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Diary #564

The more complicated a plan, the more there is to go wrong with it.  So I was very relieved when I touched down in Seattle on Sunday afternoon without any major hitches.  Oh, there were a few minor ones of course, mostly invoving the drive down, but nothing infuriating or catastrophic.  Of course, I was pretty exhausted by the time I arrived; the van was unfamiliar and not nearly as maneuverable as I prefer in a vehicle, and every time I drive into the Bay Area I forget how large it is and continually need to re-adjust my time estimates.  But I arrived only half an hour over my ETA, and Matt now has his stuff, and I had a lovely visit with my gentleman on Saturday, and my flight back on Sunday was both short and uneventful. I’ll be returning to Sunset tomorrow, then this coming Sunday I’ll be speaking at the convention of the Libertarian Party of King County, which is starting to put more energy into promoting decriminalization.  I’m glad that’s only a short drive away; I hope to have at least a little recovery time before taking another flight.

Tweety Pie

Another collection of bits from Twitter:

Links #563

What is it going to take to get all of this to go away?
–  “officer” Josh Barlow’s swineherd, to his victim

It isn’t often that I see a good short film nowadays, much less a good sci-fi short, but this one is a masterclass in what one can do with a small budget and some excellent writing.  It was provided by Mike Siegel, and the links above it by President Dawg, Jesse Walker, Dave Krueger, Franklin Harris, and Cop Crisis (x3), in that order.

From the Archives

[Pandemic] measures [seem to] constitute the fulfillment of preexisting authoritarian tendencies.  –  J.D. Tuccille

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I hope this makes Swedish criminalization fans extremely uncomfortable:

A…[typical and representative] Toronto [cop]…solicit[ed] a sex…worker…[Travis Houston implicitly threatened her with a gun] and told her that he was a [cop, but instead of submitting she]…demanded that he leave…He was charged with weapons dangerous [sic], obtaining sexual services and mischief [but also rewarded with a paid vacation]…

The More the Better 

Even lurid gawking by creeps at the New York Times can serve the greater purpose of demystifying sex work to squares:

…financial domination [is] a form of B.D.S.M. [sic] that has flourished during the pandemic, when many sex workers and their customers have migrated online because of social distancing..The concept is simple, even if the allure is not immediately self-evident: “finsubs” (short for “financial submissives”) send monetary “tributes” to a financial dominatrix…in exchange for being humiliated and degraded…

Rough Trade (#448) 

Can we not all agree something is wrong without giving the state another excuse for violence?

…antics now considered merely caddish or immoral—like lying to a prospective sex partner about one’s relationship status, social standing, or future intentions—would count as criminal sexual misconduct…[under a] bill…sponsored by [a gaggle of]…New York [politicians which would criminalize sex]…”obtained with…the use of…deception, fraud, concealment or artifice”…Women could be guilty for lying about contraceptive use or menstrual cycles, and men for lying about having a vasectomy.  Trying to win over a date by saying you have a better job than you actually do, live in a nicer place, or went to a better school could become a crime if that date sleeps with you…Someone might try to sue or press charges based on the idea that makeup, Botox, boob jobs, and similar measures to enhance one’s appearance should count as illegal artifice that negates consent.  It also seems likely that people could attempt to use the law against transgender…people…

As I pointed out in the subtitle-linked article, this would make prostitution stings legally rape, but no cop would ever actually be prosecuted for it.  Overbroad laws, no matter how good they may sound to some, are only ever used to increase the power of those who already have it at the expense of those who don’t.

Little Boxes (#865)

Forced sexual contact with strangers is “trust building”, but voluntary sexual contact with strangers is a “crime”:

A former employee of…Panda Express…was required to strip down to her underwear and hug a partially clad co-worker during a “cult-like ritual” at a 2019 training seminar sponsored by the company as a prerequisite to promotion…At the start, attendees were told to sit down and not talk, and were left in isolation for a full hour before a man stormed in, yelling in Spanish and berating them for sitting there and doing nothing…participants were prohibited from using their cellphones, there was no clock in the room and the doors and windows were all covered with black cloth…the woman…was forced to strip down to her underwear under the guise of trust building…while, Alive Seminars staff were openly ogling the women in their state of undress…Attendees…were confined in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation…[and not even allowed] to use the restroom…[even] to throw up…

HIV Cure (#920)

Another silver lining for the COVID pandemic:

new HIV vaccine, based on the Moderna COVID-19 inoculation, has shown a 97% antibody response rate in Phase I clinical trials…If approved, this vaccine could become the first stage of a multi-step strategy to combat HIV and other viral diseases.  The vaccine successfully stimulated the production of rare immune cells needed to generate antibodies against HIV…

Like Houses (#1031)

Government can always be counted on to use any excuse to expand tyranny:

…the…world that is more-policed and less-free than it was a year ago…Protests continued across the U.K. over…a proposed law that would increase police powers…[after a cop] murder[ed] Sarah Everard…[in] France…[t]ens of thousands…protest[ed] legislation that would restrict people from publishing identifiable images of [cops]…police have [brutalized] demonstrators in countries including Belgium, France (again), Greece, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere.  Mounted police in Brussels trampled a woman at an anti-lockdown party, before opening up with water cannon.  In Athens, [a cops beat]…a man…to enforce a…lockdown…”Across the world in 2020, citizens experienced the biggest rollback of individual freedoms ever undertaken by governments during peacetime (and perhaps even in wartime),” [wrote] The Economist…and…at least some countries want to permanently increase the status and power of police…

To Molest and Rape (#1127)

Notice how often rapist cops’ victims are underage?

A [typical and representative New Jersey cop] and [known lecher has been] sexually assaulting a [girl] for five years, starting when she was 15…Tyrone Rolls…was charged…with sexual assault [but also rewarded with a paid vacation.  As usual, “authorities” are weirdly fixated on whether]…he was [wearing his magical clown costume while committing the rapes]…The [victim finally gathered the courage to] report…Rolls [after he slapped her]…and knocked her to the ground…

Bathhouse 28

I’ve been frustrated about our lack of progress on the bathhouse for quite a while now, but unfortunately we’re at a bottleneck; the next step requires brackets which Grace has to make herself, but she’s been ailing for some time and so her progress has been very slow.  But she says she’ll finally be done next week, so we’ve started staging materials and maybe we’ll be getting underway again soon.  I’m hoping that the warmer, drier weather helps, and that once we get going we’ll be able to pick up momentum again.  If we’d been able to get the roof in place before the monsoon season, we’d have been able to work on the walls under the shelter.  But such was not to be, so now I’m hoping to get it done by at least the beginning of summer so we can work in the shade during July and August.  After the walls are up, we can get to work installing our second full bath.  And once that crappy old awning is out of the way, the little lady in the background of this pic will finally get to stand someplace where she can do her job alongside the hot tub.

When Matt and I decided to divorce in 2014, I gathered all of his things I could find and met him in Las Vegas on my way to Seattle the following February.  But because we had so many things stored away in the shop in Oklahoma, some stuff got missed; as I went through the boxes after our move to Sunset, I set aside anything that belonged to him, and we’ve planned for over three years that eventually we’d figure out a way to get it to him.  Well, the time has arrived; one of my gentlemen has received both of his vaccinations and wants to celebrate with an overnight, so it was a perfect opportunity.  Yesterday I drove into Seattle, parked my car at my incall, and drove a rental van back to Sunset.  I loaded it up with Matt’s stuff and today I’m driving down to the Bay Area (not a big deal for me); tomorrow I’ll meet Matt, give him his stuff, and catch up on things (I highly recommend amicable divorce for those who can manage it).  Then I’ll spend Saturday night with my gent and fly back to Seattle on Sunday afternoon, take a day off on Monday, have a couple of self-care appointments on Tuesday, and drive back to Sunset on Wednesday.  I don’t mind travel nearly as much when somebody else is paying the tab, and I kinda needed to get out and stretch my legs a bit (metaphorically speaking) after a year of most everything being closed; assuming things go well, it’ll help me get my brain back into the space I’ll need for Freedom Fest in July.

A lot of…urban legends [are] old wine in new bottles. – Benjamin Radford

A Broker in Pillage (#863)

Go on, keep giving governments more excuses and powers to literally rob people.  I’m sure you’ll never regret it:

South Korean prosecutors have sold bitcoin…[stolen from people they branded] criminals…turn[ing] a profit of around 12.3 billion won (around US$10.9 million)…the [excuse used for the robbery was that the victim was]…”the operator of [an] illegal pornography site”…While the U.S. government has been auctioning [stolen] bitcoin since 2014, Korean prosecutors have held on to the [stolen] bitcoin for the past four years…[until] March 25, the exact day when the country’s [politicians]…classifie[d] crypto as “virtual assets”…

The Notorious Badge (#976)

Twitter’s connection to movies exploiting sex workers isn’t usually so direct:

After receiving rave reviews at last year’s Sundance festival, the full trailer for Janicza Bravo’s Twitter-storm dramedy Zola is finally here…the film follows Zola (Taylour Paige), a Detroit waitress who strikes up a friendship with a customer named Stefani (Riley Keough). Together, they head to Florida to earn some money stripping at a club where Stefani has heard dancer tips are excellent.  As the trip progresses, Stefani puts Zola and herself in more insane and dangerous situations, including run-ins with a nameless pimp and some Tampa gangsters…Zola is based on a viral Twitter thread posted in October 2015 by Detroit-based stripper A’ziah “Zola” King…detail[ing] a weekend of debauchery that quickly descends into a hellish whirlwind of sex, murder, and near-suicide…

The Last Shall Be First (#977) 

Since their “bathroom bills” kept getting struck down, transphobes are now trying to accomplish their goals by controlling doctors:

Arkansas [politician]s passed a bill…that would flatly prohibit medical professionals from providing any sort of gender transition treatments to minors…the…act…forbids the prescribing of puberty blockers to suppress hormones, bans genital reassignment surgeries, and bars any medical treatment that would “alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features for the individual’s biological sex” or “instill or create physiological or anatomical characteristics that resemble a sex different from the individual’s biological sex”…[it] further forbids medical professionals from referring minors to any doctor who could provide the forbidden treatments…says that public funds may not be granted to any entity that provides trans treatments to minors, declares that medical transition treatment procedures are not tax-deductible forms of health care coverage (regardless of age), and prohibits the state’s Medicaid program from providing coverage for these treatments for minors.  Medical professionals who defy the law could lose their licenses to practice in the state…

It’s impossible to miss the resemblance of this strategy to that of imposing arbitrary restrictions on abortion providers.

Dangerous Speech (#1097)

US “authorities” keep pretending “because sex” is an excuse for any tyranny:

…a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected a defense petition that the court order federal Judge Susan Brnovich’s recusal from the Lacey/Larkin case…due to an “appearance of partiality” created by prejudicial statements made by the judge’s husband, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, concerning…Backpage…The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 23

The Widening Gyre (#1103)

It was only a matter of time before “sex trafficking” scarelore invaded TikTok:

“OK, so I saw this TikTok that Target is the new sex trafficking hub”…Makenzie Jade says in her video.  She then tells a story about being followed by a man…in…her local Target, then being circled by two additional men with nothing in their shopping carts…Over the past week…there have been dozens of [similar] videos, some with millions of views, in which young women from all over the country describe being followed by strange men or women in Target in what they [fantasize is] an attempted trafficking operation…what[ever] that…means…experts are highly skeptical of these reports.  “I have never heard a case of anyone being abducted from Target in my 20 years in this field,” says Jean Bruggeman…of Freedom Network USA, [the largest coalition of groups actually concerned with exploitation rather than simply using it as a cover for persecution of sex workers]…the TikTok rumors…adhere to a familiar pattern of…urban legends intended to spread hysteria…Dubious rumors purporting to raise awareness about the “realities” of sex trafficking are nothing new…

In a sign that the hysteria is dying, note that even the perennially-clueless Rolling Stone bluntly calls this what it is (“hoax”) rather than deferentially referring to it as a “mistake” or the like.

Predictable Consequences

Oh look, somebody at Washington Post realized how tone-deaf their initial coverage was:

[When cops raided] three massage businesses…they [branded with the moralistic epithet “]illicit[“, they vomited out a lot of filth about]…“human trafficking and child exploitation” [to]…cover [up the fact that the disguised cops raped sex]…workers, then arrested them…local media outlets…[then abetted the outrage by outing the cops’ victims, complete with names and] photos of their mug shots on the evening news…[barfing up the magic word “]illicit[” has for decades given disguised, lying thugs a court-approved pretext for raping]…spa workers…[none of whom were inter]viewed by The Post…[but after decades of these repeated atrocities, a few politicians] are [finally] beginning to propose new limits on [rape] by police, which [any person with a functional moral compass should understand] serves to dehumanize — and [deepl]ly traumatize — the very women the raids are [claimed by psychopaths] to help.  The…[rapists in] law enforcement, experts said, [nearly always] go unpunished…

As you can see, the article is still replete with copsucking, but some editor appears to have at least some inkling that maybe they’re on the wrong side.

Pyrrhic Victory (#1124)

Still think this djinni can be crammed back into its bottle?

A…facial recognition tool designed [to give government even more power over individual lives] has been quietly deployed across the [US] with little to no public oversight…more than 7,000 individuals from nearly 2,000 [government] agencies nationwide have used Clearview AI to search through millions of Americans’ faces, looking for p[otential victims]…BuzzFeed News has developed a searchable table of 1,803 publicly funded agencies whose employees…used…the [surveillance] tool before February 2020.  These include local and state police, [ICE], the Air Force, state healthcare [bureaucracies], [politicians’] offices…and even public schools.  In many cases, [bureaucrats] at these agencies [claimed to be] unaware that employees were using the tool; five [lied]…in response to questions about it…210 organizations denied any use…1,161 [others ignored] questions about whether they had used it…Hoan Ton-That, the company’s cofounder and CEO, [expressed glee that his invention has done so much to undermine privacy and empower cop shops]…

What makes it worse is, cops just keep blatantly lying about it:

Despite statements from the NYPD in early 2020 stating that it had no relationship with…Clearview AI, documents…reveal that the company was an acknowledged vendor to the department from as early as 2018, and that it continue[s] to enjoy a congenial relationship…that [has] included in-person meetings and customer support from Ton-That [himself]…

Diary #563

It’s now been over six weeks since my new pullets hatched out, so on Sunday I turned off their heat lamp for the first time since I bought them.  It’s now on a timer, set to go on at 8 PM and off at 8 AM; at this time of year the days here at Sunset are reasonably warm (predicted highs this week of 19 most days, 22 on Friday) but the nights are still pretty chilly (predicted lows of 2 most nights).  I’m traveling later this week, but Chekhov will mind them until I return, after which I’ll gradually shorten the lamp duration to give them their first taste of actual darkness before removing the lamp completely when they join the adult hens on May 9th.  It may seem like I make this process more complicated than it has to be, and given my propensity for imposing structure on my life that’s probably true.  But I’ve found these procedures to be the best way to raise healthy, contented chickens who dependably produce a lot of eggs and don’t give me any unusual trouble.  And that’s a good enough reason for me.

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