Archive for February 7th, 2011

Virtue has a veil, vice a mask. –  Victor Hugo

Last Tuesday (February 1st), someone calling herself “Bedelia” tried to reply to my “Numerology” column with the following response.  As regular readers know, I don’t allow troublemakers to post freely on my blog; though I certainly believe in free speech, there are already beaucoup venues for trafficking fetishists, religious fanatics, neofeminists and other undesirables to spread their filth without my having to allow them into my online “house”.  And like the unwanted visitors in the famous Monty Python sketch, once one admits such people they always wreak havoc and there is no guarantee that they’ll ever leave.  I have nothing, however, against caging up such creatures in the back yard and letting my guests look at them while I point out their features of note.  Here is one such trespasser; the first thing I want to point out is that, since she cannot refute the statistical analysis in the post to which she tried to reply, she does not even make the attempt but rather tries to misdirect the reader’s attention from the facts with a lurid story which also serves the rhetorical function of a gambit to establish herself as a more credible authority than I am.  In other words, the reply is a stab at an “end run” around both the statistical facts in the essay and my established reputation.

I was a hooker for ten years in New York.  Nearly every one I worked with had had an ‘entree’ into the life that included a systemic breaking, gang rape, and captivity.  We were working under conditions extremely similar to trafficking.  In my experience most ex-prostitutes are so traumatized they are extremely unlikely to tell people of their experiences.  It took me 14 years to get to the point where I can talk about it anonymously on an online website.

The writer may indeed have experienced this or something like it, but this invalidates neither the experiences of other women nor the demonstrable fact that the vast majority of prostitutes are in the profession voluntarily.  Pay close attention to the cleverly disguised attempt in the second-to-last sentence to cast doubt on the veracity of all of us whores who write online by the implication that “real” prostitutes are too traumatized to do so (she attempts this trick again, though much more directly, in the second excerpt below). It is certainly possible that “most ex-prostitutes” of Bedelia’s experience have indeed been traumatized, but she tells us nothing about what that experience might be.  Is it limited to meetings held by trafficking fanatics, or to holding cells?  And if the latter, on which side of the bars was Bedelia?  It certainly doesn’t involve any interaction with the typical independent internet escort like 60% or more of prostitutes!

If I was raised in a convent I might well believe the statement “most women are celibate”, but that wouldn’t make it true.  And limited experience is no excuse for ignorance or misrepresentation in this age of easily-obtained information; activist Jill Brenneman has written many times about her three years as an involuntary prostitute and she is quite clear on the differences between trafficked sex work and normal sex work.  If Jill knows the difference, so should Bedelia before presuming to set herself up as an authority on the subject.  But even if she’s simply ignorant or misguided, it doesn’t excuse this:

Sexual exploitation is what it is.  Those who try to hide it or whitewash it behind rhetoric are using the voicelessly disenfranchised millions of women who suffer abusive, violence, and rape in prostitution to further their own political ends.  It is possible to be doing this without being conscious of it — Usually when a woman is posing as a prostitute in favor of the sex industry, as Maggie is, she is making money off pimping (or being a madam).  It’s an old trick (no pun intended).

The incredible hypocrisy of the second sentence (I think we all know which people are using women to further their own political ends) is followed by a blatant reiteration of the accusation from the first section above, and though I am the one she directly names the mud is clearly intended to splash on every other sex worker who speaks or writes in favor of decriminalization.  As I pointed out in several recent columns (especially this one and its sequel), trafficking fanatics obviously don’t have a very high opinion of their audience because they clearly expect their statements, no matter how ludicrous, to be accepted at face value.  It’s sad, however, to see that “anyone who would defend a witch (communist, pedophile, etc) must be one herself” is still the weapon of choice for those who dare to challenge the verity of statements and accusations made by witch-hunters.

Every day I wake up thinking of the women I worked alongside, the two who were murdered by my pimp, the one who took a fatal overdose and called our madam asking for help.  THe [sic] madam did not send help, but later did send goons to the dead girls [sic] apartment to remove all signs of the madam’s associaiton [sic].  You see, the madam didn’t want to do anything that would bring attention to her business.

Beside the lurid appeal to emotion, the rest of this is exactly what those of us who support decriminalization constantly point out.  Because our trade is illegal, shady escort services and abusive pimps can conduct their sleazy business unhindered; nasty things thrive in the dark.  And as activists constantly point out, whores are not free to report rapes, theft, overdoses, trafficking or anything else because the cops simply arrest the reporter and ignore her report (a fine example appears in this coming Wednesday’s column).

Nearly all prostitution is backed by organized crime, and this threat on the prostitutes is ever-present.

This is the most blatant lie in the entire piece, and the one which most causes me to doubt the sincerity of the whole thing.  The “organized crime” myth is favored by only one group, the police; even trafficking fanatics prefer to represent most pimps as “networked” but independent operators, with only some large operations backed by organized crime.  Are there escort services owned by the Mafia, massage parlors controlled by Asian organized crime and girls trafficked by Eastern European syndicates?  Undoubtedly, but to declare that mobsters are shaking down “nearly all” independent escorts and buying up agencies wholesale, or that every two-bit pimp is a card-carrying gangster, is like something out of a 1930’s crime movie.

I do think it should not be illegal to be a prostitute.  I believe the best model is the Swedish and Norwegian legislation, where it’s legal to be a prostitute, but not legal to be a pimp or a John.  The Canadian model, where pimping is illegal, but collecting money for sex is not illegal, is an improvement over the US system.

This last paragraph, I think, is the key to recognizing “Bedelia’s” scam; her support for the Swedish Model marks her as a neofeminist, and her claim that the omnipresent male oppressor is organized crime make me suspect she’s a policewoman; I’ve also never heard a real hooker use the word “john” for a customer, though perhaps New York streetwalkers do.  Accusing one’s enemies of criminal motives is also a typical police-style propaganda trick, especially when accompanied by a conscious or unconscious assumption of authority as in the second and fourth excerpts above.  Obviously, there’s no way to be sure of this because she isn’t going to admit it, but I suspect “Bedelia” to be an indoctrinated neofeminist, possibly a policewoman, attempting to win prostitutes and our female supporters over to the “Swedish Model” but too poorly-informed to realize that real escorts and others who know the truth about our lives can spot her a mile off.

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