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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Diary #326

post-session-selfie-9-22-16Last week was definitely an improvement over the one before. Besides a meeting between several activists (including myself) and a potential ally who could prove very important, and the lovely couple call I enjoyed very much (Hi y’all!  Looking forward to seeing y’all again soon!), after which this selfie was taken, it was the beginning of autumn, and as long-time readers know that always improves my mood.  I’m an autumnal sort of gal; I like the days short and chilly, the leaves a riot of color and the nights filled with warm beverages and savory scents.  Long, bright, warm days take a toll on my highly-strung nervous system and tend to make me tense and anxious, but when the external sky and landscape match the gloomy October Country inside my skull and my soul, I feel at home and at peace.  People have often remarked that I seem to come alive more in the autumn; maybe that’s true, or maybe it’s just because I match the scenery better then.  But whatever the explanation, there’s no doubt that it’s my natural habitat, and the season in which my natural aura is at its most powerful and intense.  I’m no longer at a place in life where I can dance through the dry leaves under a harvest moon as I did in my youth, but I like to think that the autumn steps in the dance of my life are still among the most graceful and beautiful.

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We’re not gonna let her go until she’s released to a parent or guardian…If we let her go and she goes around the corner and has an aneurism and dies, that’s on us.  –  Paul Kifer

Once in a while, instead of a full video, I feature a GIF or Vine because it’s just too good to pass up; I got this one from Nun Ya (who also provided “recorded”) and it’s horrifyingly hilarious and weirdly fascinating.  The links above it are from  Robert King (“Unheimlichkeit”), Walter Olson (“wrong”), Jesse Walker (“ghost”), Rick Horowitz (“reading” and “stalled”), Lenore Skenazy (“bullied”), Emma Evans  (“business”), Popehat (“car”), and Scott Greenfield (“schools”).

From the Archives

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Diary #325

selfie-9-11-16Since I’m back to actually writing my columns a few days in advance, I wrote last week’s before a weekend which actually turned out to be very lovely.  I spent the evening of Saturday the 10th with Abby May, who’s been busy with life the past few months; it was so wonderful to hang out with her, catch up, relax and just enjoy that special energy that exists only between close friends.  And I really needed it; that week had been just plain yucchy, so an evening with someone dear to me was just what the doctor ordered.  And as it turned out, Abby wasn’t my only medicine for melancholy that weekend; when I took this picture on the afternoon of Sunday the 11th (still a teensy bit hung over, thank you very much) I was only a few hours away from dinner with the beautiful and fascinating Lorelei Rivers, followed by watching musicals on her sofa (last time we got together I shared Jesus Christ Superstar with her, and this time it was her turn to introduce me to Hamilton).  The week that followed in the wake of those two joyful, relaxing evenings wasn’t really much better than the one that preceded it, but my head was in a completely different space going into it.  And that made all the difference in the world.

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Fair Trade

I know a handful of people who have seen sex workers for trade.  I have no issue with the idea that sex can be exchanged for money or (as in “traditional marriage”) other benefits, and I’m not at all bugged by, say, a photographer exchanging website photos for a domme session; however, I get a little nervous when I hear about a lawyer or a doctor trading for some sexual pay-off.  I guess legal and medical coverage hint at a greater power differential; they are so expensive and so very important, and so many people need them who don’t easily have access to them, that my mind wonders when consent ends and coercion begins if one is charged with a crime or needs an appendectomy.  I certainly don’t think that just because a sex worker wouldn’t have sex with someone in their personal lives, it’s somehow automatically coercion when they are doing it to pay their bills/survive.   So when is one right to feel squicked out?  Is a for-trade situation ever just totally inappropriate?  Or is this some ghastly Puritanical reflex that I need to consider unlearning?

Though you may find it an interesting exercise in introspection to try to figure out why you’re squicked out by the exchange of sex for what we might call “high level” professional services, I don’t think you should feel compelled to do so because there isn’t anything “wrong” with your feeling that way.  Now, I suspect that the reason is some sort of entanglement with the idea of a powerful person demanding sexual services as payment for a favor; I think we can agree that a cop saying, “Give me sex or I’ll arrest you”, or a company boss saying, “Give me sex or I’ll fire you and destroy your career”, are forms of rape.  And though I don’t agree that for a professional who does not have actual power over a person to offer valuable and/or expensive services in exchange for sex is morally wrong, I can imagine circumstances in which the line would be mighty thin; for example, the only doctor in a remote village demanding sex and refusing any other form of payment from an extremely ill woman in dire poverty without means of travel to find a different doctor.  So it’s not at all surprising that the one type of interaction could “cross-contaminate” the other in your psyche.

However, it doesn’t actually matter why you feel squicked out by that particular interaction, as long as you respect the right of others not to feel that way.  As I wrote in “Out of the Dark”, “The human brain is not rational, and we don’t get to choose what turns us on….sexual likes, dislikes, kinks and fetishes emerge by mysterious paths from the murky swamp we carry deep in our brains, and there’s no known way to reroute those pathways once they’re established.”  Lots of people are squicked out by the fact that I have sex for money with strange men, some of whom may be extremely physically unattractive; others are uncomfortable with my bisexuality, or with the fact that I’m extremely turned on by some kinds of BDSM.  At the same time, I’m unmoved or even turned off by other kinds of BDSM, and also by some vanilla sex acts that millions of people enjoy.  And that’s all perfectly OK, as long as everyone respects everyone else’s right to have different feelings and refrains from inflicting violence on them or otherwise trying to persecute them, such as by lobbying for laws (enforced by violent thugs) to criminalize behaviors not because they objectively harm others, but merely because they don’t like them.  The most important thing to remember is that aversions and squickouts are properties of individual psyches, not of the things those individuals are squicked out by; they are personal idiosyncrasies, and therefore harmless and not really a cause for concern unless they cause one distress or drive him to act in a way that abrogates the rights of others.

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

 

 

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Almost none of [the “sex trafficking” narrative] is true—and the little that is technically true is so lacking in context that it’s utterly misleading.  –  Elizabeth N. Brown

Anatomy of a Boondoggle 

Just another example of “authorities” paying men to rape whores:

Police raided two flats used as brothels…in Nicosia [Cyprus], arresting a woman from China and detaining another female sex worker [pretended] to be a victim of human trafficking.  A civilian associate of the police visited the brothel and used marked bills to buy sexual services…After [raping the women] the man signalled the police by sending them an SMS message…Police located the two marked bills and [stole] 347 condoms, four of which had been used, along with four mobile phones, sex toys, a computer, and the amount of €345 in cash…

Something Rotten in Sweden

It’s good to see that even reporters who credulously parrot cop anti-whore propaganda now feel compelled to at least mention Amnesty’s findings:

…It can be difficult for police to build cases against traffickers when their primary witnesses — victims — are too afraid to talk [and] don’t trust police [who]…still conduct stings against sex workers…To create more trust among potential victims and curb the demand for commercial sex, sting operations should focus more on catching johns and pimps, [fetishist cop Mark Keller] said…He also suggested changing state law to the so-called Nordic model, which makes it legal for people to prostitute themselves but illegal to pimp, traffick or purchase sex…The model could help [cops] gain the trust of sex trafficking victims…Keller said.  However, it was recently scrutinized in a report by…Amnesty International…which found it subjected sex workers to increased police scrutiny, evictions and other penalties…

The Eye of the Beholder (June Updates)

Given that there is no possibility of a child, what exactly is the rationale behind this prosecution, other than “The ‘authorities’ find this skeevy” or “The law is the law”?

A mother and daughter are facing incest charges in…Oklahoma after authorities learned they were legally married earlier this year.  It is unclear what motivated Patricia Ann Spann, 43, and her daughter, Misty Velvet Dawn Spann, 25, to wed…Investigators also found Patricia Spann married her son in 2008.  He filed for an annulment 15 months later, citing “incest”…Police discovered the marriages late last month during a child welfare check-up.  Patricia Spann told investigators she had lost custody of her biological children as a young mother and only came into contact with her daughter two years ago…the couple believed the union was legal, since she was not listed as the biological mother on her daughter’s birth certificate.  Each woman faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic weiners-weiner

Maybe if we keep repeating this enough, it will eventually sink into the thick public skull:

…Despite popular headlines and self-promoting TV doctors’ proclamations to the contrary, sex addiction isn’t real…There is no doubt that some people have trouble regulating their sexual thoughts, desires, and behaviors.  But addiction has a real meaning and a real clinical definition…When addicts…are shown pictures of their drug of choice there is a clear and uniform response in their P300 brain waves…However, when UCLA researchers studied the response to viewing sexually explicit images in people who self-defined as being unable to regulate their porn viewing, the results showed no similar response…In fact, they found the only thing correlated with brain wave activity was sexual desire such that the higher their self-reported sexual desire, the more brain wave activity they showed.  The authors concluded that there was no evidence to say that even problem sexual regulation fit the definition of addiction as defined by brain response and that these people simply had high sex drives…

Divided We Fall (#13)

Why does Gay, Inc never speak up for sex worker rights until it’s too late?

Indonesian police are taking aim at Grindr and other gay social networking apps following the arrest of three men accused of running a “gay prostitution ring” [advertising] underaged boys for sex.  The arrests come amid an unprecedented uproar about homosexuality in the country, where it has never been a major political issue before this year.  Members of the legislature announced…they would…ban “gay propaganda” online.  The country’s Constitutional Court is likewise currently in the middle of hearings on a petition to [criminalize]…all sex outside of marriage…Police have told local media they have identified 148 victims of the network, though only 27 of them are [supposedly younger than 18]…“More than a few gay communities have been growing and targeting kids as victims,” said Asruron Ni’am Sholeh, chair of the Child Protection Commission…

“Targeting kids”…hmm, where have we heard that accusation before?  But back when the moral retards were just warring on female sex workers, the big GLBT organizations couldn’t be bothered to notice.

Finding What Isn’t There

Note how dysphemisms and weasel-words are used to conjure a story out of nothing but rumors, exaggerations and hysteria:

More than 1,000 women and girls have been apparent victims of sex trafficking in illicit cantinas in the United States that largely operate beyond the reach of law enforcement, the anti-[sex work] group Polaris [fantasized]…Half of the…cases…arose in Houston, Texas, a city near the Mexican border with a large Latino population…Cantinas…may disguise the cost of commercial sex in very high drink prices, and women are forced to flirt and drink with patrons…hotlines run by Polaris got reports of 201 cases of sex and labor trafficking, involving 1,300 potential victims at cantinas and bars in 20 U.S. states from 2007 to 2016.  More than half the victims were underage…At one illicit cantina in Houston, some victims were forced to have sex as often as 50 times a day, it said.  The cantina owner, convicted of sex trafficking, conspiracy and other charges, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year…Cases can be hard to investigate and prosecute because traffickers and owners may hide their ownership of cantinas or liquor licenses, and because victims are too scared to testify in court, afraid that traffickers will retaliate by hurting their families…

“Apparent” victims, meaning reports from busybodies that added up to nothing.  Reports of “force” that don’t hold up because there isn’t any, which Polaris then insists are real except that the “victims” won’t admit it.  Impossibly-high claims of clients per day such as we haven’t seen in a couple of years now, using a high-profile racism-based railroading case as “evidence”, and moving the entire city of Houston hundreds of miles south to bolster their fantasy.  This is absurd even by Polaris’ standards.

Too Close To Home

Serious question: How do we nominate Liz Brown for a Pulitzer?

…On January 7, Washington officials [claimed]…women [had been] lured from South Korea under false pretenses and “held against their will” at local brothels.  [They crowed about seizing] a website where deviant men promoted and reviewed these enslaved women…King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg [said]…”The systematic importation of vulnerable young women for sexual abuse, exploitation, and criminal profiteering has been going on for years and it came to a stop this week…This is what human trafficking looks like.”  But as more information about the case has become available, Satterberg’s narrative starts to break down.  The reality—as evidenced by police reports, court documents, online records, and statements from those involved—is…a story of immigration, economics, the pull of companionship and connection, the structures and dynamism that drive black markets, and a criminal-justice system all too eager to declare women victims of the choices they make…

The piece is long, thorough and damning. I strongly urge you to read the whole thing, even if you need to do so in three sittings (it’s broken into three parts).  The “sex trafficking” narrative has been slowly crumbling, and in this important article Liz has handily taken a sledgehammer to a very prominent outcropping of it.

The Mote and the Beam (#613) 

Another victory against a political witch hunt:

The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a congressional subpoena that seeks information on how Backpage.com screens for possible sex trafficking in classifieds advertising.  The order…came hours after Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer asked the high court to intervene, saying the case threatens the First Amendment rights of online publishers…the…stay means that Backpage need not comply…until further action from the Supreme Court…The Senate panel has tried for nearly a year to make Backpage produce certain documents as part of its [persecution of sex work advertisements] over the internet.  After the website refused to comply, the Senate voted 96-0 in March to hold the website in contempt…

To Molest and Rape rapist-cop-james-robinson

Go on, keep giving male cops power over women; what could possibly go wrong?

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations arrested Riverdale [cop] James Robinson Jr…[for] raping a woman he was transporting to jail…Robinson stopped the car next to an empty building near a Custom tire shop…as soon as the woman was released from jail she…asked the shop for footage from its security cameras…

One Born Every Minute (#644)

Interesting that this article doesn’t mention the anti-Backpage mob:

In a 2014 opinion in a case involving a woman who was drugged, raped, and filmed by men she met through the website ModelMayhem.com…the Ninth Circuit wrote that the CDA was not “an all purpose get-out-of-jail-free card for businesses that publish user content on the internet.”  The court found that Model Mayhem…could be sued for failure to warn as the site was aware of the model’s rapists because they were the subject of a criminal investigation for doing the same thing to other Model Mayhem users…the court found that Section 230 did not protect the website when it failed to do anything about the rapists it knew were prowling its site…a…Match.com case is very similar.  [Wade] Ridley, the suit claimed, had attacked other women using Match.com and the company had done nothing to warn love-seeking online daters about the possibility of attack.  The Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of some claims, but it found that the logic supporting the court’s Model Mayhem ruling applied here, too…

Of Course It Is

A step in the right direction, at least:

…Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley [announced] criminal charges against seven [cops]…O’Malley [also] said she found evidence of [rapist cops]…in Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Joaquin counties, all outside her jurisdiction.  She said she has  contacted her counterparts there to pursue criminal action…The most serious Alameda County charges — felony oral copulation with a minor — will be filed against Oakland [cop] Giovanni LoVerde and Contra Costa Sheriff’s deputy Ricardo Perez…Oakland [cop] Brian Bunton also faces a felony charge of obstruction of justice and a misdemeanor charge of engaging in prostitution.  Three other Oakland [cops] will be charged with crimes…Terryl Smith…LeRoy Johnson…and…Warit Uttapa…Dan C. Black of the Livermore Police Department…faces [four] misdemeanor charges…O’Malley said it’s likely that formal charges against the officers will not be filed until Guap, the case’s primary witness, returns to California…“If the [City of Richmond] does not pay for her to come back, we will pay for her airfare,” O’Malley said…

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Chester Brown is one of the most renowned and respected cartoonists in the world; he and I first met online about four years ago and quickly became friends.  And while I did give him a little help with his revised edition of Paying For It, and he drew the cover for my book Ladies of the Night, his new book is the first one I’ve been privileged to see developed from the very first kernel of the idea (shared in a letter to me several years ago) all the way to distribution and book signings.  So once the initial release whirlwind had died down and I figured he might have some time, I asked him if he’d like to do a guest column introducing the book; he sent this the very next day.  Oh, and one more thing:  Chester now has a Patreon account, and if supporting outspoken allies of sex workers is important to you, you really should consider signing up to that.  Just sayin’.

While the subtitle of my new book is Prostitution And Religious Obedience In The Bible, and there are stories about several biblical prostitutes in it, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus is mostly about the connections that Jesus had to prostitution.  I’m proposing three interrelated ideas:

  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a prostitute.
  • Mary of Bethany, the woman who anointed Jesus as a christ, was a prostitute.
  • Jesus’s parables about The Prodigal Son and The Talents indicate that he didn’t see prostitutes and their clients as sinners to be forgiven but, rather, saw paying for sex as socially beneficial.

The Prodigal Son (page 164)I’m not going to try to convince you that I’m right about all that here; that’s what the book is for.  Instead I want to talk about the issue of bias.  Some critics have dismissed my ideas because I have a bias; for example, see this piece in the A.V. Club.  It is true that I have a bias; I’ve been a client of sex workers for seventeen years and do happen to see the profession as socially beneficial.  I’ve made no attempt to hide that fact.  The question is, does having a bias on a particular subject necessarily invalidate one’s views on that subject?  Should Martin Luther King Jr’s views on civil rights have been dismissed because, being a black man, he had a bias?  I think it’s precisely because I have a bias that I was able to see certain things in the Bible that haven’t been obvious to others.  And it’s not like others who’ve written about Jesus and prostitution before me did not have a bias on the subject of sex work; in fact, I’d venture to guess that the vast majority of biblical scholars, past and present, had and have a whorephobic bias against sex work.

Let’s talk about two relatively recent examples that I came across while researching for my book.  Karen King is a biblical scholar whom I have a lot of respect for.  Her fascinating book What Is Gnosticism? transformed my understanding of that subject.  In 2003, she published a book titled The Gospel of Mary Of Magdala.  In it, King translates and analyzes an ancient text known as The Gospel Of Mary, which presents a woman named Mary as Jesus’s wisest disciple.  Most people assume that the woman is Mary Magdalene, and they’re probably right; I would recommend King’s book to anyone who wants to understand this difficult text.  On page 3, King writes that The Gospel Of Mary “exposes the erroneous view that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute for what it is — a piece of theological fiction”.  However, reading the text of the gospel, one finds no mention of prostitution; there’s no indication what Mary’s source of income was.  (Even a spiritual person in first century Palestine needed some sort of income, whether it was from begging or some other source.)  There’s no sign one way or the other in The Gospel Of Mary, as we have it, that Mary was or wasn’t a prostitute, nor is there any mention of sex; furthermore, King doesn’t interpret any of the material as relating to prostitution or sex.  Now, since there are many pages missing in the two surviving manuscripts of the text, it’s possible that one of those missing pages mentioned that Mary was a prostitute.  (I hesitate to get conspiratorial, but perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that certain pages went missing in both surviving manuscripts.)  But even if those missing pages didn’t mention that Mary was a prostitute, that still wouldn’t prove she wasn’t one.  So why does King think that the The Gospel Of Mary PROVES that Mary never had sex for pay?  King doesn’t explain her reasoning, but there can be only one reason:  The gospel presents Mary as the most wise and spiritual of the disciples of Jesus, and King whorephobically assumes that a prostitute could not be wise and spiritual.

In the 2006 book Secrets Of Mary Magdalene, edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, there’s an essay by the respected historian James Carroll in which, on page 24, he quotes Luke 8:2-3.  In that biblical passage, it’s mentioned that Mary Magdalene and several other women “provided for them [Jesus and the male disciples] out of their own resources.”  Carroll reads this as an indication that Mary and the other women must therefore have been “well-to-do, respectable figures.”  In other words, they could not have been prostitutes, because, of course, only well-to-do, respectable women had money — prostitutes had absolutely no way to get ahold of money.  This isn’t quite as obviously whorephobic as the Karen King example, but it does indicate a desperate over-eagerness to distance Mary Magdalene from prostitution.  Why wasn’t it obvious to Carroll that, while evidence that Mary Magdalene had money could indicate that she was “respectable”, it could just as easily be evidence that she was a prostitute?  There’s a probably unconscious bias going on there, and one sees it over and over while reading books about biblical prostitutes in general and Mary Magdalene in particular.

Tamar (page 27)On the question of whether Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, I don’t have a definite opinion one way or the other.  It’s true that none of the biblical books link Mary Magdalene with the profession, but Jesus was close with Mary of Bethany, who definitely was a prostitute, and it could be that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person.  It’s also possible that they were two separate women, since the name Mary was popular at the time. (See pages 245 to 253 of Mary Wept for more on this.)  A basic rule: when a scholar claims with certainty that Mary Magdalene absolutely could not have been a prostitute, that scholar probably has a bias against sex work.  That doesn’t mean that all of that scholar’s conclusions should be dismissed, any more than my pro-sex work bias means that my conclusions should be dismissed.  All it really means is that readers should keep authorial bias in mind when reading any book.

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