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Posts Tagged ‘Passive Voice’

Three years ago I wrote “Passive Voice“, an indictment of those who use that sentence form to shift blame from the actual culprit to some amorphous & anonymous scapegoat, or even to the victim.  Cops who murder people, for example, always shift blame from themselves with constructions like “shots were fired” and “he was struck by bullets”; it’s a bit harder when the assault the cop commits is a sexual one, but they still manage a subtle version even when they aren’t claiming it was “consensual” (because obviously women are all running around hankering to spread our legs for whatever random cop pulls us over on the highway).  This is done by a manipulation of the idea of consent; most people understand that consent obtained under certain circumstances is invalid, so it’s easy to choose words that imply invalid consent is a characteristic of the victim of a sexual assault rather than of her assailant.  A couple of weeks ago, for example, I saw a comment about this story containing the phrase, “a prisoner is unable to consent to sex”; though I understand what the commenter meant, I still refuse to phrase that in the way “authorities” prefer:  “She is unable to consent”, as though SHE was defective.  The problem isn’t that prisoners lack something (ability to consent), but that anyone in power in such a situation MUST be presumed to be using it coercively.  The “authorities” don’t want to phrase it as a problem with state actors (“People in power must be assumed to be coercive”), so they phrase it as a deficiency in prisoners (“People in jail cannot give consent”) instead.

This may seem like splitting hairs, but it isn’t by a long shot; years of speaking about legal minors as though they were small children who are literally unable to understand the ramifications of sex and therefore cannot be treated as fully-informed agents, has led to the idea that this is indeed the case.  The notion that a person 17-years-and-assorted-months old is literally a child, actually unable to give sexual consent, while the same person on her 18th birthday is fully adult & sexually competent even if she’s a sheltered virgin, is so ludicrous it tests the bounds of credulity, and yet people run around acting as though this were actually, factually true.  Teens having sex with one another, or even just flirting by sending partially-nude selfies, are labeled “victims” of “child rape”, regardless of how willing they were; whichever partner is older, or sometimes whichever is male, is on the other hand held to be a “sex criminal” or a “predator” because everybody knows that only predatory perverts are interested in sex with anyone below magic 18.  That’s right, there’s a detector in the brain that magically knows the actual, legal age of anyone the eyes gaze upon, and in healthy people of any age it totally shuts down sexual response if the person is even one second below the sacred Age of Shazam.

That such an absurd idea is so common is why I’m so suspicious of stories like this:  “Based on observations or tips, school staff now quietly keep an eye on kids they worry are sexually aggressive…the school intervenes if behavior threatens to escalate, whether the student is a kindergartener or about to graduate…” The story goes on to use words like “attacks” and “sexual assaults”, but in truth the majority of sexual contact between peers or near-peers is consensual; the only “aggressor” is the one teachers or administrators label as such, usually on the basis of age and/or sex.  The phrase “overly sexualized behavior”, which also appears therein, is very telling; it’s US bureaucratese for either “sexual behavior” or “behavior with sexual undertones”.  The reason for the passive construction is the aforementioned official US dogma that nobody under 18 has natural sexual impulses at all, so if anyone below that age demonstrates any sexuality at all, they must have been “sexualized” by someone or something.  Since any sexuality in any person below 18 is held to be “unnatural”, any external sexual behavior at all is “overly sexualized” and the young person displaying it is a “predator” because his peers are all below Magic 18.  Yet cops who commit willful murder, torture or rape are excused by the same linguistic sleight-of-hand; once we accept that responsibility can be shifted by words, we shouldn’t be surprised when the State uses that power to shift responsibility from its own actors, steal the agency of those it wishes to control, and assign blame to those it wishes to crush.

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Most of the whores l’ve met are women who question things, who value their independence over social norms.  –  Kaytlin Bailey

Droit du Seigneur Darryl Stasher

He didn’t rape her, but he sure seems to think it was his privilege to fuck her:

A Mississippi cop was fired…after a video that went viral on social media shows him lurking in his patrol car near a high school, trying to coax a teenaged girl into cutting class, pressuring her into accompany him to “room” to have sex instead.  [Darryl Stasher] said he “wanted to do more than just talk.”  He then assured the teen nobody would find out what they were doing, and that he’d “take care of her”.  “Oh.  So you saying you ain’t fucking,” a disappointed [Stasher] can be heard asking after the student declined his advances that were caught on camera in the 49 second clip…

Schadenfreude 

It’s always so sweet when a rescue industry scam is exposed:

For years, Jenny Williamson…has [hawked] her [fantasy] of rescuing girls from sex traffickers, spreading the Gospel while [raking in] hundreds of thousands…[she] has regaled audiences with the litany of horrors these girls suffer…Courage House [was]…closed…effective June 14, amid a flurry of state inspections that found numerous violations, including inadequate staffing levels…[despite] assets of…$1.4 million…Courage House was cited 16 times in the first six months of this year…10 were classified by the state as Type A, or serious enough to have an immediate impact on clients’ health, safety or personal rights…former workers [describe] Williamson as a temperamental leader with no child-development background who micromanaged her trained staff and became…swept up in her own publicity…staff members were…abruptly fired for…expressing concerns over [her inclusion]…of clients’ confidential information in fundraising or publicity efforts…[including]  identifiable images of [inmates]…on the company’s Facebook page…[Williamson] routinely “paraded the girls around” for marketing purposes…Arlicia Lorentty, who was a social worker/case manager in the home in 2015, said…“Everything was a photo op”…girls were…[forced to attend] a Christian church…whose leaders and congregation have been heavily involved in Courage House…

The More the Better 

There’s no “if” about it; Melania Trump is or was a sex worker.  Even if she was never an escort as rumors allege (and I think it very likely that she was indeed one), she posed for nude photos (including a lesbian scene) and is now a trophy wife…and sorry, ladies, but both of those are definitely kinds of sex work.  When people started mocking her for using an incompetent speechwriter, I defended her not on the grounds of the political beliefs she claims to profess, but on the grounds that she is a fellow whore doing her job (which for a wife means emotionally & socially supporting her husband) and should not be mocked merely because he happens to be a delusional narcissist.  Margaret Corvid has more to say about the new rumors:

…when you share those allegations, pointing and laughing, saying “Look!”, calling her a liar, calling her a whore, saying that she is unfit for the White House because she was photographed sexually, you are stepping on everyone who does sex work in this country every day—most of whom are much more vulnerable than Melania Trump…[she] isn’t a liar for covering up sex work…[because] it…is necessary for survival in a country where selling sex is illegal and where it is so stigmatized that it can get you fired from your “mainstream” job, get your kids taken away, and destroy your reputation for life…

I’m Sure You Feel Safer Now 

…that Canada’s new law is “protecting” sex workers from making money from lonely old men:

Two Sydney men have pleaded guilty and were fined…in connection with a prostitution sting…after…Judge Brian Williston ruled that [entrapment isn’t entrapment when it’s politically popular]…Gordon Ernest MacLean, 66, and John Howard MacLean, 66…were fined a total of $500 after the judge waived costs and surcharges.  They also must submit a DNA sample…

Because obviously, the cops never know when these hardened “sex criminals” may strike again.

Monsters

[Mexican] police do little to protect the transgender community and [rarely investigate trans sex workers’] deaths…Mexico has one of the highest rates of transphobic violence in the world, according to a recent report by the Cornell University Law School in New York and the Transgender Law Center…The number of documented murders of transgender people rose to 46 in 2012 from four in 2008, with actual figures likely to be significantly higher…transgender women in particular have suffered from a fierce backlash against same-sex marriage and other advances…

Passive Voice

Even though it’s a year old, this tutorial in how the past exonerative tense works is too brilliant to pass up.  It’s also too brilliant for me to risk butchering by any attempt at synopsis, so do yourself a favor and go read it.

Devil’s Advocate

This article could’ve appeared under so many headings; “Cops and Robbers” due to the vigilantism and “Bait and Switch” because of the sleazy entrapment tactics (“18” in big letters and “15” in fine print, for example, when any whore can tell you horny guys rarely read past the pictures).  But I think the fact that the state convicted two men for non-crimes against a “person” who does not even exist puts it in this category:fake Tinder profile

The creators of the “Tinder Experiment” set up a fake profile of a [a fake 18-year-old girl pretending to be] 15…in a bid to [entrap careless, stupid men]…They then secretly filmed conversations and face-to-face meetings with the men before shaming them online.  Those videos were removed and their website shut down by police, but [the sleazy pigs were still happy]…to use the information from the “experiment” [to destroy lives]…Nicolaos Katsamas was…sentenced last month to two- and-a-half years’ jail…Tobias Kilsby was also jailed for two years…Detective Senior Constable Tas Gagatsakis [admitted that]…Tinder is [only] for users 18 and over…

Don’t Call It Trafficking

This isn’t called “trafficking”, while the same demographic choosing to sell sex to survive is:

…Island View…housed more than 100 [“troubled teens”]…aged 13-17, and charged parents at least $10,000 a month…the staff tormented and abused them — pitting teens against each other, physically restraining them, secluding them, medicating them with high doses of powerful antipsychotics and forcing them to sit without speaking for hours or days at a time…[after a lawsuit] it…closed…[and] a new company, Family Help & Wellness, took over the property.  The facility began to operate under a different name, Elevations RTC.  It continues to bring in new students today…39 of the 48 employees listed on Elevations’ website worked for Island View…At least 1,500 [teens] in 30 states alleged that they were abused at private treatment facilities in 2005 alone…The troubled-teen industry is almost entirely unregulated…Congress has repeatedly refused to intervene…Parents who send their children to residential treatment centers like Island View often hire independent contractors, colloquially known as “transporters,” to forcibly [abduct] their kids…

Yellow Fever (#509) 

Remember Tenancingo, the Mexican town which was supposedly infested with “pimps” but actually had only two (plus employees) and 26 supposed “victims”?  Apparently Canada wants a “pimp town” too, and naturally they claim it’s the country’s largest black community.  But they’re not racists, no sirree!

One of the first things you notice when you enter this community northeast of Halifax is a large billboard that tells you you’re in “Canada’s Largest Black Community”…every driver here acknowledges oncoming drivers — even strangers — with a wave of the hand.  It’s not the welcome you expect in a place that has repeatedly been described as the birthplace of North Preston’s Finest, a violent gang that specializes in trafficking young women and girls as young as 14 in the sex trade…residents, even local police…insist the claims about a criminal gang originating in North Preston are exaggerated, misleading or manufactured by outsiders who don’t know their community…But police [and other prohibitionists] outside the province…[masturbate furiously to fantasies of] a community that has churned out generations of ruthless pimps who are spread across the country and unafraid to use brute force to punish women in their “stable” if they step out of line…

Guest Columnist:  Kaytlin Bailey

My friend Kaytlin’s one-woman show is part of the Fringe Festival:

Cuntagious [is] a one woman show, written by Kaytlin Bailey – now a stand up comedian, once a sex worker…“the first run was really a coming out process.  I performed the show before I told my family.  I knew most of the audience members personally, so they were very supportive…when you come out, other people come out.  I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me to tell me their own experience with sex work, I love that”…

I’ve seen the show twice, and I will again when she brings it back to Seattle; you really should, too.

Another Fine Mess (#547)

As I and many others have said, sex drives technological development.  And I think that’s what the prudes are really afraid of:

…The World Wide Web turned 25 this month…The sexualized female body has, from the beginning, been the catalyst for attempts to regulate what’s on the Web, ultimately shaping what the Internet looks like today.  Only a couple of years after Berners-Lee began to worry about an incoming flood of photos of nude women, Congress was gripped by the “great Internet sex panic of 1995”…the Communications Decency Act…was signed into law on Feb. 8, 1996, and thousands of websites went dark in protest…provisions that criminalized sending or displaying to a minor “any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communications” that were sexual in a “patently offensive” way…[were determined by] the Supreme Court…[to be] unconstitutionally vague and [were] struck…down…Yet another part of the widely loathed CDA — one the Supreme Court has never heard any challenges to — also helped bring about the Web we now know.  Section 230 immunizes service providers from lawsuits over the speech of their users.  It’s the law that lets Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, Twitter, Yelp, Craigslist and Reddit exist.  Without its provisions, a service such as Twitter could be sued into nonexistence if an individual user sent a single defamatory tweet…

Eternal Vigilance (#617)

Rent in exchange for sex isn’t “free”; it has been paid for with sex:

A room in return for sex…the…landlord cashing in on desperate, vulnerable and homeless women in London.  A recent report has unveiled a disturbing attempt to exploit homeless women by offering free accommodation in return for sexual favors…There are hundreds of listings…by men either obliquely or explicitly (some very explicitly) offering free housing to women for sex….they also include men who are expressly targeting adverts at homeless women…

How are the ads “explicitly targeting homeless women”?  Do they read, “only homeless women need apply” and require proof of homelessness?  This looks to me like nothing more than Puritans upset about the fact that some women are comfortable paying our rent (and other expenses) with sex.

Check Your Premises (#636)

Another cop so disconnected from reality that she thinks she can “build communication with sex workers” while stealing their income by harassing their clients:

A new strategy to tackle prostitution in [Redbridge, London] will see the police’s focus shift from the sex workers to [demonized clients and partners]…Insp Gellatley’s team aims to disrupt clients while engaging in a relationship of trust with prostitutes.  “We are trying to build communication with the sex workers” [she said]…

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She could…have paid for the panties before she put them on.  –  Halmstad District Court

I discovered this darkly funny Indian insurance company commercial while reading an item featured in yesterday’s news column; don’t worry, you’ll be able to understand the plot even if you can’t understand the language.  The links above it were provided by Mike Chase (“Orwell” & “marry”), Police Misconduct (“protect”),  Jesse Walker (“headline”), Mike Siegel (“archaeology”), Scott Greenfield  (“wrong”), Wendy Lyon (“Sweden”), Elizabeth N. Brown (“laws”), and Radley Balko (“volunteer”).

From the Archives

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We all know that a bullet doesn’t leap out the barrel of a gun of its own volition.  When law enforcement departments tie themselves up in shibari-style grammatical knots to imply that it did, they only undermine their own credibility even further.  –  Rhiannon Starr

Rough Trade 

A man has been found guilty of raping a woman in an Edinburgh park.  Faizan Ali attacked [her]…on 13 November 2014…Ali…will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register…

Above the Law 

A…jury found Rajat Sharda guilty…of sexually assaulting a woman in August 2013 after the on-duty officer came across the woman and her boyfriend having sex in a vehicle…Judge David Ricciardone sentenced him…to 5 to 7 years of imprisonment, followed by ten years of probation…

Surplus Women (#24)

A jury…found [Terry Speaks] guilty of killing and dismembering a stripper he lured from a New Orleans French Quarter bar along with his ex-girlfriend…Margaret Sanchez…the couple lured her from the club where she was working, killed her, cut her up and then drove the body parts to Mississippi where they dumped the pieces.  [Jaren] Lockhart’s head, lower legs and left thigh washed up on…beaches in June 2012, triggering an investigation that eventually led authorities to Speaks and Sanchez.  Sanchez’s trial has not yet been scheduled…hilarious trafficking nonsense

The Public Eye

Here’s a profile of sex worker Kitty Stryker, in Cosmopolitan of all places.  Better yet, it’s part of a continuing series.  Hey prohibitionists:  We’re winning.  And there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.

Theatrics

This wouldn’t “shock” anyone with the approximate timidity of a sheep, especially considering it’s at least the third example we’ve seen of this same inane gimmick:

Those who approached what appeared to be a working vending machine…were in for a surprise when they found it filled with an image of two young girls available for purchase.  Rather than candy or soda, the machine contained informational fliers about sex trafficking in Milwaukee as part of an awareness campaign…called “Children Are Not For Sale.”  The fliers highlighted warning signs to look for…Last year’s campaign, called Unlucky Thirteen, was named after the average age of trafficking victims…[a nearby prohibitionist vomited out]…”If you see something, say something” [and] “Milwaukee has been considered a hub for human trafficking”…

Dysphemisms Galore 

Gary is essentially a suburb of Chicago; “cross-border trafficking of prostitutes” therefore actually means “escorts driving across town”:

The Lake and Cook County sheriffs announced a joint initiative Friday to end cross border trafficking of prostitutes between Chicago and Gary.  Sheriff John Buncich and Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said…they have formed a task force to arrest pimps who shuttle sex workers among clients in the Indiana-Illinois border…Dart singled out Backpage for allowing its classified advertising website…to be used in Indiana and Illinois for illegal activity.  He said human traffickers use the Internet to lure women into prostitution and force them to set up Facebook pages to lure their friends as well…

Yes, that’s the “Facebook pimps” myth again.

Torture Chamber 

Three [guards] at an Alabama county jail were caught coercing female inmates into nude dancing for them in exchange for doughnuts and cell phones…this…seems to be merely the latest in a string of indignities and abuses—some fatal—inflicted on prisoners at Alabama county jails.  Madison County is facing three federal lawsuits filed by the families of former inmates who died while in custody….of conditions that shouldn’t be fatal:  gangrene, a broken bone, and constipation…Sexual abuse, either at the hands of [guards] or simply ignored by them, also seems to be a major problem…

Sex Rays Bree Olson

I’m honestly not sure why this was controversial; nobody can deny it’s true:

…Bree Olson was…a Penthouse pet and the star of hundreds of adult movies…she posted [this] admonition to aspiring porn stars on Twitter…[many] adult performers…applauded Olson’s message…But it also generated some controversy…Olson insists that she has no problem with the porn industry itself, and that her experiences there were largely positive…the worst part…is…that…sex workers are frequently the target of discrimination, even long after they’ve left the industry…

Traffic Circle

Another mainstream article tearing down “sex trafficking” hysteria, this one from a sex worker:

…It is well documented that one of the largest and most conservative lobbies in Washington—Shared Hope International—is behind much of the so-called anti-trafficking policy in the U.S., policy with politically and socially vested interests in conflating sex work with sex trafficking.  It is no secret, of course, that the religious right opposes prostitution on purely moralistic grounds.  Regressive ideologies of gender and sexuality contribute to the belief that prostitution is moral bankruptcy for women and, furthermore, that Godly salvation is the only path to “restoration.”  As a result, sex workers—and other so-called sexually deviant women, often poor women—are scapegoats for anxieties surrounding sex and sexuality more generally.  Perhaps less well known is the link between lobbyists, anti-trafficking non-profits, allocations of federal grant money for academic research, and the subsequent propagation of sexual danger narratives…

Innocence Never Had

Imagine American cops making a statement like this:

Children as young as 12 are working in a hidden Auckland sex scene, according to new research…none of them are protected by the Prostitution Law Reform Act and they often work in unsafe circumstances.  Natalie Thorburn interviewed 10 underage sex workers for her Masters of Social Work (MSW) at the University of Auckland…Some of her participants had parents that had been suicidal or mentally ill and others claimed they were abused by the organisations set up to help them, including claims of sexual assault…Allegations of underage prostitution in Auckland have been made in the past…Police said they treated such allegations seriously but could not find any underage prostitution.  “The reality is we can find no evidence to support that child prostitution is happening, anywhere, at this point in time,” said Counties Manukau West Area Commander Jason Hewett…

Passive Voice (#429)

Police in the United States have fatally shot 455 people so far this year.  The phrase they would use is that 455 officer-involved shootings occurred.  That term is so ubiquitous that it even has its own acronym: OIS.  It’s vile to reduce the loss of a life to three euphemistic letters.  However, it’s not the only strange language in many press releases from US police departments.  Certain rhetorical devices are frequently used to deflect attention away from officers who shoot civilians…Three linguistic sleight-of-hands are wheeled out with wearisome predictability.  The first is suggesting the victim is to blame…The second…is to avoid explicitly stating that a police officer fired the fatal shot…The third…is to describe the gun as if it acted independently of an officer…D. Brian Burghart, the founder of Fatal Encounters…agrees.  “The grammar of officer-involved homicides is Orwellian.  It’s amazing the gymnastics these cops and media will perform to make the officers passive actors in these dramas”…

Crying for Nanny (#539)

Ignorance of the law creates train wrecks like this:

A group of [self-declared] teen sex trafficking victims are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit against Backpage.com…the Communications Decency Act immunizes Web services companies from liability for crimes by users…[but] the plaintiffs’ [lawyers]…allege that Backpage…violated a host of laws…the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital rights advocates…[pointed out] that requiring Backpage to face the lawsuit would cause online platforms to become “more expensive, more restrictive, and ultimately less available for individual expression”…

Follow Your Bliss (#544)

Who are the “sex traffickers” again?

A 25-year-old male “transporter” with all of three days on the job, and no real background check.  And a 17-year-old girl who wound up in foster care partly because she had fallen victim to forced prostitution.  When the eight-hour drive was over, the [girl] had been victimized yet again, and the driver was under investigation for rape…Our Kids, the organization that oversees foster care and adoption services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties under contract with the Department of Children & Families, declined to discuss the 17-year-old, whose case was being managed by the Family Resource Center, an Our Kids subcontractor…the man…got his job…partly upon the recommendation of another FRC employee, a case worker, to whom he is related…

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An abolitionist is an abolitionist…whether Radfem or Muslim.  It is a little bit moot whether you kill someone with a bullet or by making their lives impossible while cranking up the stigmas…You are still just as dead, and in my honest opinion the bullet is quicker and cleaner.  –  Maggie Jones

Bad Girls Alix Tichleman

Ladies, it is NEVER a good idea to provide drugs to a client, because if something goes wrong they’ll be looking for a scapegoat:

An alleged prostitute has been charged with manslaughter for injecting a Google executive with heroin and then leaving him to die of an overdose…Alix Tichelman …is being held on…$1.5 million [bail]…Forrest Timothy Hayes…died Nov. 23 on his 50-foot yacht, Escape…His body was discovered the following morning by the yacht’s captain…Police say security footage from the yacht shows…Tichelman… gathering her belongings including drugs and needles, downing a glass of wine and lowering the blinds before leaving…Tichelman had an “ongoing prostitution relationship” with Hayes that began when she met Hayes on SeekingArrangement.com…

Only the sick mind of a cop could belch out a phrase as moronic as “ongoing prostitution relationship.”

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

Get it straight, cops; you have to rape a whore not to get in trouble.  Fairly paying her demonstrates you’re not the kind of person they want in their ranks: “[Florida cop Trenton Moore] was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.  Now he’s out of a job…”  And stealing the cash from the leaders of your cop gang is an even worse idea:

….£120,000 of seized criminal cash was taken from [a Scottish] police office by…Robert Moffat…£90,000 of that cash was found in Moffat’s house and buried under a slab in his back garden…That cash was then taken by…Dean Burnett as part of a £205,000 haul he blew on gambling and vice girls…Burnett…was jailed for 45 months…but was only ordered to pay back £5000…

Rooted in Racism

Sometimes “trafficking” just means “bringing in black people“:

A 30-year-old man has been sentenced to six months in prison for attempting to smuggle refugees into Sweden, after claiming he met them at a wedding in Germany and offered them a lift back…the man…hired a car from a rental firm in Stockholm.  He opted for a vehicle which could accommodate seven people, arguing that he needed the space as he intended to transport a set of large loudspeakers…He offered a lift to six people from Eritrea, who…were seeking asylum in Germany.  He said he received €600…as a thank you…but when he was picked up by border police he had €1,150 in his pocket…

They Just Don’t Get It (TW3 #18)

Reading stuff Pennsylvania reporters write about cops is like watching fellatio porn:

…Sgt. Rick Blake said…he’s discarded the notion that prostitution is a “victimless crime” because women choose to sell their bodies.  He said many women are forced into it…”backpage.com…is a way for them to advertise without being directly out in the view of…law enforcement,” Blake said…”None of them want to lead this life”…When a Florida woman was picked up in a sting…”She thanked us because this was truly her only way to escape from the people she was being used by”…

As Mistress Matisse pointed out, “women we arrest thank us” is the moral equivalent of “she liked it when we raped her”. 

Whatever They Need To Say

Bangladesh’s oldest brothel has been shut down following pressure from local clerics and politicians…More than 750 prostitutes in Tangail City were forced out of a cluster of houses that made up the 200-year-old Kandapara brothel…after the dwelling’s owners ordered them shut…[following] a march last week demanding the eviction of the sex workers…Monowara Begum, who heads a sex-workers group at Kandapara, accused the local mayor…of…threatening the women…“He…sent dozens of young men…they told us that we have only one hour to leave…or they would burn down the brothel with kerosene”…

Under Every Bed 

Just the same old revolting “all prostitutes are pimped addicts”, but nearly all of these wastes of ink include this nowadays: “South Burlington [Vermont] is a busy city of more than 18,000 people…right on Interstate 89…

An Example to the West (TW3 #316)

To commemorate the National Day of Sex Work, the Secretariat of Labour and Employment Promotion (STFE) of [Mexico City] gave 50 credentials to persons exercising sex work and recognized them as self-employed workers with social and labor rights.  The event…represents the second delivery of these documents…since last March, when the first group of 19 persons filed an injunction against the Law…which criminalized prostitution [in the city] as a crime “against the peace of the people”…[agency head] Patricia Mercado… admitted that public policy change was driven by the “Elisa Martínez” Street Brigade in Support of Women directed by Elvira Madrid and Jaime Montejo…[and] litigated by attorney Barbara Zamora…

Passive Voice

Radley Balko on a syndrome I’ve discussed before:

…Use of the passive voice in an admission of wrongdoing has become  so common that the political consultant William Schneider suggested a few years ago that it be referred to as the “past exonerative” tense.  You’ll often see a similar grammatical device when a police officer shoots someone.  Communications officers at policy agenies are deft at contorting the English language to minimize culpability of an officer or of the agency…

Policing for Profit Michael Mobley

When you’re a cop, armed robbery becomes “misdemeanor embezzlement” and decades in prison becomes a few weekends in the county jail:

[Virginia cop Michael Mobley] was sentenced to 30 days in jail…for stealing more than $3,000 from three prostitutes…he…pleaded guilty…to two counts of misdemeanor embezzlement…[and] can serve his sentence on consecutive weekends…Mobley…questioned [the victims] under the guise of a police investigation…[and stole their] money…

If he’d turned the money in to the head thugs, this would’ve been legal.

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Dr. Brooke Magnanti on the latest development in British “feminism”:

…Twitter has been a-bubble with prominent feminists endorsing Who Made Your Pants, a company which employs refugee women…to sew…underwear…with prices between £18 and an eye-watering £21.50 a pop…the implication (from people on Twitter, not the company itself) that not wearing them makes you not ethical or not feminist leaves a bad taste in the mouth…Many of the people who can’t afford to spend £20-plus [$34] on purportedly feminist knickers are themselves workers in a marketplace that devalues their labour.  This does not make them bad feminists, bad consumers, or bad people.  If we who are in a position of financial privilege are unable to recognise that, the fault lies with us – not with them…

Traffic Circle

Even the more ethical “human trafficking” folks are now starting to distance themselves from “sex trafficking” hysteria:

Human trafficking has become the cause célébre for sensationalist…media…a great deal of the…content is both inaccurate and irresponsible …[This] sensationalizing or falsification…is often excused…[as] “raising awareness”…[but] misinformed people…support policies and  organizations that are ultimately counter-productive…

The author, Ryan Turner, goes on to list what he considers the worst offenses:

…All human trafficking statistics should be regarded with some  skepticism…Misleading statistics obscure the true nature of the problem and…when…inevitably exposed as false or methodologically unsound, it undermines the credibility of the whole anti-trafficking movement…Conflation of sex work and sex trafficking often leads to policies that criminalize prostitution, making sex workers more vulnerable to violence and exploitation.  Meanwhile, the distinct needs of trafficking survivors are ignored in favor of “demand reduction”  programs that…harm…sex workers…Reveling in graphic details does not help victims and survivors, nor does it contribute in any meaningful way…The myopic focus on sex trafficking…draws attention away from the fact that the tomatoes we eat may be the product of forced labor in Florida…

Down Under (TW3 #350)

Prohibitionists insist decriminalization doesn’t work:

Police resolved a dispute between a sex worker and a client who refused to pay — by escorting the man to a cash machine to settle his $100 bill…A [New Zealand] police spokesperson said…”It…is a routine thing. Police would help any citizen having a disagreement whether they were a sex-worker or working in a pizza shop”…

What a Week! (TW3 #402)

Gunmen…attacked two buildings…in Baghdad’s Zayounah neighbourhood, killing at least 33 people including 29 women…there are suspicions the buildings were being used as a brothel.  The words “This is the punishment of those practising prostitution” were scrawled in black on one of the buildings…Michelle Obama bring back our girls

Here’s an excellent commentary on the story from another Maggie:

…where is the outrage…Where is the team of “British specialists” sent… to Bagdad to investigate…Where is Michelle Obama gormlessly holding up a  #BringBackOurGirls sign?  Where is the hysterical Twitter campaign?  Perhaps if we were to relabel those women as “vulnerable victims of evil sex traffickers” their death might attract more sympathy?  As independent women…supporting themselves, not relying on some well funded NGO organisation to “rescue” them…they were…simply the “wrong kind of women” to be deserving of the ritual hand wringing…

Devil’s Advocate

Intellectual honesty is dead in the West:

Once we start creating sex-robots, what will be the limits we put on them?  It’s not a human being so you should theoretically be able to rock your human-like Rumba however you want, but there may be some situations that create moral panics even if the Cylon-victim involved is just a bundle of algorithms and plastic.  I asked the panel how society would deal ethically and legally with a hypothetical company that starts producing child sex-robots to satisfy deviant sexual desires…

You can guess the result.  Nobody wants to admit that a child-shaped toaster is still a toaster.

Drawing Lines

Another excellent Marijke Vonk essay:

…It’s a mistake to think that prostitutes are fundamentally different from other people…that sex is obviously and clearly different from non-sex, that sex work is strictly different from other types of work, that prostitution is clearly different from non-prostitution.  Violence against sex workers should be stopped…but it’s a mistake to think that violence won’t harm us all.  There’s no clear line between sex workers and the rest of us…

Maggie in the Media (TW3 #424)

Recorded while I was in Los Angeles early last month:

Schadenfreude (TW3 #425) 

More and more reporters are discovering the truth about “sex trafficking”:

Eden supposedly follows the life of Chong Kim…whose…story has been trumpeted [by “trafficking” fetishists while]…activists…have been busy poking holes in…it…In 2004, Kim published an essay titled “Nobody’s Concubine”…[which] has little in common with Eden.  Kim writes that she suffered abuse at home and was…raped by an acquaintance…She started working as a stripper and then for an escort service after escaping an abusive boyfriend and falling on hard times…Missing…is the desert warehouse full of teenage sex slaves in Nevada and the daring escapes described in her later accounts.  Over the years, Kim’s story has grown more lavish and sensational as the bad guys morphed from abusive clients and boyfriends to international gangs of kidnappers, pimps, human traffickers and johns that included law enforcement agents and even an unnamed former state governor…

Consult my research paper “Mind-witness Testimony” for an explanation of the psychological mechanism behind the inflation of stories like Kim’s.

Divided We Fall (TW3 #427)

Canada’s Bill C36 is merely the hook for this excellent essay against sexual prohibition:

…“unnatural” sex has always been problematic for moral crusaders.  For example, masturbation and homosexual acts were previously depicted as “harmful” to individual and collective health; yet such claims proved not only to be unfounded, but dangerous.  This, however, has not stopped the perfectionists among us from endorsing a new cause:  the present obsession with prostitution …the so-called deleterious effects of masturbation [were] widely discredited in…[the early] 20th century…and…by 1973, the American Psychiatric Association no longer considered homosexuality a disease…Yet here we are in the 21st century, justifying state repression of prostitution…we can get over our anxiety…whenever we come to realize that sex workers and their clients do not require “treatment”…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #428)

Many religious groups in Canada…have been enthusiastically supporting the government’s new prostitution bill…But dozens of Anglican clergy say the proposed law is immoral and endangers sex workers, and they are urging the government to withdraw it.  Rev. Bruce Bryant-Scott…has submitted an open letter to the justice committee signed by 33 of his…colleagues…

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We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice–that is, until we have stopped saying “It got lost,” and say, “I lost it.”  –  Sydney J. Harris

Though there are occasions on which the passive voice is useful and appropriate, that is not true most of the time.  And when the topic is anything political, it’s almost never correct because it’s nothing more than a means of denying responsibility, or of shifting the apparent focus of the conversation.  Though I’m not going to go out of my way to use a bunch of passive-voice constructions to prove a point, I will indicate proper natural uses in today’s text with an asterisk.

For those who don’t remember their grammar that well, passive voice is the sentence form in which the subject is acted upon rather than acting; it often produces weak and awkward sentences, and is thus best avoided by those who aren’t good at such things.  For example:

Active voice:  I wrote this sentence.
Passive voice: This sentence was written by me.

Toon bulletsRather cumbersome, isn’t it?  As I said above, there are times when the construction is useful; if Rasputin is the subject of a paragraph, it’s perfectly reasonable and proper to include the sentence, “He was killed by a group of boyars who felt that his influence over the Czarina threatened all of Russia.”  Changing the subject from “Rasputin” to “boyars” would not only be jarring, it might even make the point more confusing.  The passive voice is also quite useful when the entity which actually initiated an action is unknown: “The package was picked on Tuesday,” or “The cave-paintings were made about 16,000 years ago,” or “A flaming bag of human feces was left on the steps of the police station.”  This is why the form is often used by those who wish to avoid responsibility for something*; it can make it sound as though the culprit is unknown when in fact there is little doubt of his identity.  The classic political example is “Mistakes were made,” which is bureaucratese for “I made a mistake” or “My office staff made a mistake” or the like.  Police reports and press releases are riddled with such constructions, especially when the cops murder someone; in the cartoon world they inhabit, guns and bullets appear to act on their own without any identifiable human agency.

Given this ability of the passive voice to shift the perception of agency, you can be sure it is heavily employed in “trafficking” propaganda*.  Over and over we’re told that “girls are sold for sex”, implying that they have no active role and that the legal fiction of a minor’s inability to give consent describes an actual, factual condition of passivity.  Saying that a whore “is trafficked” automatically implies the existence of a “trafficker”, some person who “did this to her” after she has been stripped of agency* through the magic of the passive voice.  The neofeminist term for a whore, “prostituted woman”, embodies this concept in its very form; it’s impossible to use it without essentially stating that all sex workers are victims of some imaginary “prostitutor”.  Its PC alternative, “women in prostitution”, is nearly as bad, though in this case the agency seems to be shifted to an amorphous entity called “prostitution”.

But of all passive constructions, one of the subtlest and most pervasive is the word “problematic”, which is used by prohibitionists* who want to pretend that their ban-campaigns are not only based in reality, but upon some characteristic of the thing to be banned rather than some characteristic of theirs.  When a neofeminist says “porn is problematic”, she pretends that there is some issue with porn which generates problems (compare “the disease is contagious” or “this mineral is radioactive”), when the truth is that the problem resides entirely in the heads of those like her.problematic computer  When she says something is “problematic”, what she actually means is “I have a problem with it,” but by use of the passive voice she refocuses attention from where it belongs – her busybody psyche – to the thing she hates.  This makes it seem (as in the case of the cop’s gun) that the fault lies in a thing rather than a person, and thereby changes the entire conversation.

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