Archive for July, 2012

Those who would criminalise prostitutes seem oddly keen to eliminate true voices of experience from the discussion.  –  Brooke Magnanti

All Shapes and Sizes

Res ipsa loquitur:

…Jonah Falcon was stopped…by the TSA at the San Francisco International Airport…because of a bulging package hidden in his pants…the world’s largest recorded penis…[which is] 9 inches flaccid, 13.5 inches erect…”[A] guard…asked me if I had some sort of growth…I said, ‘It’s my dick’…He gave me a pat down but made sure to go around [my penis] with his hands.  They even put some powder on my pants, probably a test for explosives”…

The Camel’s Nose

Congress’ new strategy is to enact SOPA piece by piece so it doesn’t attract so much attention; though the Intellectual Property Attaché Act is mostly cultural imperialism like the “Trafficking in Persons Report”, it also creates yet another unelected “czar” with dictatorial powers.  Luckily, a group called the Internet Defense League (whose members include Public Knowledge, Reddit, Mozilla and the Electronic Frontier Foundation) was launched on July 19th; its purpose is to monitor threats to internet freedom and then spread the word and organize mass resistance (like the protests that stopped SOPA) whenever necessary.

Lying Down With Dogs

It’s always interesting to see how closely American anti-whore rhetoric resembles that of nations which are not exactly advanced or Western:

Lusaka Province Minister Gerry Chanda [rejected] calls by some members of the public to legalise prostitution…[because it] is illegal…cannot be tolerated…[and] is alien to Zambia…Inspector-General of Police Stella Libongani described sex workers as a “public nuisance” and warned them with arrest if found loitering on the streets…

Bone of Contention

So, aren’t vandalism and indecent exposure already illegal for everyone without a special law just for whores?

More than 40 [street sign] poles have been bent, buckled or broken in the past 18 months in one area of south Auckland, New Zealand… “Prostitutes use these street sign poles as dancing poles,” said [a member of the city council.  The claim appears in a pamphlet]…detailing frustrations of residents and businesses struggling to cope with [streetwalkers and calling]…on parliament…to give Auckland Council powers to ban sex workers from certain areas…other…incidents [include]…a transvestite [ramming] a supermarket trolley into a woman’s car before lying across the bonnet, and a school-bus full of children observing a transvestite changing her dress…

Sisters in Arms

Considering America’s grotesque inflation of penalties for every conceivable “crime”, what will happen if abortion is eventually recriminalized?

38 states have passed laws that create a crime for causing the death of a fetus…23 of which apply at the earliest stages of pregnancy.  What we have now is a what Professor Angela Davis calls a “prison industrial complex”:  a system of for-profit prisons so hungry for more inmates that it drives immigration policy, and pays off judges to fill jail cells with children…[and] so bloated that rural economies have become dependent upon the influx of inmates…since the 1970s, the rate of incarceration for women has increased over 700%.  We have lawmakers admit that they believe that women should face “serious” criminal penalties for having abortions.  We have so dismantled the right to privacy that state-mandated technological surveillance can literally invade women’s bodies.  We have Kafkaesque bedside interrogations and arrests of women who fall down stairs when they admit ambivalence about…single motherhood…two women…are [now] facing murder trials for losing pregnancies…Bei Bei Shuai…[and] Rennie Gibbs

Against Their Will

A new report by two Indian authors has poked holes into the “raid, rescue, and rehabilitation” schemes…targeting sex workers.  The report, titled We Have the Right Not To Be “Rescued”…says, “Contrary to the purported goal of assisting women, the anti-trafficking projects…often undermine HIV projects…causing harm to women and girls.”  The report alleges that [police raids on] brothels…are often violent.  Cases of sexual assault and rape and sodomy have also been reported during such actions…Research from Indonesia and India has indicated that sex workers who are rounded up during police raids are beaten, coerced into having sex [and]…placed in institutions where they are sexually exploited or physically abused.  The raids also drive sex workers onto the streets, where they are more vulnerable to violence…

An Ounce of Prevention

It looks as though an AIDS vaccine is finally within reach:

…a 2009 clinical trial in Thailand…tested Sanofi’s ALVAC, a weakened canary pox virus used to sneak three HIV genes into the body, and AIDSVAX, a vaccine originally made by Roche Holding’s Genentech that carried an HIV surface protein.  Both vaccines had poor showings in individual trials…[but] the…combination cut HIV infections by 31.2 per cent…Preparations are under way for a follow-up trial testing beefed-up versions of the vaccines among heterosexuals in South Africa and [homosexual] men…in Thailand…

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic

Dr. Marty Klein not only explodes the myth of “sex addiction”, but also explains why it’s such a destructive paradigm:

…“Sex addiction” is a special weapon now used…to ignore science…ignite fear [and]…legitimize anti-sex moralism and bigotry.  And psychologists, judges, legislators, and the media are buying it…the sex addiction movement…did not arise from…sex therapy or any other sexuality-related field.  Rather, it was started in 1983 by Patrick Carnes, who…claims no training in human sexuality.  “Sex addiction” has been adopted enthusiastically by the addiction community, and to a lesser extent by the marriage and family profession—the latter historically undertrained and uncomfortable with sexuality…Of course, the media loves it, decency groups love it, and those who identify as some other kind of addict…love it, especially if they’re fans of the Twelve Steps…

If you still think some people are really “addicted” to sex, Dr. Klein suggests you take the Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST).  You may be surprised how high you score, but you shouldn’t be; “sex addiction” rhetoric pathologizes normal sexual feelings and behaviors.  As Dr. Klein points out, what the test really measures is whether you grew up in a sex-negative culture.  The article is well worth reading in its entirety, especially for its debunking of inane claims about “brain areas” and “erototoxins”.

Much Ado About Nothing

I guess the media must be bored with hooker “scandals”, because this report of T-men paying for women with government funds didn’t make the news; we’re told they won’t even lose their  jobs because the activity “didn’t include underage prostitutes or human trafficking.”  You know, just like 96.5% of the sex work persecuted in this country doesn’t.

The Pygmalion Fallacy

Here’s a trailer for a new documentary named The Mechanical Bride, narrated by the legendary Julie Newmar.

The Birth of a Movement

In the process of critiquing a French miniseries about the maisons closes, Dr. Brooke Magnanti has some illuminating comments about the historical reality ignored by the creators of the melodrama:

…Prostitutes moved between brothels and changed names often to avoid detection…the notion that girls…could not, and did not, shop around for management is absurd…the drama is an uncomfortable union of modern agendas superimposed on a historical setting.  Since it’s in the past, there are no inconvenient contemporary sex workers to show the complex reality of prostitution and spoil the abolitionist fantasy…

First They Came for the Hookers…

If prohibitionists really want to “rescue” sex workers, why do they keep trying to stop us from getting other jobs?

…Harmony Rose…has been featured in more than 200 pornographic videos…[but] has…left the adult entertainment industry…and [is] training as a volunteer EMT…in Roanoke, VA…Fire Chief Rich Burch learned about Rose’s previous career…[and] contacted the…County Attorney…[who] noted, “Anything that results in public ridicule of the volunteer squads…must be avoided”…[and] that Burch “supports the decision of the volunteer chief if she decides to terminate the membership of [Rose].”  The community, however, seems to be on Rose’s side.  Of the over 500 comments that appear under the story on WDBJ’s Facebook page, nearly all support Rose’s continued work with the rescue squad…


For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea in August Updates

As in Canada, Indian politicians feel compelled to defend tyranny by opposing court orders to decriminalize prostitution:

The Supreme Court…agreed to examine [the federal government’s] plea that sex workers should not be allowed to operate…”with dignity” as suggested by a panel…[the] solicitor general [argued]…that any such endorsement…would go contrary to the…Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act which bans prostitution in toto…He also wanted the bench to remove…Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee from the panel…[the defense argued] that the Act only prohibited brothel activities and…pimps…[and that] if a sex worker carries out the activities on her own volition, [they are] not…illegal…

Traffic Jam in TW3 (#21)

Emi Koyama examines the increasing redefinition of “sex trafficking” into a “gang-related” activity, including this ridiculous “pimp classification” system dreamed up by cops and prohibitionists.  She persuasively argues that “What is ignored in all of these discussions of the (racially coded) evils of ‘gangs’ is that many young men…become gang members and engage in its criminal activities for many of the same reasons many young women…[enter] the sex trade: poverty, failure of social and child welfare systems and public education, lack of viable economic opportunities…what is the moral difference between a young woman who is told to go out and sell sex, and a young man who is told to go out and sell drugs? And yet, the mainstream anti-trafficking discourse would have us believe that the young woman is an innocent victim but the young man is an evil criminal…

Feminine Pragmatism in TW3 (#23)

It’s like watching someone repeatedly hitting her own fingers with a hammer:

Nadya Suleman…allegedly signed a contract…[with] T’s Lounge…in West Palm Beach, Fla…But after some teasing by a T’s staffer on TV, Suleman bailed on the deal, and now plans to make her…debut at a rival strip club instead.  That’s grounds for a lawsuit…[because] the…contract…barred Suleman from being booked at any other strip club within 50 miles, 90 days before or after her gigs at T’s…Suleman’s manager maintains the contract was not valid, because T’s never forked over…[the] deposit fee…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs in TW3 (#27)

First Guyana, now Singapore; let’s hope this list gets much longer:  “The Singapore government has lashed out at the United States over its human trafficking report…[due to] a number of ‘inaccuracies and misrepresentations’…

The Course of a Disease in TW3 (#28)

Sex workers aren’t the only ones angry over the French women’s minister’s prohibitionist crusade:

…How disappointing…that Vallaud-Belkacem’s most publicised policy announcement to date has been a pledge to “see prostitution disappear”…cynics would consider Vallaud-Belkacem’s grand plan a naive one, and typical of those that give radical governments a bad name.  Working girls in Paris…accused her of trying to drive a relatively well regulated industry underground…[and] Muslims…[hoped for repeal of] the crassly tagged “burqa ban”…Rather than presiding over job losses for…women, Vallaud-Belkacem should be…working to try to improve the lot of all women…

This Week in 2011

Head Games” describes the ways some clients try to control calls, and “July Miscellanea” featured items on a snooping gadget, another politician’s underwear photos, a woman getting plastic surgery to look like a drag queen & the suspension of the “anti-prostitution pledge” for domestic organizations.  “A Girl Who Can’t Say No” explains why I invest so much time in my work; “Social Construction of Eunuchs” examines people willing to sacrifice their childrens’ happiness to “social construction of gender”; “Concubine”  is a fictional interlude that you may find a bit disquieting; “Bootlickers” uses a campaign against bikini baristas to illustrate public collaboration with tyranny, and “J’accuse” was my first column on Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

This Week in 2010

What’s In a Name?” explains the many reasons whores use stage names; it was followed by “Couples” (a two-part column about couple calls), then “Modern Marriage”, which examines the reason for the high divorce rate.  “The Trick” was my very first fictional interlude, “The Myth of the Wanton” discusses the belief that women are more lustful than men, and “Just Drawn That Way”  looks at the complex motivations behind female sexuality.

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Democracy feeds on argument, on the discussion as to the right way forward. This is the reason why respecting the opinion of others belongs to democracy.  –  Richard von Weizsacker

Those who wish to control others, to attack consensual actions with criminal laws, and to eliminate options which make them uncomfortable, believe that morality is set in stone; they think that right and wrong are as separate and distinct as black and white, and that they and only they have the direct proclamation from Godhead about which is which.  Nor is this kind of thinking limited to traditional religions; most mass movements, including political parties and various “-isms”, have the same type of rigid and unyielding perspective on human behavior.  Rational people, however,  understand that morality is a process of weighing out various factors, comparing the relative right and wrong of each, in order to come to the most just, least harmful decision possible; it is not merely a matter of blind, robot-like obedience to some ultimate moral authority which instantly excuses any cruelty, harm or absurdity as long as “The Law” is followed to the letter.

Because the real world is an unimaginably complex, constantly changing set of phenomena, it is literally impossible to control it with a rigid set of laws; attempting to establish such a regime inevitably causes far more harm than good, and therefore it’s a pretty safe bet that any movement whose members all spout the same rhetoric, make the same moral pronouncements and otherwise march in lockstep conformity is not on the side of Good.  Such mass movements want only to impose their own Order upon the chaotic universe, and for the most part dissent or disagreement within such a movement tends to be dealt with harshly.  It’s absolutely true that this makes a doctrinaire, parochial movement much more efficient than one bound only by mutual goals and a respect for individual differences; while the former marches forward in mechanical synchronization, the latter tends to creep along like some immense amoeba, often attempting to go in multiple directions at once as its various independent parts disagree about nearly everything.  This is of course why those who support individual liberty above all else have problems competing with groups whose leaders have no moral qualms about telling the rank and file what to do and how to think; it’s also the reason the cause of sex worker rights has so much difficulty in its struggle against the prohibitionists, who are unified by a shared dogma and thus need not concern themselves with moral judgment.

Efficiency, however, is not the same as moral rectitude; in fact, as I explained above it’s more often the opposite because a legalistic doctrine attempts to impose mechanistic order upon individual free-willed beings, thus robbing them of the opportunity for moral growth.  Members of authoritarian groups are like battery hens, living creatures bound tightly into place to serve the needs of their masters rather than being free to follow their own paths.  This is an abomination; it is anti-life, and I am committed to opposing it in all its forms.  I believe every person must come to his own conclusions, which is why I’m so very careful about making pronouncements on complex moral issues.  As I explained in “Change of Heart”:

…every parent, teacher, writer, celebrity or other person with an audience, however small, has the moral responsibility to ensure that any moral pronouncements he makes truly come from his conscience rather than from a misguided need to advance an agenda at the expense of others’ freedom, happiness and physical needs.  Bloggers obviously fall under this stricture as well, so I always think long and hard about complex moral issues before taking a stand on them one way or another, for fear of inadvertently influencing people to embrace a wrong merely because it might advance a cause in which I personally believe.

About two weeks ago I made a moral decision regarding a course of action about the prohibitionist mouthpiece who calls herself Stella Marr; I decided that sharing some (though not all) of the information which had been given to me about her might help to undermine her ability  to advance the prohibitionist cause through her lies.  It was not an easy decision, but I believe it was the correct one, as explained in last week’s “Heart of Ice”; many others in the sex worker rights community agree with me to a greater or lesser degree, but some do not, and that’s a GOOD thing because if we all agreed about an issue as complicated and thorny as this one, it would mean we must be falling into the same kind of grotesque conformity as our persecutors demand of their followers.  And that wouldn’t be good for either the individuals in our movement or for the movement itself; one of the three different sources who spilled the beans about Stella to me is a member of a large prohibitionist group, who told me that she and many others are soul-sick about their leader’s tyrannical insistence that all members speak with one voice.  In other words the prohibitionist groups gain efficiency at the expense of their members’ emotional health and the long-term integrity of the organization.

Internal dissent, though it decreases efficiency, is a good thing; in the long run a group of allied individuals is far stronger than a mindless horde which falls apart should the leadership fail.  That’s why I think it’s extremely important that you, my readers, decide for yourselves the morality of this issue.  I’ve already laid out my own case in the aforementioned column, and though I’ve seen a number of arguments explaining why different people think I was wrong (including some in the comments to that column and the “outing” column itself), the best one in my opinion was “To Go Beyond is as Wrong as to Fall Short” by Jenny DeMilo.  Jenny is no fan of Stella’s; her essay starts with “She’s nuts, that’s clear…tinfoil hat wearing, frantic OCD and inconsistent in her writing style kinda nuts…she uses all the language the abolitionists use, she…says she has seen prostitutes murdered before her and tells tales of pimps and hos that is the stuff of TV movies. She thinks we’re all trafficked victims and she’s called activists “pimps” for fighting for the rights of sex workers…She offends me as a sex worker, she offends me as a free thinking woman, she offends me as a human.”  But despite Jenny’s personal dislike of “Stella” she still thinks my actions and those of others were wrong, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me in no uncertain terms.  I respect that, and I think her voice deserves to be heard; please give it a read.  Not in spite of the fact that she disagrees with me, but rather because she does; she says so not because an authority told her to believe it, but because her own moral compass pointed that way.  Authoritarian systems become corrupt because nobody dares to disagree with the authorities, but free thinkers are kept honest by the open dissent of other free thinkers.

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Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.
  –  William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (II, ii)

“I’m looking forward to seeing you at seven-ninety then.  Thank you, Lord Zolan!”  Marilith covered the glass and settled back onto the cushions of the divan; the feelings of a new patron were often overwhelming at first, and she would need much of the next hour to sort through them.  “Tea please, Cynthia,” she said when her handmaiden appeared in response to the bell.

“Red lotus as usual, mistress?”

“Yes, and the incense too.” Then as the servant turned to go, she added, “And you’ll need to stay close for this one, I think.”

Cynthia’s face remained as impassive as ever, but she asked, “Do you think he’ll be dangerous?”

“Dangerous?  No.  Very ardent, though; I can feel his intensity even now, and I’ll need your capable hands if I lose myself in so deep a pool.”  No answer but a deep bow was necessary, so Cynthia gave no other, and a moment later she was gone.  Though she had been here for six months now, Marilith was still impressed with her efficiency; she had indeed been a wise investment, just as Dr. Galen had promised.

This house, too, had been a wise investment; its proximity to the palace and the spectacular view of the cloud-piercing Tower of Heaven would have justified its expense even without the space and amenities it offered.  As a child, she could only have dreamed of living in Yian, much less owning a lovely mansion and the finest servants human ingenuity could produce…but that was before her talent had manifested itself, and before she had recognized how she could improve her situation by its use.

A wave of lust spread through Marilith’s body, momentarily startling her with its intensity; her new client was presently transacting some business in the Tower, and by looking toward it she had inadvertently opened the empathic channel more widely.  She inhaled deeply of the calming incense (when had Cynthia brought it in?  As silent as she was quick!) and explored Lord Zolan’s feelings, gliding through them as though swimming in a strong current, not fighting them yet not allowing them to carry her away, either.  He was an important man, high in the Imperial bureaucracy, and such men usually have powerful passions; once she had mapped the rugged and complex landscape of his desires and fully learned how to appeal to them, he would be an excellent and loyal client.  Today he would only be here for an hour, but that was almost too much for the first time with such an intense lover.

The tea helped her to master the invading emotions, and when she was done she went to her closet to dress.  The contact was more than strong enough for her to divine how best to appeal to him, and by the time his heightened anticipation told her that he was on his way she had dressed, made up and had her hair arranged for maximum effect.  All that remained was her customary prayer at the small shrine adjoining her boudoir, and she was ready; when she sensed he had touched down on the landing stage she moved into the parlor and artfully arranged herself on the cushions.

“Lord Zolan of Orissa,” Cynthia announced, and he entered the room in a burst of excitement which sharply increased the moment his eyes fell upon Marilith.  He crossed the room in a remarkably dignified fashion considering his emotional state, and raised her hand to his lips with something closely akin to awe.

“Your images fall utterly short of the reality,” he said in a hoarse whisper.  She knew that this was a totally sincere statement; no image, still or moving, could adjust its posture and facial expressions to appeal to the viewer’s individual preferences as she had learned to do.  She pitied courtesans without her gift; feigned lust and interest, no matter how perfectly imitated, could never match the real ones she borrowed from her clients.  She was the perfect dance partner, and followed as effortlessly as a shadow.

Some of her callers relished the anticipation, their passions mounting as she prolonged the preliminaries until the point they could stand it no longer, but Lord Zolan was not one of them; his need was a raging fire, and there would be ample time for conversation once it had been temporarily quenched.  For now, only two words were needed:  “Take me.”

It was as though she had thrown a lever to release some mechanism powered by a tightly-coiled spring.  Her own passion rose in tandem with his as he literally tore the gown from her body and covered her bosom in rough kisses, all hope of self-control lost to her now; she wanted him as badly as he wanted her, and there was absolutely nothing artificial about the ecstasy she felt as he entered her, nor about her synchronous climax when he reached his own within a very short time as all her lovers did.

When her senses eventually returned, Marilith glanced at the wall clock and saw it was just after eight; that left ninety minutes of their appointment, so there was no need to awaken her guest right away.  While he slept peacefully she could regain her composure and get a better look at him through eyes unblurred by the intense emotions she had felt while he was awake.  He was a well-built, good-looking man with strong features, every bit the son of a sirdar; according to the peerage records Marilith had consulted last week when he first contacted her, his mother was a great-great granddaughter of the royal house of one of the Outer Worlds.  So in addition to the generous fee and the undeniable physical and emotional pleasure she would gain from his visits, he had good family connections on both sides which could prove very valuable to her; his patronage might provide the means by which she eventually secured a title, an advantageous marriage in a class far above that into which she had been born, or both.

But there would be plenty of time for that later; right now she was enjoying her life as the most sought-after companion in the capital…the attention, the intense pleasures, the comforts and most of all the wealth.  Political power would come as easily and naturally as the rest had.

She smiled, and began to kiss and caress her noble visitor’s head.

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Greetings, my friend.  We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.  And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.   –  Criswell

If the primary purpose of a movie is to entertain, it makes sense that a film can be “so bad it’s good”; some movies are just so incredibly, amazingly, jaw-droppingly bad that we can’t help finding them funny.  So it’s not surprising that people are still watching the work of the late Edward D. Wood, Jr., arguably the worst filmmaker of all time.  There are bad writers, bad directors and bad producers, but Wood managed to be outstandingly bad at all three:  his scripts make no sense and are laden with ludicrous dialog and wholly illogical plots; his direction ranges from the incompetent to the incomprehensible, and his production values are practically nonexistent.  Wood’s dedication to keeping costs down is exemplified by his commitment to exposing as little film as possible, and his employment of stock footage even when it was wholly inappropriate.  And though it’s not unusual for directors to favor certain groups of actors, it is highly doubtful that any such regular cast was as completely devoid of talent as Wood’s stable, which often included the director himself.

The clip above is from Wood’s first full-length film, Glen or Glenda (1953), a semi-autobiographical piece in which Wood revealed his transvestism to the world.  Like all Wood’s early work it gave a prominent role to the destitute, morphine-addicted Bela Lugosi, seen here as a narrator mumbling incomprehensible commentary of his own devising.  Lugosi died just as Wood was about to start filming his magnum opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space, but the would-be auteur was undeterred; he incorporated silent screen tests of Lugosi into the movie and cast his wife’s chiropractor as a stand-in for the rest.  The fact that the doctor looked nothing like the deceased horror icon was disguised by the simple expedient of having him walk around with his Dracula cape over his face.  Plan 9 is certainly Wood’s best-known creation, and was probably responsible for the resurgence of interest in his work after it was named “Worst Film of All Time” in Harry & Michael Medved’s The Golden Turkey Awards (1980); however, it lacks one of Wood’s characteristic cinematic elements: lesbian bondage scenes, which appear in most of his movies from Glen or Glenda to Orgy of the Dead (1965):

Wood was only responsible for the script of this one, but it serves as a harbinger of his later work directing soft-core (and eventually hard-core) porn; in it, the “Emperor of the Dead” (Criswell) presides over a ceremony in which ten undead topless dancers perform in a graveyard.  My cousin Alan and I rented it one Saturday afternoon in ’96, and this scene became a running joke for us; for years afterward he might suddenly hold up some random object and say, “And what is this?”  To which I would reply, “A symbol, Master!”  Anyone who hadn’t seen the flick probably thought we were complete morons, but that’s half the fun of a private joke.

I first discovered Wood’s oeuvre in high school, but I only recently found out that he also tried to break into television via several series pilots, all of which were thought lost until one of them was discovered in a private collection.  Less than a year after filming Plan 9 Wood wrote, produced and directed “Final Curtain”, the pilot for a horror anthology series to be called Portraits of Terror.  It’s as absurd, pretentious and just plain bad as anything Wood ever did, but is less than 23 minutes long; the star is Duke Moore and its narrator Dudley Manlove (both from Plan 9), but look for Wood himself (under a pseudonym) as the only other on-screen character.

Rod Serling it’s not, but if poor Wood hadn’t drank himself to death just two years before the renaissance of interest in his work, he might’ve at last found the fame he craved on the talk-show circuit, and perhaps even made a good living directing kitschy music videos in the 1980s.

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When I was a call girl, men were not paying for sex.  They were paying for something else.  They were either paying to act out a fantasy or they were paying for companionship or they were paying to be seen with a well-dressed young woman.  Or they were paying for someone to listen to them.  –  Roberta Victor

I recently received an email from a gentleman with two friends, each with confidence issues that my reader thought might be ameliorated with the help of an experienced professional.  This is not at all unusual; in my early column “Madonna and Whore” I wrote,

I have gently coaxed sexual response from the impotent or inhibited, or those sexually shell-shocked by disastrous relationships; on a multitude of occasions I have provided a man with some sexual outlet he needed, yet for which he could not or would not ask his wife (usually because she had turned him down cold when the subject was mentioned).  I have given much-needed intimacy to men so deformed most women couldn’t bear to look at them, held men while they cried because they were too ashamed to do it before their wives, and played mother-confessor for a host of sins.  I have lent a sympathetic ear to clients’ problems, given them relationship advice, comforted them when they were in pain and reassured them when they were overcome by uncertainty.

I’m not remotely unusual in this respect; most whores can say the same.  Though prudish American culture prefers to deny it, sex has a powerful healing function (especially for men), and sex professionals can often do far more for a man than a doctor, psychiatrist or priest.  In addition to the basics like massage and release of debilitating tension we give virgins their first experiences with women, minister to the sexual needs of the disabled and even help to relieve stress in men who have suffered through traumatic situations; in the following questions we’ll look at two more cases in which a talented professional would be more therapist than tart.

My first friend is a gentleman in his late 40’s who has not been with a woman in the 3 years since his divorce.  His friends believe he is completely over his ex, but we have noticed an uncharacteristic lapse in his confidence; we’ve tried to reintroduce him to dating, but it’s as if he doesn’t remember how to behave around women and he pulls back within his shell.  Do you think it a good idea to arrange for a discreet professional to meet with him as if by accident and accompany him for an evening, but conceal the true reason for their serendipitous meeting?

Though you can probably find a lady who would be willing to playact with your friend, I’m not at all sure that would be the right thing to do.  I’m a big believer in honesty, and though there are certainly some circumstances in which duplicity for a good cause is acceptable, I honestly don’t know if this would be one of them.  My concern is that if he ever found out it could be even worse for his self-confidence, and there are a number of ways in which he could find out; it might happen during the date due to perceptiveness on his part or a slip on her part, and what happens when he asks for her phone number at the end of the evening (as he certainly would)?  Or what if he goes surfing escort sites (you may think he doesn’t, but what if you’re wrong?) and discovers her pictures online?  Spending an evening with an experienced call girl can do wonders for a man’s sexual self-confidence, but I honestly feel it’s better for him to know what’s really going on rather than being fed a fantasy.

My other friend is much younger (in his late 20s) and has almost the opposite issue; he gets so excited that he finishes much more quickly than he would prefer.  I shared with him some tips to calm himself, and though he said one of those suggestions has truly helped him it only increased his time from immediately to a few minutes.  His last girlfriend moved away and now he’s afraid to deal with another one because he doesn’t want to embarrass himself by “being so disappointing”.  He can’t really afford a sex therapist, so I was wondering if a lady of the evening might help him?  If so, should he let her know exactly what she’s signing up for? 

It’s possible you may already have corrected his problem.  You say he used to climax immediately, but now can last “a few minutes”; how many is a few?  Because as I explained in an interview with the London School of Attraction,  most women don’t want nearly as much actual intercourse as most men seem to think we do.  If your friend can go for five minutes that’s enough for most women, especially if he takes the time to give his partner all the foreplay she wants.  A good escort might indeed help him, but maybe not in the way you’re thinking:  she might be able to teach him to slow down if necessary, but more importantly she could help him develop his confidence and foreplay techniques, and let him know if he really is too fast or just thinks he is.

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Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. – A.J. Liebling

Considering that “sex trafficking” hysteria grew from the same fertile racist manure as “illegal alien” hysteria, one would have thought that Mexico, long the chief target of American xenophobia about migrants, would’ve been named as the chief North American source, destination or corridor of “sex trafficking” from the very beginning.  So why wasn’t it?  Maybe it was because the anti-immigration panic-mongers had already cast Mexican women as welfare cheats and producers of the dreaded “anchor babies”, so the “trafficking” alarmists were concerned that there weren’t enough of them to go around.  But whatever the reason, it seems to have gone by the wayside now; prohibitionists and their flying monkeys in the yellow press are touting stories about whole Mexican towns populated entirely by “pimps and hos”, and apparently making up for lost time by multiplying claims about their numbers of clients far beyond the bounds of logic and sanity.

We might theorize that if immigration reform becomes a reality American racists will have to recast Mexican women as “trafficked slaves” and Mexican men as “traffickers and pimps” in order to keep using them as convenient bogeymen.  But that wouldn’t explain why the Mexican media have jumped on the bandwagon as well; up until a year ago Mexican prohibitionists had little success in pushing an aggressive anti-whore agenda in their country, where most news coverage of sex workers recognizes that sex work is work and that women engage in it to get an education, provide for their children, etc.  So why has Mexico now passed an “anti-trafficking” law which “…establishes penalties for those who buy space in newspapers or on websites to serve ads that encourage trafficking, even if they disguise themselves as a legal activity“?  It sounds suspiciously like the US campaigns against Backpage, and is comparable in the damage it will cause if not overturned; in a recent editorial in El Norte, Sergio Sarmiento pointed out:

…Mexican law has always prohibited trafficking in persons…[and] prostitution is legal.  The new law does not prohibit it.  It has long proscribed pimping…[and] the new legislation…does not add anything on this subject…What is new…is the punishment, with penalties of 5 to 15 years in prison and a fine of a thousand to 20 thousand minimum daily salary wages of those “who lead, manage or edit…print, electronic or virtually…publish[ed] content…which facilitates, promotes or procures any criminal conduct…”  This provision violates the freedoms of expression and publication…[by seeking] to punish publishers and media executives that publish advertisements for prostitution, although prostitution remains legal in our country…[furthermore] Article 33 speaks of publishing “content”, not just advertisements, “through which…to facilitate, promote or provide any of the criminal conduct” [covered by the law]…With this law the Mexican government would not only [have] imprisoned Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, but also his publisher and the marketing director of that publisher.  A similar problem arises from Article 34, that punishes with 2 to 7 years imprisonment those who, “knowingly” give a loan, lease or rent a property, house or room in the commission of offenses established under this law.  It punishes not only those who participate in trafficking, but who rents and leases real estate…

As I pointed out in the discussion about New York’s new “taxi sex trafficking” law, “knowingly” is a mighty thin defense once the police and prosecutors decide to railroad someone under such a law.  In the US we’ve been building toward this sort of tyranny for years, but in Mexico it happened rather suddenly; when I asked the Mexican journalist who provided me with this editorial and its translation why that was so, he explained (paraphrased to help retain his anonymity):

In Mexico most big newspapers carry adult ads of all kinds (including independent sex workers) both in the paper and on the website.  Well, about a year ago Reforma (a paper in Mexico City) uncovered an illegal deal between Televisa Network and Nextel Telephony and Radio which was accomplished while the government looked the other way.  Lots of people got in trouble and many millions of dollars were lost.  In revenge, Televisa started a big “investigation” which alleged that the sex ads in Reforma were being sponsored by “Sex Traffickers”, including the owners of the newspaper.  Despite huge amounts of TV coverage they could never prove that any ads were sponsored by sex traffickers, but the politicians Televisa owns were instructed to revive the moribund sex trafficking law and push it through with additions stipulating severe punishments for the owners of media carrying sex ads.  You should have heard how the Televisa news anchormen emphasized that part…

Armed with this information, I think we can see why Mexican “sex traffickers” have also become big news in Los Estados Unidos during the same time period.  And beyond that, one has to wonder if there isn’t some similar rivalry involved in the anti-Backpage crusade supported by rival media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times.

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If American sheriffs had the humor, wisdom, and modesty of Sheriff Andy Taylor; if their deputies were allotted one bullet which had to be carried in a pocket; this site would be unnecessary.  –  Patrick from Popehat

As I explained in last Sunday’s column, I’m currently guest-blogging on The Agitator along with Ken and Patrick from Popehat, Baylen Linnekin of Keep Food Legal, and Drew Johnson, libertarian journalist and opinion editor of the Chattanooga Free Press.  For the duration of that gig, every Sunday I’m going to do a sequel to the first column, in which I call your attention to what I published at The Agitator in the preceding week, and starting today to what my fellow guest-bloggers have posted also; Sunday is also the day I’ll feature pictures of my own pups in Radley’s “Sunday Afternoon Dog Blogging” feature.

Ken White was first out of the gate on July 2nd with “Deserve’s Got Nothing To Do With It”, a powerful essay about Rodney King’s death:

…portraying Rodney King as a hero, or as a villain, plays into the central narrative of our criminal justice system, one that offers the ultimate excuse for cutting corners, giving police the benefit of the doubt, looking the other way at constitutional violations, putting our thumbs on the state’s end of the scales of justice.  He got what he deserved — that’s what one side says, cutting through facts and law and reasoned analysis to pure us vs. them.  He didn’t deserve that,  says the other side, unwittingly lending support to the implicit argument that there are some who do.  But deserve’s got nothing to do with it.  Heroism and villainy have nothing to do with it.  We have to demand that everyone be treated justly, whether our viscera tell us that they do not deserve the rule of law at all.  Rodney King should have been spared excessive force not because he’d earned  respite, but because we extend it to everyone…because it’s…foolish and perilous to let the state (or the mob) decide who deserves rights and who doesn’t…

Ken also wrote “Wanted for Contempt of Cop” (two activists’ pictures and home address are printed on a “Wanted”-style poster by the NYPD), “Happy Independence Day:  A Story About Becoming An American”, “The Way It’s Supposed To Work” (an innocent woman spent two months in jail even though everyone agreed she didn’t do anything), and “What Else Are Lake Charles Police Afraid Of?” (an example of the increasingly-common crime of cops trespassing in people’s yards and murdering their dogs).

Ken’s blogging partner Patrick is the second most prolific of the guest bloggers so far (after yours truly), with thirteen posts to his credit; he started quietly with a links column, some dog pictures  and a goodbye to Andy Griffith from which my  epigram was drawn.  Next he explained “Why I Hate ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’”, posted two music videos for the site’s “Five Star Fridays” feature, and blew everyone away with the brilliant “So. It Has Come To This” (the TSA, Pulp Fiction style) and “Screwtape Wept”  (another cop murders another dog, seen through the eyes of C.S. Lewis’ fictional devil).  In between he gave us “Ernest Borgnine?  I Thought You Were Dead!”, a satire on the US Army changing its uniforms again, and a quick laugh at the clueless prognostications of the world’s most overrated economist, Paul Krugman; he then finished the week with another music video and a list of rejected band names.

Baylen Linnekin and Drew Johnson opted for more formal introductions than the Popehat guys did, then Baylen followed with a links column, an article about a challenge to California’s foie gras ban and a linked list of other recent food bans.  He also posted “Food, Drink and the Declaration of Independence”, “English-Only Beer Sales? ¡No, Gracias!”, and a Food Song Edition of “Five Star Fridays”.  Drew wrote about a Tennessee government program to force poor people to take handouts they don’t want, a social experiment conducted on Facebook, Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination campaign and a pork project called “The National First Ladies’ Museum”; he’s also posted a links page and a video of a disgraced congressman telling a joke in his resignation speech.

On Tuesday I published “By Any Other Name”, a composite essay drawn from several previous columns on this site about terms for hookers and when it’s appropriate to use them; I also cross-posted my Friday the 13th column and a whole lot of links:

On Wednesday I reported that Islamists had called for the Great Pyramids of Egypt to be destroyed as “symbols of paganism”, but fortunately that turned out to be a hoax (though as I pointed out Thursday, a sadly credible one).  I also got spanked for misinterpreting what was going on in this clam video, and so tried to make up for it with “New Orleans Ladies” for “Five Star Friday” and this unusual performance of “What a Wonderful World” on Thursday.

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We should all take care not to become part of the hype producing machinery that continually presents opinions or ideology as ‘facts.’  –  Ann Jordan

Welcome To Our World

The government just can’t resist trying to control anything involving sex:

[A lesbian who]…is trying to conceive a child…wants to use…sperm from a man she trusts.  But…under federal regulations, the donor must undergo…expensive and time-consuming [tests] so…she…is suing…Jane Doe wants to…get pregnant on her own, without paying for a fertility clinic or a sperm bank, and without government interference…But the FDA does not permit…informal transactions.  A donor is required to have his blood and urine tested in a medical setting within a week of every body-tissue transfer…

Where Are the Victims?

They’re only women, and therefore incompetent to know what’s best for them:

…Father and son accused pimps Vincent George, Sr., and Vincent George, Jr., had an unlikely cheering section in a Manhattan courtroom today — the very five admitted prostitutes who they’re accused of threatening and coercing.  “We are not victims!”…the…women shouted at reporters…the son’s lawyer, David Epstein [said] “They came in and out of Manhattan by themselves, they had their own houses and bank accounts, and they could have left anytime they wanted.”  John Temple, who heads the Manhattan DA’s human trafficking program, counters that phone taps prove both the dad, 55, and the son, 33, built up a million-dollar escort business by keeping their five women terrified virtual prisoners…six limo drivers accused of ferrying the women to their assignations are also charged.

Harm Magnification

Yet another case of government interference magnifying harm:

…On July 3 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first “rapid home” test for HIV…[which may] prevent…more than 4,000 new HIV infections in its first year of use alone…[but] the…approval…did not occur until…24 years after the FDA received its first application…[until recently it] forbade [any] tests…[other than] those…performed in a clinical setting…Out of concern that some people might respond…irrationally to the extremely valuable information a home test could provide, everyone was deprived of that option…imagine the number [of infections] that could have been averted if a rapid home test…had been approved five years ago.  Or ten.  Or 15…


Despite government efforts to quash bitcoin it’s still going strong, and one writer suggests it might help in the Greek monetary crisis:

…the drachma is not Greece’s only [non-euro] option…an alternative currency could emerge or an already existing one could be adopted.  In some parts of Greece social entrepreneurship, technology, and skepticism of politicians have already…created an environment where cryptocurrencies could become increasingly popular…The most prominent of these…is bitcoin…[which] frees those who use it from political uncertainty [and] fiat policies, and is less affected by international money markets than traditional currencies…There have been reports of more Europeans using bitcoin as their confidence in political solutions diminishes…

Rooted in Racism

Obviously, the NIJ is unacquainted with William of Occam:  “An overwhelming majority of human trafficking cases involve sex trafficking, according to a recent study issued by the National Institute of Justice…Nearly all identified sex trafficking victims were female and 70 percent of suspects were male…”  In other words, cops arrested a bunch of people and labeled them “victims” or “perpetrators” almost purely on the basis of gender, then a “study” was done to justify the assignments rather than recognizing them for what they are: rubbish based in the sexist notion that women are incompetent victims.

The Prudish Giant

A former Facebook executive wants to outdo Google by linking an anti-whore campaign to an expansion of the number of people condemned to “sex offender” registration:  “Facebook’s former chief privacy officer is bankrolling an anti-human trafficking ballot measure that…would toughen penalties for sex trafficking and add those convicted of the crime to the state’s sex offender registry.  Most significantly, it also would require all registered offenders to surrender their “Internet identifiers” to law enforcement, including user names and email accounts…Chris Kelly…has contributed $1.6 million to the initiative since December…”  The campaign is based largely on lies such as “Every girl sold on the street today is also being sold on the Internet”, a triple-whopper which 1) equates performing a service with chattel slavery; 2) uses passive voice to imply girls do not choose prostitution when in fact over 86% do; and 3) bizarrely defines 25% as “every”.

Presents, Presents, Presents!

A new reader who found me via The Agitator sent me a copy of Prince of Darkness  this week, but I only have his real name and I’m not sure if he posts under that or uses a screen name.  I hope he reads this and emails me so I can thank him properly!

Not for Everybody

Though Argentina has its own problems with “survivors” agitating against improved rights for sex workers, at least they aren’t pushing for increased criminalization yet:

In Argentina, women who [have] sex in exchange for money have splintered into two groups.  The one group…who call themselves “sex workers” to reflect their choice to work in the profession, is finalizing a bill…for…greater rights…The other group…prefers the term “prostitutes,” insisting that they are victims…of the industry…[they propose] policies that offer subsidies and create alternative employment opportunities…

Sex, Lies and Busybodies

Australian prohibitionists just won’t let go of that Queensland mining bone:

…police officer Inspector Paul Biggin says while sex workers have also been a major beneficiary of the [mining] boom, there are growing concerns about women being brought in from overseas and exploited by criminals…”A lot of…women come from Asian countries and they’re the types…that certainly do get exploited because of their poor education or the fact that they’re easily tricked,” he said… few women…have reported any mistreatment.  “A lot of times they don’t because there is a fear factor involved,” he said.

Translation:  “poor Asian women are stupid”.  And the reason they don’t tell him what he wants to hear must be “fear”; after all, he can’t possibly be wrong.

Jules Kim, the migration project manager at Scarlet Alliance, said…”Using ‘doesn’t speak English’ as an indicator would not be applied to any other profession…English skills are not tied in to education levels at all so someone could be highly educated and yet have poor English skills.”  Ms Kim says the extent of the problem in mining communities has been exaggerated…

The Course of a Disease

It’ll be interesting to see what other workers’ rights this eventually leads to:  “Swedish prostitutes won the right to claim benefits, including sick days and parental leave…’As long as sex workers pay their taxes, they should have the same access to sick-leave benefits and parental leave as anybody else,’ [said social insurance director] Joakim Jarnryd…’We don’t make any moral judgments’…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

US officials hoped to silence whore’s voices by barring them from attending the International AIDS Conference in Washington on July 22nd-27th, but India’s Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee had other ideas and organized a “hub” which will be digitally linked with the main event.  Andrew Hunter of the Asia [Pacific] Network of Sex Workers said, “We are holding this Global Hub…in India because sex workers are not allowed entry into the U.S. to attend the main AIDS conference. This event will allow us to participate as well as give sex workers from around the globe a chance to still contribute to important discussions…

Health officials have long criticized US anti-whore policies as destructive, and a new report released for the conference by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law has gone even further, as explained in this article by Cheryl Overs:

The report of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law…recommends the repeal [of] laws that prohibit consenting adults from buying or selling sex, including those laws that have the effect of prohibiting commercial sex such as laws against “immoral” earnings, “living off the earnings” of prostitution and brothel-keeping.  It calls for an end to police harassment and violence against sex workers and a prohibition of mandatory HIV and STI testing…It also recommends withdrawal of the Pepfar anti-prostitution pledge.  This marks a significant advance for sex workers’ struggle for sex work to be decriminalised and recognised as an occupation…

I’ll have more to say about this article in my upcoming column of the 27th.

Above the Law

What makes this news rather than a typical abuse is that the cops are being prosecuted:  “A Kansas City police officer has been…accused…of having sex with two women in exchange for not arresting them.  One woman told police she was working as a prostitute, and the other said she had outstanding warrants and marijuana in her motel room when she met Jeffrey Holmes…prosecutors in neighboring Platte County charged another Kansas City police officer with misappropriating about $75,000 from his elderly mother…

Held Together With Lies

This thorough debunking of the oft-repeated claim that “human trafficking is the third most profitable business for organized crime” by Ann Jordan and Lynn Burke was published over a year ago, but only came to my attention this week:

…Evidence for this claim either does not exist or is impossible to locate.  Despite the efforts of the authors and two professional reference librarians to locate the original reliable source, the research only turned up similar statements and not one article was uncovered that contained any evidence to support the claim…it is not unusual to hear statements that claim to be about trafficking but are really talking about smuggling…It would certainly make more sense to say that smuggling is the third largest source of organized crime profits…

Imagination Pinned Down

Compare to the outrageous claims made by other FBI agents about “human trafficking” cases they claim to have been personally involved in:

A former police officer who retired from the FBI…has written a book about seeing legions of angels guarding the Pennsylvania site where a hijacked airliner crashed [on September 11th, 2001].  Lillie Leonardi…remembers the burning pine and jet fuel stinging her nostrils.  She said she also remembers a smoldering crater littered with debris too small to associate with the jetliner or 40 passengers and crew on board…”That’s when I started seeing like shimmery lights…and it was kind of misty and that’s when I first saw, like, the angels there,” Leonardi said…[she] kept it to herself for the better part of two years [but] as…[symptoms of] post-traumatic stress disorder [surfaced] she began telling a close circle of friends and colleagues what she saw…


Reading Between the Lines in TW3 (#26)

The San Francisco Bay Guardian interviewed an escort who was targeted by the recent “Operation Cross Country” because somebody thought she looked under 18.  The article also revealed the ratio of adult sex workers to underage ones arrested in the Bay Area: 61 adults to 6 “children” (i.e. 16- or 17-year-old women).  10 to 1 is a very poor ratio considering that about 3.5% of all hookers are underage and the cops were specifically targeting youthful women.

The Course of a Disease in TW3 (#26)

Hundreds of…sex workers protested in Paris…against plans to make soliciting prostitution illegal…France’s minister for women’s rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem…[has said] she would seek to make prostitution disappear by punishing those who pay for sex…but her remarks unleashed a hail of criticism from sex workers’ unions, which argued that punishing clients would drive business underground, endangering prostitutes…

This Week in 2011

The last column of my first year was a two-part interview with my husband using reader-supplied questions, and the first of my second year explains why streetwalkers are a “Bone of Contention” among activists.  “Housewife Harlotry” demonstrates that transactional sex is an important part of marriage, “The Proper Study” is a short history of prostitution research and “Sisters in Arms” looks at the inevitable result of laws which infantilize women.

This Week in 2010

Though I’d write “Streetwalkers” a bit differently now, it still has some good points to make.  “Wanna Date?” asks whether it’s really possible to draw a sharp line between dating and whoring, and “Madonna and Whore” discusses the infamous duality and shows how girlfriends straddle it.  Finally, “Do You Party?” looks at my deep hatred of cocaine.

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Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.-Thomas Paine

Every Friday the 13th I ask my readers, especially those who are not themselves sex workers, to speak out for decriminalization of prostitution.  This is the third such occasion this year, but it’s also the last one for 14 months (until September 2013), so I want to make it a good one.

Though roughly 10% of modern women have taken money for sex at least once, the great majority of such cases are informal and the payer an acquaintance; only about 1% of women actually work as hookers at some point in their lives, and less than a third of that (just under 0.3%) are thus employed at any given time.  That’s a pitifully small minority, smaller even than the fraction of the population who identify as homosexual (which is between 2-3%); in a more just world even the smallest minority would be treated fairly, but since that isn’t the case in this one it’s imperative we have help from outside our own group.  Gay rights activists drew bisexuals and transgender people into a coalition, but even that would have been too small a minority to matter without the help of friends, family, libertarians and others.

Sex workers, on the other hand, have allowed our already-small numbers to be divided by laws which make arbitrary distinctions between “legal” sex work (such as stripping, phone sex and in some places porn acting) and “illegal” sex work (such as some forms of prostitution; in most of the US it’s all prostitution).  But even if strippers, porn actresses and the various types of what I call “halfway whores” rallied together, I still can’t imagine that making up over 10% of the female population.  As with gay rights, we’re going to need the help of friends, family, libertarians and even true feminists (as opposed to the anti-sex crowd I refer to as “neofeminists”).

Perhaps the most important group whose support needs to be enlisted is men, who make up roughly half the population but much more than half of people in positions of power.  Kinsey found that 69% of men have directly paid for sex at least once in their lives; some recent studies have returned much lower numbers, but this probably has much more to do with increased social stigma in the past three decades and the construction of the questions (e.g. “have you ever procured a prostitute?” vs. “have you ever paid for sex?”) than with the material facts.  Since roughly 67% of men have cheated on their wives or girlfriends, the 69% figure seems highly credible to me; it also jibes with my experience and that of other working girls with whom I’ve discussed the issue.  Of those, fewer than half repeat the experience, and less than a tenth make a habit of it; roughly 20% of all men hire hookers occasionally (such as when they’re at conferences or on business trips) and 6% do so frequently.

Even if we assume that the 50% of men who never see a whore again after their first time were repelled by the experience, that still leaves a fifth of the male population who secretly support us (at least financially).  So why don’t they speak up?  Why are there so few prominent men who are willing to even support our rights as an abstract concept, much less actually admit to enjoying our company on occasion?  Obviously it’s mostly due to the deep-rooted moral hypocrisy of our culture, whose members are willing to crucify exposed “sinners” for “offenses” they themselves have committed many times in secret.  But there’s also the fact that a large fraction of the 90% of women who have not taken direct payment for sex labor under all sorts of illusions and delusions about harlotry, and even a dedicated contrarian who will enthusiastically fly in the face of social institutions may be (understandably) unwilling to risk the disapproval or even outright hostility of his wife, mother, sisters, daughters, etc.

These factors and others were mentioned in a comment by regular reader B.B. Wye on a column I wrote about the difficulties of “Coming Out”; he pointed out that as hard as it is for prostitutes to be “out”, it may be even harder for our clients, especially with “end demand” rhetoric in the ascendancy.  Wye is a musician who expressed his feelings about his favorite type of whore in the song “Midtown Asian Sex Spa”, and in his comment he wrote of his desire to admit authorship of the song and to openly speak out for the rights of women who have given him a great deal of happiness and pleasure.  Another reader who felt the same way wrote to ask me for suggestions on how he could find a middle path, speaking out for sex worker rights without admitting his personal interest in us; here are a few suggestions for him, for B.B., for other clients faced with the same quandary, for working girls who can’t come out themselves and for men and women who have never bought or sold sex, but just care about human rights.

If you’re generally libertarian or civil rights-oriented in your politics it’s easy; all you have to do is argue for decriminalization from a perspective of “people have the right to do what they like with their own bodies”.  As I’ve pointed out in the past, every court decision (including Roe vs. Wade) which upholds abortion rights also upholds the right to sex on one’s own terms, even if money is involved (abortion isn’t free, after all); ditto court decisions overturning sodomy laws like Lawrence vs. Texas.  And obviously, the arguments for drug decriminalization  also apply to prostitution.  If you’re an atheist or skeptic, that’s easy too; in addition to the arguments above you can make statements like “prostitution laws are based on religion and xenophobia, not facts” and “the sex trafficking hysteria is a moral panic like the Satanic Panic and the Red Scare”.

The harm reduction perspective is another good one, and is the approach generally favored by advocates who have a human rights background or strong religious affiliation (including some members of the Catholic clergy):  Prostitution has always been with us and we can’t make it go away with laws any more than the “Drug War” has made drugs go away.  All the Drug War has done is to subject innocent people to invasion of their privacy and make drug users vulnerable to impure drugs, not to mention all those caught in drug-related violence; similarly, anti-prostitution laws help nobody and force prostitutes into the shadows where they can be harmed and exploited.  Furthermore, many governments (including those of New Zealand, New South Wales  and Brazil) have recognized that illegal prostitution invariably leads to police corruption, just as alcohol Prohibition did and drug prohibition still does.

Finally, there’s the feminist approach:  why does society have the right to tell women they can’t make a living with their natural sex-based attributes when it allows men to do so with boxing, bodyguard work, etc?  Furthermore, laws against prostitution invariably subject women’s dress and mannerisms to police scrutiny; women are accused of prostitution for dressing sexily, acting sexily, carrying condoms in their purses, being in certain areas, not wearing underwear, etc.  This is “slut shaming” with criminal consequences.

Even if you are unable to speak out openly you can post anonymous comments on anti-whore articles online (with links to my site and those of other rights advocates), you can donate money to advocacy groups, and you can of course vote (though there are pitifully few chances to employ that strategy in the United States).  Even though any one person’s influence is small, lots of buckets eventually fill a pool.  Readers, we need your help and that of every good man and woman, and anything you can do will be gratefully appreciated.

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If I was to make my living as a madam, I could not be concerned either with the rightness or wrongness of prostitution, considered either from a moral or criminological standpoint.  I had to look at it simply as a part of life, which exists today as it existed yesterday…The operation of any business is contingent on the law of supply and demand, and if there were no customers, there certainly would be no whorehouses.  Prostitution exists because men are willing to pay for sexual gratification, and whatever men are willing to pay for, someone will provide.  –  Polly Adler

One thing that must strike anyone who has read extensively on the history of prostitution is the way that mainstream writers are so often tolerant, sympathetic or even enthusiastic about whores of the past (even into recent times), yet so judgmental of those who have worked in the last few decades.  In “Courtesan Denial” I stated that “I suspect that they are lawheads engaged in a process of doublethink designed to protect their minds from having to deal with the fact that the EXACT SAME profession which was legal and respected in many preindustrial cultures is illegal and demonized in ours.”  But in the past 19 months I’ve come to realize that theory is inadequate for the simple reason that even past whores whose work was illegal in their own day are often glamorized; the dividing line seems to be not the Industrial Revolution or the advent of large-scale prohibitionism about a century ago, but rather the appearance of second-wave feminism.  Harlots who lived before the advent of the feminist saviors are given a free pass (like Dante’s “virtuous pagans” of pre-Christian times), but their modern sisters should “know better” and are thus condemned as infidels for rejecting the anti-sex work Gospel.  Of course, that doesn’t explain why so many people celebrate the fun times of violating alcohol Prohibition while demonizing modern drug use, but a theory has to start somewhere.

Case in point, Pearl “Polly” Adler (April 16th, 1900 – June 11th, 1962), a Russian Jew who was sent to New York ahead of her parents (Morris and Gertrude Adler) and eight younger siblings in 1914.  When the First World War interrupted her family’s plans to join her, young Polly was forced to support herself by working in a sweatshop that made corsets; though she tried to attend school at the same time, it just didn’t work out that way.  At the age of 17 she was raped by a foreman she was dating, and after an abortion decided that since she was “ruined” anyhow she might as well profit by it.  She made good contacts in the Broadway theater crowd and soon moved in with an actress and part-time working girl; in 1920 that roommate introduced Polly to her first client, a bootlegger named Tony, who kept her in an apartment on Riverside Drive.  Before long she was providing space and management for other girls, and thanks to her wit, charm, intelligence and business acumen she was soon clearing $100/week ($1100 in 2012 money).

That modest initial success grew by leaps and bounds; by 1924 she was known as the “Queen of Tarts” and opened her best-remembered brothel, the Majestic, at 215 West 75th Street.  The building featured hidden stairways and secret doors so clients could escape in case of a police raid, which was necessary because it was more than just a place where men went to have sex; it was a club where patrons of both sexes came to drink, play cards or games, and enjoy conversation, and Adler made as much money selling bootleg gin as she did collecting her cut from the girls.  The place was lavishly decorated and the walls were lined with books, many recommended by members of the Algonquin Round Table (including Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker), who became regulars soon after it opened.  Other regulars included actor John Garfield, boxer Jack Dempsey, mayor Jimmy Walker and gangster Lucky Luciano.  Her place was so well-known that she could not escape being shut down eventually, but she bribed her way out of trouble and simply moved the operation elsewhere…eleven times by the end of the decade.  It is very likely that bribes and kickbacks to cops and politicians constituted her largest operating expense.

After the stock market crashed in October of 1929, Adler’s fortunes began a slow decline.  In 1930 she was subpoenaed to testify before the Seabury Commission, a probe of a huge conspiracy by cops, prosecutors and judges to frame innocent people (often for prostitution) so they could be robbed of their life savings under threat of imprisonment.  Because she knew that testifying would probably not be a good idea for her she fled to Miami, where she remained until she grew homesick and tried to sneak back into town in May of 1931; informants sold her out immediately and she was hauled before the Commission the next day.  Not that it did the investigators any good; Adler claimed (perhaps conveniently) a poor memory, and provided almost no information of worth.  And though the Commission ended with the fall of many of her political connections, it actually made her business easier because she no longer had to pay out so much in graft – a godsend in the deepest part of the Great Depression.

Still, getting re-established wasn’t easy, and gangster Dutch Schultz became Adler’s business partner (bankrolling the venture in return for half the profit).  The two were friends, and Schultz often hid from his rivals or the police at her brothel.  This caused her considerable stress, because she was terrified that she or her girls (of whom she was extremely protective) would be killed by assassins trying to “hit” Schultz.  Still, the period proved fairly lucrative for her, and she once again attracted a celebrity clientele (including then-rising star Milton Berle).  She was only arrested twice in the next five years, but the second time – at 5 a.m. on March 5, 1935 – actually stuck.  The police had carried out an expensive, protracted, modern-style investigation as part of mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s campaign against “incorporated filth”, and she was charged with “maintaining an objectionable apartment” (at 30 East 55th Street) and “possessing a motion picture machine with objectionable pictures”.  Public sympathy was with her; a New York Daily News editorial thundered, “It is this crusading against personal and private habits and instincts — the sex instinct, the deep rooted human fondness for gambling — which is futile and sickening, just as the prohibition of liquor was.”  But the evidence was steep and so, in an early example of plea-bargaining, she pled guilty to the bawdy house charge on May 6th in exchange for dismissal of the more serious obscenity rap.  She paid a $500 fine and was sentenced to 30 days, of which she served 24; she spent the time scrubbing floors on the order of a warden who declared she must be taught the value of “honest work”.

Polly was back in business by the end of July, but things were never the same again; clients’ tastes were becoming more utilitarian, and upscale, full-service brothels like hers were declining in popularity.  She was arrested for the 17th time on January 15th, 1943; that was the last straw for her.  A year later she left New York (for only the second time in 30 years) and moved permanently to Los Angeles, where she fulfilled her lifelong dream of an education and obtained a university degree in 1949.  She then set to work on her memoirs, which were ghostwritten by the novelist Virginia Faulkner and published in 1953.  The book, A House Is Not a Home, became a bestseller and was made into a movie starring Shelley Winters which was released in 1964; unfortunately Polly did not live to see it, since she died of cancer in 1962.

But while the book is terribly honest and shows both good and bad aspects of “the Life” equally, the censors wouldn’t allow anything positive to be said about whores and so the finished film bears only a vague resemblance to it.  What remains is essentially a 98-minute morality play on the evils of harlotry, populated by fallen women who are victimized by men’s lust and so get addicted to drugs and/or commit suicide while “Polly” stands helplessly by; though it appeared over a decade before the advent of neofeminism, the anti-sex crowd couldn’t have written a better screed.  Oh, well, at least the people illegally drinking were depicted as enjoying themselves, even if the girls violating a still-current prohibitionist law were not.

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