Posts Tagged ‘Sudan’

They’re good clients, they give good money, better than anybody else.  –  Gabby, Ghanaian sex worker

Subtle Pimping

So many “artists” feel no compunction against exploiting sex workers:

Michael Jacobs, the director of a new virtual reality movie that premiered at SXSW, says that his film aims to give sex workers a voice.  But according to its main and only character, real-life sex worker and indie porn director named Liara Roux, the movie, which currently doesn’t credit her at all, includes nudity and intimate scenes that she didn’t agree to have included in the final film.  GFE…follows an “anonymous escort” as she goes on a date with a client.  Jacobs…[says] it’s a fictional “documentary fantasy” with the goal of “demystifying escort work and bringing a sense of empowerment to escorts…and men.”  Roux, however, says that she never signed a release for the film, and that she felt that it was an exploitative experience.  A spokesperson for SXSW [said]…Jacobs voluntarily pulled the film on [March 15th]…

Beware of people who say they want to “empower you” or “give you a voice”; such pomposity means they think you’re beneath them & have no voice of your own.  It sounds like something a Victorian might say about people in India.

Checklist (#542)

The places “authorities” demand their magical anti-pimp posters be displayed demonstrate their origin in puritanism:

As part of a sharpened campaign to combat human trafficking, North Carolina [pigs & prohibitionists]…have urged people to [spy on each other and rat others out to the pigs]…A law adopted in 2017…requires the signs to be placed in liquor stores.  Other states such as California, Texas and Oregon have taken similar actions targeting liquor stores because [dirty sex] people…might be more likely to be in a liquor store than somewhere like a post office or some other public space [where good people go]…

The Course of a Disease (#583) 

Cop says he’s “hamstrung” because he can’t arrest people who aren’t doing anything illegal:

[Vermont politician] Peter Fagan…introduced a bill…that would have expanded the definition of prostitution, closing a loophole that [pigs oink] has stymied efforts to [harass consenting adults] in the state.  However, Fagan said…that bill missed the…deadline…Matthew Prouty of the Rutland City Police said that Vermont’s prostitution law is [specific] …which has hamstrung [attempts to persecute owners and patrons of] massage parlors.  “My probable cause can’t be a purchaser who says they had a ‘happy ending’ because that isn’t illegal,” he said [following by grunting a lot of bizarre nonsense like] “Any time you have a drug market, you have a sex market…There are very, very few people that are making a living and not being coerced…That is [my perverted masturbatory fantasy] of it”…

Broken Record (#631)

Farm machinery still causes “sex trafficking”!  And strip clubs!  And sex stores!

Arriving…for her stint as a guest speaker for a human trafficking symposium, Summer Dickerson easily spotted a strip club and sex store in Oak Grove.  “You know y’all have a problem here,” [said] Dickerson, a [delusional prohibitionist]…Attorney General Andy Beshear kicked off the symposium, speaking about the state’s efforts to combat human trafficking…[by running a prostitution] sting during this year’s National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville…

To Molest and Rape 

Rapist cops don’t only target women:

A Chicago [cop] was…charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault and official misconduct.  The…victim was a man suspected in a misdemeanor whom Carlyle Calhoun and another [cop] were assigned to guard at St. Bernard Hospital on Feb. 3…as the victim was shackled to a bed, the [molester cop] sucked the man’s toes, grabbed his penis and took a photo of the victim as he tried to use a portable urinal.  Once the two were in a bathroom, Calhoun…”performed oral sex on the victim…The victim repeatedly asked the defendant to stop and tried to convince him that his misbehavior would be discovered”…

The Sky is Falling! (#772)

Just in case you thought blaming whores for epidemics went out sometime before the invention of indoor toilets:

…36 percent of the adults in Vulindlela [South Africa] are [HIV] positive, as are about 60 percent of the women aged 25 to 40.  Although HIV infection rates have stabilized globally, hundreds of thousands of South Africans are infected every year; more than 7 million live with the virus in their bodies…the HIV prevalence among adolescent girls is roughly five times greater than that of boys…researchers have concluded that the high rate of infections here—among both sexes—is driven in part by [sugar] relationships…

Because obviously, what the writer smugly calls “egalitarian” sex magically protects people from infection.

The Spiral of Absurdity (#792) 

This hodgepodge of racist, sexist, anti-sex nonsense seems to be trying to fit in every single “sex trafficking” trope:

The Katy [Texas, population 14,000] area is contributing to what Gov. Greg Abbott calls a statewide health crisis of human trafficking…A December 2016 University of Texas at Austin report says 313,000 people were trafficked in Texas in 2016, 79,000 of whom were children [without anyone noticing].  Kelly Litvak, [another mathematically-illiterate prohibitionist]…said there is evidence of brothels and trafficking along the I-10 corridor…12-14 years of age…social media…lure them…recovery of victims…human trafficking’s grip…children can be recruited into sex work…the horror…[fetishist] Vanessa Forbes…said she knows of at least 11 brothels…staffed by women of Asian descent who are forced into prostitution…They are often in strip malls and disguised as…nail spas…Women trafficked for sex…are…delivered [in plain cardboard boxes] to people responding to online ads…A narcotic can be sold once and…a prostitute can be sold multiple times per day…76 percent of money for sex transactions processed online…mentally conditioned through abuse and coercion to defend their pimps in court…

This was ostensibly written by an adult man with a university degree.

Not So Easy

A rare victory for sex workers:

In a striking victory for [sex workers]…a divided New Orleans City Council shot down a proposal…to cap the number of Bourbon Street strip clubs…The council voted 4-3 against the limit after hearing from numerous dancers who called…police raids…a threat to their livelihoods and their freedom of expression…[proposal sponsor] Stacy Head…[lied] that the limit was no more than a routine move to rein in some of the excesses associated with crowded, high-traffic businesses, rather than an attack on adult entertainment…the…vote means strip clubs will be allowed to operate unencumbered once a temporary ban on new ones lifts in May…

Note that all three politicians who voted to infantilize women & destroy their livelihood were themselves women.

The Widening Gyre (#811) 

It’s hilarious watching the cops trying to regain control of a runaway moral panic:

Several Facebook posts have gone viral in [Colorado] detailing scary situations where human traffickers tried to lure new victims at popular shopping centers…“As far as we know, no.  It’s not real.  It seems like a hoax,” Thornton police Sgt. Ernie Lucero said. “Just sharing it just because [some “authority” says it’s real] doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always fact”…The posts are convincing to [ignorant] social media users.  They have been shared thousands of times, causing [stupid] people to worry about public safety…

That Old Black Magic (#813) 

Remember this next time prohibitionists try to blame migration on African religions:

On March 9, Oba Ewuare II, the traditional ruler of the kingdom of Benin, in southern Nigeria, put a voodoo curse on anyone who abets illegal migration within his domain.  At the same time, he revoked the curses that leave victims of trafficking afraid that their relatives will die if they go to the police or fail to pay off their debt.  Before being smuggled into Europe, women and girls in the area, which falls in present-day Edo State, [agree] to sign a contract with the [smugglers] who finance their journey…The agreement is sealed with a…juju, ritual…The oba has authority over all the spiritual priests in the Benin kingdom (not to be confused with the West African country of Benin)…What the oba has done is likely to be more effective than anything the international anti-trafficking community has managed to do after millions of dollars and many years…over 90 percent of the thousands of women [who migrate] from Nigeria to Europe to work as prostitutes are coming from Edo…in the early 1980s women there started traveling to Italy to trade in gold and beads, and “saw a thriving market in prostitution”…[they told other women, and those women’s choices to risk migration for a chance at success are now being branded] human trafficking…

Standard Operating Procedure (#817)

Bullshit-free headline: “How UN Staff are Helping Local Economies”:

Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance policy”, sexual exploitation continues in South Sudan…Last month, the U.N. recalled a 46-member Ghanaian peacekeeping police unit…following allegations of members of the unit [paying for services] with locals.  The action of the U.N. in this case will provide “interesting insight into whether or not the [U.N.] secretary-general is serious about sexual abuse,” [bloviated prohibitionist] Peter Gallo…Gabby [a sex worker in Juba] works three or four nights a week and can make up to $200 a night from one international aid worker or U.N. staff client, she said — an evening that often includes dinner, drinks, and a fully paid hotel room.  This is in stark contrast to her South Sudanese clients, many of whom don’t pay at all and sometimes turn violent…

Elephant in the Parlor (#822)

Though most people are focusing on the sex, the real story here is that she was threatened with violence:

Stormy Daniels…revealed the details of an alleged affair with President Donald Trump, telling Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes that she felt threatened into remaining silent…Daniels said she feared for her and her family’s safety, and opted to sign a nondisclosure agreement instead of going public and cashing in for more money…“I didn’t even negotiate, I just quickly said yes to this…strict contract…and what most people will agree with me extremely low number”…in July 2006 at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe…Trump said during their initial encounter in his hotel room that she reminded him of his daughter Ivanka…she instructed Trump to pull down his pants so that she could spank him with a magazine, which featured his face on the cover.  “So he turned around and pulled his pants down a little—you know had underwear on…I just gave him a couple swats,” Daniels said…Later…she and Trump had unprotected sex.  She said that even though she did not want to have sex with him…it was entirely consensual…[because] Trump…kept dangling the possibility of signing her as a contestant on The Apprentice…[and] she viewed it as a potential “business deal”…Four years later, Daniels says she was physically threatened after [Trump’s lawyer] Cohen found out that she had tried to tell her story to a celebrity gossip magazine…she was in a parking lot with her infant daughter when a man approached her and said, “That’s a beautiful little girl.  It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom…Leave Trump alone.  Forget the story”…

Too Close To Home (#824)

Sydney Brownstone has more on Seattle’s evil scheme to sell human lives to a sociopathic billionaire:

…lawyers representing men caught in a sex work review website sting showed up in King County Superior Court with an unusual and bold request: to disqualify the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office from prosecuting their cases…thousands of documents show…the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office collaborated with the Massachusetts-based Demand Abolition, including…strategies for dealing with reporters and sex worker advocates…in 2018–after the World Health Organization and Amnesty International have endorsed research and policies showing that decriminalizing sex work, including buying sex, actually keeps sex workers safer—King County’s involvement with Demand Abolition raises questions about why prosecutors are still increasingly criminalizing…sex work…

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Given…that criminalization discourages us from helping, trusting, or even communicating with each other…creating a community of people who reject the stigma surrounding this work is an act of rebellion in itself.  –  Annie Calhoun

The Slave-Whore Fantasy IS slavery app

It’s been a while, so here’s another example of what real sex slavery looks like:

The advertisement on the Telegram app is as chilling as it is incongruous:  A girl for sale is “Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old…. Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon.”  The posting in Arabic appeared on an encrypted conversation along with ads for kittens, weapons and tactical gear.  It was shared with the Associated Press by an activist with the minority Yazidi community, whose women and children are being held as sex slaves by the extremists.  While the Islamic State group is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, it is tightening its grip on the estimated 3,000 women and girls held as sex slaves.  In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, IS sells the women like chattel on smartphone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through IS checkpoints.  The fighters are assassinating smugglers who rescue the captives, just as funds to buy the women out of slavery are drying up…

Check Your Premises

I’m not going to expedite cops’ shaming people, but this jewel of self-contradiction was too good to pass up:

…Narcotics Detective Kim Lippincott…says prostitution is a huge issue in Monroe County. She has a message for any “john” paying for sex.  “The sex you are engaging in, the sex you are paying for, may not be as consensual as you think it is”…Detective Lippincott says the three women arrested for prostitution worked independently.  No traffickers were arrested…The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office says the big bust is part of a larger effort to combat human trafficking…

Across the Pond

While Parliament contemplates repealing some of the laws cops use to persecute sex workers, some UK “authorities” are demonstrating how ineffective that will be without full decriminalization:

…[Funding for] Open Doors, a pioneering NHS sex worker support service…has been cut substantially and…National Ugly Mugs (NUM)…has expressed “grave concern for the safety of sex workers in Hackney,” describing the changes as a “seismic shift towards criminalisation … recklessly compromising [sex workers’] safety and ignoring national guidelines.”  Until 2014, Hackney authorities worked in partnership with Open Doors to keep street sex workers out of the criminal justice system…As a result, sex workers had more trust in the police…The picture now is very different. NUM data shows a “startling decrease in the numbers of Hackney sex workers willing to report crimes to the police,” says Alex Feis-Bryce…of NUM…Sex workers are increasingly subject to enforcement by the police and local authorities in the form of dispersal orders, fines and even prosecution…local authorities have asked Open Doors to hand over their clients’ names to an “enforcement panel”…[Georgina] Perry, Open Doors’ manager of 13 years, has announced her resignation…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (#27)

Another small country stands up to American bullying:

Sudan…criticized being placed by the United States on the blacklist countries involved in human trafficking, saying the report [was] “biased and intentionally distorting [sic]” Sudan’s efforts to combat human trafficking…The report mentioned unverified reports about South Sudanese children sold for agricultural work…[and] accused the Sudanese army of recruiting children aged between 16-17 years…It further said that asylum seekers from African and Arab countries are “highly vulnerable” to sex trafficking and forced labor…Sudanese law enforcement agencies are accused of being involved in this criminal activity…

And other kinds of small jurisdictions, too:

…the government is whole-heartedly rejecting…a recent report from the U.S. Department of State regarding the condition of human trafficking globally.  The report, which gave Macau a serious “Tier 2” rating…was criticized for its “wrongful conclusions” by Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak…“Findings in the report are not based on fact and involve groundless speculation”…

Against Their Will (#310)

The Philippine government has carried out a weird crusade against “cybersex” since it was criminalized four years ago; some stories cast the sex workers as depraved and some as “victims” or even “children”, so it’s very difficult to discern what the truth might be in a story like this:

A British national was charged…with large-scale human trafficking involving seven women and for having in his possession pornographic materials that he produced and created, with intent to publish and distribute them to online customers…The Prosecutor’s Office also indicted [Wade] Allsopp for cybersex…Two laptops that contained photos of women in different age brackets who were either posing nude or clad in skimpy attires were also found in the scene, along with several sex toys, pieces of lingerie, gadgets, and instruments apparently used for pornography.  The rescued victims…claimed they met Allsopp through Facebook and that he allegedly recruited and offered them a deal where he would assist them in finding foreigner husbands allegedly on the condition that they would submit sexy and nude photos of themselves…[to be] downloaded and viewed in a dating website…

The End of the Beginning

More articles like this, please:

…the sex offender registry…was designed for “sexual predators” who repeatedly preyed on children (at least according to the fears of 1990s policymakers).  The purpose was supposed to be not punishment but prevention.  The theory:  Sexual predators” were unable or unwilling to control their urges, and the government could not do enough to keep them away from children, so the job of avoiding “sexual predators” needed to fall to parents…Twenty years later, the focus on sex crimes has shifted from sexual abuse of children to sexual assault and rape…Yet the…registry is still going strong.  It hasn’t worked as a preventive tool.  Instead, it’s caught up thousands of people in a tightly woven net of legal sanctions and social stigma.  Registered sex offenders are constrained by where, with whom, and how they can live — then further constrained by harassment or shunning from neighbors and prejudice from employers.  Some of the people on the…registry have had their lives ruined for relatively minor or harmless offenses; for example, a statutory rape case in which the victim is a high school grade younger than the offender…

Rubbing Elbows

A nice article on the Desiree Alliance conference, which starts tomorrow in New Orleans, in the local alternative paper:

…This will be the first time the Desiree Alliance convenes in the South…Organizers see the…conference as vital to a region and city with social justice issues that pertain significantly to sex workers.  Local escort Annie Calhoun…[of] SWOP-NOLA…says, “I hope that sex workers of all types from the area are present, and that they see the amazing community of people who are on our side”…What has steadily driven sex workers’ rights before the public eye…is the persistent efforts of sex workers to make their voices heard, their humanity acknowledged and their civil and labor rights honored.  Calhoun believes some of the progress made is, ironically, a response to journalists like New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, “who have built careers on the idea that sex work can be reduced to the idea of big bad men exploiting poor women — a classic evil villain/innocent victim dichotomy”…

Ashley Madison (#571) 

Sweet, sweet schadenfreude:

The parent company of infidelity dating site Ashley Madison, hit by a devastating hack last year, is now the target of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation…the closely held company is spending millions to improve security and looking at payment options that offer more privacy.  But it faces a mountain of problems, including U.S. and Canadian class action lawsuits filed on behalf of customers whose personal information was posted online, and allegations that it used fake profiles to manipulate some customers…An Ernst & Young report…confirmed that Avid used computer programs, dubbed fembots, that impersonated real women, striking up conversations with paying male customers.  Avid shut down the fake profiles in the United States, Canada and Australia in 2014 and by late 2015 in the rest of the world, but some U.S. users had message exchanges with foreign fembots until late in 2015, according to the report…

O, Canada! (#617)

Most of this is the creepy, US-style “sex trafficking hub” bullshit we’ve come to expect from Ontario government, but note this especially nasty little bit of agency-negation:

In many cases of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, trafficked persons may develop “trauma bonds” with their traffickers, and may not view themselves as victims.  As such, human trafficking is believed to be a vastly underreported crime.

How convenient; it basically translates to “anybody we claim is a victim is one, regardless of what she says.”

To Molest and Rape rapist cop Tramaine McCray

There’s a short, concise word for “forced to have sex”; funny how reporters can’t seem to remember it when cops are the perpetrators:

[Orange County, Florida sheriff’s deputy] Tramaine McCray was arrested…after a male prostitute said he felt forced to have sex with McCray and feared he would be arrested if he did not…McCray…admitted to having multiple sexual encounters with prostitutes…A second prostitute came forward and said…McCray showed up at his apartment several times and asked for sex, deputies said.  At one point he said McCray said, “I am the police and nobody would believe you over the police.”  During questioning, McCray [admitted to raping]…multiple…male and female prostitutes between March 2014 and June 2015…

The Pro-Rape Coalition (#642) 

Dr. Marty Klein on the recent upsurge in anti-porn hysteria:

Marty Klein likens the current moral panic around online porn to the epidemics of fear and suspicion that sprung up around satanic cults in the 1980s, and even around comic books in the 1950s.  Pornography, he argues, is simply a catalogue of human sexual fantasies, and for most people, those fantasies have very little predictive value when it comes to real desire.  The most crucial thing people can do when it comes to protecting their children, according to Klein, is to inform them that porn is fictional…Klein issued a list of porn literacy checkpoints for parents to go over with their kids that includes emphasizing that most people don’t have bodies like porn performers, that many recurring images in porn…are theatrical devices and don’t reflect what many men and women want from sexual encounters, and that most women don’t want violence or rough play during sex.  But he decried common assumptions that watching pornography leads to sex addiction, or cheating, or degrading and abusive treatment of women…

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It does seem overkill to shoot someone who is running away from you.  –  Cindi Keele

This week’s contributions were totally dominated by Popehat, who contributed both videos and everything above the first one, which the city of Indianapolis doesn’t want you to see (to the point of hinting it might issue a bumptious legal threat to the video’s creator).  The second video is a 1971 NASA documentary for kids, and the links between the two were provided by Clarissa (“RIP”), Radley Balko (“balloons” and “another day”), Mara Dyne (“wishlist”), Rick Horowitz (“mayhem”), Cop Block (“blinded”), and Amy Alkon (“together”).

From the Archives

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For men…, however apparently contradictory to common sense, and the very principles of all their knowledge; have let loose their fancies and natural superstition; and have been by them led into so strange opinions, and extravagant practices…that a considerate man cannot…avoid thinking them ridiculous, and offensive to a sober man.  –  John Locke

The human mind is an astonishingly complex system which contains so many separate and often conflicting schemata and cognitive mechanisms, both conscious and unconscious, that there will inevitably be times when the mind holds two contradictory thoughts, ideas or feelings at the same time.  This induces cognitive dissonance, an unstable (and emotionally unpleasant) state which must be remedied in order to restore psychic equilibrium.  The rational person usually resolves the dilemma by conscious introspection, while the typical person generally clings to his beliefs or emotions and denies the facts which conflict with them.  But some deeply delusional individuals are such masters of doublethink that they can accept two completely contradictory cognitions at exactly the same time, and when they reveal these schizoid thought processes to the world via word or deed the rational person cannot help but feel a sort of fascinated pity mingled with fear, disgust or contempt.

Take, for example, the Ukranian protest group Femen, which protests topless because according to founder Anna Hutsol, women “have the right to use our bodies as weapons”.  So far, so good; people have the right to use their bodies as they please.  So why does Femen oppose sex work?

The controversial women’s rights group known for their provocative protests of world affairs, has taken to the streets of Hamburg…armed with…wearable sex toys…their bodies painted with Swastikas and Hitler mustaches, gesturing their way down the streets in similar fashion to Hitler’s regime nearly 70 years ago…chanting, “Sex slavery is fascism”…

So according to Femen, it’s OK to use one’s sex appeal to get in the news, but not to make a living; even by neofeminist standards this is psychotic.  But the cognitive contortions involved are no worse than those in this article about male strippers from The Independent, whose writer (one Francesca Steele) manages to convince herself that male stripping is “empowering” while female stripping is “demeaning” (she tells us that male strippers are “gods on stage”, but female strippers are “objectified”, presumably because the girls make a lot more money than the guys do).  The funniest part?  Steele seems completely oblivious to the fact that most of male strippers’ clients are other men.

The police are another group who are masters of schizoid thinking:

Police in Ottawa are calling a case in which two 15-year-old girls are charged with human trafficking “shocking.”  They say they have never seen anything like it before…[they] allege that on three separate occasions, the girls lured three female victims ranging from 13 to 17 years of age to a city residence…[from which they] were driven to other locations for the purposes of prostitution.  The accused girls face multiple charges, including human trafficking, robbery, procuring, forcible confinement, sexual assault, assault, uttering threats and abduction…the victims were confined and somehow forced to engage in prostitution.  Police said there was no indication pimps or men played any role…

In plain English:  the two 15-year-olds figured out how to place escort ads and talked their three friends into it.  But since anyone under 18 is an innocent, asexual “child”, they couldn’t possibly have gone along for money and kicks; they must have been “forced” by “traffickers”.  Remember:  breaking a law, no matter how stupid or arbitrary, is the one thing which can cause the magic Shazam lightning to strike even one second before midnight on a person’s 18th birthday, thus transforming an innocent child into a ruthless adult criminal.  The Kanadian Kops claim they’ve “never seen anything like it before”, so they must not communicate with their American counterparts; teens here are often arrested for “sexually abusing” their consenting partners and prosecuted for “child porn” when they take nude pictures of themselves.

But the undisputed champion of contradiction, the Schizoid Sultan, the Duke of Doublethink, is New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.  Regular readers are familiar with the way he criticizes others for restricting women’s sexual choices while advocating the restriction of those choices, decries the “exploitation” of women while using lurid “sex slave” porn to sell ads for his employers, and attacks some instances of government meddling while praising others and simultaneously stating that it’s natural and good for government intrusions into private affairs to continually increase.  Even so, I think he surpassed himself last week:

I’m generally an admirer of Obama’s foreign policy, but his policies toward both Syria and Sudan increasingly seem lame, ineffective and contrary to American interests and values.  Obama has shown himself comfortable projecting power — as in his tripling of American troops in Afghanistan.  Yet now we have the spectacle of a Nobel Peace Prize winner in effect helping to protect two of the most odious regimes in the world…[Sudan’s] leader has been charged with genocide, has destabilized the region, has sponsored brutal proxy warlords like Joseph Kony, has presided over the deaths of more than 2.5 million people…and the Obama administration doesn’t want him overthrown?  In addition, the administration has consistently tried to restrain the rebel force here…Likewise, in Syria, the United States has not only refused to arm the opposition but has, I believe, discouraged other countries from doing so…we should make clear that unless the security forces depose Assad in the next 30 days, our Middle Eastern allies will arm the Syrian opposition.  We should work with these allies, as well as with major powers like Russia and China, to encourage a coup…That’s not too much to expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Yes, you read that correctly:  Kristof says that Obama should prove he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize by starting two new wars.  I can’t believe that absolutely nobody outside the libertarian press noticed the glaring contradiction, so I suspect that nearly everyone who read any of these stories recognized the conflicts in them immediately…and then promptly discarded such realizations as sources of cognitive dissonance when juxtaposed with their fawning respect for self-proclaimed authorities.

One Year Ago Today

Whores in History Revisited” is an extended review of a fantastic book I cannot possibly recommend enough.

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I picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught. –  Gary Ridgeway

December 17th was the first day of the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which I’ll discuss at greater length in my Christmas column.  But that was a festive, “eat, drink and be merry” sort of celebration which is one of the direct ancestors of our modern Christmas festivities, and as such has nothing to do with the solemn observance modern sex workers hold on this day, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.  On this day we remember our sisters who have fallen victim to violence in the past, and work to raise public awareness about the violence which continues against us over much of the world every day due to the marginalization and discrimination which is the inevitable result of the prohibition of our profession.

The story of this day begins on July 8, 1982 when Gary Ridgeway murdered his first victim, a 16-year-old prostitute named Wendy Lee Coffield, and dumped her body in the Green River near Seattle; his next four victims were also disposed of in the same way over the next several weeks, earning him the nickname by which he is best known:  The Green River Killer.  Over the next two years he killed more than 48 women, most of them prostitutes, but then slowed down dramatically in 1985 once he started dating the woman who was later to become his third wife.  Though Ridgeway was suspected of the killings and was actually brought in for questioning twice (in 1984 and 1987), police largely dismissed testimony of prostitutes and didn’t exactly pursue the case with due diligence; as a result Ridgeway was released to continue murdering periodically until at least 1998.  He was finally arrested and charged with many of the murders in November of 2001, then in 2003 confessed to 48 murders as part of a plea-bargain to avoid the death penalty (he later confessed to killing about 40 other women whose remains have never been recovered).  On December 18th, 2003 he was sentenced to 48 consecutive life sentences plus 480 years.  When Ridgeway finally confessed Dr. Annie Sprinkle felt the need to memorialize his victims, so she contacted SWOP founders Robyn Few, Stacey Swimme and Michael Foley and together they planned a vigil at San Francisco City Hall on the eve of Ridgeway’s sentencing.  This was the first Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which has since grown into an international observance with events and vigils in a number of cities around the world.

The red umbrella was first used as a symbol by Venetian prostitutes for a demonstration against human rights abuses in 2001; it was then adopted in 2005 by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) as a symbol of resistance to discrimination.  After this it was natural that the red umbrella become associated with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers as well, and it appears in the event’s logo; in the last few years the red umbrella has become the symbol of sex worker rights and resistance to oppression.

As we’ve discussed many, many times in the past, violence from the police, bad customers and monsters like Gary Ridgeway, Jack the Ripper, Steven Wright and Maury Travis is all too common a part of the lives of prostitutes, most especially streetwalkers; too many men who don’t even have the excuse of sociopathy consider whores to be disposable, “non-persons” against whom assault, robbery or rape is permissible.  A large part of the reason for this is the suppression of our trade; the laws criminalizing our profession allow weak-minded men (and even some women) to convince themselves that since we are “criminals” we don’t deserve to be treated like human beings, and the attitude of both the law and the police makes it difficult to impossible for sex workers of any kind, especially prostitutes, to even be heard by the police much less have crimes against us investigated.  Hookers who dare to report rapes, robbery or other brutalization may even be arrested and subjected to further brutalization (including rape) at the hands of the police.

It’s impossible to overstate the extent of the problem; of the 160 columns I’ve published since July, 27 have referred to some sort of violence, threat of violence or other victimization against whores; you might consult the columns of July 25th and 26th, August 4th, 6th, 17th, 25th and 27th, September 11th, 24th, 28th and 29th, October 3rd, 5th, 14th, 19th and 29th, November 2nd, 4th, 6th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 27th and December 3rd, 7th, 8th and 14th if you have the stomach for it.

The news media are also full of it; here’s a report from New York on a possible new serial killer, at least one of whose victims appears to have been a prostitute.  This one is about police violence against sex workers in Cambodia, and here’s an article and video of a woman being beaten by Sudanese  police for “adultery and brothel-keeping.”  And that’s just what I could find scanning a few websites Tuesday afternoon.

As long as our profession continues to be criminalized or de facto criminalized via “legalization”, these chronic abuses will continue; this day is therefore not merely one of memorial, but one to raise public awareness about the rights of sex workers and to speak out for decriminalization.  Go to the SWOP website and read more about this annual observance; public events are scheduled in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Brussels, Belgium; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Hong Kong; Kingston, Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario; Lake Worth, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; London and West Yorkshire, England; Montreal, Quebec; Nairobi, Kenya; New York City; San Diego and San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Tucson, Arizona; Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia; and Willimantic, Connecticut (details available on the SWOP site).  If you don’t live in or near one of those places you can still participate by organizing your own informal gathering with sex worker friends; donating to the Sex Workers Outreach Project, Desiree Alliance, St. James Infirmary or other sex worker aid organization; spreading the word about the day; talking about the topic to people you feel may be receptive; or even just carrying a red umbrella.  And to start you off, here’s a video called “Bad Rehab”, produced by the Asian-Pacific Network of Sex Workers to protest the abuse perpetrated against Southeast Asian prostitutes by police and “rescue” organizations.

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