Archive for June, 2012

No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority.  –  Joseph Addison

We’re halfway through the year already!  Here’s a new item followed by eight updates and four metaupdates.

Feeding On Their Own

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (one of the goons behind the toothless threats against Backpage and a major promoter of the “gypsy whores” myth) has accused Google (which gave $11 million to anti-whore groups) of failing to enable Abbot’s snooping.  I’m not really concerned with the conflict itself; I’m just glad to see two supporters of trafficking hysteria at each other’s throats.  Maybe Abbott will be too busy fighting Google to persecute as many consenting adults as usual, and if this costs Google a lot of money they’ll have less to give to prohibitionists this year.  Let’s hope this becomes a trend; perhaps Martha Coakley will sue CNN next.


Reading Between the Lines (November 11th, 2010)

The last time the FBI diverted federal funds to conduct local prostitution busts under the guise of “fighting sex trafficking” I had a full report to dissect, but this time they’re playing coy; though press releases for “Operation Cross-Country 6” crow about the “rescue” of 79 “children” and the arrest of 104 “pimps”, no mention is made of the hundreds of adult women who were no doubt arrested as well (over 800 of them if the proportions are similar to those of the last raid).  As for those “children”:  most underage whores are about 17 so the majority of these probably are as well, though we’re only told they were “as young as” 13 (which would be true if only one was).  Statistically, 66 of these “child sex slaves” have never even met a pimp, so where did 104 “pimps” come from?  The answer is that most of them are probably male or transgender prostitutes, cast as “pimps” to fit the narrative.  I’ll write more on this when more complete data becomes available, but in the meantime here’s an analysis of local reports compiled by the ever-thorough Emi Koyama.

Hooters, Japanese Style (December 15th, 2010)

Japanese cops are adopting American-style prudishness and repression:

…police…arrested five employees affiliated with a restaurant chain  that features female staff members in revealing clothing.  Nikkan Gendai…sees the bust as another example of the demise of another popular form of salaryman entertainment…Attired in bikinis that expose their midriffs, the girls perform dance routines…and shake their hips as they take food orders…“After these girls get off work, they’ll attract stalkers,” says lawyer Toshi Okabayashi…“Since this type of employment could also develop into a hotbed for prostitution, the police cannot overlook these places.”  The lawyer adds that these recent arrests are intended to set an example…

I’m not sure why the police should be concerned with “hotbeds of prostitution” when the trade is essentially legal in Japan; that “set an example” bit is chilling.

Check Your Premises (March 10th, 2011)

Another man convicted of “child pornography” for taking photos of a woman with whom he was legally having sex:

…Marshall Hollins had a 17-year-old girlfriend…perfectly legal in Illinois, where the age of consent for sex is 17.  Yet because Hollins took pictures…he was convicted of three child pornography offenses and sentenced to eight years in prison…the Illinois Supreme Court rejected Hollins’…arguments…While 17 might be old enough to have sex, the court said, allowing the event to be photographed entails additional risks that arguably require another year’s worth of maturity and wisdom…dissenting Justice Anne M. Burke noted…that…”all five photographs…are extreme closeups of the couples’ genitals,” including neither faces nor “visible identifying marks such as scars or tattoos”…

So in the American mind, the “risk” of creating an unidentifiable “dirty” picture outweighs that of creating a human life.

Surplus Women (September 27th, 2011)

This rather bizarre item from The Sun presents a sympathetic view of an accused serial killer, but dismisses the three Winnipeg sex workers he may have murdered in a single phrase.  Well, at least it doesn’t dwell in lurid and loving detail on the women’s profession as an equivalent American article would.

Bell, Hook and Kettle (December 6th, 2011)

Though the Salvation Army claims that whores are all “victims” who need rescue, it apparently feels differently about homosexuals:

…In talking to…Serena Ryan and Pete Dillon on their Salt and Pepper radio show [audio here]…Major Andrew Craibe, a media relations director for one of the [Salvation Army’s] Australian branches, had this exchange with the hosts:

Ryan: According to the Salvation Army, [gay people] deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?
Craibe:  Well, that’s a part of our belief system.
Ryan: So we should die.
Craibe: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.

The doctrine they’re referring to is…the Salvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, which borrows heavily from Romans 1:18-32…the Salvation Army has officially distanced itself from Craibe’s remarks…

The Course of a Disease (February 16th, 2012)

The Norwegian body politic may yet fight the Swedish cancer into remission:

Norway should rip up a law that criminalizes sex buyers, Oslo’s social affairs chief believes, as a new report shows a marked rise in violence against prostitutes…Anniken Hauglie [said]…”The reality is that the law has made it more difficult for women…It’s our political responsibility to take this feedback seriously”…the Pro Sentret report indicates that the law has…made prostitutes much more susceptible to violence at the hands of their clients as the sex trade moves further underground…Many of the women also said the new law had scared off many of their more reliable customers, while troublesome and violent clients were relatively undeterred…

The fact that the ban hasn’t decreased prostitution may also help:  “In 2011, the number of prostitutes…rose by 28 percent compared to the previous year, according to…Pro Sentret, the country’s official help centre for prostitutes…

Meanwhile, in France:

…Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the [French] women’s rights minister…said in an interview that she would be organising a conference of experts on how to contain the sex-trade and human-trafficking… “Since the 19th century and…Josephine Butler, Britain and France have been the core countries in the international mobilisation against prostitution.  I really hope that these common roots are still alive”…

I hope so, too; though Josephine Butler was against prostitution personally and promoted the idea of whores as “victims”, she also opposed the idea of using laws to control or “abolish” it.

Yellow Fever (June 18th, 2012)

If you thought 20 clients a night was a bit hard to believe, and 35 a night wholly absurd, how do you feel about 50?

Tamara Vandermoon…ran away when she was 12, the same age she turned her first trick…before she knew it she was prostituting herself up to 50 times a night, the money going to her pimp or to feed [her] drug habit…When it comes to child and adolescent sex-trafficking in the United States, the FBI ranks Minneapolis-St. Paul among the top 13…With its tangle of highways…its year-round sporting events and frequent conventions, millions pass through on any given day…many teens who wind up in the sex trade are runaways targeted by men who coerce or threaten them through physical or psychological abuse…

It would be hard to imagine a more ludicrous collection of myths and fallacies in one short article.  Besides the turgid client count there’s the ridiculous belief that a large number of highways constitutes evidence that a city is a “sex trafficking” hub, the myth that sporting events attract whores and the lie that most teen whores are recruited by “pimps”, and that’s just in the first six bite-sized paragraphs (before it descends into badge-licking, “trafficking” platitudes and “end demand” rhetoric).  I almost feel I should stand up and applaud.

My Favorite TV Dramas (June 27th, 2012)

William Shatner gets it, even if the former mayor of Ilfracombe doesn’t:

Star Trek actor William Shatner…[appeared on] the BBC show Have I Got News for You…When he mispronounced the town’s name, guest panellist Charlie Brooker said he had made it sound “deeply sexual” and Shatner replied:  “The place is laced with prostitution.”  [Paul Crabb, Former Mayor of Ilfracombe] emailed Shatner’s agents:  “As Captain James T Kirk, Mr Shatner has been to places where no man has gone before, however, [this]…clearly shows he has never been [here].  If he came, we could show him that there is no prostitution in Ilfracombe”…In an email…Shatner replied that prostitution “commonly means sex for something of value…I would be hard pressed to believe that sex was not being had in Ilfracombe for something of value, perhaps a lengthy marriage, children or a valuable career.  In any event, my apologies for having singled out Ilfracombe as a potential haven for prostitution…”

N.B:  With 10,840 people, Ilfracombe might have as many as 15 whores.


Counterfeit Comfort in TW3 (#8) (February 26th, 2012)

Louisiana just won’t give up trying to destroy people’s lives:

A new Louisiana law requires sex offenders…to state their criminal status on their Facebook or other social networking page…[it] builds upon existing sex offender registration laws, in which the offender must notify immediate neighbors and a school district of his or her residency near them…The law states that…[a registrant] “shall include in his profile…an indication that he is a sex offender or child predator and shall include notice of the crime for which he was convicted, the jurisdiction of conviction, a description of his physical characteristics… and his residential address”…

In other words, he’s “required” to provide lunatics with detailed instructions to make it easier to murder him.  No doubt other states will follow Louisiana’s lead, despite the fact that onerous sex offender notification requirements are known to increase the risk of re-offense by socially isolating the registrant.

Coming and Going in TW3 (#17) (April 28th, 2012)

Anna Gristina finally left prison Tuesday evening after her bail was reduced to a more reasonable figure:

…A Manhattan judge signed…Anna Gristina’s $250,000 bond package, clearing the way for her to be released with an ankle bracelet…Gristina, 44, is a mother of four who tends to rescued pigs…but prosecutors say she also was the madam of an upscale sex service for 15 years…Gristina has said she was merely starting a matchmaking service, not peddling prostitutes…

Tracy Quan published an interesting article on Gristina’s defense which points out, as I have before, that the line between matchmaking and “pandering” is a purely arbitrary one.

Bad Fantasy, Good Reality in TW3 (#20) (May 19th, 2012)

Dr. Kimberly Hoang was not satisfied with merely publishing the truth about Vietnamese sex workers in her dissertation; she also gave an interview to Vietnamese media:

…Dr Kimberly Kay Hoang…[said] “Most people assume that women engaging in the sex industry do so because they are kidnapped, forced, or coerced into sex work…However, few studies have been able to furnish empirical evidence to support these claims…Legalizing this work would provide women with the same legal rights as other working people”…

What a Week! in TW3 (#22) (June 3rd, 2012)

As part of the process of licensing what will be Australia’s largest brothel, Urbis think tank did a study on the effects of brothels on neighborhoods.  Its findings?

There is not a definitive relationship between the opening and expansion of…brothels and any increase in crime.

There is no proven correlation between decreases in property value and the location of sex premises in an area.

There is no evidence that anti-social behaviour in inner city areas can be attributed to the clients or staff of sex premises.

So, sex industry premises, much like other contentious uses such as funeral parlours, can cause a level of discomfort for some members of the community.  At the same time, the sex industry has a role to play in the social and economic vibrancy of cities and sex premises are a legal and legitimate land use.

One Year Ago Today

June Q & A” defines my own terms “archeofeminism” and “neofeminism”, discusses the Indonesian “Obedient Wives Club” and offers assistance to a man who has difficulty achieving orgasm with a partner.

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I have answered three questions, and that is enough.  –  Lewis Carroll, “Father William”

Enough for one column, that is; if you have one, send it along for next time.

I’ve been seeing a working girl I really like, and I think she likes me too, at least enough that she felt comfortable scheduling a day-long sightseeing trip with me in a few weeks.  But I have my suspicions that she may not be doing this work out of her free will (i.e., she may be trafficked or otherwise forced into this).  She works from 10 am until midnight 6 days a week, and is certainly not keeping the entire donation; she has both a boss and an operator who takes the appointments.  She’s Asian and speaks virtually no English, and has been working only for a few weeks.  She has very few possessions and sleeps in the same apartment where she works, and another girl works from a second bedroom while the operator works in the living room.  I’d really like to help this girl because I think she’s too sweet to be in whatever situation she’s in.  Could you give me some advice on how to approach the subject and how I could help her?

In “A False Dichotomy”, I pointed out that only the Paris Hiltons of the world freely choose to work; the rest of us have to do something, and our choices are limited by our abilities, temperament and  opportunities.  If any of those factors are unusually narrow, choices can be very constrained indeed; furthermore, a person may elect to temporarily perform a job he would not otherwise choose because it opens a door to greater opportunities later.  This last is especially true for immigrants from poor countries; lack of education, language barriers and the high cost of migration present formidable obstacles to employment, so upon first arriving in a country a person might indeed take a job he doesn’t really care to do as a stepping-stone toward something better.  For men, that’s often agricultural or other manual labor; for women it’s often domestic or sex work.

Could your lady friend have been coerced in some way?  Anything’s possible, but nothing you’ve written points to that.  You seem to think her hours are long, but I worked the same number per week and so do lots of people in sales jobs.  You say she isn’t keeping her entire fee, but I’m sure you expect the operator to be paid and her employer to make a profit; I daresay you don’t keep all the money that passes through your hands at work, either, but that doesn’t mean you’re “trafficked”.  And you say she has few possessions, but since she speaks virtually no English and has only been working a few weeks, it’s likely she hasn’t been in the country much longer than that, and would therefore have only those things she could afford to transport…which probably wasn’t much.

She may have incurred a debt to migrate; she may even be paying a rate of interest you or I would consider usurious, or be subject to other unpleasant conditions…but I could say the same thing about medical interns.  None of that means she did not choose her situation as the best available one, nor that she regrets her choice.  As I pointed out in “Thought Experiment” (which I strongly urge you to read), you have to give her the same respect as you would give anyone else; if you wouldn’t interfere in the affairs of a waitress, clerk or barber, you shouldn’t do it to a whore, either.  You’ve scheduled a day-long trip with her, and since you like her you’ll undoubtedly continue to visit her after that; if she is genuinely in trouble and sincerely wants your help, she will eventually find a way to ask you for it.  But if she doesn’t, you have to allow her the dignity of her own choice, even if you don’t like that choice.

I met an escort for the first time about 10 months ago and saw her again 3 months ago, and in the meantime she and I have exchanged emails; besides scheduling visits we also discuss personal things, and I find myself attracted to her (not just physically).  I’m aware that from her perspective being polite and friendly (and sounding interested in her clients’ activities and interests) is good for business, but is there any way to tell the difference?

For women there’s a third possibility between “just being nice because it’s her job” and “sexually interested”:  it’s “genuine like”.  Men tend to be (not always, but usually) dualistic about women; either they’re attracted or they aren’t.  But women often like men as people without feeling a sexual attraction, hence the dreaded “friend zone” men complain about.  There were a lot of my clients I enjoyed talking to and socializing with, even though I would never have had sex with them had money not been involved.  It’s really impossible for me to tell from a distance which group your escort belongs to, but while you’re trying to figure it out it’s important for you to remember that her affection could be sincere without being romantic.

What are your views on group sex when it is all male and you are the only female?  I’m not sure how to handle the situation or what the best way to go about it would be.

My feelings about group sex where I’m the only woman are a lot like my feelings about being whipped: I’m really excited about it beforehand and get very turned on thinking about it after it’s over, but while it’s going on I’m mostly concentrating on getting through it.  I know that may seem paradoxical, but sex is strange that way; sometimes the fantasy is a lot better than the reality.  So don’t be disappointed if it falls short of your expectations; it’s still an amazing experience and fun to talk about later.  When it’s one guy and multiple women things are a lot easier, because most women don’t mind a little kissing and touching or rubbing against other women even if they’re not really bisexual; they get caught up in the moment so (as the expression goes) “it’s all good”.  But when it’s one woman dealing with a group of men she’ll be the focus of the whole thing, and while that’s exciting and exhilirating it’s also exhausting!  Obviously that’s much less so if some of the guys involved are bisexual, but that’s really a different situation so for purposes of simplicity let’s just assume these are all strictly hetero guys we’re talking about.

Experience has taught me that even two at the same time is a handful, and three is about the practical maximum a skilled girl can work on at once.  Yes, four is theoretically possible because you’ve got two hands, but you’d be surprised how much more difficult it is than three unless you have no gag reflex at all and the guys don’t mind pressing awfully close to one another.  If you’re dealing with more than three guys it’s probably best to do it “train” or gang-bang style, with men taking turns rather than coming at you simultaneously from all directions.  In a situation like that the action should occupy the center of the area, so the others can watch from the sidelines.

However, if you’re actually going to interact with more than one man simultaneously (i.e. true group sex rather than a “train”) it is absolutely imperative that you can trust at least one of them to protect your safety; it’s very easy for the one entering you vaginally or anally to slip off the condom while your attention is elsewhere, but if one of the men really cares about you he will also be watching to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Men can be incredibly foolish when it comes to condoms; roughly a third of them will happily enter a whore or other promiscuous woman without any protection whatsoever, and since the most serious common disease today (HIV) is much more easily transmitted from man to woman than vice-versa, you have a lot more to lose than a would-be condom sneaker does.  Even if you’re taking them on only one at a time, I would still advise you to have at least one out of four you can totally trust; even nice, normal guys can get caught up in the heat of the moment and turn into a pack, and you need to have a couple there who can be counted on to keep their heads just in case some of the others get carried away.

One Year Ago Today

An essay demonstrating that the “sex trafficking” hysteria is “Rooted in Racism”.

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…and now for something completely different.  –  John Cleese

Yesterday I shared my favorite TV dramas with you, and today I’d like to do the same with my favorite TV comedies; at the end there’s a bonus list of my two favorite documentary series, which obviously wasn’t long enough for a column of its own.  Just as I did yesterday I’ve embedded videos of each show, with one exception (as you’ll see below).  Like yesterday’s, this list is arranged alphabetically.

1)  The Addams Family  Charles Addams had been doing his macabre cartoons for The New Yorker for over twenty years when a television producer decided they would make a clever television show.  Unlike the characters in the rival show The Munsters, the Addams family (named for the cartoonist) were not comical takeoffs on Universal movie monsters, but rather oddballs who were just plain weird rather than monstrous; that weirdness allowed them to get away with a great deal that other contemporary shows could not.  For example, Mr. and Mrs. Addams were the very first TV couple who were not only sexually interested in one another on-camera, but passionately interested.  It’s been one of my favorites since I first encountered it in afternoon reruns in the mid-1970s.

2)  The Adventures of Pete and Pete  Like the Addams family, the Wrigleys are just a little bent, but unlike the Addams most of their neighbors (many played by unexpected celebrities like Iggy Pop or Patty Hearst) are equally strange.  The show was originally a series of one-minute shorts which aired between shows on children’s cable network Nickelodeon in 1989 (here are the first two, “What Would You Do for a Dollar?” and “Freeze Tag”); they proved so popular the creators were asked to create a series of 30-minute specials and later a whole series.  The stories, especially in the first two regular seasons, achieve a rare mixture of hilarity and poignant sweetness that isn’t quite like anything else.

3)  Bewitched  There were quite a few fantasy situation comedies in the 1960s, but this was the best and most enduring of them; I was five years old when it finally went off the air, and it’s been in nigh-constant syndication ever since.  The lovely Elizabeth Montgomery played a witch married to a mortal, and the friction between the two worlds (most often in the person of her interfering mother) created an endless number of comical situations which rarely fail to amuse and are often hilarious.  One of the show’s greatest strengths was its masterful use of character actors appearing as witches and other magical beings, animals or monsters in human form, or even historical personages summoned into the present by errant spells.

4)  The Bullwinkle Show  This show was originally named Rocky and His Friends, but after Rocky’s sidekick Bullwinkle became the more popular character, the title was changed for the fourth season and used for all the seasons in syndication.  The show aired in the evenings, and like the classic Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons was intended for adults.  But for some reason I’ve never quite understood Americans collectively decided in the mid-1960s that cartoons were “kid stuff”, and that attitude persisted until the advent of The Simpsons in 1989.  Bullwinkle’s producer, Jay Ward, was among the first to prove that by use of crude, limited animation held up by funny scripts and talented voice actors, a quality cartoon could be produced at a very reasonable cost; though it’s doubtful that any television show has ever been animated more crudely, it’s equally doubtful that any has ever been as funny, clever and sly.

5)  Fawlty Towers  John Cleese stars as Basil Fawlty, a rude, incompetent and self-important innkeeper whose schemes to improve his business, keep the riff-raff out and stay out of trouble with his shrewish wife lead to twelve of the funniest half-hours ever committed to videotape.  There aren’t many shows that can make me laugh so hard I literally cry, but this is one.

6)  The Good Life  This British sitcom premiered the same year (1975) as Fawlty Towers, but they’re not very much alike; though this series (which was broadcast in the US as The Good Neighbors) is very funny, its humor is cuter and more gentle than the manic hilarity of Fawlty.  The story follows an engineer who decides to get out of the rat race by quitting his job and taking up farming…in the upscale London suburb of Surbiton, much to the consternation of his good-natured but snobbish neighbors.

7)  Green Acres  No, I’m not obsessed with shows about successful men who quit the rat race to become farmers; honestly I’m not.  Besides, the hero of this show is a lawyer, and instead of farming in the suburbs he moves to a very weird rural town whose inhabitants make the eccentric population of Pete & Pete’s Wellsville look like models of sanity in comparison.  Even the laws of nature here seem to work in a more surreal fashion, and on more than one occasion characters are able to read credits, hear incidental music and otherwise break the fourth wall.

8)  Making Fiends  This is a web cartoon created by the astonishingly talented Amy Winfrey; it’s absolutely one of the funniest  things I’ve ever seen while still being 100% “clean” and incredibly charming.  She did six half-hour shows for Nickelodeon in 2008, but the originals are still online and pack more laughs into a few minutes than most sitcoms can generate in several episodes.

9)  Monty Python’s Flying Circus  As with Star Trek and Twilight Zone yesterday, I honestly don’t think I can say anything useful about this landmark series in the space I have to work with.  The influence of this bizarre, zany, irreverent, erudite and wholly original sketch comedy show on everything that has come after it is incalculable; even our use of the word “spam” to mean junk email derives from a Python sketch depicting a diner in which Spam (the meat) is served with every single dish whether one wants it or not.

10)  Red Dwarf   Imagine a science fiction show that totally succeeds as a comedy, or a hilarious comedy which is better science fiction than the majority of shows in that genre, and you’ve got Red Dwarf.  A perennial loser is placed in stasis for violating ship’s rules and emerges 3,000,000 years later to find the entire crew was killed in a radiation accident soon after he was frozen; his only companions are the ship’s computer, a hologram simulation of the dead bunkmate he couldn’t stand, and a humanoid creature who evolved from the ship’s cat.  Hijinks ensue.

My Favorite TV Documentaries

1)  Connections  Veteran journalist James Burke examines the interdependence of technology by demonstrating how each new discovery leads to wholly unpredictable effects that trigger change in apparently-unrelated areas; in each episode he takes one ancient or medieval development (such as the stirrup or the water wheel) and demonstrates how it set off a series of interlinked events leading to the development of a major technological device of the modern world (such as computers or nuclear weapons).  Sound interesting?  You can watch the first episode, “The Trigger Effect”, in its entirety right here.

2)  Cosmos  Three decades of cable TV networks wholly dedicated to documentaries still haven’t produced a science show as interesting or entertaining as Carl Sagan’s 1980 magnum opus, which is why it’s still highly regarded today despite the fact that a little (though not much) of its science is now dated.  In a way this show and Connections were inspirations for this blog, because both of them showed me it was possible to be informative and entertaining at the same time.  I also have Cosmos to thank for introducing me to the music of Vangelis, one of my favorite musicians.

Today’s puzzle:  One of today’s series and three of yesterday’s feature main characters who appear in every episode (or nearly so), despite the fact that they’re already dead by the end of the first episode.  How many more can you think of?

One Year Ago Today

In “A Decent Boldness” we make the acquaintance of Aella, an Amazon of the mythic past who finds herself stranded on the far side of the world, broke and unable to speak the language, and has to figure out how she’s going to survive.

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You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.  –  Rod Serling

Since this feature has proven much more popular than I expected, this month I’d like to share my favorite TV shows with you; today we’ll look at my favorite dramas, and tomorrow my favorite comedies.  And when I say “look at” I mean that literally; instead of using still pictures I’ve embedded a YouTube video of the introduction to each show.  Since it’s not unusual for shows to change the graphics or even the theme music in successive seasons, I’ve selected my favorite ones (when available).  Since the entertainment industry has become obsessed with recycling of late, most of these series have been remade or turned into movies, but in each case the one I like is the original.  The list is arranged alphabetically, and one thing that may strike you is that there’s a lot of British TV here (4 of 10 in each list) and a preponderance of 1960s shows (half of each list).  The reason for that is, I was already becoming annoyed with the stupidity of American network television by the time I was 11 or 12, and stopped watching it entirely in 1980.  After that it was nothing but public TV and cable through the entire ‘80s, which meant I saw a lot of British shows; I first saw the two post-1980 American shows on this list in the late ‘90s on cable.

1)  The Avengers  Though this series premiered in the UK years before the mid-‘60s spy craze, it was syndicated to American television from its fourth season on because of it; the video I’ve showcased here was a short introduction for American viewers which came just before the opening credits in that first syndicated season, so it may be new to my UK and Commonwealth readers.  In its first three seasons (never seen in the US until the ‘90s) the show was a straight drama, but later seasons incorporated the unique style and comedic elements for which the show became known.  I first discovered it in early ‘70s reruns, and Diana Rigg was the first woman I can remember being attracted to.

2)  Batman (The Animated Series)  Not the Adam West TV show, y’all; this was the first production from the revived Warner Brothers animation department in the early ‘90s, and it is widely considered the finest animated TV show ever made.  The stories were scripted with adults in mind; they were complex, emotionally realistic and beautifully animated, and each episode was separately scored with a full orchestra.  Perhaps best of all, the voices were provided by regular actors, not “cartoon voices”, and it shows.

3)  Dr. Who  This classic British science fantasy serial had been around for almost two decades before debuting on American public television in 1981, starting from the first story with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.  By the second week I was hooked, and by the third I no longer cared about the community-theater special effects because the stories, acting and everything else were so good.  Our local PBS station eventually aired all the ‘60s episodes and new episodes as well until its cancellation in 1989, and if the BBC ever gets off its collective arse and packages the serials properly by season, I intend to buy all the first five Doctors.  Since fans will want to know:  my Doctor order of preference is 4, 3, 5, 2, 1, 7, 6.

4)  Kolchak:  The Night Stalker  Because my mother never allowed me to watch “scary shows” I first heard of this from other kids, and saw it in syndication in the early ‘80s.  Carl Kolchak is a hard-boiled reporter who investigates all sorts of supernatural occurrences, though much to his chagrin the stories are usually discarded by his long-suffering editor.  The series has a strong current of black humor and has been named as an inspiration for a number of other shows, including The X Files.

5)  Kung Fu  Since we only had one television set and my parents weren’t interested, I had to wait until this acclaimed and groundbreaking series was syndicated in the mid-1980s to see it.  It is impossible to overstate the influence of this “Eastern Western”, not only because it spurred a martial arts craze and awakened American interest in Asian philosophy, but more generally in pioneering techniques such as extensive use of flashback and presenting combat in slow motion.

6)  The Outer Limits  Though I had read about this series and even owned an episode guide, I never actually saw it until an independent TV station picked it up in 1984; even then I only saw a few until cable network TNT broadcast them as part of its Monstervision series in the early ‘90s.  While not as consistently outstanding as The Twilight Zone, this series is still a lot of fun and there were a number of excellent and thought-provoking episodes.

7)  The Prisoner  By the end of his extremely popular Danger Man series  (syndicated to the US as Secret Agent), Patrick McGoohan was the most highly-paid television actor in the world, and one of the most respected; he then used his clout to get this 17-episode series produced.  It’s doubtful anyone else could’ve; the series is a strange, enigmatic and compelling dramatization of the right of the individual to be individual in the face of a totalitarian surveillance state.  If you’ve never seen it, the three-minute introduction below will give you a good idea of the premise.

8)  Sherlock Holmes  England’s Granada television produced what I and many other Sherlockians consider the finest of all Holmes series.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ran for two seasons and was later followed by The Return of Sherlock HolmesThe Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, though they are here considered all one series.  Jeremy Brett was to me the perfect Holmes, and the series’ production values were impeccable; only a few of the adaptations strayed very far from the spirit and substance of Doyle’s stories.

9)  Star Trek  I’m sure everyone knew this would be here; is it really necessary for me to introduce this series?  Anything I might say is probably already familiar to 95% of my readers.  So let me just tell you that I was a really, really major Trekkie, and had every book and model (though I must confess I wasn’t all that good at putting them together and had to ask Jeff for help).  Of the sequels I like the animated series best, followed by Enterprise; Next Generation and Deep Space Nine are good but not in my opinion up to the same level as the original, and Voyager was to me completely unwatchable.  Of the movies, I only consider The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country truly worthy of the legacy; the former is in the second tier of my favorite movies.

10)  The Twilight Zone  Another obvious choice; I have loved this show since first seeing it in reruns as a child, and can remember excitedly repeating the plots to friends in second grade.  When the local PBS station started rerunning them on Sunday nights in the early ‘80s, I actually wired up a kill switch on the ancient Motorola I had inherited from my great-grandmother so I could watch them from bed and instantly kill the picture if my mother came in.  As with Star Trek, I doubt this show needs an introduction even to most international readers, so I’ll just say that I decided to showcase the first-season opening with the haunting Bernard Herrmann theme rather than the more familiar Marius Constant one.

Two Honorable Mentions

I decided to list these two separately due to issues of scale; the first is an incomplete series which was not renewed and therefore ends in a cliffhanger, while the second was a soap opera with 1225 episodes.

1)  American Gothic  This horror series was stylish, sexy and very daring, but upset and confused TV executives so much they did their best to kill it and eventually succeeded.  It was moved around the schedule without warning and episodes were aired out of sequence or skipped entirely, making the intricate storyline literally impossible to follow.  Fortunately I didn’t see it until it was broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel, complete and in order, in the late ‘90s.  The show didn’t really have a traditional intro, but that’s OK because this trailer will give you an idea of the premise and plot.

2)  Dark Shadows  This soap opera premiered in 1966 as a gothic, but began to introduce supernatural elements about six months later and eventually featured witchcraft, werewolves, time travel, astral projection, Dorian Grey portraits and many other such ideas, often drawn from famous horror novels (including a confusing and not-very-good Lovecraft sequence).  The tortured, all-too-human vampire Barnabas Collins eventually became the star of the show and paved the way for every humanized vampire that came after him, thus making this series the ancestor of everything from Anne Rice to Twilight, though IMHO better than any of them and deserving of a true homage instead of the mess Tim Burton recently served up.

I’ll close with a little game for y’all; though I find a number of the male stars of these shows attractive, there’s only one I will consistently name if asked to give examples of celebrities I find attractive.  Let’s see how well y’all know me; I’ll give you the answer Friday.

One Year Ago Today

Delicious Poison” reports on the abuse of a cattle steroid named Oradexon in the brothels of Bangladesh, and the predictable Western response to it.

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Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes and these must be repeated again and again.  –  Adolf Hitler

Back in antediluvian times we had these plastic discs called “records”; they were a lot like CDs except bigger and usually (though not always) black.  They held a lot less music than CDs do, and because they were played via the barbaric expedient of actually dragging a diamond-tipped needle along a long spiral groove etched into their surfaces, they were subject to damage which might cause the needle to jump grooves (thus skipping portions of songs) or even worse, to jump backward and thereby play the same phrase of music over and over and over and over and over and over again until one either moved the needle or became infuriated enough to hurl the disc against the wall, shattering it into a number of vinyl shards.

OK, so I’m kidding just a bit; most of my readers are old enough to remember vinyl records, and even those who aren’t have probably seen them in movies or at your parents’ houses.  But when I was trying to think of a title for this essay and “broken record” leaped to mind, it occurred to me that some of my readers under 30 might not have an instant understanding of the phrase as we senior citizens do.  It was a common expression at one time:  “he sounds like a broken record” was immediately understood by almost everyone to mean that the person so described tended to repeat himself both mindlessly and endlessly.  In this case, it’s the moronic gypsy whores myth:  you know, the claim that there is a Lost Tribe of Gomorrah some 40,000 or more strong who are “trafficked” around the globe in pursuit of major sporting events.  Nobody ever sees them come or go, and nobody knows where they sleep or work; the high cost and low availability of hotel rooms at such events has no effect on these mysterious harlot nomads, who move like shadows, live in invisible tents and caravans and then vanish into the dust like Bradbury’s Autumn People until the next mega-competition.  Repeated debunking has no more effect on those who repeat this nonsense than it would on a skipping record; they’ll just go on and on and on in the same old groove until jarred out of it by physical force.

Perhaps that force is on the way, at least for the London Olympics; though the BBC has generally embraced trafficking hysteria, it must be given credit for publishing an article by Mario Cacciottolo which references several of the studies I’ve linked in the past and includes passages like this:

…Tessa Jowell, who once told the Commons about her determination to combat sex trafficking at London 2012, now admits that “current intelligence would suggest that we are unlikely to see large scale trafficking into London as a result of the Games”…Jowell also says that it is “hard to know” whether the lack of evidence for Games-related trafficking “was a result of the measures that were put in place” by her officials “or whether the threat simply hasn’t materialised”…[and] a Met Police Authority report on SCD9 published in October 2011 said the “intelligence currently held does not support any increase in prostitution in the Olympic Boroughs and actually shows a decrease in some locations”…Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff has compiled the Silence on Violence report which also says there is “no strong evidence that trafficking for sexual exploitation does in fact increase during sporting events”.  He also says raids on brothels were increasing as the Olympics approached…Sarah Walker, of the English Collective of Prostitutes, echoes this view, saying recent frequent police raids on east London brothels represent a pre-Olympics crackdown…Another group representing sex workers, x:talk, is calling for a moratorium on arrests, the detention and deportation of sex workers until the end of the Olympics…

Dr. Brooke Magnanti also wrote on the subject, but because she is a retired call girl herself and doesn’t have to be politically correct, she didn’t mince words or quote weaselly politicians as the BBC article did:

You might be wondering…why there isn’t sex trafficking during these events.  The answer is simple.  Criminals may be criminals, but organised crime does not exist for the purpose of being evil.  It exists to make loads of tax-free dosh.  Does it make financial sense for sex trafficking to occur at these events?  With London rents skyrocketing around the venues, with the Home Office plans to tighten border security, with the police already well misinformed about the magnitude of the trafficking problem, you’d have to be mad to pursue this as a business plan.  There was perhaps a time, back in the 90s, when sex trafficking in some parts of Eastern Europe might have netted you some cash if you already had the distribution network, but it’s not the case now.  Add to that a large proportion of the UK native population willing and legally able to exchange money for sex and you’d be laughed out of Dragon’s Den for even suggesting it as a goer…

In spite of all this, we are still treated…with the same old guff such as stories that sex trafficking ‘almost doubled’ during the Athens Olympics.  In this particular case, ‘almost doubled’ means that the number of reported incidents was 181, a 90% increase over the previous year.  So yes, they did ‘almost double’.  However…in the year before the Athens Olympics, the reports of sex trafficking at 95 represented 0.45% of all prostitution in Greece.  And after the Olympics? 0.86%.  Less than 1% of prostitutes in Greece were trafficked both before and after the Olympics…Let’s say in the year 2008, there was 1 death in all of Scotland from a vending machine falling on someone.  Then let’s say a year later, in 2009, there were 2 such deaths.  While it would be technically true to say that the number of vending machine accidental deaths ‘doubled’, is this a fair representation of the data?  Is this a significant trend that is likely to continue?…The change from 1 to 2 in a given year seems clearly attributable to chance…

She then goes on to point out that when police are given extra money and told to find “trafficked women”, but there are few or no trafficked women to find, they harass consensual sex workers instead.  Hence, x:talk’s call for a moratorium on arrests which was mentioned in the BBC article, Magnanti’s article above and another in The Guardian which quoted her.  X:talk has drafted  a petition asking the Mayor of London and police officials to stop this pointless, dangerous political exercise and leave sex workers alone, at least until the end of the Olympics, and I’d like to join x:talk and Dr. Magnanti in asking that you consider signing it.  Perhaps together we can jar the needle out of the groove for now, at least until the next time the record is placed on the turntable for the next major sporting event.

One Year Ago Today

We often discuss the advantages of decriminalization for sex workers, but “If It Were Legal” examines ways in which it would benefit clients and academics.

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The only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts – that is where the battle should be fought.  –  Mahatma Gandhi

Last month I published “Traffic Jam”, in which I demonstrated the close resemblance between the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and today’s “sex trafficking” hysteria.  I spoke of the beginning, course and end of both panics, but I also pointed out via my epigram that such fanatical beliefs never really end; what actually happens is that a specific incarnation of hysteria dies off, the cult goes underground until it figures out a new way to peddle its hate to the society at large, and then the whole thing starts all over again.  The particulars of the myth may change in the intervening years, but the underlying cultic belief system, the ur-myth if you will, continues on until it bursts forth in some new monstrous form (or, as pointed out in my column of one year ago today, an old form again).  Usually those of us who spend the majority of our time in the waking world only get to see that portion of the religious mystery the cultists choose to reveal to outsiders, but in rare circumstances the myth may be sufficiently exposed to sunlight that we can see a large portion of it at once.  Such a case came to my attention via Dr. Laura Agustín’s column of May 1st, 2011; I’m not sure how I missed it last year but I rediscovered it by serendipity while searching for the first illustration in “Traffic Jam”.

In most countries, neofeminists move largely in academic and governmental circles; though they enable each others’ delusions as all cultists do, they are also forced to deal with men and non-neofeminist women and are therefore held at least tenuously in contact with reality.  But in Sweden, neofeminism did not begin to wither after its heyday in the early ‘90s as it did nearly everywhere else; instead, it was enabled by politicians for their own reasons and became ever stronger, resulting in the Swedish Model and other bizarre growths which I’ve detailed on numerous occasions.  Because their nightmarish fantasies were not only encouraged by “authorities” but even financed with public funds, Swedish neofeminists were freed from the necessity of even the most superficial grounding in mundane fact, and thus developed a narrative which combines the Satanic Panic, child sex abuse hysteria and “sex trafficking” hysteria into a single unified myth.  This bizarre cult was first fully exposed to the Swedish public in the 2005 documentary Könskriget, which is usually translated as “The Gender War” but, as this article explains,

…can more appropriately be translated as “The Sex War”: for this isn’t just about man versus woman – this is about woman against sex.  The women involved in this “struggle” – something they themselves call “a universal civil war” – aren’t merely disappointed with their previous relationships – they want men gone completely, they hate men, they want the male of the species literally eradicated – wiped out.

Courtesy of a commenter on Agustín’s blog, here’s the documentary with English subtitles:

The video opens with Eva Lundgren, a neofeminist professor of theology (!), “explaining” that a worldwide male cult controlled from the United Nations dominates both the armaments industry and the porn industry; they abduct young girls, impregnate them, then when the fetuses are old enough they cut them out of the girls’ wombs and sacrifice them.  They then magically heal the girls’ wounds, wipe their memories, and return them to their homes; also, they use magical pills to make the dead fetuses explode.  Other feminists dismiss those who point out that these claims are literally impossible by alleging that science and statistics are also controlled by the secret Satanist Patriarchy.

One of these was Ireen von Wachenfeldt, the director of the organization (ROKS) which controls most of the women’s shelters in Sweden; Könskriget shows how “counselors” from ROKS abducted two young women who came to them for help, cutting them off from outside communication (because they were supposedly being pursued by the Satanists) and spiriting them off to Norway with the help of Gunilla Ekberg, the Swedish government’s “expert” on prostitution and one of the architects of the Swedish Model.  The two girls slipped (unsurprisingly) into a deep depression, and one tried to commit suicide three times; her abductors refused to take her to the hospital because the health-care system is of course also controlled by the Patriarchy.  Eventually they were rescued from the psychotic ROKS women by a Norwegian feminist.  The documentary precipitated a firestorm, and von Wachenfeldt was forced out as head of ROKS; amazingly, the government dismissed the public outcry against Ekberg, despite the fact that she threatened the female interviewer on camera (apparently believing it was not running).  Though she eventually resigned over the continuing controversy, she became the executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), one of the most influential promoters of trafficking hysteria, and is a sort of unofficial ambassador for the Swedish Model, especially in Canada.

Another neofeminist Swedish politician with ties to ROKS is Marianne Ny, Sweden’s Director of Public Prosecutions (and therefore the author of the persecution of Julian Assange); her chief pre-Assange claim to fame was her unremitting effort to make sex laws ever more restrictive, and she operates under the principle that a woman’s consent is not a valid defense against rape.  Retired judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman wrote,

Ms Ny…is known to have said that when a woman says she has been assaulted by a man, the man ought to be detained because it is not until he is in prison that the woman may have the peace to consider whether or not she has been mistreated.  Ms Ny…believes that imprisoning the man has a positive effect, “even in cases where the perpetrator is prosecuted but not convicted”.  It is also informative, in regards to the presumption of innocence, that she uses the term “perpetrator” rather than “defendant” or “suspect” in discussing criminal investigation in rape cases.

As I’ve previously pointed out, these laws are unpopular in Sweden despite neofeminist claims to the contrary; 88% of Swedes say the laws are too harsh, and 81% say they’re “very angry” about the sex purchase law.  But it’s far too late to protest now; like its mythical diabolical adversary, the Cult of Swedish Neofeminism has its claws in every institution in the country, and they’re going to have a devil of a time exorcising it.

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For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales.
  –  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Locksley Hall”

Ray Bradbury’s passing on the 6th set off a chain of thoughts and reminiscences about my lifelong love of astronomy and space travel.  Ever since I was a small child, I dreamed of visiting other worlds, and eagerly devoured books and shows which allowed me to do so in my imagination.  It didn’t much matter to me whether the stories were realistic or fantastic, hard science fiction or pure fantasy, illustrated or not; I was just as happy with Adam Strange’s travels by zeta-beam to the planet Rann as I was with John Carter’s astral projection to Mars or the voyages of the starship Enterprise, and every bit as fascinated by the real moon landings as I was by Dr. Dolittle’s lunar excursion on the back of an immense moth.

As so often happens, the fiction inspired me to explore the fact, and I read every book on astronomy and/or space travel I could get my hands on.  I must’ve read We Came in Peace (a pictorial history of the space program published a few months after the landing of Apollo 11) dozens of times, and about 6 or 7 years ago was overjoyed to discover a copy in a used-book store in New Orleans while I was killing time between calls.  By the time I reached high school I was determined to be an astronomer, but after I saw Cosmos I modified that to “astronomy popularizer” instead; I wanted to be a female Carl Sagan, writing books explaining science in general and astronomy in particular to lay people.  I figured I might even get my own show one day, using my sex appeal to bring the viewers in.  That dream never quite went away, either; when Denise won a scholarship in chemistry and her friend Jane (to whom I was also very close) excelled in pursuing a physics degree, we conceived of the notion of trying to sell one of the cable networks a show called The Astronomy Babes after the two of them had earned their PhDs.  I would also go back for my doctorate in library science, and the three of us would host the show together, talking about astronomy and space science dressed in sexy outfits.  I think it would’ve been a winner; we were all beautiful, intelligent and unusually busty, and each had her area of specialization (Jane would explain physics aspects, Denise chemistry, and I would handle the cultural and historical segments).  Alas, real life intervened for all three of us, but it’s fun to fantasize about an alternate world where our show is entering its third season and I’m raking in royalties from Astronomy Babes DVDs, T-shirts, web promotions, etc.

Realistically, a show like that takes some serious putting together and we probably would’ve all had to relocate to Los Angeles.  But I had one other astronomy-related fantasy which was much more achievable, and had I not fallen in love I would probably be living it right now.  What I envisioned was that after building my house I’d semi-retire around the age of 40, then go on tour to all the parts of the country where interesting astronomy projects were going on while Grace ran the agency at home.  I planned to take only one or two calls a day (mostly just enough to pay for hotels, food and gas), leaving plenty of time to do sightseeing, visit observatories, etc.  Like my heroine Phryne, I would have established a sliding scale: high prices for most clients, typical ones for highly-paid science types and nothing at all for astronomers and other scientists who took the time to give me tours and answer my questions.  I know I have a number of scientists as readers, and at least one astronomer, so I’m very sorry, guys; life always seems to take me in a different direction than I imagine it will.  Had I gone down that path I probably wouldn’t be doing this blog, which I humbly believe will prove more important in the long run.

Though I still love astronomy, it’s grown increasingly difficult for me to follow the newest developments.  Just a few weeks ago, for example, I read an article on the neutrino observatory in Antarctica which discussed neutrinos of different masses; now, although I was familiar with the idea that neutrinos might indeed have an infinitesimal mass, the last I heard (from an astrophysicist client back in 2000) was that the concept had been disproven…and here this new article is treating neutrino mass as an established fact!  And now they’re saying the Higgs boson could be detected any day now; I despair of keeping up.

Space travel, on the other hand, has become exactly the opposite for me now:  I still know what’s going on and have no problem understanding it; I simply don’t give a damn about it.  The endless delays of the shuttle program (chasing the ridiculous goal of eliminating all risk in an inherently dangerous pursuit), the bureaucratic obstacles which blocked all efforts at commercialization of the field so that we’ve only recently reached a point which should have been achieved about 30 years ago, the psychotic waste of trillions on warmongering, oppression and political games when a hundredth part of that could’ve opened up the solar system to us by now…all of these have contributed to my present attitude on the subject, which might be best described as, “wake me up when you actually do something.”  My attitude toward most recent science fiction cinema is similar; I see it as a lot of noise and flash with no real substance.

I no longer believe human beings will walk on Mars in my lifetime, nor that we will strike out for the stars anytime in the next several centuries unless we’re forced to by some unforeseen circumstance or easily enabled to by some unforeseen discovery; human society has turned in on itself again, as it has so many times before, and the hands that hold the purse-strings are more interested in their own petty power-games than exploring new worlds.  A new Enlightenment will come, as it always does, but I won’t see it in this incarnation; so of late I’ve turned away from what passes for space travel in the real world, and devoted my attention instead to explorations of the mind.  Though I will never set physical foot on another world myself I have walked a thousand of them in my imagination, and there is nothing to keep me from going outside on a clear summer night and turning my eyes upward to the stars.

One Year Ago Today

Dirty Whores” analyzes the reasons for the persistent myth of the diseased whore, and contrasts it with the truth of the subject.

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There is nothing so absurd that it cannot be believed as truth if repeated often enough.  –  William James

Sixteen updates and two metaupdates.

Rough Trade (Part One) (July 25th, 2010)

Ah, synchronicity; the same week this early essay was featured on Debatbond to introduce the topic “Can a prostitute be raped?”, two California lawyers presented their own views on the subject in court.  Representing the “no” position:

Prosecutors dropped rape charges…against…Michael Stanford…[Defense attorney Roberto] Dulce said…the alleged victim was a prostitute and…the sexual contact between her and Stanford was consensual…In a dispute over money, the woman accused Stanford of rape…Dulce said he had witnesses who would testify that they, too, had engaged in sex with the woman…

Yet she didn’t accuse the other “witnesses” of rape, probably because they didn’t rape her.  I think we can guess what happened; “dispute over payment” means he cheated her, but since Fresno isn’t Cartagena he got away with it.  The story says the charge was dropped because “the alleged victim could not be found for Stanford’s trial”; she was probably afraid to go into a building full of cops.  It might have been different in Modesto:  “[Judge Linda McFadden]…denied a motion to overturn a grand jury indictment against…police officer…Lee Freddie Gaines…The alleged victim…testified…that she was working as a prostitute…[when Gaines] handcuffed her and demanded oral sex…

Amsterdam (November 1st, 2010)

Despite a total lack of evidence, Dutch police and anti-whore politicians keep beating the “sex trafficking” drum:

…Amsterdam…plans to force brothel owners to submit a business plan to the city describing what measures they are taking to ensure sex workers are healthy and not being exploited…in recent years both the city and national government have become increasingly critical of the industry.  [They claim] many prostitutes are victims of human trafficking or coerced by pimps…

It’s impossible to prove a negative (“whores are not coerced”); that’s why the burden of proof is supposed to be on the accuser.  And greater legal restrictions will only force whores into the shadows, providing greater opportunity for coercion as they always do.

December Q & A (December 28th, 2010)

Not even doctors and scientists are immune to idiotic male-ego-boosting myths:

…A stem cell expert is looking to treat sex workers with their bodies’ own stem cells, so they can have tight, toned vaginal muscles…“The idea…was tried…by a team of scientists in Japan.  They recruited commercial sex workers who wished to give up the trade and get married…” said Dr Himanshu Bansal…The clinical trial involved mostly young women, some of them mothers, who were worried that their vaginal muscles were too lax…

I hate to break this to you, guys, but your penises are not as big as babies.  Not even close.  No amount of sex, commercial or otherwise, can loosen the vaginal muscles; only babies do that.  Notice that “some of them mothers?”  The truth is “most of them.”

I Really Shouldn’t Even LOOK at an Issue of Cosmopolitan (January 18th, 2011)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s willing to say out loud that Cosmo’s “sex advice” is ludicrous; Ben Reininga writes “Ridiculous Tips for a Miserable Sex Life”, which this month features his hilarious picks for Cosmo’s 44 most ridiculous tips of all time.  Enjoy.

A Narrow View (April 29th, 2011)

An organization of young Chicago sex workers fights for their rights against a system which treats them as infantilized victims:

When youth who live on the streets and work in the sex trade…are victimized…often the institutions that are supposed to help them…do more harm than good.  [Leaders of]…the Young Women’s Empowerment Project…said, “We don’t dictate a young person’s future and make decisions for them, we support them to make it on their own”…While many organizations dealing with sex workers aim to help them leave sex work, YWEP maintains that it is a valid individual choice and practices a harm reduction philosophy…

Social Construction of Eunuchs (July 18th, 2011)

Apparently forced feminization of little boys isn’t enough for Swedish neofeminists any more:

Vänsterpartiet, [a feminist socialist party,] tabled a motion that would require office washrooms to be genderless with a sit-down-only requirement…Party speakers cited medical research they said shows men empty their bladders more efficiently while seated…[which] reduces the risk for prostate problems…[motion author] Viggo Hansen…[said] the move does not represent an attempt to meddle in the bathroom habits of citizens…

Wholesale Hypocrisy (October 12th, 2011)

It’s always refreshing to see judges slap witch-hunters down:

Instead of presenting prostitution-related charges against former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia and others to a grand jury this week, prosecutors are now discussing the future of the case…[after] Judge Stan Whitaker…ruled that neither a website, an online message board nor a computer amount to a “house of prostitution or a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed”…Garcia’s attorney, Robert Gorence…last month called on District Attorney Kari Brandenburg “to…[exonerate] Dr. Garcia” after owning up to “the mistake she made when she bought in to APD’s flawed investigation and exaggerated charges…[Garcia] never received a penny from any such activities nor did he control or direct the activities of women who advertised as escorts”…

As another legal expert stated, “Connecting people to do whatever they want to do is not illegal, it never has been.”  And as Melissa Gira Grant succinctly put it, “Data is not prostitution.”

Forward and Backward (November 22nd, 2011)

While American prohibitionists continue to demand that whores’ advertising be censored, Spain has moved into the 21st century:  “…the Spanish parliament reversed a 2010 ban on advertising by…prostitutes and brothels…[in order] to stimulate Spain’s poor economy.  The sex industry spent approximately €40 million annually on advertising, according to a 2007 report…”  Perhaps if the economy continues to worsen, American politicians may eventually wake up; this is, after all, the same reason alcohol Prohibition was repealed in 1932.

The More the Better (January 9th, 2012)

This article about University of Wyoming students who work as strippers is not only fairly sensible, but includes these encouraging words from Women’s Studies (!) professor Susan Dewey:

“It is a reality that some women see sex work as a form of liberation…in recent years…trafficking has become conflated with sex work…I have many students who will use [the] terms prostitution and trafficking synonymously, interchangeably.  This is very, very problematic because when you say to someone ‘you do not have the right to do something legally’ that’s one thing…but when you say to a person ‘you think are making a choice but you’re actually not, because no person with self-respect would make that choice,’ that’s a real problem.”

The Course of a Disease (February  16th, 2012)

This week Scottish Labour MP Rhoda Grant was defeated in her attempt to fast-track Swedish Model legislation without allowing opponents to speak:

The proposal…must now go out to consultation, instead of taking a quicker route through the Scottish Parliament.  Ms Grant argued a previous attempt to pass such a law meant the issues had already been aired…A similar proposal in 2010 was opposed by ministers, who feared it would push the sex trade underground.  Critics of such legislation believe that making workers in the sex trade less visible to the authorities would place them in greater danger…

Here’s an example of how different the US and UK can be sometimes:  one of the groups opposed to client criminalization is the Association of Chief Police Officers.  Dr. Brooke Magnanti’s excellent essay on the issue concludes with the eminently-quotable line, “It’s time we started acting like grownups and stopped pretending that making something illegal makes it cease to exist.”

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

The new “Trafficking in Persons Report” has been released; Algeria, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Zimbabwe are now on Tier 3, “Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so” (those “standards” are defined by the US via methods it neither discusses with anyone else nor even explains).  Several other countries were raised to Tier 2 after they stepped up pogroms against whores (as Malaysia did in 2008), and Israel was promoted to Tier 1 (probably due to its flirtation with the Swedish Model).

The Immunity Syndrome (March 5th, 2012)

Parents in Onalaska, Washington are reportedly “furious” that a school principal honestly answered students’ questions in a sex education class; apparently, the parents expected her to lie, and one of them said that talking about sex in a sex education class is “just the same as raping somebody.”

Above the Law (March 8th, 2012)

The British government has finally admitted that cops are allowed to trick women into having sex while spying on them:  “[Home Office Minister Nick] Herbert said it was important police were allowed to have sex with activists because otherwise it could be used as a way of outing potential undercover officers…” In other words they’re allowed to do whatever they like, including rape, in order to accomplish whatever it is they want to do.

Little Boxes (April 29th, 2012)

The inevitable result of trying to make artificial distinctions between consensual behaviors:

The owner of a [Las Vegas] massage business…says she’s losing crucial business because of a [new] city law requiring her to close at 10 p.m…”If we don’t get an extension, I’ll be closed within a month…The daytime does not pull in what we need to cover.  It is barely paying the rent for that space and utilities.”  Mayor Carolyn Goodman said changing the ordinance for the Johnsons would set a precedent for more than 50 other “massage establishment” licensees…

As I’ve said before, “attempting to define sexuality…as being in the… ‘legal’ category rather than the…‘illegal’ one is a tacit acknowledgement that such lines of demarcation are valid and that government has the right to draw them…even if one wins the battle, the government can simply re-draw the line to include one’s entrenched position.”  The Johnsons are learning that the hard way.

Naked Truth (May 23rd, 2012)

I’m going to use this title for articles written by current or former sex workers in mainstream sites or publications.  This time, two outstanding pieces by Tits and Sass contributors:  “The Ways We Don’t Talk About Wealth” by Charlotte Shane in The New Inquiry, and “Can Sex Workers Transition to a Cashless Economy?” by Susan Shepard (AKA Bubbles Burbujas) in Forbes.

Reframing (June 20th, 2012)

My friend LilyRose sent me a link to this “reframed” trailer, which is exactly the opposite of the Mrs. Doubtfire one and just as clever:


Law of the Instrument in TW3 (#20) (May 19th, 2012)

Think about these stories next time you hear some “authority” blathering about how “trafficking” has increased.  The first one comes via Wendy Lyon:  “A 30-year-old man…[was] charged with an offence under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act…[after] travelling to Ireland [to meet] a child, having…communicated with that child on two or more previous occasions with the intent of doing an act that would constitute sexual exploitation…” And here’s another one from Minneapolis, Minnesota:

[Mickey Cupkie]…has been charged under Minnesota’s new Sex Trafficking law for having sex with two teen prostitutes, ages 15 and 17…The girls were runaways, says Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder…He says pimps picked the girls up…and then placed an add [sic] on Backpage.com…Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says he hopes the charges send a message to the Johns…

Said message being, “’trafficking’ means whatever we want it to mean, and if girls act alone we’ll just invent pimps and ‘traffickers’ to fit the narrative.”

See No Evil in TW3 (#21) (May 26th, 2012)

Even Sweden gets it right once in a while:  “Swedish news outlet The Local  reports that their Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on child pornography charges…The court’s decision reflects the viewpoint of free speech advocates…that sexually explicit manga images are…not child pornography…

One Year Ago Today

Lola Montez” was one of the most colorful courtesans of the 19th (or any other) century.

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Prejudice is the child of ignorance.  –  William Hazlitt

Every so often a reader asks a question so important that I feel it needs an entire column; this is one of those times.

I am a woman in my late twenties, and have been a part-time sex worker on and off for the last seven years.  I’ve been a prostitute, done porn, worked in a jack-off booth and am currently working as a stripper.  It has always been a way for me to get by or pay off debt while in school or pursuing some non- or low-paying interest.  I would like your opinion on coming out as a sex worker.  Aside from generally feeling that honesty and openness are key parts of close relationships, I also feel like this is important because I believe the impact of knowing someone who does (fill in the blank) can be huge in terms of changing prevailing attitudes (which is a big part of changing bad laws, in my opinion).

So then, it seems we should be out to our parents, our hairdressers and everyone in between.  However, I fear the backlash.  I fear that my very loving family would feel hurt by my choices; I know that people lose jobs over sex work done in the distant past; and perhaps most of all, I don’t love sex work.  It’s been a great help to me in life and I’m glad I’ve done it, but still it is and has been a part time job that I do for money, not a career I pursue because I love it.  I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with it and I am not ashamed, but I also don’t want to come across to people I meet as if it’s the most important part of my identity.  To me it is much like waiting tables, bartending or any other job that simply suits one well enough that they can stand it and do it competently. For example, I volunteer with a program to tutor school kids; I love it and would hate to give it up so when a fellow volunteer asks what I do, I lie.  I am much more interested in helping kids than I am in stripping; but guess which one people will pay me to do?  Yeah.  And that’s fine, but I wish prevailing attitudes were more understanding of this reality.

So – do you wish sex workers were balls to the walls out to all?  I want to fight the hypocrisy.  What do you think is the best way for sex workers to do so, ideally without completely compromising their futures that may or may not involve sex work?

It’s a very tough decision, and one every sex worker must make for herself because everyone’s situation is different.  You’ve done an excellent job here of summing up the pros and the cons:  on the one hand honesty, clarity and helping to fight prejudice; on the other family reactions and potential exclusion from things you really want to do.

I think it’s extremely important for women who don’t love the work to come out, because I honestly believe they’re the majority.  Everybody hears from the “happy hookers” and the “survivors”, but as I explained in my column of one year ago today that presents a false dichotomy; for most of the women I’ve known it was a job like any other, with its own advantages and disadvantages, and they did it as long as it worked for them and stopped when it didn’t any more.  They didn’t need to be “rescued”, and they weren’t so “damaged” they couldn’t do anything else; they entered sex work and left it as it suited them, just as one might do with any other job.  And that in itself forms a strong argument for decriminalization; how many of that middle group might really be able to enjoy it if it weren’t for the problems imposed by criminalization, and how many of them are eventually driven to hate it by those same problems, yet locked into it by the inability to find anything nearly as lucrative due to a criminal record?  If you’d like more reasons, Furry Girl and Amanda Brooks have both written eloquently on the subject of why more of us should be “out”.

However, the reaction of family is a very real concern for many of us; my mother stopped talking to me when I became a stripper, and I don’t think my husband’s family would take it too well now.  My husband’s job is also an issue; though I don’t have any regular job to be fired from for having been a hooker, it’s certainly possible my husband’s employers might take a dim view of both my past and my activism and decide that he wasn’t the sort of person they wanted in a highly-paid position of trust.  There’s also the reactions of neighbors to consider; though sex workers who live in large, cosmopolitan or accepting cities probably won’t attract a lot of attention by being “out”, it would be the talk of the entire county where I live.  And while that’s good from the point of view of letting people know that sex workers aren’t freaks and criminals, it does open one up to the same sort of persecution as “sex offender” registrants have to deal with (though obviously much less severe).

Then there are government actors to consider; this is an especial problem for hookers due to criminalization.  Though most of the lawyers to whom I’ve mentioned the issue agree that the police can’t really arrest a woman for simply saying “I am a prostitute” in public, the information may certainly motivate them to spy on her, plant evidence, make false accusations, etc.  Nor are police the only concern; so-called “child protection” agents are infamous for using any excuse whatsoever to abduct people’s kids, and many a whore’s children have been stolen from her in this way.  And though their jobs are not illegal, I’m willing to bet other sex workers (including strippers, porn actresses etc) have similar stories.  Furthermore, there are tax officials to consider; the American IRS is often employed as a weapon against people the government wishes to harass, and European tax authorities have a long history of making outrageous client-volume estimates and then presenting huge bills to uppity whores (fortunately, that’s largely a thing of the past in most of Europe).  Because of these concerns, being “out” is less of an option for women currently working in prostitution than in other forms of sex work, and more of an option for those without children, a husband or an occupation which might fire her for her “sin”.  We only have to look at the stronger, healthier sex worker rights movements in countries where prostitution itself is legal (even if oppressed by avails laws, soliciting laws, etc) to see the advantages of being able to come out, but the disadvantages are equally obvious.

So though I’d love to be fully “out”, I’ve adopted a sort of middle path; perhaps you or some other ladies might be able to do something similar, if you find it impossible (as I do) to opt for complete disclosure.  I am fully “out” to my friends, a few trusted family members and primary physicians; I use no cover stories with them, and speak as openly about my profession as I would if I were still a librarian.  To everyone else from neighbors to store clerks, I openly admit to having been a stripper and to having done nude modeling; furthermore, I’m an outspoken libertarian and (loudly and publicly) denounce laws against prostitution and other consensual crimes to anyone who will listen.  It’s not a perfect compromise, but at least I can come out as a type of sex worker and to call attention to the stupidity and tyranny of anti-sex worker laws without bringing disaster down on my head.

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And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten.
  –  James Russell Lowell, “The Vision of Sir Launfal

The apparent path of the sun crossed the celestial equator at 23:09 Universal Time last night, making today the first day of astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year (and of course the shortest for those of you reading this in the southern hemisphere).  In European tradition today was Midsummer, the holiday called Litha (from an Anglo-Saxon word for “summer”) by neopagans and St. John’s Day by Christians.  It was the most important day of the year for many ancient peoples, and even today is extremely popular in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, where there is scarcely any night at this time of year.

In my column of one year ago today my friend JustStarshine explained the spiritual significance of the day, and I shared my own feelings about summer:  As a child I loved it because I was out of school, but once I grew up and could no longer take a three-month holiday the oppressive heat of New Orleans summers made them my least favorite season.  But where I live now, the real summer heat does not arrive until July, and so I can once again enjoy the loveliness of June as I did in childhood.  One of the chief pleasures of the season for me is the availability of fresh blackberries, picked by my own soft white hands from the vines on my own land; I gladly suffer the many thorn-scratches and insect bites to win buckets of the delicious fruit, and we enjoy blackberry pie, blackberry muffins and waffles, blackberry ice cream and other such treats, then blackberry jam after the fresh fruit is gone.

May all my readers, no matter what your personal beliefs, find joy and abundance in your lives, and may your fortunes increase through the summer and autumn as the fruits ripen for harvest.  Blessed Be!

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