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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Some of you may have noticed that for all my steel, thunder and rationality, I’m also a very sentimental person.  The top of my desk is cluttered with cards, small gifts and other mementos given me by people I love, and I have difficulty getting rid of things I’m used to having around even if they don’t actually work well anymore.  But a car is something that must be reliable to be useful at all, so when my mechanic told me that my automatic transmission’s shifting difficulty was a harbinger of its imminent demise (and that wasn’t even the only issue), I knew it was time to retire my burgundy-colored 2000 Honda Accord (just a few months after the premiere of The War on Whores, in which she has a small part).  Fortunately, another sex worker I know was thinking of getting rid of her 2002 Saturn; the car’s in very good shape (and very low mileage for an 18-year-old) but she rarely drove it, and didn’t feel it was worth the expense of maintaining any longer.  She gave me a very good price, and yesterday I sold the old one to a mechanic who’s going put a salvage transmission in it for his teenage daughter to drive.  All very reasonable and practical and for the best, and it wasn’t like I was really in love with the Accord, and she’s going to a good home.  But I was used to her, and comfortable with her, and I really dislike change.  So I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I shed a tear for the old girl, and thank her for getting me around dependably for the past three and a half years.

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In the Gilligan’s Island TV show, Dr. Roy Hinkley was originally stated to be a high-school science teacher with a degree in botany.  But like all TV “scientists” his store of knowledge and his technical abilities grew as required by lazy writers; he soon became a university professor rather than a high-school teacher and his expertise grew to include chemistry, entomology, psychology, engineering and several obscure Polynesian languages (and that’s just what I recall from childhood).  Whatever intellectual ability or STEM-type skill was required by the plot, the Professor was sure to have already or be able to rapidly acquire by consulting one of the many books he inexplicably brought along on a “three-hour tour”; that he not be skilled in boat repair was also required by the plot, so we’ll just leave that one alone for now.  The important thing is that in episodic fiction (whether that be television, comic books, pulp novels or whatever) “scientist” or “sage” type characters are generally assumed to have vast and encyclopedic knowledge and to be nigh-omnicompetent (Spock in Star Trek wasn’t quite as bad until the third season, when he suddenly acquired previously-unmentioned competencies such as comparative linguistics and art history, again as required by lazy writers).  Such formidable intellectual prowess rarely exists outside of fantasy, and yet you’d be amazed how often people in real life seem to expect unusually intelligent and erudite people to display similarly-superhuman intellectual abilities.  It happens to me on a regular basis; people seem to expect me to know basically everything, and while I certainly do have an exceptional memory, an excellent education, an uncannily-large store of mostly-useless trivia and an above-average learning rate, there are still vast gaps in my abilities and whole intellectual realms I know no more about than the average person (or even less than average if it has anything to do with popular culture from about 1995 to the present).  One of those gaps is computer stuff; in 1989 I actually had above-average practical computer skills (though I had flunked programming half a decade before), but I never really kept up and I’m still not entirely sure how a microprocessor actually works (THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION TO ATTEMPT AN EXPLANATION IN THE COMMENTS).  Add to that a general aversion to change, a neurological & emotional inability to deal with formal systems, and the fact that my brain was already fully canalized several years before I had home access to the internet, and I think you’ll be able to understand why I’m really not good with computer and internet stuff.  And because I am good at so many things, I tend to be very uncomfortable with and anxious about the things I’m not good at.  I tend to deal with obstacles in my path by figuring them out, charming them, intimidating them, or crying, and none of those work on a computer which is doing something I neither desire nor comprehend.  So if you want to interview me or have me on your podcast or whatever, you are really really really going to have to take care of “the technical details of anything more complicated than ‘click here’, ‘please look into the camera’ or ‘answer the phone’.”  I’m sorry if that reduces me in your estimation; perhaps it would restore your faith if you think of computer stuff being for me as boatbuilding must have been for The Professor.

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I’ve written before on many occasions about how people love to create caricatures in their minds, apply a label to that caricature and then pretend it has something to do with reality.  The primary example is of course sex work; prohibitionists define sex workers as victims and then claim everyone who identifies as a sex worker is a victim whether she agrees with that assessment or not, and those (such as me) who are clearly not any kind of victim must not really be sex workers.  The same is true of anti-authoritarians; collectivists apply labels such as “greedy” or “racist” or whatever to people they call “libertarians” (whether those people would define themselves with that word or not) and then argue that anyone who doesn’t trust sociopaths who enforce their whims at gunpoint must be exactly like their carefully-constructed straw man.  Because I despise socialism, find the idea of “wealth inequality” vacuous and mock the idea that self-appointed “experts” are more qualified to decide what to do with my hard-earned money than I am, some people make the (largely intentional) mistake of thinking that I’m against efforts to make things economically better for the working classes.  Of course, those who think that are fools who haven’t actually read my writing; what I actually believe is that the fascist establishment will turn whatever naive attempt at Utopianism you can come up with into a way to oppress the poor even more.  For example, all the white middle-class “woke” who support gun control while ignoring that the vast majority of people thrown into cages for gun-law violations are poor & black.  In short, it is not possible to “fix” the current system by voting or whatever, because it isn’t broken; it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do, namely empower the ruling classes while crushing the working classes and herding the middle classes like fattened livestock.

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I think most of my readers know that I think the idea that there is only One True Path to Decriminalization is as wrongheaded and destructive as the notion that there is only One True Path to Salvation.  Those who claim that a labor rights approach, or a privacy rights approach, or a social justice approach, or a civil liberties approach, or a medical approach, or a harm reduction approach, or whatever, represent the only way to achieve sex worker rights, have been drinking their own Kool-Aid and need to move on to more potent and adult beverages.  But there is one popular approach that I’m going to ask y’all to reconsider, because I believe it’s doing more harm than good:  Please stop telling authoritarians that their terrible laws are harming sex workers and even getting us killed.  Look, I fully understand why y’all think this will work; it’s because you’re decent human beings who care about others, so naturally you think other decent human beings will also care.  And you’re mostly right, except for one small factor:  politicians, cops and other authoritarians are not decent human beings.  They are sociopaths who think that “law and order” trumps every other concern, and at a minimum accept harm to sex workers as acceptable collateral damage in their war to establish a jackboot Utopia with them at the top; in the worst cases (which means most of them), they are happy when their laws harm sex workers, because that is their specific intent.  In other words, when you tell these moral imbeciles, “Please stop because you’re killing us,” you are not dissuading them from their course of action; you are encouraging it.  Don’t believe me?  Consider that the Skarhed Report, the Swedish government’s own report on their eponymous “model”, stated quite clearly that “negative effects of the [sex purchase] ban…must be viewed as positive from the perspective that the purpose of the law is…to combat prostitution“…in other words, “it’s a good thing that those dirty whores are dying, because omelettes and eggs and all.”  And then there’s this video, which I’ve shared often, that states the prohibitionist attitude so clearly and distinctly you may even be able to see it through rose-colored glasses:

And here’s a selection from a recent article on Florida’s creation of an adjunct “sex offender” registry strictly for clients and sex workers accused of any of the “offenses” that are now fashionable to call “sex trafficking”:

…Savannah Parvu, an anti-sex-[work activist] and [prohibitionist] who advised Rep. Fitzenhagen on the bill…[believes] that that sex workers are…acceptable collateral…“Sex workers…claim they’re doing it willingly, so if a bill that is designed to [empower the police state]…puts sex workers in danger or is bad for…business…then maybe it’s time for a career change”…The bill’s authors are well aware of the criticism—but they don’t…see the issues that activists raise as problems.  “In case it was lost on you, a consensual sex worker, AKA a prostitute, is committing a crime,” Rep. Fitzenhagen said in…March…“It is not my intent to work with them moving forward”…

By all means, keep making this argument to the public, and pointing out the dangers of prohibition to reporters, academics and other potential allies.  But when you tell die-hard prohibitionists their schemes are hurting us, that’s just free intel for them from the front lines of a war against humanity they will do anything to win.

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After a week of events and misadventures, it was good to get back to my normal routine for a few days.   The night I got home I wasted a perfectly good buzz on falling asleep like a log, and for the next few night couldn’t even stay awake through my usual bedtime TV show.  But I caught up on my sleep, had a good week of work, solidified a lot of travel plans and event arrangements, saw The War on Whores become available on Amazon, enjoyed a Doctor Who night with Lorelei and then yesterday got up much too early to do a remote-via-internet Q&A session after a screening of The War on Whores at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Bangkok, Thailand (made possible by your generous support!) So that was my week, and this one looks to be not-dissimilar; I’m enjoying the relative quiet and normality before I have to start traveling again next week!

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Meagan works for Prostasia, the organization which sponsored the Bay Area screening of The War on Whores, and I met her in person the day of the screening.  She interviewed me for Prostasia’s podcast (see below), and when Jeremy Malcolm sent me the link to the video he also included this essay Meagan wrote, which I found so sweet and touching I asked for permission to share it.

Why Maggie McNeill is My Hero

There are a lot of good reasons why Maggie McNeill should totally be your hero.  I mean, she’s brilliant, well spoken, sexy as all get out, an outspoken advocate for civil liberties, sex worker rights, sex positivity, child protection, the list goes on.  Basically, Maggie is the feminist we need if not the feminist we deserve.  But that’s not why she’s my hero.

Allow me to tell you a story.  Just to set the scene, it’s a Tuesday in the Bay Area.  My boss and I have had the pleasure of hosting Maggie all afternoon and evening.  She was kind enough to do an interview for Prostasia’s Podcast Sex, Human Rights, and CSA Prevention, then we all shared a lovely dinner and cocktails.  That was followed with the Bay Area premiere of The War on Whores, and we all capped the night off with lovely conversation and pie in a little diner near her hotel where we were dropping her off.  But on the way from screening to pie, there was a spot of bother on the freeway; a large plastic garbage can had wedged itself under the car and for a moment we feared we’d popped a tire.  So we pulled over and got out to investigate.

Now, it’s worth noting that I don’t drive and have a deep mistrust of cars, despite accepting them as a necessary means of transportation.  So I’m standing on the side of the road with my boss and Maggie, and she comes to the conclusion that if she and I stand on the garbage can while he backs the car up slowly, our combined weight will keep the can in place so we can free it from under the car.  I dunno what you always thought a day with a (in)famous sex worker would be like, but friends, this isn’t what I had in mind…Anywho, Maggie, who is super brave, btw, and I stand with a foot each and most of our weight on the can and the car is backed up slowly.  The closer the wheel got to our feet, the more I started to panic; directly to our backs were cars rushing by at freeway speed and directly in front of our toes was a car tire.  So, some part of my brain is aware that in my professional capacity, I should have probably had Maggie stand at the side of the road, away from the scary cars, and done this myself, because good hosting and whatnot.  But I’m apparently a giant baby, so instead of honorably protecting our guest, she casually coached me through this ordeal as I whimpered and had trouble forcing my body to keep my foot in place.  Her plan worked perfectly, but during the last stages she kept her foot on the can and it started dragging her a bit (she’s been in heels and a slinky evening type gown this whole time, btw).  So before I know what I’m doing, I think I wrapped my arms around her to make absolutely sure she didn’t go down as the center of balance changed.  I’m pretty sure she was in no danger of that, and it was a dorky overreaction on my part.  Hi, my name is Meagan and I was a huge dork in front of Maggie McNeill several times in a day and she was nice to me anyway.

The thing is, anyone can cultivate a reputation, and social media makes it easier than ever to build and perpetuate propaganda.  But these silly, random, slightly dangerous moments in life where people have to just be people to get through it, reveal a lot more about a person than their press does.  Like I said, there are a lot of good reasons to be a huge fan of Maggie.  Her social work, her “social” work, her writing, her documentary, her body, her mind, her fantastic makeup and fashion tips, how incredibly down to earth she is when she really doesn’t have to be…but I will always be a big fan of Maggie because of one very random, very silly, very human moment on the side of the road, headed towards San Francisco.

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I don’t really like to criticize other high-profile sex workers, but Buzzfeed has given the porn performer Stoya an advice column, and bluntly speaking, a lot of her advice is just plain badI criticized one of her responses before, in a column back in February, but the advice she gave that time wasn’t nearly as bad as the advice in this column from April 30th, which if followed is very likely to destroy the questioner’s marriage. Since most porn performers have done at least some escorting, I presume Stoya isn’t completely ignorant of that type of sex work, so I can’t fathom how she completely missed the bus here.  This is an edited version of the reader’s question:

My wife and I stopped having sex regularly after our kids were born.  It dwindled from almost daily sex to maybe once a month…We…tried therapy, but…she would get angry if I suggested sex and would say she found my sexual “neediness” unattractive.  I love my wife and the last thing I wanted to do was push her, so I stopped trying and decided to take care of my needs through masturbation, but she caught me once and said she found it pathetic.  About a year ago…I tried to open up a discussion about our missing sexual life but was quickly shut down.  “That part of my life is over” was my wife’s response.  She’s 41…One day, I went to a massage parlor…there was something so healing about human touch.  Since then, I’ve been to several…and…I’ve found a few regular spots that are friendly and well-run…The women I see are thoughtful, funny, and empathetic about sex and men’s bodies’ needs…While I still desire my wife, I don’t feel the need to press and annoy her, and I understand that part of her life might be over.  (It’s been six years since we even kissed.)  The thing I fear the most is that the image of my wife, of her body, is being replaced by the images of these other women, with these massage ladies fill a gaping hole in my life.  Should I stop?

And here are the parts of Stoya’s answer which caused me to think “What the fuck?”

…to be on the ethical side of things, you would need to at least float the idea of opening things up with your wife.  Ideally your wife would know about and be OK with—or even approve of—your behavior, but her shaming reaction to finding you masturbating leads me to suspect she’d be very upset, so brace yourself for a less-than-enthused response.  Your wife sounds closed off to communication about sex in general, and I agree a life without sex doesn’t sound healthy for you at least, so you’d likely both benefit from a professional third party to help along any future discussion…

No, no, no, FUCK no.  I have no idea what she was smoking when she wrote that, but it’s a recipe for disaster.  This is a woman who shamed and ridiculed her own husband for masturbating after she unceremoniously cut him off; how could anyone who has lived among adult humans for more than a few months believe that asking such a narcissistic, controlling, authoritarian prude for an open arrangement would result in anything but a catastrophe?  Women who are mature enough to accept “open” relationships do not go around calling their husbands “pathetic”, “unattractive” and “needy” for having a sex drive in their forties.  And asking a selfish, judgy, sexually-immature woman for an open relationship is going to be about as productive as throwing a stick of dynamite into a cesspool.  If she doesn’t immediately demand a divorce (which might very well happen), she’s going to A) subject her husband to more ridicule and abuse; and B) become suspicious and start watching his every move to detect “infidelity”.  If this dude had written me I’d ave given him the same advice I give every husband in a similar situation:  find a discreet sex worker you like and trust, keep your damned mouth shut about the subject, and just be satisfied with whatever aspects of your married life have caused you to stay married to someone who, from where I’m sitting, doesn’t seem to give a shit about you.

(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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