Archive for May, 2012

Information can tell us everything. It has all the answers. But they are answers to questions we have not asked, and which doubtless don’t even arise.  –  Jean Baudrillard

One year ago today I answered questions about the word “whore”, working for donations rather than a direct fee and the personal romantic relationships of prostitutes; today’s column contains the answers to four new questions.  If you have one for me, email me at maggiemcneill@earthlink.net and I’ll reply personally, usually within 24 hours.

When I go to brothels I don’t want the girl to think of me as just one of many, so I’d like to leave her a little present, not only the money she asks for her job.  The natural choice would be flowers, but there’s no way to bring flowers without being noticed.  So the second choice would be chocolate candies; do you think the girl will appreciate that?  So maybe, when she gets home she’ll have some chocolate and remember me as one who treated her a bit better.

Most girls do indeed appreciate small gifts given at the end of the date; some girls even state on their websites the sort of thing they like best.  Candy is good, so are music CDs and books (of the type she prefers) or even cash.  It’s not so important what you give her, as much as the fact that you gave it; when given after the appointment it even assures her that you especially enjoyed her company.  And yes, most girls will think of you more fondly for being a gentleman who does so; in my column “Presents” I wrote of clients who gave me such gifts, some of whom I clearly remember all these years later.

I’ve recently turned 21 and though I’ve been in bed with naked women I was unable to get an erection.  I’m very worried about disease, but condoms reduce the sensation.  Plus, I’m really confused about my sexuality; I love the way women look, but I’m also obsessed with crossdressers.  Do prostitutes deal with young virgins much?  Because I’d like to find a call girl to have another attempt at sex with, but I’m paranoid that she’ll mock me in some way; would an older escort be more understanding?  And do you think seeing an escort will resolve my situation or make it worse?   

I think a prostitute might definitely be worth a try; you needn’t worry about being made fun of, because we deal with many sorts of men and nervousness is very common; “The First Time” is about whores initiating virgins, so you might find it helpful.  If you are attracted to mature women an older escort would probably be a good choice because she’ll be more experienced at relaxing you, but if you still have trouble with her, you really ought to consider trying a trans prostitute; if you have a fascination for them it could help you to relax and to be more excited.  Once you are able to perform and climax once, I think a lot of your nervousness will evaporate and then you’ll be able to explore more freely.  If you still have problems with genetic women but not with trans women, it may just be that’s the way you are, and there’s no shame in it; everyone’s different and you’re lucky to be living in these modern times when that’s not nearly as stigmatized as it used to be!

I do think you may be a bit overworried about disease; you’re wise to refuse unprotected intercourse, but if you choose a reputable escort the chances of getting a disease from unprotected oral sex are next to zero.

I’ve often had thoughts of providing escort services, or helping brothels or driving an escort around.  I am just tired of the same old drag; as you discussed in “Amazingly Stupid Statements” nine out of ten people would easily leave their profession if they could, but due to money we ceaselessly do the same work each day with no end in sight.  What I wouldn’t give just to leave this cube job and get out and meet new people!

It’s nearly impossible for a man to be an escort unless he’s gay; the fact is that in general men will pay for sex and women won’t.  If you live in a country where escort services or brothels are legal, you could simply call one and ask if they have any driver-type positions for men, but if you live in a country where it’s illegal they’re unlikely to hire someone they don’t personally know.  I do know a gentleman here in the United States (one of my regular readers) who started his own escort service by offering his favorite escort backing; he provided the cash and she provided the know-how and they became partners in an escort service.  Of course, you have to get to know an escort pretty well before offering something like that!

Even if you don’t find new work in the sex industry, though, there are plenty of other ways to break out of the job you’re in; perhaps an employment counselor of some sort could help you, or you might talk to friends with companies of their own to ask for advice.  Going into business for oneself isn’t easy and it carries considerable financial risk, but for many people it’s well worth it for the freedom.

About ten years ago I became involved with a prostitute who was very vulnerable and messed up.  She was 20 when I met her, but had been in the trade since 13.  Our relationship was unhealthy and codependent, and our interaction led us both more deeply into drug addiction.  We had two children and have overcome our drug dependency, but no longer maintain a relationship so I have become very lonely and seek companionship from escorts.  Most women I meet now are young and educated, and are seeking to supplement their income by being escorts; the boundaries are more defined than in my long-term relationship.  I realize that I am escaping intimacy, and I feel a sense of guilt because I feel I am exploiting women.  I guess I am looking for some perspective on this.

I think you’re letting your first relationship with a prostitute affect your perception of those you’re meeting now.  13 is definitely too young to be in the trade; a girl that age is just too impressionable, and many who start that early have a lot of problems even years later (as you discovered).  I can understand your feeling guilty about being with her, but it seems to me from what you’re telling me that both of you were mutually harming each other, as is typical in unhealthy relationships.  The fact that money changed hands is immaterial; the two of you would still have been wrong for one another even if you had met under non-commercial circumstances.

However, most escorts are not that way just as most people in any profession are not; as you said, the girls you’re seeing now are true professionals while your girlfriend was not.  It is not exploitative to hire someone of either sex to perform a service as long as you deal fairly with that person; it only becomes exploitative if you try to cheat them or change the terms of your agreement without the other’s consent.  Would you feel you were “exploiting” a woman you hired to clean your house or give you a massage?  Of course not, and it’s not any different with a sex worker.  Judging your current dealings with sex workers by your long-term relationship is not a valid comparison.

It’s certainly possible that you are using escorts to escape intimacy; if you were with your girlfriend long enough to have two children by her, it was a serious enough relationship that it may take a considerable time to get over.  The fact that you weren’t right for each other does not change the fact that you were in love, and though separation was the wise course of action that doesn’t mean your heart will immediately follow in step with your mind.  Eventually you will get over her, and then you will be ready for regular dating again.  If you have no close friends to confide in, most good escorts will be happy to listen and even give advice, and if that doesn’t seem enough you might seek counseling.  You mustn’t feel ashamed of your confusion and self-doubt; overcoming drug addiction takes great inner strength, so I’m sure you will be able to get past this difficult time as well.

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Experience is the teacher of all things.  –  Julius Caesar, The Civil War

As I pointed out in last Friday’s column, one advantage of properly-run brothels is that they allow women to group together for support and defense; they also allow experienced girls to give advice to younger ones.  Good escort services also facilitate this; for all of Pam’s bad traits, I must give her credit for allowing and encouraging girls to talk and learn from one another, and I was always happy to provide advice to new girls (my typical interview was over an hour long and I always tried to make time for questions and problems, especially from girls under 25).  The internet has allowed a much larger fraction of whores to be independent,  and while that’s good because it allows them to keep more of their money and to avoid exploitative agents (such as unethical service or brothel owners), it also promotes isolation and makes it harder for a neophyte hooker to obtain guidance from her elders.  Some escort message boards such as ECCIE have “provider only” sections where women can share their experiences and post questions for others to answer, and some escorts are fortunate enough to have friends in the business they can rely on; however, those who are not yet in the business can’t access those private board areas, and may not have (or know of) any friends who have done the work.  So as you might expect, it’s not unusual for me to get emails from readers who are contemplating a career in harlotry and want advice.

Now, my first advice to any woman considering this is: read a few dozen of my columns; understand that hooking is not “easy money” no matter what the “whores are lazy” crowd may think; recognize that sex work has its good points and bad points like any other kind of work; and keep in mind that it’s not for everybody.  But if you really feel like it might be the job for you and you’d like my advice on some point, please feel free to email me and I’ll answer you as quickly as I can, usually the same day.  Here are a couple of recent examples which may help others thinking about it; you might also comb the Q & A category to see if anything else catches your attention.

The past few months I’ve been considering becoming a whore, but I’m a pretty shy person and not very confident, so I don’t know if this is for me.  Is it possible for someone like me to enjoy this type of work and be good at it?  In your experience are most clients easy to please?  I really worry about not being that good and letting someone down.

It’s possible for a shy woman to be good at sex work, providing she isn’t so shy she can’t face strange men naked; some people find their shyness evaporates when operating from a different brain region, just like many stutterers don’t stutter when they sing.  Have you had any experience with stranger sex before?  If you have, and had no problem with it, doing the same thing for pay isn’t a whole lot different; you may even find that it builds up your confidence.  Most clients aren’t at all hard to please, though of course there are exceptions.  My greatest concern is your inexperience; I think it might be a good idea for you to start with an agency if possible rather than going it alone.  This will give you the opportunity to learn from more experienced girls and to have backup, and if you do like it you can go independent later.

I was wondering did you ever have a client who physically repulsed you?  What did you do then?  Because I am considering “harlotry”:  we are poor but I have quite grand aspirations and need money for them to be realized.  The fact that I might find a client disgusting is my only apprehension, so could you put this to rest? 

I had many clients who physically repulsed me; it goes with the territory (one of the strongest examples is detailed in “No Other Option”).  However, you’d be surprised how little it matters after a while; the job itself becomes one’s focus rather than the client, and his looks cease to matter.  The one thing most whores find it hardest to overcome is a repulsion to bad smell, since our reactions to such tend to be more visceral; fortunately, it’s extremely rare that a man meets an escort without bathing first, which reduces the number of such cases to a minimum.

You said “we” are poor so I’m guessing you’re married or in a relationship; if so, I warn you to consider very carefully before going into escorting.  While some men react very well, others become much more jealous than they thought they would be, and still others get “pimpish”, trying to take control of your money (or just spending it wildly) and becoming lazy themselves.  So you really need to watch carefully for signs of either extreme, even if you think your man “isn’t like that” (jealousy and money do strange things).  Also, please consider working for a service at first, or at least joining an escort board where you can learn from more experienced girls and ask them for advice.

There are two more bits of advice I’d like to offer both of you ladies, and any other aspiring whores reading this:  First, don’t ever go into a call without somebody dependable knowing where you are; it’s best if you check in with that person as soon as you’re paid, because as I explained in “What the Hell Were You Thinking?”:

Not only does a callout give one an excuse to escape from a situation which has become uncomfortable or potentially dangerous, it also sends a clear message to the man:  People know where I am and how long I’m supposed to be here.  Most of you have probably heard the saying “Locks don’t stop a thief, they just keep honest men honest”; this is the same thing.  It’s difficult to stop someone who intends to commit a crime with malice aforethought; what basic protective measures do is to deter opportunistic crimes.  Locks prevent morally weak people from being tempted to easy thefts, and the knowledge that others know a woman is with him might stop a man with poor impulse control from succumbing to the desire to rape her.  It’s not foolproof, but it does work; I can remember a number of cases in which a “creepy” client’s demeanor changed when I checked in, or when a man who was slipping out of my control was shocked back into civilized behavior by the ringing phone signaling his time was up.

Second, you might consider investing in Amanda Brooks’ Internet Escorts’ Handbooks; Amanda knows her stuff and I’ve heard very good things about these volumes.

One Year Ago Today

Another Example of Swedish ‘Feminism’” demonstrates the disgusting truth about what Sweden represents as policies of “female empowerment”.

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All children should be conscious of strangers, and be discriminating and wary of them.  This won’t make them grow up suspicious as long as they have adults around whom they know and can trust:  relatives, friends of their parents, parents of friends.  –  Newsweek magazine, January 10th, 1994

96% of all “abducted children” are “kidnapped” by family members (nearly always with the “victim’s” consent) and 3% by family friends;  furthermore, 80% of sexual assaults of children and 90% of those of adolescent girls are committed by someone the victim knows.  The neofeminist model of “rape as hate crime” is totally unable to explain this without resorting to bizarre “rape culture” rhetoric of the sort discussed in my column of one year ago today, but those who recognize that human sexuality is dark and chthonian and animalistic understand it quite well.  I’ve been thinking about my teen years a great deal lately, and recalled the time I escaped what might have been a sexual assault; as you will see, the episode turns the hysterical “child predator” narrative on its ear, because it was a relative and some acquaintances of my own age who threatened me, and a strange adult man who rescued me.

As I’ve mentioned before, my paternal grandmother (Maman) used to pay me a generous twenty dollars to mow her lawn once per week; after I was done and had cooled off a bit, I always walked to the convenience store about a kilometer away to buy comic books (there were no comic book stores in small-town Louisiana back then).  I have always been a creature of habit, and did this the same way every single week; it never occurred to me that someone might use that predictable schedule to set up an ambush.  Upon leaving Maman’s house, I would pass through the gate connecting her backyard with that of her younger sister; the house next to my aunt’s was owned by one of her cousins, whose son (a sullen boy with the rather odd nickname “Chicken”) was thus my third cousin.  He was a year older than me, and though we had never been particularly close he had never hurt me in any way, and used to be part of the mixed-sex group of kids that had always played together in that neighborhood when we were younger.  Another boy I’ll call “Stan” was the same age as Chicken, but we were classmates because I had skipped a grade; he lived with his grandparents next door to Maman, and Chicken’s father was his maternal uncle.  Another boy called “Skip” lived two doors down on the other side, and I had always considered he and Stan my friends.

One mowing day in the summer of 1979, I had cut through my aunt’s yard to the back street as usual; it was late afternoon, perhaps an hour before sunset, and as I walked my usual route I saw Chicken, Stan, Skip and two other boys on the side of the street ahead of me.  I didn’t really think much about it; though both of the other boys (whom I’ll call John and Tony) had unsavory reputations and I did not like the way Tony stared at me whenever he was nearby, I assumed the presence of the first three counteracted any possibility of danger.  It’s strange to think I was ever that naïve, but I was too young to understand pack behavior and the effect a nubile young virgin in cutoffs and a halter top might have on such a pack; my initial reaction when Chicken and Tony stepped out in front of me was therefore annoyance rather than fear.  I tried to pass to Chicken’s right, and was blocked by John (a pipsqueak who was shorter than I was); I realized Stan and Skip had closed in behind me.  And then Chicken reached out to touch my neck, apparently in an attempt to untie my halter top.  I pushed his hand away, and he slapped my face so hard it knocked me to the ground.

Now I was afraid; clearly Chicken was not going to let blood kinship come between him and what he wanted, and considering the rather nasty rumors I had heard about John and his twin sister I could guess where he got the idea.  Tony was obviously in on the plan as well, but I still couldn’t understand why Skip and Stan weren’t helping me.  I tried to get up, and Chicken pushed me back down with his foot; the others seemed content to watch for the time being, except for Tony stopping me when I tried to move in his direction.  I’m not sure if I said anything, but Chicken slapped me again and then I started crying…which is undoubtedly what saved me.  I think they were all too young to have become hardened sadists yet, and the sight of a girl sobbing due to their actions seemed to disarm them; Stan started saying “Come on, y’all, leave her alone”, and Skip backed away and gave me room to pass.  None of them pursued me as I quickly walked away, and I didn’t look back to see what they were doing.

I had stopped crying by the time I got to the store, but as I stood at the rack picking my comics I started worrying; what if the three really bad ones ditched Stan and Skip and were waiting for me?  It would be dark soon, and even if I went back by a different route they might be waiting outside to follow me.  My father coached Little League in the summer, so the whole family would be at the ball park until quite late, and cell phones were still almost two decades in the future; Maman had never learned to drive.  There were probably a dozen other people I could have called, but I was upset and frightened and not thinking clearly, and I hadn’t even realized that both my lip and one knee were bleeding.  The clerk had been busy with another customer when I came in, but as I approached the register he asked, “What happened?  Are you OK?” and I instantly started crying again.

There was a young man, perhaps in his late twenties, approaching the counter; I could see the concern in his face as he asked me, “Aren’t you P____ McNeill’s little girl?”  I nodded my head.  He told me he worked with my father, and that he recognized me from a meeting a few years before that I didn’t remember.  He asked what had happened, and I told him between sobs; I also explained as coherently as I could that I was afraid to walk back to Maman’s.  Then he asked, “Why don’t you let me give you a ride back?”

Even in those less-paranoid days kids knew better than to get into cars with strangers, and I told him so.  “I understand, and I don’t blame you for being afraid,” he replied; “if you prefer I’ll wait here with you while you call someone to come and get you.”  He had very gentle eyes, and my instinct was to trust him; it was also getting dark and I just wanted to get back to Maman’s as soon as possible.  The clerk (who was a local boy I knew in passing) also assured me that the gentleman was in the store quite frequently, and that he knew his family; I decided to take the risk.  The drive was short and direct, and he chit-chatted about my father to help calm me; in just a couple of minutes we were pulling into Maman’s driveway, and when I thanked him he assured me that he was glad to help.

Needless to say, Maman was livid; she was on the phone with Chicken’s mother as soon as she had cleaned me up, and though I don’t know what punishment he received I do know he always gave me a wide berth thereafter.  I decided it was best to say nothing about Stan and Skip, since they had reconsidered in time to save me, and from then on I rode my bicycle to the store via the main street rather than walking via the back.  By springtime I was so busy with high school Maman decided to let a younger grandchild have a turn at the lucrative mowing job, and I decided I was too old for comic books anyway (a decision I reconsidered about eight years ago).  But though I don’t remember my knight’s name, I still clearly recall his kind face with the John Lennon glasses and haircut, and I hope he still remembers the young damsel he rescued on a summer evening so long ago.

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She cried, “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”
  –  Christina Rossetti

Yesterday I told you about the first six of my favorite poems, listed in alphabetical order by poet; today we’re going to look at seven more, for a total of thirteen.  As I pointed out yesterday, I have a particular fondness for literature of the Romantic Period, which ran from the late 18th to the mid-19th centuries; only three of today’s selections were written later, and one of them (#12) shows a strong Romantic influence.  As y’all have noticed by now my taste in poetry is for traditional (if sometimes unconventional) rhyme and meter; it’s probably the main reason I don’t care for modern poetry, which generally eschews both except in song lyrics.  That brings up an important point:  a song is really just a poem set to music, and one of these poems (#10) is nearly always performed as a song.  So one of these days I’ll probably do a column on my favorite songs…but that’s going to take a lot of thought, so it’ll probably be much later this year.

7)  “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” (1819) by John Keats

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
“I love thee true.”

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

This haunting poem about a knight who makes the terrible mistake of dallying with a Faerie woman displays a common theme in Faerie lore; everything about the Fair Folk, from their persons to their music to their food, is so woven with enchantment (or to use the old word, glamour) that a mortal who partakes of it pines forever after, sometimes unto death.  The motif appears again in “Goblin Market” below, in my own story “Faerie Tale”, and in the Electric Light Orchestra song “I Can’t Get It Out of My Head”.

8)  The Female of the Species (1911) by Rudyard Kipling

Long-time readers may remember that I’ve not only quoted this one, but actually based part of a column on it.  And since that’s already available, I’ll otherwise allow the poem to speak for itself.

9)  Disobedience (1924) by A.A. Milne (HM “Buckingham Palace” and “The King’s Breakfast”)

In my considered opinion, Milne’s nonsense is second only to that of Carroll; both cloaked incredible wit and brilliant wordplay in literature ostensibly intended for children, but which (like the old Warner Brothers cartoons) can only really be appreciated by adults.  This is true in the Pooh books, but much more so in his poetry, which marries a Victorian flair for whimsy with a 20th-century willingness to play with form and meter (as displayed perfectly in all these selections).  And though Milne didn’t intend it that way, try reading “Disobedience” with the topic of the nanny state in mind.

10) The Minstrel Boy (1806) by Thomas Moore

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death ye will find him;
His father’s sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Tho’ all the world betray thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain
Could not bring his proud soul under;
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!”

This is actually a song, which you can hear performed by the famous Irish tenor John McCormack in the provided link.  However, it’s often included in collections of poetry and the tune is a traditional Irish one called “The Moreen”.  My Irish and British readers and those who live in traditionally-Irish communities in the US are probably quite familiar with this one, which is probably the simplest and most conventional of all my favorites.

11) The Raven (1845) by Edgar Allen Poe (HM “Eldorado” and “The Bells”)

Poe was one of the rare writers who excelled equally at prose and poetry, and “The Raven” is his masterpiece; it’s also the longest poem I ever committed wholly to memory (one stanza at a time over several weeks in high school).  People are still arguing about its exact meaning, and its repeated refrain of “Nevermore” is so linked with the poem I daresay most English-speaking adults can scarcely hear the word without thinking of it.  Poe’s language is incredibly musical, and he had a gift for working polysyllabic words into his meter with enviable ease; nowhere is this more perfectly showcased than in “The Bells”, which is best appreciated when read aloud.  Bonus:  “The Raven” inspired one of my favorite movies, and here’s a hilarious parody of the poem as recited by Bullwinkle.

12)Goblin Market (1859) by Christina Rossetti

This incredibly sensual, overtly sexual fairy tale poem draws on the pining motif (see #7 above) to present a disguised protest against Victorian repression of female sexuality (including, as will be obvious, lesbian sexuality); more specifically, it rebukes the doctrine that a “fallen” woman could not be redeemed.  What Rossetti seems to be saying here is that it’s abstaining from sex which harms a woman, not embracing it in the context of a loving relationship; and for a woman of her time, that was positively radical.  It’s the longest of my favorites, but please don’t let that length deter you; it’s really a quick read and worth your time.  NB:  This illustration was done by the poet’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

13) “Ozymandias” (1818) by Percy Byssche Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“Ozymandias” is the Greek name for Ramses II, but that really isn’t important to the meaning of this meditation on the fleeting nature of power and fame, and the futility of the excesses men commit to obtain them.  The cruel irony of the inscription, which now means exactly the opposite of what Ozymandias intended it to mean, is one of the most striking in English poetry.

One Year Ago Today

Projection” discusses the people who use whores as scapegoats by projecting their own twisted needs and self-loathing onto us.

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I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
  –  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Since last month’s column on my favorite books proved so popular, I figured an encore was in order; today and tomorrow I’ll present my favorite poems, arranged alphabetically by poet.  As is my custom, I’ve limited the selections to one per poet and listed others as honorable mentions.  I’ll share short selections within the column, but longer ones as PDFs, and in cases where I was fortunate enough to locate an illustrated version of an honorable mention I used it as the illustration; just click on it to enlarge.  Those blessed with good memories or burdened with English degrees have probably noticed my preference for 19th century literature, especially of the Romantic period (roughly the first half of the century and the end of the 18th); even most of my 20th century selections cluster in the first half.  I’d say 75% of all the fiction and poetry I’ve ever read was written between 1766 and 1966, with the remaining quarter divided evenly between the pre-1766 and post-1966 periods.  Why?  I have no clue; maybe it’s related to the fact that I always get a profound frisson when writing or reading about Catherine Eddowes.

1)  “The Tyger” (1794) by William Blake (HM “A Poison Tree” & “The Sick Rose”)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Blake was a poet, engraver and visionary; he had visions from the time he was a small child and they often inspired his work.  He developed an entire personal mythology as complex as that later created by H.P. Lovecraft, and used it throughout his oeuvre…which often, as these selections demonstrate, contained an undercurrent of horror (consider the theological implications in the penultimate stanza of “The Tyger”).  He’s my favorite poet and I’ve quoted him (usually from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”) and used his illustrations in a number of columns.  I also have the honor of being distantly related to him.

2)  The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1842) by Robert Browning (HM “Porphyria’s Lover”)

Yes, it’s doggerel; some of the rhymes are almost painful!  But Browning did it on purpose to maintain a light tone in what would otherwise have been a mighty grim fairy tale about the consequences of not paying what one owes for a service (apparently Agent Huntington didn’t learn the lesson).  The Piper is of course one of the Fair Folk, and dealings with such beings are always fraught with danger (as demonstrated in two more of my selections tomorrow).  The legend dates to shortly after the original incident in 1284 (and as Browning tells us was commemorated in a stained-glass window a few years later), but his version (re-dated to 1376) is the most memorable.

3)  “The Destruction of Sennacherib” (1815) by George Gordon, Lord Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

The topic is of course Biblical, a retelling of 2 Kings 19; I like it for the beauty of its language and the power of its imagery.  I’ve always suspected that the climactic scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark was inspired by this poem.  Bonus:  A very funny parody of it by Ogden Nash.

4)  “Jabberwocky” (1872) by Lewis Carroll (HM “The Walrus and the Carpenter”)

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two!! One, two!! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The most amazing feature of Carroll’s finest short piece is that despite the sheer number of nonsense words, one still has absolutely no problem understanding what is going on here.  The poem is from Through the Looking-Glass; if you haven’t reread it lately you really ought to.

5)  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge     (HM “Kubla Khan”)

Almost everyone knows that the title character brings doom upon his ship by shooting an albatross, but if you’ve never actually read the poem (or if it’s been a long time) you owe it to yourself to get the full story, which would make a fantastic horror movie exactly as written (it even has monsters and zombies, no joke).  Of course, that’s not unusual for Coleridge, who also wrote a poem about a lesbian vampire (“Christabel”). Oh, and Rush fans:  if you haven’t before, you really, really want to read “Kubla Khan”.  Trust me.

6)  “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening” (1922) by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

My second-grade teacher probably would not have had me memorize this had she realized what it was actually about.  If you don’t understand, contemplate the eighth line and ask yourself why the last one is repeated.  I usually sing this one rather than reciting it; a friend of mine at UNO wrote a lovely tune for it.  Incidentally, this isn’t the only one of these I know by heart; I can also recite #1 (and its HMs), #4, #9 (and HMs), #10 and #11 (plus the first of two HMs).  However, you’ll have to read tomorrow’s column to discover what those are.

One Year Ago Today

Nell Gwyn” was born in a brothel, became an actress and courtesan, and was eventually the mistress of King Charles II.

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Censors tend to do what only psychotics do: they confuse reality with illusion.  –  David Cronenberg

Eleven updates and two metaupdates.

Japanese Prostitution (October 21st, 2010)

This is just so awesome:

alibi-ya provide women in the…sex industry with a reputable but totally fictitious identity…[using] things like fake business cards, references and employment certificates…[and] even…fake [bosses] for birthday speeches and other family events…Shintaro Sakamoto runs an alibi-ya in Tokyo.  “We provide assistance to mainly hostesses and prostitutes,” he said.  “We help them to rent apartments, and we help them get their kids into nursery schools”…[if] parents ring the office their daughter supposedly works at, the alibi-ya will be ready with the deception, explaining their daughter is in a meeting and will call back shortly.  The alibi-ya will then ring the woman’s mobile and tell her to call home.  Even the caller ID is fixed so it looks like the woman is calling from the landline in her fake office.  There is nothing illegal about the service…

Real People (February 6th, 2011)

Louise and Martine Fokkens are 69-year-old identical twins in Amsterdam who have worked as whores since the age of 19, owned their own brothel for a time and set up the first trade union for prostitutes.  A new documentary, Meet the Fokkens, looks at the colorful lives of these very unconventional ladies.

See No Evil (November 26th, 2011)

I only wish lunacy like this was confined to Sweden; unfortunately, it happens all over the West now:

…Simon Lundström was convicted of possessing child pornography…despite the fact the “manga images” used to convict him featured no real children…The punishment Lundström faces is relatively minor – a fine of around $780…but…still marks him as a sex offender…[plus he lost] his job [as a manga translator and]…can no longer offer his services as a “manga expert”…the prosecution…argued that the images could be used to entice children…and even went as far as to suggest the artists…could have used real children as models…

Sex, Lies and Busybodies (January 27th, 2012)

The Los Angeles City council has apparently begun to recognize that its stupid condom law is unenforceable:

The city administrative officer has asked for a 90-day extension…[citing] “complexities”…In recent weeks the…panel has heard from a contingent of vocal…industry officials who say the ordinance is faulty and unneeded…adult industry attorney…Allan Gelbard…[said] the…extension may give the panel more time to logically think things through.  “Perhaps, if they take a more thorough look at the constitutional issues involved…they will realize what a mistake…this ordinance truly was”…

The Immunity Syndrome (March 5th, 2012)

It now appears the damage done by “abstinence-only sex education” may be even worse than previously believed:

Sixty percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 may not truly understand how proper use of contraception can prevent pregnancy, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute, which reports abstinence-only sex education may be leaving young adults with a subpar understanding of sexual health.  Forty percent of respondents…said birth control was not important because “when it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen”…Although…69 percent of women and almost half of the men… agreed they were “committed to avoiding pregnancy,” they seemed to question whether contraceptive devices such as condoms or birth control pills were an effective way to achieve that goal…

Thou Shalt Not (March 6th, 2012)

Alas, the US does not have a monopoly on crypto-moralism:

…according to a study…in the…journal Pediatrics…young adults who listen to…music…with ear buds are almost twice as likely as non-listeners to smoke pot…And those who attend concerts or frequent dance clubs are nearly six times as likely as homebodies to go on a binge-drinking bender.  These findings are based on survey results collected from 944 low-income students…in the Netherlands…[who] ranged in age from 15 to 25…Risky music-listening behavior was defined as listening to music at 89 dBA for at least an hour per day…That music exposure can cause noise-induced hearing loss…[and] “increased feelings of isolation, depression, loneliness, anger, and fear”…But that’s not where the health risks end.  The researchers found that…those who put themselves at risk…were:

* 1.99 times more likely to [have] used cannabis in the last four weeks;
* 1.19 times more likely to smoke cigarettes daily; and
* 1.10 times more likely to have sex without using a condom every time.

…those who put themselves at risk by attending noisy concerts and clubs were:

* 5.94 times more likely to have consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a row at some point in the last four weeks;
* 2.03 times more likely to have sex without using a condom every time; and
* 1.12 times more likely to smoke cigarettes every day.

…The researchers…say…public health officials…could design practical interventions, such as handing out condoms along with earplugs at concert venues, or by printing messages about alcohol abuse on concert ticket stubs…

Remember, kids, rock and roll is dangerous!  But at least it can’t make you as clueless as people who actually get paid to write rubbish like this, or who publish articles about adult behavior in a magazine for pediatricians.

Feet of Clay (April 5th, 2012)

Walter Olson on Nick Kristof’s latest exercise in fatuity:

Is there a New York Times columnist as insufferably moralistic, or as neglectful of facts that contradict his argument, as Nicholas Kristof?  Last week Kristof mounted yet another of his high-horse save-the-children campaigns, this time against…Anheuser-Busch.  Kristof asks readers to join his boycott of the leading brewer for…permitting its output to be sold…just across the state line from the Oglala Sioux’s Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  Though notionally dry, the reservation is in practice wracked with alcoholism…Unlike Kristof’s  column and blog post, the Times‘ earlier reporting on the dispute at least makes a few concessions about how the tribe’s alcoholism…has more complicated origins than [a new] lawsuit would make it seem.  For example, it quotes Oglala members who say the unusual Pine Ridge policy of complete alcohol prohibition…has been a failure…Kristof by contrast appears to have swallowed the lawsuit’s contentions in one hearty draft…

Olson goes on to point out that under Nebraska law, brewers have no control over distribution of their product by state-licensed wholesalers; in other words Anheuser-Busch couldn’t stop beer from being sold near the reservation even if it shared Kristof’s belief that “enlightened” white people should “protect” childlike non-whites from their own choices.

Much Ado About Nothing (April 18th, 2012)

I hope this keeps up; if they fire every government operative who has ever hired a whore, the few remaining bureaucrats will be too busy filling out forms to have any time to intrude in the private lives of citizens:

Three Drug Enforcement Administration agents are under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia…Sen. Susan Collins…[said] “It’s disturbing that we may be uncovering a troubling culture that spans more than one law enforcement agency…the evidence…indicates that this likely was not just a one-time incident”…

Senator Collins, that is the understatement of the century.

Little Boxes (April 29th, 2012)

Amanda Brooks has a knack for discovering oddities like “Fake Internet Girlfriend”, which describes itself as “a service that allows our clients to discreet [sic] employ real females to pretend to be their girlfriend online and communicate with them as if they were dating the person on various social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter or in some cases in gaming communities like World of Warcraft.”  So if it’s more important to you to look like you have a girlfriend than to just use that money to actually have sex (which could potentially relax you enough that you might actually attract a real girlfriend), this is for you.  Of course they insist that they aren’t an escort service, and I‘ll grant that…but honestly, isn’t this on the periphery of sex work?  It’s not at all unusual for a client to pay a girl just to have someone to talk to or to be seen with in public, with no sex involved; is this so different?

Pyrrhic Victory (May 17th, 2012)

For those who felt I was being an alarmist about drones:

…Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas…is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone…“It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone,” [said] Catherine Crump [of the ACLU]…“An officer at a remote location…[Tasing or targeting] people…[could be considered] unconstitutional force…”

Today, remotely-piloted aircraft armed with tasers and tear gas; tomorrow autonomous killer robots with machine guns.  And y’all thought that was just dystopian science fiction.

Traffic Jam
(May 20th, 2012)

Phoenix, Arizona joins the “major sex trafficking hotspot” competition, implements a version of the Swedish Model and violates the separation of church and state in one fell swoop:  “…Phoenix has become a hot spot for sex trafficking in part because we’re a destination point and our major highways…Rather than arrest sex trafficking victims, Project Rose enables officers to bring them to Bethany Bible Church…” where they get all these wonderful services as long as they claim to be “trafficked” and invent a bunch of “leads” to keep the police happy.  Look for the creative claim that “trafficked children” are kept in “dog crates” to show up in more trafficking porn over the next few months.

In this article I also pointed out that the practice of young female gang members contributing to gang finances via prostitution is now being called “sex trafficking”, and as Emi Koyama explained in a recent post about a public forum on the topic, the government recognizes the truth:

…a [government] representative…was invited to make a statement, which she was completely unprepared for…she slipped the information that confirmed what many activists knew was the case but most government experts were smart enough to conceal:  that the U.S. Attorney’s Office views domestic minor sex trafficking as “primarily gang-related,” and has moved the issue to its “gang unit”; transnational human trafficking on the other hand was moved to the civil rights unit…human trafficking is becoming yet another way for young men of color to be criminalized and imprisoned…


Backwards into the Future in TW3 (#6) (February 19th, 2012)

Once again, Namibians prove that they understand human rights better than Americans do:

The Executive Director of…Rights Not Rescue, Nicodemus ‘Mama Africa’ Aochamub says…”we are thankful that Kazenambo Kazenambo [a government minister who called for legalization of sex work] is brave to stand up for us, but we…prefer that sex work be decriminalised…With legalising, we will work under municipal laws such as registration…red-light districts and [forced]…medical checks [and] identification cards…Time has come for sex work to be regarded like any other employment”…

Sales Pitch in TW3 (#9) (March 4th, 2012)

Wendy Lyon on what a “sex trafficking” trial reveals about the “Swedish Model”:

…last week several men were convicted for what Swedish prosecutors have called one of the largest trafficking rings of its kind…You can read…about it herehere and here…but there are a couple things…worth drawing attention to.  The first is…[that “there was no lack of buyers”]…one of the women…[said] she had seven or eight customers on her very first night.  This doesn’t say much for the supposed deterrent effect of the sex purchase ban.  The second is the breakdown of [clients’] ages…36% were born in the 1960s, 21% in the 1970s and 30% in the 1980s…nearly a third…were teenagers when the ban was introduced in 1999:  further evidence (as I discussed here) that it hasn’t had the normative effect it was supposed to have on younger men.  The 17-year-old’s conviction is interesting for another reason…Sweden’s age of majority is 18, which means that he is legally still a child…The ideology underlying the sex purchase ban is that women cannot choose to sell sex; evidently, however, Swedish law considers that male children…can choose to buy it.  In other words, when it comes to trading sex for money, adult women are less competent than male children.  Could there be any clearer illustration of how this law infantilises women?

One Year Ago Today

Chupacabra” compares the truth about pimps to their oversized legend.

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EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY.  –  T.H. White, The Once and Future King (notice posted in an ant colony)

No job is right for everyone, and as I‘ve often said sex work is no exception; some people love it, some hate it, some tolerate it, and nearly everyone who does it feels it’s the best available option.  The same rule applies within the sphere of sex work; one woman may prefer stripping, another phone sex work, still another prostitution.  And even within prostitution there are many, many ways to work, no one of which is right for every whore.  For me and many others, one of the most important advantages of harlotry is the freedom it gives; one can work as much or as little as one wants, at whatever day or time one wants, in one’s own home or some specific place, or only at clients’ places, or some mixture.  One can set a very high price and do few calls, or a lower price and do more; one can be a GFE, PSE or plain vanilla, specialize in short calls or long, and pretty much arrange things as one pleases.  If one decides she’s had enough for a given day she can sign off, if she decides to work a little longer she can, and if she decides to break or change her personal rules there’s nobody to say she can’t.  Of course, the more freedom a hooker wants the less security she has; working with others requires keeping one’s bargains, paying any agreed-upon fees, adhering to arranged schedules, etc.

All of this drives “authorities” crazy; the mind of a control freak craves being able to cram everything and everyone into neat little boxes, and to adopt a “one size fits all” approach to everyone forced into a given box.  Listen to the stupid rhetoric cops and politicians spew about hookers:  we’re “all” criminals, or victims, or psychologically dysfunctional, or slutty, or whatever.  And even those who recognize that using words like “all” makes them sound moronic insist that exceptions are few and rare, while in reality it’s exactly the opposite:  the most consistent statement one can make about whores is that it’s really difficult to make consistent statements about whores.  American policies tend to pretend we’re all streetwalkers, and many of the “legalized” or “tolerated” European regimes of the recent past (as late as the 1980s) usually dramatically overestimated the number of dates contracted by any given girl, mostly to squeeze them for as much tax revenue as possible but also to reinforce their own myths about our “dirtiness”, “sluttiness”, “degradation”, etc (hence the common “15 clients a day” myth).

This masculine obsession with control and “regulation” is the reason cops and bureaucrats are so consistently fond of red-light districts and licensed brothels; they concentrate all the uppity, chaotic, disobedient floozies into one place where they can be more easily monitored and more conveniently harassed, robbed and raped.  This is not to say that such places don’t have their advantages; as pointed out in Wednesday’s column they allow the creation of female-dominated subcultures where women can support and defend one another, and they certainly make it easier for the clients to locate women to hire.  But once “authorities” recognize the huge amount of money to be made, corrupt licensing systems favoring the wealthy and politically-connected usually develop, turning the walls that keep danger out into pens keeping whores in.  Some women still prefer the safety, the regimentation and the advantage of having a basic idea of whose arse has to be kissed and when, but others would rather gamble with cops and bad clients than work for a state-approved pimp.  This is, of course, the problem with the Nevada system, a model virtually no sex worker rights advocate or advocacy group recommends:  a very small number of licenses are held by a very small group of wealthy cronies, prostitutes are virtual prisoners who must be constantly on call and submit to humiliating “lineups” like animals to be judged at a county fair, and cannot refuse clients without severe penalties.  As explained in my column of one year ago today, these onerous requirements cause most women of “high opportunity cost” to avoid working in Nevada brothels; 70% of all Nevada prostitutes prefer to work illegally than to live under such a regime.  Of course, some men and virtually all politicians love it for the same reason so many whores hate it:  the system reduces sexually powerful, often haughty harlots to mere employees working in a different kind of cubicle.

The arbitrary character of laws imposed on prostitutes becomes obvious when one compares various legalization regimes; brothels, for example, are banned in the UK but required in Nevada.  The judicial process in Canada may soon result in decriminalization of brothels there, which would be a good thing if whores can choose to work in them or not as they please, and if the licensing procedure is sufficiently liberal and reasonable that it does not result in a corrupt cartel controlling a small number of brothels with virtually-identical conditions, thus negating real choice of work arrangements.  But apparently, that oppressive scenario is exactly what some control freaks envision for Ontario:

…Ailing Toronto strip clubs have bold plans to become glitzy high-security bordellos that feature both prostitutes and exotic dancers now that the Ontario Court of Appeal has thrown out a ban on hookers.  The bordello option is gaining steam with support from some Toronto city councillors who say it will bring millions of dollars into the cash-starved city…some advocates call for a downtown red light district.  Others want sex to be sold and packaged like the Nevada-based Moonlite Bunny Ranch…whose officials will travel here in June on a fact-finding tour…Advocates for brothels claim rooms for sex romps can be constructed to existing Toronto strip clubs, which are already zoned for sex use. Nurses will be on site to conduct medical checks on sex workers and there will be security cameras in common areas and emergency alarms in the sex stalls to protect women.  Club owners said the prostitutes will undergo training and must pass a police background security check before they’re hired.  Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, chairman of the community development and recreation committee, said the city stands to gain millions of dollars in taxes if licensed adult clubs expand into legal brothels…Mammoliti claims brothels can curb the trafficking of women for the sex trade, clean up the shady massage and sex parlour industry, place health workers in clubs, force pimps out and make it safer for prostitutes and their customers…

Leave it to politicians to figure out a way to turn a victory for sex workers into a two-tiered scheme which will exclude everyone who cannot pass a background check or won’t submit to police registration, or who won’t work in “sex stalls”, or who refuse to endure the invasive and degrading “health inspections” many countries have discarded as useless and unnecessary.  If these brothels are but one option for working girls and don’t result in stigmatization or persecution of the (probably) 70% who prefer to work alone or in private groups, I’m all for them.  But dragging in that “sex trafficking” nonsense bodes otherwise; “authorities” hate choice, and all too often yesterday’s forbidden activity becomes tomorrow’s compulsory one.

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She was not ashamed to take him, she made herself naked and welcomed his eagerness; as he lay on her murmuring love she taught him the woman’s art.  For six days and seven nights they lay together, for Enkidu had forgotten his home in the hills; but when he was satisfied he went back to the wild beasts.  Then, when the gazelle saw him, they bolted away; when the wild creatures saw him they fled.  Enkidu would have followed, but his body was bound as though with a cord, his knees gave way when he started to run, his swiftness was gone.  And now the wild creatures had all fled away; Enkidu was grown weak, for wisdom was in him, and the thoughts of a man were in his heart.  –  The Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet I)

While I understand why many activists and allies argue decriminalization from human rights, libertarian or harm reduction viewpoints, and indeed use these arguments myself because they are all valid ones, it’s sad that almost nobody wants to acknowledge another, equally important factor:  human society needs whores every bit as much as it needs farmers, soldiers, physicians and builders, and far more than it needs preachers, academic feminists, politicians and 90% of the other control freaks who work so assiduously at rousing the rabble against us.  Our ancient ancestors understood this; it’s not accidental that in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the temple harlot Shamhat is the one who tames the wild man Enkidu, turning him from a beast to a man.  But in the 5000 years since that powerful myth was first pressed into clay, Man’s world has forgotten its debt to us and has generally succumbed to the hubris of believing it no longer needs us; even in areas where our trade is legalized or decriminalized there is the self-important pretense that we are merely being tolerated as a magnanimous landlord might allow stray cats to eke out a marginal living on his property.

The change was very gradual; it wasn’t until about half the time between the writing of Gilgamesh and that of this essay had elapsed that someone first conceived of the idea of bringing the civilizing power of whores under the control of the state.  As discussed in one of my earliest columns, the Athenian politician Solon passed laws to reduce the relatively high status of Greek wives, and attempted to undermine the power of both independent prostitutes and the cult of Aphrodite by establishing cheap state-run brothels staffed by Asian slave girls; the failure of his attempt is a demonstration of the futility of proposals by certain historically-ignorant academics to establish a similar system with machines in place of slaves.  The Romans, Japanese, Catholic Church and other powers of the next two millennia did not even attempt to replicate Solon’s scheme, but rather contented themselves with taxing, regulating and socially isolating whores in order to establish patriarchal dominance while still allowing us to perform our vital social function:  giving men, whose demand (as Paglia put it) “always exceeds the female supply,” an outlet for that surplus libido.

Wise whores all know what feminists, preachers, politicians and pundits vociferously deny:  our trade saves far more marriages than it endangers, by allowing men the sexual variety they crave without endangering the social, emotional and economic arrangements of marriage.  In fact, I would even say that it was the emergence of commercial prostitution in the first millennium BCE which made widespread monogamy feasible; I predict that an historical study would reveal that few if any cultures abandoned polygamy before hookers were widespread in that society.  Nor are wives the only women whose safety and happiness are protected by harlots; prior to the late 19th century everyone from saints to kings understood that whores allow male passions which might lead to rape or other unsavory sexual behaviors to be siphoned off harmlessly in a manner which helps support some women while simultaneously preventing harm to others.  A 2004 study by Kirby Cundiff showed that the rates of rape and other sex crimes decrease in societies where prostitution is decriminalized or otherwise tolerated, and Swedish statistics document a sharp rise in rape after the implementation of their much-vaunted client criminalization model.

In some parts of the world, prostitution is already widely viewed as a job like any other, and most non-totalitarian governments recognize the need for our trade despite a refusal to publicly acknowledge it; even the United States pointedly ignores the existence of escort services and massage parlors except for periodic raids designed to “keep us in our place” and to please the stupider elements of the Great Unwashed.  Some very limited groups (such as the more educated and/or wise among both sex workers and clients, the majority of sex therapists and the more enlightened among advocates for the disabled) already recognize the vital role whores play in human society, and I can envision a future (depicted in the story I published one year ago today) where even most governments understand it at least as well as they did for most of history.  But for now, I’ll have to content myself with urging activists and allies to stop ceding ground to prohibitionists by pretending that prostitution is an evil to be tolerated rather than a good to be celebrated.

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There is only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth.  –  Václav Havel

One year ago today I published “New Reviews for May”, in which I reviewed two movies (The Pyx and Soylent Green) and a book (Harvey Silverglate’s Three Felonies a Day).  I’ll probably do another review column next month, but today I’d like to look at a combination film review and director interview by someone else, and to share my thoughts on it.  The film is Whores’ Glory by Austrian director Michael Glawogger; the reviewer/interviewer is Tracy Quan, retired call girl and author of  Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, Diary of a Married Call Girl and Diary of a Jetsetting Call Girl; and the publication is The Daily Beast.

Whores’ Glory, a ground-breaking and surprisingly accurate documentary about sex workers in three countries…opened [April 27th] in New York and Seattle, after provoking considerable buzz at the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals in September…The…film is a riveting journey into three different enclaves in three religious “time zones”—a Bangkok “fish tank” brothel in Buddhist Thailand, a prostitution compound in mainly Muslim Bangladesh, and finally, Reynosa, a Mexican border town where Lady Death (not exactly a Vatican-approved saint) seems to be as popular as the Virgin Mary.  La Santa Muerte, as she’s known, is undeniably spooky, and yet Reynosa is refreshing …Whores’ Glory is graceful in its approach to hardship and completely free of judgment about indentured sex work in Bangladesh and crack use in Reynosa.  This attitude also extends to religious belief …Whores’ Glory treats religion as something akin to housekeeping.  Girls pray for a good night of business in Bangkok; a Faridpur sex worker purifies the doorway of her room with a paper torch…

It’s also refreshing to see the words “surprisingly accurate documentary” and “sex workers” in the same sentence, but even in the midst of a moral panic Europeans do tend to be much more sensible about such things than Americans are.  I really want to see this film, but I’m guessing it’ll be a while before it’s available on DVD; in the meantime I’ll just have to take vicarious pleasure in the fact that the truth about sex work is playing for a while on big screens in several major hotbeds of “sex trafficking” hysteria.

Quan discusses all three segments, but it’s the Bangladeshi one I find most interesting; apparently she did, too, because she spends the most time on it:

Faridpur’s City of Joy is a typical Bangladeshi brothel compound managed by a clique of competitive mothers—older prostitutes evolved into madams…With more than 600 women living and working in the City of Joy, there aren’t enough customers at any given time.  Many of the brothel’s citizens began working shortly after their first menstruation and would like a different outcome for their daughters.  The world outside is hostile to those aspirations and often dangerous, while the brothel itself provides a lifelong safety net…“It’s a female-controlled ghetto,” Glawogger said, “a very closed community, with six or so mothers who have a very strong grip on the whole thing.  If a guy is rude to a girl, he never walks on those premises again.”  The few resident males are either biological sons or “baboos” (lovers) of the successful madams.  A mother, Glawogger said, has perhaps five girls working for her who may be biological daughters or indentured sex workers…How did Glawogger gain access to such a closed matriarchal world?  Here, as in Bangkok and Reynosa, participants were paid for their time because, he said, every hour of filming was an hour when they weren’t earning income.  But that’s not the whole story.  In 2006, Glawogger was visiting Tangail, 45 miles from Faridpur.  The women in Tangail’s brothel section had been warned that a mob of religious fundamentalists was planning to purge the brothel quarter…“All the clients and male relatives ran away,” he said, “but the women stayed and they were ready to fight back.”  Glawogger’s photographs of women and girls in their saris, some in full makeup, preparing to defend themselves with clubs, sticks, and sickle-shaped kitchen knives appeared in the local media.  “Word got around that we were defending the mothers in the press and this spread to other brothels in other towns.”  The women of Tangail, who inspired the making of Whores’ Glory, are its unseen heart, and are the reason Bangladesh is central to this film’s journey.  Conventional feminism can’t make sense of this fact:  the most courageous opposition to fundamentalism in this country comes from Muslim women who are sex workers.

Conventional feminism can’t make sense of anything to do with sex work, because all its dogma proceeds from the faulty assumption that prostitution can somehow be teased apart from other heterosexual behaviors…which as I repeatedly point out, it can’t.  This is especially clear in La Zona, the red-light district of Reynosa, about half of whose streetwalkers have pimps to whom they surrender most of their money…yet can walk away from any time they like.  Just as in exploitative non-commercial relationships, the binding force is not usually violence or captivity, but rather an unhealthy, dependent form of romantic love.  As long as prohibitionists insist on pretending that harlots are somehow different from other women, they’ll never understand; that’s why we need more people like Glawogger, who can help us to demonstrate the truth to the silent majority who can actually learn from it.

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The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  –  John F. Kennedy

Yesterday I defined a “myth” as “a framework or paradigm used to explain and interpret observable phenomena in the absence of (or contrary to) hard data, usually via the involvement of a supernormal force or entity which is not discernible by ordinary means and therefore must be taken on faith.”  Some myths arise naturally, while others are specifically designed by rulers, priests, politicians or other would-be dictators as a means of social control.  For example, Alexander the Great’s successor Ptolemy I of Egypt combined the Greek god Hades and the Egyptian gods Apis and Osiris into a new god named Serapis, so as to have a deity all his subjects could worship; half a millennium later the Roman Emperor Elagabalus combined the Roman Sol, the Persian Mithra and the Syrian El-Gabal into a single god named Sol Invictus for much the same reason; and 13 centuries after that Catholic priests combined the Blessed Mother with the Aztec mother-goddess Tonantzin to produce Our Lady of Guadalupe in order to convert the Aztecs.  Similarly, the modern Swedish government has created a mythology of “state feminism” to control brainwashed “feminist” women and to suppress men and uppity women.  In my column of one year ago today I discussed a study which busted that particular myth wide open (though as I discussed yesterday, that won’t stop true believers from embracing it); today I’d like to observe that anniversary by sharing two other articles which bust modern myths, and one in which ignorant modern busybodies “bust” an ancient one.

Let’s start with one I myself have busted before: the “disease as punishment for sin” narrative, which holds that prostitutes and other people with “immoral” lifestyles carry more venereal diseases than those who simply “fall” into extramarital sex on occasion.  This is of course related to the ridiculous notion that only “bad girls” make rational decisions about sex, with predictable results:

[According to a new study] people who cheat on their partners are more likely to have unsafe sex than those in open relationships who don’t need to hide their sexual straying…[they] were less likely to use condoms, and less likely to discuss their history of sexually transmitted diseases…compared with people in open relationships who had sex with someone other than their primary partner…The results suggest those who are unfaithful have a higher risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, and possibly transmitting it to their partner, than those in open relationships…The researchers found that 48 percent of unfaithful people reported using a condom  during their sexual digression, compared with 66 percent of individuals in an open relationship…34 percent of unfaithful individuals reported talking about their sexual history and previous STD testing before engaging in sex, compared with 63 percent of those in open relationships.  The cheaters were also less likely to cover or sterilize sex toys before using them, compared with those in open relationships.  Previous research has shown unfaithful people do not accurately perceive the effect their cheating will have on their partners’ mental health, and the new results suggest those who cheat also misperceive, or do not accept, the physical health risks of sex outside their relationship…

A great deal of the basis for “trafficking” mythology lies in myths about international migration, which are more prevalent now than at any time since the 1910s.  For example, everybody knows that the US is being flooded with ever-increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants, right?  Wrong:

…Douglas Massey, the founder and co-director of  Princeton’s Mexican Migration Project…[demonstrates] that…

• We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants.  The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s.  The massive influx many have written about never happened.

• Net illegal migration has stopped almost completely.

• Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.

• There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.

• And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.

…If Congress had done nothing to secure the border over the last two decades…there might be as many as 2 million fewer Mexicans living in the United States today…heightened border enforcement…[shifted] the problem.  Unable to cross where they traditionally had — into California and Texas — Mexican migrants instead…[made] the dangerous Sonoran Desert crossing into Arizona…then moved on to other states.  Arizonans who complained during the 1990s and early 2000s about a surge in illegal migration were not imagining things.  But it was the American government…that…had channeled the flow of migrants into their backyard.

…migration traditionally was seasonal and cyclical.  Young men would head to El Norte in search of agricultural or construction work, earn money, and then return home.  But when it became too risky and too expensive to migrate seasonally, migrants simply chose to stay in the United States.  Because they no longer were returning home regularly, they could look for work farther from the border.  They also settled down and had families, which made them even less likely to leave…

Behold the Law of Unintended Consequences at work.  It is literally impossible for a government to stop or even control complex and widespread social phenomena by passing laws, especially prohibitionist laws; such legislation never stops what it’s intended to stop, and invariably creates a host of new problems.  But that never stops lawheads, who are always looking for something to ban…even if their target has been around for thousands of years before they were born:

A photograph of a naked woman and a swan was taken down after a police officer complained that it appeared to “condone bestiality”…the Scream gallery in Mayfair had exhibited the [depiction of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan] for a month with no complaints from the public…But a Metropolitan police officer…saw the Derrick Santini image from a bus…and two uniformed officers went to the gallery…“They said the photograph suggested we condoned bestiality, which was an arrestable offence”…said [Jag Mehta, the gallery’s sales director].  “It’s crazy.  Perhaps the cultural references were lost on them.”  As the exhibition was already over, they took down the artwork…“We would of course have fought to keep the piece up otherwise.  If anyone wants to view it, we still have it at the gallery” [said gallery owner Jamie Wood]… Miss Mehta said the myth of Leda’s rape by Zeus was an acceptable form of erotica in Victorian times.  However, this argument failed to impress the police.  “They said they didn’t know anything about the myth,” she said.  “They asked if we had had any complaints and we said quite the contrary.  Lots of people were intrigued by it”…

Somehow I’m not surprised that the coppers were unfamiliar with the myth, or that their perverted minds saw only ugliness and sin where everyone else saw art.  But that’s what happens when two mythologies clash…especially when one set of believers is willing to threaten the other with violence in order to impose its own mythology on everyone.

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