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Regular readers know that I feel strongly about promoting online resources for sex workers, especially if those resources are owned and operated by sex workers!  I recently met Val on Twitter and asked her if she’d like to introduce my readers to her sex-work-friendly social media site, Lips.  So without further ado:

Hello lovely readers of The Honest Courtesan!  My name is Val, and I am a tech researcher, erotic filmmaker, sex worker activist, and the community manager of Lips, a community-designed social media platform for women, non-binary folks, & the LGBTQIA+ community to express themselves openly & honestly without fear of censorship or harassment.  I am beyond honored that Maggie has entrusted me with this opportunity to introduce myself and Lips to you all today.

Lips began as a print zine on a college campus in 2008, and was founded directly in response to the mainstream media’s representations of female & queer sexuality – often through the paternalistic, patriarchal lens also known as the “male gaze.”  Lips invited folks to mail in (or anonymously drop into a P.O. box) stories, poetry, and artwork for the publication, and over time it grew into a much-needed community-led space for self-expression – including sexuality – that was safe, open and honest.  As the community grew and the zine moved online, it became increasingly apparent just how radical this project was.  The community faced tons of obstacles: internally, it was difficult to combat the shame that society projected and foster self-esteem and self-love, and externally, stigma, whorephobia, digital censorship, and harassment all posed threats to Lips’ existence.  This was when the team came together and decided to build our very own social media platform called Lips.social.  We hosted co-design sessions with groups of artists, sex workers, sexual health and wellness educators, and LGBTQIA+ young people to bring the community’s ideas together for what this app should do and be.  We co-wrote our own Community Guidelines that reflected our community’s values – not the values of the mainstream society we aimed to resist.  And finally, thanks to the generosity of a grant from the Headstream Youth Mental Health Accelerator, we were able to build and launch the first version of the Lips app.  On December 31, 2020, all of the hard work paid off and we welcomed a vibrant community of over 14,000 members into our new little digital paradise.

Of course, we continue to face obstacles like whorephobia, but will always respond with the care and best interests of our community at the forefront.  With Lips, our main mission is to design and build technologies that make the internet a healthier and safer place for marginalized communities – including sex workers.  We do this through:

  • A more nuanced, community-led approach to sexuality moderation
  • UX/UI that protects against harassment and trolls
  • A business model that is directly linked with the economic success of marginalized creators
  • And finally, most excitedly, the co-ownership of our company with the community members!


That’s right!  We are very excited to announce that we are now selling equity in the company to the community, so if you are interested in joining our team and becoming an investor, visit wefunder.com/lips to learn more, and reach out to us at team@lips.social if you have any questions. (Anyone can invest, minimum is $100).  Join us in building a better (digital) world for marginalized communities.

My parting words – Personally, I need Lips to exist because women, non-binary & LGBTQIA+ artists, activists, educators, sex workers, healers, and more have created the kind of body and sex-positive art and experiences that have saved my life and the lives of so many people around me.  So, if you’re still here, thank you for reading this far – you’ve already supported our work – and please become as involved with Lips as you’d like.  Every investment, every share, every new community member counts. Thanks y’all.

XX, Val

Links #562

I can’t breathe.  –  Marvin Scott III, probably

Most of these “songs in old languages” things aren’t very good, but this one was too appropriate to pass up!  It was provided by Emma Evans, and the links above it by Yasmin Nair, Dan Savage, Mistress Matisse, Kevin Wilson, Cop Crisis, Mike Riggs, and Dan Savage again, in that order.

From the Archives

We have a culture where men are more embarrassed about paying for sex than having sex with women who are too drunk to consent.
–  Cathy Reisenwitz

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Funny how many cops who are willing to pay prefer underage girls:

Larry Allen Clay…and Kristen Naylor-Legg…were both charged with sex trafficking of a minor [because]…on two separate occasions in June 2020, Clay…the Chief of Police for..Gauley Bridge [West Virginia]…paid $50 to Naylor-Legg to have sex with a 17-year-old girl [who is apparently a migrant because]…ICE [is involved]…

Thou Shalt Not

Crypto-moralists love their rats & their subtle dysphemisms:

…researchers…gave adolescent rats free access to a sugar-sweetened beverage [much more concentrated than] those that humans drink and then tested their memories using two methods when the rats became adults…the rats that had consumed [pathologically-]high levels [of] sugary drinks had more difficulty with memory that uses a region of the brain called the hippocampus compared with rats that only drank water…the [excessive]…sugar consumption seems to…[have] change[d]…the gut microbiome…[which in turn seems to] alter the function of a particular region of the brain [in rats]…

Standard Operating Procedure (#851)

“Foreign visitors do business with locals” is neither “misconduct” nor even news:

[UK charity] Oxfam is facing new allegations of…bullying and mismanagement only weeks after it was cleared to apply for government aid funds again following [white saviors’ freakout] th[at some Oxfam employees purchased services from entrepreneurs in] Haiti…The charity has commissioned an independent investigation into accusations against senior managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo that allege intimidation, death threats, fraud and nepotism…[which arose] after…[prohibitionists were disappointed] that…the[re was insufficient hysteria about mundane transactions which brought much-needed]…money…in[to]…Haiti…[politicians bloviated] that the latest allegations strengthened the case for [denying poor countries]…water and sanitation projects [if]…an[yone among]…the emergency [workers has sexual desires]…

The Cold, Grey Light of Dawn (#991)

It looks as though Boudin is indeed following through with the policies he campaigned on:

Panelists at “Sex Work Decrim 101: Evidence-based approaches to policy”…call[ed] for the complete removal of sex work from the state’s criminal law codes.  One fan of that idea is San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin…”I’m a big believer in the decriminalization of sex work, which I think will help us become safer in concrete ways”…Boudin said…”It’s not something I would ever prosecute, except under the most extraordinary circumstances, if it is consensual between adults”…Panelist Maggie McNeill…wanted to impress upon the attendees the importance of the district attorney’s stance…she [also]…explained the distinction [of decriminalization versus legalization] through an analogy to the restaurant business…

Tony Montoya, a gay man who is the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, did not respond to a request for comment [on a law forbidding a common pretext for harassing sex workers].

Lipstick on a Pig

When one rewards animals for acting a certain way, one shouldn’t be surprised when that behavior increases:

Two [typical and representative] Texas [cop]s have been indicted fo[r murdering]…a Black man [by] repeatedly…taser[ing him during a pretext]…stop [being] filmed for a [cop glorification] TV show.  Javier Ambler…[was murdered on] March 28, 2019…[during] a…traffic stop…[using the pretext that he] fail[ed] to dim headlights for oncoming traffic…the A&E network show Live PD…was canceled weeks after the killing of George Floyd amid widespread protests over police brutality and racism…Ambler was tasered four times, according to body cam footage of the [murder], despite telling the [pigs] that he suffered from…congestive heart failure…Ambler…can be heard [repeatedly] saying…”I can’t breathe”

To Molest and Rape (#1110)

{sings} One of these things is not like the others

A [New Jersey cop named]…Richard F. Haffner…sexually assault[ed] a girl who worked for him at his…restaurant on numerous occasions starting when she was 15 years old, and then tr[ied] to get her to lie to investigators…Prosecutor[s seem to think it’s important that he wasn’t wearing his magical clown costume at the time]…Haffner [w]as…suspended without pay…[because prosecutors also] charged him with…offering an acquaintance money for sex…

The Next Target (#1122)

The prohibitionist crusade against OnlyFans is heating up:

Paul Gosar [a politician from Arizona] sent a[n open] letter…to the Department of Justice demanding that OnlyFans be…prosecuted for “promoting prostitution” under a…Segregation-era law called the “White Slave Traffic Act”…also known as the Mann Act…[apparently because Gosar believes that viewing a picture of a woman taken in a different state is the equivalent of] transport[ing] women across state lines…

Collective Guilt

The group should exist for the individual, not the other way around.  –  Remi Adekoya

Tyrants and other violent busybodies simply adore collectivism, the evil belief that individals only have value as part of groups, and that it’s good and moral to crush, process, cook, and compress individuals until they are unidentifiable parts of a homogeneous whole, like individual fruit processed into “fruit roll-up” sheets.  The reason is of course the same for the monsters as it is for the snack companies:  such amalgams are handled, stored and used more efficiently than the individuals from which they’re made.  Caligula is said to have expressed this principle of tyranny as, “Would that the Roman people had but one neck!” and China’s campaign of homogenization is the stuff of dystopian science fiction.  But if you believe such abominations could never happen in the modern West, you haven’t been paying attention:

Polarisation cements groups while pressurising the individual…the stifling atmosphere of our current race debate…submerges the individual in generalisations and elevates groupism…[we are encouraged to use] grand generalisations…[and] sweeping concepts  to interpret our world – a world in which we don’t realistically live as individuals…the desire to be treated as individuals, not nameless members of this or that group, is a pretty universal one.  I find it difficult to imagine there are people of any ethnic or racial background who do not want to be viewed primarily as individuals, including those most responsible for popularising the sweeping groupist language of our times…So why then has language obscuring our individuality taken such a strong hold in what is supposed to be an age of empathy?  After all, to empathise requires, by definition, seeing a human individual, not a group or statistic…

Yet governments are working to pound members of minority groups into uniform sheets, in part by convincing them that individuality is not only bad but characteristic of bigots; meanwhile, members of other groups are coerced and brainwashed into accepting the most odious form of collectivism, collective guilt, and forced to undergo public humiliation rituals in order to be shriven from a form of original sin imposed not on all people by a deity, but rather on only some people by virtue of their sharing some tiny amount of DNA with other deeply-flawed human beings they’ve never met:

…Australia has [adopted] America’s particularly malignant approach to sexual disharmony…Brauer College in rural Victoria [recently] forced its male pupils, some only 12 years old, to stand at a school assembly, face the girls and apologize for rape, sexual harassment and all the other facets of male wickedness…as [part of] some ghastly effort to promote gender reconciliation through gender self-incrimination…
Governments have been working on imposing conformity and groupthink since the latter half of the 19th century, with fascist and communist regimes in particular elevating the process to a science.  It has never ended well for any of those regimes, and it will not end well for the West either; the American prison industry purees and processes wholesome and vile foodstuffs together into a barely-edible mass called “nutraloaf“, and attempting to process human beings together in a similar way will accomplish nothing but turning all of society into one vast prison.

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.  Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.  –  Eric Hoffer

To paraphrase Baudelaire, the loveliest trick of religion is to convince people that the Devil exists.  Humans have never been fond of admitting blame for anything, but when someone is caught red-handed committing some evil and therefore cannot blame any other human, the truly devout buck-passer blames an invisible, intangible, supernatural force.  Authoritarians, too, love their devils; what better way to convince the Great Unwashed to render their obedience and surrender their liberty than to convince them of the existence of super-powerful evil spirits who cannot be stopped except by whatever snake oil those authoritarians are selling?  Over the past couple of centuries, belief in actual anthropomorphic deities of evil has slowly been replaced by belief in more tangible devils such as “criminals”, “terrorists”, “pimps”, and “people who vote differently than I do”, but as we head into a new dark age belief in a literal red guy with horns, hooves, a tail and a pitchfork has once again become popular in the Underdeveloped States of America.  The occult boom of the early ’70s (heralded by movies like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby) paved the way for the Satanic panic of the ’80s and early ’90s, which after an implosion around 1994 soon returned as the “sex trafficking” hysteria; its roots in the older, more openly-religious hysteria are clearly visible in its QAnon branch and in persistent nonsense about the supposed magical powers of “pimps”.  And every so often, people whose entire understanding of how the universe works could be crammed into a chicken’s brain pan and still leave room for a politician’s moral compass, shit all over themselves because some musician employs “Satanic” imagery comparable in sophistication to that in a US television show from the 1950s.  Every society has throwbacks like this; the difference is that in America, we pretend they’re adults and let them decide who’s going to run things.

If there is one thing more powerful than shame, it is the need to find someone else to blame.  –  David Flint

It Looks Good On Paper

Yet another state touts bullshit “safe harbor” laws:

The Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed two bills to [pretend to] help [wwomen labeled] sex trafficking survivors [when it’s convenient for the state.  The bills will]…allow…[“perfect victims”] to have convictions related to [sex work] removed from their personal records…[if they can jump through enough hoops to] prove t[o authoritarian busybodies that they were passive, doll-like “victims”] forced…to commit crimes…

Send In the Clowns

Not a clown, but still about kids hoaxing credulous adults:

Merseyside Police ha[d]…to reassure [gullible parents th[at no]… “plague man”…dressed in all black and wearing a crow-like mask similar to that of a 17th-century plague doctor…was…[lurk]ing in parks…to kidnap [their brats]…the sightings…turned out to be…a…hoax…[perpetrated by] students [falsely] reporting sightings…

To Molest and Rape (#956)

At least the BBC uses the word “rape” when a cop is the rapist:

A [typical and representative cop] has been charged with rape and sexual assault…Ben Lister…has been suspended from [West Yorkshire Police]…

Whither Canada? (#1017)

Sex workers ask the Canadian Supreme Court to uphold its own judgment:

The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform — an alliance of 25 sex worker rights groups across the country led predominantly by and for sex workers — along with several individual applicants, have filed a Notice of Application seeking to strike down the [laws establishing Canada’s Swedish-style] sex work prohibitions…because they violate sex workers’ constitutional rights to security, personal autonomy, life, liberty, free expression, free association, and equality…National Coordinator Jenn Clamen [said] “This government has spent five years paying lip service to human rights and to feminism, and it’s time for them to act.”  In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled three prostitution prohibitions in criminal law to be unconstitutional because they caused harm to sex workers and contravened sex workers’ rights to liberty and security.  This was the federal government’s opportunity to recognize sex workers’ rights and well-being by decriminalizing sex work.  Instead, the government…created a set of laws…that reproduce those same harms…

Rotting Fruit (#1055)

Given the filth spewing from every aspect of this affair, there’s no way to tell whether Maxwell’s conduct could legitimately be considered “sex trafficking”:

Prosecutors added two charges against Ghislaine Maxwell in a case accusing her of grooming and abusing young women and girls for Jeffrey Epstein…The new counts against Maxwell now include sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor…the new charges…prolong…the length of the alleged conspiracy and adds a “Minor Victim-4”…

False Witness (#1121)

Sunlight really is the best disinfectant:

…Texas [pigs have been shamed into]…end[ing]…the [monstrous] practice of using hypnosis to [manufacture “evidence”]…more than forty years after its inception…The decision [seems to be the result of unwel]come…[public attention due to]…The Dallas Morning News…series, “The Memory Room,” which [showed how]…Texas…repeatedly doubl[ed] down on the practice despite scientific evidence that hypnosis can distort witness memories and lead to false convictions…Texas officers continue[d] to [use]…the debunked technique…[t intentionally] send…dozens of men and women to prison and some to their deaths.  The Texas Rangers are among the most [egregious offenders]…performing at least 1,700 hypnosis sessions since the 1980s.  The…[most] recently [w]as October 2020…Even without the program, local police departments may still be using hypnosis to [manufacture]…evidence [which Texas law still allows] to be used in courts…

Predictable Consequences

I wish I could believe that this tragedy would finally put a stake into the heart of the “sex addiction” myth once and for all:

…the press and the authorities…have spent years not only pushing the idea of sex addiction…[but also] portraying…sex workers and…sex-positive academics as evil, corrupt enemies of the state, traffickers and the wreckers of civilisation…they are complicit in crimes like this…[because] their constant demonisation of consensual sex between adults…has stoked the fires of hysteria, anger, social shaming and violent retribution…men who visit sex workers or masturbate to porn and then feel disgust afterwards are going to hold the sex workers…responsible, because it deflects blame from themselves…Often, this transferred disgust and unwillingness to accept responsibility for sexual desire shifts into campaigning against the sex industry…We see this in assorted anti-porn, NoFap, incel and rescue movements, dominated by very angry and aggressive men who want to punish women (and men) for giving them erections.  Are we surprised that some people are taking this anger beyond online rape and death threats and into the real world?  Yet these people have been indulged, encouraged and supported by politicians and the media…Set yourself up as anti-porn, anti-trafficking or anti-sexualisation, and you can pretty much say whatever you like without having to provide evidence, while your aggressive and exploitative responses to anyone who questions you will be glossed over…

Diary #562

One of the many benefits of having chickens is never having to go out and buy eggs to color for Easter.  Of course, sometimes friends ask for them too, and Jae has been on a quiche kick for the past few months, and I recently culled my laying hens, and the pullets won’t start laying until summer, and some henhouse doofus broke an egg Sunday morning.  That means right now, there are actually only four fresh eggs in my kitchen, which is a pretty rare occurrence.  Of course, we have a whole basket of boiled eggs and a jar of pickled ones in the fridge, and I’m getting 3-4 a day from the four adult layers currently in the coop, so it won’t be long before we start building up again; I never want to have to buy those pathetic, undersized, weeks-old store eggs with pale yellow yolks ever again.  As I have aged, some things that in my youth I barely even thought about have become important parts of my self-care, and having a plentiful supply of fresh eggs is one of them.

Links #561

You’re doing this to yourself.  –  “officer” Scott LaPierre, to his victim

Here’s another unusual cover of my favorite Beatles song, because I felt like it.  The links above it were provided by Radley Balko, Lucy Steigerwald, Tim Cushing, Ally Fogg, Rick Horowitz, and Cop Crisis (x2), in that order.

From the Archives

Easter 2021

There’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses.  –  Marilyn Mosby

Policing Womanhood

Scratch a SWERF, find a TERF:

In a t[oxic] essay for the [carceral] feminist website 4W, Donna M Hughes wrote that the “belief” that a person could change their gender was a “trans-sex fantasy”.  She went on to equate followers of QAnon, [the latest form of the “sex trafficking”] web of lies that [Hughes vigorously supports]…to people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were given at birth…Her inflammatory comments were called “beyond the pale” by Annie Russell, the director of the [University of Rhode Island]’s Gender and Sexuality Center…Russell said the diatribe had also angered students at the university, which [also employs Hughes as a tenured professor]…The University…put out a statement distancing itself from Hughes’s comments…In response Hughes said her right to free speech was being trampled [even though she was neither fired, nor censored, nor arrested as she wants others to be]…

For those who don’t recall: Hughes considers herself a political conservative and was the architect of recriminalizing sex work in Rhode Island in 2009.

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (#845) 

I haven’t seen this once-popular fantasy since 2018:

A recent 60 Minutes+ episode cites a dubious claim that “up to 100,000” children are sex-trafficked in the U.S. each year…the inimitable Maggie McNeill once wrote that there are “lies, damn lies and sex trafficking statistics.” Now 60 Minutes+, a streaming version of the venerable news program, is helping to make McNeill’s point by highlighting an oft-debunked sex trafficking factoid…in the show’s March 21 episode, “Taking Facebook to Court”…

Social Distancing (#1025)

When this was announced a year ago, prohibitionists claimed it would be a disaster:

…[When] the coronavirus pandemic hit…State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced that [Baltimore] would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus.  And then crime went down in Baltimore.  A lot…This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city’s criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby’s office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants…So…Mosby is making her temporary steps permanent …Baltimore…will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car…

Let’s hope this “aggressively reaching out” doesn’t involve surveillance or “diversion”, which is just another form of state control.  But in any case, this is becoming a trend.

Welcome to the Future (#1107)

Everything I read about modern corporate work makes me happier I became a whore:

Amazon delivery drivers nationwide have to sign a “biometric consent” form…that grants the tech behemoth permission to [monitor]…drivers’ location, movement, and biometric data.  If the…drivers…refuse to sign these forms, they lose their jobs.  The…[surveillance includ]es…facial recognition…The company [claims the surveillance is] being used to improve “safety” and the “quality of the delivery experience.”  But…some drivers are quitting their jobs…because…the [surveillance device even records]…when a driver yawns, appears distracted, or isn’t wearing a seatbelt…and monitor[s] drivers’ body and facial movements…

Torture Chamber (#1122)

If only there were a concise word for “systematically forced to have sex”:

The [murder] of a 19-year-old woman [by] Venezuela[n] police [in a] holding cell has revealed that women in the jail were being systematically forced to have sex with [cops]…On March 13, Daniela Geraldine Figueredo Salazar died from [being]…shot [in] the face…by [a cop]…several of her fellow [prisoners] reported [to investigating officials] that they were being [systematically raped]…the…abuse was being coordinated by a [typical and representative cop] who is also currently jailed…This is not the first [time news] of sexual violence [has leaked out of] the country’s [filthy cage stacks]…In 2018, it was reported that women in Venezuelan prisons were being forced to [submit to rape] in order to be released for court hearings…in 2019, a report by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights pointed to…various forms of sexual violence [committed by cops, screws and spooks]…

You Were Warned (#1124)

Cathy Reisenwitz examines a power-hungry politician’s lies about the internet:

…The SAFE TECH Act would…hold companies liable for their users’ behavior…[an]d force small websites to spend $1 million or more…to prove to courts that users aren’t causing any one of nine new types of broad, ill-defined harm…Only the wealthiest, most powerful companies would be able to afford setting their own content moderation policies.  Everyone else would run the real risk of being sued into oblivion by wealthy people who don’t like what people are saying about them online…Like SESTA/FOSTA, the SAFE TECH Act would make it easier for those in power to stifle unpopular speech across the web.  It would strip away Section 230 protections for any web service that “has accepted payment to make the speech available.”  While many believe the law applies only to paid advertising, it’s written so broadly that it would apply to all content on any platform where money changes hands, including…all paid web hosting and even nonprofits or activist groups that sell merch or accept donations…

Predictable Consequences (#1124)

My friend Kate Zen, cofounder of Red Canary Song:

While it’s easy to repudiate th[e Atlanta shooter]’s actions as that of a monster, he isn’t alone in his views.  Many Americans feel only disdain toward these businesses, and have little respect for the women who work there…On Piedmont Road in Atlanta, where Long shot customers and workers at Gold Spa and Aroma Therapy Spa, church groups previously gathered to protest this so-called red-light district, demanding the shutdown of the sex shop across the street…many Asian street-based sex workers…in [Red Canary Song’s] outreach said some of the religious anti-trafficking groups…can be even more hurtful than the pedestrians who call them names…[besides] collaborat[ing] with police…[one said] they were “nagging her and wasting her time” when she needed to work…Long’s extreme actions are a consequence of the way we treat all sexuality in society…and…the people who are tasked with undoing the harms are often infected by the same dangerous ideas…

Dr. Elena Shih also works with Red Canary Song:

…anti-trafficking organizations…have [repeatedly] called for the increased surveillance and policing of massage businesses, and the result has been hundreds of raids across the country which have terrorized and criminalized massage workers.  These systemic forms of violence cannot be divorced from the brutal killings of massage parlor workers in the Atlanta area on March 16…When my colleagues and I talk to Asian massage workers, they often share stories of [cops] entering their workplaces at random under the guise of stopping sex trafficking.  When they don’t find any evidence of wrongdoing, they demand to see massage licenses.  Workers tell us they are frequently arrested if they don’t produce a license, or are hit with building code or public health violations.  Those who are arrested are often funneled through special courts and programs where workers, seen as morally flawed and traumatized victims, are offered programming framed as rehabilitation…[including] everything from religious proselytization to “recovery-focused yoga” to unpaid labor, when what they really need is economic security…