Posts Tagged ‘France’

The staggering symbolism of the ordeal was not lost on me.  –  Glenn Martin

I thought another video from Axis of Awesome might be welcome about now; the links above it are from Walter Olson (“France”), Domina Elle (“parole”), Amy Alkon (“plant”), and Radley Balko (everything else).

From the Archives

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People you know and love purchase sex. And it doesn’t make them bad people at all.  –  Sarah Penello

Welcome To Our World

How irrationally stupid are people about sex?  This much:

…a study out of the University of Toronto Mississauga…looked at attitudes [on indoor prostitution and offering cash for organ donations. and] found that people generally disapprove of both, but are more firmly against indoor prostitution than they are against selling organs – particularly so among women…

Real People 

More of this, please:

I worked for a legal brothel in Australia and it was the best job I ever had…I loved and admired the women I worked with.  I took great pride in the pleasure I could give to people.  It was a job that I enjoyed, and I was better at it because I enjoyed it…Besides the inherent pleasure of a job well done, the monetary rewards of sex work are unmatched.  Try finding another job that allows me to choose my own hours and make over $1,000 per week on a part-time schedule.  In a legal, regulated and safe environment, the real trap of sex work isn’t usually the stuff of horror movies but the less exciting reality of the intoxicating quality of money…


He’s lucky he didn’t try to pay the pony:

A 74-year-old Frenchman who was caught in the act of having sex with a pony this week has walked free after escaping punishment…[he] was caught in the act…by a member of staff in the pony’s stable at a horse-riding centre…the witness…was unable to be absolutely sure that intercourse took place [so]…police released [him] due to insufficient evidence…

Above the Law John Van Trump

What a brave hero!

…[Texas cop] John Van Trump was [convicted] of sexually assaulting a girl younger than six-years-old…[he faced] a minimum sentence of 25 years in jail and the potential for life…The details of Trump’s crimes were so heinous that they were not released publicly.  We only know that Trump sexually assaulted the daughter of his former girlfriend on multiple occasions.  At the time of the…crimes, she was 5…However, instead of the minimum 25-year sentence he originally faced, Trump received far less time.  In fact, he received no time.  Trump will not serve one day in prison.  Trump was sentenced to 10 years deferred adjudication.  In other words, Trump, a convicted child rapist, will avoid jail altogether after admitting to these heinous accusations…

Uncharted Seas

Nathan Collier and his wives Victoria and Christine applied at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings [Montana] on Tuesday in an attempt to legitimize their polygamous marriage…The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday made gay marriages legal nationwide.  Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent that people in polygamous relationships could make the same legal argument that not having the opportunity to marry disrespects and subordinates them…

New Excuse

I’m really pleased to see others talking about the War on Whores as the new War on Drugs:

…As the drug war has lost popularity, the war on trafficking has gained momentum.  Both the war on drugs and the war on trafficking are housed within the criminal justice system, operating through punishment and incarceration.  Both wars seek to eliminate their abstract opponents by attacking communities of drug users and sex workers, composed mainly of poor people of color.  One way in which both…operate is through the use of increased sanctions.  The criminal justice system imposes harsh penalties on drug and sex related crimes, which in turn leads to mass incarceration, blocking upward mobility for those targeted…

Another Fine Mess

Though this story has some good features, it’s far too mired in the notion that prior to the internet, a very large fraction of sex work was street work (when in fact, street work has always been a minority).  And near the end of the story, the reporter makes the shockingly-incorrect statement that in the US, indoor sex work isn’t criminalized; I can’t imagine how anyone who hadn’t literally just arrived from some other country could possibly be so ignorant about the status of sex work in this country.

Coming and Going (#515) Greg Abbott applauds himself

Given his record of persecuting whores as Texas attorney general, I think we know which it is:

[Texas] governor Greg Abbott, three weeks after effectively telling drug overdosers to drop dead by killing a bill to protect Good Samaritan 911 callers from prosecution…took another…regressive potshot at the Legislature’s attempts to make Texas’ criminal justice system just a bit more humane.  Among the measures killed by…vetoes…was Dallas state Representative Eric Johnson’s HB 1363, which would have reduced penalties for certain prostitution offenses…It’s hard to find a policymaker in Texas…who isn’t in favor of cautiously reducing penalties for nonviolent offenders, and Johnson’s bill is nothing if not cautious.  That leaves only a few possible explanations for Abbott’s veto:  He’s a true believer in an outmoded punitive, tough-on-crime approach to criminal justice; he’s not a true believer but is in thrall to people who are; or he bears a deep-seated animosity toward prostitutes, as he does with drug users.

That Old Black Magic (#546)

Witch doctors do magic vs magic of other witch doctors that kings’ magicians dislike:

…thousands of Nigerian women trafficked to Europe…become sex slaves every year [have] been told [they owe tens of thousands of euros]…for [the] journey…Although the chains…are only psychological, they are extremely powerful.  In their desperation to break the hold over the girls, many of which are sent on the migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean, the Italians have even resorted to get Catholic priests to perform exorcisms on them.  There are estimated to be 25,000 Nigerian girls working as prostitutes in Italy and the numbers arriving rose 300 per cent in 2014, experts say…in Nigeria [witch doctors perform] voodoo [over them and]…promise…hairdresser [jobs but force them into prostitution instead.  They believe they must]…pay off the debt or face terrible repercussions…

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How infinitely one of Your own Sex ador’d You, and that, among all the numerous Conquest, Your Grace has made over the Hearts of Men, Your Grace had not subdu’d a more intire Slave.  –  Aphra Behn

Some women are whores out of necessity, some by circumstance and some by nature, but Hortense Mancini carried whoredom in her blood.  She was an especially wild, bold and lusty whore from a family of whores, and a number of her descendants followed in her footsteps.  The fact that she, her family, her clients and her lovers were all noble as well does not change her essential whorishness, as we shall see; it did, however, ensure that her assignations, adventures and escapades would be recorded for posterity.

Hortense (or as her father called her, Ortensia) was born in Rome on June 6th, 1646; she was the fourth of five daughters borne by Girolama Mazzarini to her husband, Baron Lorenzo Mancini, who dabbled in astrology and black magic and died rather suddenly in 1650.  Fortunately, Giraloma’s older brother Giulio had joined the clergy, become active in politics, and risen to the rank of both cardinal and chief minister to Louis XIV of France (where he was known as Cardinal Mazarin); she therefore packed up her brood and moved them to Paris, where she hoped their powerful uncle would find them rich and influential husbands.  And that he did; Laure married Louis de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme; Olympe married Eugène-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano; Marie was the first love of the young Louis XIV, but was married off to Prince Lorenzo Colonna of Italy; and Marie Anne married Maurice Godefroy de la Tour d’Auvergne, duc de Bouillon.  But Hortense was the most beautiful and most favored by her uncle, so it’s unsurprising he turned down the suit of the penniless Stuart who was only a few months later restored to the throne of England as Charles II.  The cardinal then offered Charles a dowry of 5 million livres to make Hortense Queen of England, but Charles refused; this, however, does not mean he never got to bed the girl he was so enamored with; he just had to wait a few years.

Three months before her 15th birthday, Hortense was married off to Armand Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye, one of the richest men in Europe; unfortunately, his miserliness and prudishness matched his wealth and he was also mentally ill.  Among his more bizarre behaviors were searching Hortense’s room for hidden lovers before locking her in at night, having his maidservants’ front teeth knocked out to make them unattractive, and vandalizing art to eradicate the genitals of human figures.  But this doesn’t mean he was uninterested in sex with his wife; within five years she had borne him four children.  Still, one can only imagine the dreariness of sex with such a man; sometime in 1666 she began a lesbian affair with Sidonie de Courcelles, and when he discovered them he sent them both to a convent (from which they escaped after tormenting the nuns for a while).  Finally, her brother helped her to escape her awful husband just a week after her 22nd birthday; he hired an escort to take her to Rome, where she moved in with her sister Marie (now the Princess Colonna).  King Louis was still very fond of Marie, and as a favor to her he granted Hortense an income of 24,000 livres.  She also became the mistress of the Duke of Savoy, whom her uncle had turned down as a suitor ten years before; he gave her a house, where she lived until his death in 1675.  At that point, two things happened:  the Duke’s jealous widow evicted her, and her husband managed to get a judgment freezing all of her income, including the royal pension.

Hortense was desperate; she only knew one way to get money, and nobody wanted to cross her powerful and vindictive husband.  In stepped Ralph Montagu, the English ambassador to France; he secured her passage to England (she made the voyage in male drag) and an introduction to her former suitor, Charles II…and Hortense did the rest.  By the summer of 1676 she had displaced Louise de Kerouaille as chief mistress, securing thereby an income of £4,000 (English money, inaccessible to her husband).  His Majesty did not much mind her lesbian affair with Anne, his 16-year-old daughter by Lady Castlemaine (except for the time they had a fencing match in their nightgowns in St. James’s Park); her affair with Louis I of Monaco, however, was another thing entirely.  He even cut off her income, and though he relented on the money less than three days later, he did not restore her to her position (which was again taken up by Louise de Kerouaille).

History does not have much to say about Hortense’s lovers after the King, except for a lesbian affair with the writer Aphra Behn.  After Charles’ death her income was continued by his brother James II, whose wife Mary was her cousin; even after James was deposed in 1689, Queen Mary II continued to support her (though at a lower level).  She spent her time running a salon in her home, and died of drink (or suicide, depending on whom one believes) on November 9th, 1699; she was 53 years old.  Her long-estranged husband then added a creepy epilogue to her story by claiming her body and taking it around France for months before finally allowing it to be buried in the tomb of her uncle, Cardinal Mazarin.

Back in the first paragraph I mentioned that several of Hortense’s descendants followed in her footsteps.  Her son, Paul Jules de La Porte, duc Mazarin et de La Meilleraye, had two children, a son and a daughter.   The son, Guy de la Porte, had a great-granddaughter who married Prince Honoré IV of Monaco in 1777 and thus became the ancestress of the current Prince.  But the daughter, Armande, married Louis de Mailly, Prince d’Orange and became the mother of five beautiful daughters, of which four would later become mistresses to King Louis XV of France; she herself became the mistress of the King’s chief minister, the Duc de Bourbon.  For some women, whoredom is only skin deep; some have it in their blood, and others are whores to the bone.  But Hortense Mancini was a whore down to her genes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that many of her descendants are still plying the trade in one way or another to this day.

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Eventually, the item believed to be Napoleon’s penis was bought in an auction…  –  Ishaan Tharoor

As so often happens these days, I got occupied last night and was unable to finish setting everything up by deadline.  Sorry about that!  The video below is from Mike Siegel, who also contributed “accidentally”; Radley Balko gave us “headline”, Skye  “transit”, Lenore Skenazy “camping” and Popehat “call out”.

From the Archives

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Anti-prostitution activists need to get up off the ignorance couch and look at science.  –  Dinsa Sachan

R.I.P. Blaze Starr Famous pin-up Blaze Starr (real name Fannie Belle Fleming) in 1950

Blaze Starr, the voluptuous stripper who was billed as the Queen of Burlesque and whose affair with…Louisiana governor [Earl K. Long] was the basis of a 1989 movie, died on Monday…[at the age of] 83…the Ron Shelton film Blaze, starring Lolita Davidovich in the title role alongside Paul Newman as the governor…drew on her memoir, Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry, published in 1974.  Ms. Starr said that she and Mr. Long were engaged to be married when he died in 1960, two months before his divorce was to become final.  She continued to wear a five-carat diamond ring that she said he had given her…

Safe Targets

An article about women who sell panties on Reddit ends with the following paragraph:

…While sex work is still criminalized, its sellers are relegated to the dark outposts of the digital universe, where unsavory clients moderate the forums and self-employed workers walk on eggshells just to keep their business afloat…Until the laws surrounding sex work change, communities like Sex Sells are the last bastion of defense against the Internet’s faceless antagonists.

Harm Reduction

From the “no shit” department:

Sexual relationships that involve the exchange of money cannot be considered adultery, according to a Tokyo District Court ruling involving a couple and a bar hostess…No damages were rewarded to the plaintiff – the wife of a man who was allegedly sleeping with a hostess for more than seven years…she had sought more than $32,000 in compensation.  Judge Masamitsu Shiseki of the Tokyo District Court ruled…the sex between the plaintiff’s husband and the hostess was strictly business, and therefore did not harm the marriage…”such conduct does not damage peaceful marital life,” Shiseki…said.  “Even if the wife is disgusted by the act, it does not constitute a legal offense”…

Check Your Premises

Here’s another case exposing who really gets targeted under U.S. sex trafficking statutes.  Far from the cartoonishly evil kingpins or sociopathic perverts of political lore, it’s people like Oregon resident Julie Haner, who as a 19-year-old drove her 17-year-old friend across state lines so they could both make money via sex work.  Haner and the girl has previously attended high-school together and been on the same cheerleading squad…


The sheriff of Charlotte County, Florida is adamant that sex work brings evil in its wake:  “There are obvious health risks, not only to the defendants, but also to their innocent family members, because of this type of activity…”  Obviously the sheriff must also believe that people who eat too much fatty food or work long hours should be arrested due to the “obvious health risks”.  But the head of vice for Charleston, West Virginia, isn’t so sure:

To people who say prostitution is a victimless crime and a waste of police resources, Young said the department is urged to make the arrests by members of the community…He conceded that the crime tends to have a “revolving door” of new offenders…officers don’t have reason to believe the women were trafficked or otherwise forced into the work…Young advocates for incarceration for the crimes so that arrests will be more of a deterrent…the women just make more deals to be able to pay the fines, he said…

Subtle Pimping

Looking for new vices to tax, Nevada lawmakers have turned their sights on escort services and massive music-and-light festivals in the desert.  Lawmakers…eliminated loopholes in Nevada’s live-entertainment tax, a lounge-lizard levy that had covered cabaret performances and burlesque dancing.  It now includes a 9 percent charge on tickets for events such as Burning Man…The tax…also would apply to “pickup fees” for escort services, but not prostitutes at Nevada’s 24 legal brothels…

Gorged With Meaning

Leave it to the Daily Fail to reverse the “sugar babies are exploited” narrative:  “Students lure online sugar daddies into paying their tuition fees: How young women are using the internet to find rich men who will give them cash in exchange for relationships” San Francisco Chronicle 1-20-1917

Hooker Humor (#31)

Miranda Kane uses her good reviews to catch reporters’ attention:

…her frank and funny one-woman show, The Coin Operated Girl, has won rave reviews…billed as “the cheapest hour you’ll ever spend with a prostitute”, it has drawn comparisons with the tell-all blog Belle de Jour…“There are a lot of people saying we should ban the buying of sex because all these women are being forced into it, but the only reason they are being forced into it are things like the Government cutting benefits and that there aren’t enough facilities out there to help with drug and mental health problems…we need to look at the base reasons why they are doing it”…


After being drawn to the dynamic and outspoken prostitutes…at [a] conference…I met Ishtar Lakhani…who has been advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution in [South Africa]…“(Steinem’s) argument is that we live in a patriarchy.  All women are oppressed; all women are victims…a woman…[should] decide what [she wants] to choose…If you want to do sex work, it is your choice and should be respected”…The Nordic model is often touted as the solution to the prostitution problem.  However…the Nordic model has not helped women or reduced women in sex work or increased women’s safety…the model [also] affects the women’s ability to make money because of reduced number of clients…It is time for feminist activists and governments around the globe to recognize that New Zealand’s decriminalization model works.  Anti-prostitution activists argue that decriminalization expands the industry, but New Zealand’s government has found that not to be the case…

Full of Themselves (#418)

One can always tell a story influenced by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC):

…Unlike street walkers who ply their trade in motel rooms, those selling their bodies are doing so by intermingling with a legitimate business…Those using massage therapy as a front operate out of clean buildings indistinguishable from legitimate massage parlors…Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion…[lied] that [sex work] doesn’t qualify as a victimless crime…[because of] human trafficking…[even though his cops have never] found [any women who] said they were being forced into prostitution…[he pretends that] Human trafficking…is a growing problem in…Manteca [anyway and his DA crony] Tori Verber Salazar [tells old men lurid wanking fantasies of]…victims as young as 11 years old that are forced to do tricks…

Held Together With Lies (#542)

Remember that ridiculous probitionist “study” that pretended sex work “costs” France €1.6 billion a year?  Well, Mark Draughn took the time to work out the economic actualities, and it’s very interesting reading (and, as you might expect, completely different from what the prohibitionists pretend).  Like Gaul it’s divided into three parts, but it’s well worth your time.

Traffic Circle (#546)

Glenn Kessler isn’t the only one at the Washington Post who’s attacking “sex trafficking” mythology:

…At times, various government agencies have estimated that there were as many as 50,000 victims a year in this country.  Then, in 2004, another estimate came in at about 14,500 to 17,500, and then lowered it to 1,362, our colleague Jerry Markon wrote in a lengthy article in 2007…The FBI on April 6 put out its first report on human trafficking…The numbers were from just 13 states reporting…Even so, the total number of human trafficking offenses reported for either “commercial sex acts” or “involuntary servitude” in those 13 states was 14.  There were a total of four arrests…

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Investors and sex workers already know each other…frequently intimately.  –  Bardot Smith

Feminine Pragmatism 

It seems to me that these women knew exactly what they were doing:

Members of a U.N. peacekeeping mission engaged in “transactional sex” with more than 225 Haitian women who said they needed to do so to obtain things like food and medication, a sign that sexual exploitation remains significantly underreported in such missions…About a third of alleged sexual abuse involves minors under 18…And widespread confusion remains on the ground about consensual sex and exploitation…For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the “triggering need”…urban and suburban women received “church shoes”, cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money.  In cases of non-payment, some women withheld the badges of peacekeepers and threatened to reveal their infidelity via social media…

Setting Women’s Rights Back a Century

Amherst says even unconscious men are morally superior to women:

An Amherst College student…accompanied a fellow student back to her dorm room after drinking in February 2012. While he was blacked out, she performed oral sex on him.  Nearly two years later, she would accuse him of sexual assault.  And under Amherst’s guilty-until-proven-innocent…hearing standards, the accused student was expelled…John Doe — is suing the college for denying him due process.  His lawyer had discovered text messages that prove the accused student did not initiate the encounter and in no way sexually assaulted the accuser.  Despite this evidence, the college refused to reopen Doe’s case…Doe was not allowed to directly cross-examine his accuser and could only write down questions for the panel to ask her, leaving no room for follow-ups…the accuser said during her hearing that she only texted one friend to help her handle the assault as she felt “very alone and confused”…Rather, the accuser texted her friend “Ohmygod I jus did something so fuckig stupid” [sic throughout].  She then proceeded to fret that she had done something wrong and her roommate would never talk to her again, because “it’s pretty obvi I wasn’t an innocent bystander”…

J’accuse (#42)International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Strauss-Kahn listens during a news conference in Vienna

Was this outcome ever in doubt?

Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not guilty of “aggravated pimping”, a French court has ruled.  A judge in Lille described…DSK…as a “libertine” and a “customer”, but said he was not a pimp…

Under Every Bed 

I wonder sometimes if the reporters who write pap like this realize how ridiculous they sound:

A message to those who would traffic in human life:  A crackdown is coming.  New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas plans to sharpen the state’s focus on investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes – and has requested a $750,000 federal grant to roughly double the number of personnel dedicated to such cases…Human trafficking is an underreported crime that too frequently goes uninvestigated…New Mexico…has prosecuted fewer than two dozen cases since an anti-human-trafficking law went into effect in 2008. But that number belies the real extent of the crimes committed…[Balderas’ toady] said “The numbers don’t really reflect the human trafficking that is happening in New Mexico…we know this is a rampant, billion-dollar industry.”

Skin To Skin (#315)

criminalisation of clients has negative effects on the safety, wellbeing and health of sex workers.  Yet there is another side to the problem – the sexual fulfilment of vulnerable clients, such as those with a disability…Clients are often portrayed as men who enjoy degrading women and even violent characters who like to abuse them.  But…research…contradicts this view…Tuppy Owens, sex therapist and founder of the TLC Trust, which connects people with disability with sex workers, argues the effects of criminalising clients would be tragic for people with disability…while many clients will simply go underground to avoid being caught if criminalisation becomes a reality, this is less of an option for people with disabilities.  Many rely on a third party to help them access sex services…We should promote rather than restrict initiatives that allow them to explore their sexuality in a safe and mutually respectful way with a…sex worker.

Pimping the Pimp

If Patricia Spencer doesn’t pace herself, she’ll burn out her Hitachi in no time:

…we’re pretty fortunate in Las Vegas because we have a full-time unit dedicated to vice and sex trafficking-related activities.  That’s why we’re unique, and that’s why we get so much exposure to everything going on, because we see it every day…If you publish an article…about a prostitution-related incident, and you read the comments at the bottom, it’s very discouraging because the comments…are almost always negative towards the police doing this type of investigation…the public does not understand…that 99.9% of the women are trafficked.   They’re beaten.  They don’t keep the money, and they are in a life that they can’t escape from.  The amount of juveniles that are being trafficked is astronomical…People are getting annihilated, and all for money…they’re enslaved into this life…It’s almost like addiction for these women.  They need treatment programs, just like addicts…Their kids are kidnapped and held from the victim a lot…My love and passion has always been chasing and going after gang members, and I can see that gang members have now evolved into pimping…we’re seeing a great deal of these girls turning into trick-rollers…if they have a quota to meet, they would much rather meet that quota by stealing than having to turn tricks all night.  I mean, who wants to do that?  It’s much easier, and there’s more money…

A woman who’s never done sex work (or any other useful labor) stating that theft is easier than fucking is a perfect example of the warped police mentality.

To Protect and Serve (#413)

Undercover inspections are one of vice unit’s main tactics in making sure San Diego’s strip clubs adhere to what some consider to be the most restrictive adult-entertainment ordinance on the West Coast…from April 20, 2013, to June 6, 2014, detectives from the vice unit visited Cheetahs on ten occasions…In March 2014, nearly a dozen [of them forced] the dancers to pose for photos in their lingerie…Two lawsuits…were soon filed…and [the city retaliated by revoking] their nude-entertainment business permit…a…former vice detective [says] “Vice unit is a club…detectives…go drinking every night.  When they decide to target a place they’ll send in vice cops, narcotics, code compliance to find violations.  Once they get a hard-on, they will do whatever they need to do”…

Property of the State 

I suspect Georgia politicians will close this loophole almost immediately:

Georgia prosecutors have dropped the murder charges brought against 23-year-old Kenlissa Jones, who attempted to abort her pregnancy at around five months by taking an abortion drug that she ordered online.  The drug sent Jones into early labor, delivering a child that allegedly was alive but died soon thereafter.  Jones was originally charged with malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug…The…district attorney’s office is still charging Jones with misdemeanor possession of a dangerous drug…(misoprostol).  But it dropped the murder charges after District Attorney Greg Edwards realized that…”although third parties could be criminally prosecuted for their actions relating to an illegal abortion…as the law currently stands in Georgia, criminal prosecution of a pregnant woman for her own actions against her unborn child does not seem permitted.  Applicable criminal law and statutes provide explicit immunity from prosecution for a pregnant woman”…

Another Fine Mess

Bardot Smith points out that sex workers aren’t only on the forefront of new technologies; we often drive their development:

…while women indirectly control the overwhelming majority of major purchases being made, they have limited exposure and access to the development of these new systems and tools.  The adult industry is the exception.  [It] and the financial sector…have always been connected…as women are always directly linked to the movement of resources in an economy…Nearly all men enjoy the…commercial sex industry in some way.  Venture capitalists are certainly no exception, and the finance industry in general has a long and storied love affair with the working girl…the end goal is always, unapologetically, a direct transfer of wealth to women…sex workers have long driven major revolutions in technology:  still photography, video cameras, telephone services, VCR, peer-to-peer computing, phone and video chat, and streaming.  They have also been at the forefront of innovating new business models for content, communications, and services themselves…And yet…despite the fact that adult content drives 30% of internet traffic, and the fact that companies are profiting from the traffic, ads and services involved in the industry, the women who power that capital flow are treated like criminals…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (#442)

How much of this is due to the end of Somaly Mam’s disinformation, and how much to rescue industry repositioning?

The number of minors working in Cambodia’s sex industry is on the decline…A study by the International Justice Mission, which closely monitors the issue, shows a decline in the prevalence of girls under the age of 17 in brothels and other venues.  The IJM report found the prevalence of underage girls declined from around 8 percent to just over 2 percent from 2012 to 2015.  Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s vice president of government and advocacy…[said] Cambodia is “no longer the world’s No. 1 destination to buy a child,” though the threat of sex trafficking remains high…

IJM is one of the most notorious of all the “rescue” organizations, so what are they up to?McDonald's tattoo

Soap Opera (#447) 

The “trafficking tattoo” trope has taken on a life of its own:  “Some have bar codes.  Others are marked with their pimp’s name and phone number.  Branded like cattle, victims of human trafficking recovered in Pennsylvania could soon apply to the state to have any tattoos from their pimps surgically removed…

Blunt Instrument (#516)

“Sex trafficking” used as an excuse to destroy and loot businesses against which there is literally no evidence of criminality:

A 10-month investigation uncovered nearly a dozen Utah massage parlors being used as fronts for sex trafficking…the [allegations] led to the questioning of more than a dozen women and one man…[but] no charges have been filed.  “Our hope is to find evidence of trafficking in person [sic],” said Attorney General Sean Reyes…[who also pretended]  there is a lead person who moves women around to different fronts, collects money and sends it to the women’s home country.  The first words out of one woman’s mouth when investigators arrived was, “Help me. Please, please help me,” he said…

Yes, Mr. Reyes, that’s called “praying”.  People often do it in terrifying situations, such as when threatened by thugs waving guns around.

Drawing Lines (#516) 

The tax protest angle is interesting, but look more closely at what the brothel owner wants from the “authorities”:

A licensed brothel in…Salzburg has been offering free drinks and free sex in a protest against what its owner says is unfair taxation…the news “has spread like wildfire, with punters lining up to get inside”…Hermann “Pascha” Müller, who owns the…brothel, [said]…he no longer wants to be “the tax office’s pimp”…Müller says that he is paying the prostitutes’ usual hourly rate out of his own pocket.  “In the last decade I have paid taxes of almost €5 million…The problem is, the tax office wants more and more, and they are not cracking down on illegal street and apartment prostitution”…

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That is how we ended up in the church, without knowing how it would all end, without knowing if we would get out dead or alive.  But it was really the last thing that we could do to try and save our skin.  –  Maria de Lourdes

Protest at St. Nizier's 1975Forty years ago today, the sex workers of Lyon, France protested the unrelenting torment the cops inflicted upon them by occupying the Church of St. Nizier.  Despite its bawdy reputation in the English-speaking world, France has never been friendly to whores; beginning in the 16th century the French pioneered many of the laws and tactics used to harass us throughout the world to this day, and the Code Napoleon officially gave the police power to “control” prostitution (with results any regular reader could predict).  The severity of the maltreatment ebbed and flowed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries until the government decided to revenge its humiliation at the hands of the Nazis on the bodies of sex workers, and France became officially “abolitionist” in 1960.

By August of 1973 the cops’ depredations had become so severe a street protest was organized, but it did not end well and the police were only emboldened to make things worse.  Early in 1975 they closed down the hotels de passe, cheap establishments where street workers took their clients, then proceeded to harry them with fines; the department decreed that each girl was to receive two or three fines per day, but because multiple cops were involved it could sometimes be five or more.  If a woman went to pay her fines, she was intentionally delayed in the police station for several hours so she would lose most of her night; if she didn’t pay she would be arrested and jailed, and her children abducted by the state if there were no relatives to take them.  Meanwhile, the tax department would present them with huge bills assuming numbers of clients that would fit comfortably in the masturbatory fantasies of “sex trafficking” fetishists.

Something had to give, and on June 2nd two sex workers named Ulla and Barbara led a group of 100 prostitutes to occupy a church in hopes of calling attention to their plight.  They had an ally in Father Louis Blanc, who secured the cooperation of several other priests; they planned to occupy the Church of St.Bonaventure, but the police found out and began to prepare for mass arrests of the protesters as they arrived.  Fortunately, Ulla was tipped off in time and diverted the protesters to St. Nizier instead; volunteers waited inside to direct each arrival out through the side doors while the cops waited outside in their cars, thinking they would wait until they could get a good crop of victims before springing their trap.  Father Blanc remembers, “The police officers looked as if they were having fun in their cars.  But after a while, they were having less fun because…’what is happening?’ We have disappeared!  In the meantime the prostitutes have entered the Church of St. Nizier, where there are no police.”  The priest at St. Nizier was Father Béal, and with his help over 100 whores were able to congregate there before the cops realized where they had gone.

By the evening of June 3rd, the news of the protest had spread across France, and over the next few days to other countries as well.  Sex workers all over France began to occupy other churches; in Paris 200 whores occupied the Chapel of Saint Bernard.  The media interviewed Ulla and other sex workers, allowing them to air their grievances for all to hear and they issued a “Letter to the People of Lyon” which read, in part,

…we haven’t taken up prostitution because we are depraved.  Prostitution is the only means we have found to deal with the problems of life…People regard us as “dirty” or “abnormal” women, but at the same time they say we are needed…Prostitution is not forbidden under French law and theoretically we are citizens like everyone else.  But because society is ashamed of the fact that it needs us, it treats us as criminals, people who can be subjected to the full repressive might of the police…

Most feminists of 1975 still actually supported women’s choices, and figures like Simone de Beauvoir spoke up for the sex workers; other activists protested outside the church in a show of solidarity. Their demands were simple; as stated in a pamphlet they circulated outside, “We will only leave the church once you have given us the guarantee that you will stop throwing us in jail each time you think there is a repeat offense.  Our children do not want their mothers to go to jail.”  The protesters told the media they wished to speak to Madame Giroud, then State Secretary for Women, but before the request could even be officially made Giroud refused, claiming this was not a women’s issue at all but rather the responsibility of the Minister of Interior; the latter politician, Michel Poniatowski, decided to reply with violence, and at 5 AM on June 10th ordered the police to remove the protesters from all of the churches.

In Paris and some other places, the removal was accomplished with the usual police tactics of smashing down doors and beating women with truncheons, but at St. Nizier they decided to use a trick.  A cop called Father Béal pretending to be a reporter who wanted to speak to Ulla, and when the church door was unlocked to admit the priest with his fake message, armed cops sprang from hiding; they pushed him aside and swarmed into the building 120 strong, accompanied by 20 dogs and equipped with tear gas.  Most of the women were simply ordered out, but Ulla and Barbara were beaten so severely they had to be hospitalized.  Father Béal lodged a formal protest against the violation of the ancient principle of asylum, but Poniatowski replied that police could enter anywhere when “public order” was disturbed, citing a law from 1905 in support of his actions.

Hooking vans in LyonBut despite the government’s refusal to peacefully grant the demands, officials must have been anxious to avoid similar embarrassment in the future; the harassment stopped, the cops with the highest numbers of sex worker arrests were reassigned to other duties, and the ludicrous tax bills no longer appeared.  By 1994 the culture had shifted sufficiently for “pimping” to be defined more narrowly, thus ending for a time the harassment of partners, roommates, adult children, etc with “avails” charges.  Of course, that didn’t last long, and regular readers have seen the tide once again turn toward repression in the form of the “Swedish model“, laws against “looking like a whore” and even repeated parking fines for the vans from which most street workers now operate.  But the protesters and their successors have not passively watched all this happen:

…the whores began holding regular meetings and soon formed the French Collective of Prostitutes, on which the English Collective of Prostitutes was later modeled.  Women in a number of other countries were also inspired to form groups, and a number of these came together with Margo St. James’ COYOTE to form the International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights (ICPR), the organization whose work and example helped to win prostitution law reform in a number of European countries and provided an example which inspired similar campaigns in many other parts of the world.  In a way, the modern sex worker rights movement was born on that June 2nd in Lyon, so we celebrate it now as International Whores’ Day.

I’ve written about this occasion before, but the greater detail in today’s column was made possible by a French-language documentary being broadcast today on both Radio France and Radio Belgium; it was produced by Australian sex worker rights activist Eurydice Aroney, who called it to my attention about six weeks ago and reminded me of it again recently.  You can listen to the show at the link above, and Eurydice kindly provided me with this English translation of the transcript.  She and I both think it’s very important that sex workers know about the history of our movement; please help us accomplish that goal by publicizing the documentary and this column on social media!

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