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Posts Tagged ‘neo-Victorianism’

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle and even highjack.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
 –  X Atencio

I often struggle to comprehend the incredible ability of the modern mind to not only reconcile cognitive dissonance, but to apparently function without even being aware of its existence.  Last week we had to endure the false “controversy” over Disney’s announcement that it was making changes in the animatronic figures featured in the 1960s-era Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  The story was covered in a number of places, but the writer from The Mary Sue made it easiest to zero in on the point I wish to make, so here she is:

Starting next year, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride will no longer include the iconic Auction scene as we know it, in which animatronic “wenches” are sold as potential brides.  The pirates in the scene chant “we want the redhead,” but that redhead will now be reimagined as a pirate herself.  In a statement…Senior VP of Imagineering Kathy Mangum said, “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction.”  I took regular vacations to Disneyland growing up and absolutely loved the Pirates ride.  Yet I do remember, even as a child, finding something off about this scene.  I never tried to articulate it, and didn’t yet know terms like sex trafficking, but I did know that these women for sale weren’t in keeping with that “humorous, adventurous spirit” that permeates the rest of the ride…

So Vivian Kane, like so many puffed-up prudes, imagines she can project her adult feelings back into her child self, pretending that she “knew” there was something about the slave auction scene that “wasn’t in keeping” with the other activities of pirates.  Which other piratical activities, pray tell, is slave-taking “not in keeping” with, Vivian?  Robbery?  Kidnapping?  Arson?  Extortion?  Torture?  Murder?  I mean, it’s not like the famous song heard throughout the ride doesn’t list them.  In order: “We pillage, plunder, rifle, loot, kidnap, ravage, extort, pilfer, filch, sack, maraud, embezzle, hijack, kindle, char, enflame & ignite.”  Most of these are synonyms for “steal”, the last few connote arson, and though murder is basically cheated of a direct reference, it’s present as the warning “Dead men tell no tales” (intoned earlier in the spookier part of the ride).  But “kidnap and ravage” in the first verse there is pretty clear; it’s a nicer way of saying “abduct and rape”.  Because despite the weird 21st -century idea that pirates are somehow humorous, whimsical characters with ridiculous vocal mannerisms, they are actually (note the tense; they’re not mere historical figures) violent criminals, hijackers and robbers at sea with little compunction against mayhem, torture, murder and yes, rape.  But while nobody has yet managed to sell the idea of a humorous ride centering around terrorists, a kids’ movie series about carjackers or a “Talk Like a Rapist Day”, somehow pirates (bizarrely conceived as forever locked in the late 17th century) have been stripped of basically all of their realities (except maybe the ships) and re-imagined as lovable seafaring clowns led by strangely gender-and-sexual-orientation-ambiguous performance artists with highly idiosyncratic fashion senses.

Now, I’m not arguing against black humor; I’m actually a fan of it, and plays like Arsenic and Old Lace are among my favorites.  I see absolutely no problem with using very nasty subjects such as theft, murder, insanity, war, tyranny and yes, even rape and slavery, in entertainment (even humorous entertainment), provided it’s done competently (“dead hooker” jokes are badly overused & I’ve never seen one act as anything but a cheap laugh).  And the historically-illiterate man-children who have a problem with the existence of female pirates can sit and spin; here are two articles to start the rotation.  My problem is the neo-Victorian pretense that rape (and by extension, sexual slavery) is one topic that is absolutely off-limits, even when depicting fictional characters who joyfully commit every other crime of violence imaginable, including murder and torture!  Another example of the same asininity is provided by “feminists” who moan lugubriously about the lyrics of the Rolling Stones songs “Under My Thumb” and “Brown Sugar”, while failing to notice that the narrator of “Sympathy for the Devil” is boasting about having caused murder, war and genocide (because clearly, sexual exploitation of one single woman is much worse than the Holocaust).  This is the old “fate worse than death” argument writ large across the face of our whole decaying culture; it’s worse than ridiculous, it’s completely deranged.  If murder, piracy and the sack of whole cities are fit subjects for a “humorous, adventurous” amusement-park dark ride, so is “sex trafficking”; and if Disney’s going to start removing all subjects of moral panic from its properties, I’d like to see how it’s going to replace all of those witches.

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I was approached for a date by a man who seemed to me as though he might be below 18.  My gut instinct was not to accept the date, so to salve the pain of rejection, I tried to explain why we don’t see under 18.  He became very angry and said he was disabled, but judging by the way he sounded, I believe it was a mental disability rather than a physical one.  It feels kinda shitty to reject him for that, but if I saw him I wouldn’t feel right.  Are the consent issues with a mentally disabled adult the same as when a party is underage? justice

Whether he was under 18 or a mentally disabled adult, you were probably right to reject the date.  Our culture is, alas, in the midst of a new Victorian Era, in which there is tremendous cultural anxiety about sex.  And while it used to be not at all unusual for a young man in his late teens to be initiated by a sex worker, now that would be viewed as “sexual abuse” even if he’s above the local age of consent, due to the magical corrupting power of money.  If his parents should find out and extract your contact information from him, you could be in very hot water indeed.  Even if he could prove to you that he’s over 18, you’d have to carefully examine the circumstances: does he lives alone and manage his own finances, etc?  If so, it would probably be fine, though obviously you’d have to decide for yourself whether you’re comfortable dealing with the special difficulties such a client might present.  But if he lives at home and/or has some kind of guardian, he’d be considered a “vulnerable adult”, and you could potentially be viewed by the law as “exploiting” him just as though he were under 18.  While it’s true that we’re all viewed as criminals by US law anyhow, it’s not really a good idea to turn a misdemeanor into a felony, nor to compound that felony.  And when sex is involved, the mass hysteria that currently grips our culture will make sure that your life is completely destroyed if you’re found out.  It’s sad if you can’t help someone who might be desperately in need of human contact, but there are some things that are just too risky, and I think this is one of them.

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

 

 

 

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[Emotional] manipulation is where censorship pulls its strength, and keeps the discussion of porn within the realm of saving women and children.  –  Violet Blue

Mea Culpa

I don’t often make errors worth noting in the blog, which may be why I never had this heading before.  But when I do, they’re usually because my VEWWY SEEWEEUSS thought processes failed to recognize a joke or parody as such; that was the case in Sunday’s “Links #308“.  Author Christopher Seaton explains:

When I write at Fault Lines I usually do so from a very serious perspective. This is because keeping the cracks in our criminal justice system visible and educating the public about the law is serious. When the weekend comes, we usually loosen our belts, let our hair down, and have fun. My mischief caught the attention of Maggie McNeill this week, and the whole story is a great lesson in communication…Maggie McNeill is one of the most interesting people on the web, if you don’t read her work regularly.  She’s a writer, an academic, and a sex worker.  This is not someone you want to get into a fight with when it comes to criminalization of conduct in any way, shape, or form.  It’s not that I’m afraid of a good verbal spar with Maggie, I just know my limits…so I tweeted Maggie and told her it was a joke…she replies with an apology and says she had no idea Fault Lines posted anything but 100% dead serious content…I also appreciate Maggie letting her readership know I’m not on the side of over-criminalization…

Aversions

Margaret Corvid asked several sex workers what made their favorite clients special:

…sex work is work, and my favorite clients are like a writer’s, or a plumber’s: they’re the ones who treat me with respect…our favorite clients are the ones that respect our screening processes, that pay us, that don’t bully us or stalk us or subject us to their racist rants while we, on the clock, smile and nod.  My favorites read my website properly, learning my hours, fees, services and how I prefer to be contacted.  They don’t whinge if I ask for a deposit, and they don’t request services I don’t provide.  They respect my time.  They don’t call with cocks in hand for free sexy chat, or show up early while I’m still lacing myself into my corset…

The New Victorianism

So this happened to my friend Maggie McMuffin:

A burlesque dancer from Seattle, Washington, was informed that she would need to change her clothing if she wanted to board a flight from Boston to Seattle because her shorts were deemed “too short” by the flight crew.  The crew felt that the shorts may be deemed inappropriate by families on the flight and should be changed as not to offend anyone…Maggie McMuffin says that she had successfully flown on a JetBlue flight from New York To Boston without incident in the same pair of “too short” black and white shorts earlier in the day.  However, when she approached the gate to fly her second leg of her flight back home to Seattle, she was informed the shorts were not appropriate and that she needed to cover up more, as there were families on the flight that may find the attire inappropriate.  JetBlue says they personally called and apologized to Maggie about the incident and refunded her for the shorts she was forced to purchase in the terminal while also providing the woman with a $200 credit to use on future flights as a “goodwill gesture”…

Mentoring

Paint By Numbers

Why hike or stand when you can motorcycle?

[An Oregon] woman is using her love for motorcycling to spread awareness about child sex trafficking.  Gwen Feero is a special education teacher who is preparing to bike to all four corners of the United States for what she calls the Freedom Ride.  She decided to make the more than 11,000-mile ride after overhearing a sex trafficking conversation in Portland…

I think my profession must be the only one in the world that people think they’re “experts” in after eavesdropping on a conversation between two other lackwits.

Thou Shalt Not (#413)

Because prohibition always works so well:

Six out of ten Norwegians support a proposal from the Norwegian Medical Association…to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after 2000…NMA [fantasized] in January that Norway [could] create “a tobacco-free generation” by 2035…NMA president Marit Hermansen said in January that it is not a basic human right to begin using tobacco…Health Minister Bent Høie [said]…the government has no plans to take up any legislation that would lead to a ban of tobacco sales.

Broken Record (#579) 

I’m not sure which part is more pathetic: this ass insisting that there’s rampant “sex trafficking” in South Dakota, or thinking a vacation in Southeast Asia makes her an “expert”:

…you’d be surprised how many people don’t think sex trafficking is a thing that happens here…in South Dakota…one of my favorite things we have done so far is our work with Whittier Middle School…This is how sex trafficking numbers go down. These kids need a reason to believe that they are worth more than a number some trafficker puts on them.  Traffickers only have power when they find those that believe their worth is so small that it can be bought…

Sales Pitch (#626) 

Aphrodite bless Wendy Lyon for enduring Swedish cops’ self-congratulatory pig porn to bring us the parts that most show up their “model” for what it is:

Swedish super cop Simon Haggstrom – you’ll know him from his frequent visits to other countries to proselytise for the sex purchase ban – has now published his memoirs.  Only in Swedish, alas, but that’s why God made Google Translate.  Here are some of his views on how the law actually functions in practice…it provides the cops with “excitement” and plenty of wank material, in which they themselves play a starring role in the action…it hasn’t changed men’s attitudes.  It isn’t deterring them from paying for sex.  It isn’t stopping women from selling sex (indeed, they have to engage in a sexual act before enforcement will take place at all).  It is subjecting them to unwanted interactions with the police, up to and including detention, and deportation for those who refuse to accept the cops’ “help”…even Amnesty might be surprised at the clumsy, cringeworthy porn that Haggstrom illustrates his accounts with..Is it any wonder he’s such an advocate for the law?  Without it, he’d have to get off with only his imagination again.

Among other lovely bits, Haggstrom reveals that Swedish cops harvest sex workers’ used tampons as “evidence”; he includes a photo of such in the book.  Hooray for “feminism”!

Gorged With Meaning (#639)

Articles on sugar dating appear to be starting to shed the moral panic:

“Sugar Daddy” arrangements have existed for ages, and it’s unclear if they are becoming more common because the phenomenon is not well studied.  But experts say at the very least the internet has made these transactions far easier to arrange and negotiate…U.S. undergraduate students last year finished school with an average of $35,000 in student debt — a figure that has risen steadily every year…The average graduate debt load is $75,000, and some longer programs force students into much deeper debt.  Many students say their loans don’t cover the cost of living, and with rent skyrocketing in most major cities, they are left scrambling to make up the difference.  One graduate student at Columbia University in New York had a scholarship that covered almost all of her tuition, but not her living expenses.  She spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the potential impact on her job prospects…she plans to continue “sugaring” after she graduates to buy herself time to find a more traditional job and remain officially unemployed so she can defer repaying the roughly $70,000 in loans she had already racked up.  “There is a lot of moral panic about it,” she said. “But what are the real estate and academic funding situations that led to this?”…

Almost the only negative statement is a quote near the end from a fanatic who claims that violence magically arises from money.

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#641) 

Violet Blue exposes the connection between a number of recent anti-sex op-eds:

…under the guise of demonstrating objectivity and presenting a range of opposing views on pornography, the [Washington] Post ran its “In Theory” porn series…Out of seven articles, only one presents an opposing viewpoint…When the two essays that could be considered positive or neutral viewpoints were published, they were simultaneously published with anti-porn essays…The Washington Post not only deceived readers about the agenda of its “In Theory” porn series, the outlet also deceived readers about the sources of these writings.  For instance, its final day in the series featured an article by Haley Halverson which depicts the anti-porn movement as a cultural zeitgeist brought on by public common sense, thanks to the good efforts of The National Center on Sexual Exploitation.  What readers are not told is that NCSE is the re-branded faith-based group Morality In Media, Inc., which changed its name in 2015.  Halverson runs its PR department.  This organization is a thread connecting most of the Post’s authors…

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Anything with “sex” in the vicinity will gather news crews like pyros to a dumpster fire.  –  Tim Cushing

Puritan shamingIt’s probably almost impossible for anyone under the age of 30 or so to conceive of how different the United States I grew up in was from the US of today.  That’s true in many ways and on many levels, but for right now I just want to look at one of them: the way Americans have lost so many of the gains made in the so-called Sexual Revolution, and returned to a Puritanism more vicious and repressive than we’ve experienced in centuries.  Because while it’s absolutely true that sexual variation is recognized and tolerated to a much greater degree than it has been for most of this country’s history, it is equally true that the moralists and censors now have far more terrifying tools of surveillance and a greater capacity to inflict violence than those possessed by any of their spiritual ancestors since the Dawn of Man.  And while people who were shamed or persecuted for their sexual behavior in the past might be able to pull up stakes and start a new life somewhere else where nobody knew them, in the Information Age every transgression is eternal and indelible;  furthermore, self-appointed guardians of the public morals are always looking for new ways to ensure that absolutely no one can escape their snooping or whatever scarlet letters they’ve been branded with.

Fortunately, a growing number of journalists have begun to awaken to the presence of the black pall that has descended over what was once described as “The Land of the Free”, and while it’s much too late for those who have already joined the obscenely-long roll call of victims of the Anti-Sex police state, recognition of a problem is the first step toward solving it.  The pendulum must eventually swing the other way, and perhaps articles like this one from The Week are among the first signs that we’re reaching the top of the arc:

…It is…remarkable how deranged so many of us seem to become as soon as sex is invoked in a public dispute…moralistic grandstanding drives public argument and policymaking when it comes to sex.  The porn panic...is a prominent example.  But it’s hardly the only one…

We’ll come back to that article presently, but let’s look for a minute at what The Atlantic had to say about the most egregious example of that porn panic, Utah’s recent embrace of Gail Dines’ crypto-moralistic scheme to disguise a Puritanical censorship regime in “public health” rhetoric:

…Gail Dines…wrote a column that spread widely: “Is Porn Immoral? That Doesn’t Matter: It’s a Public-Health Crisis”.  The divisive proclamation was occasioned by a bill passed last month in Utah…[which itself solipsistically] traces back to Dines…In 2013, Dines traveled to Reykjavik, where she met with Iceland’s Ministers of health and welfare amid [the] country’s campaign to ban pornography.  The move would have put the liberal state…in the company of Saudi Arabia and the countries where gender disparities are greatest.  But it made sense to many as a matter of public health…

Regular readers will recognize this sentence as the product of a mind befuddled by the “left-right” fallacy; a totalitarian state is a totalitarian state, and Iceland’s carceral “feminism” is as much a religion as Saudi Arabia’s Islam.  But I digress:

…In 2015, [Dines] returned her focus to the U.S., relaunching an advocacy group based in Boston with the new mission to “eradicate porn’s harms because porn has quickly escalated into an overlooked public health crisis”…at an anti-pornography summit…she reached an unlikely confederate, a Republican state senator from Utah named Todd Weiler…[who’s in league with] a Utah-based group called Fight the New Drug…The group denies a formal affiliation with the Mormon church, though…its founders are all Mormon, and its facts rely on claims from Mormon author Donald Hilton’s He Restoreth My Soul…

Again, there’s absolutely nothing “unlikely” about an alliance between two anti-sex, pro-censorship ideologues who prefer to hide their moralism under bogus studies and cargo-cult “science”; it would be exceedingly unlikely for these two not to team up.  But for some reason many people are wedded to the ahistorical notion that evangelical feminists and evangelical Christians are “opposed” to one another, and they keep professing shock when the world fails to conform to their fantasies.  Anyhow, let’s return to that article from The Week:

…sexual assaults are being handled on college campuses…by  establishing offices to oversee the creation and enforcement of regulations…covering every imaginable form of sexual or quasi-sexual conduct, ensuring that in all cases such conduct conforms to legalistic norms of consent…The result is a supremely creepy combination of liberalism, Puritanism, and the infrastructure of a police state.  In addition to stifling free speech and the free exchange of ideas on campus, such regulations go well beyond punishing bad behavior to require a transformation in the way people relate to one another at an individual level.  Ruling common forms of flirtation and seduction out of bounds, they aim to remake romantic and sexual interactions on the model of contractual negotiations among business partners…

If you think he’s exaggerating there, take a look at this article from Reason:

Colorado State University-Pueblo [expelled] a male athlete…after he was [declared] responsible for sexually assaulting a female trainer…[who] never accused him of wrongdoing, and said repeatedly that their relationship was consensual.  She even stated, unambiguously, “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped”…The athlete’s lawsuit against CSUP…argues that the university not only deprived him of fundamental due process rights, but also denied sexual agency to an adult woman…The student-athlete, Grant Neal, has named the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights as a co-defendant.  OCR’s Title IX guidance…”encourages male gender bias and violation of due process right during sexual misconduct investigations”…Neal’s expulsion…stemmed from his…relationship with a female student and athletic trainer, Jane Doe…Sexual relationships between athletes and trainers are frowned upon…Neal [gave]…Doe a hickey…[which] was…noticed by another trainer, described as the “Complainant” in the lawsuit.  When confronted, Doe confessed to the Complainant that she and Dean had engaged in sex.  According to the lawsuit, the Complainant “presumed” this sex was nonconsensual, and reported it to the director of the athletic training program…Doe told another administrator, “Our stories are the same and he’s a good guy.  He’s not a rapist, he’s not a criminal, it’s not even worth any of this hoopla!”…[but] the predetermined outcome for Neal was a guilty verdict…

As I and other sex worker activists have repeatedly pointed out, a society which does not respect a woman’s “yes” cannot be trusted to respect her no either; the latter is demonstrated about twice a week in this blog, and the former is at the heart of the War on Whores:flush the johns

The criminal justice system theoretically operates on a presumption of innocence.  An arrest booking is hardly an indicator of guilt, but try telling that to millions of people who believe being accused is no different than being found guilty by a jury.  Everyone knows this presumption of guilt exists, despite it being wholly contrary to the basis of our justice system.  Cops know this best.  A high-profile bust is as good as a guilty verdict.  So it’s no surprise that they’ve increasingly turned to the greatest shaming mechanism known to man: the internet.  In a long, detailed and disturbing piece for the New Republic, Suzy Khimm examines law enforcement’s infatuation with harnessing the internet to prey upon the public’s continual presumption of guilt…Prostitution stings are a favorite.  You can easily tell it’s a victimless crime because none of the parties involved receive any privacy protections from law enforcement.  Being swept up in one of these stings means seeing your name and face splashed across a variety of news outlets while the fine print (“all arrestees are innocent until proven guilty”) is relegated to the end of the coverage, if it’s mentioned at all…This country’s Puritanical approach to sex has long been the focus of law enforcement shaming efforts.  It’s not enough to simply arrest and charge customers and sex workers. An effort must be made to uphold the stigma…

In the US, government at all levels has always been at war with human nature, including sex.  But as I said at the beginning, “authorities” now wield weapons beyond the wildest wanking fantasies of their Puritan forebears.  And if they aren’t stopped, those weapons will not be restricted to use against male sexuality of which “feminists” disapprove, nor even to just women who cater to or enjoy that sexuality; they will be turned to use against everyone, and by the time useful idiots like Gail Dines realize that means her as well, it will be much too late.

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The sex is ever to a soldier kind.  –  Homer, Odyssey (XIV, 246)

camp followersSince the time humans began carving out territories for ourselves, we’ve been going to war with one another.  Since the rise of centralized governments such wars have usually been conducted by a professional warrior class, and wherever the soldiers have gone whores have never been far behind.  Every army, whether on the march or in garrison, has attracted “camp followers”, non-military personnel who follow along because it’s profitable to do so.  And because armies are (and always have been) mostly made up of healthy young men, deprived of the company of young women and with nothing in particular to accomplish with their pay, many camp followers have always been prostitutes (indeed, the former is often used as a euphemism for the latter).

Up until a century ago, nobody pretended to be surprised by this or subscribed to the ridiculous delusion that it could or should be prevented somehow; the first country to imagine otherwise, the United Kingdom, first contented itself (starting in 1864) with a series of increasingly-oppressive “Contagious Disease Acts” justified as a means of preventing the spread of STIs in the military.  But even the British allowed their officers in the Great War to avail themselves of well-run “blue lamp” brothels…while denying the enlisted men prophylactics and restricting them to makeshift “red lamp” facilities staffed by near-amateurs, then wringing their collective hands at an STI rate seven times that of their German foes.  And while the French, Canadians and New Zealanders followed the same sort of pragmatic practices as the Germans did, the Americans preferred the British “order the men to be asexual” approach; New Orleans’ “Storyville” district was closed by federal order in 1917 at the urging of Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, who considered the whores a “bad influence” on the sailors at the nearby naval base.

By the time of World War II, it seemed the pragmatic approach was winning:

…The military governor of Hawaii did everything he could to make the hookers of Honolulu happy; Hitler ordered that his troops be issued blow-up sex dolls; the American authorities distributed condoms; and the Japanese resorted to the abominable “comfort women” scheme (which was also used in reverse form, with Japanese whores for American troops, during the first year of the occupation)…illustrations of feminine pulchritude…brightened barracks, bunks, tents and even the noses of bombers.  On British planes, those paintings were often of Jane, a shapely Daily Mirror comic-strip character who would always somehow manage to lose her clothes by the last panel, usually in some incredibly unlikely fashion;nose art In the Mood Christabel Leighton-Porter, the model upon whom she was based, also posed for nude photos which were literally dropped in bundles to the troops to increase morale…

But this swing toward rationality was short-lived, and soon after the war the world lost its collective mind on the subject:

…The Vietnamese and Ouled-Nail prostitutes who served as nurses during the siege of Dien Bien Phu have almost been erased from history, as have the women of Honolulu’s tolerated brothels who served the same function after Pearl Harbor and entertained the Navy for the rest of the war.  The French like to pretend that women who survived by providing services to the occupying Nazis were somehow different from the others who were forced to deal with them; the Japanese still deny the extent or even the existence of the military brothels in which they enslaved (mostly Korean) women for the “comfort” of their troops.  And the American military establishment continues to demand that its men avoid the company of professionals no matter how much this policy angers the host country or how many sexual assaults result from it, thus prioritizing the wishes of prudish fanatics above the health and happiness of the troops of both sexes…

There is no way to tell how long this will go on, but sooner or later this neo-Victorian prudishness must end; things go in cycles, and eventually the sex-negative phase we’ve been in for over a generation now will be discarded by younger people eager to do things differently.  But as military organizations themselves are also changing due to the advance of technology, what will that mean for sex workers?  Only time will tell, but I feel perfectly safe in declaring that as long as military organizations exist, they will continue to have a deep and close relationship with whores, whether those in power approve or not.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on January 25th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

group sex statueEvery generation thinks it invented sex, or at least non-vanilla sex.  And I don’t just mean teenagers who are squicked out by the idea of their parents shagging, either; among vanilla folk and/or those outside the demimonde, the delusion seems to persist through life that nearly everybody who lived before a moving line (hovering like a will-o-the-wisp exactly at the year the believer reached puberty) only had missionary-position sex for the purpose of procreation. Even if the individual is familiar with the Kama Sutra, knows about classical Greek pederasty or has seen the menu of a Victorian brothel, these are likely to be dismissed as islands of kink in a vast sea of unsweetened vanilla custard stretching back into prehistory.  Even doctors quoted in newspaper articles are wont to make incredibly stupid, totally wrong statements like “the concept of having oral sex is something that seems less obscure to you than it did to your parents or grandparents.”  Well, my dears, I’m old enough to have given birth to many of you reading this, and I can assure you that oral sex was not remotely “obscure” to us in those long-ago and far-off days of the early ‘80s; nor was it “obscure” to any of the older men I trysted with in my late teens, many of whom are now old enough to be your grandfathers; nor was it “obscure” to my own grandparents’ generation, who came of age in the Roaring Twenties; nor to the 5.5% or more of the female population who worked as whores in every large city of the world in the 19th century, nor the 70% or more of the male population who had enjoyed their company at least once; nor to any of the long procession of harlots and clients stretching back to before busybodies invented the idea of policing other peoples’ sexuality.  Know what else wasn’t “obscure” to them?  Anal sex.  BDSM.  Role-playing.  Exhibitionism & voyeurism.  Homosexuality.  Cuckolding.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  Here’s a hint:  most lawmakers have always been pompous ignoramuses too obsessed with telling other people what to do to actually have normal lives, so by the time they get around to banning something it’s a pretty safe bet the majority of everybody else in that culture over the age of 16 already knows about it, and many of them are doing it.

Chief among the popular sex acts that modern mythology pretends were “obscure” is masturbation, at least for women.  The common delusion is that because a culture didn’t like to talk about something, it must not have existed; accordingly, the idea has arisen that Victorian girls were somehow so carefully controlled that they never discovered that touching oneself between the legs (or riding rocking horses) feels good.  And because many women have difficulty reaching orgasm without some form of masturbation, that must mean that pre-20th century women all went around in a perpetual state of sexual frustration.  In the past few years, the ridiculous myth has arisen that Victorian doctors actually gave women orgasms without knowing what they were, and that the vibrator was invented to speed up what they viewed as an odious task.

Where do I begin?  In the first place, this tale is so incredibly recent I never heard of it during any of my extensive sexological reading in my teens and twenties; it seems to date to the nineties at the earliest.  Next, it’s a lovely example of Anglocentrism; just because Britons and Americans were so publicly hung-up about sex in the 19th century, doesn’t mean everyone else in Europe, Asia, Africa and the entire Southern Hemisphere was; are we to believe the bulk of female humanity was bereft of the blessing of orgasm until wise white sagesVictorian dildo ad bestowed the gift of the vibrator on their benighted nether regions?  Furthermore, the idea that public posturing actually indicates private feelings, to the point that those who spread this legend actually imagine that dudes were strenuously trying to avoid touching strange women’s twats, is just so colossally dumb it could only be believed in the middle of the neo-Victorian Era.  And a brain has to be pretty deeply mired in 21st-century chauvinism to actually believe that those silly old Victorians didn’t know what a freaking orgasm looked like.  But you don’t have to take my word for all that:

…some historians have claimed women were brought to a “hysterical paroxysm” (supposedly an orgasm that nobody wanted to admit to), by their doctors through “pelvic massage” (masturbation).  To aid them, a vibrating device was invented because there were just so many women who needed this form of treatment that the poor doctors’ hands were getting tired, and they had to use a machine…this…idea…seems to have taken root in our popular culture, helped by “shock exposés”, a few books, and the 2011 film Hysteria, where…Victorian doctor…Mortimer Granville, turns his 1880s invention of a muscular massage device into a sexual awakening for his female patients.  So did the real Dr Granville invent an electronic device for massage?  Yes.  Was it anything to do with the female orgasm?  No.  He actually invented it to help stimulate male pain relief, just as massage is used today.

Victorian doctors knew exactly what the female orgasm was; in fact, it’s one of the reasons they thought masturbation was a bad idea…Marriage guides…often claimed that a woman in a sexually satisfying relationship was more likely to become pregnant, as the wife’s orgasm was just as necessary to conception as her husband’s…The Art to Begetting Handsome Children, published in 1860, contains a detailed passage on foreplay…A Guide To Marriage, published in 1865 by the aptly named Albert Sidebottom…[advises] young couples…that “All love between the sexes is based upon sexual passion”…In 1877, Annie Besant, a one-time vicar’s wife, helped to publish Fruits of Philosophy, a guide that set out every possible contraceptive method available…its British circulation reached over 125,000 in the first few months alone.  So can we please stop saying Victorian women were having unknown orgasms stimulated by their doctors?…

Unfortunately, most people value the truth far less than they value the ability to feel smug.  And people several generations dead are so easy to feel smug about; after all, they aren’t around to tell you that you’re more ignorant about their lives than you pretend they were about sex.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on December 7th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

British readers, enjoy this website while you can.

Queen VictoriaIn the year 2015, less than half a human generation past the end of a century which saw advances in sexual freedom (both practical and legal) unprecedented in human history, we are now well into an attempt by the powerful to roll it all back to the Victorian Era.  But while the Victorians were largely concerned about appearances and tolerated considerable debauchery in the back-streets, neo-Victorians pretend that “sin” should be eradicated everywhere for everyone, and modern surveillance methods (not to mention the erosion of the presumption of innocence) have made it easy for police and prosecutors to destroy anyone’s life with an accusation of sexcrime, even if they have to manufacture it.  For years, we’ve seen the recrudescence of the absurd but dangerous Victorian dogmas of the “innocence” of “children” and the fragile asexuality of women; these have been used to justify scorched-earth policies on adolescent sexuality and the re-establishment of the misogynistic doctrine that rape is a “fate worse than death”. More recently, however, the UK government has dramatically ramped up its censorship efforts, and this time even adult men will be included (though still mostly in the name of “protecting women and children”).  In 2013, internet “filters” (i.e. censorship programs) were mandated, first to block adult content and later to stop anything else the government decides it doesn’t want the peasantry to see.  Then last autumn, we discovered that the government is willing to cage people for years for looking at drawings of taboo subjects, and now it comes to this:

…from now on, VoD porn – online porn you still pay for, essentially – must fall in line with what’s available on DVD.  That means that British pornography producers will no longer be able to offer content online that couldn’t be bought in a sex shop.  Acts that are no longer acceptable include:  spanking, caning and whipping beyond a gentle level; penetration by any object “associated with violence”; activities that can be classed as “life-endangering”, such as strangulation and facesitting; fisting, if all knuckles are inserted; physical or verbal abuse, even if consensual; the portrayal of non-consensual sex; urination in various sexual contexts; and female ejaculation.  It’s quite a list, but one mostly made up of stuff that seems to have been picked out pretty arbitrarily (women orgasming, exactly which items can or can’t be inserted into a consenting adult’s body)…

The list also includes bondage, humiliation and “role-playing as non-adults”.  As in the above-referenced manga case, even pretended depictions of taboo acts are taboo, despite the fact that pretended depictions of far more serious acts (like murder or mayhem) are allowed on ordinary television.  For now, the Vice article assures us, “the new law only covers content produced in the UK, meaning that viewers…can still…view as much [international] fisting, strangulation and urination as they like…”  However, given the expansion of the internet “filtering” parameters, do you honestly believe it will stay that way for long?  Erotic Review certainly doesn’t:

…British authorities are gearing up for an all-out war with online porn.  Sources tell me plans are afoot to start blocking British access to foreign so-called tube sites, which host porn videos, regardless of where they are based or whether the scenes they show are legal.  The attack on TV-like services is just the latest stage in a war which could severely restrict people’s access to porn…

One detail of the new censorship regime which is being treated almost as a joke provides another clue to where this is actually headed:  “the publicly funded regulator, the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD), will have to pay someone to watch porn and enforce the new regulations…at a cost of £36,000 [per year]…”  You know who else pays censors to watch porn so the people can’t?  China.  The Great Firewall of Britain is well on the way, and once it’s discovered that merely blocking adult content fails to achieve the desired effect, the next level of tyranny is criminal charges accompanied by “sex offender” registration (a combination already used for the most-vilified forms of porn).  As I pointed out in “Welcome To the Future”, the dystopia is already here; all that remains to be seen is how heavy a yoke the subjects will accept before they finally attempt to throw it off.

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