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Posts Tagged ‘Parting of the Ways’

A prison might be defined as any place you’ve been put into against your will and can’t get out of, and where you are entirely at the mercy of the authorities, whoever they may be.  –  Margaret Atwood

Bad Jobs

You’ll notice that sex workers are immune to most of these factors:

People often like to groan about how their job is “killing” them.  Tragically, for some groups of people in the U.S., that statement appears to be true.  A new study by researchers at Harvard and Stanford has quantified just how much a stressful workplace may be shaving off of Americans’ life spans.  It suggests that the amount of life lost to stress varies significantly for people of different races, educational levels and genders, and ranges up to nearly three years of life lost for some groups…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling

There are about 40,000 girls aged 13-17 in San Diego; this “study” claims that 30% of them become “victims of sex trafficking” every year:

A new study released by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University revealed that the dark and secret world of sex trafficking in San Diego is the second largest underground economy locally after drugs…sex trafficking is an estimated $810 million-a-year industry and it is run mostly by gangs.  The study revealed that as many as 11,773 become victims to human trafficking in San Diego alone on a yearly basis…Victims are primarily underage…The study was funded by the Department of Justice, and found that more than 100 gangs are involved in the local sex trafficking operations…next to schools, other recruitment hot spots include:  trolley and bus stops, house parties, social media, tattoo parlors, churches, malls…about 1,776 victims/survivors come in contact with law enforcement…

That last is larger than the total number of “sex trafficking victims” that have ever been identified as such in the entire US.

With Folded Hands

Margaret Atwood on the asininity of giving away freedom for “security”:

…Governments know our desire for safety all too well, and like to play on our fears.  How often have we been told that this or that new rule or law or snooping activity on the part of officialdom is to keep us “safe”?  We aren’t safe, anyway:  many of us die in weather events – tornados, floods, blizzards – but governments, in those cases, limit their roles to finger-pointing, blame-dodging, expressions of sympathy or a dribble of emergency aid.  Many more of us die in car accidents or from slipping in the bathtub than are likely to be done in by enemy agents, but those kinds of deaths are not easy to leverage into panic…

Above the Law Patrick Quinn coercive cop

Sometimes sexually-exploitative cops stop short of rape:

In August Patrick Quinn, a 27-year-old…Texas [cop]…pulled over a driver and [claimed he] spotted marijuana paraphernalia in her car.  He told her he would not arrest her if she would let him lick her feet or give him her underwear.  He…was [fired and] sentenced to a year in jail…

Parting of the Ways

Peter Barbey is wasting no time as the new owner of the Village Voice.  Per an interview with [the] Wall Street Journal…he’s nixed the thought of changing the print edition size, pitched to staff the concept of special themed inserts and decided it’s time for a major ad dollar shift:  “Barbey plans to get rid of escort ads, a racy fixture of many an alt-weekly.  ‘Adult women can be escorts, that’s fine with me’, Mr. Barbey said, ‘but it’s not the kind of advertising that fits where we want go’.

Monsters 

Beyoncé Karungi, a 35-year-old campaigner…is in hospital following [a] horrific attack.  The activist had recently penned an article on surviving in Uganda as a trans sex worker, an occupation that can be dangerous and occasionally deadly.  After recieving several hate threats, she went into hiding.  When she emerged, she was attacked by a group of five unknown men.  She sustained several serious facial and bodily injuries…This is not the first time Beyoncé has been attacked…one time police undressed her, took her bag, money and phone and then cut her hair to make her “masculine”…

Frequently Told Lies

The title is “Feminism’s Sex Work Problem“, but this thorough article contains a large section debunking the usual lies prohibitionists employ:

I’m not going to make the pro-decriminalization case here.  Others have made it far more eloquently than I could…However, there are some elephants in the room that simply have to be addressed before a real conversation can occur.  These are mistruths that seem to have become cemented as fact through sheer force of mindless repetition, and unfortunately they severely derail any objective discussion of sex work…

Wise Investment (#440)

Much more of this, please:

Las Vegas police will pay more than $80,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman who said officers detained her for two hours in The Cosmopolitan after falsely accusing her of being a prostitute.  A federal judge wrote that the case showed…prostitution sweeps in casinos were overly broad and threatened people’s constitutional rights.  Chentile Goodman was released without charge after the 2011 incident and filed a lawsuit later that year…

The Camel’s Nose (#504)

Meet CISA, formerly known as CISPA, AKA SOPA, alias PIPA, née COICA:

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) passed the Senate today by a vote of 74 to 21.  A different version passed the House earlier in the year, so they’re going to have to conference to hammer out differences.  Retail business interests supported the legislation.  Major Internet and tech firms like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Twitter…opposed it…”CISA…allows companies to monitor users and share their information with the government without a warrant, while offering a backdoor that circumvents any laws that might protect users’ privacy“…Attempts to add amendments to narrow the bill’s focus all failed…The Sunlight Foundation…notes that CISA creates a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act…”That means if they overstep and share the wrong information — as this bill seems to intend — the public won’t know, and even if it did, it would have no legal recourse…CISA guarantees the public will have no ability to see what information is going from companies to the government“…

What Were You All Waiting For? Richard Branson

I’m glad Richard Branson is speaking out against criminalization, but I wish he’d talk to sex workers so as to avoid gaffes like this:

…There are good Catholic countries like Chile that have legalised prostitution.  And I know its very controversial.  Most people would put their arms up in horror.  But by legalising it, they got rid of the pimps.  The girls are monitored properly to make sure that they are healthy, to make sure they can come forward if they’ve got a problem.  And they believe a lot of the illegal trafficking of young girls has gone away…

Now They Notice

One of the more loathsome uses of asset seizure:  stealing all of the victim’s bank accounts so he can’t pay for a legal defense.

Things aren’t looking good for rentboy.com…The company’s bank accounts containing millions of dollars were frozen and its website was seized by Homeland Security…Now, the company is selling its office supplies and furniture on Craigslist in an effort to raise money to pay for its mounting legal fees…Some of these “goodies” include glass desks, chairs, filing cabinets, and video monitors.  Other items for sale include cables, software, books, magazines, artwork, lamps, a copy machine, and “a lot of special, one of a kind rentboy.com ephemera”…

Seizing Power (#574)

The Cato institute supports sex workers’ right to advertise:

Prior restraints—legal prohibitions on disseminating information before publication—are an odious burden on the freedom of expression and come with a “heavy presumption” against their constitutionality.  Indeed, they are so disfavored in the law as to be virtually impossible to obtain outside of wartime.  Informal prior restraints—government pressure without formal sanction—are even more unconstitutional than formal ones, as the Supreme Court noted in Bantam Books v. Sullivan (1963)…But that strong precedent didn’t stop…Thomas Dart and his crusade against Backpage…As Cato, Reason Foundation, and DKT Liberty Project point out in our amicus brief before that court, Dart’s claimed “epidemic” of sex trafficking has evaded any sort of empirical verification for over two decades.  Indeed, State Department data indicate that the opposite may be true.  Nevertheless, Sheriff Dart, along with a new-age Baptist-and-bootleggers coalition matching the religious right and radical feminists, have raised the human-trafficking bugaboo to rally against prostitution—mimicking the drug war and all of its worst legal mechanisms…

Welcome To Our World (#578)

Here’s the first part of an in-depth look at how the New York Times callously maligned an entire industry – one that, like sex work, provides income for undocumented migrants with little money to squander on bureaucratically-imposed startup costs:

Sarah Maslin…Nir’s coverage broadly [mischaracterized] the nail salon industry, [and] several of the men and women she spoke with say she misquoted or misrepresented them.  In some cases, she interviewed sources without translators despite their poor English skills.  When her sources’ testimonies ran counter to her narrative, she omitted them altogether.  The second article lent the Times’ imprimatur to unproven theories, while committing science journalism’s cardinal sin of highlighting alarmist anecdotes that aren’t representative of systematic research.  If it hadn’t had real-world consequences, the series—and subsequent attempt by Nir and her editors to parry criticism—wouldn’t be worth such intense scrutiny.  But the day after the first article appeared in the print edition of the Times, Gov. Andrew Cuomo…announced a new multi-agency task force to inspect nail salons…The rush to legislate based solely on the Times’ shoddy reporting has hurt the industry.  New nail salons, “which used to open every week in New York,” have stopped appearing…Salons once provided a steady source of jobs for undocumented immigrants; now many owners say they’ll hire only legal workers who’ve completed an occupational licensing program because they’re afraid of getting in trouble…

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It’s not about promiscuity, which makes you sound square; it’s not about prostitution, which makes you sound dirty; it’s about sex-trafficking, which makes you sound like you’re on the side of the angels, know-nothing though they might be.  –  Michael Wolff

Amazingly Stupid Statements

Just Don’t Call It Slut-Shaming: A Feminist Guide to Silencing Sex Workers” is a funny and dead-on-target lampoon of neofeminist anti-whore rhetoric in the form of a mock primer.  Definitely a must-read.

Cracks in the Dam

Canadian courts slap down another government attempt to stop sex workers from claiming human rights:

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the right of a non-profit group representing women…in downtown Vancouver’s sex trade to challenge the country’s anti-prostitution laws on constitutional grounds.  The ruling means the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society can go back to B.C. Supreme Court to pursue a case it launched five years ago…

The government’s argument against the suit relied on the sophistry that one of the parties in the suit (Sheryl Kiselbach) was no longer affected by the laws due to being retired, and that the other party (the DESWUAVS) could not be affected because it was an organization, therefore neither had the right to sue.  But the judge realized that the government’s claim that streetwalkers had to bring such suits individually was absurd, and ruled in favor of the group.  It’s not only good news for sex workers, but for other marginalized Canadians as well:

…[attorney] Katrina Pacey…explained [that] “This would provide a real opportunity for marginalized people, people with mental health issues, people with HIV, prisoners, refugees, children to form a collective organization whereby they then have the support and capacity to bring these cases forward, as a community”…

Japanese Prostitution

The bad economy and political tensions between their countries have combined to make things increasingly difficult for Chinese whores in Japan, creating a dangerously unbalanced buyer’s market:

…“Rumors have been spreading that Chinese girls have been beaten up by Japanese Johns, and some of them are even begging off on transactions with customers they don’t know out of fears for their safety,” says “pink” journalist Yasuhiro Ebina.  “Many Chinese women tend to be blunt and unsociable, but of late they are forcing themselves to smile, and have been primping themselves to improve their appearance.  Before a deri heru (out-call sex) service might have charged an additional 8,000 yen for honban (the “real thing,” i.e., intercourse), but now they’ve knocked as much as 5,000 yen off the total price”…women from Shanghai tend to be proud and many refuse to dispense oral sex, but over the past week they are now even providing lip service bareback.  And some ladies from Dalian or Harbin are even allowing customers condom-free rides…

Forward and Backward

The stupidity, it burns!  “…[Washington, D.C.] police lieutenant Jeffery Carroll told residents at a neighborhood meeting…that [a perceived] jump in [street] prostitution may be related to the surge in construction activity and increase in construction workers in the neighborhood.  Carroll told residents that prostitution activity typically takes place between midnight and…6:00 a.m. The recent surge has come between 3:30 and 7:30 a.m. or else at around 3:30 p.m….which police say could correlate to changes in construction shifts…

Not To Be Taken Internally

Yet another poor fool has died from allowing a non-doctor to inject filth into her arse in a non-medical setting:

…52-year-old Morris Garner…who has had gender changing procedures and goes by the name Tracey Lynn Garner, is charged with depraved-heart murder in the March death of 37-year-old Karima Gordon, of Atlanta…Gordon became ill within 30 minutes of leaving Garner’s house in Jackson after…injection [of a silicone-like substance into her buttocks] but decided to try to make it home to Georgia before seeking medical treatment…[investigator Lee McDivitt]…said her chance of surviving the injections was small, anyway…”The [medical examiner] told me…[that when he] cut the victim open…this material ran all over the floor, all over their shoes, all over the place”…

What I can’t understand is why so many of these self-proclaimed cosmetic surgeons are transgendered.

Above the Law

Once again:  As long as government actors have excessive power over individuals, this will keep happening:  “…Pittsburgh Public Schools police officer…Robert Lellock…was arrested…[on] 23 counts of crimes including corruption of minors, child endangerment and sex crimes…”  Lellock allegedly raped several 13-14 year old boys, ensuring their silence by a combination of threats to kill their families and rewards of marijuana and class-skipping privileges.

An Example To the West

You may remember that DMSC had formed its own football (soccer) team for the children of Calcutta sex workers; well, two of the boys were picked for a world championship team:  “Two sons of sex workers from India’s eastern state of West Bengal will play soccer…in the Indian…team for the Homeless World Soccer Cup 2012 in Mexico…’This is a big achievement in integrating children of sex workers with the mainstream sports community,’ said Dr Samarjit Jana of DMSC.”

The Birth of a Movement

This Guardian article is mostly about sex workers’ reaction  to the socialist scheme to inflict the Swedish model on France, but it also contains interesting information on French hookers’ efforts to circumvent busybody laws and the sleazy tricks cops use to harass them.

…The “white van women”…embody the French state’s difficult attitudes to prostitution.  As in the UK, prostitution itself…is not a crime.  But…[a] 2003…law [forbids being]…in a public place known for prostitution dressed in revealing clothes.  To get round this, women started working in private vans.  Selling sex inside a vehicle was not breaking the law.  But police are now using any means to crack down on the growing number of sex-work vans, namely parking tickets and tow-trucks…some…owe thousands of euros in parking tickets and pound-release fines accrued each month…

Shift in the Wind

An excellent op-ed against “end demand” rhetoric appeared last Sunday in, of all the unexpected places, The New York Times; I’ll bet Nick Kristof isn’t happy:

…policy makers have started to push to eradicate all prostitution, not just the trafficking of children into the sex trade.  Under the catchphrase “no demand, no supply,” they advocate increasing criminal penalties against men who buy sex — a move they believe will upend the market that fuels prostitution and sex trafficking…[but] the “end demand” campaign will harm trafficking victims and sex workers more than it helps them…End-demand advocates’ prototypical victim — an abused teenage girl…forced into the sex trade…does exist.  But they disregard the fact that individuals, including boys, men and transgender people, enter the sex trade for a variety of reasons.  The pimped girl who has inflamed the public’s imagination needs government services and protection, not to be made into a symbolic figure in an ideological battle to eradicate the entire sex industry, which, like many other sectors, includes adults laboring in conditions ranging from upscale to exploitative, from freely chosen to forced…despite their righteous anger, the end-demand crowd is quick to dismiss what many sex workers actually have to say.  Some activists have gone so far as to brand those who criticize their campaign as “house slaves” unable to recognize their own oppression…

The writer is being polite; Melissa Farley’s actual term was “house nigger”.  The article goes on to strongly criticize the Swedish model, flatly stating that it has failed to reduce prostitution and explaining how it harms women; it reports that most abuse of sex workers is by police rather than clients or “pimps” as claimed by the prohibitionists; and it discusses real solutions very much like those advocated in this blog.  The article is not long, and well worth your time.

Worse Than I Thought

Proposition 35 is so awful (Chorus:  How awful is it?) that even trafficking victim advocates oppose it:

…The opponents, who range from a South Bay nonprofit to a co-author of California’s current law against trafficking, say that, instead of helping, Proposition 35 will set back their work by years.  Chief among their concerns is the measure’s focus on hefty penalties rather than a collaborative attack on the problem…That approach, they say, ignores the victims…[they] also condemn the discrepancy between penalties for labor and sex trafficking…Most victims don’t end up in the sex trade…yet Proposition 35 provides for lower penalties for labor victims…

The Phoenix Pharisees

The Maricopa County sheriff’s office only “treats prostitutes as trafficking victims” when they find it convenient:  “…Over the course of a month, detectives made 37 arrests on suspicion of prostitution-related crimes…in an unincorporated area of the county tucked between Tempe and Guadalupe…suspects made contact with an undercover deputy, who secured an offer of sex for money and then used a code word as a signal for other deputies to storm the hotel room…”  “Code word?”  “Stormed” the room?  Their pomposity would be hilarious if they weren’t ruining the lives of real women.

Thoughts On My First Conference

I’m the third interviewee in this video.  It’s not very long, but I still figured y’all would want to see it.

Parting of the Ways

This Guardian op-ed presents Michael Wolff’s opinion of the Backpage-Village Voice split; though he has no love for Lacey and Larkin he has even less for Kristof and company, and the article provides the interesting tidbit that some of the anti-Backpage campaign was funded by the Church of Scientology in revenge for the Voice’s relentless attacks on it.

Metaupdates

Bad Fantasy, Good Reality in TW3 (#7)

Cambodian cops are learning to parrot their American masters quite well:

Chan Sreynuch, the owner of Mikasa Coiffure and Beauty…was arrested…on suspicion of human trafficking, according to the national military police spokesman Kheng Tito…According to him, Sreynuch would lead young women — often aspiring singers and students — to her salon, then connect them with wealthy businessmen…Three of her manicured and coiffed callgirls were also detained…[and] sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Hall’s rehabilitation centre for “re-education”…

Coming and Going in TW3 (#12)

Anna Gristina…has pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution…[she] will be sentenced…to time served and probation as part of a plea deal.  The judge warned the Scotland-born woman she could also be deported…

An Example To the West in TW3 (#14)

Workers in the [Korean] sex industry called…for the scrapping or revision of anti-sex trafficking laws…[which limit their] rights to sexual autonomy and their freedom to enjoy a free sex life as adults…another sex worker surnamed Kim submitted a petition…for…judgment on whether the laws are constitutionally acceptable…

Real People in TW3 (#21)

British prohibitionist Julie Bindel interviewed the Fokkens sisters, the elderly Dutch whores about whom a documentary was recently made; unsurprisingly, she only reports the negative parts and dismisses the “rosy picture the twins paint of prostitution” as just a kind of weird twin-thing.  Of course she is pleased to report that the Fokkens say legalization has been bad for Dutch hookers (largely because of the exaggerated tax assessments European officials commonly use to persecute sex workers), but cannot or will not comprehend that no sex worker rights organization in the world supports Dutch-style legalization.

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic in TW3 (#29)

If you’re impressed by those brain studies that “prove” porn, sugar, the internet or whatever is “as addictive as cocaine”, you need to consider the study which won this year’s Ig Nobel Prize in neuroscience “for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.”

This Week in 2011

My columns on Mabon and Banned Books Week were followed by others on misuse of the word “vagina”,  the fallacy of “empowerment”, dehumanization of whoresdominatrices in the news and women’s views of male sex workers.

This Week in 2010

My first Mabon column, the problems caused by unsatisfied male sex drives, my sex-related pet peeves, one of my earliest columns on “sex trafficking” hysteria  and an angry reply to it, the growth of opposition toward prohibition and my announcement of the Himel decision.

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There is no feast on earth which does not end in parting.  –  Chinese proverb

By now many or even most of you have heard the news which broke first thing Monday morning; as stated in the official press release,

New holding company Voice Media Group…announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase the publishing and related sales properties owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC.  The purchase includes the iconic Village Voice Media alternative weekly newspapers and their associated websites, as well as the national advertising arm of the company.  The buyout is being led by Scott Tobias, who has been Village Voice Media Holdings’ chief operating officer and will be chief executive officer of the new Voice Media Group…Backpage.com, also currently owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, is not part of the buyout.  Backpage.com will go its own way as a separate company with separate ownership.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the move had something to do with the continuous attacks on Backpage, which became the favorite target of prohibitionists after they succeeded in getting Craigslist to delete the erotic services section they had forced it to establish only a few years before.  The newspaper business is not what it once was, and threats of advertising boycotts and all manner of sound and fury from fanatics can’t be all that reassuring to publishers.  What concerned me when I first read the news was the question of how it might impact the Village Voice chain’s editorial stance, which has been relatively pro-sex worker rights for some time now.  I did a little research, however, and came up with this farewell letter sent by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin (owners of Village Voice Media Holdings) to “colleagues, friends and critics”, which I think does provide an answer:

…[We] have spent much of our time in the past few years huddled with attorneys in ongoing litigation over the First Amendment, free speech on the Internet and Backpage.  We have federal court victories for Backpage in Missouri and Washington and are awaiting a federal judge’s ruling in Tennessee.  Throughout this struggle we have also locked horns in numerous media venues with the National Association of Attorneys General.  This particular fight is important and not one that we intend to abandon.  At the same time, Backpage’s battles are an enormous distraction to publishers, editors and readers of Village Voice Media…Consequently, we have decided to sell our newspaper publishing and online media company…and…depart to devote our undivided attention to the defense of Backpage, which is not part of the sale.

If it seems that we now spend as much time with attorneys as we do with writers, the truth is we have always kept the company’s footing through litigation…we have successfully defended more than 45 lawsuits filed by lawyers attempting to silence us.  But it is also true that the Backpage attacks are different from conventional press issues, if only because the attacks are orchestrated with the often unlimited resources of government funding.  As a consequence, the struggle is not an easy one.  The outcome is not assured.  Litigation is extremely costly in time and money.  But this fight is the next step…For these past few decades, we have fought to ensure that our publications stood for the principles of unfettered speech, open government, accountability and freedom of the press.  We have also challenged conventional wisdom, whether delivered by pontificating pundits or self-righteous scolds…

After reading that, I don’t think we have anything to worry about; it seems highly unlikely that Lacey and Larkin would have sold their baby (the company’s first weekly, Phoenix New Times, was opened “in 1970 as a protest over the war in Vietnam and in reaction against the mainstream media”) to a group of people whom they suspected might roll over and turn yellow just to make a fast buck as most of the journalistic world has.  I believe the new ownership (which is, after all, just the old management) will continue to oppose the prohibitionists, perhaps even more so now that they needn’t concern themselves with accusations that their only motive for defending sex worker rights is profit.

Lacey and Larkin close their letter by saying to their soon-to-be-former staff, “Enjoy the hell that you raise.”  I’d like to wish the same thing back to them, and to tell them that I’m very glad they’re on our side.

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