Archive for July, 2011

Now, since it is thought that he proceeded thus against the Samians to gratify Aspasia, this may be a fitting place to raise the query what great art or power this woman had, that she managed as she pleased the foremost men of the state, and afforded the philosophers occasion to discuss her in exalted terms and at great length.  –  Plutarch, Pericles (XXIV)

One year ago today, in my biography of the famous courtesan Phryne, I described the state of prostitution in Athens of the Golden Age and even mentioned Aspasia, the mistress of the great Athenian leader Pericles.  It is therefore fitting that today I present a biography of that lady, quite possibly the best-known of all the hetaerae, who is thought to have died just ten years before Phryne was born.  So famous and respected is she, in fact, that as I discussed in Thursday’s column some whore-haters are now trying to convince the world that she was not a courtesan at all.

Aspasia was born about 470 BCE in Miletus, the wealthiest Greek city-state of its time.  She was the daughter of the wealthy Axiochus and was superbly educated, then moved to Athens in her late teens.  The reason for the move is unclear, but it is possible she accompanied her older sister, who had married an Athenian statesman.  In any case her beauty and education allowed her to become a hetaera, and she may also have owned a brothel but this is not certain.  Sometime in her early twenties she became Pericles’ mistress, and after he divorced his wife in 445 BCE she moved in with him, bearing his son Pericles the Younger a few years later.  Aspasia soon became as noted for her intelligence, erudition and aptitude at conversation as for her beauty, and she not only served as an advisor to her lover but inspired others as well; Plutarch wrote that Athenian men would bring their wives to visit in hope that they would learn the art of conversation from her.  They were able to do this because she opened Pericles’ house to visitors, attracting the best and brightest of Athenian society (including the philosopher Socrates).

Like all politicians Pericles had his enemies, and though the ancient Greeks were far more sensible about sex and whores than modern Americans, Aspasia was still a tempting target.  Since the hetaerae were well-respected it was not enough to merely point out that Pericles lived with a courtesan, but brothel-keeping was considered mere crass commercialism, so the stories of her keeping a brothel may have been either invented or embellished in order to imply conflict of interest on her part (in the same way a First Lady’s business deals might be scrutinized or ridiculed today).  Aspasia became especially unpopular when in 440 BCE Athens sent troops against Samos in support of Miletus; the campaign was difficult and the Athenians sustained heavy losses, and many critics claimed that Pericles’ decision to enter the war was based solely on the fact that Miletus was Aspasia’s native city.

Over the next ten years, Pericles’ political opponents spread a number of slanders against him, some of which made their way into comic poetry and plays of the time, and a few of which resulted in lawsuits and spurious criminal charges not just against Pericles but also against his friends.  Aspasia was charged with “corrupting the morals” of Athenian women to entice them into “satisfying Pericles’ perversions”, and though she was acquitted (thanks to an impassioned defense by Pericles) not all of his friends fared so well; the great sculptor Phidias was accused of embezzling gold which he should have used on the statue of Athena in the new Parthenon, and thanks to a false witness he was convicted and died in prison in 430 BCE.  When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431, some people found a way to blame Aspasia again; the war resulted from Sparta’s attacking Athens in defense of its ally Megara, against which Pericles had declared a trade embargo.  The poet Aristophanes claimed that the embargo had been declared in retaliation for the abduction of two of Aspasia’s employees; he wrote, “…some young drunkards go to Megara and carry off the courtesan Simaetha; the Megarians, hurt to the quick, run off in turn with two harlots of the house of Aspasia; and so for three whores Greece is set ablaze.”

Roman copy of a what is thought to be Aspasia’s funerary stele

In 429, plague broke out in Athens; the exact disease is unknown but it claimed both Pericles’ sister and his two legitimate sons, and later the great man himself.  The loss of so many dear to him cast him into a deep depression in which he spent the last few months of his life; Aspasia could not console him, and his low spirits almost certainly contributed to his death.  When it became clear that Pericles was near death, the Assembly granted citizenship to his son by Aspasia (Athenian citizenship required that both parents be citizens) so he would have an heir, and that son later became a general himself as his father had been.  After Pericles’ death Aspasia was kept by another general and statesman named Lysicles, to whom she bore a son in 428; that same year Lysicles was killed in battle, and there are no contemporary accounts of Aspasia’s life thereafter.  Most historians believe she died around 400 BCE because she was a friend of Socrates’ and was well-known to his student Plato, but died before Socrates’ execution in 399.

Even in the male-dominated world of ancient Athens, Aspasia was admired for her intellect, learning and oratorical skills; she appears as a character in a number of plays and dialogues, including those of Plato.  Socrates is known to have recommended her as a teacher (pointing out her positive influence on Pericles), and to defer to her as being more knowledgeable than he in the area of male-female relations.  Even her enemies respected her; one comedic attack on Pericles portrayed him as politically incompetent without her, and a more vicious one claimed that his choosing to live with a hetaera full-time (rather than to marry an ordinary woman and visit a courtesan as needed) was a sign of sexual degeneracy.

It is striking that, though absolutely nobody in ancient times questioned Aspasia’s superior mind and abilities, some modern scholars (though supposedly more egalitarian than the ancients) have done so on the grounds that a mere harlot couldn’t possibly be all that; others whose neofeminist bias is more pronounced have proclaimed the opposite, that no woman who was so learned and respected could possibly have been a courtesan because all “prostituted women” are humiliated, degraded and victimized by the Patriarchy.  Both of these groups claim her portrayals in the contemporary comedies as their “evidence”, ignoring the fact that descriptions of both her intellectual abilities and her status as a hetaera exist outside of the comic literature. And as Roger Just of the University of Kent points out, the fact that she was so educated and accomplished proves that she was a courtesan, because only women who were outside the normal social sphere were so educated.  Wives were defined as below men, but hetaerae were not.  Fortunately,  the courtesan deniers are but a small minority, and their silly notions will in a few decades be largely forgotten as the twisted belief system which spawned them fades into history.  As the real Aspasia eventually triumphed over those who would destroy her, so will her reputation eventually triumph over those who would deny her status as one of the greatest whores of history.

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Every question we answer leads on to another question.  –  Desmond Morris

It’s time yet again for me to answer reader questions; this time all three seem to have come from gentlemen with experience in hiring members of my profession.

Why do so many providers prefer doggie style?

I honestly wasn’t aware that a disproportionate number did, but if that’s your perception I might be able to make some educated guesses about why it might be so.  According to a recent survey sponsored by Lifestyles condoms, 40% of women prefer man-on-top (missionary) to all other positions, 26% like rear-entry (doggie) best, 20% favor woman-on-top (cowgirl), 5% like side-by side, 3% reverse cowgirl, 2% standing and the other 4% have no preference.  This is very similar to the figures which have usually come up in such surveys since the ‘60s, though doggie has gained about 11% and side-by side has lost about 5%.  Interestingly, though, other recent surveys of very young adults (such as this one whose respondents averaged 18-19 years old) show man and woman on top positions tied and doggie in the lead.  Why the difference?  Well, the second survey did not separate male and female responses, and older respondents are much more likely to be involved in long-term relationships than teenagers and so might prefer face-to-face intimacy.  Also, the influence of porn may inspire more young women to try “dirtier” positions than many of their mothers and grandmothers might’ve been comfortable with, and if one isn’t in love with one’s partner not having to look him in the face might be an advantage.

And that, I think, might explain why the escorts you’ve been with preferred this position; if you have a preference for young (under 30) providers they may already prefer the position even with boyfriends, and most of them would probably rather avoid any more face-to-face contact with clients than necessary.  Furthermore, “doggie style” allows a woman to avoid kissing and because 30% of men prefer the position to all others it may accelerate the customer’s climax.

I recently saw a new provider, and through a mix of nerves and excitement I came off very fast.  Once I did, I suppose it was almost an automatic response on my part to clean up and go.  All told, the visit was only about 15 minutes, and after I left I couldn’t help but feel I’d overpaid for the amount of time I was actually there.  I’m not the sort of client who expects 30 minutes of straight pounding, but is it a problem to try to stay after I’ve climaxed if I still have time, just to enjoy being in the presence of a woman?

It all depends on the woman.  Most experienced, respectable professionals in most markets expect the gentleman to stay the whole time and are happy to entertain him with conversation, stroking his arms, rubbing his back or whatever after he’s achieved orgasm.  Some women do indeed expect him to go as soon as he’s “done”, but they’re in the minority and if you find one you just have to consider it a lesson learned not to use her again.  In some markets (like Las Vegas), such rushed service is the norm but those are mostly big-city, high-volume, “fast and furious” type environments.

I was wondering if you could comment on deeper relationships between prostitutes and their clients.  For example, I can be good friends with someone I also have a business relationship with.  By its nature sex is more intimate than most exchanges.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Can one become good friends with a client, or in the case of you and your husband, lovers?  How common do you think this is?  Is it something better avoided or embraced?

It’s not impossible for a whore to become friends with a client, but it isn’t common either and it takes a special man to make such a relationship work.  Whenever any professional (accountant, physician, lawyer or whatever) who deals with the public becomes friends with a lay person, growth of the friendship will be stifled (or an existing friendship choked) if the non-professional keeps asking for free or cut-rate services or other special privileges from the professional.  If I became friends with my manicurist and then started asking her to do my nails for free, or give me price breaks, or if I paid full price but kept “dropping in” for free repairs, or expected her to make time for me at the expense of other customers, how long do you think our friendship would last?  Yet many men will try to play those games with working girls and then refuse to understand why the girls don’t want to be “friends” with them.  An escort sells her time and companionship, so a guy who expects escorts to “hang out” with him off the clock is asking for free services no less than if he asked a doctor to diagnose his ailments at a party.

If a man has an escort he wants to be friends with, he needs to expect her to be wary of his motives.  Small gestures of friendship (thoughtful presents, offers of no-strings help that he knows she needs, an occasional email just to say “hi”) might help to overcome her reservations, and once a true friendship begins to develop he needs to be careful not to even seem to be looking for special privileges; asking her to come to dinner or “hang out” off the clock are a very bad idea.  If she offers, that’s different, but it has to come from her or it will be perceived as looking for freebies.  Some girls have inviolable personal boundaries that totally disallow friendship with clients, while other girls deal with the situation more organically; the only way to tell is to make the attempt.

One Year Ago Today

The third and concluding segment of “Genesis of a Harlot”, the story of my long journey into whoredom.

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The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.  –  Edmund Burke

The principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is a very ancient one; traces of it appear in the Book of Deuteronomy, and some scholars have written that it can be found in both Athenian and Spartan legal codes.  It is clearly stated many, many times in Roman law, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision Coffin vs. United States quotes this episode of a trial before the Emperor Julian:

Numerius, the governor of Narbonensis, was on trial [for embezzlement] before the Emperor, and, contrary to the usage in criminal cases, the trial was public.  Numerius contented himself with denying his guilt, and there was not sufficient proof against him.  His adversary, Delphidius, “a passionate man,” seeing that the failure of the accusation was inevitable, could not restrain himself, and exclaimed, “Oh, illustrious Caesar!  If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?” to which Julian replied, “If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?”

The Emperor Julian

The principle was first clearly codified in post-Roman law by Cardinal Lemoine in the 13th century using the Latin phrase, Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“the burden of proof rests on who asserts, not on who denies”) and it is one of the pillars of English common law and through it, American law; it appears in the majority of law codes in the Western world.  But now this 3000-year-old principle is under assault in the United States, and for what?  So that the government can force every single adult with internet access (even those without children) to prove he (or she) hasn’t been looking at dirty pictures, just in case a child should wander into his house, accidentally call up a picture of a nipple and thereby cause his brain to explode due to rapid-onset “premature sexualization”.  Take a look at this July 12th article from Reason:

Have you heard about The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011?  It’s the latest in a l-o-n-g line of just terrible bills proposed to calm (though never quite eliminate) the fears of middle-aged people about what that scary Internet might potentially do to Our Children…Cato’s Jim Harper…[wrote], “This isn’t a bill about child predation.  It’s a bald-faced attack on privacy and limited government.”

Meanwhile, former Reasoner Julian Sanchez (also of Cato) muses  that “I guess the ‘You Are All Criminals Act’ didn’t have the same ring,” and provides some context:

Thanks to an unwise Supreme Court decision dating from the 70s, information about your private activities loses its Fourth Amendment protection when it’s held by a “third party” corporation, like a phone company or Internet provider.  As many legal scholars have noted, however, this allows constitutional privacy safeguards to be circumvented via a clever two-step process.  Step one:  The government forces private businesses (ideally the kind a citizen in the modern world can’t easily avoid dealing with) to collect and store certain kinds of information about everyone—anyone might turn out to be a criminal, after all.  No Fourth Amendment issue there, because it’s not the government gathering it!  Step two:  The government gets a subpoena or court order to obtain that information, quite possibly without your knowledge.  No Fourth Amendment problem here either, according to the Supreme Court, because now they’re just getting a corporation’s business records, not your private records.  It makes no difference that they’re only keeping those records because the government said they had to.  Current law already allows law enforcement to require retention of data about specific suspects—including e-mails and other information as well as IP addresses—to ensure that evidence isn’t erased while they build up enough evidence for a court order.  But why spearfish when you can lower a dragnet?  Blanket data requirements ensure easy access to a year-and-a-half snapshot of the online activities of millions of Americans—every one a potential criminal…

You can’t even say you weren’t warned; have you ever taken the time to read one of those “privacy notices” everyone sends out nowadays?  If you had, you would’ve discovered that it would be more appropriate to call them “lack of privacy notices”.  The nutshell version:  “We won’t give any information about you to anyone you actually want to have it, not even your spouse, but if anyone with an official title whom you absolutely don’t want to have that information so much as hints that he wants it, we’ll stick our arses in the air faster than you can say ‘Judas’ and give him everything he wants and more.”  And if the “You Are All Criminals Act” is passed, the amount of information they can turn over about you – without your knowledge, consent or a proper warrant – will be dramatically increased.

Ah, well, that whole “presumption of innocence” thing was hopelessly old-fashioned anyway; how could any of those ignorant ancients possibly understand anything about sex and pornography and children and stuff?

One Year Ago Today

The second part of “Genesis of a Harlot”, the story of how a good little Catholic girl from south Louisiana turned into a whore.

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Come, Shamhat, take me away with you
To the sacred Holy Temple, the residence of Anu and Ishtar
.  –  The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet I)

Peer review is the process by which scholars are kept honest and mistakes in methodology or data are discovered; it means that studies are first published in academic journals where other scholars in the field can read them, criticize their flaws, attempt to reproduce the results and otherwise ensure that flawed or even falsified studies are discredited before being quoted by other authors and thereby contaminating the pool of knowledge.  Though the process can certainly discover cases of outright lying or misrepresentation, its main purpose is to discover honest errors and cut through the bias under which even sincere scholars may misinterpret their findings.  One could not ask for a better example of the necessity of the process than the 2001 Estes and Weiner study, which would have been trashed had it been peer reviewed, but was instead published without review and subsequently spawned the “300,000 trafficked children” and “average age of entry into prostitution is 13” myths.

Estes & Weiner weren’t the only scholars whose anti-whore biases caused them to make ridiculous assertions, nor is sociology the only field afflicted by such bias.  On June 26th I pointed out the ignorant prejudice which utterly ruins a recent study by two economists, and we’ve discussed the absurd contentions of the neofeminists many times; in my column of one year ago today I described the convoluted process by which neofeminist “researchers” like Melissa Farley design studies to produce the exact conclusions the researchers want them to produce, and unfortunately these bogus studies go unchallenged because most of their authors’ peers are themselves affected by the same bias.  Neofeminism has so infected many universities that it’s virtually impossible to find any social science which it has not tainted to one degree or another, and when combined with Christian prudery and plain old Anglo-American Puritanism the result is a widespread prejudice against prostitutes which tends to pollute the scholarly detachment of many academics and to make it far less likely that their erroneous and often asinine pronouncements about our profession will be properly criticized.

Though deeply-held beliefs have always influenced the interpretations of past events made by historians who adhere to those beliefs, the idea that it is acceptable to literally rewrite history, to project modern attitudes upon those who lived in other times and places, is a comparatively recent phenomenon.  Even the ancient historians, fond as they were of editorialization, generally accepted that different people have different customs and that those in the past might behave in a manner very different from the Greek or Roman ways with which the writer was acquainted.  But modern Marxist, feminist and “queer” scholars often make the bizarre assumption that many if not most people in history shared the scholar’s notions and prejudices, and that historical behavior which violates modern doctrines must be explained away or reinterpreted with a Marxist, feminist or “queer” spin.  As a result, scholars addled by neofeminism (who insist that prostitution is “violence against women”) feel compelled to reject, deny and reinterpret every historical instance of prostitutes with high status.

Now, this isn’t really new; even the ancient Hebrew writers often conflated zonah (whore) with kedeshah (sacred harlot), using the two words interchangeably throughout the prophetic books.  And a few Victorian writers preferred either to portray the courtesans of old as something entirely different from modern prostitutes, or else to use them as proof of the inherent moral turpitude of pagan cultures.  In the 20th century, the occasional bluenosed professor harrumphed that Theodora and Aspasia couldn’t have been courtesans because no whore could be that intelligent or respected, and that the plain fact of their harlotry was supposedly “invented” by those who were trying to defame them.  The idea that being a courtesan was not dishonorable in ancient or medieval Greece does not appear to register in the minds of these stuffy academics; they were raised to think of “whore” as an insult and like many modern people could not imagine it as anything else.  But these were isolated cases; for the most part, scholars recognized that the notion of prostitution as a social ill is largely Judeo-Christian, and the notion that it should actually be abolished dates only to the late 19th century.

All that started to change about 20 years ago, when neofeminist anti-sex views began to permeate academia.  At first there were only a few such revisionist papers, but in the past decade a new crop of courtesan deniers has sprung up, and many of them have not limited themselves to denying the harlotry of our most famous sisters; instead they have gone straight for the root like crazed gophers, making the grandiose claim that the entire concept of sacred prostitution is a “myth”.  All the records of it from the Middle East, the Far East, India, Greece, Rome and Central America?  Fabrications and misinterpretations, according to these neofeminist “historians”.  As one of them expressed it, sacred prostitution is “more of a construct of the 19th Century Western European mindset than a true representation of the facts,”  those “facts” being of course that prostitution is “violence against women” and a manifestation of “patriarchy”, and therefore it is impossible that prostitutes could ever have been priestesses.  Their chief support for this notion is that the only Greek historian who describes the Babylonian version of the practice is Herodotus (who had a tendency to embellish many of his stories) and that some of the Mesopotamian texts which mention sacred prostitution also describe things like kings feasting with the gods.  Of course by that same token we must also disbelieve that the Sumerians had cities, agriculture, weapons and all the other things described in these same texts, but since none of those things contradict neofeminist dogma it is only prostitution which is suspect.  And somehow, casting doubt on Sumerian texts is held to “disprove” sacred prostitution everywhere in the world.  Modern prohibitionists have succeeded in establishing formal persecution of the last sacred prostitutes on the planet, the devadasis of India and the deukis of Nepal, and now in their hubris they wish to retroactively wipe out our tradition back to the beginning of civilization, profaning the memory of the sacred whores of antiquity by denying they ever existed.

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There is no reason to believe that there is one law for families and another for nations.  –  Mohandas Gandhi

The state of cognitive dissonance in which supporters of big government live is truly stupefying; it requires acceptance of the notion that an action which is wrong for one person, and even worse if repeated by many people, somehow becomes not merely acceptable but moral if practiced by governments or their representatives.  If one man steals it’s “theft”, if many do it together it’s “looting”, but when the perpetrator is a government it becomes either “asset forfeiture” or “eminent domain”.  We could make similar statements about such crimes as assault, trespassing, perjury, extortion, bribery, kidnapping and murder.  And though we rightfully revile individuals who go peeking into others’ windows to spy on them, especially if the window is in a bathroom or other private place, governments seem to consider voyeuristic intrusion into the bedrooms of citizens to be not merely a right, but a moral imperative.

Though religions (especially Judeo-Christian ones) have long felt entitled to dictate the sexual behavior of their followers, civil governments have generally pursued the subject with less enthusiasm and vice laws have therefore repeatedly gone in and out of favor since the Fall of Rome.  As regular readers know, the last great proliferation of such laws came with the social purity movement of the late 19th century, and though this mountain of busybody legislation has been slowly worn away since the beginning of the 1930s, in the United States the rate of erosion has been intermittent and progress at removing this vast insult to liberty has been impeded at every step of the process by the kind of people who stay up late at night trying to imagine what their neighbors might be doing behind drawn blinds.

But in 2003 the United States Supreme Court struck terror into the hearts of control freaks from sea to shining sea with its Lawrence vs. Texas decision, which declared sodomy laws unconstitutional.  John Lawrence and Tyron Gardner were having consensual homosexual relations in Lawrence’s Houston apartment one September night in 1997 when a Houston cop (summoned by a false domestic disturbance call from a jealous neighbor who was in love with Garner) literally peeked in the back window, saw the two having sex and entered like a big hero with gun drawn to arrest the dirty fags and thereby save the unsuspecting citizens of Texas from perverts in their midst.  They pled no contest to violating Texas’ sodomy law but their appeals went all the way to the SCOTUS, which overturned their conviction, the law under which they had been charged, all similar laws in every state and the 1986 Bowers vs. Hardwick decision, which had essentially ruled that sodomy laws were OK because the Founding Fathers hated homos.  Justice Torquemada Scalia vehemently opposed the entire decision, but especially the overturning of Bowers because, as he correctly pointed out, “state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery,  fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’s validation of laws based on moral choices.”  (Actually, there are valid arguments for laws against adultery and bestiality that aren’t based in Christian morality, but we’ll leave that for another time).

Though homosexuals (rightfully) hailed the ruling as a giant step forward for individual sexual freedom, the whore-haters were not to be outmaneuvered so easily; they quietly inserted an “anti-prostitution pledge” into a major humanitarian aid bill and began to ramp up the “human trafficking” hysteria, thus preemptively blocking any attempt to argue that prostitution laws were unconstitutional under Lawrence by intentionally and deceptively conflating a now-technically-legal activity with a serious (but extremely rare) crime specifically prohibited by the 13th amendment to the Constitution.  Meanwhile in Louisiana, felony persecution of whores continued unabated thanks to the Louisiana legislature’s foresight in having enacted (back in 1982) a separate “Crime Against Nature by Solicitation” law which allowed the state to continue torturing adults for life if they dared to mix behavior protected under Lawrence with the capitalistic principles on which the entire American system was founded.  But the tide released by Lawrence is still dissolving prudery everywhere; the anti-prostitution pledge was struck down by an appeals court on July 6th, and facing the specter of Doe vs. Jindal Louisiana reduced the penalty for “Crime Against Nature by Solicitation” to the same as those for simple prostitution.  And now, as Scalia predicted, Utah’s law against polyamory is under attack:

…On Wednesday [July 13th], the Brown family — the husband, four wives, and 16 children who star in the reality TV show [Sister Wives]…file[d] a lawsuit in federal court in Utah.  The family members say the state’s anti-bigamy law is unconstitutional and that Supreme Court precedent backs them up…Brown and his four wives knew they were taking a risk when they signed the deal with the network TLC.  But Robyn Brown, wife No. 4, told viewers they wanted to make a point.  “It’s OK for us to live this way, honestly,” she said.  “I’m sorry — but this is a nation of freedom of choice.  We should have this choice, and I want my kids to know that.”

…Kody Brown is legally married to only one wife; the three others are his “spiritual wives.”  But [Utah] law says it’s a crime if a married person purports to marry or cohabits with another person.  Prosecutors say they’ll decide whether to bring charges against the Browns in the next two or three weeks.  In the meantime, the Browns have moved to Nevada and are suing in federal court.  Their lawyer, Jonathan Turley, says the state is persecuting model citizens for living out their religious values.  “There is no allegation of child abuse, no allegation of child brides, no allegations of so-called collateral crimes,” says Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University Law School.  “But prosecutors have stated publicly that they believe the family is committing a felony every night on television.”  Turley says prosecutors look the other way when it comes to nonpolygamous relationships.  “You can have multiple lovers; you can have adulterous affairs and not be subject to prosecution,” he says.  “But the minute you refer to her as your spiritual wife, you become a potential criminal defendant.”

This isn’t about personal rights, says Marci Hamilton.  It’s about a state’s ability to regulate marital relationships.  Hamilton, an expert on polygamy law and a professor at Cardozo School of Law, says there is a mountain of evidence that polygamy is bad for women and children…”This isn’t a lifestyle choice,” she says.  “This is a culture in which men must rule and women are not equal.  Three women are equal to one man, nine women are equal to one man — and the children are second-class citizens.”  Hamilton says there have been more than 100 challenges to polygamy laws, including in Utah, and all have failed.

But Turley may have powerful ammunition:  the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas.  In that case, the majority ruled that the state could not prosecute people for engaging in private, consensual sexual behavior…Turley’s case is exactly what some have feared — and Justice Antonin Scalia predicted.  In his scathing dissent in the Lawrence decision, Scalia said the ruling calls into question any law trying to rein in “immoral and unacceptable” sexual behavior…”Under this principle, it really is anything goes,” says Robert George, who teaches constitutional law at Princeton University.  “State laws to protect public morality by prohibiting what have been regarded as immoral sexual conduct just can’t stand constitutional scrutiny,” George says.  “So, if they accept the logic of their own principles, then Turley is going to win this in a knockdown”…

I hope they do win.  Too long have we allowed busybodies and control freaks to use laws intended to protect the innocent (in the case of bigamy laws, women who unknowingly marry predatory men who are already married to others) as clubs to beat all nonconforming sexual behavior into a bloody pulp.  If multiple adult women choose to share one man, or if people of the same sex choose to live together, or if one person wants to be the sexual slave of another, or if a woman agrees to provide sexual favors to a man for a price, it is nobody’s business but theirs and appeals to “protecting women and children” are nothing but sleazy attempts to pimp those women and children to serve the perverted needs of control freaks.  As I pointed out in my column of one year ago today, pimping was invented by governments, and it’s pretty obvious that government representatives like Marci Hamilton (who apparently forgets that children are always second-class citizens) are still the most numerous practitioners of the behavior.  Scalia’s analysis is correct, but his morality is wrong.  In the wake of Lawrence vs. Texas government suppression of individual, consenting adult sexual behavior is doomed, and that is a very good thing.

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The society girl meets more dangers than the girl on the stage. There is more danger at a tango tea than in the theatre.  –  Lillian Russell

The world is an imperfect place, and anyone who favors endlessly-increasing nanny-state laws under the battle cry, “One is too many!” is doomed to disappointment because no system, no matter how perfect, can prevent every single problem (especially from those who purposefully work to circumvent that system).  Any job in which one has to deal with people exposes one to the possibility of violence from customers, and as I discussed in my column of one year ago today that’s more true of prostitution than of many other jobs, largely due to criminalization.  Largely, but not entirely; most people if asked to list dangerous jobs probably wouldn’t include waitress, teacher or Wal-Mart greeter, yet people are killed in those jobs because, as I said, the world is imperfect.  So even though working in an Australian brothel is generally safer than working as an independent escort (and dramatically safer than working as a streetwalker), there are always exceptions…especially when the brothel’s management ignores the safety of employees and allows a dangerous situation to develop.  This story appeared in The Melbourne Age on July 13th and was called to my attention by a friend who lives in Melbourne:

Butterflys yellow pages adA prostitute who had a gun pulled on her for refusing to have unprotected sex plans to sue a suburban brothel for failing to protect her.  The woman…said her former workplace, “Butterflys of Blackburn”, had turned a blind eye to workers having unprotected sex, creating false expectations and a sense of entitlement among clients.  It also failed to video record people coming and going from the premises and did not have security guards.  She said this partly led to a man assaulting her last August when she persistently refused to have sex with him without a condom…[which] caused the man to aggressively grab her, flip her onto her back and attempt to rape her.  Although she escaped, the man pulled out a gun before leaving and threatened her.  “He pointed it at my head and said he could do anything to me.  He said, ‘No one can stop me’,” she said.

The woman has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, whiplash in her neck and a torn muscle in her shoulder.  She said although other brothels provided excellent security for their workers, Butterflys had allowed workers to charge extra for unprotected sex, creating an impression that clients could get whatever they wanted.  “It never used to be a big issue…but about 12 months before I got attacked, it became a regular occurrence.  More and more guys were coming in asking for sex without a condom.  They were under the impression that most of the girls in that place would do it,” she said.  “If they didn’t let that happen, I wouldn’t have been attacked.”  While it is illegal for people to have unprotected sex in brothels, Butterflys’ website says its aim is to provide clientele with ”everything they may desire and more”…

No reputable brothel or escort service anywhere in the world allows its employees to have unprotected sex; it endangers both girls and customers and feeds into the “dirty whore” myth all professional sex workers want to dispel.  But there are unethical members of every profession, and if the woman is telling the truth Butterflys is run by such.  Failing to have proper security procedures is bad enough, but allowing desperate girls to provide “bareback” is completely unconscionable.  The bad economy is almost certainly behind this; the woman says the problem started just over a year ago, and her weekly income is listed later in the story as A$1000 (not terrible but not all that great either), so I suspect Butterflys is struggling along with many of its employees.

The really important thing about this story, though, isn’t that there are some bad brothels (just as there are bad examples of any business); what’s important is that the prostitute had recourse, unlike her sisters here in the United States.  She was able to report her employer for unsafe working conditions without fear of arrest, and has filed a grievance as any other employee in any other industry might; the later part of the article even mentions that she is now collecting unemployment since she cannot work at present.  Australia’s version of legalization is about as close to full decriminalization as any country has without actually being there, and prostitutes there are treated almost exactly like workers in any other industry; thus when the rare problems do crop up, as in this story, they can be dealt with properly instead of becoming fodder for the sick fantasies and wild exaggerations of prohibitionists as they would in the United States.

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In any constructive agenda for the future, the gender feminist’s divisive social philosophy has no place.  –  Christina Hoff Sommers

One year ago today I published the first part of “Rough Trade”, which discussed the definition of rape, mentioned the hateful notion that a prostitute cannot be raped and described the first time I was raped on the job (the other incidents were described in the second part).  Then a few weeks ago, I ran into this essay, “Researching the ‘Rape Culture’ of America” by Christina Hoff Sommers; it’s actually the tenth chapter of her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? which I read while I was still a librarian, and while some parts of the essay seemed familiar when I read them a few weeks ago I put that down to its clearly being written around the same time as the book.  I’m glad I reread it, though, because while doing so I was struck by the parallels between the rape hysteria of the early ‘90s she discusses in the essay and the “sex trafficking” hysteria I have discussed so often of late.

Sommers’ term for what I call “neofeminism” is “gender feminism”, i.e. anti-male, anti-sex radical feminism.  She refers to its opposite as “equity feminism”, the sensible, pro-sex form of feminism which is concerned with legal equality rather than emasculating males and redesigning society;  this form of feminism evolved into “third wave” feminism soon after the book was written.  For the sake of clarity, I’ll use Sommers’ terms (which are also the ones used by Camille Paglia in her writing of that period) for the duration of this column.  Readers over 30 will probably remember that the early ‘90s was the heyday of extremist feminism; after taking over mainstream feminism in the early ‘80s and silencing most of its critics within the movement by shame, “if you’re not for us you’re against us” rhetoric and arguments from a false concept of sisterhood, the “gender feminists” quickly established “women’s studies” departments and put a stranglehold on the government and foundation grants second-wave feminism had earned.  Thus large, wealthy organizations were essentially tricked into funding neomarxist social-engineering schemes which indoctrinated an entire generation of young women into a hateful campaign against half the human race; even the Hitler Jugend was never so successful at brainwashing.

As with all hate movements, “gender feminism” needed to create a devil, a wholly imaginary or grotesquely exaggerated bogeyman on which to focus its efforts; for gender feminists that was “rape culture”.  The second-wave myth that “rape is a crime of violence and not sex” was turned on its head by Dworkin, MacKinnon and others of their ilk; yes, they said, rape is a crime of violence but for men sex is violence.  Girls were taught that all men are “potential rapists” and all women “potential [rape] survivors”, but unfortunately for their agenda the facts simply didn’t support that; the FBI reported that 8% of all American women would suffer an attempted rape at some point in their lifetimes, and since only about a third of all attempted rapes are completed that just wasn’t enough to create the necessary hysteria.  The “gender feminists” therefore broadened the definition of “rape” to include any and all sex the woman herself did not initiate (even if it did not involve penetration or the woman did not consider it rape).  In 1982 Mary Koss of Kent State used this new, broadened definition to design a questionnaire she gave to 3000 coeds, and concluded that 15.4% of respondents had been raped and 12.1% were victims of attempted rape.  But that wasn’t the way the women saw it; only 27% of those she called “rape victims” agreed that they had indeed been raped, while 49% said the incidents were the result of “miscommunication,” 14% called it “a crime but not rape,” and 11% said they were not victimized at all.  In true neofeminist fashion Koss ignored the women’s views of their own experiences and characterized their denial that they were raped (and the fact that 42% of them later voluntarily had sex with their “rapists”) as evidence that they were “confused and sexually naïve” rather than that her theory was wrong.

Mary Koss and Dean Kilpatrick

Koss’ results were published in Ms. magazine in 1985 and quickly became gospel; the “rape” and “attempted rape” figures together added up to 27.5%, a fraction quickly abbreviated to “one in four” and endlessly repeated in pamphlets, articles, “rape prevention” and “sensitivity” classes and protest marches.  Joe Biden (at that time a mere senator) cited it repeatedly, and of course almost nobody in the media questioned it despite the fact that every criminologist and sexologist in the country  knew that it was much too high.  Then in 1990 the “National Women’s Study” by Dean Kilpatrick announced that about 13% (one in eight) adult American women had been victims of a completed, forcible rape, a number derived in part by defining an unwanted finger being inserted into the vagina during heavy petting as “rape”.  A Harris Poll conducted soon afterward found the actual number of women who said they had been raped to be 2%; guess which number got repeated?  The only people who made the effort to debunk these inflated numbers were Neil Gilbert of Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare and a pair of investigative reporters from the Toledo Blade; they pointed out the serious flaws in Koss’ and Kilpatrick’s studies, the conflict with other studies and the discounting of the experiences of the women themselves.  The Blade article also pointed out that while the rape rate on university campuses was about 1/30 the rate in poor urban neighborhoods, millions of dollars were flowing to “rape prevention” programs and “rape crisis centers” on campuses (Biden’s “Violence Against Women Act” added a further $20 million) while most cities got nothing and “rape crisis” hotlines, where they exist, often go straight to police sex crimes units rather than to counselors.

But of course it was no use; the Gilbert and Blade critiques were welcomed by scholars and reasonable people but ignored by the fanatics and reviled by “gender feminists” with a vested interest in promoting the big numbers which would draw the big money.  Both the Blade reporters and Professor Gilbert were accused of “promoting rape” and “hating women”, and protesters publicly called for their deaths or wished for them to be raped.  This should, of course, all sound familiar; the “studies” designed to produce desired results, the grossly-inflated figures, the further distortion of the already-flawed figures by fanatics, the endless repetition of the bogus numbers by politicians and lazy reporters alike, the dismissal of the experiences of those touted as “victims”, the unconstitutionally-broad, civil rights-trampling laws spawned by the hysteria, the vilification of anyone who tries to tell the truth and the NGOs slurping up millions while the actual victims are ignored are all as characteristic of trafficking fanaticism as they were of rape fanaticism.  The timeliness of this 17-year-old article is proof that, unfortunately, some things never change.

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Even while lying, you’ll be believed if you speak with authority.  –  Anton Chekhov

By now many if not most of you have probably read (or at least heard about) the latest Melissa Farley product, a bogus study for Newsweek (published on July 17th) which purports to “prove” that virtually all men hate women.  Blinded by her own unreasoning hatred of men and sex, Farley has at last exposed herself to widespread scrutiny; normally her mad lies are only directed against sex workers (I use the broad term because her hatred isn’t limited to prostitutes), and since these are a minority among women it’s easy for the ignorant to accept her statements as factual.  But this time her hubris has resulted in an attack on literally half of the human race, and that’s not such an easy sell.  Lest you think I exaggerate, consider the statement:  “…buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it…The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group,” taken together with this one:  “the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.”  If “virtually all men buy sex” and “all sex buyers hate and dehumanize women”, then “virtually all men hate and dehumanize women,” Q.E.D.  That kind of sophistry may impress sheltered, middle-class white girls in “Womyn’s Studies” programs, but in the real world it’s about as appropriate as a cow pie on the dining room table and three times as rude.  Take a look down the comment thread of that article; with a couple of castrated exceptions every male who replied is pretty damned angry, and rightfully so.

I’ve discussed Farley’s laughable methods before; she begins with a farfetched premise, selects a group that she thinks will prove her “theory”, uses leading questions to garner the desired responses, discards whatever data fails to fit the model, rejects noncomforming answers as evidence of “denial” and then conjures numbers out of qualitative answers without bothering to explain how she did so.  Her reports then juxtapose these “findings” with unrepresentative but lurid quotations and her own hateful, unsupported rhetoric; they contain no proper explanation of methodology, are not published in professional journals and are never subjected to peer review or examined by ethics committees.  Don’t take my word for it; read her new “study”, then this short but ruthless critique of another Farley client “study” from 2008.  Virtually every point the 18 authors make about the earlier paper is true of the new one as well.  Nor are psychologists and social scientists the only ones who recognize her as a charlatan; when she appeared as an “expert witness” for the state in the hearings which eventually resulted in prostitution laws being struck down in Ontario last September, Justice Susan Himel found her testimony highly questionable:

I found the evidence of Dr. Melissa Farley to be problematic…her advocacy appears to have permeated her opinions.  For example, Dr. Farley’s unqualified assertion…that prostitution is inherently violent appears to contradict her own findings that prostitutes who work from indoor locations generally experience less violence.  Furthermore…she failed to qualify her opinion…that [post-traumatic stress disorder] could be caused by events unrelated to prostitution.  Dr. Farley’s choice of language is at times inflammatory and detracts from her conclusions.  For example, comments such as, “prostitution is to the community what incest is to the family,” and “just as pedophiles justify sexual assault of children….men who use prostitutes develop elaborate cognitive schemes to justify purchase and use of women” make her opinions less persuasive.  Dr. Farley stated during cross-examination that some of her opinions on prostitution were formed prior to her research, including, “that prostitution is a terrible harm to women, that prostitution is abusive in its very nature, and that prostitution amounts to men paying a woman for the right to rape her.”  Accordingly…I assign less weight to Dr. Farley’s evidence.

This study actually uses a control group, a first for Farley despite being the norm in ethical research.  Of course, Farley’s idea of a control leaves much to be desired; she provides essentially no significant information on the group other than that it had 100 members.  And Newsweek didn’t even deign to reveal the report at all, obviously because somebody over there was smart enough to recognize it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on and they didn’t want to make it available for refutation (my link to it was located by Brandy Devereaux).  Instead, they just printed a few choice quotes and a “trafficked children” narrative, added a lot of rhetoric from prohibitionists and the obligatory scare quotes around words like “choose”, and crowned the steaming pile with a selection of outright lies such as the debunked claim that the Swedish Model “dramatically reduced trafficking” and the outrageous libel that decriminalization and legalization in most countries has created an “explosive growth in demand that generated an increase in trafficking and other crimes”, though mysteriously never in the countries which supposedly caused the problem.

Swanee Hunt

By refusing to publish in any relevant peer-reviewed journal, or indeed to expose herself to meaningful criticism of any kind, Farley seals herself into an echo chamber populated only by academic feminists, credulous reporters and politicians who need the filth she peddles to justify further suppression of sex work.  Unlike true academics, she avoids the pressure to publish in journals by pandering to government entities and NGOs with an anti-sex agenda; the current specimen was sponsored by the Hunt Alternatives Fund, the entity behind the anti-male, anti-sex-worker group “Demand Abolition”.  This results in her completely losing touch with reality and thereby becoming totally unable to recognize either the hateful bigotry of her rhetoric (she has referred to the vast majority of prostitutes as “house niggers“) or the transparency of her misrepresentations.  Take, for example, the statement “Prostitution has always been risky for women; the average age of death is 34, and the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that prostitutes suffer a ‘workplace homicide rate’ 51 times higher than that of the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.”  The flaws with the statement become instantly obvious to anyone who reads the report in question; it is, of course, a study of arrested streetwalkers, and therefore bases its conclusions on the most unfortunate third of the most dangerous segment of prostitution, which is a bit like calculating the mortality rate for soldiers at the front lines of a regional war and then extrapolating that figure to all members of the armed services of every country in the world.  Furthermore, the claim that “the average age of death is 34” is badly misstated from the actual finding that the average murdered streetwalker is 34; continuing our analogy, this is exactly the same as concluding “the average soldier dies at 21” by the simple expedient of excluding from the “average” all those who survived!  The figure thus produced is as spurious as the ubiquitous “average age at entry is 13” which I have previously debunked.  Now imagine that someone used such distorted figures to advocate for more wars in order to “end soldiering”, and you’ll have a picture of the rat’s nest Farley uses for a brain.

Incidentally, that American Journal of Epidemiology article was unearthed and forwarded to me by regular reader Jason Congdon (who also helpfully pointed out several flaws in the article); the Newsweek reporter didn’t want people to see it and so linked the Journal’s website instead.  Nor are Jason and I the only ones who felt moved to shred this third-rate propaganda; Tracy Clark-Flory critiqued it in Salon, Charlotte Shane skewered it in Tits and Sass, and Laura Agustín connected it to the bigger picture of U.S. government-sponsored “end demand” anti-sex work schemes in Good Vibrations.  Marty Klein of Psychology Today called it “disgusting, dishonest and damaging”.  Even Debra Dickerson of Slate, who believes that “…Farley is at least partially right about the potentially dangerous effects of… phone sex and Internet porn,” called the study an insult to readers’ intelligence full of “overblown rhetoric and outlandish conclusions,” and wrote that “an undergrad would earn an easy A pointing out the flaws in…methodology and analysis.”  Will any of this sway the opinions of those who already embrace prohibitionist fanaticism?  Of course not, but neither did Farley’s piece sway anyone who knows the truth about sex work, and it may have alienated a large number of male fence-sitters and the women who love them.

One Year Ago Today

Playing the Part” is an answer to the reader question, “How easy is it for a prostitute to play her part if the man concerned is personally unattractive to her?”  I think you’ll find it quite interesting.

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What ever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter what name it is called.  –  John Stuart Mill

Imagine this scenario:  you’re at work one day; maybe it’s a job you really like, maybe it’s one you just tolerate because it’s better than the alternatives, and maybe it’s one you hate but keep working at because the money is good and you’ve got bills to pay.  So you’re just minding your own business, dealing with customers or whatever, when suddenly a bunch of armed police thugs smash the door down, start pointing guns at everybody, arrest your customers and boss, handcuff you and your fellow co-workers and shove you into a van.  While this is going on you notice that there are some people with the police who are dressed in plain clothes and appear to be foreign.  The police eventually lock you and your co-workers in a cell and one of the foreigners then tells you all that you’ve been “rescued” from your job because the business owner was “exploiting” you.  Now, if you hate your job in the first place you might even agree about the exploitation bit, but you’d probably still be pretty angry about being arrested and scared half to death by the goon squad’s commando tactics.  And even if you did hate the job, how do you think you’d feel when the foreigner told you that they didn’t have any comparable work lined up for you, but that you would soon be transferred to a “rescue home” for an indefinite period of time and while you were there you would be taught to sew so you can be forced to work in a sweatshop at less than a tenth of your previous salary?

Don’t answer yet; now imagine that some of your coworkers who liked the job begin to protest, and are told that they don’t know what they’re talking about, that you’ve all been “programmed” to think you were working voluntarily but you “really” weren’t no matter what you remember.  You are informed that your “exploiters”, meaning every customer and member of management (including the cool manager who buys pizza for everyone on Fridays and the nice old man who always tells you about his grandchildren) are evil monsters who are going to prison for decades and that you are expected to testify against them in a kangaroo court; if you refuse you will be sent to a “deprogramming” facility where you will be psychologically tortured until you agree to say whatever your “rescuers” want.  In the meantime, nobody is allowed to call friends or family to let them know where you are, because the “rescuers” have no way of knowing which of you are “brainwashed” and you might call gangsters or something.  Finally, sometime in the next few days, you find out the whole thing was cooked up as a publicity stunt to please a foreign government (the one the foreign “rescuers” came from) in order to seal some kind of political deal.  How do you think you’d react?  Obviously you’d be angry, probably furious.  You’d probably join with the others in demanding a lawyer, transportation back to work and an apology, and if a reporter or social worker was sent in to talk to you you’d probably give her an earful in hopes of raising a public outcry.  You might even join in a riot to overpower your guards and escape.

Well, for many women in a number of countries (including The Philippines, India, the Republic of the Congo and the United Kingdom) this isn’t just a theoretical question because it’s happening quite often, and as you might suspect these women are pretty angry about it – often angry enough to become violent, just as you or I might be in their situation.  I’ve mentioned before that the rescue industry has become a major social problem in many developing countries, especially in the Far East; if you think I’m exaggerating with the above scenario take a look at this protest video from the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers, then read on to the following examples which, as happens so often, came to my attention through Laura Agustín’s blog of July 12th.

The first of the cases is from the Philippines, May of 2009 and is unusual in that the “rescued” women were not actually prostitutes but operators for a paid “cybersex” service; apparently the reporter thought this sounded a bit too benign, so he referred to it as a “cybersex den”:

Fifteen girls, rescued by police and National Bureau of Agency (NBI) men [on April 23rd] from a cybersex den operated by two Swedish nationals, have escaped from the Department of Social Welfare Development office in Cagayan de Oro City…after mauling the duty security guard.  The girls then flagged down a passenger jeepney and forced its driver to bring them away from the DSWD office…Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla…of the…Police Office, said the girls would not be charged or arrested because they are not facing any charges.  Armilla, however, said they would have to locate the girls because they would need them to testify against two Swedish nationals and four Filipinos, who have been arrested for allegedly operating the cybersex den…

It takes some serious doublethink to be able to use the word “rescued” in conjunction with arresting and confining non-criminal adult women against their will.  Nor is their violent reaction unusual, as we can see in this story from India, last October:

…sex workers rescued on Wednesday and sent to a shelter in the city began a violent clamour last morning…At 9 am, all 21 sex workers stomped out and created a ruckus.  They broke off the grill and engaged in a fight with the management.  “The rescued sex workers began insisting on going back…” [the shelter manager] said…”In major raids, initially such things happen…In an earlier raid, when 46 girls were brought, the same thing had happened…They are programmed to lie, so we don’t have correct information about them…They even lie about their origin.”

“Lie” in this context obviously means “tell us things we don’t want to hear.”  Then there was this report from January 1st of this year:

Police from China flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo in November…They found 11 Chinese women who had been promised decent jobs in Paris by traffickers but ended up working in a Chinese-owned karaoke bar in…Kinshasa…After a joint raid by Chinese and Congolese police…the women decided to stay…saying it was easier to make good money there than in China…”They make 100 US dollars for receiving one guest – half of the money goes to their boss and they keep the other half”…the women…were [also] able to take cheap goods from China to Africa after visits home and sell them for big profits…

Yes, you read that correctly:  the “trafficked sex slaves” made more per client than German brothel girls, could go home at will and were allowed to conduct side-business as well.  The horror!  The most recent episode was again from the Philippines, reported June 29th:

A hundred female sex workers…and five foreigners were arrested, in  raids on three night clubs in Angeles City Tuesday night…“The women don’t really consider it a rescue,” said [the NGO manager] who led the raids.  “They kept cursing us, and tried their best to escape”…She said she assumed that some of the rescued women were below 18.  “Or they were taught to say they’re 18,” she said…the successive raids in Angeles City’s red light district bolstered the US government’s recognition of the Philippines’ commitment to combating human trafficking.  The Philippines has been taken off a watch list of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and elevated to Tier 2, a category of countries that do not fully comply with anti-trafficking standards but are making efforts to do so…

The total disregard for these women’s autonomy is deplorable; the few underage ones (if there were any) are said to be so stupid that they can’t even think of passing themselves off for 18 without being “taught” to say it, even though every teenager in the West can think that up all by himself.  This story is at least honest about the real motives of the Filipinos, though; these women were “trafficked” from their workplaces into jail due to U.S. pressure; their wishes were ignored and they were treated like commodities, handed over as gifts to the U.S. State Department like slave-girls given by a local king to the Roman governor.

One Year Ago Today

The Numbers Game” is a column about why women in general and escorts in particular lie about our ages and weights, and the effect this has on both the business and the male brain.

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Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.  –  Matthew 21:31

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, whom Western tradition represents as a repentant prostitute; I discussed the legend in last year’s column for this day.  But though the Bible does not support the idea that Mary Magdalene was a whore, it does mention a number of other ladies of my profession and today I’d like to present an overview of their stories.

The first notable mention of a harlot occurs in Genesis 38, and as might be expected of an episode taking place about the 15th century BCE the harlot concerned was a temple prostitute…or to be exact, a woman disguised as a temple prostitute.  The Hebrew Levirate law required that a man marry his brother’s childless widow so the dead brother might have descendants to inherit his name and property and the widow would have children to support her in old age.  The patriarch Judah had three sons:  Er, Onan and Shelah, but Er died suddenly before giving his wife, Tamar, any children.  Er’s younger brother, Onan, married her as duty demanded, but he hated his dead brother and refused to give him descendants, so though he had sex with Tamar he withdrew before ejaculation and “spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother” – (Genesis 38:9).  Yahweh was very unhappy about this combination rape and dereliction of duty and accordingly slew Onan; weirdly enough, Christian preachers of the early 18th century used this as evidence that God disliked masturbation (“spilling seed on the ground”) and referred to the act as “onanism”, thus demonstrating that they entirely misunderstood the nature of Onan’s transgression.

“Tamar and Judah” by Horace Vernet (1840)

In any case, Shelah should have next inherited the duty but he was too young to marry, so Judah asked Tamar to wait; however, when the boy came of age the father did not uphold his promise.  The clever girl therefore travelled to a nearby town whither Judah had driven his sheep to have them shorn, and disguised herself as a veiled Canaanite temple prostitute (the Hebrew word used is kedeshah, a sacred prostitute, rather than zonah, a common one) in order to entice her father-in-law to hire her.  The plan worked; he promised to pay her a kid from his flock, and as a bond he left his signet ring, bracelets and staff.  Of course, she had no interest in payment; what she wanted was the child due her, so after the act was done she left without waiting for the kid to be delivered, and when her pregnancy began to show three months later she presented the identifying items as proof of her child’s lawful parentage.  Judah confessed that he had been tricked into doing his duty, Tamar had twins and everything worked out for the best; the sons became the ancestors of the tribe of Judah, i.e. the Jews.

Tamar was not the only Biblical harlot with important descendants.  In the second chapter of Joshua two Hebrew spies lodged in the house of a harlot named Rahab while in Jericho, and she hid them from searchers in return for their promise that when they invaded her city she and her family would be spared.  Why did she do this for two strangers?  Self-interest was certainly a major factor, but hospitality laws probably came into play as well; in the ancient Near East a host had a sacred responsibility for the safety of those under his roof, which is why Lot was willing to turn his own daughters over to the Sodomite rape-gang in Genesis 19:4-8 rather than give up the disguised angels who were his guests.  Also, Rahab seems to have been rather disgusted by the spineless response of her countrymen to news of the Hebrew victories (“your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you…neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you” – Joshua 2:9-11).  In any case, Joshua kept the pact to which his spies had committed him and Rahab and her family were spared; she married one of the Hebrews and became the ancestress of either several prophets or of Jesus himself, depending on which Biblical scholar one chooses to believe.

The First Book of Kings (chapter 3, verses 16-28), tells the famous story of King Solomon’s judgment over two harlots who shared a house; one overlaid her baby and he died, so she switched the body for the other woman’s child.  The King ordered that the living baby be split with a sword and half given to each, whereupon the real mother instantly renounced the infant to save its life.  But there’s a strange detail at the end of the story; we are told “all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king”, which is a strange reaction unless one recognizes the politics behind it.  Solomon, you see, was not the rightful heir; he was the son of David’s concubine Bathsheba, and the throne should have gone to his elder brother Adonijah but Solomon was the cleverer politician and contrived a coup.  Immediately upon taking the throne he spread the story of the judgment over the harlots, which was in actuality a parable:  the wrongful mother (Solomon) was willing to let the baby (Israel) be split with a sword (divided by civil war), but the rightful mother (Adonijah) could avoid the butchery by relinquishing parental (royal) rights.  No wonder the people were afraid!

In Solomon’s parable Israel was the child of a whore, but by Ezekiel’s time (early 6th century BCE) she was portrayed as a whore herself.  Ezekiel (whose feast, coincidentally, was yesterday) repeatedly prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem for its “betrayal” of Mosaic Law, and one of his parables painted the now-divided Hebrew kingdom (northern Samaria and southern Judah) as a pair of harlot sisters who enjoy their work entirely too much.  He describes their “whoredoms” in great and lurid detail, mentioning several times that their clients bruised their tits (Ezekiel 23:3, 8 and 21), and he seems especially fascinated with the size of their clients’ penises and the volume of their seminal discharge (“For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.” – Ezekiel 23:20).  I’ll bet you never studied that passage in catechism or Sunday school!

But what about the woman whose name is practically synonymous with “whore”, namely Jezebel?  Well, as I already explained in my column of that name, she was a Phoenician princess who married King Ahab of Israel and dutifully built temples to her own gods in her adopted land, thus earning the wrath of the fanatical prophet Elisha.  After Ahab’s death Elisha backed a usurper who overthrew the rightful heir and had Queen Jezebel hurled from a window of the palace to her death.  The association of her name with harlotry appears to derive from the fact that when she knew death was near she made up her face and dressed in full royal regalia so as to die a queen, plus the fact that Elisha, like Ezekiel in later centuries, used the word “whoredom” as a metaphor for turning from Yahweh to other gods.  Of course, Jezebel wasn’t a Hebrew so her adherence to her native gods can hardly be considered apostasy, but little details like that (and the fact that in Phoenicia, makeup wasn’t considered the exclusive province of harlots as it was in Israel) don’t matter much to homicidal religious maniacs.

“The Whore of Babylon” by William Blake (1809)

Nor to mystical visionaries like St. John the Divine, who in the 1st century CE portrayed Jezebel as a sort of succubus: “…thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.  And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.  Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 2:20-22)  John was one of those Christians who followed in the footsteps of the Hebrew prophets by using whores as symbols for everything filthy; the most famous is of course the Whore of Babylon from Revelation 17:

And there came one of the seven angels…saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:  With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication…and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:  And upon her forehead [was] a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.”

Though modern Christian fundamentalists believe the Whore of Babylon to be a literal person, this is a fairly recent interpretation; most Biblical scholars believe she was a symbol for Rome, and Martin Luther and other leaders of the Reformation taught that she was a symbol for the Catholic Church.  But whichever interpretation one accepts, with Babylon the transformation is complete; the whores of the oldest parts of the Bible are strong, realistic and positively-portrayed women, but as the centuries wore on and women’s status sank the harlot became a symbol for increasingly negative and abstract concepts.

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