Posts Tagged ‘harm reduction’

Last year, my husband had a drunk night out and called several prostitutes, but claims that no actual sex ever occurred.  I have all of the numbers he called.  Is there any way I could approach these women and ask whether one of them saw my husband that night?  I feel like I’m fairly open minded, but in my book, sex outside of a marriage is cheating, period, and I just need to know.  Is this a foolish endeavor?lips sealed

Well, it’s a futile one.  It is extremely unlikely that any of the ladies will answer that question; our professional ethics forbid it.  More than anything else, what a man is paying for when he sees a professional is discretion; if it got around that a sex worker had betrayed one of her clients to his wife (or anyone else), word would quickly get around and her reputation would be sunk.  There is a small chance someone might slip and give you info that she absolutely shouldn’t, but the chance is vanishingly small; you’d probably have similar luck calling a clinic to ask if your husband had been treated there.  Even if he really did see a pro that night, please understand that it has absolutely no bearing on his feelings for you; men sometimes just think with the wrong head, and it’s our job to minimize the harm that can come from that.  And if it continues to bug you, you might consider talking to a wise friend or counsellor so as to let off the stress before it ends up hurting your marriage over something that may not even really have happened.

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


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Why is it so hard for us to see how profoundly a $100 billion illegal market in anything, even in popcorn or “My Little Pony” toys, would distort a society?  –  Danielle Allen

Good Fantasy, Bad Reality Dr Blakemore

So how would Dr. Blakemore react to an amateur physician injuring someone through incompetence?

A female GP who left her businessman lover covered in bleeding welts following a caning session has been cleared of assault.  The sex life of Elvira Blakemore, 41 and James Austin, a 57-year-old businessman, culminated in a trial…the couple began to experiment sexually after Dr Blakemore was said to have been interested in the fantasies portrayed in the film, 50 Shades of Grey…At the heart of the case was whether the caning amounted to assault or was, as the GP insisted, purely consensual…On one occasion, Mr Austin told the court, she hit him with the cane after he had passed out on their bed.  “She was violently hitting me with the cane very many times on the back.  There was a cut on my cheek also, but she just kept going and by the end there was blood on the bed,” he said…

Forward and Backward

The fact that “prostitution-free zones” are unconstitutional never deters politicians:

Police in North Carolina could soon have the authority to designate “public safety zones” and ban citizens arrested for certain crimes within those areas from returning for up to a year.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials are flirting with the plan, which was tried with limited success in other cities and briefly used to target prostitution in Charlotte a decade ago…The plan…would allow police commanders to designate a section of the city as a “public safety zone” in response to specific crimes and aggressively police that area.  Anyone arrested for one of the targeted crimes inside the safety zone would face a one-year ban…

Change a Few Words

Need I point out that the War on Whores is the same?

…The drug war is a perfect example of the breakdown of the rule of law and the knock-on effects of such a breakdown.  Our drug laws are fundamentally unenforceable, and this distorts the judicial system, including by producing prosecutorial overload, which is a driver of low homicide clearance rates, which beget a culture of increasing violence, which puts more fathers of young children behind bars or under the ground, makes it harder for children in poor, urban areas to walk to school safely, and forces on those children a choice between the culture of the schools, inside the rule of law, and the culture of the streets, outside the rule of law…

The Sky is Falling!

Radhika’s clutching her pearls so hard she’s about to break them:

…Porn is no longer shocking.  It has become normalised to the point where young children are getting their first sex education lessons via RedTube.  Recent studies show that pupils as young as 11 watch pornography…The consequences have been severe.  These porn videos showed a one-sided, male perspective of sex – with overly-eager girls and absolutely no emphasis on female pleasure.  A number of my peers now have sexual issues they directly relate to porn, such as struggling to orgasm, hating pubic hair and needing “stimulants” such as rough sex in order to come.  As scientists have previously suggested, many can also struggle with intimacy…While girls of my generation would watch porn simply to learn what third base was, now a new generation of girls is watching it for career advice…

Buried Truth Donny Pauling

Vociferous opposition to anything sexual should be considered strong evidence of an attraction to it:

[Porn prohibitionist] Donny Pauling Jr. pleaded no contest…to four felony sex charges involving two minors, a plea deal that would send him to state prison for six years…Pauling, 41, acting as his own attorney, admitted to oral copulation and having sexual intercourse with a victim 14 years old in 2012, continuing into 2014…Pauling also must register as a sexual offender for life…A former Chico-based pornography producer, Pauling had said he found God and traveled to churches around the country as an anti-pornography activist…

Innocence Never Had

Prax(us)…will shutter its doors this December.  The nonprofit set itself apart from the army of Christian anti-sex-trafficking organizations that demand participants be abstinent and sober, by focusing specifically on homeless youth in exploitative situations and offering individuals support without judgement.  Prax(us) didn’t require youth be sober.  It didn’t require them to work with law enforcement.  It didn’t stigmatize youth for criminal activities or participating in sex-work…encouraged clients to reduce harm by learning about and practicing safer drug use and safer sex.  Staff handed out condoms, dental dams and lube, and referred clients to the local syringe exchange where they could trade dirty needles for clean ones…Refusing to turn away active sex workers limited the amount of money Prax(us) could get from government grants.  Foundations preferred money that went to clear-cut human trafficking cases — not services for sex workers who don’t feel exploited…

Femme Fatale (#409)

Since neither medical episodes nor deaths suffered at Nevada’s brothels are publicly available statistics, how often does it actually happen?  And what are the protocols for when they occur?…We interviewed employees at three of Nevada’s 20-plus legal brothels, all of whom denied that anyone has ever had a medical episode at their establishments…Bella Cummins, owner of Bella’s Hacienda Ranch…[claimed] the prostitutes are all so good at their jobs, no John so much as passes out…However, according to one Swiss report, seven customers died while visiting brothels between 2004 and 2014.  And that’s just in Switzerland.  An American Heart Association report found that 93 percent of married men who died of sudden death during sex did so due to extra-marital sex in unfamiliar settings—both of which increase stress levels…

Stupor Bowl (#424)

The Bay Area tries desperately to cash in on the “gypsy whore” myth before it collapses completely:

Preparation for Super Bowl 50 has been well underway for more than a year and includes a massive collaboration amongst local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the FBI as criminals engaged in human trafficking are anticipated to take advantage…officials are certain federal and local agencies must work together to crack down on pimps and Johns while assisting victims.  For the ninth year, the FBI is setting up a human trafficking operation center while bringing in additional agents and intelligence analysts specifically in response to the Super Bowl…In previous host cities, there’s been “an increase in activity with respect to…sex trafficking and the exploitation of juveniles and minors around the Super Bowl”…[FBI agent Bertram] Fairries [lied]…

Dysphemisms Galore (#565)

Amber Batts, convicted as a “sex trafficker” for running exactly the same kind of business I did, has sent a letter to supporters from prison:

I have lost much through this ordeal, but the one thing I cannot ever replace is time…I am…unable to call my family or friends unless there is an expensive phone account set up and prepaid…I ran an escort agency…but I was more than that person.  I was a mom and a friend.  I paid my bills, my taxes, I was a wife, I had hobbies…I will continue to have hope as I live what feels like a surreal nightmare at times…

New Excuse (#568)

I love Liz Brown, and I mean that in whatever way she finds most appealing:

…the tough-on-crime approach to sex-trafficking is about arresting as many people as possible and wresting as many assets as possible from them, not legitimately helping sex trafficking victims (legitimately helping people means paying attention to what they actually need, not threatening them with arrest if they don’t testify against others or sending them to church-run “prostitution diversion” camps or giving them bags filled with socks and toiletries and calling it a day.) Just look at the language used by Marinus Analytics, a company getting lots of attention for using big data analysis to aid in human trafficking investigations. In its intro, Marinus promises to help cops and prosecutors “focus your attention to high value criminal targets” and “track the highest value criminal targets in less time.”  The assets that can be seized are the prize, the teens selling sex are just convenient cover…

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Off Limits

I think married men should be off limits for prostitutes.  Why don’t you care about other women?

Cheating.How do you propose whores determine a man’s marital status, demand he produce his certificate of bachelorhood?  You do realize a married man looks exactly like an unmarried one, don’t you?  Frankly, it’s not our responsibility to determine which men are married, just like it isn’t a bartender’s job to guess which of his customers may belong to a religion that forbids drinking.  If a man wants to have extracurricular sex he’s going to, and there’s nothing his wife or any whore within driving range can do to stop that; even if we had some sort of professional code against providing services to married men, they’d simply lie and say they weren’t married.  However, it would be really stupid for us to make such a code, even if it could somehow be enforced; for one thing, married men make up easily 75% of our clients, and for another you wouldn’t actually WANT us to stop seeing them, even though you believe that you do.  As I wrote almost five years ago in “Harm Reduction“,

…at least two-thirds of married men will at least occasionally seek extramarital sex.  No woman has any way of knowing whether the man she chooses will be a member of the minority who is able to resist temptation, so if she defines a “successful marriage” as one in which her husband never strays she is playing Russian Roulette with at least four bullets.  But if she defines it as one in which her husband’s probable infidelities cause no overt damage, difficulty or social consequences, all she need do is keep him from getting involved with amateurs…whores allow men to cheat in a managed fashion and thereby minimize harm to their wives and children.  Far from being a “social evil” as it usually referred to in the United States, prostitution is a positive good because it provides a controlled outlet for male sexual impulses which might otherwise cause tremendous problems, including (but by no means limited to) rape and broken marriages.  While it’s true that for a wife to discover her husband has been patronizing whores might damage their marriage, would an affair or constant pressure for unwanted sex do any less?…

Insecure women may refer to sex workers as “homewreckers”, but in fact we save far more marriages than we destroy because we allow men to manage the sexual impulses their wives either can’t or won’t cater to, and which they would otherwise follow into affairs which might indeed wreck the home.  Finally, married men are the safest of clients; they have good boundaries and aren’t likely to get obsessed, fall in love or turn into stalkers.  They come to us precisely because they want to stay married, so they choose to dally with women who are absolutely not going to jeopardize their marriages by getting involved with them.

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

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I am the secret ingredient in a lot of healthy marriages, because when he’s seeing me, both of you are getting the amount of sex you want. – April Adams

Harm Reduction

As I always say, we save far more marriages than we wreck:

…if your husband is seeing me, it’s because he wants to stay married…Imagine if instead of me it was the babysitter, your neighbor, your best friend…I’m a professional.  I am discreet, but more than that I am discrete:  My time, attention, and sexuality are measured in hours, beyond which he is yours.  And importantly, I don’t love your husband and never will…I will never be a threat to your marriage because when I’m off the clock I don’t want anything to do with either of you…

Divided We Fall

I wish gay people stuck up for whores as often as whores stick up for them:

A gay man…in…Italy…who worked as a chef in a restaurant was often harassed by his manager…one night, his manager told him that he “had to prove to the rest of the staff [I] was not gay by having sex with a prostitute…I met Marta, a Romanian girl.  I explained her the situation and she accepted.  We went back to the restaurant, where my manager spoke with her and told her what she had to do…We then went to a room to have sex, but I could not manage…The manager then gave €40 to the prostitute while my colleagues started asking the woman whether I was gay or straight.  She replied I was fine, but they did not believe her.”  A few days after the episode, Marco decided to sue his manager…

Above the Law 

Cops say it’s not “fair” that they were fired, merely for gang-raping a teenage girl at gunpoint:

They were arrested for sexual abuse involving a minor, but now…[Illinois cops] Steven…Bonynge…and Seth Degelman [have filed suit]…the victim was “slightly under the age of 17.”  In other words, she was 16…Bonynge…used a weapon in the commission of the [rape]…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now

A man’s career is destroyed for seeking consensual sex:

Basketball analyst and former NBA player Greg Anthony was suspended indefinitely by CBS…after he was arrested on a charge of soliciting a prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel room…Anthony…issued a statement…apologizing to his wife, family and colleagues…Anthony was suspected of using a computer as part of the crime, and that his arrest was part of an undercover operation targeting prostitution.  The hotel is less than a mile from the White House…

What possible fucking difference does the computer or the hotel’s location make?  Does the reporter wish the audience to fear that the President was endangered by evil sex rays?

Broken Record

This would be hilarious except that the “authorities” are destroying real people’s lives in furtherance of a rather pedestrian wanking fantasy:

The Detroit Auto Show draws thousands to the Motor City.  And…that means…the demand for sex spikes…The Department of Homeland Security is fighting the transport of mostly young women, many of them underage, against their will.  “When you have a big international event like this…there is a sex trafficking industry that springs up around it,” [fantasized] Special Agent Michael Ball.  They are likely lurking at the bars and hotels…Pimps [use] websites like Priceline.com to book hotel rooms…websites like Backpage.com have…graphic catch lines like, “meat is fresh.”  Code, for someone new has been brought to town…Officials want you to be on the lookout for young people…[with] tattoos on the neck or thigh…

See also “A Mound of Filth” below.

Public Property

Dudes pretend responsibility for women’s abortions, because you know we silly women can’t make decisions like that for ourselves and are therefore totally dependent on male guidance.

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (#339)

This is mostly just the usual lurid “survivor” masturbatory fantasy (in this case intended to hawk a book), but it contains only the second instance I’ve seen of this literally impossible claim: “‘They…were queuing up outside…If I did 40 to 50 people, that would be nothing’…On one particular night, she says she had sex with 110 men before being violently sick…

Number Puzzle (#402)

And this is why I call Wendy Lyon “indispensable”:

…the Swedish police’s…2013 report…just repeats…the 2011 report…trafficking statistics are pretty much meaningless, because they only measure what officials detect and identify as trafficking, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with the actual amount of activity taking place that fits the legal definition of “trafficking”.  But…if this was a Dutch or German study showing a 95% increase in sex trafficking in a single year, don’t you think we’d be hearing all about it…[to paraphrase one statement]:  “In cases where women are exploited in prostitution in Sweden but not willing or able to cooperate with law enforcement, they may be deported, because we don’t want their kind here”…previous claims [were that] that traffickers avoid Sweden because they can’t make any money there.  15 years of the sex purchase ban, and police say that traffickers are still moving victims to Sweden in order to “maximize their profits”.  What does that tell you about how effective they think their law really is?…trafficking victims…[are] only [valuable] to Sweden…as a law-enforcement tool…the Swedish state uses them for its own purposes, and then discards them like unwanted goods…

One-line version: the Swedish model is a failure, and the Swedes know it.

Learning Curve (All Traffick, All the Time)

Remember the big “Super Bowl sex trafficking bust” the cops were crowing about last January?

TMZ, the New York Daily News and other media outlets face a federal action from a woman arrested in what they hyped as the “Super Bowl Prostitution Bust.”  Janice Lee…sales account manager for an international seller of wigs and hair products…[was libeled] when various media outlets reported the juicy details of a prostitution ring’s takedown…”The statements told defendants’ audience that Mrs. Lee is a whore; that she is a drug dealer; that she is part of a gang”…TMZ’s article…mentions that wig shops were among the “phony businesses” that pimps used to funnel millions in “sex profits”…In addition to saying that Lee belonged to “a small army of Asian hookers”…TMZ also published her picture…

A Mound of Filth

Here’s a heaping helping of the usual “trafficking” feces served up Arizona style, with lots of lurid detail for the salivating reader to masturbate to.  It does, however, have a few interesting details, such as “the Super Bowl…has been dogged by claims that it brings…a rise in underage girls for sale…an idea that even anti-trafficking activists now say isn’t grounded in fact.”  I like to think I had a major role in dynamiting that particular toilet.  Then there’s the “dog crate” trope:  “…She would have sex with as many as five men each day….[and] be kept in a dog crate for hours at a time…” Given that this one seems limited to Arizona, one must wonder why dogs and sex seem so inextricably linked in the minds of “authorities” there.Dominique Roe-Sepowitz  But the real money shot is from arch-fanatic Dominique Roe-Sepowitz:

…Roe-Sepowitz…said…women should be seen as trafficking victims even if they are not…controlled by a pimp…her belief, widely shared by other [prohibitionists], is that most women enter the trade at a young age…”I believe every adult (prostitute), I believe almost every single one of them was trafficked…Someone coached them into that life”…women can be being forced into prostitution by their life situation. She referred to it as “trafficked by circumstances”…

Business As Usual

As usual, the media and everyone else are pretending this is an unusual policy, when in fact it is the norm everywhere in the United States:

A police officer in Arkansas recently lost his job after he exposed a massive scheme that allowed officers to have sex with prostitutes and then arrest them…The way that Former Fort Smith…Sgt. Don Paul Bales’ department had it set up, cops would “prove” that they weren’t really police officers, by having sex with prostitutes…[Bales has sued to get] his job back…

False Witness

And those who wish to manufacture “sex trafficking victims” can use exactly the same methods:

Innocent people can be questioned by police in such a way that they end up convincing themselves that they’ve committed a crime.  And this belief can be so strong, they can sometimes follow that belief up with a false confession…a study…from the University of Bedfordshire in the UK…found that…“false memories of committing crime with police contact can be surprisingly easy to generate, and can have all the same kinds of complex details as real memories…All participants need to generate a richly detailed false memory is three hours in a friendly interview environment, where the interviewer introduces a few wrong details and uses poor memory-retrieval techniques”…of 30 students who were told they’d committed a crime in their teenage years…71 percent…ended up developing a false memory of the event…

A Year Later

Despite the Harper government’s best efforts to convince them otherwise, Canadians still don’t want the state butting into their consensual sexual transactions.  That’s the results of a new Forum Research poll…which shows…only 27 percent of Canadians support that law, while 52 percent oppose it outright…Even among Conservative supporters…only 37 percent support the bill, while more than four in ten oppose it.  When asked if they support legalizing sex work outright, 54 percent of the country is onboard, with a third disagreeing…

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Dr. Paul Maginn is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Western Australia; he is the co-editor and co-author of several chapters in the recently published book (Sub)Urban Sexscapes:  Geographies and Regulation of the Sex Industry.  I asked him to comment on his book and explain why a planner & geographer is so interested in sex work.

Suburban SexscapesAt social events whenever we meet someone new for the first time it can be guaranteed that they will ask, “So, what do you do for a living?”  In the past, my stock response was generally:  “I’m an academic…an urban planner”!  The stock replies to this usually range from:  “Oh! What does that mean?” to “Oh, that’s nice! I have to go now because there’s my friend over there”.  You see, being an academic doesn’t seem to capture too many non-academic peoples’ attention.  So nowadays, when I’m asked what I do for a living I say:  “I’ll give you three guesses”.  I do this because it’s a good way to sustain conversation, it can be fun, and it’s a way of testing people’s perception of oneself.

Invariably, posing this question to people seems to immediately get their imaginations racing; it’s something of a “loaded” question, after all.  Hence, people start to think that you do something weird, exciting, dangerous or risqué for a living.  Whilst I was in my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in July 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting up with activist Laura Lee, who was on tour at the time.  We were sitting outside a well-known bar having a drink when a woman and her adult nephew, out celebrating the latter’s birthday, asked if they could sit at our table.  Of course, being sociable creatures we said, “Sure, no problems!  But you may want to avert your ears because of our conversation”.  They laughed and insisted that they were big enough not to be offended by whatever we were discussing.

Sure enough, this being Belfast, the nephew turned to us shortly after sitting down and said: “So what do yous’ do for a living?”  Laura and I looked at one another, smirked and replied:  “We’ll give you three guesses!”  Then without skipping a beat Laura replied in her Dublin burr:  “I’m a professional dominatrix!”  The nephew was dumbfounded, even more so when Laura presented him with her business card.  He excitedly asked if he could keep the card, adding quickly, “Not that I want to book you or anything”.  Then he looked me up and down and asked, “Are you in porn?”  Laura Lee can testify on a Sisters of Mercy bible that this actually happened!  I replied:  “Close, but no cigar.  I’m not in porn.  But, I’m into porn!”  I qualified this by explaining that I was an academic planner who researched the geographies and regulation of the sex industry and was working on a book on the subject.

So, what do planners and planning have to do with the sex industry? When commercial forms of sex – street- or brothel-based sex work; adult entertainment (e.g. stripping, lap-dancing or pornography); BDSM services; and sex shops, novelty stores or erotic boutiques – manifest they require spaces or premises to operate from.  This is where planning and zoning come into play.  Put simply, planning is concerned with trying to create “orderly” spaces by ensuring that there is a place for everything, and that everything is in its place via zoning.  Planners basically use rationality and technical skills to ascertain whether or not certain land-uses should permitted; however, when commercial sex premises are presented for planning/zoning approval they are often hijacked and held for political and moral ransom by politicians and others who often vehemently object to such proposals, even when such land-uses are perfectly legal.

It is this politicisation of planning and the wider politics and political rhetoric that tend to surround commercial sex industry activities that particularly interest me as an academic.  I’ve done some work looking at how state politicians in Western Australia (WA) have framed sex work in the wake of proposals to introduce legislation to regulate street- and brothel-based sex work.  In short, the political debates here in WA (and elsewhere in Australia for that matter) tend to be informed and dominated by moral arguments as opposed to evidence.  The same also applies to Northern Ireland, which recently passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill.  This Bill, when it finally receives Royal Assent, will see the introduction of the so-called Swedish Model of regulation of sex work.

There has been a fervent (some might say unhealthy) over-interest by governments, certain religious organisations and some branches of the feminist movement, in the sex lives of citizens.  Such over-interest has spurred the introduction (or efforts to introduce) legislation designed to exclude sex shops, curtail the number of strip clubs, prevent people from downloading “extreme porn” and criminalising the purchaser of sex services.  I am not suggesting for one minute that there should be no regulation of the different sectors of the sex industry, and neither do the various sex workers I know.  But recent efforts to regulate different forms of sex work are akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  It also seems fairly clear from observing proceedings in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Canada, for example, that politicians have little regard for the nuanced evidence on sex work and the “Swedish model”. I mean, who needs evidence when you have blind faith on your side?

Moreover, they seem to have contempt for the real experts in the field – sex workers – and a fixation that sex work is populated only by “fallen women” in need of “rescue”.  But sex work is a highly complex form of labour that takes places in a variety of spaces – streets, cars, bars, hotels, casinos, brothels, houses/apartments and the internet – and involves people who identify as female, male transgender and intersectional, who are straight, queer and bisexual, and who come from a range of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.  Whilst sex is obviously a key facet of the transactional relationship between sex workers and clients, there is much more to sex work than just sex.

If governments were sincere about reducing harm to sex workers, their efforts would be better placed on protecting the human and workplace rights of sex workers.  As we know, banning, prohibiting or over-taxing particular goods and services (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pornography and diesel) merely creates alternative unregulated markets which are often controlled by criminal elements; they thus represent a loss of tax revenue for governments and pose a higher risk to people (the very thing that governments claim they want to reduce).  Government regulation of the sex industry needs to be measured, pragmatic and evidence-based; policies premised on stereotypes, religious beliefs and moral superiority do more harm than good and result in unintended consequences.

So, next time you’re at a party, a wedding, Bar Mitzvah or funeral and you happen to bump into an urban planner why not say to them:  “Let’s talk about sex”?  I’m sure you’ll make their day, but be sure to clarify what you mean if you want to avoid them thinking that you’re coming on to them. 

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The idea that prostitution should be stopped by non-sex workers…devalues and dehumanizes people who are struggling to make ends meet. – Svati Shah

Check Your Premises

Oh, the mental gymnastics:

…Law enforcement and [feminist] groups [pretend that] tough…penalties are an appropriate response to pimps who prey on vulnerable young women…But at times, the law enforcement efforts that are meant to target the pimps also sweep up the women who assist them in their crimes, women who often are also victims themselves…

Blah blah “sold for sex”, blah blah “sex-trafficking network”, blah blah “control over her”, blah blah “enslaved to their pimps”.  You get the idea.

Repeat Offenders 

There’s something deeply disturbing about Catholic nuns aiding and abetting the police state; it’s even more disturbing when the collaborators name their operation after a Biblical whore famous for hiding fugitives from the police:

Sister Ancy Mathew …founded a charity called Rahab…and accompanied officers…raiding flats where trafficked women might be held…Women who have been trafficked into Britain to become sex workers have invariably been lied to, and have often been encouraged by the criminals who control them to fear police.  As a result, few trust the police enough to be able to open up…about what they know after they have been freed…

Enabling Oppression

Even the more perceptive survivors of forced prostitution recognize that criminalization enables it:

…I would never have had to go through that terrible situation if prostitution was legalized…If it was legal, I would have signed a contract, I would have known what I was getting myself into, and I could have held the recruiters accountable for their actions…

The Scarlet Letter (TW3 #19)

A woman that had been arrested in 2012 for allegedly working illegally as a prostitute and accused of intentionally causing clients serious bodily harm, has died from a drug overdose…she also left behind a suicide note.  Katerina…was among 12 HIV-positive women…whose names and photographs were published on the Greek police’s website in 2012…HIV stigma victimPositive Voice, a group that helps people with HIV, had denounced the incident as an unacceptable breach of  ‘medical confidentiality…Katerina…served a one year prison sentence and was released after a court…[found] no evidence [she] engaged in illegal prostitution…

The Widening Gyre 

Evidence?  This is Sweden, we don’t believe in evidence:

Sweden’s Security Service has expressed concerns about a rapid rise in the number of Swedes heading to Iraq and Syria to fight for Isis, as Sweden’s official coordinator against violent extremism suggests some girls are being forced to make the journey…she said that while many young people choose to join…others – especially girls – are…”trafficked” to the middle east and southern Asia…

Sexual Predators

Yakopovich believes cops should relax, have fun, rape a few whores and laugh at their tears:

Police say they are cracking down on prostitution…Lt. Vince Yakopovich said…”We always try to take the time and say, ‘Hey, drop what you are doing and let’s go'”…Local motels are cooperating for the most part…

Coming and Going (TW3 #311)

In the long run, tight budgets work in our favor:

Dallas County’s prostitution diversion [scheme]…was meant to serve as a model for the state’s largest counties.  But some officials, including those in Collin and Denton County, have passed on the state’s mandate…that counties with more than 200,000 people start [similar schemes]…Officials…say…prostitutes…in their jurisdictions …aren’t at the street level…and [harassing them] requires more [expensive]…investigations…

The Leading Players in the Field, Not (TW3 #316)

Gloria Steinem went to India earlier this year…with Ruchira Gupta…of Apne Aap…Feminists in India…disagree with Steinem’s take on prostitution…Steinem…repeatedly calls Apne Aap a “grass roots” organization, which would imply that it has little or no international profile, and primarily works with local people…[but] Apne Aap…receives funding from outside India regularly, and…is part of the international trafficking industrial complex, that combination of non-governmental organizations, governments, and money that has enabled the strange rise of the idea that “trafficking”, whatever it may be (chattel slavery, forced prostitution, any prostitution, forced labor, illegal migration, and/or debt bondage) is a universal problem requiring huge resources to resolve…

Original Sin (TW3 #322)

Pope Francis and other leaders of the world’s main religions…signed a joint declaration to work together to eradicate modern slavery…by …2020…they declared that “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution…is a crime against humanity”…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (TW3 #329)Yoda

If something’s in a movie, it must be true!

When Tim Matsui began working on his project about the sex trafficking of teenagers around Seattle in 2012, he followed a group of police officers…The Long Night, a film…directed by…Matsui and funded by the [rescue industry] is a gut-wrenching [fantasy] of the effects of sex trafficking on seven people, including victims, survivors and law enforcement officers…

Policing for Profit 

Wally Kowalski, an engineer living in a farmhouse in rural southwest Michigan, came home one day…to find his property swarming with cops…Kowalski has a license to grow and distribute medical pot to several low-income people who depend on the drug…state police…seized his power generator—even though it had nothing to do with his marijuana plants—and some expensive equipment.  They also destroyed the plants.  Kowalski [said]…they grabbed anything likely to be sold at a police auction…”When they found my bank accounts here in my office, they let out a yell.  They said, ‘Here’s the bank accounts, we got him.’  It’s like the happiest thing for them, to find my bank accounts.”  The police froze his accounts, rendering him unable to make payments on his student loans or other bills…The authorities haven’t charged Kowalski with a crime…

Scapegoats (TW3 #334)

Once again, vanillas reveal themselves as the true perverts:

A report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour describes an unusual field trip made by Canadian researcher Debra W. Soh – to a furry convention…she had expected to find herself in a dimly-lit orgy “filled with couples – or groups – of costumed folks engaging in kinky sex” but she saw nothing of the kind.  In fact, she saw nothing sexual at the whole convention except some erotic…fan art that was on sale.  Instead, the furries were chatting, playing board games, smoking, and so on…

Absolute Corruption (TW3 #349)

Former day care owners who spent 21 years in prison…[for Satanic panic] convictions…are struggling to convince prosecutors that they should be fully exonerated.  Dan and Fran Keller…were freed on bond last year when the only physical evidence against them was found to be a mistake…But…prosecutors remain unwilling to proclaim them innocent [despite the fact that everyone knows their conviction was the product of a witch hunt]…[their] claim…will be decided by…conservative judges [who protect the status quo and]…will be guided by the recommendations of [the] judge…who [convicted them in] 1992…and…has already twice ruled that they had failed to prove their innocence.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410) Fiona MacTaggart

a few weeks ago in Parliament…Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart added two clauses to the Modern Slavery Bill that would criminalise the clients of sex workers in England and Wales…MacTaggart and her supporters hoped to bring the Nordic Model here with almost no notice or debate…The English Collective of Prostitutes…lobbied their MPs on the phone or in person, and parliamentarians were blasted with anti-criminalisation briefings from left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell…Supporters Women Against Rape pointed out that: “To target men who have not been accused of violence just because they purchase sexual services, diverts police time and resources away from reported rapes”…MacTaggart has claimed that the majority of sex workers were coerced in some fashion – a view based on discredited statistics, and one for which she has been taken to task before

Shift in the Wind (TW3 #430)

Rare honesty in a mainstream American newspaper:

Let’s be honest.  Paying for sex has been around a long time, and it’s not going away anytime soon.  Recent court cases have established sexual rights and privacy in protecting what consenting adults do behind closed doors, but those rights end for people who wish to exchange sex for money…some people do not believe sex workers should have the same legal rights as other workers.  A study recently published in The Lancet found that even partial criminalization…such as the Swedish model…places sex workers at equal risk for human-rights violations and exploitation.  Trying to stop demand will not stop prostitution…Nearly every industrialized nation has made prostitution partially legal or outright legal. It’s time America does the same thing…

Special thanks to Mark Bennett for the unlocked version of the story.

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

Any amount of criminalization of sex work allows cops to play their evil games:

Five people were arrested…after police raided brothels in Germany…Austria, Bosnia and Romania.  More than 900 [cops]…took part in the raids…Police also seized cash, computers, hard drives, business records and one pistol.  Stuttgart prosecutors [demonized the sex workers’ relationships and told lurid “trafficking” tales]…

The Public Eye (TW3 #439) 

She’s a victim!  So let’s help her by making her homeless, too!  “Connected‘s Kate McGrew has revealed that she’s found it hard to find somewhere to live since revealing she is a sex worker on the reality show…

Monkey Business (TW3 #442)

Let’s hope this legal rationale of why chimps aren’t “persons” is extended to fetuses, too:

petitioner requests that this Court enlarge the common-law definition of “person” in order to afford legal rights to an animal.  We decline to do so, and conclude that a chimpanzee is not a “person” entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus…chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.  In our view, it is this incapability…that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights…that have been afforded to human beings…

Held Together With Lies (TW3 #447)

thousands of…sex slaves in Russia are…waiting for a good samaritan [sic] to come along and save them…since the government and society in general prefer to look the other way, anti-trafficking activists [pretend]…Russia…is now at once a destination, origin and transit country for sex slaves…and…ranked as the country with the sixth-biggest slave population in the world…in a fresh annual report by the…Walk Free Foundation…

Divided We Fall (TW3 #447)

Twenty-five Toronto city councillors have signed a letter asking Premier Kathleen Wynne to take…Bill C-36…to the Ontario Court of Appeal to determine if it is constitutional.  The new legislation, which received royal assent last month, will become law on Saturday…”we work to promote measures that increase public safety…In particular, we are united in our efforts to end violence against women…Bill C-36 has introduced…unsafe conditions into Canadian society, bringing foreseeable detriment and real danger to some of the most vulnerable women we represent”…The letter will be presented at City Hall on Friday (Dec. 5), which is the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and the 25th anniversary of the Montreal massacre…

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I see you so often rail about the imaginary “trafficking” issue.  I realize that very few adult sex workers are coerced, and that anti-prostitution laws have nothing to do with protection, but is there any actual evidence that there are real girls under 16 (particularly from Asia) who are really being forced to work as prostitutes? 

distorting mirrorIn a world of over six billion people, it is a near-certainty that any situation anyone can conceive of (which doesn’t violate the laws of physics) has already happened at some point and continues to happen from time to time.  So yes, I am sure that there are some Asian girls under 16 who are actually compelled (by some means almost anyone would agree were coercive) to work as prostitutes.  I have no way of guessing what that number might be, and neither does anyone else despite pretensions to the contrary:  all the cases which make the news involve women older than that; and/or the compulsion is of a type that would not be viewed as a problem if she were a maid or nanny; and/or she chose the situation as the best of a number of alternatives, many or all of them bad; and/or there is some cultural difference which causes her to see her situation differently from her “rescuers”; and/or the “trafficker” is actually an intimate partner rather than a cartoon pimp or racist caricature of a crime cartel.  Moreover, though prohibitionists paint sex workers’ clients as sadistic perverts who ignore bruises and evidence of bondage and prefer prepubescent girls to adult women, nothing could be further from the truth; sex workers who seem to dislike their work tend to get bad reviews because most men don’t actually like having sex with unwilling partners, and the idea that a business model based on the overt enslavement of traumatized tweens could ever be a thriving concern is highly dubious to say the least.  In fact, the popularity of this narrative reveals the sick, twisted psychology and sexuality of those who promote it; their view of sex work is like something seen in a warped mirror, not only reversed but magnified and distorted into unrecognizability.  The three most important forms of distortion are:

  • a rare, extreme situation is presented as though it were not only the norm, but a norm from which there is little if any variance (thus making it unique in human experience);
  • complex, nuanced human interactions are reduced to absurd black hat-white hat melodrama complete with mustache-twirling “pimp” villains, passive damsels in distress, and heroes with pure motives who ride in on white chargers to save the day; and
  • the carceral “solutions” which the fetishists inevitably favor not only fail to help women in the complex real-life situations whose existence they deny, but also to help even the women in situations which actually resemble their fantasy somewhat.  In fact, these supposed “solutions” make things worse in almost every conceivable case, as I explained at length in “Straining at Gnats” and “Enabling Oppression”.  Criminalizing sex work does not discourage a black market in which coercion can thrive; on the contrary, it creates such a market.

The one-sentence answer to your question, then, is this:  A small number of such girls probably does exist, but their situations are a lot more complex than the “sex trafficking” profiteers want you to believe, and the laws they favor actually hurt such girls by enabling those who exploit them.

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

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