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Posts Tagged ‘The Last 13’

To believe that we can eliminate sex work…without…affecting other industries…operates on the assumption that sex work happens in isolation—that what happens on the back page doesn’t affect the front, when, in fact, it’s financing the whole operation.  –  Alexandra Kimball

Think of the Children!

The Telegraph‘s headline writer obviously doesn’t know the meaning of the term “graphic novel”:

A council worker who wrote a “raunchy” novel was sacked from her job at a children’s centre after complaints from parents who compared the book to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Bettina Bunte…was…told…that her book damaged the reputation of the…centre…

Five Women in Whitechapel Russell Edwards with supposed Ripper shawl

You’ve probably heard all the hubbub about Jack the Ripper being “definitely” identified by DNA testing of a shawl supposedly found next to the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes (cue Maggie’s goose pimples).  Unfortunately, we’ll still have to put up with the endless speculation for a while yet:

…Leaving aside…the claim that the shawl was never washed or cleaned at any time during the past 126 years, the biggest problem in carrying out such sensitive DNA analysis is the question of cross contamination…When other labs have worked on the ancient DNA of important samples…they have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the possibility…They have also worked…“blind”…to ensure they do know which sample they are analysing in order to avoid unwitting prejudice…None of this, as far we know, has been done in this case.  Dr Louhelainen may be satisfied that he has found the culprit, but many other scientists are not, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique…“An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants”…Sir Alec [said, adding]…“Kosminski was long regarded as by far the most likely perpetrator.”

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

[Florida cop James Yacobellis, who was]…busted in a…sting of a Boca Raton Asian massage parlor…isn’t a stranger to trouble…in one instance…he…[threatened] a suspect by putting him in a bathtub, turning on the faucet, and pointing his taser…between October 2011 and February 2013, Yacobellis was on paid leave while [other] allegations were being investigated.  He was still drawing a $87,000 a year salary…In nine years, Yacobellis was involved in six …internal affairs investigations.

Perquisites

Funny how the truth doesn’t get as much press as silly lies about sports:

…So far there are about 13,000 delegates lined up to attend 18 events when the Nova Centre opens in 2016.  Local sex workers expect that will make business busier than usual.  “A lot of businessmen have an entertainment allowance”…said one Halifax-based sex worker.  “Out-of-town clients are about 60 percent of the business right now.”  Business travellers are why one local sex worker allows clients to pay by credit card—with the nature of the transaction concealed.  “A lot of them will use [their company credit card] or write it off as a business expense,” she says…

The Law of Averages 

It’s good to see this in as mainstream a publication as The Atlantic:

There is little basis for the claim that 13…is the age that most sex workers begin working in prostitution.  It’s hard to pin down where exactly the…claim originated, partly because it’s so often repeated without a citation or context…Most organizations, if they refer to a source at all, reference [the Estes & Weiner] study…Most current government and nonprofit policies on sex work define their goals as “rescue,” which makes perfect sense if the age-of-entry statistic is central to your understanding of the sex industry…But…in reality, many sex workers come into the industry as adults and without coercion…

StruwwelpeterAuthor Chris Hall does discuss the Silbert & Pines study, but does not mention Melissa Farley’s distortion of their data.

Presents, Presents, Presents! 

Daz sent two presents while I was on the road, so I only saw them after I got home last week!  One was Acolytes of Cthulhu, and the other Struwwelpeter (in English).  Thank you so much!

Confined and Controlled

Another idiot who doesn’t understand the bottleneck effect and thinks women are too stupid and weak to be allowed to manage our own sexuality:

A mayoral candidate says he wants Ottawa to be the “test city” for legalizing prostitution and is in favour of legalized bordellos.  Darren W. Wood…says he wants prostitution to be “tightly controlled and highly taxed” as a means of protecting sex workers and generating revenue…Under his proposal, sex workers would be…regularly checked for sexually transmitted infections, protected from pimps and johns via an onsite security system and fined or jailed if they are working without a license…

The Last Thirteen for Fourteen

Here’s another excellent column from Marijke Vonk; this one’s on how to be a good ally to sex workers:

…By vocally supporting sex workers we can challenge the  assumptions of the people around us…As professionals, academics, social workers, educators or people in a position of social power we can…even influence legislative reform…It can be scary to openly disagree with the current discourse of sex workers as either victims or dirty whores who were asking for it, but as a non-sex worker you have the privilege of staying relatively safe as you speak out about these injustices…

The Public Eye

Pop singer Lowell spent some time as a stripper in Canada…[but while] a lot of singers might cover up that past…it became immediately obvious that she has nothing to hide…She’s been [drawing on her stripping and bisexuality]…since her brilliant 2013 EP, I Killed Sarah V(Sarah Victoria was her name when she was a dancer).  She told Rolling Stone, “There can be something really empowering about [stripping]…by making it taboo, we alienate these girls and allow…victimization to happen.”  It’s important to bring those kinds of ideas into the mainstream…


Feminine Pragmatism (TW3 #133)

You’d almost think reporters were historical ignoramuses who didn’t know that up until a century ago, the professions of actress and whore were indistinguishable:

Shweta Prasad, one of India’s best known former Bollywood child stars, has been arrested for prostitution…she said…she and many other actresses had been lured into prostitution when Bollywood roles dried up and the money ran out.  She had not found a film role in eight years…Inspector P Murali Krishna…said…“We are treating her as a victim and she’s been sent to a rehabilitation home.  We have arrested the person who exploited her”…

A 23-year-old woman voluntarily doing productive work is an “exploited victim”, but she wasn’t at all exploited when others pimped her in movies at the age of 11.  But in India, unlike the US, some are willing to point out the truth:

…the law clearly says that the practice of selling…sexual service is…not a crime…the actress…had not been coerced, kidnapped or tricked…but had chosen this from among the options available to her…the media [should] refrain from gleefully jumping in with police stings that are unauthorised and illegal…it wasn’t the activities of the actress that were illegal but the actions of the police…

Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Canadians feminists prove themselves just as obsessed with trivia as their sisters in the mother country:

A Vancouver catering company that offers sushi served on women’s naked bodies is sparking controversy among feminists who call the practice disgusting and degrading…“We’re not hijacked into doing this,” [said] Vancouver model Jessica Perry…Naked Sushi…offers nyotaimori— the Japanese practice of serving sashimi or sushi on a naked female body adorned with strategically-placed flowers and leaves…women’s rights activists are asking health officials to shut [it] down…the health authority does not have jurisdiction over the catering company as it serves its sushi after the food is prepared in an approved kitchen…

My First Million (TW3 #343)

I reached a total of three million page views soon after 2:30 PM CDT Thursday.  Thanks so much to all the readers who have helped make this blog a success! 3,000,000

O, Canada! (TW3 #405) 

Cop gets in trouble for unofficially doing the same thing other cops do officially:

Six guilty verdicts…against an Ottawa [cop] who…repeatedly…[accessed] confidential police records for personal reasons could result in dismissal.  Sgt. Rohan Beebakhee…took it upon himself to book dates with escorts, showing up in full uniform and having what he called a “safety briefing” with sex trade workers…He would often bring along junior officers…An internal affairs investigator…ordered in 2011 that Beebakhee stop all contact with escorts.  He didn’t…Beebakhee…was charged with sexual assault…in 2007 [but the] charge was withdrawn in 2009…

Property of the State

Note that at 12 weeks abortion is totally legal:

A [Montana] woman…is now facing a felony criminal endangerment charge for putting her unborn child at risk by taking illegal drugs.  Casey Gloria Allen, 21…[tested] positive for the presence of benzodiazapines, THC, and opiates…Allen is 12 weeks pregnant…

Whither Canada? (TW3 #423) 

Excerpt from a press release by Terri-Jean Bedford:

This afternoon I testified before the Senate Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs.  I gave my speech and then was ejected from the question and answer session for failing to stop speaking when the Chair asked me to.  I apologize for losing my temper.  I was barely able to read my speech because I was so angry at the government for parading victims with repeated irrelevant information and then organizations who were shilling for government handouts on which they are dependent.  The shameful use of victims by the government in this process, and their disregard for life by ignoring court findings, refusing to listen to their own legal staff and refusing to answer questions from legitimate sources made me snap…

If Men Were Angels

So now joining a cult is “sex trafficking” too?

Four members of [an Israeli] messianic group have been arrested on charges of kidnapping young women and forcing them into prostitution …the group would control women with a combinations of drugs, alcohol and heavy brainwashing techniques and convince them to have sex in exchange for money…Police allege that the girls were taught that “lying with non-Jews would hasten the redemption” of the Jewish people and that by having sex with non-Jews, the girls would purify them and bring back their “holy sparks” to Israel…

Divided We Fall (TW3 #427)

Another good call for Canadian queers to oppose criminalization:

The government…[has] a…history of criminalizing consensual sex to promote the majority’s sexual morality.  Think of the ban against gay sex, lifted in 1969.  Nobody suggests that ban really changed people’s desire to engage in gay sex or reduced its incidence.  Instead, it cast a stigma and criminal status over a class of individuals [and]…impaired their ability to participate as full and equal members of society.  It also made people who had gay sex vulnerable to blackmail and less able to seek police protection when threatened…If you are a trans person…many obstacles still face you in Canada.  But if you are gay or lesbian…it’s a good place to be…[because] of political and legal struggles over past decades.  The beneficiaries of these reforms have a responsibility to fight a law that flies in the face of our experience…the commitment to sexual justice that underlay our earlier struggles entails fully decriminalizing adult sex work.

Bait and Switch

You can bet that “minor child” in this context actually means “young woman above the age of consent but below 18”:

…Timothy S. Griesemer was found guilty of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and…faces up to life in prison…he sent a text message to a female acquaintance indicating he was looking for a minor child.  The woman contacted…police who…[called] the U.S. Secret Service…

Another Fine Mess

More about the long pre-internet history of sex work advertising:

…There is no question that online advertising has transformed the sex industry, but in fact, ads for sexual services are far from endangeredWhile most sex workers are online…many also use free dailies and weeklies to reach markets that aren’t as amenable to the Internet…online ad sites [are also more] vulnerable to government shutdowns…and…clients who are wary of online transactions are liable to see escorts with print ads as less likely to cheat or scam them…

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I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty or civilization, or both.  –  Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

Election Day

At last the madness is over, and the world is relieved of the poison Americans vomit out everywhere in advance of our presidential elections.  The pretense that one fascist is somehow superior to the other is of no concern to this column, but ballot initiatives in Colorado, Washington and California are.  Let’s start with the good news:  possession and use of small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in Colorado and Washington, and Coloradans are allowed to cultivate up to six plants and give away weed as long as no money is exchanged.  State authorities have been granted plenty of time (8 months in Colorado and 13 in Washington) to draft and adopt regulations for commercial cultivation and sale, and though the federal ban still stands it’s going to be rather difficult for the feds to enforce that, considering that 99% of all marijuana arrests are committed by state and local police (who in those two states will now be forbidden to act).

But while the forces of prohibitionism lost a little power over 12 million people, they gained a great deal over 38 million.  Not only did Michael Weinstein’s crusade to turn porn movies into creepy goggle-and-glove festooned condom commercials succeed, but also the horrific Proposition 35 passed by a landslide due to its dishonest portrayal as an “anti-human trafficking” measure.  The law defines a “‘commercial sex act’ as one that…occurs on account of anything of value being given or received by any person… ‘anything of value’…[could] include…dinner…a movie…a drink…” and defines coercion so broadly that a wide spectrum of previously non-criminal behaviors (including begging or buying a woman a drink) falls under it.  Parents, adult children, roommates, spouses and landlords of prostitutes could all be charged with “pimping”, which along with “coerced commercial sex” is defined as “human trafficking”; million-dollar fines, decades-long prison sentences and lifelong “sex offender” registration are the penalties for the new “crime”.  Furthermore, it demands that those condemned to this registry turn over all internet screen names, passwords and other “identifiers” to the police so they can be continually spied upon, forever (though this one narrow portion of the law has already been challenged by the ACLU and EFF).  Finally (and most incredibly), the registration and its attendant surveillance are retroactive to 1944, so a 90-year-old woman convicted of “pandering” in the last days of World War II for assisting a hooker friend could be forced to register as a “dangerous sex offender” (with all that entails).

The word “Kafkaesque” falls utterly short.

Happy Birthday, Devil Dogs!

Tomorrow is the 237th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps, and is observed by Marines as the Corps’ “birthday”.  Military men have been among the best clients of whores since men first started going to war, and that will always be so despite the recent efforts of evil-minded prudes to change it.  You can read my personal and professional thoughts on the subject from two years ago at the link above, and from last year also.  And if you know a Marine, he’s sure to appreciate a “Happy Birthday!” tomorrow.

Not an Addiction

“Sex addiction” seems positively reasonable compared to the notion of an escort service that “wasn’t prostitution or anything”:

…Jennifer…was hooked on heroin in her early twenties…but straight after she left rehab, a new problem began to emerge.  “I’m not really sure how it happened, but I started to work for an escort service…It wasn’t prostitution or anything, but what drew me to this particular company was the fact that all I had to do was go on dates with men…lots of men.”  Jennifer says she didn’t sleep with her clients, but that working as an escort made her feel the same “high” that drugs had given her, because of all the attention she received.  At the same time, she also became obsessed with constantly posting provocative pictures of herself on her Facebook page…After a year of this…Jennifer…quit working as an escort and [sought] counseling.  She was told she was “addicted” to male attention…While the American Psychiatric Association doesn’t classify Jennifer’s condition as an addiction, some mental health professionals say they regularly encounter behavior like this in recovering addicts…Cindy Grassin…emphasizes that an obsession with or addiction to male attention is different from a sex addiction…

Actually, they’re exactly the same:  obsessions which quacks mislabel as “addictions” to capitalize on a fad.

Make Up Your Damned Mind!

Prostitution stories involving Florida cops would be hilarious if their moronic shenanigans didn’t hurt real women:  “The alleged illicit activities…not far from Walt Disney World…came as a surprise to some central Floridians.  ‘That’s crazy…because people are coming here for fun,’ said…Tamika Stevens.”  If Tamika thinks sex isn’t fun, I suggest she seek a competent therapist.  “‘Every time we’ve been here it’s been as safe as anything,’ said visitor Wayne Aston.  Law enforcement officials said they want to try to keep it safe.  And to help do so, they are cracking down on prostitution.”  Because we’re dangerous criminals!  One never knows when a hooker will burn a kid with a flashbang grenade, or taser a pregnant woman, or machine-gun a bystander in the back…oh, wait, that’s cops.

Across the Pond

Though brothels are illegal in the UK, the city of Edinburgh has long tolerated prostitution in saunas as a way of reducing streetwalking.  But when the licenses of 13 of the 15 saunas came up for renewal recently, protests were filed by busybody prohibitionists spouting idiocy such as “…The buying and selling of vulnerable women…is not a private matter…it harms us all.”  Fortunately, the city council did the right thing and renewed the licenses anyway:

Twelve saunas in Edinburgh were…granted…licences by councillors, despite…one [man’s]…campaign against them.  Michael Anthony, 59…left the City Chambers in protest…He had earlier accused police…of turning a blind eye to criminal activity…[but] police officers at the meeting said they had no grounds to object.  Ten of the licences were granted and two were continued, because of ongoing police investigations, and will be reviewed within six months.  Until then they will continue trading…Scotpep, a campaign group supporting sex workers, welcomed the decision…However, Jenny Kemp, co-ordinator of Zero Tolerance, said:  “We are appalled by this decision.  Sexual exploitation is a huge problem in Edinburgh and saunas are a key place where that…happens.”

Gullible’s Travels

Long gas station lines and empty gas pumps have plagued drivers across New York and New Jersey since  [tropical] storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast last Monday, leaving a gas shortage across the region…now it seems…Men have been taking to the personals on Craigslist, trading gasoline for sex…” To the credulous mind of the modern “reporter”, a few clueless idiots trying to get laid for about $20 of goods is “People trading gas for sex on Craigslist.”

Little Boxes

Behold:  Olympic-level mental gymnastics:

…Jackie Samuel…is a professional cuddler…[who] turned to snuggling with strangers to help pay for her studies and provide for her young son…her college has threatened to expel her – while others have called her a prostitute…She said:  “I think I was born knowing how to snuggle.  Snuggling is healthy, spiritual and fun…Some of my older clients, their wives have passed away, and they just need someone to be with, like someone to experience touch with.  Some of the younger clients are between relationships, some are in problematic relationships, and some people are just really curious and they come to just find out what it’s going to be like”…clients…are banned from touching parts of her body covered by underwear, which she wears under pyjamas.  The business has done so well she has even hired another snuggling professional, Colleen…[who] has joined Jackie on two occasions in what they have termed a “double cuddle”…

The Odor of Socks

Ireland’s Turn Off the Red Light (TORL) campaign…already enjoys having their own letters widely published in…Irish newspapers, whilst sex worker letters are almost always ignored, but they want more…so…the Irish Feminist Network (IFN) reached out in a mailshot…calling for volunteer “letter writers”, only actually they meant shills.  “TORL will provide the letter – all you have to do is put your name and contact details to the end of it”…

Metaupdates

Who Did Your Tits? (TW3 #5)

Just reading this made me incredibly uncomfortable:

…a police officer in Texas burst [Rebecca Van Hooser’s] breast implant by using excessive force when he arrested her during a traffic stop.  Pantego Officer Eric Alvarez  pulled [her] over…for a headlight violation [then] discovered a warrant for her arrest for an unpaid speeding ticket…”She gets out of the car, [Alvarez] grabs her, throws her against the car…kick…spreads her legs and…yanks [her arms] very hard behind her back,” [said] her attorney, Susan Hutchison…Van Hooser is suing the Pantego Police Department for the Oct. 28, 2011, incident, which…caused her right implant to split and leak fluid into her body.  “She’s screaming in pain, and his response is, ‘This isn’t supposed to be comfortable,'” Hutchison added…

Where Are the Protests? (TW3 #10)

So, where are the calls to ban “ethical” chicken farming?

…workers at one company that helped to collect ethically raised chickens were apparently themselves victims of human trafficking and beatings…its…license [was] revoked…after allegations that it kept workers in debt bondage,  among a series of other claims…roughly 29 Lithuanian men…said that they had been told that these would be well-paid jobs…but earned…less than $150 a week…

Amsterdam (TW3 #25)

Dutch “authorities” seem determined to destroy their historic tolerance by outlawing more aspects of sex work and then feigning surprise when the number of illegal whores increases (translated with Google’s help):

…police allege…that there is illegal labor and prostitution in many Chinese massage parlors…there were “signs of sexual acts” in two of the four Chinese massage parlors in Amsterdam…Twenty staff were checked by the police.  Two employees were illegally employed, one was illegally residing in the Netherlands and in one case there were “indications of exploitation”…None of the salons proved adequate records of cash transactions.  About 75 of the 300 massage businesses in Amsterdam are believed to be “happy-ending” establishments…and police concentrated on Chinese parlors in particular because of alleged “signs” that forced women are employed in them…

The More the Better (TW3 #42)

After sponsoring a soccer team in Larissa…brothel owner Soula Alevridou is now extending her financial support to a school in Patra…[by donating] 3,000 euros…to purchase a photocopier and a library for the school…

The Last Thirteen for Fourteen (TW3 #44)

Nine (of Feminist Ire) looks at the willful blindness of “Rhoda Grant MSP…the latest public figure to have jumped on the criminalisation bandwagon” by promoting the Swedish Model; Nine writes that “The proposal, based on a lack of understanding of what the sex industry is actually like, has been put together by someone who doesn’t want to learn about it.  The consultation paper draws from unethical research and selectively uses small-scale studies on specific sectors of the sex industry to define sex work as a whole…”  That’s why it’s important for as many sex workers and allies as possible, even those who don’t live in Scotland, to add their voices to the process.

This Week in 2010 and 2011

Besides my Marine Corps birthday columns and the two previous Guy Fawkes Day columns I mentioned on Monday, this week saw entries on Biblical queens and drama queens, two psychological aberrations which can affect men’s attitudes toward sex, a shift in the attitudes of reasonable people toward sex workers, the incompatibility of facts with dogma and science with law, and the nonexistence of free lunches.  I also featured reviews of several books and short articles on trafficked wood, the weirdness of legalization, the presumption of guilt and a sociological group’s pro-decriminalization statement.

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Why are feminists so afraid of sex?  –  Gopinath Arunima

Lying Down With Dogs

Take a good, hard look at the prohibitionist company the US prefers to keep:

…fundamentalist Islamists, though…shut out of power in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, nonetheless manage to promote their…agendas — often taking the law into their own hands, and in this case threatening…prostitutes and their customers and driving away the only industry in [the town of Ain Leuh].  “The economy is in free fall here,” said Ali Adnane…“The girls rented.  They had cash.  They bought things”…Exactly what happened…is in dispute.  [Campaign leader Mohammed] Aberbach says the Islamists never did anything illegal.  The campaign, he said, largely involved demonstrations in the main square.  No one threatened anybody or used violence or stood at the entrances to the village demanding identification from men who wanted to enter…But others, including Haddou Zaydi, a member of the town council, say all those things, and more, took place.  Sometimes, he said, the Islamists used padlocks to imprison the prostitutes in their houses after a customer had gone in.  Then, they called the police…Mourad Boufala…said he was not in favor of prostitution…but…was offended by the Islamists’ methods.  “The way they did it was really rough,” he said.  “They hit girls…scared them…and…offered them no alternatives”…

Coming and Going

From the big booming metropolis of Muscatine, Iowa:

Sixteen agencies worked together on a human trafficking and prostitution investigation that led to 27 people being arrested…County Attorney Alan Ostergren said…that agencies across Iowa have participated in these stings lately.  He claims that agencies chose Muscatine…because the law enforcement there wanted to investigate the prostitution problem.  Investigators took two months to set up the sting…The prostitution charge is an aggravated misdemeanor…[but] Robert Kennedy, 56, of Peoria, Illinois was charged with felony human trafficking…

Even if you believe that prostitution is a “crime” worth persecuting people for, do you really think tying up 16 different organizations for two months – literally thousands of man-hours and many tens of thousands of dollars – is really worth it for 27 misdemeanor arrests, many of which won’t even bring in a fine?

Dirty Whores

Here’s a short Guardian article on the history of the Contagious Disease Acts, including a rather odd epilogue:  Cambridge University continued its own version of the national laws – complete with arrest powers – for ten years after the latter were repealed!

A Whore in Church

The fact that people think there is something remarkable about this brothel’s location is a sign of the deep Western weirdness about sex:

Two women were arrested on suspicion of prostitution after seven rooms were found in a [Moscow] building close to Sretensky Monastery where sexual services were offered from 1,750 roubles (£35) per hour.  Father Tikhon, the abbot of the monastery, is said to be a religious counsellor to Mr Putin…There were conflicting reports over the ownership of the brothel, found in one of a chain of mini-hotels called Podushkin…

Much Ado About Nothing

Wow, déjà vu!  “Two women from the Dominican Republic [said] that…New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez paid them for sex earlier this year…they claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500…but in the end they each received only $100…”  When will reporters learn?  A government official paying for sex is not even news; the scandal here is that he cheated two women out of money he agreed to pay.

The Last Thirteen for Fourteen

If you’ve been looking for a meaningful opportunity to speak up for sex worker rights, now’s your chance:

Rhoda Grant MSP believes that “prostitution…is a form of sexual violence against women…[which] is inherently harmful and dehumanizing” and that “the majority of those who are involved in prostitution are unwilling participants.”  She is proposing to make it illegal to purchase sex in Scotland…The public consultation on Rhoda Grant’s proposals for a new law to criminalise the purchase of sex is open until 14th December.  This is an open consultation – you do not have to be a resident of Scotland or the UK to respond…

That bears repeating:  YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A RESIDENT OF SCOTLAND to reply; responses from sex workers, clients, allies or just those who care about liberty are all welcome.  You don’t even need to “out” yourself”:

…the consultation document asks specifically for answers to 8 questions – but you can also just write in with your opinion if you prefer.  Your letter will be much more powerful if you can add your own views and experiences, although at Scot-PEP we have prepared some template letters here which you can use as a guideline…or simply print the letters off and sign them.  You don’t need to use your real name, for example you can use your work name or an alias to send in your opinion…email your letter to:  Rhoda.Grant.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

The Public Eye

Yet another generally-balanced profile of several sex workers, including Audacia Ray of the Red Umbrella Project.  Nobody could accuse it of “glamorizing” sex work because it’s a bit too enchanted with the lurid, but it does clearly present the position that “it is patronizing to view all sex workers as victims” and “choosing to become a sex worker is self-determination in its own right.”

Bottleneck

Some politicians just can’t resist cutting off their noses to spite their faces:

…Experts from 11 countries [who] have converged on Sydney…expressed dismay at the NSW government’s proposal to remove decriminalisation of sex work…The Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) has apologised to the international visitors, who have come to Australia looking to pick up tips on best practice…

The Day of the Dead

In Taiwan, traditional funeral processions and festivals for the dead include strippers; this is a short trailer for Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan, a documentary made last year by anthropologist Marc L. Moskowitz.

Metaupdates

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

Indian women’s studies professor Gopinath Arunima responds to Gloria Steinem’s April 2nd lecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University:

…witnessing the saviour Gloria [lecturing about]…rescuing hapless victims of ‘prostitution’ trafficked, abject and forever victimized…set me thinking…of what it is about sex work that makes…feminists so deeply uncomfortable…the anti-trafficking lobby maintains that prostitution is violence against women, tantamount to rape and coercion, and requires abolition…in [her] impassioned plea…Ms. Steinem spoke…of her…crusade to rid the world of that heinous crime prostitution, akin to yet far worse than slavery…After all what could be worse than the bodily abuse that is prostitution (“they are inflicted with multiple penetrations, daily”) except possibly only the vicious stranglehold by traffickers…significantly the areas that sex workers identify as most damaging to them like societal opprobrium and police violence did not find any mention in Ms. Steinem’s talk…By compulsorily desexualising the prostitute and rendering her as perpetual victim, the feminist anti-trafficker can then validate her own position as saviour…

Wholesale Hypocrisy in TW3 (#25)

While US courts have repeatedly blocked governmental attempts to interfere with escort advertising, China has no such mechanism in place and Apple was happy to lick its boots for the almighty dollar:

…When a Mandarin speaking Siri first arrived in China this summer, she generally responded to the question “Where can I find hookers” by pointing people to a nearby location — usually a bar or a club…but a customer service rep for the company told China Daily that the company has…cut off Siri’s ability to help people find prostitutes, escorts and brothels…

Legal Is As Legal Does in TW3 (#32)

What’s a politician to do when a court ruling protects the civil rights of someone he’s bigoted against?  Make a new law overruling the decision, of course!

Hotel and motel owners across [Queensland] will have the right to evict guests they believe are sex workers under new legislation put forward today by Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie.  The amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act will be debated next year and will likely be passed by the LNP-majority Parliament…Queensland Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O’Gorman slammed the move, saying it…targeted a “particular class of people” and enabled arbitrary discrimination on the grounds of personal prejudice, the likes of which was seen during the 70s when some motel owners refused accommodation to indigenous Australians…

Something Rotten in Sweden in TW3 (#36)

We keep explaining that, despite prohibitionist claims, “end demand” campaigns actually hurt sex workers.  However, it usually isn’t quite this direct:

…Illinois prostitution law…is among the harshest in the country…any repeat prostitution misdemeanor is eligible to be upgraded to a felony—one of two states allowing such upgrade after a single charge.  On paper, sex workers are still not as likely to face felony charges as their patrons, who can be charged with a felony on their first offense…But…analysis of the…data shows that prostitution-related felonies are being levied almost exclusively against sex workers.  During the past four years, they made up 97 percent of the 1,266 prostitution-related felony convictions in Cook County.  And the number is growing:  Felony convictions among sex workers increased by 68 percent between 2008 and 2011…

Follow Your Bliss
in TW3 (#37)

a TSA agent [named Paul Magnuson] has been  arrested for the rape of a boy he was mentoring…the TSA attracts pedophiles.  Several that we’ve documented.  The TSA attracts criminals and those with personality disorders that exaggerate control and sociopathic tendencies…

Little Boxes in TW3 (#40)

The winning bid for Catarina Migliorini’s virginity was $780,000 US, offered by a Japanese man identified only as “Natsu”.  However, busybody control freaks just can’t resist trying to interfere with other people’s mutually-agreeable business deals:

Justin Sisely, the director who helped [Migliorini]…may face sex trafficking charges…Brazil’s attorney general, Joao Pedro de Saboia Bandeira de Mello Filho, ordered an “urgent investigation,” to look into the auction, which he equated to “people trafficking”…He also said Migliorini, who currently lives in Australia, should have her passport revoked and she should be returned to Brazil for “the exercise of prostitution”…

Backwards into the Future in TW3 (#41)

Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication (PIHDC) will launch a national wide Alliance of sex workers in Malawi on November 7, 2012…[to provide] a platform [for] sex workers [to] discuss issues affecting their…lives…Executive Director Simon Sikwese said the alliance is targeting all sex workers across the country and that it is one of the forums aimed at ensuring that sex workers rights are protected…

Shift in the Wind in TW3 (#43)

The reaction of the world’s most prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, to the UN’s call for decriminalization could be summed up in two words:  “We agree”.

…Law can be used to protect and promote the human rights of sex workers…and…Legal empowerment of sex worker communities has been shown to be an effective approach in HIV prevention.  However, law is often used to criminalise and penalise sex workers, resulting in their exposure to violence and discrimination from society in general, and law enforcement officers and health-care providers in particular.  This situation limits access by sex workers to health and social services they need, and increases the risk of HIV for them and their clients…It is imperative to review and reform the current laws, ensuring that sex workers and sex worker organisations are fully and centrally engaged in improving legal environments to safeguard their human rights.

This Week in 2010 and 2011

Besides my two previous Halloween columns, All Hallows weeks have featured columns on both porn and horror movies, the War of the Worlds panic and another H.G. Wells comparison, deadbeats and death goddesses, Amsterdam, Election Day and Roman prostitutes.  They also saw short articles on a Spanish city’s harassment of streetwalkers, Charlie Sheen’s meltdown, the FBI raid on Escorts.com, labioplasty, sexual satisfaction in marriage, a yogurt-tainting creep, “end demand” programs, an app for arrestees, Detroit’s persecution of parties and Florida’s criminalization of questions.

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Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.-Thomas Paine

Every Friday the 13th I ask my readers, especially those who are not themselves sex workers, to speak out for decriminalization of prostitution.  This is the third such occasion this year, but it’s also the last one for 14 months (until September 2013), so I want to make it a good one.

Though roughly 10% of modern women have taken money for sex at least once, the great majority of such cases are informal and the payer an acquaintance; only about 1% of women actually work as hookers at some point in their lives, and less than a third of that (just under 0.3%) are thus employed at any given time.  That’s a pitifully small minority, smaller even than the fraction of the population who identify as homosexual (which is between 2-3%); in a more just world even the smallest minority would be treated fairly, but since that isn’t the case in this one it’s imperative we have help from outside our own group.  Gay rights activists drew bisexuals and transgender people into a coalition, but even that would have been too small a minority to matter without the help of friends, family, libertarians and others.

Sex workers, on the other hand, have allowed our already-small numbers to be divided by laws which make arbitrary distinctions between “legal” sex work (such as stripping, phone sex and in some places porn acting) and “illegal” sex work (such as some forms of prostitution; in most of the US it’s all prostitution).  But even if strippers, porn actresses and the various types of what I call “halfway whores” rallied together, I still can’t imagine that making up over 10% of the female population.  As with gay rights, we’re going to need the help of friends, family, libertarians and even true feminists (as opposed to the anti-sex crowd I refer to as “neofeminists”).

Perhaps the most important group whose support needs to be enlisted is men, who make up roughly half the population but much more than half of people in positions of power.  Kinsey found that 69% of men have directly paid for sex at least once in their lives; some recent studies have returned much lower numbers, but this probably has much more to do with increased social stigma in the past three decades and the construction of the questions (e.g. “have you ever procured a prostitute?” vs. “have you ever paid for sex?”) than with the material facts.  Since roughly 67% of men have cheated on their wives or girlfriends, the 69% figure seems highly credible to me; it also jibes with my experience and that of other working girls with whom I’ve discussed the issue.  Of those, fewer than half repeat the experience, and less than a tenth make a habit of it; roughly 20% of all men hire hookers occasionally (such as when they’re at conferences or on business trips) and 6% do so frequently.

Even if we assume that the 50% of men who never see a whore again after their first time were repelled by the experience, that still leaves a fifth of the male population who secretly support us (at least financially).  So why don’t they speak up?  Why are there so few prominent men who are willing to even support our rights as an abstract concept, much less actually admit to enjoying our company on occasion?  Obviously it’s mostly due to the deep-rooted moral hypocrisy of our culture, whose members are willing to crucify exposed “sinners” for “offenses” they themselves have committed many times in secret.  But there’s also the fact that a large fraction of the 90% of women who have not taken direct payment for sex labor under all sorts of illusions and delusions about harlotry, and even a dedicated contrarian who will enthusiastically fly in the face of social institutions may be (understandably) unwilling to risk the disapproval or even outright hostility of his wife, mother, sisters, daughters, etc.

These factors and others were mentioned in a comment by regular reader B.B. Wye on a column I wrote about the difficulties of “Coming Out”; he pointed out that as hard as it is for prostitutes to be “out”, it may be even harder for our clients, especially with “end demand” rhetoric in the ascendancy.  Wye is a musician who expressed his feelings about his favorite type of whore in the song “Midtown Asian Sex Spa”, and in his comment he wrote of his desire to admit authorship of the song and to openly speak out for the rights of women who have given him a great deal of happiness and pleasure.  Another reader who felt the same way wrote to ask me for suggestions on how he could find a middle path, speaking out for sex worker rights without admitting his personal interest in us; here are a few suggestions for him, for B.B., for other clients faced with the same quandary, for working girls who can’t come out themselves and for men and women who have never bought or sold sex, but just care about human rights.

If you’re generally libertarian or civil rights-oriented in your politics it’s easy; all you have to do is argue for decriminalization from a perspective of “people have the right to do what they like with their own bodies”.  As I’ve pointed out in the past, every court decision (including Roe vs. Wade) which upholds abortion rights also upholds the right to sex on one’s own terms, even if money is involved (abortion isn’t free, after all); ditto court decisions overturning sodomy laws like Lawrence vs. Texas.  And obviously, the arguments for drug decriminalization  also apply to prostitution.  If you’re an atheist or skeptic, that’s easy too; in addition to the arguments above you can make statements like “prostitution laws are based on religion and xenophobia, not facts” and “the sex trafficking hysteria is a moral panic like the Satanic Panic and the Red Scare”.

The harm reduction perspective is another good one, and is the approach generally favored by advocates who have a human rights background or strong religious affiliation (including some members of the Catholic clergy):  Prostitution has always been with us and we can’t make it go away with laws any more than the “Drug War” has made drugs go away.  All the Drug War has done is to subject innocent people to invasion of their privacy and make drug users vulnerable to impure drugs, not to mention all those caught in drug-related violence; similarly, anti-prostitution laws help nobody and force prostitutes into the shadows where they can be harmed and exploited.  Furthermore, many governments (including those of New Zealand, New South Wales  and Brazil) have recognized that illegal prostitution invariably leads to police corruption, just as alcohol Prohibition did and drug prohibition still does.

Finally, there’s the feminist approach:  why does society have the right to tell women they can’t make a living with their natural sex-based attributes when it allows men to do so with boxing, bodyguard work, etc?  Furthermore, laws against prostitution invariably subject women’s dress and mannerisms to police scrutiny; women are accused of prostitution for dressing sexily, acting sexily, carrying condoms in their purses, being in certain areas, not wearing underwear, etc.  This is “slut shaming” with criminal consequences.

Even if you are unable to speak out openly you can post anonymous comments on anti-whore articles online (with links to my site and those of other rights advocates), you can donate money to advocacy groups, and you can of course vote (though there are pitifully few chances to employ that strategy in the United States).  Even though any one person’s influence is small, lots of buckets eventually fill a pool.  Readers, we need your help and that of every good man and woman, and anything you can do will be gratefully appreciated.

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