Posts Tagged ‘left-right myth’

Any act that would not be illegal if no money changed hands is not a crime just because money changes hands.  –  Mistress Matisse

R.I.P. Grace Bellavue Grace Bellavue

The prominent Australian sex worker and activist, Grace Bellavue, died on Sunday.  I’m told she wrote her own obituary some time ago, and I’ll publish it in its entirety as soon as it can be located; in the meantime, this profile  and this account of how she came out to her family may give you some vague idea of what this extraordinary woman – one of the first in Australia to risk legal and social consequences by showing her face as an activist – was like, and why she will be sorely missed.

Rough Trade 

A King County Superior Court judge sentenced [Christopher Beck] to 33 1/3 years in prison…for raping three women — two of them sex workers — over 15 days in March 2014…should he be released, Beck will be required to register as a sex offender for life…defense attorney Walt Peale said…each victim “contributed significantly to the crime being committed” by engaging in illegal sex work…[in reality] Beck is a serial rapist who terrorized women he specifically targeted because he thought they wouldn’t report the rapes to police and if they did, that no one would believe them…Beck didn’t pay any of the women…

Profit from Panic 

Listed below are job openings in non-profit organizations and for-profit (FP) companies that are fighting human trafficking.”  I’m sure it won’t surprise you to see that most of them are in either PR or finance.

The Public Eye

Here’s a profile of Denver’s Domina Elle:

I like to call myself an adult play facilitator.  The type of work I do is much broader than just BDSM or fetishistic type stuff.  I specialize in helping people to open this part of their sexual selves, and be playful and creative.  That’s one reason I love balloons.  It’s a very friendly catalyst.  It’s erotic and playful, and yet it’s not as scary as some of the other stuff when you start looking at BDSM…

Cuckoo Advertising

Uber-sleaze Dennis Hof is another master of tricking gullible reporters into printing his ads for free as “news items”:

…the owner of Nevada’s Bunny Ranch…announced a new perk for his…employees:  He will match their student loan payments 100% for two months, up to the amount they make as prostitutes at the ranch.  Brothel owner Dennis Hof says he was inspired by the growing number of debt-laden college students he’s seen turning to sex work as a fast way to pay off their loans.  His offer covers payments for education at any two- or four-year university…

The Privilege Paradigm

I’m part of a nascent but growing movement within the left to question the efficacy of current left political and rhetorical tactics, particularly concerning the privilege frame…[it] is a deeply limited way to look at the world, and at times it leads to perverse consequences.  To see the way in which they can really screw up political analysis, check out this Daily Kos piece by Shaun King…The question for people like King…is whether or not they really want to oppose mass incarceration and our current police state.  Because that edifice is so powerful, and so deeply embedded into our system, that it will take a genuinely unified front to oppose it.  That means not siding with the police…What’s the priority?  Scoring the purely rhetorical point of identifying privilege?  Or actually transforming the system that hurts so many poor people and people of color?

Frequently Told Lies

Eithne Crow explains the problems with common responses to prohibitionist propaganda:

When someone is telling you that you don’t know your own life or your own experiences, that you don’t know what you do or don’t consent to, and they’re making no attempt to hide their revulsion – asking invasive questions and telling you that you’re damaged and a liar and a victim – it’s hard to keep it all together.  The implication that we’re dirty, disgusting and desperate draws on a narrative so firmly established, institutionalised and legitimised by nearly everything in our culture that sometimes it’s hard to keep swimming against the tide…I still see these narratives of empowerment versus exploitation being perpetuated all over the place. and I think we need to start saying to each other: “I see you, and I understand that your back’s against the wall and that’s really hard, but when we’re trying to demand rights and you say ‘I like my job’, what does that mean for people who don’t?”…

Another Fine Mess

No, Rhode Island didn’t “accidentally” decriminalize prostitution.  But maybe Georgia did:

In Georgia, it is an absolute defense to a charge of prostitution that the defendant was being sexually trafficked….but the law is so broad that virtually any…prostitute can make a credible claim to being trafficked.  Coercion can mean threats of “bodily harm,” but it can also mean “threatening to expose… information… that if revealed would tend to subject to…. ridicule,” “providing a controlled substance,” or “threatening financial harm.”  So a prostitute who accepts crack cocaine…meets all the elements of the statute…Or let’s say a prostitute…asks the john for $40, and the john declines, saying it will be either $30 or nothing.  Now there’s a threat of financial harm.  Deception is even broader.  It can include promising a benefit…then not delivering.  Or “[c]reating or confirming another’s impression of an existing fact or past event which is false and which the accused knows or believes to be false”…Arguably, [this] might even apply to police officers making undercover busts…

Little Boxes (#504)

It looks like the “cuddlers” are competing with masseuses to see who can come up with the most pompous rationalizations of why they aren’t sex workers:

…To help [pretend that it’s]…an…industry with no connection to prostitution, the therapeutic massage industry emphasizes training and certification.  Most states have massage therapy licensing boards that regulate practitioners. To obtain a license typically takes at least 500 hours of supervised, in-class training…Such requirements help reinforce the [notion] that massage therapy is a skilled discipline practiced by experienced professionals who possess genuine medical knowledge and hard-to-acquire skills…Along with the training costs, some states or municipalities impose additional fees [and legal restrictions] on therapeutic massage businesses…But if professional cuddling attempts to go this route, an obvious issue arises.  “There’s only so much information you can give on teaching cuddling versus massage,” says Evan Carp…

Guinea Pigs Female Head with biometric facial map

Note Facebook’s half-assed “correction” near the bottom of the original:

…New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Facebook engineers will help his office use “innovative data and analytical methods” to combat online child sex operations…Facebook declined to further provide details, but a likely guess is the project will draw on Facebook’s massive database of “faceprints” to identify victims who appear in the sex ads…law enforcement agencies could cross-check images of their faces to discover their identities—and possibly pictures of the people who are controlling them…

What Were You All Waiting For?

Another pro-decrim article, this one quoting Mistress Matisse:

…In August, Amnesty International voted that the best policy to protect sex workers is the full decriminalization of consensual sex work…the recommendation…served as a mainstream wake-up call about the dangers of the current legislation in the U.S…Current laws regarding sex work can be seen as the criminalization of an exchange between consenting adults.  However, Nevada is currently the only state in the U.S. that allows for the legal exchange of sexual service, legalizing prostitution in regulated brothels (as opposed to decriminalization, as argued for by most sex work activists)…

The Face of Trafficking (#567)

This is what really happens when a wannabe “pimp” abducts a girl:

[On October 5th, Alabama] Police received a call from family members of a 14-year-old saying she wasn’t where she was supposed to be and was missing.  Moments later, an anonymous caller told police a girl about that same age was being used as a prostitute inside a residence…“After talking with the parties there, we located the juvenile,” explained Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan…[he] said there were drugs and money exchanged to have sexual contact with the 14-year-old girl in a back bedroom…Rashard Ricks, has been charged with human trafficking…Jerrin Donley is charged with rape…

Broken Record (#575) 

The descent of “sex trafficking” hysteria into self-parody continues unabated:

…The New Colossus is a…group in Sioux Falls that raises awareness about…human trafficking…[they] say here in South Dakota there’s two times a year when there’s a spike in trafficking – during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and the [pheasant] hunting season….[which] brings the problem into rural communities…[Polly] Dean says some of the girls being trafficked…are from reservations in the state, but also from places like Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.  While people will be keeping an eye out for birds…The New Colossus want everyone to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity as well…Some of the things people should look for are women who appear in multiple locations…

That’s right, women moving around in public (instead of staying in the home, presumably) are inherently suspicious.

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When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.  –  Harriet Beecher Stowe

Olivier as HamletI’ve stated several times recently that I think the sex worker rights movement has finally passed our watershed moment; Amnesty International’s affirmation of decriminalization as the only moral way for governments to relate to sex workers, followed closely by the incredibly tone-deaf fiasco that was the Rentboy raid, has resulted in a dramatic shift in the way the American public views the topic of sex worker rights.  The tide has turned at last, and now the current is flowing away from eroding the human rights of sex workers instead of toward it.  (Yes, I realize that I just mixed my metaphors; so did Shakespeare on occasion.  Deal with it.)  I mean, take a look at this editorial from a student newspaper in Arizona:

…Much of the violence associated with sex trafficking is believed to be made worse by its illegal status because violent people are more likely to prey on sex workers, confident they won’t be reported to police…The legalization of prostitution would take the disputes between clients and workers off the streets and into the courtroom.  Black market sex trade leaves little accountability between either parties involved, but by legitimizing the markets, new processes would be made available to alleviate this problem…after both Germany and New Zealand legalized sex work…the violence against sex workers decreased, workers’ quality of life improved and occupational health and safety laws now protect sex workers…Americans are growing tired of a government that is so involved in the personal decisions of its citizens.  The kind of government that kept same sex marriage from being legalized is a thing of the past, and maybe so is the kind of government that still classifies sex work as illegal.

There are a number of problems and sour notes in the short article (for example, the author seems to believe criminalized US sex workers can’t screen clients or take credit cards), but the general tone is extremely supportive; what makes that even more remarkable is that this was published in Arizona, one of the main sources of “sex trafficking” filth:

…due to the process of group polarization Arizonans seem completely unable to recognize how extreme their beliefs and rhetoric are in comparison with the rest of the country.  When delusional maniacs like Joe Arpaio or John and Cindy McCain start barking at the moon, they do not realize how deranged they sound to others because everyone in Phoenix political circles encourages and applauds their howling.  Dominique Roe-Sepowitz was completely unable to recognize what her creepy statement about “body fluids” and “normal relationships”  sounded like to normal people until it started to be quoted in articles…even then her response was not introspection, but simply refusing to give interviews to anyone other than a religious magazine

But this tide is just beginning to turn, and its outward current isn’t very powerful yet; there are still plenty of vile, nauseating little creatures struggling against it to spread as much shit as possible on the beach.  Consider, for example, this recent piece from the other main hotbed of “sex trafficking” lunacy, Washington state:

…Spokane…passed an ordinance…allowing for [cops to steal] the cars of drivers [accused of] soliciting prostitution…Officials [pretend] the new approach to the age-old problem is already making an impact.  It is hard to say what is more disappointing.  The fact that people still think prostitution is a valid way to earn a living or that there are still johns willing to keep the women in business.  Pastor Kevin Ch’en…said he extends an open door to anyone who wants to be inspired and uplifted – including prostitutes.  “There’s so many stories and so many issues,” he said, “but the biggest problem is always a broken heart.”  To prevent even more heartbreak, Spokane Police took the unique approach of going after the drivers who keep the prostitutes in business…

Bart's PeopleThis sounds like the kind of crap Bart Simpson wrote when he was trying to be a “human interest” reporter.  “Heartbreak”?  Sentence fragments getting all judgy about the way non-reporters earn a living?  Asset seizure a “unique approach”?  Is this guy even for real?  Believe it or not, he actually tried to argue with Matisse and me on Twitter the other night while we were on our way to a rather nice restaurant, but he slunk away pretty quickly; I guess he couldn’t make up his mind whether it was more “disappointing” that we think being beautiful and charming is a valid way to get treated to an expensive steak dinner, or that there was a gentleman willing to pay for it.  Alas, it’s not just fourth-rate local TV reporters who haven’t yet got the memo about prohibition being on the way out; the venerable “leftist” magazine Mother Jones recently published (for pay) propaganda made up by the “right wing” rescue organization Covenant House, proving once again that “left” and “right” are just two wings of the same vulture when there’s money to be made and individual rights to be crushed:

…In a sponsored message sent to Mother Jones readers…Covenant House claimed…that “85% of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens—mostly runaway children.”  Eighty-five percent of sex trafficking victims where?  The group doesn’t say, leaving it open to the interpretation that the majority of sex trafficking victims worldwide are American citizens.  That’s a conclusion that may defy common sense, but a lot of people’s only information on sex-trafficking comes via scaremongering legislators, local news, and activist groups…the…claim…that the majority of sex trafficking victims are runaway children…conjures bad guys snatching up 10-year-olds…But the runaway children claim is only true insofar a large number of teens engaged in prostitution…are indeed runaway and/or homeless youth [and only if you accept that 16- and 17-year-olds are “children”].  Multiple recent studies have shown, however, that the majority of these teens…do not have pimps…the…email goes on to state that “over 100,000 American children are forced into prostitution every year,” a claim that has been debunked again and again (look, here’s someone doing it in 2011! Here’s someone doing it in 2014!  Here’s Washington Post doing it last May!  Here’s me doing it last week!)…

Yes, it’s going to be a while before that ebb becomes forceful enough to carry most of the creepy-crawlies out to sea with it.  But in the meantime, please forgive me if I amuse myself by poking at the stragglers with sticks.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on November 16th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Salvation Army womenEvery time one reads an article that doesn’t mindlessly parrot “sex trafficking” hysteria or some other aspect of the anti-sex movement, yet isn’t written by a sex worker or ally, one can be sure there will be an obligatory sentence about how it’s “surprising” or “paradoxical” or whatever that neofeminists are in bed with evangelical Christians.  The only people who could actually consider this alliance to be anything other than wholly predictable are those who A) believe in the ridiculous “left wing-right wing” dichotomy which “was a poor fit to real political landscapes when it was first used in reference to the French Assembly more than 200 years ago and has become completely worthless since”; B) accept fanatical cults’ propaganda about their motives as truthful even if it demonstrably conflicts with their public behavior; and C) are completely ignorant of the history of the Anglo-American anti-sex movement.  My early essay “Traitors To Their Sex”  provides a brief sketch of this history, starting with the influential and charismatic Victorian feminist, Josephine Butler:

…who recognized that English law of the time…stripped prostitutes of their rights as Englishwomen and so campaigned tirelessly for the repeal of those laws for 16 years.  At the same time, Butler (like most Victorians) believed that women were essentially asexual, and so could not accept that any woman might freely choose to exploit the male sexual appetite in order to earn a living; the very idea was anathema to her rigid Christian thinking.  She therefore concluded that it was actually whores who were the exploited ones, childlike victims of male lust who had been forced into lives of “degradation” by male oppression…after the repeal of the Contagious Disease Acts in 1886 prostitutes were no longer the cause célèbre; when they refused to repent their whoredom and embrace “honest work” and conventional morality the feminists abandoned their sympathy like yesterday’s newspaper and declared war on our entire profession, vowing to abolish it entirely.  Butler founded the Social Purity Alliance…dedicated to imposing middle-class Victorian standards of chastity (i.e. repugnance for sex) onto men, and it was but the first of a host of similar organizations which sprang up on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the 1880s and ‘90s…middle-class “feminists” had shown their true colors and abandoned the drive to win rights for the disenfranchised in favor of one which aimed to restrict the rights of everyone…The purity crusaders used many propaganda weapons…but chief among these were disease scares and the “white slavery” hysteria…the unholy alliance of middle-class feminists and puritanical religious zealots managed to convince the public, the media and governments that there was a huge international trade in underage girls, abducted and forced into sexual slavery…The fact that there was absolutely no evidence for such a vast conspiracy made no difference whatsoever; the public devoured lurid stories of child prostitution, and…voluntary adult prostitution was banned or severely restricted under the excuse of combating involuntary prostitution of “children”…

In other words, though some early feminists (such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges) were individualists who were not at all anti-sex, feminism did not become a popular movement until it embraced a rigid, puritanical morality.  These “first wave” feminists were not merely anti-prostitution, but anti-pleasure; among other things, they campaigned against the “evil” of masturbation and drove the movement which eventually imposed Prohibition on the United States.  So although this early feminism died out in the Great Depression, it is wholly unsurprising that its legacy soon infected the “second wave” which flourished in the 1960s and ‘70s; by the mid-‘80s the anti-sex forces had not only taken over feminism, but had sought out and once again joined their old allies, evangelical Christians, in another loathsome attempt to impose a puritanical anti-sex regime on all of society.  Almost exactly a century after the first iteration of their social engineering crusade, they’ve brought back most of their old rhetoric (now blended with another morally-bankrupt 19th-century belief system, Marxism) and many of their old tactics, including “white slavery” hysteria (now called “sex trafficking”).

This is what a feminist's victim looks likeAs I’ve pointed out before, much of the language in “sex trafficking” and other anti-sex articles and essays is positively Victorian, and even when it isn’t the attitudes are.  Women like Julie Bindel and Meghan Murphy, who would almost certainly take exception with (or even ridicule) the notion that their attitudes fit more in the late 19th century than the early 21st, nonetheless expend considerable effort in arguing for massive censorship campaigns (even though they deny it) and trying to convince other women that only feminist thought leaders have the right to determine which kinds of sex constitute “rape” or “exploitation”, and that their individual consent is immaterial (the result of “false consciousness”, itself a 19th-century Marxist concept).  The “end demand” campaign backed by the Fawcett Society (itself founded in 1866) is based in the tired old Victorian conceit that men can be “taught” to dislike sex as much as prudish women do; furthermore, the recent revelation that the £45 “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirts hawked by the Society are made in Dickensian sweatshops reveals that middle-class white women’s trivial concerns still trump the serious problems of working-class and brown-skinned women, just as they did in the days when the sun never set on the Empire.  And I think we can all agree that the mind which can produce over 3100 words on whether porn can be “ethical” or “feminist” is one which could’ve been perfectly delighted with thinking up new venereal nouns or arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  So no, it isn’t at all surprising that evangelical feminists conspire with evangelical Christians to make normal people’s lives as miserable as possible; they’ve been doing it for as long as there’s been such a thing as “feminism”.

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Be careful who you honk at the next time.  –  Jeremy Sweet

Once again, I apologize for letting a “Links” column post in an unfinished state; the reason is the same as the last time, back in July.  I’m simply not a very good traveler, and even though train travel is better than air travel, it still has a tendency to get me sick and I was mortified to be in a rather bedraggled state to meet my hostesses last night.  The first video was contributed by Michael Whiteacre, and the second is a National Lampoon parody which was dislodged from the ’70s to buzz around my head again for the past few weeks.  The links above the first video are from Radley Balko, and those between the videos from Rick Horowitz (“more”), Jesse Walker (“Watterson”), Angela Keaton  (“transmen”), Clarkhat (“never” and “discourse”), David Ley (“old”), and Tushy Galore (“FBI”).

From the Archives

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Governments need to be reminded (at least annually if not constantly)…that [their] overthrow…by a disgruntled minority is always a possibility.  I would like to see most if not all politicians and their minions paying for their power and privilege by being forced to live in a constant state of nervous anxiety.  –  “Guy Fawkes Night

I only call myself a libertarian because it’s the only popular term which has some general resemblance to the way I see the world.  Technically, what I am is a minarchist, someone who is to an anarchist what an agnostic is to an atheist; I’m also more or less an agorist.  But use either of those terms to most people, even to many libertarians, and you’ll be greeted with blank stares; I had to add both of them to the Microsoft Word dictionary while writing this.  For most uses, “libertarian” is good enough, though it means that I have to endure opprobrium from semi-literates who write for sites like Think Progress, Alternet and Salon and seem to believe that “libertarian” means “caricature of a fundie plutocrat” or even “whatever I don’t like”.  The demonic misnamed “libertarians” in these yahoos’ tiny minds are like cartoon distortions of Ayn Rand characters,Gilded Age political cartoon mustache-twirling (excuse me, “beard-stroking”) villains who are perfectly happy with the system except insofar as their own power-plays are disrupted by the good, noble, valiant white knights in government.  Not counting the cops and the military, of course; those are bad parts of government, totally and completely disconnected from the good parts who only try to “help” people by telling them how to live, why to fuck, whom to associate with, where to shop and what to eat, wear, buy, watch, say, do and think.  Said directives are of course implemented by laws (for our own good, naturally) and enforced (look carefully at that word) by the cops they pretend to disapprove of and locked up in the prisons run by powerful crony-capitalist corporations they pretend to hate (in Facebook posts made on their iPhones).

In truth, I’m as far from many libertarians (especially Libertarians) as I am from most Republicans, Democrats, Greens and Socialists; the main difference is that the vast majority of libertarians, no matter what their flavor, respect my right to have different beliefs from them and different opinions about which issues are most important.  And that makes them in my estimation vastly better human beings than those who assert the right to ownership over my person, my time and my effort, even if I disagree with them on a lot of issues and just can’t get terribly excited about the trials and tribulations of people who’ve made more money since breakfast than I will in my entire life.  One important way, perhaps the most important way, in which I differ from most libertarians (especially Libertarians and “libertarian-leaning” anybodies) is that I do not believe our current system is salvageable.  Unlike most people, I harbor no delusions about American exceptionalism and no 21st-century chauvinism; I refuse to comfort myself with the childish belief that the culture and time in which I live is magically different from all others that have gone before, because of God or science or “democracy” or “feminism” or mass communications or what-have-you.  As a pragmatist and a student of history, I recognize that all cultures  – every last stinking or shining one of them – are as mortal as the humans who build them, albeit on a slightly larger time scale.  No culture is immortal; all of them are born, grow, mature, sicken, decline and die, usually over a period of a few centuries to a millennium at best.  And pretending that wholly different cultures are the same merely because they occupy the same territory and call themselves the same thing is as absurd as insisting that Elizabeth II is actually Queen Victoria.  The United States of history, the patriotic fiction to which so many believe they owe fealty, is as dead as the dodo; it was born with an ugly birth defect which doomed it from the start, and the monstrous doppelganger which grew like some loathsome fungus inside of its carcass would not be worthy of saving even if that were possible.  Nor are the majority of modern Western nations any better.

I’m not calling for a revolution; I’m saying that a revolution is inevitable, whether we like it or not.  The powerful have made it inevitable, despite the best efforts of those philosophically-inclined revolutionaries we call the “Founding Fathers” to minimize the extent to which the power-hungry could take control over the less-able, less-connected, less-ambitious and less-evil.  They wanted to make it impossible for anyone to gain very much power over anyone else; they failed.  It was partly due to the toleration of an institution in which one human being could literally own another (the birth defect to which I alluded earlier), partly due to oversights and errors in the legal instruments they created, and partly due to new and horrific disguises for totalitarianism developed by successive generations, but mostly due to the fact that what they wanted was flat-out impossible; any system of government can and will be remade by the evil to give them power.  Last December, Clark Bianco of Popehat wrote a powerful polemic about what our system has become; in it he refutes the common argument that the system is “broken” (which implies it can be “fixed”, a contention he and I both deny).  It’s well worth your time, but here’s a sample:

Twenty years ago I was a libertarian.  I thought the system could be reformed. I thought that some parts of it “worked”… whatever that means.  I thought that the goals were noble, even if not often achieved.  The older I get, the more I see, the more I read, the more clear it becomes to me that the entire game is rigged…the system is not reformable.  There are multiple classes of people…the bottom of the hierarchy…can, literally, be killed with impunity…Next up…are…regular peons…[who] can have our…rectums explored at the roadside…because the cops got permission from a dog…Next up…are the…disciplined-voting-blocks…[then] the cops…judiciary and…prosecutors…and…at…the [top]…the true ruling class: the cabal of (most) politicians and (some) CEOs, conspiring both against their own competitors and the public at large…The system is not fixable because it is not broken.  It is working, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to give the insiders their royal prerogatives, and to shove the regulations, the laws, and the debt up the asses of everyone else.

Burn it to the ground.

Burn it to the ground.

Burn it to the ground.

The fires have already started, though the Powers That Be are expending considerable effort to extinguish them while simultaneously denying that they exist.  Sooner or later they will develop into a conflagration which will consume the current edifice; with any luck those who next build on the site will be able to salvage a few sound parts of the old structure to incorporate into the new one.  Maybe the next experiment will get a bit closer to the goal and last a bit longer before it, too, degenerates into tyranny.  But history teaches us that is rarely the case; things have indeed slowly improved over the ages, and there’s no reason to suspect that trajectory will change.  But the improvements always come from virile young cultures learning from the mistakes of the old ones, not from moribund old ones too obsessed with past triumphs to bother gazing upon their own decaying visages in the mirror of time. burning capitol

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Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
   –  Robert Frost

95 ThesesThe Nation is the oldest continuously-published weekly magazine in the United States, and describes itself as “The Flagship of the Left”.  So when it prints a story with the headline, “Liberals and Feminists, Stop Enabling the Police State”, it’s the rough equivalent of a nun sneaking copies of Luther’s 95 Theses into the hymnals at Easter high mass.  For several decades now, self-described “leftists” have done their level best to ignore or deny their part in the creation and expansion of the American police state, despite the fact that its chief rationales – the various wars on consensual behaviors – were birthed, nursed and reared to maturity by the Progressives, the intellectual and spiritual ancestors of today’s statist “left”.  This state of denial is especially pathetic when the subject is sexual prohibition; soi-disant “progressives” will reflexively and spasmodically point to the right whenever the subject comes up, their left eyes tightly shut so they don’t have to acknowledge that at least half of the crusade, and the lion’s share of the current rhetoric, is growing out of their own beloved sinister avian appendage.  But JoAnn Wypijewski isn’t having any of it; she demands that her compatriots recognize the blood on their hands:

…At the crux of [mass incarceration]…is a hard truth, a moral and political catastrophe…It is the lust for prosecution, the clang of the prison door; and the liberal/progressive/feminist hand in enabling the police state and confusing punishment with justice…any invocation of freedom or human rights or bodily integrity that does not also recognize this is hypocrisy…follow the wire linking Ferguson to swelling violence budgets and shriveled social ones, to “quality of life” policing and spatial control of the poor, to police-cordoned “free speech zones” and mass arrest of protesters, to the border “fence” and Border Patrol surge, to the “cleanup” of Times Square’s XXX underbelly for hypercorporatized, hyperpoliced space, to random police stops and dog sniffs, to random drug testing, to the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, to NSA snooping, to the $350 billion US security business, to TSA full body scans, to drug blimps, to asset forfeiture…to immigrant detention, to “zero tolerance” at schools, to enhanced penalties for “hate crimes,” to sex-offender registries, to civil commitment, to torture as policy, to legalized discrimination, to legalized suspension of constitutional rights for ex-cons, to the redefinition of pimps as “traffickers” who…may be sentenced to life, to vice squad entrapment systems, to law upon law passed amid the clamor for safety, to…the gulag of prisons…that [lock away] about 7 million Americans…

Sex, or fear of it, has been almost as important in the construction of this nightmare state as racism.  Just as the legal gains of the civil rights movement were blunted by…the incipient “war on drugs,” the sexual revolution…[was] short-circuited by serial sex panics, police power in loco mariti, Victims’ Rights as a mask for vengeance and the conception of the Sex Offender as a new, utterly damnable category of human being…“Carceral feminists”…elided personal power with state power, eschewed the project of liberation…and took as [their] armor the victim’s mantle…when a 6-year-old is called a sexual harasser for stealing a kiss, and men in civil commitment have their dicks hooked to plethysmographs while forced to watch violent porn as “treatment”…the sex-crime side of the prisoner supply chain shows no sign of slowing…

This is not the only recent article in The Nation which is critical of anti-sex feminism and its cringing enablers in the American left; others have questioned the Swedish model and Canada’s flagrant defiance of its own Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize prostitution.  Nor is The Nation the only major publication to recently publish sex-work-friendly articles; the New Republic recently featured a very positive,Becoming Belle Knox accepting article on disabled men who hire sex workers, and the Daily Dot (not remotely in the same class as the other two, but still) published a review of the documentary Becoming Belle Knox which not only condemned anti-sex work bile from both the “right” and “left”, but also correctly categorized “sex work isn’t work” and “emotional connection and sex have to go hand in hand” as myths.

Many of my readers and my fellow activists are so stunned by the incessant “sex trafficking”, anti-whore din that they begin to despair; I would be lying if I said I never felt that way myself.  But history shows us that prohibitionist noise is always most cacophonous just before the masses begin to turn against those prohibitions; consider the history of “Drug War” propaganda and anti-gay activism and you’ll see what I mean.  Though it’s nearly impossible to find a story about sex work in the mainstream American media that doesn’t consist entirely of tinned prohibitionist rhetoric, parroted police statements and regurgitated neofeminist poison, the truth is beginning to percolate into the alternative press, some magazines and many professional organizations.  There has been a subtle but noticeable change in the air over the past two years, and it’s becoming more pronounced with every passing month; within a few years sex work will be a full-fledged controversy like gay rights was in the ‘90s, and that’s the first step toward our inevitable victory.

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The political core of any movement for freedom in the society has to have the political imperative to protect free speech.  –  bell hooks

BBW posterThe last week of September is celebrated as “Banned Books Week”, a time not only to encourage the reading of books that busybodies (both official and otherwise) don’t want anyone to read, but also to remind people just how pervasive the urge to censor actually is.  Nor is it limited to those traditionally labeled “social conservatives”, who use words like “obscenity” and “immorality” to describe the things they want to censor; nowadays, the most belligerent, aggressive and effective proponents of censorship are those who consider themselves “progressive” or “feminist”, and who describe their targets with words like “sexist”, “racist”, “homophobic”, “objectifying”, etc, etc ad absurdum, ad nauseam.  You won’t see those excuses used as much in cries for the suppression of traditional un-illustrated print books, probably because the authorities these types follow have taught them that book-burning is something “conservatives” do.  But widen the scope to include comic books and graphic novels, music videos, movies and computer games and you will be absolutely inundated with them.  Furthermore, the promoters of this chic form of censorship very often don’t call for the direct government suppression of their targets; that would, after all, be censorship, and every thinking person knows censorship is bad.  So instead, they just “critique” the things they want banned and sling ad hominems like “misogynistic” at their targets’ creators, hoping to make them so radioactive in the public mind that risk-averse corporations will refuse to fund them.

Yes, I understand that this isn’t technically censorship in the strictest traditional sense of the word, because it isn’t being forcibly executed by a political authority.  Neither is Operation Choke Point direct criminalization of the businesses it targets; that doesn’t change the fact that those businesses are as effectively suppressed as if they had been criminalized.  In our present fascist system, government and big business are as intricately and symbiotically interconnected as the components of a lichen; to say that a cartel’s blocking of some sort of information isn’t really censorship is as specious as saying that a soccer player isn’t “handling” a ball because he’s moving it around with his feet, knees and head.  And if government, religion, academia or other respected “authority” figures spread lies in order to frighten even non-cartel businesses away from handling certain material, why that’s not censorship either.  These forms of “censorship lite” are very much in vogue right now; one might call them “censor chic” if one had a taste for puns.  And while they lack the violence associated with actual criminalization of forbidden ideas, they are still very effective in creating an intellectual soil highly toxic to free expression.

In last year’s essay for the occasion (which I republished yesterday in Cliterati), I wrote that…

…the desire to suppress knowledge and images of sex is so powerful that those afflicted with it are willing to devote tremendous amounts of money and manpower in a futile quest to that end; they are willing to deny millions of women income and freedom, to expose all women to much greater chances of rape, to risk the death of their children from disease, and to cripple the greatest tool of communication ever devised.  This is not rational behavior; it is a mental illness, and for sane people to give in to the censors merely exacerbates their condition and locks all of us up into a vast Bedlam with them.

Bradbury censorshipThinking people must not let themselves be intimidated by these self-appointed guardians of the public morality; we must speak out against all forms of censorship and speech suppression, whether advanced by guns, threats, intimidation or appeals to nebulous “harm” to women and children, and fight for everyone’s right to have his say…even if what he has to say is vile and offensive.  Bad ideas will eventually be shunned in the marketplace of ideas and die on their own; it is both unnecessary and wrong to try to keep others from hearing those ideas and making up their own minds about their quality.

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