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Posts Tagged ‘It’s Different Because It Involves Sex’

There is a well-established connection between moral panic…and laws that produce grotesque injustices.  –  Matt Welch

A Tale That Grew in the Telling 

Fetishists claim that Texas has about 500% of the underage sex workers in the US:

With 79,000 kids currently being trafficked in Texas, human trafficking is a statewide, underground issue, and Waco is no exception…The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition held a roundtable meeting…to discuss the underlying issues and new efforts to prevent trafficking.  A [fascist] effort is underway between law enforcement, church groups, and social workers to minimize the demand for prostitution…

Elephant in the Parlor goofy-trump

Politician pays whores for mildly-kinky show.  Yawn.

An unverified and salacious 35-page document, a summary of which was presented to President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump last week, includes allegations that Russian operatives sought to “exploit Trump’s personal obsessions and sexual perversion” to gain compromising material on him…The most explosive allegation is that Trump hired a “number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ [sic] (urination) show in front of him”…

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic 

“Sex addiction” is becoming a “get out of jail free” card:

A man [is] accused of trying to have sex with an underage girl, while dressed up as a character from the Men in Black movie…Michael Geressy is known for dressing up as various movie characters…but…police said he had a secret identity as a child sex predator…His attorney…asked the judge to continue his arraignment so his client can begin treatment for sex addiction…

Standard Operating Procedure

If only amateurs realized how common this sort of thing is:

Jason Mount…is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security…for records purportedly held by DHS…”that contain information regarding an allegation that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Supervisory Special Agent Peter Edge lost his official credentials to a prostitute and the credentials had to be retrieved by local police“…If the allegations are true, it means that a top ICE agent cavorted with a prostitute, lost his credentials during his date, and then summoned the local police to help him find his papers…

Dysphemisms Galore 

I find the lack of “victim” rhetoric here kind of refreshing:

…four people who live there presented me with the problem of hookers and hopheads in Brooklyn, on the south side of Baltimore…all of them are concerned about crime creep: more and more prostitutes who gather on sidewalks day and night; men in expensive sedans and pickup trucks that form…a virtual caravan of johns looking for sex.  The prostitutes…sometimes solicit customers near a church and an elementary school…Lisa Bowling say[s]…”We can count the whores and johns and drug dealers as they stroll down the street…We have been to meetings with the police where they state that it’s a ‘victimless crime.’  Funny, I don’t think they have whores in front of their houses every day”…

Traffic Circle

“Sex trafficking” debunking comes to the LA Times:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein…[led] off her critical cross-examination of the nation’s likely next top cop with a factually insane claim that will probably give him more power…In order for “human sex trafficking” to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, it would at minimum need to supplant illegal narcotics (roughly $100 billion a year)…or Medicare fraud (in the ballpark of $60 billion)…So distant is reality from those numbers that even the commonly cited figure of $9.8 billion a year for all trafficking…was given “four Pinocchios” by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.  Feinstein wasn’t done.  “Trafficking victims,” she warned, average “12 to 14” in age. (“Four Pinocchios,” judged Kessler.)  These fake numbers have consequences. Congress has leaned on such bogus statistics by periodically ratcheting up the penalties of…the criminals apprehended [who] are disproportionately adult females who work in the sex industry by choice

It’s Different Because It Involves Sex, Part Umpteen (#546)

As usual, Indians understand this far better than Americans do:

If the government of Maharashtra has its way, there would be bars in the state where the clientele won’t be served alcohol…The law…demanded the abolition of alcohol anywhere near the dancers at dance bars as well as the installation of CCTV cameras on the premises…Even the highest court of the land called these strictures “absurd” and “arbitrary” and “absolutely regressive by centuries”.  Now, in a fresh affidavit to the Supreme Court, the state has argued that bar dancing is “vulgar” and “not an art form that needs to be protected and promoted”.  It has alleged that such activities are often a cover for…the exploitation of women.  The girls who perform the dances, the state added, were not “trained artistes”, their dancing has very little “entertainment value” and borders on the obscene…

Note that such laws are very common in the US, especially in so-called “progressive” states like Washington.

Cheesy Scheme

It was inevitable that the “escort licensing” scam would eventually spread beyond Wisconsin:

…Escorts working in Mesa [Arizona] will now have to register for a license with the city.  [Politicians fantasize that] increasing regulations could help crack down on sex-trafficking operations that masquerade as escort services…Escort applicants will undergo a business and criminal background check…

Crying for Nanny (#659)

Unfortunately, this doesn’t really help Backpage now:

The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t hear an appeal from three sex trafficking victims who accuse advertising website Backpage.com of helping to promote the exploitation of children.  The justices left in place a lower court ruling that said federal law shields Backpage from liability because the site is just hosting content created by people who use it…

The Last Shall Be First (#675)

Alabama wants to put pigs in women’s bathrooms.  Seriously.

Alabama might place attendants in public restrooms as part of the state’s potential transgender bathroom bill…to guard against potential “molestation, assault and battery”…The act…would force public institutions to have bathrooms that only serve one gender or to place attendants in bathrooms that serve both genders…

Shift in the Wind (#692)

Medical ethicists are now solidly behind decriminalization:

…health care workers should support the full decriminalization of prostitution…By removing punitive laws that prevent reporting of exploitation and abuse, decriminalization allows sex workers to work more safely, thereby reducing marginalization and vulnerability.  Decriminalization can also help destigmatize sex work and help resist political, social, and cultural marginalization of sex workers…

The Naked Anthropologist (#701) the-three-headed-dog

Dr. Laura Agustín on why she wrote The Three-Headed Dog:

…I’m not making a sudden switch to fiction.  It’s one of the things I used to write before the Internet, before doing postgraduate degrees, before social media.  I began this story, in my head and scribbled notes, not long after starting those degrees in the late 90s…In general such stories are not published unless the migrants are portrayed as passive victims needing rescue by much straighter and more comfortable characters…Just as I strove to show in Sex at the Margins that many migrants don’t perceive themselves as inert objects of cruel fate and evil men, here a few of them act out their stories, trying to find ways to get ahead and stay out of trouble…The characters here are neither real nor unreal but created themselves in my imagination out of my long experience of travelling on my own and talking with people.  I’ve seen everything that happens in this book.  I’ve known people who thought and acted these ways…

The War Goes On 

The operators of…Backpage.com…declined to answer questions from a Senate panel investigating the company’s adult services ads, which lawmakers and law enforcement [fantasize] have helped facilitate pimping and child sex trafficking in the U.S.  Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, his business associates James Larkin and Michael Lacey as well as other company officials appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations but invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves…

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It’s not like prostitution is ever going to go away, or it would have gone by now.  –  Suzanne Harrington

R.I.P. Christopher Lee Christopher Lee

Lee strode like a titan through the favorite movies of my life; he starred in four of the movies I’ve listed as among my favorites, and pops up in various places in other columns as well (search his name and see).  So though he isn’t a sex industry figure, he joins others such as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Carmine Infantino whose influence on the landscape of my fancy cannot possibly be credited enough.  Rest in peace, Sir Christopher, though I won’t be at all surprised if you’re still observed stalking about foggy London streets in a cape from time to time.

Lack of Evidence

This will continue for as long as our work is criminalized:

A Tempe bar issued a public apology…to a transgender woman whose claims of discrimination by workers ignited an online firestorm…bar manager Rob Tasso said Briana Sandy, 55, should not have been asked to leave…”We welcome all kinds of people in this business.  We have many gay customers, we have transgender performers.  In no way did we ever mean to discriminate against you”…Tasso…pointed out that Tempe Tavern…neighbors an adult bookstore.  “Unfortunately, there’s a male prostitution problem that’s around here that’s unique to our situation”…

In other words, “We welcome all kinds of people, but prostitutes aren’t people.”

It Looks Good On Paper

The asinine dysphemism “prostitution ring” (used to mean one underage sex worker, her boyfriend and his mother) is bad enough, but the real story here is that Washington is one of the states with so-called “safe harbor” laws, which are hawked as “protecting the victims” by blaming their “crime” of consensual sex on a pimp instead of the arrested girl.  But as I’ve written before, the laws only apply to lily-white “perfect victims” with no prior arrests who are willing to rat out a supposed “pimp”; the great majority of underage whores have neither a pimp nor a spotless arrest record, and just go to jail like any other victim of the police.  The idea that listening in on a teenager’s jailhouse phone call like a nosy parent picking up the extension constitutes some sort of brilliant detective work, however, is a great moment in badge-licking.

Broken Record 

“Gypsy whores” idiocy with a revolting new Swedish-Canadian police-state flavor:

…Grand Prix weekend…is the busiest time of year for escorts in Montreal.  This year, local police are warning tourists that they may spend more time in jail than at the racetrack if caught trying to buy sexual services…Chief Insp. Johanne Paquin…said a specialized squad will be on patrol in strip clubs, hotels, motels and massage parlours, as well as on all the sites in the city related to the Grand Prix festivities…Canada’s new prostitution laws…”give us more tools in our tool box,” Paquin said…Hobby Lobby

The Widening Gyre

If cops don’t want people spreading stupid rumors, they need to stop spreading such rumors themselves first:

Lest you need any further indication that sex trafficking has become a genuine Moral Panic, I bring you the tale of Emily Stringer…[who] was shopping at…Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City when she noticed “a middle aged lady” following her around the craft store.  Stringer “stuck with (her) instinct” and left abruptly, calling local police afterward to report the incident.  “The policeman said that this is unfortunately a common thing,” Stringer posted in a subsequent Facebook warning.  “They are abducting people for sex trafficking.”  Except…. of course not.  There have been no cases of anyone, of any age, being stalked and abducted by sex traffickers at Hobby Lobby or any other Oklahoma City chain store.  Outlets from Snopes to The Washington Post tore holes in Stringer’s story, and the Oklahoma City police even distanced themselves from the apocryphal anecdote—but…Stringer’s sex-trafficking warning had received 147,000 shares. The police rebuttal, meanwhile, was shared less than 500 times

That Old Black Magic

The “juju sex slaves” myth just keeps going like a battered zombie:

Spanish National Police announced on Monday that they broke up a ring of human traffickers who used juju voodoo and animal sacrifices to coerce women into prostitution…The traffickers had put the women through a juju voodoo ritual that used the victims’ finger nails or public hair and involved animal sacrifice in front of idols in a temple in order to “guarantee that the women complied with everything they demanded, under threat of death to them and their families”.  Juju…has commonly been used to drive Nigerian women into sex trafficking…by exploiting the women’s fears of the powerful “magic”…

A few points of interest:

  • Most people in Spain practice Catholicism, a sect in which a woman can undergo a ritual involving sacred rings and magic water in front of idols in a temple in order to guarantee that she be bound to obey one man under threat of eternal torture by demons in a pit of damned fire.
  • There is no such thing as “juju voodoo”; Voodoo is a New-World syncretism of Catholicism and traditional African religion which is practiced in neither Nigeria nor Spain.
  • The readers of this article are being asked to believe without evidence in the word of “authorities” that powerful and unseen evil forces are lurking about to abduct their children unless they give these “authorities” greater power over their lives.

But obviously, Europeans and Americans are so much more sophisticated than the superstitious women who can be controlled by “magic”.

It’s Different Because It Involves Sex, Part Umpteen (#43)

Pole dancing is artistic expression — but lap dancing is not, a…[New York] judge has ruled…“There is a stage for the performers illuminated by spotlights; a dressing room for the dancers, who, at times, wear an array of different costumes; (and) tables and seating that are oriented towards the stage to focus audience attention on the performances;” and featured “choreographed dances,” [Judge] Pinto wrote…But the…more lucrative private dances were another story.  The auditor “credibly testified that in his 10 or 15 visits to Nite Moves over the course of years he purchased one or two private dances a night.  He said the private dances were very similar…He admitted he was not an expert in choreography but did not think what he experienced in the private dance was choreographed”…

Watershed

It’s so nice to see a few public intellectuals actually saying this:

…prostitution [has] been around as long as humanity itself, but…we don’t talk about it…Either it’s something glamorously Belle du Jour-ish, all swanning around five star hotels earning more cash per horizontal hour than the rest of us do in a vertical week, or it’s trafficked slaves, drugged and abused and held against their will in conditions so appalling we cannot bear to even think about it.  But what if in between these two extremes there’s a more mundane middle ground?…it’s a job.  It’s work…Dr Jane Pitcher…interviewed 36 self employed prostitutes…and…found that they all worked indoors, chose their own hours and clients, and set their own rates of pay.  None had been coerced into the work, and many were registered as self-employed.  They had good relationships with their clients.  It was far from the glamour/misery dichotomy…The obvious solution is to decriminalise all sex work, making it safer, more regulated, and not driven underground…

Umpteen Thousand People Can’t Be Wrong (#513)

Control freaks just can’t get that the Swedish model is unwelcome in Scotland:

The End Prostitution Now campaign…will call on the Scottish public, MSPs, charities and public bodies, to put pressure on the Scottish Government to [impose the Swedish model]…The campaign launch coincides with Labour MSP Rhoda Grant’s announcement yesterday of her amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill…She said…“I fear that if Scotland does not follow [Northern Ireland], it could become a haven for sex traffickers moving out of Northern Ireland“…

Fortunately, Grant’s attempt to circumvent the parliamentary process was immediately quashed.

The Course of a Disease (#515)

Activist Molly Smith on the problems with the Swedish model:

…Instead of focusing on creating bureaucratic hoops for sex workers to jump through, decriminalization prioritizes sex workers’ safety and health…While sex workers are not prosecuted simply for selling sex under the Swedish model, various laws continue to be used against them in punitive ways.  “Operation Homeless,” the memorably-named Norwegian police initiative, evicted people suspected of selling sex—a law aimed at “pimps,” but used against sex workers’ landlords…People who claim sex workers are “decriminalized” under the Swedish model tend to be…feminist…yet it’s hard to imagine the same feminists would consider abortion “decriminalized” if people suspected of seeking abortions were subject to deportation and extra-judicial (yet perfectly legal) eviction.  In fact, Sweden’s policymakers are remarkably open about the extent to which the law is supposed to harm people who sell sex.  The head of Sweden’s anti-trafficking unit told a journalist last year, “of course the law has negative consequences for women in prostitution, but that’s also some of the effect that we want to achieve”…

A Year Later (#515)

NO NO NO! This is absolutely awful!

…Under the old law, SNUG regularly partnered with Edmonton Police Service to run operations in which sex workers were taken into custody.  But instead of pressing charges, women were brought to SNUG offices, given some food and offered services.  When the law changed, police weren’t able to charge sex workers anymore and SNUG lost a crucial outreach opportunity…

Subjecting sex workers to violence in order to “outreach” to them is an absolutely terrible, dehumanizing, agency-negating idea; what next, shooting them with tranquilizer darts and RF tagging them for study?Primates of Park Avenue

Housewife Harlotry (#540)

Welcome to our world, New York housewives:

…is Primates of Park Avenue, an exposé on the moneyed mommies of Manhattan, really true?…Author Wednesday Martin…claims in the memoir to have spent six years “doing field work” with her two kids on the Upper East Side…But Martin only lived there for three years, with one kid, and mentions stores and services that didn’t exist, calling into question the scenes and ­behaviors she describes…Primates includes eyebrow-raising anecdotes, such as the claim that some women receive yearly “wife bonuses.”  After readers expressed doubt, Martin backpedaled, telling New York magazine:  “I don’t necessarily think it’s a trend or widespread.  It was just one of the many strange-seeming cultural practices that some women told me about.”  Although the book includes no such disclaimer and is advertised as a “memoir,” Martin [said] she “telescoped certain parts of the narrative in order to protect the privacy of friends, neighbors, associates and family.”  That “telescoping” seems to have moved events that happened in different neighborhoods and put them on the Upper East Side…

Traffic Circle (#544)

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post “Fact Checker”, continues to hammer at “sex trafficking” myths:

…if you think about it for half a minute, [the “average debut at 13”] statistic makes little sense…if it is the “average,” then for all those who entered trafficking at age 16 or 17, there have to be nearly equivalent numbers who entered at age 9 or 10.  But no one seriously believes that.  Upon investigation, this claim crumbles to dust…FBI spokesmen say this is not their figure.  The Justice Department also says it is not a DOJ figure…Yet somehow this figure lives on in the echo chamber of Washington discourse.  The worst example we found was a Department of Homeland Security pamphlet for school administrators that boldly displayed both the claim about 300,000 children and the average age of 13.  It listed two sources:  The Department of Justice and the congressionally mandated Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  But the DOJ reference was to another opinion article that cited the Estes/Weiner report, not an official DOJ finding.  And the CMEC fact sheet referred to a report by Shared Hope International…which in turn relied on…the same Estes/Weiner report…in the end the source of the data is the same discredited and out-of-date academic paper.  It would be amusing if it were not so sad…The Washington Post and other news organizations also failed by allowing [the] claim to be published as an actual fact…This is a Four-Pinocchio statistic and should no longer be cited.

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She was not sold to a brothel like they said…the people here always pitied and loved her.  –  Men Voeun

Safe Targets

How would this have played out if prostitution were fully legal in Canada?

Calgary police have arrested an Ontario man accused of making fake emergency calls…claiming that distraught women were being held against their will, either at gunpoint or knifepoint.  “It is alleged two individuals were responsible for numerous calls to police in an attempt to reveal and disrupt competition in the escort business.  These same individuals are also believed responsible for extorting escorts by calling or threatening to call police if the women refused to work for the two accused”…

Backwards into the Future

Add Rwanda to the list:

Commercial sex workers must be protected from assault and any other kind of mistreatment, lawmakers said…criminalisation of prostitution denies sex workers easy access to crucial services, with devastating consequences on their health, their clients and partners of their clients…The legislators called for more support to sex workers by encouraging and facilitating them to form and join cooperatives…[and] called for the review of the Penal Code…to avoid cases where the law might…be a liability to society…

Down Under

Dr. Marty Klein’s post about his trip to Australia discusses the absurdity of prohibitionism, properly brands “sex trafficking” a moral panic and starts by teaching me something I actually did not know:

…in Australia…it [became] legal to PURCHASE and POSSESS adult porn in 1983.  But all Australian states ban the SALE of X-rated video…Enforcement…is very low, so there is a gray market…[and] Australians buy it anyway…the government loses tax revenue, as well as respect.  The foolishness of attempting to ban a popular, victimless activity like watching adult porn is even more obvious when considered in light of Australia’s decriminalizing of most adult prostitution in 1992…

It’s Different Because It Involves Sex, Part Umpteen

Predictably, the New York state appeals court agreed with tax officials against a strip club.  Unpredictably, the dissenting judges clearly “get it”:

…A very divided New York Court of Appeals has ruled that lap dances are not art…“The court split 4-3, with the dissenting judges saying there’s no distinction in state law between ‘highbrow dance and lowbrow dance’”…Judge Robert Smith pointed out…that the majority ruling here does not actually comply with the…state’s legislation… “[T]he only question…is whether the admission charges that the State seeks to tax were paid for dance performances.  There is not the slightest doubt that they were…It does not matter if the dance was artistic or crude, boring or erotic.  Under New York’s Tax Law, a dance is a dance…I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker.  I would be appalled, however, if the State were to exact from Hustler a tax that the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the ground that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently “cultural and artistic”…discrimination on the basis of content would surely be unconstitutional”…

Presents, Presents, Presents!

I enjoyed Chester Brown’s Paying For It so much I asked him which of his other books I should read next, and he responded by generously sending me four of them:  Louis Riel, I Never Liked You and two short works which are not commercially available.  Thank you so much, Chester; I’m very much looking forward to reading them!

Above the Law

…Tacoma police said when Sylvester Haliburton tried to convince a prostitute he was an undercover police officer, she didn’t believe him, and when she tried to get out of his car, Haliburton wouldn’t let her…police…are looking into the possibility that he committed similar crimes before…

Much Ado About Nothing

I don’t think I can adequately explain how ridiculous this looks to any experienced escort; there’s about a 70% chance that the “shocked” officials have done the same thing themselves, and a better than 95% chance they knew others who did:

An investigation into the U.S. Secret Service prostitution scandal…contradicts Secret Service director Mark Sullivan’s adamant assertion before Congress that “this just is not part of our culture”…The report…revealed that one of the agents who was in Cartagena…admitted to soliciting a prostitute on two previous occasions…and…mentioned allegations of similar misconduct by agents on trips to Romania and China…

Meanwhile, Dania Londoño (her last name was previously reported as “Suarez”) is writing a book.

Naked Truth

Melissa Gira Grant on how the equation of “human trafficking” with prostitution harms the more than 75% of people whose exploitative labor conditions are not sex-related; I strongly suspect it won’t be long before The Guardian officially adopts an anti-trafficking hysteria editorial position.

True Colors

On May 24th the offices of New Orleans activist group Women With a Vision were destroyed by arson, but you can’t keep good women down:

As of October 1, 2012, we are well on our way to securing a new home for WWAV, and have a targeted reopening date of January 1, 2013.  In anticipation…we have officially closed our temporary office location…Please call 504.301.0428 for further information on how to access services while we are rebuilding.

You can also call that number to donate, or just go to their website.

First They Came for the Hookers…

The extension of “sex trafficking” hysteria to stripping continues:

Albuquerque city councilors…adopted a host of new regulations for strip clubs aimed at discouraging human trafficking, prostitution and other crimes.  The ordinance sets out record-keeping requirements on the identity of performers and calls for signs to be posted telling employees how to report human trafficking.  It also prohibits “adult cabaret entertainment” in private areas of the club that aren’t open and visible to others…Voting “no” were…Rey Garduño…[who] repeatedly questioned whether anyone had actually been arrested for human trafficking in an Albuquerque strip club…[and Trudy] Jones…[who] asked why other businesses that might involving the trafficking of minors weren’t covered by the bill.  She mentioned hotel maids and landscaping workers…

Though I’m disgusted by the registration, infantilization and attacks on women’s livelihood, I’m encouraged by the questions asked by the two dissenters.

Imagination Pinned Down

What, no UFOs or Satanists?

…a British woman has claimed that she spent five years being raised by monkeys in a Colombian forest…Marina Chapman says the colony of capuchins cared for her after she was kidnapped and then abandoned…[she] survived by catching birds and rabbits with her bare hands until hunters found her…took [her] to a nearby city and sold her to a brothel.  However, she managed to escape to Britain and…worked as a housemaid…[her] story has been made into a book…and TV crews plan to make a documentary…Chapman believes she was born…about 1950 and…was kidnapped when she was five before being abandoned in the jungle.

Shift in the Wind

Three UN agencies have officially called for total decriminalization across Asia, specifically naming New Zealand and New South Wales as examples:

…[A] study issued…by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)…examines 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific to assess laws, legal policies and law enforcement practices that affect the human rights of sex workers and…effectiveness of HIV responses.  Where sex work has been decriminalized, there is a greater chance for safer sex practices… “evidence from the jurisdictions…that have decriminalized sex work – New Zealand and New South Wales (Australia) – indicates that the approach of defining sex work as legitimate labour empowers sex workers, increases their access to HIV and sexual health services and is associated with very high condom use rates”…

Metaupdates

Welcome To Our World in February Updates (Part Two)

From Ireland, another example of the inevitable result of the idea that sex is a horrible thing from which the “innocent” must be “protected”:

…One would assume that [40-year-old Mandy Finlay]…is entitled to enjoy an intimate sexual life with her partner…[but] not only is [that] socially unacceptable…it is also a crime…the…Sexual Offences…Act, 1993, criminalises sexual relations between two adults with intellectual disability…who are not married.  This includes mild disability and autism…

Schadenfreude in TW3 (#17)

Somaly Mam has been caught in another huge lie:

For years now, the scarred face of Long Pros has symbolized…sex slavery in Cambodia…“My eye was stabbed by a brothel owner,” Ms. Pros recounted in [Nicholas Kristof’s documentary] Half the Sky…with blood still flowing from the destroyed eye socket, Ms. Pros said that she was still forced to have sex with clients…”when I returned home, my mother and father didn’t want me around”…[but] Pros’ parents…denied that their daughter was ever a victim of human trafficking, had ever been enslaved in a brothel, or had lost her right eye at the hands of a savage brothel owner.  Long Hon, 60, and Sok Hang, 56, described…their daughter’s…eye condition:  a non-malignant tumor that had developed when she was just 7 years old…[and] was…removed by an eye surgeon…in 2005 when she was 13…Te Sereybonn, the…director of the…hospital…said that…medical staff…contacted [Somaly Mam’s organization] to…admit Ms. Pros to one of their vocational training programs…it had nothing to do with the sex industry…

The parents’ statement was confirmed by doctors and medical records.  Brandee Baker of the Somaly Mam Foundation insisted that the girls’ parents, doctors and medical records were all wrong and wrote in an October 21st email to reporters, “you are now bullying victims of sex slavery…”  Furthermore, Keo Thea, chief of Phnom Penh’s anti-human trafficking police bureau, said he had no record of any complaint about a brothel girl stabbed in the eye, and even the type of the supposed attack has changed; in its first published form in 2008, Pros claimed to have “lost her eye after a pimp kicked her in the face.”

Neither Addiction nor Epidemic in TW3 (#20)

As I’ve stated before, “sex addiction” is not the same thing as hypersexuality; the latter is a real disorder which may be included in DSM-V, while the former isn’t and won’t be.  But since “sex addiction” is too good a myth to discard just yet, we’ll just lie by redefining the former to mean the latter:  “…New research shows that sex addiction is indeed a mental health disorder–one that can be easily and accurately diagnosed…It’s formally called ‘hypersexual disorder,’ and it’s much more than enjoying sex a little too much…”  I shall now prove the existence of the Tooth Fairy by redefining the word “fairy” to mean “ache”.

The Course of a Disease in TW3 (#26)

Here’s something rather unusual:  a short anti-Swedish model play.  I have included it not for its dramatic qualities (which are, I’m sorry to say, essentially nonexistent), but rather as evidence of the fact that there is considerable anger toward the model in Norway, home of those who inspired the play.  Furthermore, its central philosophical point is that since all sex is transactional in some way, the Swedish model technically outlaws sex completely.

Change of Heart in TW3 (#41)

This article about the journalistic ethics of outing Alexis Wright’s clients is an excellent example of a journalist just starting to wake up.  Though he recognizes “end demand” as bunk and rightfully compares persecution of sex work to persecution of homosexuals, he doesn’t actually challenge the morality of the laws per se; furthermore, though he understands that stigma can harm families, he thinks only of the clients’ families rather than those of the hookers.  Still, this is a big improvement over most of the American journalistic establishment, and therefore deserves recognition.

This Week in 2010 and 2011

Three of these columns were about Japan:  there was a brief history of Japanese prostitution, my husband’s experience at a “soapland” bath house, and a study of Filipinas working at hostess bars.  I also presented the stories of two eccentric New Orleans characters, two columns full of hooker songs, and two columns in which I answered questions about anonymity, the fraction of men who hire us, hotels, STDs, female sex tourists, pimps, parents, spam and circumcision.  Finally, we looked at the “pedophilia” heffalump and the prostitution elephant, a thorny BDSM case, the ethics of egg-selling and short articles on Bob Guccione, Clarence Thomas, Gardasil, funny album covers, horror comics and vampire whores.

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

Ten updates from the seventh week of 2012.

Whore Madonnas (August 29th, 2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real People (February 6th, 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Déjà Vu (June 25th, 2011)

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

An Ounce of Prevention (October 15th, 2011)

More news about potential HIV vaccines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moloch (January 29th, 2012)

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

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A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.  –  Bertrand de Jouvenel

Today’s column features three egregious examples of government overextending its reach, and one extra item for diehard Maggie fans.

Left or Right?

Adherents of the “liberal vs. conservative” fallacy claim that giving government the power to punish those who hurt others’ feelings (as in “sexual harassment” and “hate speech” laws) is a “liberal” idea, unless of course those “hurt feelings” happen to be religious or to involve sex, in which case it magically becomes “conservative”, unless the rhetoric one uses to support such a law includes language about “demeaning women”, in which case it obediently shifts back to being “liberal” again.    And as everyone knows, “liberal” laws can never be enacted by those “rednecks” in “red states” (itself a term which flies in the face of long-established tradition that red=leftist) like Tennessee.  So one has to wonder how dualists explain the recent law discussed in this June 6th column on The Volokh Conspiracy which criminalizes hurting people’s feelings?

Friday, a new Tennessee law was changed to provide (new material italicized):

(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally:
(4) Communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim [by telephone, in writing or by electronic communication] without legitimate purpose:
(A) (i) With the malicious intent to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress; or
(ii) In a manner the defendant knows, or reasonably should know, would frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities; and
(B) As the result of the communication, the person is frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed.

So the law now applies not just to one-to-one communication, but to people’s posting images on their own Facebook pages, on their Web sites, and in other places if (1) they are acting “without legitimate purpose,” (2) they cause emotional distress, and (3) they intend to cause emotional distress or know or reasonably should know that their action will cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities.  So,

1)  If you’re posting a picture of someone in an embarrassing situation — not at all limited to, say, sexually themed pictures or illegally taken pictures — you’re likely a criminal unless the prosecutor, judge, or jury concludes that you had a “legitimate purpose.”
2)  Likewise, if you post an image intended to distress some religious, political, ethnic, racial, etc. group, you too can be sent to jail if governments decisionmaker thinks your purpose wasn’t “legitimate.” Nothing in the law requires that the picture be of the “victim,” only that it be distressing to the “victim.”
3)  The same is true even if you didn’t intend to distress those people, but reasonably should have known that the material — say, pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group — would “cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities.”
4)  And of course the same would apply if a newspaper or TV station posts embarrassing pictures or blasphemous images on its site.

Pretty clearly unconstitutional, it seems to me.

“Unconstitutional” is an understatement, especially considering that government officials are people and criticism of their policies might indeed “offend” them.  This law is pure, unadulterated totalitarianism and I can’t imagine that it will be allowed to stand even in the current political climate. But in the meantime, I’m glad this blog doesn’t originate in Tennessee.

Decentralization

Kelly Michaels called my attention to government attempts to suppress bitcoins, a decentralized online monetary system which exists on peer-to-peer networks without relying on banks, and therefore leaves no paper trail.  The government’s excuse is that people can use the currency to buy drugs, but it doesn’t take an economic genius to recognize that there’s a lot more at stake than that; if bitcoin can become established the underground economy could explode, destroying the present government monopoly on currency and making a truly free market possible for the first time in several generations.  One thing’s for certain; even if the government manages to quash this particular version of the phenomenon, decentralized currency (i.e. standardized barter) is an idea whose time has come, and attempts to crush it will be about as successful as the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Whores” have been, and for the same social and economic reasons.

It’s Different Because It Involves Sex, Part Umpteen

Despite considerable pressure from soi-disant “conservatives”, federal officials have steadfastly refused to limit the definition of “art” to those creations and performances which are both non-sexual and inoffensive to practically everybody, but apparently the lawheads on a New York State appellate court feel no such compunction and have ruled that dancing isn’t dancing if it’s sexy.  Their motivation?  Music and dance performances aren’t taxable in New York, and as explained in this June 11th AP story, they couldn’t let a little thing like the law get in the state’s way of robbing a strip club:

…Four Appellate Division justices agreed with a state tax appeals commission’s earlier finding that dances onstage or in private rooms at the club Nite Moves in suburban Albany don’t qualify for a state tax exemption as “dramatic or musical arts performances.”  Nite Moves contested a tax bill of nearly $125,000 plus interest on lap dances and admission fees stemming from a 2005 audit.  Its attorney, W. Andrew McCullough said Friday the club has a later, larger bill it is also challenging, and that he would probably appeal the Appellate Division ruling.  McCullough said the impact of the ruling probably won’t be widespread since most establishments featuring exotic dancers as entertainment are bars mainly selling alcohol where other tax rules apply.  “We admit the ballet is a little different and maybe a little more finely tuned,” McCullough said.  Still, the club tried to bolster its artistic argument with testimony from a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance and visited Nite Moves, and who said the lap dances should be considered choreographed performances.

The court said it agreed with the state Tax Appeals Tribunal’s determination that Nite Moves didn’t present sufficient proof that it deserves a tax exemption.  The court noted that the club’s dancers aren’t even required to have formal dance training, “and, in lieu thereof, often rely upon videos or suggestions from other dancers to learn their craft.”

“It was purely and absolutely a value judgment,” McCullough said, citing First Amendment issues about free expression and adult entertainment.

Simply and bluntly put, the appeals court is full of shit.  The only limitations on the First Amendment currently allowed are those for speech which creates a “clear and present danger” (the classic example is shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater) or for obscenity.  Lap dances are hardly dangerous (except to the recipient’s wallet), and if they were declared obscene they would be illegal and therefore prohibited (thus defunct as a cash cow).  Unless they fall under these exceptions they are protected under the First Amendment, and if there’s a definition of “dance” which excludes sexy moves, adherents of the tango and lambada certainly aren’t aware of it.  A government has the right to tax specific activities which occur within its borders, but if the State of New York wants to tax stripping while giving ballet a free pass, it’s going to have to do a lot better than merely saying that exotic dancing isn’t dancing just because it’s sexually stimulating.

I’ve Been a Busy Girl Lately

For the past few weeks I’ve been helping Sex Workers Without Borders (Jill Brenneman’s sex worker rights organization, of which I and several of the bloggers I link are members) to spruce up its website, and Furry Girl also asked me to write a little “Intro to Prostitution” for her new Sex Work Activists, Allies and You website, which launched yesterday.  On Tuesday evening I was interviewed by Deep Geek for his Talk Geek To Me podcast, which also posted yesterday.  And finally, I’ve been asked to contribute some guest columns to a relatively new libertarian blog called Nobody’s Business; I’ll let you know as those are published.

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