Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

[The sex] industry is filled with strong, smart, very business-savvy women.  –  Lynn Comella

The Notorious Badge 

Though the headline links this to Stormy Daniels’ current newsworthiness, it’s actually a brief look at women in porn:

Thomas…Edison’s 1896 creation capturing [actress May] Irwin and actor John C. Rice doing something naughty caused a nationwide uproar as newspaper editorials declared the end of American morality and called for police action in theaters that dared to show the 18-second flick…“The Kiss” is now part of the Library of Congress’s catalogue…By today’s standards, of course, May Irwin wouldn’t qualify as a porn star.  A vaudeville actress, she channeled the infamy of “The Kiss” into a lucrative stage and silent film career…Gloria Leonard started out as a bond trader on Wall Street in the 1960s.  She left to go into public relations, then jumped to a film company that went under in 1974.  She was an unemployed, single mom when she decided to give acting a shot…the first role she snagged in 1974 was in a porn flick…that…led to a 10-year career in front of the camera, until she became a director, then editor of a nudie magazine.  There, she came up with an idea to increase circulation by teasing upcoming features with recordings in sultry voices…and the phone sex industry was born…Annie Sprinkle, who had her first experience with porn as a ticket-taker at a Tucson, theater showing Deep Throat in 1972, became a top-grossing actress in the 1980s…she turned the industry upside-down with her gonzo, feminist take on porn.  She produced educational videos and held workshops and created porn for women…“Porn is one place where women — the performers — get paid more, double, even triple what men are paid”…

Dirty Laundry

Your periodic reminder of the evil, psychopathic behavior of the organizations behind prohibitionist group Ruhama:

A survivor of the Magdalene laundries who bore a daughter after being raped by a priest…still bears the emotional and physical scars of the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of sadistic nuns more than 70 years ago.  Mary Merritt…now aged 87, was born in a Dublin workhouse and never met her mother.  She was sent to a Sisters of Mercy orphanage…at the age of two for 14 years where she was whipped by a nun across the hips and back for no reason…But that was nothing compared to the horrors awaiting her when she turned 16 and was sent to the High Park Magdalene laundry for stealing apples.  Aside from working as a virtual slave, she was left blind in her right eye from the toxic material in the laundries and was later raped by a priest after trying to run away…she was stripped of all dignity – even her name – before learning she was pregnant with the priest’s child.  After giving birth to her daughter at the age of 23, she was sent to St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home…for a year where she was granted just half an hour a day to see her daughter…She was then sent back to the Magdalene laundry…where…her daughter [was] adopted out without her permission while she worked as a virtual slave for another three years…She eventually managed to track down her daughter Carmel 40 years after she was born…

Torture Chamber

Just in case you thought screws restricted their petty sadism to the prisoners:

A transgender woman who tried to visit her incarcerated brother [reports] Louisiana prison [guards] ordered her to remove her underwear and told her she would have to reveal her genitalia before she could leave the facility.  The woman…says in a lawsuit filed [last week] that [screws] insisted on searching her vehicle after she refused to remove her pants and underwear…The suit says guards stopped China from entering the…prison last September after a body screening machine detected an “unknown object” in her pants…

Broken Record (#708) 

Quite possibly the stupidest “sex trafficking” story of the year so far:

“Young women are historically vulnerable to sexual…exploitation as a part of…spring break”…[fantasized] Haley Halverson…[of] the National Center on Sexual Exploitation…“Some young women could even fall prey to sex traffickers in this environment.”  It’s also important to recognize that male spring breakers who participate in the commercial sex industry, whether that’s strip clubs or purchasing people in prostitution, could be perpetuating the modern-day sexual slavery market…“The conditions surrounding spring break — such as a large influx of males, the celebratory atmosphere, high alcohol consumption, and having money to spend — can create an increased demand for sex trafficking,” she [fantasized].  “[Propaganda] from [Dominique “Body Fluids” Sepowitz at] the Arizona School of Social Work [claimed] that any large event…becomes a desirable location for a sex trafficker to bring their victims”…

Most 10-to-a-room frat boys can’t even afford to hire a hooker for an hour, much less “purchase a person” (which would run into the tens of thousands, all factors considered).  And if all those girls are supposedly being “pressured” into giving sex away, how the hell is anybody supposed to sell it there?  Illogic doesn’t just run through this story; it gallops.

The Widening Gyre (#786)

There’s a xenophobic stink of the “blood libel” about this story and its treatment:

Up to 1,000 children could have suffered in Britain’s worst known abuse scandal…The rape hell of vulnerable young girls in one town – Telford – went on for a shocking 40 years…Girls as young as 11 have been lured from their families to be drugged, beaten and raped in an epidemic that, say victims, is still ongoing…Despite similar high-profile cases in Rochdale and Rotherham, authorities in Telford ­repeatedly failed to stamp out a network of abusers…Council staff viewed abused and trafficked children as “prostitutes” instead of victims…Authorities failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of “racism”…

Opting Out (#810) 

UK politicians aren’t happy that people see their surveillance scheme for what it is:

The UK Government is to delay the introduction of age checks for pornographic websites…to the end of 2018.  The move has been welcomed by privacy campaigners who claim such a process would be an infringement of personal data…[which] would risk personal information being hacked and leaked, such as who watches gay porn and lesbian porn…[anti-censorship lawyer] Myles Jackman…said the delay was an admission that ministers had failed to understand the implications of the age capture…“the privacy risk was so severe that if all that data were hacked they would never be taken seriously again when it came to holding private citizens’ data, whether covertly or otherwise”…

Sex Workers Against Trafficking (#812)

If every “anti-trafficking” organization were like GAATW, there would be no “sex trafficking” hysteria:

Workers and workers association in different sectors, such as domestic work, fisheries or agriculture, are considered the experts in reducing exploitation and trafficking in their industry.  However, when it comes to the sex industry, sex workers and the organisations working with them, are rarely consulted in the development of anti-trafficking measures.  As a result, the anti-trafficking community has alienated a crucial ally that can dramatically improve efforts to prevent trafficking and identify cases of trafficking in the sex industry…the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women…conducted  research which documented the strategies that sex worker organisations employ to prevent and address violence, coercion and exploitation in the sex industry, including instances of human trafficking…All of them respond to women’s needs by providing person-centred, holistic, and non-judgemental support…they listen, advise, intervene and refer women, as dictated by their individual needs…Despite this important work, sex worker organisations remain…vilified by the anti-trafficking community…

The Mote and the Beam (#818)

How to prop up a massive and turgid conglomeration of myths, lies and ignorance: don’t talk to anyone who actually knows anything about the subject:

Ivanka Trump…host[ed] a roundtable at the White House…to discuss controversial sex trafficking legislation that has created a rift in the tech industry…Those attending the meeting include [only politicians and representatives of huge companies.  The politicians are only those]…pushing bills that would…[gut] Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which essentially gives internet platforms immunity from liability for content posted by third parties…cutting into Section 230 will damage the legal framework that allows for free speech online and hurt smaller internet companies by forcing them to pour resources into scouring their sites for [criminalized] content…

Elephant in the Parlor (#820)

I’m quite enjoying this whole saga:

[Stormy Daniels] offered…to return $130,000 she received from Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer in 2016 for agreeing not to discuss the alleged relationship.  In exchange…[she] seeks an end to her deal to keep quiet…she…would then be allowed to “(a) speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the President and the attempts to silence her and (b) use any publish any text messages, photos and/or videos…that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution and legal liability for damages”…The offer puts the president and [his lawyer]…in a challenging position.  If they agree…[Daniels] can speak openly about not only the sexual relationship…but also about…[the] “hush money”…If they reject the offer, they could be seen as effectively acknowledging the existence of a continuing effort to keep [Daniels] silent…

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When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.  –  Maya Angelou

Prohibitionists like to call themselves “abolitionists”, a racist and self-aggrandizing reference to those who worked to abolish slavery.  And while I won’t give them that dignity, let’s look at the word for a moment:  they want to be known as people who want to “abolish” something.  They like to pretend that “something” is a form of “slavery”, but nobody but the most stupid, ignorant or delusional actually believes that sex work is a form of slavery; they themselves don’t even believe it, as revealed in some of their own internal documents: “Framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support and to stimulate stronger opposition.”  That’s from Swanee Hunt’s organization, the same organization that pays off cops & DA offices in a dozen large cities to mouth Hunt’s anti-client rhetoric while conducting operations that target both clients and sex workers.  Lauren Hersh, mouthpiece for prohibitionist group Equality Now, is a former prosecutor forced to resign in disgrace when she was caught railroading two innocent black men for rape; do you think her tactics for attacking sex work are any more honest?  As attorney general of California, Kamala Harris actually argued that her state needed to keep people in prison to use them as slaves; in October 2016 she committed the blatantly criminal act of arresting publishers on false charges, though she had previously admitted in a letter to the US Congress that she knew she had no authority to do so, and that the men had committed no crime under US law.  In hearings for the Swedish model in both Canada and Northern Ireland, several politicians admitted on the record that they knew the laws would harm sex workers, and they were fine with that; the Swedish government’s own report on their eponymous “model” stated quite clearly that “negative effects of the [sex purchase] ban…must be viewed as positive from the perspective that the purpose of the law is…to combat prostitution“…in other words, “it’s a good thing that those dirty whores are dying, because omelettes and eggs and all.”

Over and over and over again, we can see that soi-disant “abolitionists” are perfectly willing to lie; to consign innocent people to the brutality of arrest, prison and even actual slavery; to break both laws and their own solemn oaths; and to sign the death warrants of women they profess to want to “save”…all in the name of “abolishing” consensual adult sex that they willfully, intentionally and knowingly misrepresent as something evil because they either dislike it or recognize it as an easy path to vengeance or political power.

These people have shown you who they are, quite clearly; do you believe them?

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[Prohibitionists] would rather see [sex workers]…dead than listen to what we have to say.  –  Bristol Sex Workers Collective

Where Are the Protests? 

Middle-class American women don’t give a shit about this, because it doesn’t involve sex:

Almost 500 people…gathered…for a candlelight vigil…for victims of human trafficking…they also demanded justice and voiced outrage over…the death of Adelina Lisao, a domestic worker in Penang,  reportedly following torture by her employer…Lisao…died on February 11 of multiple organ failure just a day after being rescued by a migrant workers’ protection group.  She reportedly faced torture for more than a month and was forced to sleep outside with her employers’ dog…[Eni Lestari of the International Migrants Alliance] said…“Both Malaysia and Indonesia…have to recognise us as workers”…she said banning the export of Indonesian workers to Malaysia would not solve the problem.  “In fact, it makes it worse.  Because of the poverty, people are forced to use illegal channels.  It increases the smuggling and trafficking of people”…

Cops and Robbers

In which poor women trying to earn a living are described as “ridiculous”:

…While most residents have already retreated to their beds for the night, [politician Martin] Meyer, together with about a dozen other residents, has taken to the streets of Morningside…Donning bright reflective vests the group, made up largely of [white men], have decided it’s time to “take back the streets”.  They have formed a street patrol to try to “deter or hinder” [mostly black sex workers] in the area, which, they all agree, are out of control…Percival Gumede, who’s lived on Lilian Ngoyi Road for eight years, calls the…prostitutes “ridiculous…It’s like a cancer that’s eating at our society, right in the suburbs”…Phil Tribe…says he worries about property values, and is not certain whether to invest more into upgrading his home…Ariff Saib [said]…“We want the riff-raff out of the area”…

When you see quotes like this from South Africans, it becomes more clear how apartheid happened.

The Day of the Dead (#532) 

Less chauvinistic question:  “Why don’t Western funerals include strippers?

…China renewed a clampdown on strippers performing at funerals, wedding and temples, calling it “obscene and vulgar”…It’s just the latest in a series of campaigns over the years by the Chinese government to end the practice of funeral strippers [which originated in Taiwan].  China’s Ministry of Culture has deemed such performances “uncivilised” and announced that anyone who hires a stripper to entice people to a funeral will be “severely punished”…The Ministry of Culture’s new campaign will target in particular the Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces.  The government has also set up a hotline for the public to report any “funeral misdeeds” in exchange for a monetary reward…

I’m sure the practice’s origin in a place that’s a continual embarrassment for Beijing has nothing to do with this.

Negative Secondary Effects

These “objections” are hilariously petulant:

…the owner of both Central Chambers and Urban Tiger strip clubs has applied to renew its Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licences with Bristol City Council.  Several [prohibitionist] groups want Bristol City Council to reject the applications on…grounds [such as]…“I am unable to avoid seeing Urban Tiger whenever I go to the city centre area…it is not appropriate to have strip clubs…close to areas used by families with young children.” [And]…“Central Chambers promotes harmful attitudes towards women…This is not because it is a sex-related business”…women who work at the club [correctly] say these objections come from a small group of closed minded “so called feminists” and they should not be punished for choosing to do a job which some find distasteful…[one] dancer…said the flexible hours allow her to care for her son and she is sick of being thought of as a “victim of degradation” or “some sort of social deviant”…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do (#783) 

Abusive men often try to gaslight their victims, but this cop’s trying to gaslight other cops:

A Bronx cop accused of having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute refused to admit that he knew his victim — even when he was shown pictures of the two of them in bed together…Raul Olmeda wouldn’t admit that he was the man…in the…photos…[even though they] were found on his computer and cellphone…The department trial will determine if he should get kicked off the force.  Rape allegations for having sex with the minor, identified in court only as SG, will be adjudicated in…criminal court at a later date.  Advocate Anna Krutaya said Olmeda…claimed he couldn’t identify the furniture in his own home when confronted with the photos, which were taken in his bedroom and living room.  Yet, when cops executed a search warrant at his address, the furniture in the photos was inside…Olmeda made his bold denials after he was confronted with an audio file of a recording [from his computer] where[i]n he tells SG to “lay low” because Internal Affairs was investigating him.  “Technically you are a minor,” Olmeda told the teen on the recording, according to Krutaya…

Yeah, a 15-year-old is “technically” a minor.  And we all know how cops hate “technicalities”.

R.I.P. Laura Lee

Standard Operating Procedure (#814)

Hey NGOs: About 70% of sex workers’ clients are married, and most have kids.  Pleasant dreams.

Jan Weuts, a humanitarian adviser at Caritas Belgium, says the NGO has a way to avoid its staff engaging with sex workers in developing countries.  “Ninety percent of our representatives in the field nowadays are women or couples…we go for relatively young women, or men in a stable family situation…you make an analysis, and one of the analyses is ‘how will this person behave in an environment where there is a lot of prostitution?’”…A spokesperson for Caritas Belgium confirmed this…“it kind of guarantees that there is more stability and you don’t have a bunch of guys with a lot of testerone [sic] living together in a compound”…

To Molest and Rape (#814) 

This will continue as long as cops have power over peaceful individuals:

…The case looked weak, Detective Michel Toro of the Miami Police Department warned M.B. in a pair of text messages on Feb. 4, 2016, five days after he’d taken her statement accusing her ex-fiancé of sexual assault.  Then, his tone shifted.  “Well I can’t lie, your [sic] such a beautiful and attractive woman…I just wanted to let u [sic] know that I’m someone u [sic] could trust”…[t]he text…[was] the first of many…increasingly suggestive messages…Three days later, shortly after midnight, Toro showed up outside M.B.’s apartment after texting that he wanted to see her…M.B. went outside to sit in his unmarked squad car, and…Toro made his move, leaning over to kiss her and eventually putting his finger inside of her.  She was shaking in fear, so much so that Toro stopped and asked if he’d done anything wrong, M.B. said, but she was afraid to tell him to stop…[he forced] two more sexual encounters over the next nine days…during his shift in the middle of the night wearing a suit, with his radio, gun, and badge still on his belt, she said.  M.B. couldn’t ignore him, given his role in investigating her case, but she felt increasingly stuck…So on Feb. 27, four weeks after she’d reported being raped, M.B. told police that Toro pressured her into a sexual relationship…Toro wasn’t charged with a crime.  He wasn’t even fired.  Instead, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office let Toro resign.  M.B.’s ex-fiancé also wasn’t charged.  By the time prosecutors informed M.B. about the dismissed cases, she was living in a homeless shelter…35 states have loopholes that allow cops to evade sexual assault convictions by claiming that a..[rape] was consensual.  Florida isn’t one of them…but it does not specifically say that a [cop] is forbidden from having sex with a witness or an alleged victim in a case they’re investigating — another major loophole that exists in all 50 states…

Laura Lee, Sex Work Stigma, and the Limits of #MeToo

I wonder when Olaf’s lawyer will tell him Irish defamation judgments are unenforceable on US citizens?

Scientist and author Dr Brooke Magnanti…alleges Hot Press journalist Olaf Tyaransen drugged, sexually assaulted and beat the late Dublin-born sex workers’ rights campaigner Laura Lee.  Mr Tyaransen, who denies the allegations and has promised unspecified legal redress, interviewed Ms Lee at a Dublin hotel in October 2014 for Hot Press magazine, where he serves as a staff writer…Hot Press said…Tyaransen would be stepping down from the magazine by “mutual agreement” while “he deals with these allegations”…Tyaransen sent us the following statement:  “It’s completely untrue. I will be taking legal action”…

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[Laura Lee] put herself on the line in a way few have the guts to do.  –  Brooke Magnanti


An interesting look at brothel archaeology in Australia:

Sex work was one of the major ways poor women could earn a reasonable income in the 19th century.  Especially unmarried women with babies.  But we don’t hear people say “my great-great-grandmother was a sex worker”…Social stigma belies the importance of prostitution in providing an independent living, and even property ownership, for numerous women in this period…the Little Lon district in Melbourne CBD’s north-east corner…has been extensively excavated by a series of archaeological projects over the last 30 years, and our recent intensive research on the artefacts recovered (held at Museum Victoria and Heritage Victoria) is revealing much more about the brothels and the women who owned them that had disappeared from memory…

Whore Madonnas 

While mainstream media mindlessly parrots “sex trafficking” propaganda, the alternative press is listening to sex workers:

…Liz Afton works as a counselor at the Sex Workers Project…which provides legal and social services to people involved in sex work…“Mothers…who are involved in sex work often have it used against them to separate them from their child,” Afton says.  Atossa Movahedi, director of legal services and development at the UJC’s domestic violence project, says…“More often than not…the opposing party had knowledge of, or even was involved directly, in the client’s participation in the sex work, and is now using it as a tool to exploit them in the court system.”  When dealing with custody disputes, courts [supposedly] first look at a parent’s ability to provide a loving and stable home.  Financial status, mental health, drug use and domestic violence all fall under consideration.  Though many mothers involved in sex work pass inspection in these areas, they’re left with the fact that the job is usually illegal—and in the eyes of some on the bench, immoral…

The Pro-Rape Coalition 

Liz Brown is becoming our most powerful voice against sex hysteria:

Evidence-free freakouts over erotica are a time-honored tradition…history is littered with authoritarians of all stripes convinced that censoring sexual imagery was a necessary social good.  And with each iteration, what porn prohibitionists lack in actual facts to support their doomy view they make up for with warnings that this time it’s different — that whatever new medium exists for producing or distributing porn is uniquely dangerous to the youth and degrading to good women.  For decades now, this supposed difference has been chalked up to the proliferation of online pornography…there’s no evidence that internet porn has been destroying millennials — some of whom now have two decades of…data to offer…all the available evidence shows…teens today are starting sex later, and more likely than previous generations to use condoms when they do.  Teen pregnancy rates are at their lowest levels in decades…In addition, there’s now a huge body of research showing that…it’s “time to discard the hypothesis that pornography contributes to increased sexual assault behavior”…sexually well-adjusted adults “reported more experience with pornography as teenagers” than their maladjusted counterparts…

Finding What Isn’t There

Too bad all prohibitionism isn’t focused on harassing women who don’t exist:

Lake of the Woods boasts 15,000 islands and more than 100,000 kilometres of shoreline — more coast than Lake Superior…the [area]…near the Manitoba border sees its population double in the summer months.  When [masturbatory fantasies] of women and girls being forced into the sex trade on Lake of the Woods arose at a 2013 human trafficking conference in Kenora, even local social service workers were shocked…“Dock girls,” as they came to be known…are [fantasized] to be overwhelmingly Indigenous [minors who]…are [fantasized] to be transported…from…northwestern Ontario and Manitoba as part of a human trafficking circuit…only…one social service worker [in the area claims]…they’ve come face-to-face with a “dock girl”…[yet]…Kenora will receive $504,000 over three years to [indoctrinate] frontline hospitality workers…[in the usual anti-whore propaganda]…there is so little hard evidence for the “dock girl” phenomenon that it raises questions about whether the problem exists at all.  And if it doesn’t, critics say, wouldn’t the government’s funding…be better spent elsewhere?…

Policing for Profit

Cops are starting to admit that this is about nothing other than profit:

In Alabama…two [politicians] introduced legislation that would require that prosecutors actually convict people of crimes in order to keep their stuff.  It would put the burden on the state to prove that the property they want to seize is connected to a crime…It would move the proceeds of forfeiture to the state’s general fund to eliminate the profit incentive for police and prosecutors to try to seize whatever they could get their hands on.  And it would close a loophole that would forbid local law enforcement agencies from bypassing restrictions by participating in the federal “equitable sharing” Department of Justice forfeiture program…the head of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association and the Alabama Sheriffs Association teamed up with an op-ed that urges against reforms to asset forfeiture…Brian McVeigh and Dave Sutton warn that requiring successful prosecutions will lead to them filing more charges against people…When you find yourself threatening to find more reasons to put even more citizens in jail in order to protect your revenue stream, it’s maybe time to…think about what you’re doing…

Torture Chamber 

Stop faking!

Women imprisoned at California’s Santa Rita Jail say they’re being [caged] in filthy conditions, denied basic hygiene products, pressured to have abortions, subjected to incessant strip searches, and forced to endure many other manners of cruel and inhumane treatment from guards and staff…In a new federal lawsuit, they’re asking a federal judge to intervene on behalf of them and future female prisoners, particularly those who are pregnant…The jailhouse horror stories…provide an invaluable glimpse at the…systemic degradation…such institutions foster…female inmates face the standard abuses inflicted on male prisoners as well as those unique to their sex, from being forced to “free bleed” during their periods if they can’t afford to buy tampons to facing higher levels of sexual assault and coercion from guards and staff…pregnant prisoners [are] denied proper nutrition and prenatal care and, in some places, forced to give birth in shackles.  At Santa Rita…one inmate was…left alone in solitary confinement to give birth…”She was banging on her metal door…[the screws] closed the slider-window…so she could not see out, and no one could see in…Only after we could hear the crying of the baby did the deputies finally go over and open her door”…

Opting Out (#401)

This is no surprise to those of us who have actually studied the effects and history of censorship:

Sky UK has been called out for blocking a…website that its algorithms deem as “pornographic”…as part of the Digital Economy Act 2010…Sky UK have blocked gay-teen advice website gayteenresources.org…an important resource for teenagers exploring their sexuality and for those that may be struggling…blocked.org.uk, which lists sites that cannot be accessed, reveals that O2, EE and Three have also automatically filtered the site from their mobile networks…

“Filtered” is a euphemism for “censored”, and this will continue until the media acknowledge that.

The Spiral of Absurdity (#792) 

At least universities in Washington state aren’t generally used to spread “sex trafficking” propaganda, unlike those in Arizona and Texas:

The “Artifacts of Human Trafficking” exhibit is designed to [facilitate masturbation] to [the fantasy of] human trafficking in Texas…there are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in the state…From Feb. 12 to March 16, the School of Social Work will host the art exhibit, created by Austin artist Amie Stone King…illustrat[ing] themes of isolation, captivity and desperation…Prominent in the center of the exhibit is a “seclusion room.”  Attendees are invited to enter the small space and [masturbate in private while fantasizing about pubescent girls in]…a life of captivity…

The Public Eye (#797)

Though Rolling Stone is far too timid to write honestly about escorts, it’s good to see a sex work-positive article in it at all:

At…the 35th Annual Adult Entertainment Expo and Adult Video News Awards…plenty of big names were in attendance – stars who had led more traditional adult-film careers – but they were outnumbered by scores of up-and-coming models who primarily built their own businesses using cam shows, original clip stores and monetized social-media platforms.  The mass availability of easily pirated streaming video may have decimated the porn economy, but it seems that women are the ones adapting, finding fresh ways to connect directly with consumers.  As these models gain more economic influence, they are also raising the bar for consent conversations throughout the industry…

Tit For Tat

One day, our culture will grow up enough that this won’t be noteworthy:

Eva Sless…is a sex columnist, a sex educator and a sex worker  who…[is] married.  Sless’ husband, Justin…is completely supportive of her work, though they’re both aware it’s an unconventional life.  “I know we are a rare couple.  Our life and marriage is built on a foundation of strong friendship, trust, love, and respect…I don’t know if the life we live is for everyone, but it works for us. I love our world.”  Below, they tell us more about Sless’ work, how it affects their marriage and what Justin thinks of his wife’s clients…

Elephant in the Parlor (#806)  

This ought to be interesting:

Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom Donald Trump’s attorney acknowledges paying $130,000 just before Election Day, believes she is now free to discuss a…sexual encounter with the man who is now president…At the same time, developments…are fueling questions about whether such a payment could violate federal campaign finance laws.  Daniels…believes that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, invalidated a non-disclosure agreement after two news stories were published [early last week]…one in which Cohen told The New York Times he made the six-figure payment with his personal funds, and another in the Daily Beast, which reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story, said the manager, Gina Rodriguez.  “Everything is off now, and Stormy is going to tell her story,” Rodriguez said…

Watershed (#809)

When stuffy Time publishes an article who only major nod to prohibitionism is to quote dried-up dinosaur Gloria Steinem vomiting up her “body invasion” nonsense, you know things are changing:

Like millions of others, Melony Hill took to social media last fall to say “me too”…But rather than receiving an outpouring of support, Hill said she’s gotten messages saying that she deserved to be sexually assaulted — because she has worked in the sex industry for 20 years…“They’ll say we’re just whores anyway — ‘How can you sexually assault a whore?’ I’ve had that said to me multiple times”…Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence on the job, but have few good options to report it…Some…sex…[workers] told Time that they have posted their #MeToo stories anonymously to avoid potential legal repercussions.  Others said that they don’t want to speak out publicly because they anticipate they’ll be shamed, or not believed because they aren’t “perfect victims”…there’s also the damaging notion that sex workers can’t be sexually assaulted…“Not all women are being supported in the #MeToo movement,” said Cris Sardina…of…Desiree Alliance…“It’s what type of woman”…

R.I.P. Laura Lee

A very nice tribute from The Herald:

She was, in the words of Scots author Kirstin Innes, “a powerhouse, a formidable, vital, hilarious and angry star”…Others described her as a “fierce warrior” for women.  She appeared regularly in the pages of this newspaper fighting the corner of the most marginalised women in society – sex workers.  She was Laura Lee – a brilliantly clever Irish woman who found an adoptive home in Scotland and made the choice to work in the sex industry.  Last week, she died aged just 39…

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Though Laura Lee is gone, her friends will not let her be forgotten; there were many awful people who hurt her for her work, from Catholic nuns to “feminist” crusaders to pompous politicians.  But there is one we have kept silent about for years; no more.  Brooke Magnanti obtained permission from Laura’s surviving family to write this; she published it on Medium, and asked me to mirror it here as a signal-boost.

I first met activist Laura Lee at a signing for my book The Sex Myth in 2012.  We became friends instantly, united by our belief that no activism is more powerful than being honest to people about sex work.  That showing our faces is the only way to speak truth to power.  Both of us experienced the ups and downs of going public with our pasts.  From Laura Lee’s grilling in Stormont, or how we were spoken about and treated by the press, it’s safe to say that being known as a sex worker invites vicious criticism, to the extent that we both received threats of death and violence.  We bitched and bonded over it behind the scenes, but got on with life, because some things were more important than cowering while cowards raged.  Laura was always keen to show as full a picture of sex work as possible.  She had worked at almost every level of the industry and knew the business inside out.  As she liked to say, she’d been everywhere from chicken sheds to five-star hotels.  Laura had a knack of telling her story in a way that was relatable, especially to other single mothers and concerned parents.  She had a gift.

Unfortunately that producer was not successful in developing a show featuring Laura, so the plans were put on the back burner.  But he did have other media connections, and it was his acquaintance with a music journalist in Dublin that convinced Laura to give an in-depth interview to well-known Irish writer Olaf Tyaransen.  You already know the kind of man Olaf is:  middle aged but refuses to wear ties, brags about going backstage with Bono, tweets “edgy” comments about drugs.  But he was the friend of a friend, so we figured he was probably alright.  The interview happened in October of 2014.  With so much interest in Laura’s activism, I hardly paid attention to what surely would be just one of the many positive and impactful interviews she gave that year.  When she messaged me shortly after, I was stunned by what she said.  After the interview, Laura told me, Olaf had invited himself back to her room for more chat.  And it was there he drugged her, beat her, and sexually assaulted her.  Now, for those who didn’t know Laura: she was not only formidable in activism, she was just as formidable in person.  A tall, strong woman whose physical presence served her well in domination — the part of sex work that comprised the majority of her appointments.  She was no meek submissive, and experienced enough to follow her instincts on who was potentially dangerous.  In a business that is never risk-free, she handled herself.  He still beat her black and blue.

Laura was not the kind to throw around false accusations.  I believed her as soon as she told me.  But she even shared pictures of a chat with another friend describing what he had done.  She didn’t report it, not right away.  Sex workers know that feminist solidarity rarely if ever applies to us.  Laura was a strong person but also realistic.  What power does a sex worker, even a well-known one, have against a journalist?  Who would be believed?  Sex workers are the “surplus women” who absorb men’s violence, in the view of the mainstream press.  When attacks happen we do not expect to be cared for or supported.  At worst we can expect to be disbelieved; at best, to be told that we deserve it.  Take for example the case of Morgan Marquis-Boire, a hacker from New Zealand.  The violent abuse he perpetrated was covered up not only because of who he was, but because of who his victims were, including sex workers.  It is exactly this kind of stigma that Laura spent years fighting.  The stigma that is heightened by the Swedish Model and other anti-sex worker propaganda.  The stigma that suggests it’s “feminist” for sex workers to operate in the shadows and be victimised.  The stigma that says women are only valuable if they are sweet and virginal and blameless.  The kind that makes it difficult for sex workers who are attacked to go to the police.

The Hotpress piece by Tyaransen ran in December 2014, and eventually what she told me about the interview left my mind.  Laura continued to follow Olaf on Twitter after the assault, which was no surprise if you knew her.  She followed a lot of accounts she disagreed with, from Irish anti-sex work campaigners Ruhama to Abolition Scotland to Human Trafficking News.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer as the saying goes.  Life went on.  Or seemed to.  Then 2017 happened, and so did #MeToo.  The movement began with Hollywood and Weinstein but it didn’t end there.  Suddenly the floodgates were opening.  Powerful men in media who for decades had gotten away with harassment, abuse, and rape were being called out by their victims.  Some were even being held to account, losing projects and positions.  #MeToo gave Laura hope.  Hope that finally she would be able to go to the Gardaí and be believed.  Hope that she could tell her story and, if not put her abuser in jail, at least prevent any other woman from going through what she went through.  Now, there are all kinds of men who abuse.  In the case of people such as Harvey Weinstein, power covers their tracks.  But others are more insidious.  They lurk in the shadows, picking off the vulnerable, the liminal, the unlikely to be believed.  They attack people with complicated pasts such as sex workers.  And they present a blameless face to the world.  Consider, for example, this tweet from Tyransen in December 2017:

My tweet (now deleted) asked if there was a reason he in particular might be afraid of the ground shifting.  I wanted to let him know, if he was self-aware enough to realise it, that what he had done would not stay secret for much longer.  Rape is more than an edgy lifestyle choice for sad middle aged journos on a Hunter S Thompson trip.  It’s fair to say he either didn’t get the hint or was still confident a man’s insistence would win out over a sex worker’s evidence.  This was his response:

Twitter spats count for very little; what matters is holding abusers to account.  In November 2017, Laura, supported by Wendy Lyon, gave a statement of evidence to the police at Store Street Station in Dublin.  The weight of what had happened troubled her in the years since it happened.  In particular the thought that with no one speaking out, he might have been able to do the same thing to someone else.  With police and papers suddenly interested in exposing abusers, Laura felt that — regardless of the stress it would cause her, with so much else going on — it was time to speak up.  Wendy stayed with her on that day, while Laura gave her statement for over six hours.  Laura was a strong person, almost unimaginably so.  And this took every bit of strength she had.  We waited for something to happen.  And waited.  And waited.  Meanwhile, her attacker went about his life as if nothing happened, because for him, it probably was nothing.  We continued to keep tabs on him, noting how dismissive he was of the Presidents Club dinner wait staff who had been abused.  A subtweet meant for Laura?  Maybe.  A shudder-inducing insight into the mind of a predator?  Definitely. 

And then everything changed, again.  I wish I could say this is the part where the guards kick in a door, cuff the guy, and justice prevails but many readers will already know how this story ends.  It ends with Laura Lee’s sudden death.  It ends with Gardaí closing the case because the main witness is gone.  It ends with a man who preyed on someone he thought would never speak out just…getting away with it.  Now it is over three years since Olaf Tyaransen sexually assaulted Laura Lee in a hotel room, drugged her, beat her black and blue.  For far too long we watched and waited and hoped for something to be done only to be told, now, there will never be justice.  But I am alive.  And I don’t give a shit about legal threats and bluster and the egos of violent men.  Laura would have done the same for any sex worker.  In fact she did: staying on social media all night to make sure a friend who was raped on tour was OK.  Lambasting journalists for how they reported on the trial of Bala Chinda, who murdered sex worker Jessica McGraa.  She was not one to let violence against sex workers by cowardly men be brushed under the rug.  Laura Lee tried, in a world that little cared for our lives and safety, to be an advocate.  She tried to put her abuser behind bars.  She can’t carry that on anymore, and between the indifference of the #MeToo movement to the stories of sex workers and the failure of the police to move forward as soon as they had evidence, perhaps this will go nowhere.  Perhaps I am just pissing in the wind.  But I don’t think I am, and I don’t think Laura would believe I was either.  It matters for people to know her struggle and her pain.  It matters for people to know who the predators are, the ones who bide their time so they can attack women they perceive as vulnerable and sneer about it all later.  Olaf Tyaransen drugged and raped Laura Lee.  He beat her.  And he went on with his life as if nothing happened.  He did it because of who she was, counting on her never being able to tell her side of the story.  She tried to fight the stigma and use the system to her advantage, but now she is gone, and he wins.  Just the way they always did and always do.

Beware this man Olaf Tyaransen, abuser, vile slime in journalist’s clothing.  And never let him do this to anyone ever again.

Laura left behind a teenage daughter on her own; please consider donating to the ongoing fundraiser to help Cat, which runs until the first week of March.

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Last week, a long-time client of Laura’s asked if I’d publish this tribute to her today, the day of her funeral.  And how could I not?  This text was approved by her daughter Cat prior to publication.

Today is the funeral of Laura Lee, “Ant” (Antoinette) to her friends, but I can’t be there celebrating her full but short life and grieving at her unexpected death.  Yes, I am one of those, a client, who has another life which made it impossible for me to attend.  I have no one to share my grief with, other than other sex workers, clients, allies and academics who knew Laura; they have been an immense help.  It has been a hard few days for me and I am sure I am not alone.  I have known Laura for twelve years, and online even longer than that.  She was a moderator on the forum call Punternet…yes, that so-called “patriarchal” review site so beloved by the antis had real life sex workers as moderators.  The first time I met Laura was in Edinburgh, and after our appointment she asked me back to accompany her on a midnight Edinburgh ghost walk tour.  I did, and that was the start of a long relationship.  Little did I know she was fascinated in ghosts, and only days before she left us she was staying in a haunted coach house.

During the next few years I would meet Laura wherever our paths crossed, often in Edinburgh or London, and once a coincidental meeting in Carlisle where we both happened to be working at the same time.  One year I took the plunge and invited her to come to Glastonbury music festival with me; I already had a ticket, but her ticket was a late booking on the Glastonbury ticket resale, and the only tickets available included coach transfer.  So, I drove there on Wednesday and set up camp; she arrived by coach the next day.  I met her on Thursday afternoon and we spent the rest of the day looking around and eventually making our way back to the small tent, soaking wet from the rain which had started.  We didn’t mind; we were together for the weekend.  There were no showers, and the loos at Glastonbury are diabolical stinking holes in a tank; wet wipes and cider become the currency of the festival.  The privacy in a small tent sited within a foot of other tents is virtually non-existent; three middle aged men nearby were discussing the moans of ecstasy they had heard during the night.  We would lie together listening to the requests for Ketamine and the inflation of balloons throughout the night.

She loved the Green Fields area and the Healing Fields, the Hippy area Laura called it, where there are various massages available, Yoga and Tarot card readings.  Having a wicked sense of humour, she went up to one young police officer and asked him about the laws on opening a massage tent and would it be alright if she supplied extra services.  The poor man flushed and stammered with embarrassment, eventually saying he would have to ask a superior.  Laura was supportive of all harm reduction initiatives and spent time talking with the helpers at a drug help tent.  Here they would advise people on safe drug use and they would spend the night and early hours touring the stone circle area handing out water and helping anyone in distress.  She was impressed by the care they gave.  The Green Fields area and especially the Peace Garden were a quiet safe space where one could sit and contemplate; it’s where we lay in the sun and I told her I loved her.  I felt so embarrassed after saying this, but no she said it was sweet and a lovely thing to have said.

Laura’s determination to come with me to Glastonbury was revealed next year, after she broke her ankle and damaged her knee in a fall in the bath tub a few weeks before the festival.  Her whole leg was placed in plaster all the way up to her crotch.  I was sure she would not come, but she did; luckily, we had upgraded to glamping and were sleeping in a bed, with showers and flush loos.  I was over the moon when she told me she hadn’t even contemplated not coming.  The only downside of the location of our yurt was the hill up to the campsite; pushing Laura up the wet grass in the wheel chair was punishing and very challenging work at the end of a long night.  But it was an amazing festival, and people were always ready whenever we needed help in the mud, or faced a steep hill.  We had hospitality tickets that year, so we celebrity spotted in the area between the Pyramid and Other stage; Laura was in her element being photographed with Paolo Nutini.

We managed five Glastonburys, two T in the parks, TRNSMT in Glasgow and even did the small Pilton party together last year.  From there Laura has a selfie of herself with Michael Eavis.  The great highlights of Glastonbury for her were Dolly Parton and Adele; she also valued her meeting with the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell (a vocal supporter of sex workers rights who knew of Laura) at the Left Field stage.  Taking an out-sex worker with a public profile and those unmistakable long black curls to such a public event has its risks; she had appeared on many chat shows and on TV shows such as Sex on Wheels which featured disabled people’s sexual needs and had been aired several times.  Generally, the reaction to her was positive, with women coming up to be photographed with her.  One time after Glastonbury at Bristol airport she was hugged and thanked for all she was doing.  During that last festival she was spotted by another sex worker and ended up giving advice and help.  Of course there were downsides too, such as the Irish doctor at our glamping site who recognised Laura and started making loud audible snide comments.  Last year we spotted a woman who just kept glaring angrily at Laura without saying anything.  Thankfully the glamping area had grown large, so we didn’t have to see either of them again.  Laura would outwardly laugh these slights off, but I knew it hurt her and put a damper on the late evenings sitting around the brazier in Love Fields.

The Greenfields area of Glastonbury had a debating and lecture area, and this is where she met Ruby Wax giving a talk on mental health, which was a personal issue for Laura, though when I was with her I very rarely saw it.  She was so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Ruby and get her autograph.  She worked hard promoting sex worker rights, even while we were enjoying ourselves at festivals; there were always emails or phone calls for help or for an interview, and she tried to fit these in when she could.  She took every opportunity to promote sex worker rights, to the extent of questioning those working on the Glasgow Sexual Health stand at the TRNSMT festival about their attitudes toward sex workers.

Outside of her work Laura tried to fit in speaking engagements, TV debates and protest marches where ever she could, along with actively working with different campaign groups and building relationships with the Belfast Reclaim the Night, feminist organisations and Repeal the 8th.  This often cost her money for hotels and travel, and importantly her time when she could have been working.  Campaigning is not cheap, with the costs increasing, and her earnings reduced, her stress levels increased with bills needing payment.  This spiral was having on effect on her health and made me very aware that allies must step up and help by donating money unconditionally to activists.  Not just money for a specific court case or cause, but money for the travel, accommodation and the loss of income from not being able to work on those days.

I loved Laura and I believe she had affections for me, often sharing with me aspects of her life, and sometimes having petty arguments like married couples.  I loved her forthrightness and the way she picked me up on my occasional tactlessness.  I greatly miss her; her death has left a hole in my heart and life.  I bitterly regret not attending the Beyond the Gaze event in Manchester where Laura received a standing ovation for her speech.

May Laura continue to haunt the lives of those who fight against total decriminalisation of sex work.

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Imbolc 2018

The Celtic goddess Brigit, like so many other pagan deities, was turned into a Christian saint; this is a photo I took last July at one of her many shrines in Ireland.  This day is sacred to her, and to the flame with which she awakens the world from winter.  Sometimes things that seem dead are just waiting for the right conditions to awaken; may all the things that do so in your life be good ones. Blessed Be!

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