Archive for April, 2011

It is not every question that deserves an answer.  –  Publilius Syrus, Sententiae (#581)

It’s time once again to answer questions posed by you, my readers; if you have a question you’d like to see answered here just send it to the address listed in the right column.

Is there a right way to go about engaging a prostitute’s services? As much as I fully agree that it’s insane to think all sex workers are being degraded, how can I make sure that a lady is in fact doing this because it’s her choice – and not because some pimp will harm her if she doesn’t?

Though some sex worker rights activists might be angry at me for saying this, the best way to minimize your chances of running into a girl who has been coerced is to avoid streetwalkers.  Though only about half of them have pimps (and most of those work for the girl rather than vice-versa), the possibility is still higher on the street than in indoor settings.  Even among streetwalkers without pimps the incidence of drug abuse, poverty and other factors which many think of as disallowing truly free choice are dramatically higher, and beside everything else there are more police client stings (which are growing more popular as the Swedish odor pervades the land) involving fake streetwalkers than fake escorts.

Your best bet is to join one of the “hooker boards” like ECCIE or Big Doggie, hang around for a while, cruise the girls’ ads and look for one who appeals to you and fits into your price range (it’ll probably be about $200-$400 depending on where you live).  Then read her reviews; a very small percentage of low-end girls may have “management”, but you’ll be able to tell from the reviews because guys will report that suspicion.  Also, the older the escort the less likely she is to be “managed”.  The chance of running into a coerced escort is pretty low to start with, but using those guidelines you can pretty much eliminate it completely.

I kind of get the impression that you would advocate anyone in the business adhere strictly to a referral system.  The problem I see with such a system is that it becomes a closed loop in which no new clients can ever enter because they can’t get a referral.  Obviously, in reality, there are constantly new women moving into the business and they may be willing to see someone without references, but are they really inclined to provide them to others?

Fortunately for new clients, different girls have different comfort levels where referrals are concerned; agency escorts don’t generally expect them and some independents distrust them unless they know the referring girls personally, for the simple reason that some escorts seem unconcerned with the safety of others and will give a flippant “he’s OK” even if they can’t remember the client at all!  And since some others never bother to respond when asked, some escorts consider referrals more trouble than they’re worth and prefer to screen by other means.

A perusal of escort boards will reveal some girls, often highly sought-after ones, who are “newbie friendly” (i.e. they’ll screen by means other than references).  In general, these are girls who are more worried about “stings” than about bad clients; they trust their instincts and ability to manage difficult customers to get them out of tight spots, but it’s hard to get around fifteen armed men who mean to abduct one.  Once you’ve seen one of these “newbie friendly” girls, you can use her as a reference to see others who are more adamant about referrals and before too long you’ll be set whether your prospective date wants a referral or not.

If I make a comment on your blog and then realize I said something I really shouldn’t have, do you mind deleting it?

We all occasionally type replies online and then, at some point after hitting “post”, realize that due to anger or giddiness or exhaustion or booze or just plain bad judgment we’ve said more than we should’ve.  And then comes the “Oh, shit!” moment where one realizes that he’s provided information which could compromise his privacy, or acted like a total ass, or just written something which makes no actual sense whatsoever.  When the mistake is just a plain typo most people simply make a second comment, and I delete that one and incorporate the correction into the first.  But if the offending post is a complete embarrassment to you, please send me an email pointing out the reply in question and I’ll edit it as you desire or delete it completely if that’s what you want.  I’ll still delete the problem-post even if it’s been replied to, but in that case I’ll first ask you to consider editing rather than total deletion so that subsequent replies still make sense.  Note that though I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time here lately, it’s not always that way so if you happen to send your deletion request on a day when I’m busy it may take some time before I see it and can perform the requested action.

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Corruption is worse than prostitution.  The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.  –  Karl Kraus

As we’ve discussed many times before, Americans have the distressing tendency to pretend that all prostitutes are streetwalkers, even though any person who isn’t living in a fantasy world has at a minimum heard of escorts and massage parlor girls.  And in the past few years this already-distorted view has become even narrower as the rhetoric that the “vast majority” of streetwalkers (whom the fanatics represent as the “vast majority” of whores) are both underage and coerced.  And though people like Kristin Davis try to build their fortunes on these lies, the truth is that only about 3.5% of all prostitutes are underage.  This means there are only about 15,700 underage prostitutes in the United States, and as we shall see only a small percentage of those are coerced in any way, much less “trafficked sex slaves”.

When I wrote the above-linked column in January I had no way of estimating what percentage of underage girls are coerced, but I recently came across that information in an article from Feministing written in response to the media hullabaloo surrounding the publication of Rachel Lloyd’s book Girls Like Us.  Lloyd is a former underage prostitute who founded the Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), a New York City organization dedicated to offering a refuge to young girls involved in street prostitution.  And though Lloyd has done some important work, including advocating for the decriminalization of underage prostitution, I’m afraid that her message (she points out that criminalization hurts prostitutes of all ages) has been hijacked by creeps like Nicholas Kristof (a trafficking fetishist of the most transparent kind whom I have mentioned before) to promote persecution of adult prostitutes and clients.  The Feministing article appeared on April 25th and  includes this long excerpt from a comment written by one of the organizers of an organization called INCITE! in response to this article on Colorlines:

The Safe Harbor Act, along with initiatives like it that Lloyd and others are promoting across the country, are NOT simple or solutions for most of us.  First, they don’t stop arrests of young people for prostitution-related offenses, or the police abuses of young people in the sex trades, including police trading sex in exchange for promises of dropping charges.  They also don’t stop arrests of young people in the sex trades that involve “charging up,” i.e. charging young people with weapons or drug-related offenses which may be easier to prove.  Second, while they may stop criminal prosecutions of young people for prostitution-related offenses, these laws do not eliminate detention and punishment of young people involved in the sex trades, they just shift young people from the jurisdiction of the criminal courts to family court systems, where they can remain entangled until the age of 21.  And, in the end, only a very narrow group of people can benefit from these laws.

For example, in order for the Safe Harbor Act to benefit a young person, they must be under 16 and arrested for the first time and must never have been in family court before.  Young people between the ages of 16-18 continue to be charged in adult court.  Even those under 16 who can meet the Act’s criteria must still convince a judge that they are a “victim” of a “severe form of trafficking” – a hurdle that both Sen and Lloyd acknowledge is almost impossible for young girls of color.  This is also a problem because most young people’s stories do not fit into a neat box.  A National Institutes of Justice funded study by researchers at John Jay College in New York City found that only 8% of young people involved in the sex trades in New York City had been forced into prostitution by a “pimp,” and only 10% currently worked with one.  The same study found that 16% of girls and 6% of boys trading sex were coerced, but the vast majority of girls (84%) engaged in the sex trades in New York City had never come into contact with a “pimp.”  When young people can’t respond to police and prosecutors’ pressure to give up a “pimp” they never had they get punished by law enforcement and service providers alike, and find themselves back on the delinquency and detention track.  Even when the Safe Harbor Act (and other laws like it) is found to apply to a young person, they must still follow the rules a family court judge sees fit, which can involve attending a court-mandated program…, many of which enforce Christianity on participants.  Additionally, for young people for whom no such services are available, including LGBTQ young people and young men in the sex trades, such legislation offers little or no relief whatsoever.

The Feministing article includes a great deal more and is, I think, worth your time; it contains points such as “…it’s important to remember – there are people, including young people, who want to do sex work in a safe environment, without experiencing state violence at the hands of the police and social services – which is the greatest danger they face according to young people in the sex trade.”  But the thing which caught my attention the most was the John Jay study:  only 16% of underage female prostitutes are coerced, which is a direct repudiation of Estes and Weiner’s ridiculous claim that ALL underage female prostitutes, without exception, are coerced.  If we apply that 16% to my estimate of the total number of underage prostitutes, we arrive at a total of 2511 coerced underage female prostitutes in the United States…roughly 1% of what the trafficking fanatics would have us believe.  And that certainly explains why they, the cops and the FBI have so much trouble finding any.

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Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What!  You too?  I thought I was the only one.”  –  C.S. Lewis

In the nearly a year since I started this blog, I have acquired many regular readers, and a fair percentage of them have blogs of their own; as one might expect a number of these blogs are on the subject of sex work and/or are written by sex workers.  But though I have a number of these linked in my right column, for some reason (whether kismet, spiritual affinity, psychological compatibility or some obscure effect of chaos theory) I have ended up in a tighter relationship with three of these:  in alphabetical order, Brandy Devereaux, Emily Hemingway and Kelly James.  We read each others’ columns, link each other frequently and tip each other off to developments in the world of whoredom.  It’s certainly possible, even likely, that other ladies will eventually join what my husband calls the “coffee klatsch”, but for right now it stands at we four (whom Kelly defines as “co-conspirators of pure debauchery”).  What I’d like to do today is simply call attention to one recent post by each of these ladies so as to demonstrate not why I like them (that’s just because they’re all sweethearts with wonderful personalities), but why I respect them as bloggers and encourage y’all to read them.

My favorite recent post by Brandy is one she made on April 19th to comment on two news stories:  one in which a massive police raid on the brothel windows in Amsterdam found not ONE SINGLE “trafficking victim” (which of course the police and “rescue” fanatics refused to believe), and the other on the “amnesty” proposed so the police can collect the names of New York hookers now so as to bust them after the serial killer is caught.  Here’s a choice selection from the first section:

In the mega-operation against trafficking in The Hague declared 157 of them prostitutes no victim.  Police and rescue disagree.  ‘All 157 prostitutes by the police during the evening and night has spoken, stated that they not victims of trafficking and that they work voluntarily.’”

Well BY GOD we can’t believe hookers!  That would force them to admit that they just wasted a whole hellofalota taxpayer money!  Besides, we all KNOW that they are lying to protect their pimp… hmhmmm… yea that’s it.

And her reaction to a Dutch law that states trafficking victims get asylum while illegal aliens are deported:

Oh!  I can stay in the country and work legally if I admit I’m a foreigner trafficked in.  Versus being deported back to my crappy country where I have to hide without any police protection.  Hmmm.  Where do I sign up to be trafficked again?

Then on the amnesty issue:

As I discussed somewhere previously… aha here… I have concerns in regards to asking for temporary amnesty so that sex workers can “feel” free to report information that may lead to the Long Island serial killer dipshit.  A few issues/questions/concerns besides those I’ve mentioned before:

1) How temporary would the amnesty be?  Until the killer is caught?  What if he is never caught?  Two months perhaps?  The little fucker will lay low until the temporary amnesty is over and just restart his twisted spree.
2)  So if amnesty is granted, can I move to Long Island to work?
3)  If amnesty is granted (*there is a Meatloaf song starting to repeat itself in my head*), don’t you think Mr. I-like-to-kill-prostitutes will just go across state/jurisdiction lines?
4)  If that happens (obviously the dude isn’t stupid so I can totally see that happening) are you going to grant amnesty in the surrounding states too?

Hell let’s just grant long term amnesty across the nation!  Oh wait, wouldn’t that be decriminalization basically?  Gee, we can’t do that!  It sends the wrong message!

*Knock on the door*  Oh look… Bad Brandy!

Bad Brandy” is the usually-sweet blogger’s not-so-nice alter ego.  I’m not going to spoil what follows by partial quotes; you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

And then there’s Emily, who like me prefers not to show her face; she doesn’t focus as narrowly on sex work as Brandy and I do, and the result is well-considered posts like this one from April 8th:

Arguably the best invention to grease the wheels of liberty since the gun, is the video phone.  No longer must we be subjected to a policeman’s testimony being a freshly scrubbed-and-shaved-and-pressed man with his shiny, shiny badge and nifty uniform, saying in his very bestest Andy Griffith impersonation what he wishes had really happened (“You see, Your Honor, I was just coming from teaching a bible study group when the Chief asked me to respond to a call of a woman in a hotel room.  I, of course, did not get naked nor did I demand or receive sexual services, because that would be wrong and against all my mother taught me.  When the suspect attempted to forcibly remove my clothing while loudly insisting she would perform a “blow job” if I gave her $20, I noted that her speech was erratic and used my 14 years of exemplary service on the force to deduce that she was doing illegal drugs…”)

Now we get treated to regular episodes of  Caught On Tape…It seems some people think truth is a controlled substance, however.  Coincidentally, they are often the same people who think You’re Making Me Look Bad is an arrestable offense.  Thus do we find that a public servant on a public sidewalk or thoroughfare, speaking in a normally audible voice and (best part) videotaping the encounter himself via his dashcam, is afforded an extraordinary degree of “privacy”.  Not too surprisingly, it isn’t illegal to videotape an officer kissing babies or walking a little old lady across the street.  No, you’re only illegally violating their privacy when you catch them shooting people, beating up kids, harassing the public and other examples of crass thuggery.

Last but not least we have Kelly; like Emily she writes about issues which often start but rarely end with sex work; here’s a particularly impressive example from April 25th:

Surprise, surprise….the rights of whores are being violated.  Big fucking deal unless you just so happen to be a whore, right?  Think again.  Historically, prostitutes are among the first but hardly the last members of oppressed societies subject to persecution and loss of their basic human rights.  For example, prostitutes were among the first to be imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps along with others classified as “asocials“; they were considered either “work shy”, “mentally ill”, or “hereditarily diseased” and therefore their detainment in labor camps for so called purposes of rehabilitation was widely supported by the German public in the early days of Nazi rule.  However, detainment turned to sterilization which turned to “euthanasia”…All in all, between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime was responsible for the mass murder of approximately 17 million individuals, of which 6 million were Jews…

…“No Humans Involved” (NHI) is a term that has been used by law enforcement to categorize crimes against individuals of the lowest social status such as prostitutes, drug users, gang members, vagrants, and the like, indicating that such individuals are not classified as human beings and therefore not endowed with the inalienable right to life enjoyed by the rest of society, that the murder and torture of such individuals can be overlooked because they are not human; that they are unworthy of personhood and relegated to the basic status of laboratory animals – their lives are worth nothing…No Humans Involved.  Like a dead raccoon in the road.  Slightly distasteful but you just keep on driving and don’t bother to look back.  How deeply and irreparably is this mentality engraved into the psyche of our entire society?  Consider the happenings of the past decade surrounding Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib

Do yourself a favor; take a look at these ladies’ blogs.  Don’t worry, they’re not as fanatical as I am so they don’t post every day (though Brandy comes close).  And if you enjoy reading their work as much as I do, you might also consider the other blogs I have listed in the right column under “Whorish Media” and “Friends of Whores”.

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I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.  –  Thomas Jefferson.

One of the first ways a child knows his mother recognizes that he’s growing up is that she stops reminding him of commonsense things.  Obviously, there are some mothers who never stop, but this gets pretty irritating because it tends to mean the mother doesn’t really trust her child to remember it himself; in other words, it’s a sign she views him as immature and therefore irresponsible.  A mother who regularly called to remind her adult son or daughter to take typical adult precautions such as locking doors, brushing teeth or dressing warmly in wintertime would certainly be perceived as annoying and interfering; such reminders are at best patronizing and at worst examples of a pathological need to infantilize the one to whom they are delivered.  Any normal woman would resent such behavior if her mother did it…so why do we accept it from busybody strangers?

In my column of April 4th, I offered a few safety tips for my amateur sisters who date strangers (including men they meet online).  But I’m not in authority over any of my readers; my suggestions are intended in the spirit of sharing my considerable experience in dealing with strange men in sexually-charged situations with women who may not have been in that position.  You don’t have to take them, don’t even have to read them and in fact can say “up yours, Maggie” if it pleases you to do so.  I’m certainly not going to put the suggestions on my front page so you’re forced to look at them every time you sign on, and I couldn’t take measures to “protect” you from your own decisions even if I wanted to.

Others, however, have a lower opinion of the adult competency of those who use the internet.  After an entitlement junkie recently sued Match.com for failing to warn her that meeting strange men for potentially sexual purposes might be, like, dangerous, the popular dating site announced that it will now screen users via the national sex offender registry.  Because obviously, anyone who isn’t on the registry must be perfectly safe, and anyone who is on it deserves never to have sexual contact ever again with anyone for the rest of his life, even if he’s there for screwing his 16-year-old girlfriend when he was 19, or she’s there for prostitution or taking nude pictures of herself as a teenager.  Match.com is a business and if it decides to nag its users with commonsense warnings or discriminate against certain groups as a ward against future lawsuits, that’s certainly its right.  But as this AP release, from last Thursday (April 21st) explains, Big Nanny wants to force websites to do those things:

… Amid accounts of sex offenders using matchmaking sites to find victims, lawmakers in several states are trying to pass legislation to help make online daters more aware of the potential pitfalls of the process.  Bills are pending this year in Connecticut and Texas to provide users with more information to protect themselves.  Connecticut’s bill, mirroring a law in New York, requires Internet dating services to provide a safety awareness notice during registration that offers advice such as never including your last name, email address, place of work, phone numbers or identifying information in an Internet profile.  Similar laws are already on the books in Florida and New Jersey…”I’ve heard a lot of stories, not only people who had their physical safety endangered, but also financial safety,” said Connecticut…[bill sponsor] Mae Flexer…”I’ve heard from a number of people who unfortunately met someone online, they gave them too much information and were damaged financially as well.”

The Texas legislation requires online dating services to clearly disclose to customers whether they conduct criminal background checks on each member before allowing them to contact other members on the site.  The same bill requires the sites to remind customers that background checks are not a perfect safety solution and they can be circumvented by criminals.  New York lawmakers are considering a similar bill that would supplement last year’s law.  It would also require the companies to clearly notify users whether they conduct criminal background screenings…

Donna Rice Hughes, CEO and president of Enough is Enough, a Virginia-based nonprofit that focuses on improving Internet safety for children and families, said it makes sense for corporate matchmaking websites to proactively take steps to make their services safer…”The last thing they need for business is for somebody to get harmed by something through their site… They should be running their database against the sex offender registries.  That’s a no-brainer.”  [But] Alex Vasquez, founder of the L.A.-based blog theurbandater.com, said not everyone in the online dating community likes the idea of background checks.  “It’s definitely going to be a hot-button item because there’s definitely that privacy issue,” he said.  Vasquez recommends both women and men use common sense when meeting their online dates face-to-face…

One would think that since Mrs. Hughes made her own highly questionable choices involving men without the assistance of the internet, she would understand that it’s dating strangers which carries the risk, not the method by which people find each other.  Meeting strangers via online personals ads is no different from meeting them via print personals, except that the online personal is likely to contain a great deal more information (not to mention a picture and the ability to “chat” electronically without exchanging phone numbers).  If anything, using computer ads vs. print ones actually decreases the danger; it certainly has for escorts.  The real change isn’t the medium, it’s the percentage of people using such ads for dating.  But even then, does anyone really believe meeting a man online is remotely as dangerous as meeting him in a singles bar?

Mr. Vasquez has it right; if people would simply use common sense, they wouldn’t need corporate and political nannies telling them whom they’re allowed to meet and talk to and insulting their intelligence with “advice” which should be obvious to any rational adult.  Alas, common sense has gone out of style; taking personal responsibility for one’s choices and the consequences thereof make it much more difficult to sue somebody if one screws up or unforeseen circumstances occur, and people who accept personal responsibility tend to reject the efforts of “authorities” to control their lives, beliefs and finances…and we certainly can’t have that.

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Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault [at all].  –  John 18:38

In the extensive commentary following my column of April 18th there was a discussion of the relativity of truth.  For those who may have missed it, one poster argued that truth is relative and therefore it is impossible to be certain about anything.  He was sharply taken to task on that position by a number of other posters, and though I disagree with him I understand what he was trying to say, and made a reply to that effect.  Since this issue has arisen on my blog before and undoubtedly will again, I think it would be a good idea for me to repeat my post here in somewhat expanded form.

In traditional philosophy the distinction is made between a factual judgment and a value judgment; the former is a judgment about the nature of objective reality, e.g. “I think this scaffold is strong enough to support my weight,” while the latter is a judgment about a subjective matter,  e.g. “I think the way they treated him was wrong.”  I tend to use the word truth in a philosophical sense, which can be relative; in the thread I stated that reincarnation is “true” for me, that is I have faith in it and live assuming it’s true. But for an atheist, snuffed out like a candle at death is “true” in that same sense and to a Christian, heaven and hell are “true”.  Morality, eschatology and the like cannot be determined by scientific tests, and since they strike at the heart of what it means to be human they must be answered individually and are therefore relative.  Facts, on the other hand, cannot be relative; they exist independent of the observer and can be reproduced by other experimenters who are unaware of the original experimenter’s results.  The speed of light can be measured, is the same everywhere and is not subject to interpretation; it is a fact.  And while Platonists may argue that nothing is objective and ultimate reality is unknowable, even the most dedicated philosopher expects ordinary objects to behave as they have always behaved and recognizes that for all ordinary intents and purposes physical reality is knowable; he expects that his clothes will not spontaneously combust, his bread will not poison him and the distance from his bedroom to his study will remain relatively constant unless some physical agency intervenes to alter one of those factors.  And up until the end of the 19th century, nobody but philosophers or priests ever argued any differently; for most people the mundane was knowable and the spiritual could only be grasped through faith.

Unfortunately, the turn of the 20th century set events in motion which changed that; the first of these was the rise of what I call “secular religions”, of which the first was Marxism.  Though these religions concern themselves with physical reality and avoid talk of the soul, the Divine or other such esoteric concepts, they are yet religions because they insist on rigid adherence to a morality and interpretation of reality (i.e. an approved set of both “truth” and facts) derived entirely from knowledge revealed in sacred scriptures by the founders of the religion.  The dogma of Marxism and the various “-isms” derived from it (such as neofeminism, Afrocentrism, etc) must be accepted unquestioningly by adherents; dissidence is suppressed and any scientifically-sound facts which contradict the teachings are denied.  But because these “-isms” do not at first seem like religions to the unwary, they gained a foothold in academic departments and have infiltrated many governments; the Scandinavian countries infected with institutionalized neofeminism are every bit as irrational and ideologically-driven as the staunchest theocracy.

Still, the secular religions alone cannot be blamed entirely for the confusion of factual judgments with value judgments among the modern intelligentsia; Marxism and its spawn might have remained the province of extremists and tyrants had not the very foundations of reality itself been shaken by the work of three of Marx’s countrymen named Planck, Einstein and Schrödinger.  19th-century scientists were so certain of reality that the physicist Philipp von Jolly advised Max Planck (1858-1947) against going into physics with the statement, “in this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few holes.”  His brilliant student ignored the advice, went into physics anyway and turned the field entirely upside-down by developing the quantum theory, which demonstrated that subatomic particles tend to behave in ways absolutely at odds with Victorian notions of decorum, vacillating wildly back and forth between different states depending upon the means used by human observers to examine them.  Albert Einstein (1879-1955) built upon Planck’s theory and went on to propound his own, special relativity, which demonstrated that size, mass and even the flow of time itself are dependent upon the speed at which an object moves.  And Einstein’s friend Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) expanded quantum mechanics still further and recognized that it appeared to be the act of observation itself which caused particles to “collapse” into one state or another, and that prior to observation such particles existed in not one state or another but both states simultaneously!  He proposed a now-famous thought experiment in which a cat is placed in a sealed box with a radioactive substance and a device which will release poison gas upon detecting a particle of radioactive decay.  Until the box is opened there is no way to know whether any of the particles from the radioactive material has yet struck the detector and killed the cat; if the hapless feline were the same as a subatomic particle, it could be considered to be not merely dead or alive, but simultaneously dead and alive!

Educated non-scientists encountering Dr. Einstein’s adjustable mass and time or Dr. Schrödinger’s undead kitty can perhaps be forgiven for throwing up their hands in despair and deciding that all facts are relative; if even hard-headed scientists say that the truth varies with the observer, the claims of the “-isms” that doctrine supersedes science seem to make perfect sense.  But that’s because they don’t read deeply enough to understand that not only do these theories apply to very special cases (the incredibly small for quantum mechanics and the incredibly fast for special relativity), but also that the probabilities involved cancel each other out under normal conditions.  Though we often hear it said that “Einstein’s theory of gravity superseded Newton’s”, in fact Newton’s is still 100% accurate for all normal applications.  And though Planck’s subatomic zoo is capable of all sorts of bizarre, counterintuitive and even absurd transformations, translations and transfers, I can depend on the fact that never in my lifetime, or indeed within the lifetime of the entire universe, will my Mercedes suddenly transmogrify into a large blob of cottage cheese.  Though I know my desk is actually nothing more than an electronic fog composed mostly of empty space, it will function as though solid under all normal circumstances and its properties can be determined independently by any number of observers one cares to name with exactly the same results.  Were that not true science would be difficult, technology would be impossible and organic life itself – which is, after all, based on the dependability of chemical processes – would never have arisen.

A little learning, as the saying goes, is a dangerous thing; many reasonably-educated people know just enough about the weirdness of modern physics to cause them to come to totally erroneous conclusions about the nature of objective reality.  This uncertainty, coupled with a widespread distrust of science engendered by the man-made problems of the modern world (such as pollution and the specter of nuclear war), has rendered many otherwise-intelligent people in academia susceptible to the asinine notion that “facts are relative”.  Since that myth is extremely useful to those who wish to promote agendas whose tenets fly in the face of objective reality, such individuals have worked tirelessly to insinuate it into nearly every institution of higher learning in the United States and many in other Western countries…which is of course why we now get most of our scientists from Asia, where people still understand that philosophy is not science and objective facts absolutely can be counted on in the mundane world inhabited by homo sapiens.  Unfortunately, the misguided doctrine of “relativity of facts” has been taught in American schools for two generations now, and it would take quite a while to excise the cancer even if we were assiduously working at it…which we aren’t.

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Q: How can you tell if a politician is lying?  A: His lips are moving.

Whores are used to being lied about by prohibitionists, politicians and cops, but since we’re the subject of the current moral panic the current crop of lies is even worse than usual, and the most outrageous of these lies are being spewed out by cops and their media stooges.  Really, this should come as no surprise; since virtually every statement made by cops about sex workers is a lie, and since they are encouraged to commit the most ridiculous fabrications to paper as “evidence” of women’s “crime” of being sexual, it takes very little provocation for them to come out with tall tales which might be funny were they not used to whip up anti-whore hysteria among the pathologically gullible.  So though the popular joke which forms my epigram mentions politicians, on the subject of prostitutes it applies equally well to cops.  I’m going to look at two recent examples, both of which were called to my attention by the ever-alert Brandy Devereaux.

I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with the fact that there is a new serial killer in New York, and like so many others of his kind he’s targeting prostitutes.  The reason for this should be obvious to any reasonable person:  The criminalization of our trade forces us to work secretly and therefore makes us much easier targets.  But cops and their ilk are not reasonable people; first the district attorney said it was their own fault they were killed, and now the FBI is trying to call attention away from the fact that the killer is probably a cop by blaming the murder of at least one of the girls on internet trolls.  Here’s the April 17th report from that bastion of responsible journalism, the New York Daily News:

Members of an Internet sex forum hatched a “revenge” plot against a Long Island hooker who was later murdered and dumped in a serial killer’s burial ground, the Daily News has learned.  Talk on longislanderotic.com shows members were outraged when one of their cronies claimed he had paid Amber Lynn Costello $200 for sex, only to be robbed by men who barged into her West Babylon home.  “Tell her we are all coming over there with baseball bats,” threatened one member…

That ominous threat, and more to follow, has opened a window on what probers say is a virtually unregulated sex network of johns, hookers and escort services.  “The Internet has really become a highway for criminality,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  “In terms of prostitution, it’s moved a pretty public enterprise into the shadows more than ever, and made it more difficult for law enforcement to get a handle on it.”  Investigators would not say if any of the online johns are suspects in the probe of a possible serial killer…Still, law enforcement sources say the chilling online thread is the type of internet-based sex crime that attracted the FBI to the case…

A message board member known as “Humiliatrix69” first raged on July 11, 2010, about getting “suckered” by Costello and company hours earlier.  Shortly after, a pal called “italyrider” asked for her address:  “No one from this board needs to be involved.  I have friends who can take care of this s—.”  Humiliatrix69 posted Costello’s address, a description of her home, and her phone number.  Three days days later, “Morrie” chimed in:  “A friend of ours told me today that ‘You won’t hear from those 2 girls anymore!'”  Costello, a twice-divorced drug addict, disappeared on Sept. 2, 2010.  That was eight weeks after Humiliatrix69 aired his anger on the message board…Costello advertised herself as a “Southern girl” named “Carolina,” who was “short, sexy & a lot of fun.”  Humiliatrix69 didn’t have such a good time.  “Seemed really friendly,” his angry post read.  “Provided the donation.  She slipped away and got comfortable, and so did I.  Then there was a knock at the door.”  Humiliatrix69 claimed two men armed with a baseball bat rushed at him.  One claimed he was Costello’s boyfriend…They fought on the front lawn.  “I made it clear that it wasn’t over, so after posting this…I gotta go handle this,” he wrote…Humiliatrix69 was hell-bent on revenge, but nervous.  “I want to be spiteful and get revenge, but I am going to [private message] the info.  I wanna get the exact address.  I will go by there tonight.  I could seriously do some time for the things I want to do to this provider and her boyfriend.”  Then he admitted to having cold feet.  Revenge wouldn’t be worth it, he reasoned, claiming he would go “back to attempting to make legitimate porn videos”…

As is typical for tabloids, the article concentrates on the lurid and pitches the story to make the commonplace seem sinister; for example, “a virtually unregulated network blah blah blah…” when the entire internet is virtually unregulated!  And if any of my readers has NOT ever seen some big shot running his mouth off on one message board or another as the men in this story did, please comment; I predict no replies.  The guy was angry because he got ripped off; so would anyone be.  I certainly hope the FBI’s “interest” is just a fabrication on the part of the Daily News, because if the feds are honestly trying to pin one of a string of virtually-identical serial killer cases on angry internet commenters, they must have learned their investigative techniques from watching too many TV cop shows.

I do want to point out one more thing about this story: Professor O’Lawhead’s asinine comments at the beginning of the second paragraph. “Highway for criminality?” WTF?  I mean, is this person for real?  He claims to be a law professor and yet can’t recognize the difference between real criminality and a status offense?  And that stupid comment about prostitution being a “public enterprise” betrays an appalling ignorance of the history of the subject he is presuming to speak about.  One has to wonder if he won his law degree as a prize from an iron claw machine on Coney Island.

The second example is far less serious, but IMHO more irritating because it’s a blatant lie rather than a distortion of the truth, and comes directly from the pigs’ mouths instead of potentially being a journalistic artifact.  Brandy’s blog of April 18th refers to this story posted on recordpub.com the day before:

An alleged prostitute who advertised her services online and was caught in an April 4 Brimfield police sting operation at a hotel in the township has pleaded not guilty to prostitution, solicitation and related misdemeanor charges.  Samantha R. Edwards, 19…was arraigned last week in Portage County Municipal Court…on one count each of prostitution and solicitation, both third-degree misdemeanors, and three counts of possession of criminal tools, all first-degree felonies…Brimfield police allege that Edwards posted a profile under the “Female Escorts” section of AkronCanton.BackPage.com under the alias “Skyy”…A tip led officers to investigate and then send an officer into her hotel room undercover, where an offer for sex allegedly was made and money allegedly changed hands.  Edwards was arrested and a Nokia cell phone, Sanyo digital camera and 50 to 60 Trojan condoms were seized as tools related to her alleged activities.  Five men, or “johns,” allegedly arrived while police were investigating.  Because no offers were made and no money changed hands, Brimfield police identified the men and turned them away…

As Kelly James pointed out, the website misquotes the law; “possession of criminal tools” is a misdemeanor, not a felony.  But that’s bad enough; how many of my female readers carry around cell phones?  I guess that means you’re all criminals under Ohio law, especially if you also own a digital camera.  And I wonder how many condoms you need in your purse before it becomes a “crime”; 40? 10?  One, perhaps?  When will our amateur sisters wake up and understand that these laws can be (and sometimes are) used against ANY woman?  As long as meeting up with a man to whom one is not married can be classified as a “crime” on the basis of motive (and defined by carrying a cell phone) no woman is safe from this type of tyranny.  Then there’s one last, small detail which irritates the hell out of me:  The police attempt to slut-shame their captive by falsely claiming five men showed up while they were “investigating” (i.e. busting her).  Unless they were there for at least 8 or 9 hours, that’s total bullshit in the same class as Pennsylvania cops’ repeated claims that typical escorts make $5000 per weekend; they’re blatant attempts to evoke the “dirty whore” stereotype and disgust housewives by making it look as though we spend all our waking hours pulling trains without washing in between.

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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
  –  A.E. Houseman

On numerous occasions I’ve written of the way in which Christianity transformed older pagan holidays into Christian ones, but Easter is unusual in that it actually retained the name (in English, at least) and nearly all of the symbolism of its pagan antecedents.  In my column of March 21st  you read of Ostara, and probably recognized its resemblance to the word “Easter”.  Even the Christian rationale for the holiday, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, is clearly related to the pagan celebration of the rebirth of Nature, so the symbols of the spring festival were easily adapted into the Christian one of spiritual rebirth.  Flowers and eggs feature prominently in both Christian and pagan celebrations, and the Easter Bunny is of course merely a softened, stylized March hare.  The association of the Osterhase (Easter hare) with Easter eggs (they were originally two separate traditions) originated in the Rhineland and spread throughout Germany by the beginning of the 16th century, and like the “Groundhog Day” custom was introduced to the United States by German settlers (the so-called “Pennsylvania Dutch”).

Right about now you may be wondering why Easter, if it’s derived from the vernal equinox celebration, occurs so long after it.  Well, it doesn’t always; this year it’s almost as late as it can get (the absolute latest is April 25th), but in other years it could be as early as March 22nd.  The reason for this is that Jesus was crucified on the Jewish Passover and Christians believe he rose from the dead on the following Sunday; the Christian holiday was thus calculated so as to always fall on the Sunday after Passover, and in most European languages the holidays share a name.  Since the Jewish liturgical calendar is lunar (actually lunisolar since it is also calculated from some solar events), the date of Easter is also derived by lunar means.  Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring; if the equinox falls on a Saturday and there is a full moon that night, Easter is the very next day (March 22nd), but if the full moon falls just barely before the equinox (as happened this year), it’s another month before it comes around again.  The first full moon of spring this year was last Monday (the 18th); this was Passover so today, the first Sunday following, is Easter.  To complicate matters even further the date of the full moon is derived from tables rather than observation, and so may vary from the true astronomical event by as much as two days.

Easter is the most important event in the ecclesiastical year, which means that in the days when the Church dominated Europe it was the most important date in the year, period.  In New Orleans the Church remained powerful into the 20th century, so just as the police were required to clear the French Quarter of revelers at midnight on Mardi Gras in order to preserve the sanctity of Ash Wednesday, so they were ordered to crack down on all vices during Holy Week (the week stretching from Palm Sunday to Easter, which contains Holy Thursday and Good Friday).  Up until the 1970s bars, strip clubs and the like could expect to be raided at some point during that week, and a great show was always made of arresting streetwalkers and setting up “sting” operations for escorts.  With the advent of more rigid licensing requirements in the early 1980s the bar and club raids largely became a thing of the past (though I am told that a disproportionate number of surprise “health inspections” and the like still occur at that time of year), but the harassment of prostitutes continued up until the time I owned my service (though it was not nearly as vigorous as it had been in past times and may have vanished since Hurricane Katrina).  We were always extra-wary of calls received during Holy Week, which was especially bad since that tends to be a slow week already (times around “family” holidays always are).  Many older girls simply took the week off, just to be safe.

But recently I’ve found myself thinking not about that period in my life, but a much earlier one.  When I was but a nubile young maid who had not yet (as the Bible puts it) known man, we only had access to four television channels and one (WWL)  was owned by Loyola University (which is in turn owned by the Jesuits).  So each year during Holy Week (especially Easter weekend) one could be sure there would be more Bible movies on the air than one could possible watch.  The Ten Commandments, The Robe, Ben-Hur, Sodom and Gomorrah and many others (some broadcast by the networks and others in syndication) filled the schedule, and since I was a certifiable Technicolor sword-and-sandal epic junkie I always watched as many as I could.  Needless to say many of them prominently featured Roman characters or (like The Silver Chalice) took place mostly in Rome, and such is the power of association that around this time of year I often find myself thinking of the Romans.  And that, dear readers, is how Messalina ended up as the subject of yesterday’s column.  To all my Christian readers (and non-Christians who celebrate it as a secular holiday), Happy Easter!

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She would greet each client sweetly, demand cash payment,
and absorb all their battering – without ever getting up.
Too soon the brothel-keeper dismissed his girls:
she stayed right till the end, always last to go,
then trailed away sadly, still, with burning, rigid vulva,
exhausted by men, yet a long way from satisfied,
cheeks grimed with lamp-smoke, filthy, carrying home
to her Imperial couch the stink of the whorehouse.
  –  Juvenal, Satire VI

Back in August I told you about the whore who became a Roman empress, but today I’d like to write about the Roman empress who became a whore.  Valeria Messalina was born on January 25th sometime between 17 and 20 CE (she claimed the later date, but there is some evidence for the earlier), the eldest daughter of Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus and his first cousin, Domitia Lepida the Younger.  She was the great-granddaughter of Mark Antony, the great-grandniece of Augustus Caesar and a cousin of the Emperors Caligula, Claudius and Nero, but the high degree of  inbreeding in her family appears to have created in Messalina the same sort of sadistic, hypersexual insanity as it did in her imperial cousins.  Little is known of her childhood and adolescence, but after Caligula became Emperor in her late teens (37 CE) she became wealthy and influential and was soon married off to the 48-year-old Claudius as his third wife.

Messalina holding her son, Britannicus

The first few years of their marriage were relatively stable, and Messalina bore two children, Claudia Octavia in 39 and Britannicus in 41 (it is possible that Claudia was actually Caligula’s daughter, but Britannicus was probably legitimate).  But on January 24th of 41 Caligula was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard and Claudius was elevated to the throne, making Messalina empress.  Claudius was very fond of her, so this was not merely a title; she was granted many honors and privileges and the Senate would even have granted her the title of Augusta (making her co-ruler with Claudius) had he permitted it.  But even without such official power she was able to use her influence to have her enemies (and possible challengers to her son’s future succession) exiled or even executed.

As so often happens to unstable people thrust into high positions, Messalina became increasingly cruel, tyrannical and erratic.  She is also known to have been what modern psychology terms a nymphomaniac; though some scholars have proposed that this may be mere propaganda, the sheer number of the ancient sources making the claim (including Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny and Juvenal) and their agreement on the particulars (not to mention the fact that sexual pathology seems to have run in her family) seems to make this possibility an unlikely one.  Many sources say that Messalina used sex to increase her personal power among politicians and other powerful men (including foreign dignitaries), and that she could be paid to use her influence on the Emperor for whatever outcome the payer desired.

But her whoredom was not merely figurative; Messalina also owned a lupanar under an alias and charged her patrician friends to organize orgies for them.  Nor was her participation limited to the administrative end of the business; she is said to have worked not as a famosa (courtesan) but rather as a proseda, a common brothel prostitute – and not in her own business but someone else’s, disguised by an ash-blond wig and the stage name Lycisca (“Wolf Girl”).  Considering her wealth and position, it should be obvious that Messalina’s whoredom was a sexual fetish for her rather than a business.  And considering the dire consequences had she been found out, I think we can safely consider it evidence of advanced mental illness as well.  But Messalina’s boldness only grew; in 46 or 47 CE she even challenged the prostitute Scylla (who was noted for her endurance) to a competition to determine who could bed the most men in one night; Scylla gave up around dawn, leaving the harlot empress the victor.

Is it possible her husband was unaware of her activities?  In Claudius’ day many people thought him a fool or an idiot because he stuttered, and thus believed that he was simply too dim to see what everyone else could.  But later writers such as Robert Graves have suggested that Claudius was actually a shrewd and reasonable man who had no desire for power and thus allowed others to think him a fool so as to avoid the intrigues in which his family was constantly embroiled; certainly his reign supports that view.  Even after power was thrust upon him, he preferred not to “rock the boat”, and thus allowed his wife’s antics until she eventually forced him to act.

"Messalina" by Henrique Bernardelli, c. 1878

The events which were to seal Messalina’s fate began early in 47 CE; gossip about her behavior had spread throughout Rome, and her popularity was sharply in decline.  She came to believe that her cousin Agrippina had replaced her in Claudius’ affections and that he would soon make Agrippina’s son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (the future Emperor Nero) his heir; she therefore ordered the young man’s assassination, but he escaped death because his assassins fled after seeing what they considered to be an ill omen.  Later that year she entered into an affair with the handsome Senator Gaius Silius and eventually forced him to divorce his wife; the increasingly-paranoid Messalina then decided to protect her son’s succession by having her husband assassinated so as to advance Silius to the purple as her consort and acting emperor, pending the majority of Britannicus.  In the latter part of 48 she even staged a mock marriage to Silius while her husband was in Ostia inspecting the construction of a new harbor, and these goings-on were reported to Claudius by his loyal freedman Tiberius Claudius Narcissus.

The enraged Claudius ordered her immediate execution; accordingly, an officer of the Praetorian Guard was dispatched to the Lucullan Gardens, where Messalina was working on a letter which attempted to explain her behavior to her husband.  As was usual for condemned Romans of noble birth Messalina was offered the option of killing herself, but she was unable to do it and so was decapitated by the officer in the presence of her mother.  When the news of her death was brought to Claudius at a feast, he did not react but merely asked for more wine; he later asked why the Empress was not in attendance, but this may have merely been a ploy to distance himself from her execution by feigning ignorance of it.  In the next few days Claudius betrayed no sign of emotion, either positive or negative, which seems to support the idea that he had already decided to rid himself of her long before and was merely looking for a good excuse.

Ironically, Messalina’s actions brought about the very events she wanted so desperately to prevent; just a few months after her death Claudius married Agrippina the Younger and adopted Ahenobarbus (now renamed Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus) as his heir.  Four years later Nero married Messalina’s daughter Claudia Octavia, and two years after that he had his brother-in-law Britannicus poisoned.  Finally, he had Claudia Octavia murdered in 62 CE so he would be free to contract a more advantageous marriage.  Messalina’s line was thus extinguished, but her name has come down through the centuries as the archetype of the promiscuous, treacherous noblewoman.

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Men who don’t like girls with brains don’t like girls.  –  Mignon McLaughlin

Last Saturday (April 16th) we talked about Demi Moore’s ridiculous and insulting new campaign to convince people that “real men” don’t hire prostitutes (whom she of course equates with “trafficked child sex slaves”).  So it would follow that in Moore’s mind, “real men” don’t support women’s right to do what we like with our own bodies, which frankly sounds like some kind of retro male-chauvinist propaganda to me.  I’ve got news for you, Demi; all heterosexual men buy sex, including your boy-toy.  Some actually pay cash, others pay for it in varying concrete or abstract ways, but they ALL pay and you very well know it unless you’re a lot stupider than I thought you were.  Only weak, pathetic little bullies need to try to restrict women’s sexual choices in order to feel like “real men”, but truly real men (the kind without scare quotes) aren’t threatened by sexually aware women; they are secure enough in their masculinity to recognize women have the right to control our own bodies and to decide whom we want to bestow our favors upon and for what reason.  In short, only insecure sissies want to suppress women’s right to sexual self-determination; real men support the right of women to make our own sexual choices, including the decision to engage in sex work if we are so inclined.

In the current climate of misandrist hysteria, every man is considered a potential rapist, child molester or “sex trafficker”, so it’s not surprising when spineless men line up to be counted among the ranks of the politically correct whore-bashers.  It’s one thing for a woman to support sex worker rights because we’re not under a permanent cloud of suspicion, but these days it takes some serious balls for a man to stand up, demand rights for sex workers, and actually sign his real name to the thing.  So whenever I find such an essay online I like to call attention to it because such men deserve our thanks; I found one such, written by Newsday editor Daniel Akst, in the Boston Herald of April 14th, and I’ve reproduced it here in its entirety because I feel I have no right to cut it:

Remember Chandra Levy?  How about Natalee Holloway?  Nothing is more effective at triggering a media frenzy than the disappearance of an attractive young white woman.  That’s what happened when Levy, a Washington intern, vanished in 2001 and Holloway disappeared in Aruba four years later.  Sadly, things are different when the woman has accepted money for sex.  Police have so far found the bodies of four young white women, all prostitutes, in scrubby dunes on the beaches of New York’s Long Island (five and possibly six more sets of remains are unidentified).  The women had been missing for months or even years.

It’s hard to see what change in law might save someone from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But some of the Gilgo Beach deaths might well have been averted if we could just get over the idea that laws against prostitution make the world a better place for women.  Prostitution is distasteful to many people, of course, but that is no justification for laws against it, since on that basis Brussels sprouts and loud neckties might also be banned.  The difference is that prostitution is supposedly harmful, and so the government bars people from trading sex for money.  Yet the worst thing about prostitution is the risk of violence and abuse to which prostitutes are subjected by the very laws that drive the trade underground.  In our eagerness to legislate virtue, we are endangering the lives of women.

It’s been said that prostitution degrades women.  But it’s even more degrading to suggest women need society to make such choices for them — or to force prostitution into the shadows, where women are excluded from the protection of the law and subject to exploitation.  Many people take the illegality of prostitution for granted, but the United States (aside from Nevada) is one of the few Western nations that make it a crime.  And selling sex for money is safer in a regulated setting, as reported by women in legal brothels — in Nevada, the Netherlands and Australia — that have screening, surveillance and alarm systems.  “Sex workers can be victimized anywhere,” says Ronald Weitzer, a George Washington University sociologist who has studied the subject, “but in general they are less vulnerable where their work has been decriminalized and where they no longer operate in a clandestine manner.”

It’s too late for the women found in the dunes.  But their deaths can inspire us to save others by decriminalizing what they did for money, no matter how much we may disapprove of it.

Mr. Akst’s central argument that prohibitionist laws create most of our danger is one that sex worker rights advocates constantly make, and his point that patronizing laws are far more degrading than prostitution could ever be should seem very familiar to regular readers of this blog.  I experienced such a wonderful feeling on reading this editorial that, were Mr. Akst’s office within easy driving distance, I would have hastened there and given him a big kiss (a sisterly one, Mrs. Akst; I promise!) But since he’s half a continent away I settled for just sending him a thank-you email.  Maybe that’s something we should all do; whenever you see an article which supports decriminalization like this one does, take the time to locate the email address of its author and send him a short, sincere “thank you”.  Since we know damned well that our enemies will be hurling vitriol at such authors for daring to support whores’ rights, I think they would like to know that we’re out there reading as well and appreciate someone having the courage to speak up on our behalf.

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I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
  –  John Keats, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

“So, where did you hang her?” Humphrey asked over his pipe.

“I beg your pardon?”

“The portrait, man.  The Tudor lady you purchased at the auction yesterday.  After what you paid I expected to see her prominently displayed.”

“Oh, that.”  Llewellyn shrugged.  “It was a whim.”

Humphrey laughed.  “I’ve known you for over twenty-five years and I don’t recall your ever indulging such an expensive whim before.”

“That’s because you didn’t know me when I was young; when I first came to London in the sixties I was quite the rakehell.”

“I don’t believe it; you’re the steadiest man I know.  Perhaps a few youthful indiscretions, but a roué?  Never.”

Llewellyn grew quiet for a time and then said, “I tell you that I was the worst scoundrel in the metropolis.  I was a bounder and a cad, and if not for the timely intervention of the supernatural I should have ruined the lives of many more women than I did.”

There was an uncomfortable pause, which Humphrey eventually broke with, “I have never known you as one to spin yarns, but…see here, Llewellyn, you’re a modern man and I know you believe in a rational, ordered universe.  Surely you aren’t trying to convince me that you were haunted into reform as Scrooge was.”

Llewellyn laughed.  “No, not haunted exactly, and to my knowledge I have never seen a ghost.  But certainly you would agree that Man has much to learn about the world in which he lives.  Ten years ago who would have believed that there existed invisible light rays which could penetrate solid matter and enable a photograph to be taken of the bones inside living flesh?  But then Professor Roentgen discovered them, and now they are an established fact.”

“In other words, your reclamation was due to some mysterious physical phenomenon not yet understood, yet still susceptible to scientific discovery?  I suppose I can accept that.”

“Well…not a physical phenomenon exactly.  I would say that my reform was effected by some incomprehensible psychical power manifested by a human, or at least apparently human, being.”

“Apparently human?  I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“You’re aware that in prehistoric times, there was more than one human species, for example the Neanderthal man.  What if one of those races survived into modern times?  They might seem outwardly human but be possessed of different abilities and a longer life-span than ours.”

“Ah, you refer to the theories of your countryman Machen, that encounters with a near-human species might have given rise to legends of fairies.”

“My idea is similar, yes.  Many of the old legends surrounding the Good People may thus have a basis in rational fact.”

Humphrey smiled.  “Am I to believe that you were cured of your dissolute ways by the timely intervention of a fairy godmother?”

“Actually, she was a fairy harlot.”

“Oh, I say!” Humphrey protested.  “This is simply too much!”

“Sit down, George,” his friend gently urged.  “I shall tell you what happened, and then you can judge for yourself.”

“Very well, then,” said Humphrey dubiously.

“As you know, my father owned several mills and was quite wealthy by the time I was born; he and my mother both indulged me terribly and never heeded the scriptural advice about the rod.  Accordingly, I was quite spoilt by the time I set out for the capital in ’62, determined to live my life to the fullest.  My allowance was generous and I was skilled at cards, so I had plenty to spend on drink and women, and spend I did.  Four years I went on thus, and most certainly would’ve ended my days with some brother’s or father’s bullet in my chest had I continued much longer.

“You have probably thought of me as a confirmed bachelor, one of those stony specimens unmoved by the charms of the fair sex, but that was certainly not so in those days; I bedded every woman I could charm or bribe into surrendering her favors, and it concerned me not if she were a professional, a dilettante or a novice so long as she was comely.  But over time my appetites grew more difficult to appease, and I began to patronize specialists and expensive courtesans, and to use the more common sort of girl in a most abominable fashion.

“But finally there came to my notice a woman from my own country, herself recently arrived in town; her beauty was said to be incomparable and her skill at singing and playing unsurpassed, and I decided I must have her without delay no matter what her price.  My friends warned me not to waste my time; she had spurned every offer she had received, or named prices far beyond their means, but this fixed me all the more firmly in my resolution to enjoy her.

“Accordingly, I made an appointment to meet her and found that the admiration heaped upon her was not exaggerated; she was the loveliest creature I had ever seen, with a voice like an angel, and she sang strange songs in a dialect which was unknown to me and yet hauntingly familiar.  And when at last I could wait no longer and pleaded to be allowed her intimate company, the fee she required was quite dear but well within my means.

“That night was like nothing I had ever experienced; I daresay it is not possible to know any greater pleasure this side of the grave.  But when I sank, exhausted and unimaginably happy, into a deep slumber beside her, my sleep was disturbed by strange phantasms and I awoke with a vague sense of dread to find myself lying on a floor in an abandoned building.  I stumbled into the street in a state of great alarm and confusion, eventually finding my way home hours later and collapsing into my own bed, where I slept until late in the day.

“And since that time, my friend, I have never been able to look upon any mortal woman without comparing her to that peerless nymph and finding her as unappetizing as stale bread.  I sank into a deep depression, and only pulled myself from it by devoting my life to scholarship and good works, thus becoming the person you see before you.”

Humphrey sat in silence for a very long time before asking, “Do you believe she came to town specifically to turn you from your evil ways?”

“I do believe that, yes.  Perhaps she owed some ancestor of mine a favor and resolved to repay the debt by saving me from a wasted life.”


Llewellyn nodded.  He rose and beckoned Humphrey into his study, where the 16th-century painting he had purchased stood on an easel.  He then went into a cupboard and withdrew a portfolio containing a number of sketches; they were dated over a period of forty years, and though they demonstrated a gradual improvement in technique over the years they were unquestionably all of the same woman – she of the portrait.

“No mortal artist could possibly do her justice,” said Llewellyn with infinite sadness, “but I had no choice but to try or go mad with the need to see her face again.  I wonder if the poor devil who painted that” – he gestured toward the antique – “went through the same thing I did.”

“Well, the resemblance is certainly striking, but perhaps they’re only related,” ventured Humphrey, but he knew the falsity of his words even as he spoke them.  Even through the imperfect medium of pigment on wood, the subject was enchanting and he found he could not look long into her painted eyes without feeling a strange sense of longing.

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