Archive for March, 2012

Man is a question; woman is an answer.  The mistake women make today is to offer themselves as answers before being questioned.  –  José Bergamín

For several decades the idea that men are “afraid of commitment” has been a feminist shibboleth – despite the fact that it flies in the face of normal women’s experiences.  In my experience and that of most women I know, men nearly always say “I love you” first and it’s women who shun commitment; I’ve received dozens of marriage proposals in my life, but only accepted two.  The male-commitment-phobia myth dates to the late 20th century; in both fiction and personal accounts written before that it’s always the man depicted as expressing his love, serenading beneath the balcony, proposing multiple times before his inamorata finally says “yes”, etc.  The truth of the matter is that men are only afraid of commitment to the same degree as women are:  namely, they fear committing to the wrong person.  But rather than admitting that the reason men wouldn’t express love or pursue marriage with them might be their fault, many feminist writers of the last quarter of the 20th century elected instead to blame it on the men.

It isn’t that all feminists have obnoxious personality traits which turn men off to them (as MRA-types might claim), nor that men are “afraid of strong women” (as radical feminists might claim).  I doubt anyone would disagree that I’m a strong woman, and I’ve been beating men off with a stick for almost 30 years.  The problem is that feminism stupidly encouraged women to act in a way that turns men off.  Women who say “I love you” first are like women who ask men out or propose sex; they come across as needy, and many men are turned off by it.  A woman who is too ready to express love or give away sex for free triggers a reaction in a typical man’s brain that “something must be wrong with her or else she’d be more aloof”; he’ll probably accept the free sex, but won’t be interested in anything else.  This recent article shows that men usually profess love first, and explains why it’s so:

The [phrase] “I love you” is symbolic as it represents romantic devotion; a desire to bring the relationship to a higher, more serious level…A common perception is that men are likely to exercise caution in the use of such words while women, who are thought to have stronger feelings of love, are likelier to be first to profess love…Yet a study…by…Norman Li [of Singapore Management University]…found that men are more likely to make the first move.  Furthermore, the onset of sexual activity also influences how a recipient might react to a three-worded confession as such.  In their paper “Let’s Get Serious: Communicating Commitment In Romantic Relationships”, [Li and two co-]authors said that an evolutionary perspective has been “particularly fruitful…in accounting for the costs and benefits underlying specific patterns of romantic behaviour” and based their hypotheses from several principles in economics and evolutionary biology…

The first principle…considered…is parental investment, which states that because reproductive success is the primary driver of natural selection, the biological sex that makes the greater “minimum obligatory investment” (typically females) in conceiving will tend to be more…choosy than the other sex…because women have more to lose than men by making poor mating choices, they have a stronger motivation to choose carefully and wisely…“sexual intercourse represents the core event for which parental investment pressures are relevant…Meeting a romantic partner’s parents may feel like a big step in a relationship, but it plays a comparatively minor role in terms of the minimum obligatory costs a person must expend in fertilisation and child rearing,” [the authors said].  And because committed, long-term relationships often involve sexual activity, “confessions of love may be used to achieve sexual access by (truthfully or insincerely) announcing long-term romantic interest.”

This assessment suggests that men will be relatively more interested in seeking this access at the outset of a relationship, led the authors to hypothesise that men would likelier confess love first…A series of surveys…about perceptions of romantic relationships…[were used] to test the hypotheses…[and] 70 percent of the couples reported that it was the man who had confessed love first…contrary to the belief that women might be more keen to pledge love and commitment, it is, in fact, men who are more likely to do so first – albeit to encourage sexual activity.  Women, on the other hand, may prefer to delay such expressions until they have evaluated their partners satisfactorily…

While the common perception may be that women tend to feel happier than men when they are told “I love you” for the first time in a relationship, an evolutionary-economics perspective suggests otherwise…“If love confessions are bids for sexual access, then women should respond less positively than men to confessions that occur prior to the onset of sexual activity in a relationship…In relationships in which sex occurs before love is confessed, they should be more motivated to seek investment, potentially in the form of commitment,” they wrote.  This would mean that women should feel more positive about receiving a post-sex than a pre-sex confession of love while men are likely to respond better to pre-sex confessions as they may perceive them as “signals of sexual opportunity” …survey results…showed that male respondents exhibited less happiness in response to hearing “I love you” after sex had occurred in a relationship versus before sex…[while] female respondents showed a higher level of happiness when they are told “I love you” after sex…

Here we have another “dog bites man” thing; any woman who believes that other women set great stock in professions of love which come prior to first sexual contact is either virginal or delusional.  Before sex, “I love you” might simply be a ploy to get in one’s pants; if, as the song says, he still loves you tomorrow, that’s meaningful.

The reason so many feminists sabotage their relationships from the outset is that they are hampered by a deep misunderstanding of  the power dynamics of such relationships.  A woman who wants the appearance of “equality” might try to “take the lead”, which as in dancing is very disruptive if her partner expects to play that role.  So he gets a bit turned off by it and (consciously or unconsciously) cools toward her, and she responds by chasing harder which spooks him more.  The more she tries to lead the more he imitates one of the Beatles running from screaming fans, so she goes off and writes a stupid article for some women’s magazine stating that “men are afraid of commitment”; eventually so many feminists do the same that the myth is established even among impressionable women whose personal experiences are exactly the opposite.  The saddest part of all this is that, though many feminists want to believe that being the aggressor in a relationship is a position of strength, it’s actually one of weakness; which position is stronger, that of the soldier running up the beach or that of the defender in his machine-gun emplacement?  But some feminists are so completely invested in believing that men have the advantage in everything that they abandon their positions of strength in one of the areas where women hold the high ground, and then wonder why they keep losing battles.

One Year Ago Yesterday

The First Time” discusses men who opt to use honest cash rather than dishonest professions of love to obtain their first sexual experiences.

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The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven—
All’s right with the world!
  –  Robert Browning

The apparent path of the sun crossed the equator at 5:14 GMT this morning, making today the first day of astronomical spring.  As far as the weather is concerned, though, it’s been spring in my corner of North America for weeks…at least since Imbolc,   though we actually had a number of warm days in January.  And I do mean warm; though no single day broke our previous January record (22.9 Celsius at 3:30 PM January 28, 2011), this was the warmest winter I’ve seen since buying my land in 2002 and the preliminary meteorological data seems to indicate it’ll be among the warmest on record.  If we compare it to other unusually mild winters – 1932, 1950 and 1970 – we find that they are often followed by unusually cold, snowy springs and mild summers.  Well, we’ll see; nearly anything’s an improvement over the weather we had last year, in which a premature spring was followed by a cold snap and a brutally hot, dry summer which totally destroyed my blackberry crop.  No, we don’t need them for money, but fresh blackberries (and blackberry pie, ice cream, jam, etc) are one of the pleasures of country life and I hate to be cheated of them.

In my column of one year ago tomorrow (leap year shifts everything after the end of February one day back) I discussed all the signs of spring that I love, and they all appeared in February this year; the little green shoots of grass and clover everywhere, the jonquils, the Canada geese heading north, etc.  All around us the world is awakening, and it rarely fails to inspire me.  At the beginning of March I always get my new chicks; I never tire of watching the seemingly-miraculous transformation of tiny balls of fluff into scrawny pullets whom I move from brooder to henhouse around the first day of spring.  All through April they gradually become more typically bird-shaped, then in the summer transform into fat hens; one of the signs of impending autumn is that they start laying.  As is my holiday custom, I’m going to take the day off to enjoy it; though for practical reasons we wait for Easter to hold our spring feast, that doesn’t stop me from going out to take in the beauty.

I wish all of my readers the joy of the season, and the renewal and growth of everything positive in your lives.  Blessed Be!

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Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
 – David Byrne, “Once In a Lifetime

Metaphors are at best imperfect; no matter how alike two things are, there are bound to be some differences.  The same thing goes for historical cycles; no two eras can be exactly the same.  That having been said, there are so many parallels between our era and the Victorian that it’s positively eerie; as I said in my New Year’s Day column,

…a coalition of conservative Christians and small-minded, narcissistic, middle-class white “feminists” has succeeded in selling its ideas of social engineering to the society at large, resulting in an ever-increasing mountain of restrictions on private “vices” such as sex and drug use.  Once again we are being told that sex is “harmful”, especially to “children” (meaning anyone under 21), that prostitutes are the mentally defective “victims” of evil men, that there is a secret international conspiracy to sell millions of women and children into sexual slavery to satisfy “sinful” male lusts, and that women are eternal, sexless Trilbys who require paternal protection from mustachioed male Svengalis.  Once again white Westerners are being urged to take up the “White Man’s Burden” and work to shepherd the degraded, childlike brown races from their inferior state by forcing them to accept our vastly superior culture  (for their own good, of course).  And once again plain, honest language is avoided in favor of vague, polysyllabic euphemisms designed to hide meaning rather than convey it, as discussed in my column from last New Year’s Day.

Given all this it’s no surprise that anti-sex worker fanatics refer to themselves as “abolitionists” and like to fantasize that there are “more slaves now than at the height of the Atlantic slave trade”, or that they write in an overblown, lurid style drawn straight from the penny dreadfuls.  Health fascists employ rhetoric one might expect from the likes of Sylvester Graham or John Harvey Kellogg, and then there’s snobbish, racist social engineering like the latest from New York:

…[Proposed]…legislation…would ban eating in the New York City subway system…[on the grounds] that [it] breeds rats.  It’s far from clear that the proposed ban would be enforceable…[and] the claim that noshing leads to litter and filth harks back to racial and class stereotypes from the Victorian era…[when] social reformers tried to crack down on working-class public eaters and food vendors — many of whom were immigrants — by linking them to squalor, disease and shame.  To 19th-century guardians of public morality, the newfangled habit of eating outside the home was a menace to body and soul.  The oyster stalls of downtown Manhattan were an assault on the family values of the dinner table.  The “hot-corn girls” who sold their wares on the streets were no better than prostitutes.  Public eating was a gateway sin that led to drinking and debauchery.

As I pointed out in my column of one year ago today, the “gateway” argument is employed by lawheads to argue in favor of logically-unsupportable bans on consensual activity by claiming (without proof, of course) that the activity in question “leads” inevitably to serious consequences:

“Eating in public may beget a certain freedom of manner and nonchalance in little ladies and gentlemen,” Putnam’s magazine warned in 1853, “but we fear the practice is not calculated to promote the health either of the mind or the body.” For children, the magazine hinted darkly, eating in public was worse than unhealthy — it was bad for their morals.  All this sermonizing about public morals was a euphemism for a more concrete threat:  the growing populations of Irish, German, Italian and Jewish immigrants…for the families flooding into Ellis Island every day, street peddling was often the first step up the ladder of capitalism. Street food cost less than restaurant fare, because vendors didn’t have to pass on the already skyrocketing cost of rent to their customers…Well into the 20th century, social reformers lobbied the city to crack down on immigrant pushcart vendors…[arguing] that eating in public was “unhygienic” and led to diseases like cholera.

You can hear an echo of Victorian finger-wagging nowadays from lawmakers who pit public eating against cleanliness, godliness and that elusive quality we refer to as being “civilized”… but…in many of the great cities of the world, public eating and all of its glorious manifestations…are occasions for celebration and communion, not shame and punishment…To be sure, some foods…travel well [and] others…not so much.  And some subway passengers do throw their leftovers on the…tracks.  But instead of criminalizing a biological necessity like eating, we should enforce the already existing laws against littering…we don’t want to end up like Washington, where transit police officers, during an undercover crackdown in November 2000, infamously arrested and handcuffed a 12-year-old girl for eating French fries. (The officers who searched her book bag, according to the girl, asked if she had any drugs or alcohol in addition to her fries)…

Because, you know, French fries are a “gateway drug” which inevitably lead to shooting up heroin.  Yes, that’s an absurd exaggeration, but to whores and our clients it sounds no more ridiculous than the common assertion that having sex with someone for practical reasons (rather than “love”) and being honest about one’s expectations up front, somehow inevitably leads to violent crime.

The idea that denying oneself physical pleasures, from sex to tasty food to chemical stimulants, is a good in and of itself arrived in North America with the Puritans and grew dramatically during the 19th century (as described in Warner’s All or Nothing).  But the notion that it is somehow justifiable to impose one’s own personal beliefs or preferences on society as a whole is the deformed spawn of the Social Purity Era, and its reappearance is yet another symptom of Neo-Victorianism.

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He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process.  –  Friedrich Nietzsche

Don Quixote imagined himself a knight errant and set off on a quest to save damsels, defeat villains and right all wrongs.  But since there were neither monsters to slay nor damsels in distress, his madness conjured them out of mundane people and things and he frequently interfered in other people’s business.  Fortunately, everyone else (including his “squire”, Sancho Panza) saw reality as it was, so Quixote’s ability to actually hurt others was minimal.  We have of late been invaded by a veritable army of Quixotes, but unlike their mostly-harmless fictional progenitor these modern knights erroneous have managed to convince much of the world that hotels and brothels are prisons, husbands and businessmen international gangsters and whores pure, victimized damsels to be rescued from a Fate Worse Than Death.

The most famous of these quixotic crusaders is of course Nicholas Kristof, who imagines himself the savior of both whores and passive, childlike brown people everywhere.  He’s well-known for riding in on a nag he imagines to be a charger and “rescuing” girls from brothels with the “help” of local police…who often subject them to abuse the second Kristof rides off to proclaim his latest triumph in the New York Times, just as the servant boy Don Quixote “rescued” was beaten by his master as soon as his “savior” was out of sight.  Dr. Laura Agustín has written a number of articles exposing Kristof; one of the best and most comprehensive of these is “The Soft Side of Imperialism”, published on January 25th.  A month later the same newsletter, Counterpunch, carried another of her essays; this one’s on an academic charlatan named Siddharth Kara, who like Kristof is revered by trafficking fetishists:

It is good luck for Good Men that sex slavery has been identified as a terrible new phenomenon requiring extraordinary actions.  In the chivalric tradition, to rescue a damsel in distress ranked high as a way knights errant could prove themselves, along with slaying dragons and giants.  Nowadays, Nicholas Kristof is only one of a growing number of men seeking attention and praise through the rescue of a new kind of distressed damsel – poorer women called sex slaves.  In this noble quest, women who prefer to sell sex to their other limited options are not consulted but must be saved…

Siddharth Kara, another man seeking saintliness, uses lite  economics – another trendy way to get noticed these days.  His Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery…is not a scholarly work.  Neither based on methodological research nor reflecting knowledge of literature that could give context to the author’s experience, the book reads like the diary of a poverty tourist or the bildungsroman of an unsophisticated man of moral sentiments demonstrating his pain at unfathomable injustices.  This places Kara in the tradition of colonial writers who believed that they were called to testify to the suffering of those not lucky enough to be born into comfortable Western society.  Scholarship is virtually absent from his list of references, whether on migration, trafficking, slavery, feminism, sexualities, criminology, gender, informal-sector labor, or the sex industry and prostitution…Sex Trafficking is touted by anti-slavery and End Demand campaigners as presenting hard data, incisive analysis and up-to-date economics, but it reads more like an account of knight-errantry…

…Kara reads like a bull in a china shop, bumbling into brothels, stressing and sometimes endangering young women, pressing them to provide him with conversation, annoying goons, and throwing money around.  The absence of academic supervision to control his preconceptions, critique his lack of methodology, or check his spin makes one wonder what Columbia University Press thought they were doing publishing it…For a man setting out to report on sex as business he is priggish.  Bothered by old men who ogle young girls, he admits “I felt ashamed to be male”…Exalted sensibility and anachronistic rhetoric further link Kara to nineteenth-century moral crusaders like Josephine Butler, famous for saying if she were a prostitute she would be crying all day.  Kara knows little about present-day migration and mobility.  Meeting a Lithuanian woman in Italy and a Nigerian woman in Bangkok cause him to suspect they were trafficked, as though obtaining travel documents and tickets were too difficult for women to manage alone.  Not finding slaves in the United States, he concludes there must be less demand and therefore less slavery, but also that the United States is “too far away” (from what?), as though contemporary air travel had not rendered distance almost irrelevant…

…Kara is not interested in migration…[or] “trafficking”…preferring slave trading for the movement of people and slavery for the jobs they get.  He claims that slavery is back on a large scale, but his is a cartoon version of master and slave, free of any social complexity and the ambiguities of human interaction…Finally forced to recognize that slavery could sometimes represent “a better life” (p. 199), he is nonetheless blind to the possibility that people in bad situations may be able to exploit them and is obviously ignorant of slavery studies far evolved from abolitionist reductionism.  Slave narratives, slave archaeology, ethnobiology, and historical research all have illuminated social systems in which slaves were not wholly passive nor owners unidimensionally crushing…He claims that “sex slaves” are the best earners for masters because they are sold “literally thousands of times before they are replaced” (p. 24), confusing an owner’s sale of a slave with a slave’s sale of sexual services to customers.  Would he do this if another service were involved, like hairdressing?  If a salon owner buys a slave to be a hairdresser who then sees many customers and produces money for her owner, would Kara say the hairdresser is sold thousands of times?  Or would he see that her labor is sold, albeit unjustly…

Agustín goes into considerable detail about this man’s awesome degree of ignorance, and after reading her article one is forced to wonder if the trafficking fanatics bother to read anything before praising it, or if they automatically pronounce a work “important” and “well-researched” if it generally supports their beliefs.  Kara proclaims that there is little sex slavery in the US, which is certainly true but directly contradicts “trafficking” dogma.  Maybe the fetishists didn’t get that far in the book, or at least assume those they’re preaching to won’t.

Two days later on her own blog Agustín presented her view of recent grandstanding by Ashton Kutcher, another Galahad wannabe whose sexual habits, alas, disqualify him for the role.  Like Kristof he tags along on police raids, but unlike Kristof he doesn’t want to get out of easy driving distance of the nearest Starbuck’s:

Ashton Kutcher is branching out from child sex trafficking and child sex slavery to child pornography, undoubtedly on the advice of publicists who want him associated with all things scarily sexy about children.  This…contributes to the blurring of distinctions amongst people who sell sex, no matter what age they are.  Distinctions are necessary if one would like as many different people as possible to enjoy autonomy and rights, and one would think most people would like that, but alas they don’t when exchanging money for sex is concerned…

Being part of police raids is clearly the In Thing for Rescuers. Nicholas Kristof went giddy over the AK-47s he saw at Somaly Mam’s raid, and Mira Sorvino [is] playing a New York cop-turned-Border-Patrol-agent in a TV mini-series called Human Trafficking…So I am hardly surprised that Ashton asked to tag along on a police raid of pedophile homes in California (if that is really what they were, which is not proven).  But something creepy is getting normalised here:  Celebrities now routinely side with police in order to show their seriousness about trafficking, and, in a circular move, get their knowledge about trafficking from the police.  Ashton won’t have known anything about the people whose homes were invaded except what the cops told him (he wasn’t allowed inside). But he doesn’t have to know more, because this is a publicity stunt…What happened to Hollywood’s historic liberal slant that caused actors and writers to stand up against big government?  Gone with the wind of trafficking.

I was originally planning to present the Kutcher story in “That Was the Week That Was #9”, but Agustín’s analysis was so much more interesting than the rather-dry story I decided to present it as part of this parade of arse-backward “heroes” committed to destroying women’s lives for their own personal glory.

One Year Ago Today

Ching Shih” was an early 19th century whore whose charms and intelligence allowed her to become the most successful pirate in history.

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The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.  –  William F. Buckley

Twelve updates and three meta-updates.

Think of the Children! (September 30th, 2010)

Richard B. Haydock is not amused.

In California, crime is whatever school officials say it is:  “…Stacie Halas, a…teacher at Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard, was removed from the classroom…after pupils reported spotting her in a series of X-rated clips.  ‘Maybe it’s not a crime as far as the penal code is concerned, but we feel it’s a crime as far as moral turpitude is concerned,’ said [superintendent] Jeff Chancer…”  Because we certainly can’t have “sex rays” corrupting the innocent minds of nasty little snitches who watch internet porn and even make videos of their own:  “…a boy and a girl engaged in oral sex during class at Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard…[and] students…videotaped the…act on their cell phones…School officials have placed the teacher on paid administrative leave.  They won’t say what actions, if any, have been taken against the students…

Thanks to EconJeff for alerting me to the Richard B. Haydock Grammar-School Gomorrah, and see “Metaupdates” below for more “sex ray” hysteria.

The Cold, Grey Light of Dawn (January 3rd, 2011)

Mainstream feminists are slowly coming to the realization that neofeminist attitudes hurt women, and Oregon State University graduate student Virginia Martin argues that they even hurt feminism itself:

Stereotypes and misinformation about sex work…only foster distrust and separation…between men and women…we were assigned a reading…that [claimed] “activists…are working…to eradicate prostitution – a practice rarely distinguishable from sex trafficking – by ending the demand for it” …prostitution is a consensual act between two adults and sex trafficking is slavery therefore making it nonconsensual by nature.  Additionally, the tenet that ending prostitution would simultaneously end human trafficking is naïve and juvenile…The assumption that all sex workers…are oppressed and need saving is incorrect and an oversimplification of a complex issue…

Maggie in the Media (February 3rd, 2011)

I’ve appeared on several other websites lately.  ”Sluts, Whores & More Ongoing Insanity” on Amazing Women Rock (March 5th) is a spirited defense of sex workers and a criticism of those who use words like “slut”, “whore” and “prostitute” as insults.  It prominently features myself and this blog as examples of Amazing Susan’s point that “Being educated and independent AND in control of one’s sexuality are not mutually exclusive.”  The London School of Attraction published a two-part interview with me last Monday and Tuesday, and on Thursday I published a guest column on Nobody’s Business  entitled, ”Rick Santorum vs. Marc Randazza:  A Dichotomy of Zealotry“.

Real People (February 6th, 2011)

Healing Power of Sex Work” by Wrenna Robertson is an excellent essay which includes short profiles of a number of different sex professionals.  Wrenna herself is a 36-year-old stripper who entered the profession at 18 to pay for university and never left despite earning two degrees and publishing a book, I’ll Show You Mine, which I mentioned last August.

A Moral Cancer (March 6th, 2011)

Politicians have long held that election or appointment to political office automatically grants degrees in medicine and pharmacology, but in the UK just being a cop confers expertise in oncology research:

…After a “drugs factory”…was raided, local yokel police passed on this dire admonition to a wide-eyed public:

Police are warning that when cannabis plants reach the final stages of maturity the odour they release has carcinogenic properties…Officers who deal with the plants use ventilation masks and protective suits and people who have plants in their home, especially anyone with young children, may be exposing their family to a health risk.

…Of course, that’s complete horse shit…Those who have bothered to actually look into the topic before making fools of themselves…know that…the terpenes, which are distinctive for marijuana’s distinctive odors, are in fact anti-cancer agents…

The Harborough Mail was apparently so embarrassed by its own gullibility that the story was pulled, as you already discovered if you tried to click that link.

A War for Peace (May 12th, 2011)

Just because Femen is clueless in proper application of topless protests doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the concept, as nursing mothers have demonstrated.  And now exiled Iranian women are protesting their homeland’s misogynistic policies in the same way:  “After a nude photo and short video of a popular Iranian actress baring her breast…several online campaigns have sought to raise awareness about repression of women in Iran.  The latest…came from a group of European-based Iranians posing…to promote…the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar…” 

Uncommon Sense (September 20th, 2011)

American “authorities” often justify their brutal mistreatment of streetwalkers by labeling them a “public nuisance”, but the Swiss prefer a more pragmatic and civilized approach:

Residents of…Zurich [voted]…to build dedicated garages…in [order to move] streetwalkers away from residential zones…The site will be shielded from sight by signs, be fitted with showers and toilets and will feature a gynaecologist for any medical problems and volunteers from the Flora Dora women’s group for any advice.  The…site aims to eliminate…Zurich’s Sihlquai area, where about 60 streetwalkers work every night.  Besides nightly traffic jams…[residents complain of] used condoms…[and other] trash…Ursula Kocher, who heads Flora Dora…said that the proposal had the support of the prostitutes themselves, as it could offer better security…

So the residents are happy, the hookers are happy and the politicians are happy.  What a concept!

Surplus Women (September 27th, 2011)

Canadian police now believe that more than 30 unsolved murders of prostitutes in Edmonton, Alberta, may be the work of a serial killer:

…Since 1975, the bodies of at least 30 women…have been found…[and] dozens more are…listed as missing.  Staff Sgt. Gerard MacNeil is…convinced a serial killer is still on the loose…”I can’t say whether that person is alive, whether they are in custody for other offences, or whether they have left the province…” [he said].  Project KARE, a joint task force between the RCMP and Edmonton police, was formed in June 2003 to investigate the deaths of women living high-risk lifestyles…members…hit the streets two to four times a week to connect with sex trade workers…The response from the women themselves has been warm…”Ninety-five percent of girls talk to us…[they] know exactly what we do and who we are.  They understand we are not trying to bust them for doing their job…we are there to…make sure they are doing OK”…

But despite stories like this, fanatics who support criminalization still refuse to comprehend that it creates conditions which are far more dangerous for women.

An Ounce of Prevention (October 15th, 2011)

Michael Weinstein opposes HIV prevention measures:

…HIV/AIDS researchers are testing an injectable version of a drug normally used to treat people already infected…[in hope of developing] a long-lasting version that may be given to people who aren’t HIV-positive, but are at high risk of becoming so.  Three clinical trials have shown that antiretroviral drugs may help prevent uninfected people from acquiring HIV…but…the AIDS Healthcare Foundation…has filed a petition urging the Food and Drug Administration not to approve…[the drugs] for use by uninfected people.  The group [claims] that people won’t take the drug as indicated and that they’ll stop using condoms or other prevention methods…

AHF’s true concern is that since they can’t provide such a drug, it would cut into their profits.

The More the Better (January 9th, 2012)

Despite the incredibly annoying headline, “Streetwalker to Cat Walker”, I was pleased to see another example of a sex worker accepted into the mainstream:

Former call girl Zahia Dehar has unwrapped her debut lingerie collection…in Paris…The Chanel designers says Zahia is, “a very French courtesan, like Liane de Pougy or the Belle Otéro“.  She became notorious a couple of years ago when the then underage prostitute was allegedly paid thousands of dollars for sex with some of France’s most famous footballers.  Her face caught the attention of magazine editors and she has since appeared in magazines like V and Vanity Fair.

Coincidentally, La Belle Otero is the subject of this month’s harlotography, coming on March 30th.

The Sky is Falling! (February 20th, 2012)

The pompous Michigan sheriff quoted in this column opined that “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt” from a sugar baby arrangement, but I doubt he was thinking of this sort of thing:  Bob Caldwell, the 63-year old editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Oregonian, died of a heart attack last Saturday while visiting his 23-year-old sugar baby.  The cops magnanimously decided not to pursue prostitution charges against the understandably distraught young woman, but that mercy obviously didn’t extend to protecting the dead man’s reputation or sparing the feelings of his wife and three daughters.

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (March 3rd, 2012)

Once again, Indian charities demonstrate a wisdom far in advance of that of the self-important Americans who insist that they know what’s best for Indian sex workers:

…in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light district…[there is] a bank…[which] serves only prostitutes…A vast majority of the area’s 4,000 sex workers have accounts with…Sangini, Hindi for “female friend.”  As Sangini sees it, sex workers with even a modest financial buffer are able to refuse clients wanting unprotected sex.  And savings build confidence, providing the wherewithal to change professions if they choose.  Often, women will leave their passbooks here so husbands or pimps don’t discover and squander their earnings.  Men can deposit but can’t withdraw funds without the woman’s permission, says Diane Cross, the charismatic social worker running the bank…“We get lambasted by churches that we’re encouraging prostitution,” says Krishna Sarda, head of the India800 Foundation, a civic group funded by grants that’s underwriting Sangini’s $75,000 annual budget.  “The idea you can stop this trade altogether is cloud-cuckoo-land.  Our focus is on trying to stop the exploitation”…


Sex, Lies and Busybodies in That Was the Week That Was (#3) (February 11th, 2012)

…Arizona…[has] been targeted as [one possible home]…for the adult business…But…Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery said…’Under Arizona law, anyone paid to appear in a pornographic movie may be guilty of the crime of prostitution, which carries mandatory jail time as well as the possibility of other penalties’…”  I hate to agree with a district attorney, but anyone who thinks that porn acting isn’t prostitution is either delusional or a hopeless lawhead.  Americans don’t need more ridiculous laws exempting certain kinds of sex work from persecution under certain arbitrary conditions; what we need is for the government to stop interfering in the private affairs of adults altogether.

Think of the Children! in Metaupdates (March 2nd, 2012)

Another good, clean, moral organization refuses charity from nasty, dirty whores:

The [cash-starved] Lennox Little League…[returned a $1200 donation from a gentlemen’s club named] Jet Strip…president Robert Aguirre told KTLA…”It was a shocker to us.  We do not want the money from the strip club…”  [The club’s manager]…said that the club has been giving back to the community for years, [donating to]…raise money for school supplies for [underprivileged] children…[and contributing] to…sheriff’s deputies…This isn’t the first time a Jet Strip donation has been returned.  In 1993, according to Yahoo! Sports, the American Red Cross refused a $5000 donation from the club…

The Prudish Giant in That Was the Week That Was (#9) (March 4th, 2012)

PayPal…is backtracking on its policy against processing sales of e-books containing themes of rape, bestiality or incest after protests from authors and anti-censorship activist groups.  PayPal’s new policy will focus only on e-books that contain potentially illegal images, not e-books that are limited to just text…The service will still refuse…to process payments for text-only e-books containing child pornography themes…[but]…will…focus on individual books, rather than entire classes of books…E-book sellers will be notified if specific books violate PayPal’s policy, and the company is working on a process through which authors and distributors can challenge such notifications…

If people would always resist infringements on our rights this vehemently, even governments would be compelled to back down.

One Year Ago Today

Jill Brenneman Q & A (Part Two)” concluded the feature drawn from the comment threads of the Jill Brenneman interview columns.

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Our civilisation cannot afford to let the censor-moron loose. The censor-moron does not really hate anything but the living and growing human consciousness.  –  D.H. Lawrence

Last Saturday I interviewed Stanley Siegel, LCSW, a psychotherapist, lecturer and author whose popular sex blog Intelligent Lust was quickly becoming one of the most popular on the Psychology Today site…until it was cancelled in the latter part of February for, apparently, being about sex.

MM: So you’ve been writing this column since September, then about six weeks ago you changed editors?

SS: Yes, the editor who originally hired me and was always very enthusiastic took a leave of absence to have a baby, and was replaced by another editor who from the start was cool and distant toward me.  I used to get regular emails from the original editor, things like, “Wonderful column!” and “Keep on doing what you’re doing!”, but once the new editor began I heard nothing.  Also, at Psychology Today there are two indicators of how a blogger is doing; one is a “most popular” list based on the number of views, and my column had risen very quickly to the top of that.  And they were often on the “most essential” list, which is what Psychology Today is recommending to their readers.  Once the editors changed I never appeared on the “most essential” list, so clearly there was a shift in their thinking about what I was doing, but never any comment or guidance.

MM:  So you had signs you were becoming persona non grata, but nobody said “Stanley, let’s do something different.”

SS:  That’s right. And not too long into that new editor’s regime, I started to write more personally about my own sexuality and sexual experiences.  I decided to break the “sacred vow” that psychotherapists are expected to be bound to, which is that you maintain a position of neutrality.  So I came out not only as a gay man but as a highly sexual man at 65, and interestingly my readership increased; those columns in which I was authentic about myself got a tremendous number of viewers, and I got many emails and tweets about how people were inspired by my honesty.  But I got nothing from Psychology Today.

MM:  That certainly jibes with my own experience in my blog.  I seem to get the best response from a mixture of objective and subjective material.

SS:  Yes, I think I really found my voice by doing that.  I referred mostly to the theoretical and academic, and made disclosures about my own experience as appropriate to the subject.  I felt as though I had found a really good balance that was working both for me and for everybody who was reading it.

MM:  So as I understand it, things came to a head when you wrote a sex work-positive column, and the editor went ballistic.

SS:  Well, what happened first was I wrote a column called “Penis Envy”, which was about men’s anxiety about their penises, and in it I talk about my own penis with a sense of humor.  And people appreciated my honesty, I got lots of good feedback on it.  Then when I went to post “Sex Worker or Therapist” I was blocked; there was a flag saying, “For editor’s review”, though previously I could post anything.

MM:  Oh, so the decision was made before she saw the sex work column!

SS:  Yes, so when it didn’t appear after about 20 minutes I sent an email asking why it wasn’t posted and she wrote back a one-sentence comment, “It’s too graphic.”  And I thought, “Okay…”

MM: And it wasn’t graphic at all.  I didn’t find it any different from your column on promiscuity or the one on marriage.

SS:  Exactly, and it is a sex column after all.  But I wrote back asking what exactly was too graphic, and offering to modify it.  She wrote back, “Psychology Today does not write about sex workers or sexual surrogates.”  I knew that wasn’t true because I had done my research and seen a number of other columns on the subject.

MM:  I still get hits every day from Satoshi Kanazawa’s column in which he talks about me, so I know that one is still up there.

SS:  Absolutely.  So I sent her a reply with the links to all the columns that had recently appeared on the subject:  Dead silence.  Then the next morning I got an email from the editor-in-chief saying, “We have decided to retire your column.”  I wrote back that I didn’t understand, and no conversation occurred; she didn’t respond to me, so about three days later I wrote a note saying, “Can I expect to hear from you?  I have given you several opportunities to act professionally in this matter.  Should I not hear from you by the end of the day I will assume that your intention is to stonewall the conversation regarding the questions I raised, and respond accordingly by moving the conversation elsewhere.”  I received an answer stating, “We have always made it clear that we reserve the right to retire any blogger at any time, and review bloggers periodically with an eye toward what content is or is not setting the tone we wish to broadcast.  Should you desire to escalate the discussion we will de-publish all of your posts from our site and archives.”

MM:  “De-publish!”

SS:  That’s it.  Threats.  Intimidation.

MM:  It’s scary how much more common that sort of thing has become, media self-censorship I mean.  I used to get the actual magazine for a while in the ‘80s, and I never saw it as a prissy publication which would shy away from the subject of sex.  There’s nothing in your columns that Dr. Ruth wasn’t saying on television 25 years ago.

SS:  I think the self-disclosure, and the fact that I was being positive about sex workers, was too much for this particular editor.

MM:  I’d love to believe, because it would validate my own preconceptions {laughing}, that the editor cancelled your column because of the sex worker thing, but don’t you think that she was already looking for an excuse by that point?

SS:  Yes.  That’s absolutely right.  So, what are the reasons?  I never got an explanation.  I asked many times for conversation; I asked for a meeting so we could discuss the reasons, the subtext for all of this, because it sure sounded homophobic and sex-phobic to me, and they refused.  So I just went public.

MM:  And I think that was the right thing to do.  They may “de-publish” your articles…

SS: They did.  Everything.

MM:  …but they can’t make you an “un-person”.  I mean one could if one were a Stalinesque dictator, but one cannot do that on the internet.  They can remove the columns from their site, but you can publish them on yours.

SS:  Right, and that’s what I plan on doing.  I plan on publishing them on my site, and on other venues if possible.

MM:  I hope I can give you some publicity.

SS:  Thank you.

MM:  Well, it interests me from two points of view.  Before I was a sex worker I was a librarian, so this topic appeals to me from the anti-sex work angle, and also the censorship angle.  It’s crazy to me that a psychology site would censor information about sex, it would be like a medical site censoring information about venereal disease.

SS: {laughing} Exactly.

MM:  So, how much of the blame can really be placed on the editor and how much on the site itself?  Do they have a policy of upholding the decisions of lower editors no matter what, or…?

SS:  Well, I did hear something from the owner, basically saying that they only included columns about sex on the site for the sake of completeness, but they don’t care about them because they aren’t monetizable. They just can’t sell advertising on them.  So even though they bring in a lot of readers, the management feels they’re the “wrong type of audience.”

MM:  Wow.

SS:  And after the “racism” controversy last year with Kanazawa’s column, they’re apparently extra-cautious.  But, this is a psychology magazine!  What is the “wrong type” of reader?  Is there a “wrong type” of patient?  It’s just astounding to me.  It’s such bigotry that it enrages me, and I’m going to do my very best to get the word out.  I’m happy to have the “wrong type” of readers; obviously they’re searching, everybody’s searching.

MM:  I’ve had my own problems with feminists and even other sex worker activists who criticize me not for what I’m saying but for the way I say it, the words I use.  But I think people know lock-step marching when they see it, and tend to disregard it.  What you were doing, giving of your own experience, I think readers know when they see it that they’re seeing something genuine.

SS: And that’s more powerful than anything else.

MM: So, where to?

SS:  For right now I just want to call attention to the bigotry, for as many people to know about it as possible.  And then for me personally, I want to shift the column to my own site or find another place for it, and to keep the sex-positive conversation going.

MM:  Well, I’m going to do my little part to help.

SS: And thank you for that, Maggie.

MM:  Well, we’re all in this together really, all the sex-positive bloggers I mean.

SS:  Yes, and I think it’s especially important to send out a positive message about sex workers.  I’ve benefitted a great deal from them over the years, many people have.  As I said in that column sex workers are like sex therapists, and I think it’s important for people to hear that.

If after reading Mr. Siegel’s essays you’d like to see more of his work, you may be interested in his book Your Brain on Sex.

One Year Ago Today

Jill Brenneman Q & A (Part One)” is a collection of questions and answers drawn from the comments to the Jill Brenneman interview columns, arranged into logical order and lightly edited for spelling, punctuation and syntax.

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Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage.  –  Henry David Thoreau

As far as anyone can tell, Lenin never actually used the phrase “useful idiots” (or its Russian equivalent) to describe Soviet sympathizers in Western countries; it appears to originate with some journalist or historian and first appeared in an Italian newspaper in 1948.  But it’s an apt description of ideologues so blinded by their own beliefs that they unwittingly support tyranny.  As I’ve pointed out before, neofeminists fall into this category:  they are so fixated on their monstrous jihad against men and male sexuality that they don’t realize predominantly-male political establishments used them to help establish the current regime of universal criminality, and continue to use them to further establish women as legal incompetents.  If you’re angry at the current US drive to make abortion and/or birth control unavailable to many women, or at fascist “child protective services” in many Western countries, direct part of that anger toward the neofeminists who pushed “mandatory prosecution” laws and the Swedish Model.  Once the precedent that a woman is incompetent to make her own decisions about her sexual relationships is firmly established, even a first-year law student can write a compelling argument that she isn’t competent to make decisions about the pregnancies and children which might result from such relationships, either.

But the useful idiots can’t see things like this, and even if they could they wouldn’t blame themselves for it.  So they’re entirely unable to comprehend the danger of the weapons they’ve handed legislators via “end demand” rhetoric; consider the Georgia law I discussed in my column of one year ago today which defines a prostitute as a passive contraband object (much as drugs are defined).  Or, the push by Washington insider Swanee Hunt to allow the government to take and retain DNA samples from virtually anyone the police feel like pointing a finger at:

For the last six years, police across the United States have been empowered by federal and state law to collect DNA from the people they arrest in order to build a government DNA database…[which] includes those who have yet to face trial as well as people who are later found innocent.  Now…[prohibitionists] want to…scare people out of involvement in the sex trade…by threatening [them] with the possibility of being marked for life in a government database…In 2005, a provision added to the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act permitted the collection and indefinite retention of DNA from, as the Center for Constitutional Rights understood at the time, “anyone arrested for any crime whether or not they are convicted, any non-U.S. citizen detained or stopped by federal authorities for any reason, and everyone in federal prison.”

In the intervening years, there have been several challenges to pre-conviction DNA collection and retention, with some courts divided as to whether or not DNA collection is a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.  Despite the questionable constitutionality…[Swannee Hunt’s group] Demand Abolition has commissioned a study proposing that men who buy sex should be added to government DNA databases.  Demand Abolition…is engaged in a national campaign to increase arrests and criminal penalties for prostitution…[and] explicitly recognizes and exploits the consequences of being added to a government DNA database for people arrested merely under suspicion of committing misdemeanors, and who have not yet been tried or convicted.  In fact, many people arrested for buying sex never go to trial; instead, they are routed to a growing number of scared-straight programs, sometimes known as “John’s schools,” offered by law enforcement.  People arrested for buying sex are also disproportionately drawn from low-income communities, communities of color and immigrant communities…Some [are] arrested for not walking away from a decoy cop fast enough, which officers [take as]…”intent” to buy sex…Despite concerns that the…programs are creating an incentive for cops to step up policing…in order to collect fines…they’ve become part of policing practice in dozens of cities [and] are…part of a larger national…[push for] greater punishment…by organizations like the Hunt Alternatives Fund and its Demand Abolition program…

Constitutional considerations are apparently beyond the scope of organizations like Demand Abolition, which advocates for extra-legal means to, as it claims, abolish the sex trade, but which, in practice, threaten and jail people involved in the sex trade…Demand Abolition also advocates for a range of [extralegal] programs that use…public shame against people who pay for sex:  placing their mugshots on billboards and Web sites, or seizing their cars and property — before trial or conviction.  DNA collection may be an extension of these tactics…but…the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is among those who have argued that the Fourth Amendment applies to DNA…[and that] pre-conviction DNA collection runs the risk of reversing our legal standards of presuming innocence…There’s currently one case…on its way to the Supreme Court, which has yet to decide if it will hear the case this year.

…In its mission to eliminate all commercial sex, anti-prostitution campaigners like Demand Abolition have seized on an issue of inequity that sex workers have long identified.  Women selling sex face far more severe criminal consequences than men who buy sex.  So it could sound like gender equity to some ears when they claim that the solution is…to increase the consequences of arrest, to stoke a cultural and criminal atmosphere where no man would dare risk his reputation or livelihood over even one arrest.  If it sounds a bit Victorian, you’re not wrong.  Theirs is an understanding of prostitution that hasn’t advanced much in the last century, including the casting of women from the “helping class” — researchers, clinicians and philanthropists  — as those who have the scientific, legal and moral authority to shame men out of buying sex.  The difference today is, for activists who want to cloak their evangelism for a world without prostitution in science, there’s far more advanced science to draw from…

Defining men who buy sex as a special class is one way Demand Abolition attempts to make the case for enhanced policing…[but] in order to qualify…[as a] non-sex buyer [men] had to avoid some activities so common that nearly anyone who has been on the Internet twice in the past week may not pass…The claims that men who buy sex are more prone to criminal behavior than other men are what inform the call for a DNA database of men arrested for buying sex.  In an interview this week with the Demand Abolition study’s most vocal author, Melissa Farley (who has referred to sex workers as “house niggers” in testimony before the Rhode Island legislature), she doubled-down on the study’s claims, stating that “[men who buy sex] are committing lots more crimes, including crimes associated with violence against women…” The number of men who reported that they committed one of these crimes is, even for the study’s size, not quite “lots.”  Six men of the 100 identified as sex buyers reported they had committed assault and battery, as compared to the two men of the 101 non-buyers.  Four sex buyers had possessed marijuana, versus two non-buyers…the real purpose of the database…is to act as a deterrent…Even if the establishment of DNA database could improve the lives of people in the sex trade, that isn’t the immediate goal, if it is a goal at all, of the Demand Abolition activists.  Their focus, as has been the focus of nearly 150 years of anti-prostitution campaigns, is almost exclusively limited to tactics for scaring men out of buying sex.  As they seek to define yet more people as criminals, they are also unconcerned with due process and the law itself.

The article is by Melissa Gira Grant, and is worth reading in its entirety.  She and the attorneys she interviews recognize what prohibitionists don’t and won’t:  that because there is no real way to distinguish a prostitute from any other woman, allowing the state to collect DNA from those accused of “intent to solicit prostitution” allows it to add any man to the database on the whim of a cop.  And when this precedent is combined with that of female incompetence to allow women to be involuntarily added as well (for our own good, of course), you can bet Farley, Hunt and the rest of the usual gang of useful idiots will point fingers at “patriarchy”, the “pimp lobby”, or anybody else but themselves.

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There would be no literature, no art, no music, no statesmanship if we relied on the prohibitionist for works of genius.  –  Clarence Darrow

I’ve written on a number of occasions about the origins of modern prohibitionist rhetoric in the second half of the 19th century, and explained how the “white slavery” panic (as “human trafficking” was called then) arose from a combination of racism, xenophobic fears of immigration and the urge to impose Protestant Christian ideas of morality (including alcohol prohibition) on everyone.  As I wrote in “Rooted in Racism”, “The First World War gave Europeans something real to worry about, but the panic continued in the United States until the Great Depression served the same function.”  I thought it might be instructive to take a look at one of the larger prohibitionist organizations of the period, which at its height in the early ‘20s boasted over 4 million members, but fell to 30,000 by 1930.  Its story not only demonstrates the mentality of prohibitionists, but presents cause for optimism in the way that this once-powerful movement fell rapidly into disrepute and eventually became nothing more than a marginalized group of social pariahs no reasonable person would want to be associated with.

The organization was founded in 1915, drawing its inspiration from a similar (but long defunct) one which operated for a while in the 1860s.  Its members were overwhelmingly white Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Scandinavian Protestants who felt great anxiety over increasing immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, whose inhabitants they viewed as lazy and sexually depraved; they therefore wanted tighter immigration controls in general, but were especially concerned with protecting women and girls from rape and “white slavery”.  Indeed, most of the original founders were members of a group dedicated to demanding “justice” for Mary Phagan, a young woman who had been raped and murdered (allegedly by a Jewish businessman named Leo Frank).  The group advertised itself as protector of the home and womanhood, and grew at an astonishing pace in the next five years, driven by sensationalized media coverage and reports that it had been endorsed by President Woodrow Wilson.  Though chapters sprang up all over the US (and to a lesser extent Canada), it was primarily an urban movement which had its greatest political power in Indiana and its most rapid growth in Detroit, Dayton, Dallas and Atlanta.

All prohibitionist groups attempt to exercise social control by lobbying politicians to make more repressive laws and encouraging more aggressive enforcement of existing laws.  This one was no exception; it backed sympathetic politicians, assisted police in enforcing morality laws (just as the Hunt Alternatives Fund does today), and spied on violators of alcohol prohibition, then bullied cops into arresting them and courts into prosecuting them (just as “Big Sister” does to Icelandic punters).  It released propaganda to support its causes, and found a number of allies in the media who were willing to disseminate it via newspapers and radio.  Many people joined the crusade due to this hype, and though a large proportion of them soon left when they discovered it wasn’t to their liking, there were enough new recruits to replace those lost to attrition.

Eventually, though, the moral panic which energized the organization faded as all moral panics must; its members became increasingly desperate for attention and hungry for the power they felt slipping through their fingers.  In 1927 some chapters began stepping outside the law to enforce their agenda, and the media rapidly turned against them.  Newspaper editor Grover C. Hall wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of editorials attacking the once-popular mass movement for what he called its “racial and religious intolerance”; other papers followed suit, and by 1930 it was all but gone.  Not completely, though; in fact, it’s managed to hold on to the present day, and still has about 6000 members.  I’m sure most of you have even heard of it; its name is taken from the Greek word for “circle”, kuklos.  It’s called the Ku Klux Klan.

One Year Ago Today

Man’s Inhumanity To Whores” presents examples of stigmatization of prostitutes to demonstrate how our mistreatment harms all women.

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This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves…  –  Abraham Lincoln

Few words (other than merely functional ones such as articles, prepositions, conjunctions and the like) are semantically neutral; most have a connotation which functions in addition to or completely supersedes their denotation.  Expressed in plainer language, most words have a “feel” or emotional weight in addition to their plain dictionary meaning, and ofttimes this weight is more important than the actual definition.  Because of this, one of the most effective tools of propaganda is one we might call “reassociation”; it is accomplished by linking or even equating a concept whose descriptors have a low semantic weight with one of very great semantic weight.  We’ve talked about one common example of this before; because the terms “habituation” and “obsession” lack the powerful onus of “addiction”, those who wish to cast habits (whether semi-physical or wholly psychological) in a negative light label them “addictions”.  Similarly, “trafficking” fetishists equate many things they oppose with slavery; this is especially odious when the propagandists are official ones, since both real slavery and the lesser practices so glibly equated with it can only exist on a large scale with the cooperation of government.

Chattel slavery is an institution in which one human being can legally own another; the slave is classified in the eyes of the state and the society as property, and his only rights are those the state deigns to grant him.  Contrary to popular depictions, slaves are not usually chained; they would be useless for most labor if they were.  Newly-captured slaves who have not yet been transported to the country in which they will be enslaved, or slaves who are being disciplined or held for some purpose from which they might flee (such as sacrifice) are generally the only ones restrained with actual, physical chains.  The bonds of a chattel-slave are invisible, yet far more binding; they are the chains of law and custom, which hold the slave in a condition of servitude even should he physically escape his master.  Would-be social engineers who go about defining every form of labor they dislike as “slavery” insult the experiences of every chattel slave in history and completely miss the worst part of slavery:  its inescapability.  In a society which allows chattel slavery (virtually the entire world prior to the 18th century, and much of it until the second half of the 19th), the slave is viewed by both law and custom as property; even should he escape every law-abiding, “right-thinking” citizen will be against him, and even if he avoids recapture he faces life as a perpetual outlaw until and unless he can somehow reach a land which will not enforce the laws of the one in which he was enslaved.

One of the conditions frequently mislabeled as “slavery” is captivity, the state in which some individual or group holds a person by confinement, force or threat; though it may be extremely brutal and/or frightening, captivity differs from slavery chiefly in that it’s illegal, and should the captive escape he will not usually be returned to his captors…though he may, of course, be persecuted, imprisoned or deported should he be a member of some group officially classed as undesirable by the government.  In other words, captivity can only approximate slavery when a government cooperates with the captors by defining a group of “safe” victims (such as prostitutes or “illegal aliens”) which it will hound should they escape.  A government which defines such a group enables criminals to hold members of that group captive, both by providing them with a credible threat to discourage flight and by ensuring that their captives will not be considered credible witnesses should they flee despite threats.

When the captivity is economic rather than physical, it is referred to as “debt bondage”; like physical captivity, it can only really be enforced by laws which allow the debt holder to steal the property of the victim so bound or even to demand that the debtor be imprisoned.  Wage slavery is a related condition which is enabled by protectionist laws that make it difficult or impossible to start new small businesses (thereby ensuring that most people have to work for the established big ones), and by compulsory union laws which require workers to forfeit a percentage of their wages to a politically-connected NGO which assumes the right to speak for them.  And then there’s serfdom, in which members of a government-defined group “owe” that government a certain percentage of their labor (in other words, an income tax) and can only live or travel in places the government allows them to live or travel.

In every kind of bondage, it is government which creates the legal climate which allows oppression to flourish; remove the laws which chain people to their captors and there is nothing other than plain brute force – which is extremely limited in its usefulness – to keep the serfs, slaves, captives, debtors or bondsmen from simply walking away.  And that’s why things like this make me so furious:

The house where President Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation some 150 years ago is confronting the reality that more people are held in modern-day slavery than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade…The…2011 Trafficking in Persons report…[claims that] as many as 27 million men, women and children are living in such bondage.  In an exhibit titled ‘Can You Walk Away?” …President Lincoln’s Cottage…tells the stories of women working as domestic servants without pay, of women forced to work as prostitutes and of men held in servitude through debt contracts and other coercion.  It will remain on view in a small gallery at the site through August 2013.  Curators partnered with the nonprofit Polaris Project…to create the exhibit…

“Plenty of Americans see slavery as an issue that was resolved during the Civil War or by the 13th Amendment…not as a growing humanitarian crisis in our own country”…said [museum director Erin Carlson Mast].  “But fundamentally, the same issue is at stake:  People’s right to freedom”…Since 2007, the Washington-based Polaris Project has received about 45,000 calls to its tip line, including about 11,000 from victims or others calling to report suspected forced servitude or sex trafficking, said executive director Bradley Myles.  More than 2,000 cases have been referred to law enforcement.  “I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Myles said, noting that not all slaves are held by physical force.  “What has grown more is other, broader forms of coercion that are more psychological, are more subtle, are more economic”…

Aside from the incredible insult to the long-dead victims of the Atlantic slave trade and the pimping of Lincoln’s reputation to promote an oppressive agenda, there’s a deeper hypocrisy on display here.  Myles is wrong; few if any modern “slaves” are held by physical force.  They are held by the laws and policies of the United States and other governments, executed by the very “law enforcement” organizations Polaris so happily supports.

One Year Ago Yesterday

How Old is Oldest?” discusses the prehistoric origin of prostitution and describes my first correspondence with evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa.

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Courtland: When this thing happened, were you working very hard?
Lily: Yeah, but not at the bank.
 – George Brent & Barbara Stanwyck, Baby Face

I recently watched several more movies with harlot heroines; here’s what I thought of them.

Baby Face (1933) was filmed before Hollywood started enforcing the Hays Code in earnest in the summer of 1934, and it shows.  Barbara Stanwyck plays the title character, Lily Powers, whose father employs her as a barmaid in his speakeasy and, as she states quite clearly, has been pimping her to his better customers since she was 14.  But an elderly patron of the establishment takes an interest in her welfare and introduces her to Nietzsche, telling her not to be ashamed of her sexuality but to use it to get what she wants rather than allowing herself to be exploited by her father.  After Fate gives her a little push she finally takes his advice and goes to New York, where she seduces the hiring manager of a large bank to give her a position, then literally sleeps her way up the ladder of success, ruthlessly trading each patron for a more highly-placed one until she becomes the president’s kept woman.  Her rise is metaphorically chronicled by the camera panning up the outside of the building each time she gets “promoted”.  Lily is never portrayed as evil; it is her callousness that is shown as negative, not her sexuality, and even that is the result of her desperate struggle to succeed.  And though she eventually grows beyond the former she is a whore to the end.  Furthermore, her best friend is her black maid, whom she defends against anyone who criticizes her (including the sugar daddy who would prefer her replaced).  I sat down to watch this movie for its historical interest, but both my husband and I truly enjoyed every minute of it; I suggest you watch the recently-discovered uncut version, which was too intense for even pre-code censors and so was heavily edited for theatrical release.  And keep your eyes (and ears) open for a young John Wayne in a small part.

Idiocracy (2006)  Frank has been trying to get us to watch this Mike Judge  comedy for several years, and probably would’ve succeeded more quickly had he told me the female lead was a prostitute.  The setup is this:  a top secret Army project puts a man and a woman into suspended animation to test a plan to freeze highly-trained soldiers until they’re needed.  The hero, Private Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), is selected as a guinea pig because he’s so average, but no female soldier is dumb enough to volunteer so they get a streetwalker named Rita (Maya Rudolph) to do so in return for the Army getting local prosecutors to drop (apparently serious) charges.  They’re only supposed to be asleep for a year, but a comedic situation causes them to be bureaucratically overlooked for 500 years; they awaken to find that due to disproportionate reproduction of the hopelessly stupid they’re now the two most intelligent people on the planet.  Hijinks of course ensue.  I really wanted to like this and it did have some funny moments, but all in all it fell kind of flat; Rita, though likeable and very slightly smarter than the hero, was in the end just a typical “hooker with a heart of gold” and the movie holds on to the tired, stupid “pimps and hos” stereotype right up to (literally) the last second.

Klute (1971)  This was one of those movies that left me wondering if I had watched the same film as the critics.  Jane Fonda’s portrayal of the troubled call girl Bree Daniels was good but certainly not Oscar material, and Donald Sutherland, whose performances are often drowsy, was positively somnambulistic as private eye John Klute.  And though there’s certainly some suspense as to how the murderer will try to get Bree and how Klute will save her, his identity was obvious before the end of the first act (which rather negates any claim to mystery).  Fonda portrays Bree as a real person and does have a number of lines which I could imagine as coming out of the mouth of a real escort, but of course she has to be “broken”, has to have a history with a pimp (though she isn’t with him now), and has to be “rescued” not merely from the murderer but also from her life.  Maybe some of this was new ground for squares in 1971, but for a modern hooker it’s both old and patronizing.

Unforgiven (1992)  When a cowboy takes a knife to the face of a brothel prostitute in a tiny little Wild West town, Sheriff “Little Bill” Daggett (Gene Hackman) displays an extreme version of the “bros before hos” mentality by letting the man off with no penalty other than a fine paid to the brothel’s owner (to compensate his economic loss on the girl, whom he paid to bring from the East).  This understandably angers the other whores, who take up a collection and raise a $1000 bounty (over $22,000 in 2012 dollars) for someone to kill the brute and his accomplice.  A young assassin wannabe recruits retired gunfighter Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) and his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) for the job, and the action proceeds from there.  I don’t care much for westerns so I probably wasn’t fully able to appreciate the way the movie upends the genre’s conventions, but I do have a few critical observations.  I have no complaints about the way the women were presented; though really minor characters they are individuals rather than cookie-cutter saloon girls, and the most forgiving of them is actually the victim herself.  The accomplice is also interesting; he seems to feel genuine remorse for failing to stop his friend’s evil action.  But there’s just a little too much stereotyped sexism in the attitudes of some of the others, who come across less as real men of 1880 and more as modern men overplaying 19th-century attitudes to show how bad they were.  The sheriff, for example, rules his town like a dictator (even to the point of gun control), is willing to beat men half to death for disobeying him and is the brothel owner’s friend, yet uncharacteristically lets the cowboy off the hook with neither jail nor violence because his victim is “just a whore”.  I realize this was necessary to set events in motion, but it was still a very false note in what was otherwise a very fine portrayal of a brutal, power-mad thug with a badge.  I also felt the film’s anti-violence message was a bit heavy-handed, especially considering the way it was conveniently set aside in the last act.

Waterloo Bridge (1931)  In this pre-code drama Mae Clarke is Myra Deauville, an American chorus girl who is stranded in London when her show closes on the eve of World War I, and turns to prostitution to support herself.  During an air raid she meets a naïve young soldier named Roy Cronin (Douglass Montgomery) on Waterloo Bridge, where she had gone to solicit soldiers coming from Waterloo Station.  Roy is American but enlisted in the Canadian Army to fight; he pursues a friendship with Myra because she is also American, not realizing (until someone tells him much later) that she is a hooker.  Myra believes herself “ruined” and so does her best to push Roy away before he falls in love with her, but he’s craftier than he is wise and keeps managing to trick her into continuing the relationship.  I found the movie both touching and believable; James Whale (who later that year directed Clarke again in Frankenstein) crafts a bittersweet, doomed romance that is far more realistic than the overly-romanticized 1940 remake.  Myra’s self-rejection is contrasted both with that of her “happy hooker” friend and that of Roy’s mother, who sees her as a good person and welcomes her as a house-guest even after Myra shares her secret.  What Waterloo Bridge tells us is NOT that a whore is a ruined woman who doesn’t deserve love, but rather that a woman who judges herself too harshly can’t accept it.

One Year Ago Yesterday

A Little Help From Our Friends” criticizes gay-rights activists and self-proclaimed “liberals” and “feminists” who either ignore or actively oppose sex worker rights, and calls upon sex workers to concentrate on our own issues rather than wasting effort fighting the causes of other groups who do not respond in kind.

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