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Posts Tagged ‘Prohibition (alcohol)’

The most dangerous prohibitionists…are those who oppose no particular behavior or thing, but rather the very freedom of choice itself.  –  “Thou Shalt Not

As I have pointed out many times in the past, all prohibitionism is the same:

…some object, substance or activity is depicted as intrinsically harmful regardless of context or actual outcome, a connection to children is invented if one does not exist, and the prohibitionists then argue that any abrogation of personal liberty (no matter how invasive) and any expansion of the police state (no matter how destructive, evil and counterproductive) is justified to stop the threat to Our Treasured Way of Life…

The primary tool used by prohibitionists to drum up support for their crusades is the Big Lie, a gigantic state-sponsored myth totally unsupported by facts which plays upon people’s primitive fears and tribalism to justify the criminalization of consensual behavior and the use of grotesque levels of state violence to suppress it.  For most of the 20th century the most aggressively-promoted campaigns of prohibition were those directed against intoxicants of one kind or another; first alcohol Prohibition, then the “War on Drugs“, were used to increase the power of the state to control, spy upon, harass, brutalize, rob, cage and murder its citizens, with the full approval of the useful idiots who never understand that once a weapon is forged, there is no way to stop government from expanding its use to persecute those who supported giving it to the government in the first place.

40 Years 0f Drug War FailureBut now, this abomination which has resulted in the deaths of many millions and the waste of several trillions is finally on the way to its long-overdue demise.  The week does not pass that some retired official or politician who fervently supported the depredations speaks out against it, governments all over the world are ponderously drifting away from drug-war policies, and one would be hard-pressed to find a reputable human rights or public health authority or organization which has not yet denounced the vile insanity of destroying the lives of large segments of the population in a futile attempt to stop them from enjoying themselves in a way the “authorities” disapprove of.  But most of the foes of prohibition, whether long-standing or Johnny-come-lately, are wrong in one vitally important respect:  many of them declare the Drug War a “failure”.  This is absolutely incorrect; prohibition can only be considered a “failure” if one accepts the rationale for it publicly promoted by politicians, that of actually stopping whatever it is the government claims it wants to stop.  But that isn’t the real reason for its existence, and never has been; if it were the government would surely have learned its lesson from alcohol Prohibition, and wouldn’t have begun its drug prohibition with those substances favored by three minority groups it wished to suppress (marijuana was favored in the Hispanic community, cocaine in the black community and opiates in the Chinese community).  Simply put, the Drug War exists as an excuse for expanding government power, and for no other reason.

But now, that excuse is not working any more; few well-informed older people and virtually no younger people believe the propaganda, and even those who do often recognize the ruinous costs of the suppression.  Within a few years, it is very likely that drug prohibition will be scaled down dramatically or even ended entirely, and good riddance.  This does not mean, however, that governments will give up the powers they have granted themselves; far from it.  There are police budgets to be justified, prisons to be filled, minorities to be suppressed, populations to be terrorized, surveillance powers to be expanded and rights to be eroded, and if the Drug War no longer serves to allow those things the rulers will have to replace it with something else: that “something” is “sex trafficking”.  I have often demonstrated the interchangeability of the rhetoric used to justify suppression of drugs and of prostitution, and Carol Fenton and others have pointed out that “sex trafficking” laws are usually built on “drug trafficking” laws, right down to the terms used and the penalties inflicted (such as asset seizure).  Gangs which were targeted for drug-war operations are now blamed for “sex trafficking”, and the most stories in which some cop vomits out propaganda onto a passive reporter or credulous audience now contain some variation on the claim that “gangs are now switching from drug trafficking to sex trafficking, because a quantity of drugs can be sold only once while a sex slave can be sold many times.”  The truth, of course, is that gangs are doing nothing of the kind; it’s just that the “authorities” are switching to a new excuse to justify their anti-gang campaigns.

police stateIn some places, the new “anti-trafficking” operations are being carried out by the same police units that are assigned to harass people for drugs; in Oklahoma, for example, the “Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs” is the entity assigned to persecute sex workers and spread the new propaganda, and they didn’t even bother to change its name.  Even in states and cities with a slightly higher opinion of their citizens’ intelligence, however, the situation is the same: cops, funds, resources, policies and even laws are being gradually reassigned from inflicting violence in the name of stopping one consensual behavior to inflicting it in the name of stopping a different one.  And this pattern will continue until society rids itself of the evil delusion that governments own the bodies and lives of individuals, and therefore have the right to harm or even murder them for behaving in some way those governments have arbitrarily prohibited.

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Jasper Gregory is a citizen science advocate and gender activist in Oakland, California; for the past few months he’s been researching the development of modern feminism from the 19th-century variety, and his “tweets” on the subject were so fascinating I invited him to contribute this column.  I think you’ll find it just as interesting as I do.

A new wave of sexual repression has swept through the lands of the Puritan Diaspora.  Under the banner of Feminism sexual puritans have declared a war on prostitution in Sweden and politically incorrect words and images in the UK and North America; the new Puritans are on the rise and have wrapped themselves in a rhetoric of “True Womanhood” that seems more appropriate for the 19th century than for the Internet Age.  But the similarities between today’s prude feminism and the earlier Victorian age of moral regulation go far deeper than you might suspect:  the radical “cultural” feminism of 1970-2013 is actually the continuation of a two century moral purity movement.

Frankenstein illustration by Berni WrightsonThe English romantic sentimental novel became established in the 1730s during the evangelical Protestant “Great Awakening“.  Under the label of “sensibility”, displays of romantic sentimentalism became the measure of good character; the more sensitive you were, the more civilized you were.  According to True Woman ideology, they were the most pure and civilized and thus the most sensitive, which is they were always fainting away and coming down with cases of nerves.  One outgrowth of Gothic romanticism was the science fiction novel, which first rose to international success in 1818 with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, daughter of romantic novelist and women’s rights pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft.  And soon the Utopian science fiction novel became a way for the early women’s movement to inspire collective action just as the earlier Gothic romance heroines had provided a template for individual reformist action.

The first American woman science fiction author published the Utopia Three Hundred Years Hence in 1836.  In it, Mary Griffith imagines the Philadelphia of 2135, in which middle-class white women have attained more power in society.  The novel displays many features which would appear in later feminist Utopias, but it also contains many elements which were more in keeping the Victorian separation of spheres.  For instance, 2135‘s women do not have or desire the vote, for when they were given equal status under the law they retreated into a women’s sphere and separated themselves even more fully from the men’s sphere of politics and the university.  They did, however, enter the realm of business, which they were suited to on account of their house-holding skills; in fact, quite prophetically, Griffith saw equal competition in the marketplace as the route by which women achieved equality.

Griffith lived in an era in which romantic movement activists were holding up women as especially pure and civilized within the separate women’s sphere of the home.  Though it seems paradoxical to us, it was middle-class women who fought for their gilded cages as moral arbiters of the home and guardians of society’s manners and morals.  Rather than being imposed upon women, the separate women’s sphere was fought for and attained by a Romantic Era women’s movement.  This can be seen in Griffith’s Utopia; her 2135 Philadelphia is a world in which the women’s sphere had domesticated and civilized the male public sphere.  All of the rough edges had been removed:  the roads were smooth, and noisy, scary steam engines were banned once women began to guide technology.  All dogs were also exterminated, a theme common in later feminist Utopias:  dogs were uncouth, ill mannered and dead, though cats would be allowed to live.  Griffith’s Matrons got together and censored the vulgar passages of Shakespeare, and in another flash of prophecy, once the actors had been censored they would go on to become major cultural figures.  Mostly, Griffith dreamed of state regulation and a strong police to intervene and protect white middle class women from undignified situations and unscrupulous men.  Liquor and smoking were banned; if a bachelor was found drunk three times his head was shaved and he was sent to the work camps.

These themes mirror the concerns of Romantic Era Christianity in which a highly artificial version of sentimental femininity came to dominate.  As Colin Campbell wrote in The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism,

…the rise of sentimentality went hand in hand with the rise of consumer capitalism and of middle class women’s new role as head consumer of household items.  This is reflected in Three Hundred Years Hence, where all duties on imported luxury goods have been lifted.  2135 is a consumer paradise.

MizoraBy the 1880s the women’s movement was picking up steam and had moved on from the creation of women’s space into the purity campaigns, the effort to impose what they considered to be feminine virtues onto all of society.  Proto-eugenics was also becoming popular because as mothers, the reformers believed they could lay claim to special eugenic knowledge.  These themes are especially noticeable in Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora  (1881), the first parthenogenetic Utopia (this element would become dominant in 20th-century feminist Utopias).  In Mizora, our narrator descends inside the Earth to find a blonde, Aryan, all-female society; their forebears had decided that dark skin caused criminal behavior and had used eugenic breeding to “cure” this affliction, and men were regarded as an inferior dark-skinned race whose elimination had led to a perfect society (an idea familiar to readers of 1970s feminist Utopias).  As in Griffith’s work, the Mizorans had tamed and domesticated uncivilized nature; animals had been eliminated and farming was held in suspicion because of the “deleterious” effects of earthly matter.  Their engineers made food from chemicals, produced bread from limestone and were close to achieving their glorious goal of finding chemical substitutes for fruit and vegetables; in a sense, Lane was imagining the Hostess Twinkie Utopia.  But besides being the first exclusively female Utopia where all of the turbulent and chaotic aspects of the men’s sphere had been tamed and made safe for proper ladies, Mizora was also a whiteness Utopia:  even their architecture and clothing were all bleached white.

1888 brought the literary Utopia into the mainstream with the publication of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, which contained many of the themes of earlier women’s Utopias.  Looking Backward became the first international blockbuster bestseller and inspired the American Nationalist Socialist movement, the Nationalist Women’s Movement and later the Progressive Movement, the New Deal and Europe’s National Socialist movements.  One early Bellamyite was Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who in 1915 wrote Herland, a direct inspiration for 1970s women’s separatist Utopias.  Gilman continued the dog exterminationist themes of Mizora and Three Hundred Years Hence, and like most feminists of the time was a strong believer in Lamarckian evolution and eugenics; the Herlanders “of Aryan stock” had made eugenics the focus of their society, and had perfected their race by eliminating males along with the dogs.  The “Race Mothers” gave virgin birth to girls and were never subjected to the degradation of sex; women thus became supermothers and maternal passion was the only emotion left to them. Herlanders did not eat meat and cats had been eugenically engineered not to meow or catch birds; female cats were allowed to roam free, but males were kept in cages for stud purposes only.

Contemporary feminists consider Gilman one of the founders of American feminism, which is ironic considering that her eugenic feminism contained so much of the intolerance displayed by modern neo-Puritans.  She is less known for the white supremacism evidenced in her 1908 “A Suggestion on the Negro Problem”, in which she argued that the state should re-enslave African Americans to instill social hygiene in them and take away their right to reproduce; her proposal anticipates both the German solution to “the Jewish Problem” and the invasive social hygiene policies of the modern welfare state.  Gilman was rediscovered in the 1970s and adopted as a feminist idol, thus supporting the idea that 1970s feminism was a white women’s power movement; her model of purified eugenic Utopia became a cottage industry as multiple generations of women’s studies students read and wrote these Utopias and used them as a guiding principle for action.  The following graph shows the rise in use of the term “feminist Utopia” from 1970 to the mid-’90s: feminist Utopia graph

The year 2013 has seen a renewed feminism which in the United Kingdom is busy banning rock music, men’s magazines, pole fitness and exotic dancing, while in California a new culture war is aimed at the traditional libertarian values of the high-tech scene.  Without knowing it, a new generation is taking up the battle to civilize and domesticate the wild unruly natives and impose the traditional values of the Victorian women’s sphere on men and women alike.

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Beware of purity workers [who are]…ready to accept and endorse any amount of coercive and degrading treatment of their fellow creatures in the fatuous belief that you can oblige human beings to be moral by force.  –  Josephine Butler

prohibition beer raidEighty years ago today, a so-called “Noble Experiment” that was anything but was forcibly shut down.  At exactly 4:31 PM Eastern Time on December 5th, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and thus putting an end to a massive social engineering effort which cost the United States over $1 billion (over $13 billion in today’s money) and resulted in the imprisonment, impoverishment and death of over 100,000 Americans.  But despite the enormous economic and social costs (clogged courts, the rise of large-scale organized crime, widespread disrespect for all law, warfare in the streets and the birth of the modern police state, to name but a few), prohibitionists fought tooth and nail to prevent the dismantling of their mad scheme.  Furthermore, politicians learned the wrong lesson from the experience: not “prohibition doesn’t work and has catastrophic effects on society,” but rather “start small and then slowly ratchet up the number and popularity of banned substances and behaviors, and spread prohibition across many bureaucratic regulations instead of investing it in one easily-targeted law.”

I’ve often discussed the nearly-exact resemblance between “sex trafficking” hysteria and “white slavery” hysteria; I’ve also compared the rhetoric of sex work prohibitionists to that of drug prohibitionists, and I won’t insult your intelligence by presuming any of y’all haven’t recognized the resemblance between alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition.  But even though I’ve often said “All prohibitionism is the same,” I wonder if y’all have ever given any thought to how much the same the various colors of prohibition are.  Today I’m going to share a few facts about the capital-P Prohibition whose end we recognize today; I won’t waste my time and yours in pointing out the modern parallels, because they really are that obvious an exercise in plus ça change.

To prohibitionists, human rights, happiness and even life are subsidiary to “sending a message”, and the cost of that message can never be too great.  Various penalties proposed for the “crime” of drinking included torture, whipping, branding, imprisonment in Alaskan concentration camps, sterilization, enforced celibacy and even execution; some wanted the punishments applied to drinkers’ children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.  Others preferred to execute drinkers stealthily by releasing poisoned alcohol through undercover agents posing as bootleggers; they understood that the death toll could be in the hundreds of thousands, but declared that damage a “price worth paying” for an alcohol-free society.  And though that plan was not carried out, the government did intentionally poison industrial alcohol in a failed attempt to keep people from drinking it; over 10,000 people died as a result.  Police and G-men raided homes and businesses (often without warrant), seized or destroyed property (including cash, vehicles and buildings), murdered citizens and even crossed into Canada for their “operations”.  Nor were these depredations limited to government actors; die-hard prohibitionists formed groups to “assist” enforcement by spying on others, ratting them out to the police and even conducting raids on their own.

Washington Taking Leave of the Officers of His Army by Currier & Ives (bowdlerized version)Since the very real threat of official violence was still not enough to stop Americans from imbibing, prohibitionists mounted a campaign of disinformation, sometimes producing bogus studies to “prove” their dogma.  They claimed that any amount of drinking dramatically increased the chance of dying from edema, and that habitual drunks often died of spontaneous combustion.  Drinking mothers (or even fathers) supposedly produced babies who were born addicted, and even the smell of alcohol was said to cause birth defects; some claimed these birth defects were inheritable, thus affecting multiple generations.  Children were subjected to presentations “proving” that alcohol caused severe brain damage.  The “anti-saloon” crowd also indulged in historical revisionism, censoring, reinterpreting or even retranslating documents (especially the Bible) to remove references to wine or other forms of alcohol, and altering pictures such as the one above (here’s the 1848 original) to retroactively turn historical figures into teetotalers.

The soi-disant Progressives wanted to remake society along “scientific” lines, to impose their idea of clockwork “perfection” on the human race; eugenics was a large part of this, as should be evident in the suggestion that “undesirables” be sterilized or their children executed with them.  But though the Nazis gave eugenics such a bad name it was eliminated from “progressive” philosophy, the rest of its catechism is virtually untouched; neither Prohibition nor the four-decade “War on Drugs” has cured the adherents of that revolting 19th-century cult of their dedication to the idea that, as Butler put it, “any amount of coercive and degrading treatment” of peaceful citizens is acceptable in order to force them to obey the cultists’ perverse notions of morality.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 4th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Second-wave feminism in the UK has, like the first wave of the 19th century before it, devolved into a solution in search of a problem.  In many English-speaking countries there are plenty of women’s rights battles to be fought, such as the brutal campaigns against abortion access in the US and a wide variety of vital issues in India.  Even in Britain, there are a number of major problems it would be appropriate for feminists to address, but there’s a catch: they largely involve marginalized groups like sex workers and transwomen whom the remaining second-wavers consider to be enemies, or else nonwhite women they just don’t care about.

Prohibition threatSo just as the first wavers devolved from successfully crusading against the horrid Contagious Disease Acts to campaigning against things which made middle-class white women uncomfortable (including alcohol, sex work and masturbation), so second-wavers have followed up the monumental victories of the twentieth century with screaming about trivia.  While transwomen are hounded to death, they obsess about the number of women’s pictures on banknotes.  While sex workers are stripped of rights and repeatedly victimized by police, they aid the oppression by trying to criminalize our clients and destroy our means to work legally.  And when we dare to challenge their war on us, they demand social media give them a means by which to censor us.

Yes, I realize that the rationalization used to demand the Twitter “report abuse button” was the horrible rape- and death-threats hurled against Caroline Perez, leader of the bank note campaign.  I also realize that A) it’s already illegal to credibly threaten someone, and the proof of that is the arrest of Perez’s worst abuser despite the lack of a button; B) Twitter already has a means of reporting serious abuse, but it requires effort and is therefore difficult to exploit for coordinated mass reporting campaigns against targeted individuals; and C) Any quick and easy means of reporting abuse can also be misused by the many for silencing the few, such as the aforementioned exclusionary feminists silencing sex worker and transgender rights activists.  When those with a history of attack, oppression and exclusion say they need a certain weapon for defense, you can be as certain as the sun rising in the east that it will also be used for offense; in fact, you can be sure that the offensive use is the intended one, and defense is simply the socially-palatable excuse.

magazine coverThe truth of this bait-and-switch tactic is revealed by the reaction of the “Lose the Lads’ Mags” campaigners to the news that a group representing the country’s largest retailers have now demanded that publishers encase the magazines in “modesty bags” to hide their covers.  The crusaders’ original pretense was that “magazines and newspapers with naked women on their covers…[discriminate against]…employees uncomfortable with images of naked and near-naked women…”; if that were the real issue, the bags are an obvious solution because they remove the supposed offending stimulus (namely the pictures) from the workers’ environment.  But this is not and never was the actual, narcissistic, censorious reason for their demand:  those urging the stores to “Lose the Lads’ Mags” do not want these magazines to exist at all, anywhere in the world, whether within their line of sight or not; they believe that their privileged bourgeois feelings take precedence over everyone else’s rights, just as the temperance crusaders of a century ago did.

Third-wave feminism is generally inclusive, diverse and respectful of women’s individual choices, with the result that many if not most third-wavers find second-wavers embarrassing at best; many other women prefer to avoid the term “feminism” altogether, largely because of the sort of behavior described above.  Second-wave feminism is therefore aging and shrinking; many more of its devotees die off every year than new ones join, and within a generation it will vanish entirely as a social influence.  And given second-wavers’ fixation on their own petty concerns to the exclusion of those affecting women in general or humanity as a whole, that’s definitely for the best.

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Perhaps now that the arms race on the street has resulted in criminals equipping themselves with gravity, police should be issued with the Strong Nuclear Force so as to keep their edge.  –  Clark Bianco of Popehat

The internet has rebounded from a run of slow weeks with a vengeance, swamping me with a deluge of good stories and links.  While this column is flexible enough to absorb the surge, the “That Was the Week That Was” feature has a fixed length of ≈2000 words, and I can only trim the stories down so much before they turn into plain links.  Generally, stories that appear up to Wednesday night or Thursday morning make it into that week’s TW3, but this week I had my quota by Tuesday morning, and by Thursday morning I had enough for another column!  As you read this I’ve already posted this coming Saturday’s TW3, and the overflow will go into an extra edition on Tuesday the 27th.  Our top contributor was, as so often happens, Radley Balko, with everything down to the first video and “don’t wave at cops”.  But two others provided three links each, namely Mike Siegel (“39 stats”, “rhinoceroses” and “testes”) and Jesse Walker (“Area 51”, “terrorist” and “1776”); Grace clocked in with two (“ring” and “never call the cops”).  The first video (via pws) is a mini-horror film (from the creator of Ju-on) which is no less effective for its brevity, and the second is a demonstration of why government control of weapons is doomed.  The other links were supplied by Gideon (“Batman”), Franklin Harris  (“waiter”), Luscious Lani (“spontaneous combustion”), Pee-wee Herman  (“where no man”), Nun Ya (“26¢”), Amy Alkon  (“journalists”), Glenn Greenwald  (“non-compliance”), and Stacy Swimme (“Iceland”).

From the Archives

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You know three ‘n’ three is six
Three threes is nine
You give me some of yours,
I may sell you some of mine.
  –  Billie Pierce, “I’m in the Racket”

It’s time for another collection of hooker songs!  If you have a suggestion for a future column, check the Musicography page to make sure I haven’t featured it already, and if I haven’t please share it in a comment below.  Our first selection today was suggested by Grim Ghost; though it is of the moralistic variety, it’s actually quite catchy so it gets a pass.  In the 1920s popular songs were often recorded by a number of artists, and this one is no exception; this recording is by Ruth Etting, best remembered today for “Shine On Harvest Moon”.

Glad Rag Doll (Jack Yellen and Dan Dougherty, music by Milton Ager)

Little painted lady,
With your lovely clothes,
Where are you bound for, may I ask?
What your diamonds cost you,
Ev’rybody knows,
All the world can see behind your mask.

All dolled up in glad rags,
Tomorrow may turn to sad rags,
They call you Glad Rag Doll!

Admired,
Desired,
By lovers who soon grow tired,
Poor little Glad Rag Doll!

You’re just a pretty toy
They like to play with,
You’re not the kind they choose
To grow old and gray with!

Don’t make this the end, dear,
It’s never too late to ‘mend, dear,
Poor little Glad Rag Doll!

Oh, you’re all dolled up in your glad rags,
And tomorrow, they may turn to sad rags,
They call you poor little Glad Rag Doll!

You’re admired,
And you’re desired,
By lots of lovers, but they soon grow tired,
Poor little Glad Rag Doll!

You’re just a pretty toy
They like to play with,
But you’re not the kind they choose
To, to grow old and gray with!

Don’t make this the end, dear,
It’s never, never too late to ‘mend, dear,
Poor little Glad Rag Doll!

When I was previewing this video on YouTube, I noticed another appropriate Ruth Etting selection among the suggestions.  It is ostensibly about a taxi dancer, but as we’ve seen previously with “Private Dancer” and “Hey, Big Spender”, that’s practically always code for a whore:

Ten Cents a Dance (Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rogers)

I work at the palace ballroom,
But gee, that palace is cheap!
When I get back to my chilly hall-room,
I’m much too tired to sleep.

I’m one of those lady teachers,
A beautiful hostess, you know
The kind the palace features
At exactly a dime a throw.

(refrain 1) Ten cents a dance,
That’s what they pay me
Gosh, how they weigh me down.
Ten cents a dance,
Pansies and rough guys,
Tough guys who tear my gown!

(refrain 2) Seven to midnight I hear drums,
Loudly the saxophone blows,
Trumpets are breaking my ear drums,
Customers crush my toes!

(refrain 3) Sometimes I think I’ve found my hero,
But it’s a queer romance
All that you need is a ticket
Come on, big boy,
Ten cents a dance!

Fighters and sailors and bow-legged tailors
Can pay for a ticket and rent me
Butchers and barbers and rats from the harbors
Are sweethearts my good luck has sent me.

Though I’ve a chorus of elderly beaus,
Stockings are porous with holes in the toes.
I’m there till closing time,
Dance and be merry, it’s only a dime!

(refrain 1, 2, 3)

Another means of encoding harlotry is by singing about a related type of “fallen woman”; both Joni Mitchell and Mary Coughlan portrayed the narrators of their respective songs as girls condemned to the Magdalene laundries for merely being pretty, and though it is true that there were such cases the laundries were first established for prostitutes and largely populated by unwed mothers, promiscuous girls and even incest or rape victims.  Coughlan’s song was suggested by several readers after I featured Mitchell’s:

Magdalene Laundry (Mary Coughlan)

For 17 years I’ve been scrubbin’ this washboard,
Ever since the fellas started in after me.
My mother, poor soul, didn’t know what to do;
The canon said, “Child, there’s a place for you.”
Now I’m servin’ my time at the Magdalene laundry.
I’m toein’ the line at the Magdalene laundry.

There’s girls from the country, girls from the town,
Their bony white elbows goin’ up and down.
And the Reverend Mother, as she glides through the place,
A tight little smile on the side of her face,
She’s runnin’ the show at the Magdalene laundry.
I’ve got no place to go but the Magdalene laundry.

(refrain) Oh, Lord, won’t you let me, don’t you let me
Won’t you let me wash away the stains?
Oh, Lord, won’t you let me wash away the stains?

We’re washin’ altar linen, cassocks and stoles,
And we’re scrubbin’ long johns for the holy joes.
But we know where they’ve been when they’re not savin’ souls;
What the red wine spilt, the smooth hand pours.
We’re squeezin’ it out at the Magdalene laundry.
We’re scrubbin’ it down at the Magdalene laundry.

(refrain)

Sunday afternoon, the Lord’s at rest,
It’s off to the prom, watch the waves roll by.
We’re chewin’ on our toffees, hear the seagulls squawk,
“There go the maggies,” the children talk,
Through our faces they stare at the Magdalene laundry.
In our eyes see the glare of the Magdalene laundry.

(refrain)
(refrain)
(refrain)

While white songwriters and singers often portray the whore as a tragic figure, black musicians (especially those of the jazz era) generally portrayed her as smart, independent and tough, as in this one from Street Walker Blues:

State Street Blues (Thompson and Williams)

Goin’ down on State Street, that’s where I long to be
Goin’ down on State Street, that’s where I long to be
But those State Street gals make a fool out of me.

Goin’ down on State Street, stop at 3409
Goin’ down on State Street, stop at 3409
Get some bad whiskey and have a wild good time.

I don’t see how you State Street women sleep
I don’t see how you State Street women sleep
Walk the streets all night like Big Six on his beat.

These State Street hustlers sure do think they’re cute
These State Street hustlers sure do think they’re cute
‘Cause they get lucky and get a payback suit [?]

These State Street women sure do have some time
These State Street women sure do have some time
They clown all night, don’t give their man a dime.

These State Street hustlers sure better buy some shoes
These State Street hustlers sure better buy some shoes
‘Cause them old easy walkers won’t give their ankles the blues.

The “State Street” mentioned here is the famous Chicago thoroughfare; presumably the address was the (fictionalized) one of a speakeasy.  I’m not sure of the last phrase in the fourth verse; if anyone has a better suggestion please let me know.  Our last selection portrays Ray Charles’ narrator as the victim of a rather sophisticated cash and dash:

Greenbacks (Ray Charles)

As I was walking down the street last night,
A pretty little girl came into sight.
I bowed and smiled and asked her name,
She said, “Hold it bud, I don’t play that game.”
I reached in my pocket, and to her big surprise
There was Lincoln staring her dead in the eyes

(refrain) On a greenback, greenback dollar bill
Just a little piece of paper, coated with chlorophyll.

She looked at me with that familiar desire,
Her eyes lit up like they were on fire.
She said, “My name’s Flo, and you’re on the right track,
But look here, daddy, I wear furs on my back,
So if you want to have fun in this man’s land,
Let Lincoln and Jackson start shaking hands”

(refrain)

I didn’t know what I was getting into,
But I popped Lincoln and Jackson, too.
I didn’t mind seeing them fade out of sight,
I just knew I’d have some fun last night.
Whenever you in town and looking for a thrill,
If Lincoln can’t get it, Jackson sure will

(refrain)

(bridge)

We went to a nightspot where the lights were low,
Dined and danced, and I was ready to go.
I got out of my seat, and when Flo arose,
She said, “Hold it daddy, while I powder my nose.”
I sat back down with a smiling face,
While she went down to the powder place

With my greenback, greenback dollar bill
Just a little piece of paper, coated with chlorophyll.

The music stopped and the lights came on,
I looked around and saw I was all alone.
I didn’t know how long Flo had been gone,
But a nose powder sure didn’t take that long.
I left the place with tears in my eyes,
As I waved Lincoln and Jackson a last goodbye

(refrain)

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The truth doesn’t have a sound bite.  –  Hadil Habiba

A Whore in the Bedroom

While working as a high-class escort for nine years, Rebecca Dakin saw hundreds of married men turn to her to fulfill sexual needs not being met by their wives.  In 2009, she…became an infidelity counselor, using her experience…to teach women about how to satisfy their husbands…Dakin says that the number one reason men look outside of their relationships for sex is because they’re not getting enough of it at home…other reasons…include…feeling bored by the sex they receive…or feeling hesitant to share their intimate desires and fantasies with their spouse…

November Book Reviews

Thaddeus Russell lectures on A Renegade History of the United States at the recent New Hampshire Liberty Forum:

Barbie

The pathetic losers who believe young girls can perform complex calculations in their heads are at it again, informing us that if Barbie were both alive and life-sized she wouldn’t have room for intestines.  That’s ironic, because it’s obvious that doofuses who obsess about plastic dolls have no room in their heads for comprehending that the smaller any animal is, the more slender its proportions tend to be, and that kids don’t actually notice this kind of stuff in any case.

Real People

It’s surprising that this article on Bay Area sex workers (including Kitty Stryker and Siouxsie Q) who cater to the tech sector appeared on CNN, of all places; the phrase “human trafficking” occurs only once, in a very short passage about a vice cop.  Maybe a few people over there are starting to wake up (or just seeing the writing on the wall).  The same holds true in the next item:

Feminine Pragmatism

The anti-whore rhetoric in this New York Times piece about Afghan sex workers is minimal, and the word “trafficking” entirely absent:

…Mazar…is…Afghanistan’s unofficial capital of prostitution…[this is] partly [due]…to the city’s culture, which is considerably more forgiving of vice than is the rest of the country.  Alcohol, though still illegal, can be found without too much trouble.  Women…can be seen socializing with men in…public parks, a rare sight even in Kabul…In recent years, the city’s economy has flourished as its proximity to Central Asia and its relative peace and stability have transformed it into a trading hub…The sex trade has [always] existed in one form or another…even under the ultraconservative rule of the Taliban.  But officials here say the rapid spread of mobile technology has made the business easier to manage and harder to detect…Women…host clients in a series of apartments…The point of contact is typically a man who orchestrates the meet-ups by cellphone.  This has made the business tough to infiltrate for those police officials eager to crack down…[sex workers] are almost always impoverished and typically divorced or widowed, struggling to support a family…they risk death if they are discovered…

The Pro-Rape Coalition

Kamlesh VaswaniThe Supreme Court [of India] sought response from the government on a plea to block and ban porn sites on the internet, particularly those showing child pornography…The petition filed by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani said watching obscene videos is not an offence but it is one of the major causes for crime against women…”  As we know, this is the exact opposite of the truth.

Where Are the Victims?

Even the police state seems unable to explain what legitimate public interest is served by jailing a 69-year-old quadriplegic polio victim who breathes through a ventilator for the “crime” of having sexual feelings.  In 2011 he was “convicted” of helping sex workers find safe clients by running a screening service, and apparently the terms of his probation demand he not be sexual in any way; unsurprisingly, he has been caught violating that condition twice so far.

We Told You So

…As part of a legal settlement, Tennessee-based Stop Child Trafficking Now…will agree to follow a list of requirements if it returns to Missouri…some of the stipulations include [detailing] how donated funds will be spent in the Kansas City area…[and] an accurate depiction of the organization’s accomplishments.  A 41 Action News investigation…followed the money trail and fact-checked some of SCTNow’s bold claims made on its website…hundreds of thousands of dollars [went] to fund private “special operatives” teams to gather undercover intelligence about child sex trafficking…[but] when pressed for more details, SCTNow could not point to a single case in the country where information lead to an arrest or prosecution…

Divided We Fall

The Gambia introduced…new laws…criminalising male prostitution [and] cross-dressing…Any man or boy who solicits, is “attired in the fashion of a woman” in a public place or who “practises sodomy as a means of livelihood or as a profession” now faces a hefty fine and jail term of up to five years…

Where’s the outcry from picket-fence gay activists? {sound of crickets}  I reckon they don’t want to be soil their newfound respectability by speaking up for drag hookers any more.prohibition beer raid

Change a Few Words

Dr. Laura Agustín on how all prohibitionism is the same:

…outlawing activities accomplishes only one thing…It tells citizens that government has decided something is Wrong…Sending A Message is the principle …behind the Swedish state’s…law against buying sex, and…behind all the [others]…who want the law for their countries.  Everyone wants to be seen to be Taking a Stand against immoral behaviour.  Try bringing evidence into the conversation and you will quickly learn how irrelevant it is; you can find Swedish promoters themselves saying things like We know it doesn’t work but we want to be in the forefront of Gender Justice…Any other claim about what prohibitionist laws achieve when they outlaw social activities like sex, drinking and drugs is not supported by evidence.  That’s because, after the law is passed and the message is sent, individuals deal with prohibition deviously…So buyers and sellers of drugs, alcohol and sex become creative, some of them maintaining a disapproving stance in public at the same time…

This is, of course, why self-reporting about paying for sex has become so absurdly inaccurate.

The Immunity Syndrome

A new Ohio law bans teachers from discussing “any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with sexual activity” and allows parents to sue for “damages” if they claim a teacher has done so.  What exactly are “gateway sexual activities”, you ask?  The law doesn’t say, but we know that in Tennessee they include hand-holding.

An Example to the West

Add Latin America to the list of regions that do sex work activism more effectively than the US:

A new study, designed and carried out by the network of female sex workers in Latin America and Caribbean (REDTRASEX), has documented legislation that affects sex work – as well as detailing what this means in practice…independent sex work is not prohibited in any of the countries studied.  What is criminalized…is proxenetism (or ‘pimping’) and…“immoral” behaviours or disturbances to the peace or public order are applied in relation to sex work.  Furthermore…confusing sex workers…with trafficked persons…silences the legitimate voices of sex workers and actually blocks discussions on how to end human trafficking.  This creates a framework of legitimacy for police repression and state violence…[and] results in a culture of secrecy around sex work, increasing stigma and the vulnerability of sex workers…

The study is available in Spanish, and I’ll provide the English translation as soon as it’s available.

The Leading Players in the Field, Not (TW3 #14)

Gloria Steinem is at it again, now in collusion with rescue industry NGO Apne Aap:  “On April 18, human rights activists Gloria Steinem and Ruchira Gupta will kick off a two-day symposium at Smith College, ‘Trafficking Sex: Politics, Policy, Personhood’…”  Note the unintentional irony of prohibitionists borrowing the term “personhood” from their anti-abortion rights soulmates.

Held Together With Lies (TW3 #28)

Chicken Licken and company meet Foxy LoxyDespite a total lack of evidence (“[trafficking] convictions [declined] 13 percent”), Chicken Licken and other overly-excitable barnyard fowl ordered EU member states “to get a move on with adopting tough new rules against human trafficking or face sanctions as a first report on the problem showed ‘modern-day slavery’ worsening”.  Obviously math isn’t the typical politician’s strong suit, but one would think even they could comprehend that the larger estimates might have something to do with the fact that they “[broadened] the definition of the crime” two years ago; now they’re claiming “the trafficking business is second-only in illegal activity to the weapons trade”, up from the equally-bogus assertion that it was third.  Anyone want to take bets on whether it will rise to first before the hysteria collapses?

Wise Investment (TW3 #31)

Texas lawmakers…[want to criminalize] advertisements soliciting prostitution…‘the Backpage Bill’…would make it a felony to buy such advertising and might press Backpage.com to get out of the business.”  It will do nothing of the kind and these politicians know it.  But because they don’t pay the cost of defending tyrannical and patently-unconstitutional laws, they’re perfectly happy to buy votes from control freaks at taxpayer expense.

Lack of Evidence (TW3 #41)

The news that “San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has agreed to make a ban on using condoms as evidence of prostitution permanent” is good (though as a policy rather than a law it could be revoked at a moment’s notice), but dig Gascón’s bizarre and Orwellian claim around mid-article that criminalization and police harassment of women are for our “protection”.

Uncharted Seas

we’ve been hearing it for yearsGay marriage is a slippery slope!  A gateway drug!  If we legalize it, then what’s next?  Legalized polygamy?  We can only hope…let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage…Legalized polygamy in the United States is…constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive…we really can make our own choices.  We just might choose things people don’t like…Arguments about whether a woman’s consensual sexual and romantic choices are “healthy” should have no bearing on the legal process…It’s condescending, not supportive, to minimize them as mere “victims” without considering the possibility that some of them have simply made a different choice…

A Working System (TW3 #136)

A Sydney madam has been found guilty of keeping young Malaysian students in sexual servitude…Chee Mei Wong, 39, forced the six young women to work up to 20 hours a day in the Diamonds brothel…and ordered them to perform unusual sex acts against their will so they could pay ”debts”…

Something Rotten in Sweden (TW3 #138)ugly end demand propaganda

More on the ugly campaign of disinformation currently being waged by “End Demand Illinois”:

…Who are the organizers of this campaign trying to communicate with?  My suspicion is…people who already have a soft analysis of prostitution gleaned from watching 20/20…or true crime TV shows about sex trafficking busts…who is going to step up and be “in favor” of “modern day slavery” or “sex trafficking?” …I really want to know what it’s going to take for people to actually think about how complicated the sex trade is, and that it’s not all the same, and that ads that make us all the victims of overwhelming violence don’t do anything to actually improve our circumstances…

For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea (TW3 #313)

Remember, prostitution was recently re-confirmed as legal in India, but brothels are still illegal; it’s therefore a simple matter for cops to redefine a business as a “ring”, label women of 20 to 25 as “girls”, call their arrest a “rescue” and describe imprisonment under psychological torture as “rehabilitation”.  That way the money from the US and NGOs keeps rolling in.

The Story Behind the Story

Fox 2000…[is] adapting Go the Fuck to Sleep for the big screen…the bedtime-story parody, written by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, has become something of a viral hit…It is unclear how the filmmakers plan to turn what is essentially a nursery rhyme with one punchline…into an entire feature- length film…

I hope this proves lucrative for Ricardo and also opens more doors for him.

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