financial system closes off to the government’s latest pariah…For the most vulnerable, the cashless society…only extends the reach of the existing paternal bureaucratic state…

Challenge (#628)

This can only be a good thing:

Former adult star Bree Olson is joining forces with the ESPLER Project in a push to demand that California legislators act to outlaw discrimination for all types of sex workers.  ESPLER Project has posted a petition online that is intended to reach California state Assembly and Senate members…Olson…said…current and former as well as legal and illegally working sex trade workers are having their due process rights violated, both by the law and members of society…

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Brand New, I will take $800 for it.  –  Erek Balentine

A few days ago, Mike Siegel tweeted that whenever some random idiot challenges me on Twitter, “I feel like I’m in a Western saloon and should close up my piano.”  I replied, “I shoot like Matt Dillon, but I dress like Miss Kitty.”  And then Tim Cushing suggested the song below for my soundtrack.  See how much fun my Twitter feed is?  So if you aren’t following it, why don’t you?  Tim also provided “serve” and “hostage” in the links; the others were contributed by Nun Ya  (“headline”, “Cassandra” and “suicide”), Dave Krueger (“safety”), Radley Balko  (“demand”), Scott Greenfield (“feed”), Wendy Lyon (“laws”), Lucy Steigerwald  (“broke” and “together”), and Carol Fenton (“reason”).

From the Archives

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Faith prefers the absurd to the plausible.  –  Mason Cooley

Walt Disney & Disneyland sketchesI will never understand the compelling human desire to believe in fantasy.  As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time is well aware, I love fantasy and science fiction; my favorite books, stories, movies, TV shows and other entertainments fall into those genres or closely-related ones, and most of my own writing is firmly ensconced in the realm of the fantastic.  But that’s entertainment, not life; as those who know me in person can tell you, I’m deeply pragmatic and firmly grounded in reality.  The idea of expending more than a token portion of resources on fancies is completely incomprehensible to me; I have never understood the appeal of window shopping, and I have often been heard to snort derisively at asinine platitudes about “following your dreams”.  Yes, some people are wealthy enough to build themselves amusement parks, and others fortunate enough to be able to pursue something more or less resembling their ideal lives.  But for most people, efforts to ignore reality are doomed to failure.

Fantasies which only involve things (such as building one’s “dream house” or writing a bestseller) may be unattainable, but when they are they’re still generally harmless to others.  Unfortunately, many individual blueprints for Utopia demand that other individuals conform to the dreamer’s moronic fantasies about “proper” human behavior, and while those are always doomed to disappointment, they have considerable potential to wreck the lives of others.  If the person suffering such a delusion has money, political power or social influence he can wreak havoc on anyone who gets in the way of his impossible program of social engineering, and even those who don’t have access to such resources are dangerous when they share the mad fantasies of those who do.

One such fantasy, popular for roughly the last century and a half, is the idea that prostitution can (and should) be “abolished”; people who adhere to this particular pipe dream always pretend to some sort of moral high ground, generally involving a deity or deities and/or some apotheosized principle of “equality” or “purity” or “intimacy” or other Utopian vacuity.  What their actual motives might be they usually won’t say, though it’s easy enough to guess.  Sometimes, as in the case of the “sex robot” nonsense I’ve mocked so often, the desire is rooted in the rather sad desire of socially-awkward men to be free of what they see as the “burden” of having to give money (or anything else) to women in order to get sex:

If internet porn leaves you cold, and you can’t manage the hassle of finding a real, live, woman to have sex with, a Japanese company has an attractive offer for you…Tenga has introduced a virtual reality bodysuit that simulates sexual intercourse, and takes partners out of the equation…The Illusion VR bodysuit comes equipped with a Tenga masturbation device that stimulates the penis, and with grope-able fake breasts.  The suit sends “impulses all over the wearer’s body to make it feel like another human being is touching them”…The device was created for use with Illusion’s Oculus game “Sexy Beach,” which lets players customize female avatars and have sex with them in virtual reality, while being stimulated to orgasm in actual reality.  The suit costs $400 and is already sold out…the technology might also be used “for intimate cyber meet-ups with those you may or may not know personally,” and even threaten the livelihoods of sex workers down the line…

Yeah, no.  Just in case the video isn’t enough to convince you, please let me assure you that until virtual reality reaches the Star Trek holodeck level, only men who are basically satisfied with a blow-up doll are going to find this toy a replacement for real live whores, despite the fact that the device’s price tag would buy only a single hour with me.

Whether you sympathize with, feel sorry for, or giggle at such goofy schemes to eliminate harlots, I think we can all agree that they’re harmless.  Even if you think fixating on such a device is “unhealthy” (an analysis with which I would disagree, but that’s a discussion for another day), surely you must admit that it’s only unhealthy to the user and nobody else.  Unfortunately, there are many other people whose fantasy of a whore-free world is not satisfied by merely removing themselves from the equation; these sociopaths will not be satisfied until the last whore is dead of starvation or confined in a sweatshop, and the last man who might even think about purchasing her services is locked in a cage.  Obviously, this warped idea is even less moored to reality than that of “virtual sex”, because instead of trying to satisfy men’s needs with robots, its proponents want to terrorize people into celibacy:

France is to make it illegal to pay for sex after MPs finally approved new legislation…following more than two years of rows and opposition by senators…There would be a €1,500 (£1,200) fine for a first offence, rising to €3,750 for a second, which would also be put on the person’s criminal record.  The offender would be forced to attend [brainwashing sessions]…the final vote was delayed after several hearings owing to sharp divisions between the lower parliamentary chamber and the senate…Socialist MP Maud Olivier…said the aim was to “reduce [prostitution]…and to change mentalities”…

If you don’t find the find the concept of a law designed to “change mentalities” (via forced propaganda sessions packed with lies) about a basic human activity to be utterly horrifying, you’ve probably been watching or reading about too many fictional dystopias.  Unless humans eventually abandon physical bodies altogether, there will never be a world in which people don’t trade what they have for what they want, and that means there will always be people willing to pay for the fulfillment of their sexual fantasies.  But if I do cling to one unrealistic dream, it’s that the human race eventually arrives at a point where nobody has the power to use violence to force their own evil sex fantasies on everyone else.

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While I am your mistress, I will treat you like a king.  But once we part ways, I care not where you may go. – Bérénice, Madame de Pascal

Portrait of a Lady as Diana by Nicholas de LargilliereIt may be that Bérénice was only a stage name, but there’s no way to be sure because it’s the only one any record discovered to date ever uses for her.  She was born in a village near Naples somewhere around 1640, and though she always claimed her father had run off soon after she was born, it is entirely possible that her mother, a waitress and casual prostitute, actually had no idea of his identity.  Like so many courtesans she was noted for her precociousness, married too early, created an exotic stage persona which won her the attentions of wealthy men and died far too young, but unlike many she died in a high station and very wealthy, having amassed a personal fortune equivalent to about $360 million in 2016 dollars.

Bérénice’s mother appears to have been as bereft of parental instinct as her unknown father, and vanished from her daughter’s life before her 9th birthday.  She left the child in the keeping of her own mother, a rather dour old woman said to have been of Moorish descent.  In the 17th century, Italy was not as hospitable to courtesans as it had been a century before, but young Bérénice’s exceptional looks would have attracted attention even in a time of far more repressive sexual morality; by the time she was 13 her grandmother had married her off to the relatively-wealthy Lorenzo Gordini, a man some four times her age.  And there her story might have ended had her husband not died some four years later of an unnamed disease, probably some kind of cancer, leaving her the heir to a modest fortune; unfortunately, Gordini had three adult children from a previous marriage who contested the will, and Bérénice was forced to sign most of it over to them to avoid a long and protracted court battle.  Even so, she was left with far greater resources than the average 17-year-old in any century, and so made a decision perhaps not out of character for a fairly-well-off teenager with nobody to answer to: she moved to Paris.

Bérénice arrived in Paris late in the summer of 1658, and though she had neither experience nor reputation as a courtesan her stunning looks and quick wit soon attracted the attention of Alexandre de Crécy, one of Cardinal Mazarin’s important lieutenants; she became his mistress and accompanied him on his various missions for the Cardinal to various parts of France and other nearby countries.  While de Crécy certainly enjoyed her company, he had an ulterior motive for taking her everywhere with him: he was insanely jealous and wanted her where he could keep an eye on her. Bérénice soon tired of his controlling behavior, and since she had means of her own was not highly motivated to endure it; while he was en route to Spain in 1660, she abandoned him and fled back to Paris, where she traded on her well-known connection to de Crécy to install herself into the social scene.  Not that she needed much help; she was petite, charming and very beautiful (with black  eyes, lustrous black hair and an 18-inch waist), and her first husband had bequeathed her something far more valuable than money: an education.  She soon began to prosper as a courtesan, catering to the elite of Louis XIV’s court, and by 1664 had saved enough money to purchase a large, tasteful maison of her own, to which she always retreated when she wanted solitude; she only rarely entertained there.

Portrait of a lady, said to be Marie Angelique de Scorraille de Roussilles, Duchesse de FontangesThough Bérénice’s charms were many, it was her skill as a storyteller which set her apart and won her a devoted following; she embroidered upon her own background and life experiences so heavily that, with the exception of details that can be fixed by records such as her first husband’s will, it is impossible to know which are real.  Many of the details of her early life (that lovers had fought duels over her, that she had traveled from Naples to Paris alone on horseback, that she had shot a man who attempted to violate her) recorded by biographers sound more like tall tales than probable events, and even her dramatic escape from de Crécy (perhaps even his jealousy) may have been exaggerated for effect.  One thing is certain:  it was in 1666 that she attracted her first VIP client, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Minister of Finance.  He was the perfect client for Bérénice; though he was very generous with her he prized discretion above all else, and never interfered with her social life.  He saw her regularly, probably several times a month, until 1676, and though he had apparently grown tired of her by that time he ensured her future by not only securing her an allowance from the royal treasury, but also arranging an important marriage for her.  It was through this marriage, to Louis, Vicomte de Pascal, that Bérénice finally received the title by which she is known to history, only six years before her death.

In the summer of 1667, Bérénice met and befriended Ninon de l’Enclos; the older courtesan had stopped taking clients by this time, and referred some of her younger patrons to Bérénice.  She also advised her to establish a salon, which soon become wildly popular with a certain artistic element; it went on for some five years, but after that Bérénice (who despite her education was rather bored by intellectual pursuits) lost interest.  Still, it had served to make her many important friends; chief among these was Molière, who is said to have based one of the characters in Les Femmes Savantes (The Learned Ladies) on her.  Whatever faults may have been Bérénice’s, indiscretion was not among them; though she must have known of the enmity between her friend and her patron, there is no evidence Molière knew that she was sleeping regularly with Colbert.  Another of her friends was the poet Jean de La Fontaine, whom she helped through some financial difficulties after the death of his patron in 1672.

After her marriage, Bérénice slowed down somewhat; her husband was not politically powerful, and since the two of them appear to have viewed their union more as a business partnership than anything else, he encouraged her activities as a means of making connections.  But around the end of 1677 she began to suffer frequent periods of weakness, later aggravated by abdominal pains; she died on May 8th, 1682 of her chronic illness, which may have been cervical cancer.  She left a daughter, Aimee, who herself became the mother of a beautiful daughter named Adelais, who would later become one of the many mistresses of King Louis XV.  In a world where social mobility was nearly always restricted by the circumstances of birth, women like Bérénice were nonetheless able to trade upon their natural gifts to rise from the lowest ranks of society to the highest; her latter-day sisters can do much the same, though the gulf between rich and poor is not so great as it was under the Ancien Régime.  Yet prohibitionists wish for you to view us as victims, and to believe that Bérénice would’ve been better off dying as a monogamous peasant’s wife than a wealthy and well-respected noblewoman.

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Sex workers are still most commonly depicted in the mainstream media as victims, pests or, in the odd case, saints.  –  Eurydice Aroney

Think of the Children! Leigh Ann Arthur

That the pictures were stolen is immaterial; she was fired for having a sex life:

A South Carolina high-school teacher may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor after a student stole her cellphone and distributed partially nude photos from it around the school.  Administrators say she should have password-protected the phone.  The male student grabbed the phone from…Leigh Ann Arthur’s desk while she was making required…rounds between classes…he went through Arthur’s photos, eventually finding some sexually oriented shots that Arthur says she took for her husband.  By the time she returned to the classroom, the student was texting the photos to other students.  According to Arthur, he told her: “Your day of reckoning is coming.”  One might think that the student would at least face disciplinary action…if not criminal charges of some sort.  But thus far, the school has not moved to hold the 16-year-old student accountable at all.  Arthur, however, is another story…she resigned when district officials gave her the choice to do so immediately or start the firing process…More than 1,600 people have signed an online petition created by students…in support of their former teacher…

Rooted in Racism

Mainstream anti-trafficking and abolitionist discourses construct the image of the victim by channelling “white slavery” myths.  Eastern European women (along with other women from the ex-peripheries of global capital) are attributed a central role…Apart from the restrictions faced by most migrants from the former “eastern bloc” in so-called developed states, eastern European migrant sex workers encounter even tougher barriers…Even when legally residing and working, simply owning a Romanian or Russian passport can make female sex workers the target of rescue, detention, and re-socialisation and/or deportation programmes implemented by governmental agencies and carceral NGOs…The imaginary [status] of [these] countries as sources of “forced prostitution”…coincides with a Cold War hangover and…serve to doubly vilify and infantilise European women sex workers…

Peeping Toms

The late Justice Scalia was of course right about this; Lawrence vs. Texas actually overturned all laws against consensual adult sex, including those against prostitution.  But now that picket-fence gays have their seat at the big table, they’re not going to say much while further court decisions attempt to turn Lawrence into a “monogamous vanilla amateurs only” club:

Uh-oh, kinksters:  sex cops could be coming for you next.  According to a new federal court decision, Americans have no constitutional right to engage in consensual BDSM because “sexual activity that involves binding and gagging or the use of physical force such as spanking or choking poses certain inherent risks to personal safety.”  Thus officials could constitutionally ban or regulate such activity in the interest of “the protection of vulnerable persons,” the court held.  In striking down bans on things like sodomy and adultery, U.S. courts have repeatedly said that citizens have a right to engage in whatever sort of consensual sexual activity they choose within the privacy of their own rooms (that is, as long as money isn’t involved).  But federal judges now say that the Constitution “does not prohibit the regulation of BDSM conduct”…

Wise Investment

Every decision like this, in any country, brings us closer to the goal:

…sex workers in Macedonia…have been awarded protection…against the unlawful treatment of the police and the criminal court.  On a November night in 2008, the police carried out [a pogrom]…in which 32 individuals, 23 of whom sex workers, were deprived of liberty.  The police unlawfully detained the sex workers longer than 20 hours in inhuman and degrading conditions…without food, water or any possibility for sanitary hygiene.  Some of them were left without medical help…The following day, all of them were taken for [involuntary STI] testing without any explanation…fourteen (14) sex workers filed a lawsuit…against the…Ministry of Interior…Seven years [later]…the Primary Court…partially granted the lawsuit of the sex workers and again established that…the police action “Suppression of Street Prostitution” violated the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, i.e. violated the…sex workers’ rights…

Universal Criminality

When a cop wants to destroy someone, universal criminality makes it so easy:

A [Florida] sheriff’s deputy was fired and likely will face charges of obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence after he tried to plant [drugs] on a [man cops considered a troublemaker]…Stephen LeBlanc…is accused of persuading a man in [what police call] a known drug neighborhood to help [him]…plant evidence on Thomas Parisi, who LeBlanc in November arrested for spray-painting…“Sex workers are people, too,” and an anti-law enforcement sentiment [on a wall]…LeBlanc then began [stalking] Parisi…to “get him jammed up on more charges,” the sheriff said…

Above the Law 

Just imagine any non-cop getting a deal like this for aggravated rape:

[An] Alabama State Trooper who was…charged with rape and sodomy of an accident victim…has reached a deal with prosecutors that will see him plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual misconduct…Samuel McHenry…put the woman…in his patrol car before [vaginally and anally raping her]…under threat of jail time…McHenry [must] serve six months in the Butler County Jail…in increments at his own discretion…within the next year…pay a $500 fine and restitution, and is ordered not to contact the victim…state law requires he register as a sex offender.

The Birth of a Movement

Yesterday, an English version of Eurydice Aroney’s French radio documentary “The Revolt of the Prostitutes” was broadcast on Australia’s ABC network.  To promote it, she wrote this article on the occupation of the Church of St. Nizier in 1975, the event which gave birth to the international sex worker rights movement.  I was especially touched by this passage:

…Little has changed for these workers since the strike in 1975.  I spoke to…one of the original St Nizier strikers who now works in her van in Gerland.  I asked if she knew that the St Nizier Church occupation was commemorated in Australia and across the world as International Whores’ Day.  “No, I didn’t know that.  Really?” she said. “And in Australia, are there lots of sex workers?  And they aren’t being hassled by the police?”  I told her that no, sex work is decriminalised in NSW…

Traffic Jam (#323)

See the resemblance to the “Satanic Panic” yet?

In the press, it was a “wide-reaching sex-trafficking operation” run by Somali Muslim gangs who forced “girls as young as 12” to sell sex in Minnesota and Tennessee.  In reality, the operation—which led to charges against 30 individuals, sex-trafficking convictions for three, and an eight year legal battle—was a fiction crafted by two troubled teenagers, a member of the FBI’s human-trafficking task force, and an array of overzealous officials…federal prosecuters had no evidence whatsoever to support their “child sex trafficking conspiracy” case outside the seriously flawed testimony of two teenagers, one of whom had “been diagnosed as insane and was off her medication”…The [cop] was…caught lying to the grand jury and lying during a detention hearing, while Doe and the state’s other primary witness were, according to the court, almost entirely “unworthy of belief”…

Size Matters (#337)

Sadly, this was a foregone conclusion:

The leader of the Phoenix Goddess Temple that offered spiritual and touch-based healing services in exchange for donations has been convicted of operating a house of prostitution…Tracy Elise [was pronounced] guilty…on all 22 counts including 12 of money laundering.  She also was convicted of six counts of pandering and one count each of conspiracy to commit illegal control of an enterprise, illegal control of an enterprise, prostitution and operating a house of prostitution…Elise is scheduled to be sentenced on April 8…

Imagine the Sky

The most interesting part of this article for me isn’t the location of historical New York brothels {yawn}, but rather the dogged persistence with which ignoramuses cling to the myth that prostitution was criminalized in the US before the 20th century:

…Sex workers have been operating illegally in New York since before the Revolutionary War.  In the early 19th century, prostitutes worked in Five Points — above present day City Hall Park — and along the East River.  But it wasn’t until the middle of that century that prostitution concentrated in SoHo and formed the city’s first sex district.  While the districts moved northward over time…the manner in which johns found out about the districts remained consistent for decades: cheaply printed guidebooks…patrons needed help finding the city’s illicit brothels that law enforcement mostly turned a blind eye to…

New Excuse

Sometimes politicians’ rhetorical devices are blatantly transparent:

At a hearing on new measures to address human trafficking, California Assemblyman Reggie-Jones Sawyer [said]…”the last time we’ve had this kind of emergency was…the crack-cocaine epidemic.”  Sadly, Sawyer was not referencing the ways in which the current popular panic about sex trafficking and governmental responses to it mirror the outlandish, hysteria-based, and detrimental state approach to the war on drugs.  Rather, Sawyer sees our attention to the “crack-cocaine epidemic” as something we should now strive to emulate…In many, many respects…officials already are treating sex trafficking in the same way they did the drug war.  The dominant legislative response has been increased criminalization of all sorts of commercial sexual activity…

Checklist (#514) 

So about a month ago, this ridiculous air hostess person who’s hawking a book started tweeting nonsense about “sex trafficking” (because her wonderful “signs of trafficking” training makes her an expert, donchaknow).  And she just couldn’t understand why all us mean hookers attacked her when all she wants to do is rescue people!  So she wrote about it, and of course some ass published it:

As a flight attendant, I’ve been trained to spot trafficking in the air…It’s made me take a special interest in the topic, and I was even motivated to speak to my City Council…You…might think human trafficking is a topic we would all agree on. Right? Wrong. I recently learned there are a lot of people who disagree…some sex worker advocates argue we’re creating more victims:  That when I speak out against human trafficking, that I’m contributing to the mass incarceration of sex workers…I met a woman in my neighborhood who works with a nonprofit organization that fights trafficking…so trafficking, in my town of Redondo Beach, has become an off-duty interest for me.  On the drive to my son’s school, we pass 18 massage parlors — in less than two miles.  Every single day I look at these massage parlors, and wonder what might be going on behind those covered up windows surrounded by security cameras…The average person hasn’t had their employer teach them how to stop human trafficking like mine has.  The average person doesn’t have a daily reminder that trafficking is going on in the world the way I do…

Poor Heather; the weight of the world is on her shoulders!  If she doesn’t defend “sex trafficking” victims in Redondo Beach against us bad ol’ whores, who will?

Uncommon Sense (#557)

If any job indicates a need for “counseling”, it’s politician:

…A group of sex workers protested…in Hamburg against a new government bill that would force sex workers to register with the state [every two years or, for women ages 18 to 21, every year] and receive counseling.  The protesters held symbolic “prostitute cards” to illustrate what it would mean for them to be forced to carry with them registration, said Friederike Strack of the Berlin-based consulting center Hydra…

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This is like consulting the school bully on how to make the schoolyard safer.  –  anonymous Toronto resident, on consulting cops about harm reduction

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

If you’re raped by a cop, accuse him of offering to pay you for sex instead; that, they’ll fire him for:

…Fairview [Tennessee] Police Chief Terry Harris and assistant chief Mark Sutton have both been suspended…after one of their officers, Ronnie Williams, was arrested by…Nashville police in a prostitution sting…Williams was allowed to resign rather than be fired, which would be notated on his post certification possibly preventing him from going to another department…

Harm Magnification

Naturally, because it’s cops’ job to cause harm, not reduce it:

When word got out in mid-December that undercover [cops] had arrested two men accessing Toronto Public Health’s (TPH) needle exchange program…TPH’s own harm reduction workers scrambled to warn the drug user community…harm reduction workers [wondered]…Were plainclothes police riding in…mobile outreach vans?  Were they present during the highly sensitive and confidential process of rapid HIV/AIDS testing?…The Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance says police participation in the program has fractured the trust the harm reduction community has cultivated over decades with street-involved people…Zoe Dodd, a long-time harm reduction worker and community activist [said] “I don’t recall drug users ever saying they wanted -police to be involved.  This really just shows me that these agencies are more committed to their relationship with police than they are to their relationship with drug users”…

Saving Them From Themselves

Apparently, this stupid pig doesn’t think a lifetime on the “sex offender” registry is a “real severe thing”:

A Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime.  He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took…a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone.  That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another.  Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it.  A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges.  Police Detective Mike Mohney…[bloviated] that sexting is a serious crime because it leads to “bullying,” and “real severe things like people committing suicide or violent crimes against others because they’re so embarrassed about it”…

Scapegoats

Actually, the truth is worse.  The bill doesn’t add a new sodomy law, because Michigan never repealed its old one.  Politicians are just too spineless to repeal a blatantly-unconstitutional (an therefore unenforceable) law:

The Michigan Senate just passed a bill that makes sodomy a felony, despite the U.S. Supreme Court declaring such a law unconstitutional.  The…law…makes anal sex punishable by up to 15 years in prison…[and] is directly linked to a law against bestiality…saying…it is a felony for anyone to commit “the abominable and detestable crime against nature with mankind or with any animal”…Senator Rick Jones says [changing the wording] could put the entire bill, created to protect animals, in jeopardy.  “The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing.  It’ll be done…Nobody wants to touch it.  I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen.  You’d get…a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional.”  Jones believes that the sodomy ban can only be repealed if a bill is created to strike all unconstitutional laws from the state’s books, but he is not willing to do it at the expense of his dog bill…

Above the Law 

US cops don’t have a monopoly on raping whores:  “David Gibson…is on trial [in] Liverpool…after [raping]…a…sex worker [under threat of arrest]“…And this other arsehole was a serial offender:

A [rapist cop] has pleaded guilty to voyeurism after secretly filming himself [raping] prostitutes – but he was cleared of stalking them.  Irshad Kamal, 47, made dozens of films between 2010 and 2012 without informing the women involved.  His video library was discovered [after he attacked a sex worker]…by tearing her clothes off and grabbing her by the throat…Kamal was arrested when she posted his details on “Ugly Mugs” – a sex industry site for dangerous punters…

Naturally, neither was charged with rape.

First They Came for the Hookers…

If prohibitionists really want to “rescue” sex workers, why do they keep trying to stop us from getting other jobs?

When Cheryl’s manager discovered…[she] used to work in the sex trade…he joked that a name plate on her desk read “pubic relations.”  Kayla…was in a new job too when she says a [cop] informed a colleague she had formerly been a “prostitute and a junkie.”  She lost the job and saw no option but returning to the sex industry.  Both women encountered the degrading treatment when they attempted to leave sex work for new occupations, an obstacle that a recently published study calls the “whore stigma”…The women, whose names were changed in the study to protect their identities, reported  challenges from name calling to violence, identifying the stigma they faced as the most challenging barrier to leaving the sex trade…

Checklist

Is there any profession that the fetishists don’t think requires “signs of trafficking” training?

Cosmetologists all over Ohio have begun training to spot signs of human trafficking in their clients.  The new educational push was a requirement passed by the State Cosmetology Board for licensing…Director Christopher Logsdon said when Ohio’s more than 108,000 cosmetologists are trained; they will collectively touch tens-of-thousands of lives.  “Trafficking is a reality in Ohio and Ohio agencies are engaged to train as many as possible on identifying the signs of human trafficking,” Logsdon said. “We hope and pray that one day this Human tragedy will no longer plague our state and the nation”…

Birth of a Movement (#312)

It only starts with us:

Racial profiling, arbitrary house arrests, detentions, and deportation threats—they’re all too common in France these days as part of the “state of emergency” declared to fight terrorists.  But they’ve been familiar to France’s sex workers for quite a while, which is why they have joined those fighting to try to stop an extension of what some people have called the French “Patriot Act,” only worse…Authorities may search homes and place suspects under house arrest without a judicial warrant…and the government can set curfews and forbid large demonstrations…Morgane Merteuil…joined [a protest vs the “emergency” powers] on behalf of STRASS, France’s only sex-worker-led labor union…”The state of emergency doesn’t really change things for sex workers,” [said] Merteuil…”But it’s an extension of police practices that are already in effect for certain segments of the population, including sex workers”…

Available Weapon nuisance abatement map

Weapons forged for use against whores will work on anyone:

…The nuisance abatement law was created in the 1970’s to combat the sex industry in Times Square.  Since then, its use has been vastly expanded, commonly targeting apartments and mom-and-pop bodegas even as the city’s crime rate has reached historic lows.  The NYPD files upward of 1,000 such cases a year, nearly half of them against residences…The process has remarkably few protections for people facing the loss of their homes.  Three-quarters of the cases begin with secret court orders that lock residents out until the case is resolved.  The police need a judge’s signoff, but residents aren’t notified and thus have no chance to tell their side of the story until they’ve already been locked out for days.  And because these are civil actions, residents also have no right to an attorney…residents can be permanently barred from their homes without being convicted or even charged with a crime…

Cooties

Swedes just can’t admit that whores can do things for ourselves:

Police in Stockholm say the rise of Airbnb…has resulted in pimps booking apartments by using fake profiles…growing numbers of prostitutes [use] sublet apartments to charge for sexual services…prostitutes are active at around 200 addresses on a typical day in the city, with hotels no longer their accommodation of choice…pimps [create] fake profiles of respectable couples…

Dirty Laundry (#452)

Apparently, there’s at least one decent judge in Ireland:

A judge has rejected a State application to confiscate the “hard earned” income of two prostitutes which was stolen and later recovered.  Judge Patrick McCartan…praised the courage of the two women in attempting to stop…Mantas Grazevicius…until gardaí arrived…prosecuting counsel Tony McGillicuddy BL [had tried to steal] the € 2,675…for…the state as the proceeds of prostitution…

Fallen Idol

only three months have passed since the horrifying allegations and James Deen appears to have been welcomed back with open arms…Deen walked the red carpets of the XBIZ and AVN Awards, smiling and posing as if it were business as usual…Though Deen received a whopping 33 XBIZ nominations between him and his company, the popular porn star left without a single award.  AVN was a different story.  There, at the “Oscars of Porn,” Deen was awarded two statues as part of ensembles…While prominent companies Evil Angel and Kink were applauded for cutting ties with Deen in the wake of the sexual assault allegations, the scenes he has done for them will continue to be available for purchase…As his work continues to sell, companies will be inclined to hire him.  This is the nature of the business (and reliable male performers are hard to come by)…There is a clear divide within the industry among those who believe the allegations and those who do not, but few on either side…are willing to comment publicly, since he still carries considerable weight within porn…

The Course of a Disease (#606) 

It’s always so great to see academics stand up for us in print:

…MP Fiona Bruce published an article…urging the home affairs select committee…to criminalise the purchase of sex.  Her core argument…[is] fundamentally flawed.  The laws she so vociferously calls for are likely to have disastrous consequences for the safety of sex workers…Fueled by dogmatic radical feminists and ideologues from the religious-right, anti-prostitution sentiment transcends traditional party politics…Bruce’s piece offers an oversimplified and paternalistic argument in favour of the Swedish model.  She argues that prostitution – the sale of sex between two consenting adults – represents “sexual exploitation”.  In so doing, she dismisses a wealth of evidence that many women choose to sell sex and enjoy their sex working.  It is not uncommon for advocates of the Swedish model to argue that sex workers who claim to sell sex of their own volition suffer from “false consciousness” – they hold a distorted image of their own social situation.  They are victims without knowing it…

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