Archive for August, 2012

It is easier to judge the mind of a man by his questions rather than his answers.  —  Pierre-Marc-Gaston, Duc de Lévis

Got a question?  Email me at maggiemcneill@earthlink.net and I’ll do my best to answer it!

How do I let my regular escort know that I truly value and appreciate her personality without coming off as creepy or patronizing?  I don’t want to send her mixed signals, but I do want to show her that it’s her brain and her heart that keep me one of her regulars and not just her vagina.

Just tell her.  Don’t make a big deal about it, but the next time you’re having a conversation with her while on a date, just say something like, “See, this is why I like you so much!”  She’ll understand.  Another good way is to find out if she has an Amazon wishlist or the like, and get her a present that leans in the direction of mind & personality; for example, if she has both a bottle of perfume and a book on science or politics there, get her the book.  That will say “I appreciate your mind” as loudly as anything.

I’m a recent university graduate in Malaysia and can’t bring myself to apply for a normal 9 to 5; I’m simply not that interested in the profession I was educated for.  Now I find myself toying with the idea of becoming a harlot; how would I go about setting myself up in this business?  How much can a freelance prostitute make?  I know there are some inherent risks and dangers that come with the job, but I can only assume the higher end of the spectrum not only pays more, but is also somewhat safer, am I too naive to believe this?  What is the long term prospect for a girl like me?  And how do I keep my working life completely out of any circle that I, my family or my friends move in?

If you were in a Western country I could speak more authoritatively, but the best I can do for Malaysia is to give you a general answer.  According to my reference prostitution is legal there as long as you don’t solicit in public; however, the United States has been encouraging your government to violently persecute sex workers, so it’s impossible to tell how that might impact your work in the near future.

That having been said, I suspect some things will still be the same; escorts advertise via websites nearly everywhere in the world, and always make far more than other entry-level jobs (usually as much as early-career lawyers if they work full-time and are good at it).  You’re not naïve in thinking higher-end sex work is safer; every methodologically sound study ever done shows it, and simple reason will demonstrate why it is so (better class of clients, less exposure, relative invisibility to police, etc).  Long term prospects are like those in any job:  if you are good at the work and apply yourself, making sound and sensible business decisions, you will tend to do well unless some unpredictable circumstances intervene.  As for keeping your personal and professional lives separate, that depends on careful planning.  Maintain a high level of privacy with your family, and don’t allow them to “drop in” on you without prior contact; don’t see clients any place family members are likely to go, and don’t give enough details in your professional life (including pictures showing your face) to allow anyone to connect your two personas.

I have two suggestions for your next step:  Get Amanda Brooks’ Internet Escort’s Handbook, which will help you decide whether the work is really right for you.  Also, do some research on local escort websites; see what the other girls are saying, how they advertise, what they charge, what their concerns are, etc.  After you do those things I think you’ll be in a position to make an informed decision.  Either way, good luck with whatever career you decide to pursue!

I was wondering if you have any advice (or columns) for an aspiring plus size courtesan?  I’ve done some escort work before (when I was thinner) and though I’m trying to work towards losing weight I’d like to start working sooner rather than later if possible.

I’ve never been in that group, but I know it’s not really an issue; there are a lot of guys interested in BBW escorts!  The important thing is to clearly advertise yourself that way, and make sure your pictures are current and accurate so no nasty men can play games by claiming you misrepresented yourself.  I believe that there are some BBW-specific sites, but I’ve seen them on general escort sites as well.

In your experience, are tall men more endowed than those of average height?

There’s no correlation at all between height and penis size.  In fact, one reason porn stars often look so huge is that a short actor’s penis looks bigger in proportion to his body than that of a taller man with the same endowment.

Do you have any resources about pleasing men?  I think Western women don’t go further than your typical Cosmo article on 134 ways to please your man, which I would assume is different from the way girls in Southeast Asia do it; the best description I found was that they “treat them like kings.”  So what is the difference?

Pleasing a man doesn’t require tricks, tips or a manual; all it takes is paying attention and a true desire to please.  Nine men out of ten will TELL you exactly what they want, but a lot of Western women react to such suggestions with, “Ick, that’s nasty; I’m going to try this ridiculous Cosmo suggestion instead.”  WTF?  Here they have men telling them exactly what will turn them on, and they shun it in favor of ridiculous antics that, if they really worked, would appear in every porno movie.  I wrote about this in my early column “A Whore in the Bedroom”; what it basically boils down to is, concentrate on what turns him on even if it does nothing for you, and even if you think it’s ridiculous or disgusting or “degrading”.  That’s the real “secret” of both the stereotypical Asian girl and the successful whore:  she will say “yes” when the typical Western woman will say “no”.  And considering that women are much more sexually flexible than men are, a woman often finds herself turned on by something she never cared for before, precisely because it excites the man she loves.

My boyfriend suffers from erectile dysfunction – the erections don’t last long and when he has to put his penis into me, it just goes soft; I wear sexy underwear and had Brazilian waxing done, but nothing seems to help.  He is 36, in generally bad shape, has circulatory problems and his diet is based on pizza and Coke.  I try to persuade him to walk more or ride the bike, and to change his unhealthy habits, but is there anything else I can do? 

I suspect his circulation problem is the major culprit, but his poor physical condition and diet probably don’t help, either.  Also, the Coke may very well have a lot to do with it:  in the United States, soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which (in addition to its many other bad effects) raises uric acid levels; this stiffens arteries, thus raising blood pressure, impairing circulation and discouraging the body from producing nitric oxide, the chemical which triggers erection.  I don’t know if soft drinks in Europe are made with this thoroughly nasty stuff, but if I were you I’d read the ingredients on a can to see.

If his soft drinks do contain HFCS, he needs to switch immediately to some other beverage that doesn’t such as coffee, tea, flavored water, etc.  Even if the soft drinks are sweetened with sugar, cutting them out would certainly help him lose weight  because sodas add calories without making one feel full.  Keep working on getting him to exercise; your doing it with him should make the prospect more attractive, especially if it’s something fun like bike riding or swimming.  He should also talk to his physician, and if the doctor just tries to “patch” the issue by giving him Viagra, you need to speak up:  in a 72-year-old man erectile difficulty is to be expected, but in a 36-year-old it’s a sign of major problems which will almost certainly lead to other health issues and should therefore not be ignored.

Getting a man to change his habits isn’t easy, but I’m sure he’d love to have stronger, more dependable erections again so that’s a factor in your favor.  Once things start to improve, you can also encourage him to keep it up by demonstrating in a practical way how happy you are with the results.  Good luck, and please let me know how things turn out!

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Repression thrives on ignorance; when people see others as human beings they are less likely to support the persecution of those people, and when they see behaviors as normal rather than strange and “scary” they are less likely to support bans on those activities.  –  Maggie McNeill

As far as I’m concerned, the single most important mission of this blog is to make people understand that whores are no different from anybody else, and that prostitution is part of the normal continuum of female behaviors which is not easily distinguished from others (certainly not well enough to base laws around).  As I wrote in “Real People”,

On many occasions I’ve written about the fact that whores aren’t all that different from everyone else; that is to say we’re different from each other just like everyone else is different, and we no more share a certain “whore personality type” than all amateurs share a “non-whore personality type”.  We’re not all addicts, nor are we all emotionally damaged, nor have we all been molested as children.  We’re not all nymphomaniacs or criminals (except insofar as our societies choose to brand us as criminals), or pimped “sex slaves”, and we don’t all have low-self esteem; in fact a disproportionate number of us have high self-esteem, which anyone who actually bothered to talk to real whores instead of just chanting dogma would realize is almost inevitable.  We have familieschildren and  friends, outside interests, hopes, dreams, fears and needs just like everyone else.  But some people insist on portraying us as somehow inhuman, with dangerous or even fatal results.

Under the “Real People” tag you’ll find lots of examples of articles which illustrate the humanity of sex workers of all kinds, and under “The More the Better” ones about sex workers moving into the mainstream; last week I found three such articles, so I felt it was time for another column spotlighting them (and calling attention to the others).  The first appeared in The Gloss and was appropriately entitled “How I Started Seeing Sex Workers as Real People”:

…the truth is that some of the strongest, most diverse, and compelling women I know are sex workers.  For me, this was a revelation…my first novel [was]…about a [prostitute] named Edie…[but] she wasn’t…real…[because] I didn’t know anything about sex workers.  After a year of trying to write my way into Edie’s world, I [realized]…that…if I was going to write convincingly, I needed to track down a woman with an honest perspective and experience.  So, one night, I began to peruse the now-defunct erotic section on Craiglist for research.  There I found the ad that started it all…

The author, Emilie Allen, contacted an escort named Jasmin who not only helped her develop “Edie”, but also inspired her to make a documentary called Sex/Touch/Work about Jasmin’s business, an erotic massage establishment in Ottawa.  In the process of filming she discovered exactly what I keep talking about:

…I’ve met some crazy cool ladies from roller derby queens, to the Aussies trying to make a buck on their working holiday, to women studies graduate students, to single moms. Actually, it’s the mothers that I’ve been most impressed with. There are a lot of moms out there who moonlight as sex workers. The good money and flexible hours afford them the time and resources that properly raising a child requires. With mouths to feed, most moms take their job seriously and make the best sex workers because they know a secret: men don’t always come to them for sex. A lot of clients are looking for a far more basic pleasure: a sense of care which touch provides…our filming…has brought this up time and again. Clients of erotic massage parlors speak of the touch aspect of the experience much more than they do of the final release…I’d like to suggest that it’s time we move away from our socially engrained fears of women’s bodies and sexualities. People always want to talk about the sex stuff when I tell them about this project (Isn’t it so degrading?).  But the women I’ve come to know and love aren’t anti-feminist in the least; a lot of the time they’re simply being paid to touch, to care, no more no less. I for one, see absolutely nothing wrong with that. To want to be touched is no crime, and to know how to touch in a way that makes another person feel cared for is a gift. And if that touch happens to be erotic, what’s the difference?

Allen’s statement about mothers making excellent sex workers, though obvious to anyone who has ever actually known any sex workers, is apparently inconceivable to the “authorities” who all too often use sex work as an excuse to abduct women’s children.  This profile of porn actress Stormy Daniels discusses the subject at length:

…Mothers are a powerful influence in our lives and responsible for raising thriving, well-adjusted human beings.  We have created a romanticized image that mothers are supposed to be sexless…so when we hear about a porn star who is a mom, it shatters our expectations, and many draw conclusions that these moms can’t be good parents…the 33-year-old Daniels says, “I had to work really hard and prepare a lot to have a baby because…I can’t work while I’m pregnant.  I did two years of work in one year.”  Wicked Pictures provided Daniels the extended time off for maternity leave and made it possible for her to return to work when she was ready.  Daniels’s fans have been supportive of her becoming a mom…but…[she] has had to contend with some ugly criticism.  She kept her pregnancy a secret to avoid negativity, but hateful personal attacks surfaced against her and her newborn child when someone congratulated her on Twitter after the birth of her daughter, who is now 19 months old…moms who work in the adult industry are thought to be incapable of nurturing healthy children and imparting good values because their lifestyles and careers are perceived to be immoral…

When the time is right, Daniels intends to be honest with her daughter about her career.  She’s adamant about preparing her for the negative backlash she might experience from people opposed to the adult industry.  “I’ll tell her Mommy has a job that some people don’t approve of, but Mommy’s proud of it and it’s for adults,” she says.  Yet she also thinks it’s important to describe her career to her daughter in a filtered, age-appropriate way.  Just like how police officers, bartenders, and emergency-room doctors wouldn’t share all the details of their job with their children, Daniels believes that discussing the adult industry should be no different…Daniels is not an anomaly in the adult industry, and when I asked if other adult actresses have children, Daniels says at least half do but fans just don’t know it…

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say close to two-thirds of all escorts have children, and in fact as I’ve  explained before many of them enter sex work for precisely that reason.  But while most of us in the United States struggle merely to be accepted as normal citizens, some in more enlightened countries have much higher ambitions:

Penthouse Pet and stripper Zahra Stardust has launched a bid to become Sydney’s next lord mayor by being nominated as the Sex Party’s candidate for the council’s top job…Stardust, a human rights lawyer who wants to be known as a feminist stripper, is joined by four others on her party’s ticket in the upcoming Sydney Council elections…Sex Party president Fiona Patten said…the party wanted to bring its policies into the local arena.  The Sex Party wants Sydney to operate as a 24-hour city, increase the presence of drug-injecting rooms, lobby for the decriminalisation of personal drug use and end discrimination against sex industry workers…

I don’t really think Sydney is ready for a stripper mayor, but the very fact that she can run for the office without being persecuted by government actors and crucified by the media says a lot about the comparative immaturity and bigotry of American society.

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And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worser by th’ excuse.
–  William Shakespeare, King John (IV, ii)

I often write about the way in which dogma, whether religious or political, is like a distorting lens which warps the viewpoints of those who look through it so they are unable to see anything behind the lens clearly.  Cops and prosecutors, for instance, view the entire world through their twisted “cops and robbers” lens and thereby see innocuous or rude-but-harmless behaviors as “crimes” and minor transgressions as excuses for destroying people’s lives.  Prudes see anything involving the human body (including nursing, massage or waste elimination) as “sexual” and everything sexual as “sinful”, “harmful” or “objectifying”.  Radical feminists and neofeminists see all male behavior as pathological and all heterosexual behavior as inherently exploitative.  “Trafficking” fanatics see any migration by women or brown people and all sex work (even the casual sort) as evidence of an international conspiracy.

These people are lost souls; there’s nothing that can be done about them unless they experience some severe trauma which causes the scales to fall from their eyes so they can once again see the world clearly.  Fortunately, these completely deluded types are small minorities; unfortunately they are influential minorities so their sick views are transmitted like a contagion to the population at large:  the result is dangerous nonsense like the “War on Drugs” and anti-sex campaigns.  The worst result of this is that real problems are often hidden by rhetoric, so millions of dollars and man-hours which might have solved or at least helped that problem are thrown at a scarecrow instead.  Or, information which could help people to understand a social issue is denied, shouted down or ignored because it contradicts the official catechism.

Take rape, for example; I’ve already written about the damage caused by the dogma that rape is a crime of “violence, power and control” which has nothing to do with sex.  Women who understand that rape is a natural outgrowth of male sexuality (which occurs in many, many nonhuman species) are far better equipped to avoid it or defuse it than those who believe it’s something only scary guys hiding in parking garages do, which is one of the reasons that viewpoint has been replaced over the past 20 years by the equally stupid and equally dangerous “rape culture” myth, which teaches that society “encourages” men to rape and “conditions” women to accept it.

Take a look at this post on Captain Awkward, and this long narrative comment in the discussion thread after it.  All three of the reported cases involve men we might call (to use the blogger’s excellent term) “proto-rapists”, guys who are so sexually frustrated and so morally stunted that they constantly make attractive women feel very uncomfortable and appear to be looking for opportunities to commit rape (two of the three tried to get women alone in dark places but were foiled).  Some of the blogger’s commentary on the issue, as well as some of the comments in the thread, are right on the mark.

But unfortunately, practically everyone involved in the discussion believes in the “rape culture” myth and is therefore unable to grasp the real root cause of the problem at hand, which is men (and even some women) downplaying and excusing the creepy, threatening behavior.  They go on and on about “rape culture” and thereby miss what should be glaringly obvious:  Rape is not the only thoroughly nasty behavior people excuse in this way.  When people ignore and excuse the sadistic and even murderous behavior of cops, is it because of “police culture”?  When they ignore and excuse the corruption, blatant lies and naked power-hunger of politicians, is it because of “political culture”?  When they seem unable to recognize that their kids are little monsters, or refuse to say anything about the misbehavior of others’ kids, is that the work of “brat culture”?  I’m sure you can think of plenty of other examples, none of which need tailor-made feminist constructs to explain them.  The reason people excuse bad behavior in members of the us-group is good old tribalism again:  bad things are done by “them”, the “bad people”, members of the out-group.  Cops don’t torture and murder people; criminals do that.  Children aren’t molested by their relatives; child predators do that.  Our duly-elected leaders don’t abuse their trust; members of The Evil Party chosen by the idiots in purple states do that.  Our country isn’t a police state; only other countries are.

Furthermore, the cause of this selective blindness isn’t cultural, but neurological; it derives from the instinctive script we all run, a basic program dating back to the time when we would’ve been classified as an endangered species by modern standards and therefore had to overlook the shortcomings of every productive member of the community while ostracizing and eliminating everyone who was perceived as presenting a danger to the group at large.  We developed the psychological ability to make excuses for the good hunters, water-finders and berry-pickers because without them the whole tribe might perish, and though no individual is that important any more we are all still running that program in our heads and some misfits are very good at exploiting it.  Conversely, it’s extremely rare that an unusual individual is so dangerous as to endanger the entire community…yet we still act as though every non-conformity is an imminent threat.  People want to believe that any behavior they dislike, from homosexuality to whorishness to sadism to sex roles to rape, is either wholly voluntary or the result of “socialization”, but that’s utter nonsense; all of these behaviors are observed in other animals, begin to manifest at a young age and can be better explained by evolution and neurology than by ludicrous tabula rasa notions.  Why they prefer to believe that people are programmed by “society” or “the Patriarchy” than to acknowledge we are programmed by Nature I cannot say; perhaps they fear that instinct is harder to overcome than learning and therefore choose to deny the terrifying reality, or maybe they prefer to blame a human agency they can complain about rather than superhuman forces which neither know nor care that they exist.  But these beliefs, comforting though they may be to social constructionists, are ultimately counterproductive because, as I said in the second paragraph, they divert precious mental and emotional resources which could be used to deal with the real issue into a campaign against an opponent that does not actually exist.

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There’s small choice in rotten apples.  –  William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (I,i)

Newsweek magazine, like its rival/soul sister Time, has been degenerating into yellow journalism at least since the term “moral panic” was coined in 1972; the primary reason is probably the rise of television news in the 1960s.  By the 1980s several of my English teachers were declaring it was no longer a credible source, and by the early ‘90s its main function seemed to be supporting prohibitionism by publishing disinformation-laden scare stories about sex, drugs, kids, stuff kids like, and drug-using kids having sex.  One favorite target is the internet, but that’s not surprising considering it’s the reason for the plummeting revenues of the past few years, which eventually resulted in the magazine’s sale to an entrepreneur on August 2nd, 2010 for the price of $1.  Not long after that it merged with the Daily Beast, which considering the latter’s own credibility issues hasn’t exactly helped.  Case in point, this recent article which claims to be about “human trafficking” in China, but actually appears to be an extended ad for the rescue industry.  It’s not the worst thing Newsweek has published lately, but it lies somewhere in the space between “Why Are Obama’s Critics so Dumb?” from January and “The John Next Door” from July of last year.

Steven Kim, an American businessman…may be the world’s leading expert on the market for North Korean brides…[while] living in China, overseeing the manufacture of chairs…he heard about a secret church that catered to…South Korean businessmen…Kim…became a regular attendee…and…began to assist North Korean refugees…[by providing] safe houses, food, clothing, and money; eventually he organized secret passage across China to third countries…Many of them turned out to be women fleeing from the Chinese men who had purchased them…

If the rest of the story continued like that you wouldn’t be reading it here.  But apparently Kim’s religious devotion, the four years he spent in a Chinese prison after he was caught, and the potential for massive profits in the rescue industry drove him to shift his focus from helping people who wanted to escape, to interfering in the lives of those who don’t:

Today he runs 318 Partners, a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to rescuing trafficked women in China…The only practical escape route for fugitives from North Korea is through China, and…roughly 80 percent of those thousands of refugees are women and girls who have become “commodities for purchase”…Ever since the one-child policy went into effect in 1979, Beijing has enforced it through fines, imprisonment, forced abortion, sterilization, and…infanticide.  The policy has had its intended effect of slowing the rate of expansion of China’s population.  But there has been an unwelcome side effect:  an unnaturally high male-to-female ratio…The result is an epic surplus of bachelors…[who] are often desperate—for companionship, for sex, for household help…

Chinese men want wives; North Korean women want to escape North Korea to the relatively-better conditions of China.  Therefore marriage brokers have arisen to put them together; the system is no more foolproof at making good matches than the biochemical-infatuation system prevalent in America, but nobody’s proposing that women be “rescued” from that.  When observed through the distorting lens of “trafficking” rhetoric, however, it becomes something else entirely:

…a chain of “suppliers,” “wholesale providers,” and “retail sellers” has developed…suppliers lure women from their homes with promises of a lucrative trip to China…if trickery fails, recruiters have been known to resort to kidnapping…wholesaler[s]…escort the women past Chinese ID checks to a safer place farther from the border…some of the women are sold directly to Korean-Chinese men who live in the region.  From the woman’s point of view, this is usually the better option.  Life with a Korean-Chinese man, in a community where the Korean language is spoken, is preferable to life with a Han Chinese man who speaks only Mandarin and whose culture and food will be unfamiliar.  Other brides…are resold to retailers…[who] in turn sell the women to their clients…for between $1,200 and $1,500…depending upon her age and appearance.

As I pointed out in “Creating the Crisis”, horrible political situations (such as North Korean tyranny or the government-created gender imbalance in China) are bound to create brutal, coercive environments where bona fide human trafficking or even chattel slavery can thrive, and I have no doubt that crimes such as those described here really are committed in some instances.  But how many of these transactions are based in fraud or violence and how many in women taking a calculated risk to get out of North Korea?  Does denying women agency and applying slave-trade dysphemisms really help outsiders to understand why men might conduct this sort of business and women go along with it?  The next paragraph struggles valiantly to make the women look like helpless victims, but careful reading reveals the truth:

At some point the woman realizes what is happening to her.  She then has two choices:  go through with the marriage or try to escape.  This is not really a choice.  The woman is on her own in a strange country…Most accept the inevitable and agree to be sold.  They reason, not illogically, that life with a Chinese husband, even an abusive one, is preferable to arrest, repatriation, and automatic imprisonment in a North Korean labor camp for illegally leaving the country…

Why does a “slave” need to “agree to be sold”?

…Because the woman has no official identity papers, the marriage cannot be legally registered.  Such pseudomarriages may be voluntary—at least in the sense that the woman has the theoretical option of turning down a man’s offer.  But it is wrong to consider it a true choice.  It is “a means of survival or livelihood,” says Lee Keum-soon, a senior researcher with the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul…In many cases, she says, a voluntary marriage is indistinguishable from a forced marriage.  The woman’s few alternatives may include prostitution or online stripping.  A woman who cannot speak Chinese would not be able to work in a restaurant or a store.  The North Korean woman “would quickly realize that there was no alternative but to establish a live-in relationship with a Chinese man…as a relatively safe means of staying in China.”  If a woman has relatives in China, they often urge her, not without reason, to strike a bargain with a Chinese man who will feed and house her in exchange for her labor and sexual favors…

If you can’t see the problem here, you need to reread “A False Dichotomy”.  By these standards, how many life-choices are “true” ones?  Do Chinese farmers “choose” to live in a country with no available women?  Do the so-called “traffickers” choose to live in government-destroyed countries with few means of getting ahead?  Obviously these women feel that staying in China, even under these conditions, is preferable to returning to North Korea, just as many people consider working in a sweatshop preferable to working on a farm.  It doesn’t help poor, disadvantaged people when educated, successful ones try to shut down some of their extremely limited options for the “crime” of failure to rise to Utopian levels.

As is typical for this type of article, it then descends into a long, lurid personal narrative designed to appeal to the reader’s emotions; in this case the writer willfully conflates the actions of “traffickers” with the brutality and corruption perpetrated by police and government officials in both countries.  It then returns to Kim, who admits that many of the “trafficked” women he endangers by his meddling tell him to get lost, but when he does manage to talk one of them into leaving with him he “sometimes asks the rescued women to pledge to pay back $1,000 of the costs once they get to Seoul and receive financial help from the South Korean government.”  In other words, he convinces them to allow him to illegally smuggle them out of their current situations and into another country, then charges them for the privilege.  Sound familiar?

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An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.  –  Benjamin Disraeli

Just over a year ago in “Top Ten” I listed the most popular posts at that time by number of visits and number of comments, and also shared those I thought deserved more attention.  I’ll do an update on the top columns in my annual summary in January, but today I’d like to discuss the ten columns with which I’m most pleased.  As is my custom with these lists, I’m going to restrict it to only one representative per column type; I’m also going to exclude all miscellanea-type columns, list columns and those built around large extracts from others’ writings (such as news stories).  With those rules in place, it was a little easier to whittle 779 posts down to this list, arranged in chronological order.

1)  Painted Devil  (August 23rd, 2010)

It was really difficult to choose a favorite “fictional interlude”, and the two runners-up are mentioned as honorable mentions below.  But this one, the second I wrote, was very special to me because of the way it came into being.  The idea first occurred to me in the late ‘80s, but I was very dissatisfied with the resulting story and it rattled around in my brain for over two decades; though I tried many times to put it together it just never quite jelled.  But once I realized the missing ingredient was that the heroine had to be a courtesan, it came together in just a few hours; the result made me realize that I really could write a story every month, as long as I continued to employ that common factor.

Honorable mentions:  “Concubine” (July 19th, 2011) and “Pearls Before Swine” (October 13th, 2011)

2)  Amazingly Stupid Statements (October 10th, 2010)

What makes this one a favorite is very simple:  it contains the most concise responses I have ever written to a number of common prohibitionist arguments, all of which have been addressed at greater length in other columns.  But for simplicity and convenience, I think this column deserves greater exposure.

3)  Plaçage (November 22nd, 2010)

I’m very happy with most of my historical columns, but since I can only choose one it would have to be this treatment of the system of concubinage which was so prevalent in early New Orleans that it actually gave rise to an entire culture which survived until very recently.  Several of my historical columns cast light on obscure aspects of history, but this one seems to have become an important internet reference on the subject.

Honorable mentions: “Honolulu Harlots” (July 5th, 2011) and “The Ouled Nail” (September 11th, 2011)

4)  Harm Reduction (January 13th, 2011)

Though the topic of harm reduction often arises with respect to the way society treats prostitution, few of those who talk about it acknowledge that the trade is itself a harm reduction mechanism.  This essay explains what is meant by “harm reduction”, gives a brief history of the concept and explains how whores practice it.

5)  Numerology (January 24th, 2011

This column’s place on this list was a given because it was the one which first “put me on the map” by capturing the attention of many people outside the sex worker rights ghetto.  But even if that had not been the case, it deserves the position as the most important exercise in applied math I’ve done here to date.

6)  Godwin’s Law (March 5th, 2011)

I’ve written a number of essays on why police states are a moral abomination, but I’m so proud of this one I even reposted it on The Agitator during my guest blogging there last month.  In it, I discuss the titular internet principle, point out the danger of the pretense that nothing like Nazi Germany could ever happen again and argue that “sometimes Nazi analogies are entirely appropriate.”

Honorable mentions:  “Creating Criminals” (January 15th, 2011) and its sequel “Universal Criminality” (January 15th, 2012), and the Star Trek-themed “The Fourth of July” (July 4th, 2012)

7)  A False Dichotomy (June 22nd, 2011)

Prohibitionists and sex worker rights advocates alike often subscribe to the fallacious belief that all whores are either free-willed “happy hookers” or “trafficked slaves”; this essay explains why that idea is incorrect and how belief in it is harmful to the cause of human rights and dismissive of the experiences of most of the world’s prostitutes.

Honorable mention:  “Thought Experiment” (December 16th, 2011)

8)  Frightful Films (October 28th, 2011)

At the time it was published this was the farthest off-topic I had ever wandered; it also had more pictures than any other, and some of them are the largest ones I ever uploaded to the blog.  It also took longer to post than any other column before or since (due to formatting issues), but it was worth it as a labor of love on a topic near and dear to my heart.

9)  Objectification Overruled (January 31st, 2012)

Of all the numerous criticisms of feminist theory I’ve written, this is my favorite.  That’s partly because I find “objectification” the most absurd, indefensible, offensive and pie-in-the-sky of all feminist notions, yet it’s achieved widespread acceptance in popular discourse and is almost never questioned despite the fact that its asininity should be obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.  So as you might imagine, I took particular pleasure in demolishing it with the help of Rene Magritte and Captain Kirk.

Honorable mention:  “My Body, My Choice” (November 19th, 2010)

10)  Imagination Pinned Down (June 12th, 2012)

It’s bad enough that the Great Unwashed accept lurid and unproven anecdotes as valid arguments against demonstrable facts, well-supported statistics and a very large number of anecdotes which contradict the lurid ones.  But when those stories strongly resemble other outrageous “survivor” tales, and violate both common sense and physical laws, somebody needs to stand up and call a trafficking victim a UFO abductee; this essay does exactly that.

New readers will probably find these an excellent introduction to my back-catalog, and even regular readers may find some titles they don’t recognize.  But I hope even those of you who remember all of these appreciated this month’s look into my own aesthetic sensibilities.

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When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.  –  Plato

This week, Reason magazine editor Jesse Walker tied with the ever-interesting Twitter feed of Radley Balko for the highest number of links; Walker supplied the first three items below the video (which you may wish to play while you read the link directly beneath it), and Balko the three items before it:

This anti-photographer, anti-privacy PSA is mostly lies.  (Via Antonio Lorusso)

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Innocent people should not be trapped for engaging in their legal right to ask to have sex in private with another adult.  –  Ezekiel Edwards

Beneath the Veil

It isn’t often we hear anything credible about sex work in strict Muslim countries, which are among the few places in the world more oppressive of sex workers than the United States, but this one seems both realistic and relatively non-judgmental:

…In Yemen, sex work is punishable by stiff prison sentences of up to three years…women earn 50,000 to 60,000 riyals [$230-$280] per client…Wealthy Gulf playboys are known to drop 100,000 riyals [$470] or more per woman…[but women] picked up at a restaurant or club…earn [only] 10,000 [to] 15,000 riyals ($47-$70).  Condoms are standard…testing for sexually transmitted diseases is less common but not rare…Because of the illicit nature of the work, sex workers have virtually no protections against abuse.  It is not uncommon for men to refuse to pay.  Sometimes, a woman will meet a client, only to discover his three friends have accompanied him…

The reporter’s source is a Somali woman working in Yemen who, like so many of us, has been in and out of sex work for much of her life.


Rough Trade

At least British juries recognize that a prostitute can be raped:  “Arturas Vasilivas attacked the girl…on October 13 last year…Prosecutor Mary Loram…[said] ‘He clearly viewed her as an object with which he could do as he pleased. She was absolutely terrified’…”  He was convicted after only 3½ hours of deliberation and will be sentenced next month.  In the United States, however, the rapist usually has to be shockingly violent to ensure conviction:

A limo driver faces up to 14 years in prison…[for] running down a teenage prostitute…Adekunkle Adefeyinti, 42, of Chicago, [was convicted] of two counts of aggravated battery…[for injuring] the 16-year-old girl while fleeing in his Hummer to avoid payment…part of her scalp [was] ripped off and [she suffered] facial nerve damage…

Walking Stereotype Sues Whore

Of course, criminalization also allows whores to cheat clients as well:

…Ernesto S. Tapang, 42, and Shuzhen Santos both have been charged with misdemeanor prostitution…Tapang…paid Santos $120 for an hour of sex…[but] twenty minutes later she allegedly told him…it was over and…refused to give [him] a refund so he flagged down a patrol car and reported her to police…

A False Dichotomy

It’s always a pleasure when people who have never done sex work get it:

Beyond the simplistic dichotomies within western feminism on the nature of sex work there is a complex picture in which many women take a pragmatic approach, negotiating with their sexuality an income while withstanding the “occupational hazard” of rampant violence, says Sehin Teferra.  In Ethiopian cities…many young women become sex workers having failed to make ends meet by waiting tables or working as house-help, or [after] personal hardship such as an unplanned birth…[or running] away from home…Nearly all the women [Teferra] spoke to had faced violence at some point…[but] did not portray themselves as victims, and neither were they presented as victims by the men…Despite the low stature of women in Ethiopia in general, sex workers [including casual ones who do not identify as such] are recognized as making good money…[so] many couples and families [depend] on a young woman who sells sex.  Many male partners of sex workers expressed frustration that as unskilled labour, they cannot find work that pays as well, and as regularly, as their partners’ sex work…while many sex workers…express a desire to leave their line of work, others recognize that [it] has allowed them to provide for themselves and their families…

Peeping Toms

Until I read this thorough and sensible article, I hadn’t realized that both major American presidential candidates this year are descended from polygamists (and much more recently in Obama’s Kenyan family than in Romney’s Mormon one).  But that fact has not escaped the notice of those fighting for the right to live in whatever consensual arrangement suits them, who also point out that banning a practice because a minority abuse it is tyranny.  This should obviously sound familiar, but the similarities don’t stop there; Romney has stated, “I can’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy,” which is exactly the same sort of absurdly-exaggerated denunciation politicians usually emit when talking about sex work.

An Ounce of Prevention

Y’all may discuss this in the comments as you wish; please just keep it factual and avoid “mutilation” hyperbole and unverifiable claims about sensitivity:

A 20-year decline in male circumcision has cost the country $2 billion in medical costs that could have been prevented, Johns Hopkins researchers say in a [new] study…boys who are not circumcised are more prone to sexually transmitted diseases and other [costly] health problems over a lifetime…”The economic evidence is backing up what we already know medically,” said Dr. Aaron Tobian…about 55 percent of the 2 million baby boys born each year are circumcised, compared with a peak of 79 percent in the 1970s and 1980s…Studies have long shown that when babies are not circumcised…bacteria and viruses can get trapped in the extra layers of skin left on the penis…circumcision reduces the number of infant urinary tract infections.  Men who are uncircumcised are more at-risk for cancer-causing HPV, HIV, herpes, bacterial vaginitis and other sexually transmitted diseases…

Legal Is as Legal Does

As I’ve stated many times, any artificial bottleneck in the legality of sex work (such as licensing, venue restrictions or immigration controls) inevitably creates problems in the restricted sector.  This excellent article by Christian Vega explains the problems Asian sex workers face in the legalized system in Victoria.

The Course of a Disease

Considering the progress of Swedish Rot in Ireland, it should come as no surprise that Northern Ireland has contracted the disease as well:

…the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill…aims to enhance services for victims as well as making it an offence to pay for sexual services from a prostitute…Lord Morrow said…”In Sweden, there’s a very clear message of zero tolerance for the purchase of sex that has had a clear impact on trafficking”…

His Lordship is correct: it has made trafficking worse.

Enabling Oppression

If these women were vulnerable to arrest for prostitution, would this have turned out the same way?

The six-year-old daughter of a sex worker, who was allegedly being tortured by her mother and her partner for the past few months, was rescued by other sex workers…[who heard her] yelling out in pain…and…took her to Medical College and Hospital Calcutta for treatment…The little girl, who looked relieved, kept saying that she did not want to return to her mother…”If the girl meets this kind of treatment from her own mother, she would surely become a victim of circumstances soon…we want the girl to stay at a safer place,” said a member of DMSC.

Soap Opera

Penthouse Club Tampa RNC adTampa Police have arrested nearly 20 women at area strip clubs as part of a crackdown ahead of the Republican National Convention…Tampa Police said they are investigating prostitution and human sex trafficking of minors based on tips that prostitutes may be coming to Tampa to work in adult establishments during the convention.”  Because if Telisia Espinosa says pimped, trafficked streetwalkers work out of strip clubs, that’s good enough for them.

Damned If You Don’t

Maybe if this sort of thing keeps happening, the ACLU will get off its collective arse and actually start challenging these laws:

The South Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is accusing the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office [of] routinely making unlawful arrests of women they suspect of being prostitutes and men who have sex with men, even though they haven’t broken any laws.  The ACLU says it sent a letter [outlining] “several incidents in which undercover officers approached people parked in their cars, sitting on their own porches or walking down the street and asked suspects to engage in illegal sexual activity, including prostitution and having sex in a public place.  The individuals either declined or offered to engage in lawful private sexual contact, but were arrested anyway”…


For Those Who Think Legalization is a Good Idea in August Updates (Part One)

It looks like the Indian Supreme Court is starting to back down from its year-old decision to move toward decriminalization:

A year after trying to provide a dignified life to sex workers, the Supreme Court on Thursday said its orders should not be construed as an encouragement to prostitution…Justice [Gyan Sudha] Mishra said, “I prefer to add…sex workers have a right to live with dignity but the collective endeavour must be on part of the sex workers to give up the trade in case they are given alternate platform”…Justice [Altamas] Kabir said:  “It is all very good for your (government’s) policy to say prevent prostitution but will you provide to fill their stomach.  Even a prostitute has a right to live with dignity”…

The other judges waffled even more, and one claimed he was only talking about “sex trafficking” victims.  Well, at least they rejected the government’s attempt to remove DMSC from the advisory panel.

A Tale That Grew in the Telling in October Updates (Part Three)

A news release of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), said…[a human trafficking] hotline…established a year and a half ago…”has received 11,000 calls from local and overseas sources, with…165 case calls, of which 52 are reportedly victims of human trafficking”…the CFO said “many victims still do not file charges against their recruiters.”

Would that be “many” more than the 11,000 callers, the 165 operators opened files on, the 52 staff represent as real or the much smaller, undisclosed number which actually turn out to be cases of victimization?

An Example To the West in TW3 (#14)

Here’s another article by Matthias Lehmann on sex work in South Korea, this one in response to an article written by a woman who seems to believe that volunteering at a woman’s shelter for a few months makes her a “sex trafficking” expert.  It includes an excerpt from this excellent letter (dated last September) to “human trafficking ambassador” Luis CdeBaca from Ann Jordan and other respected academics:

“…[W]e are concerned that the Obama Administration has produced a document that asserts as matters of proven fact a number of statements, which…are unsupported or unproven by valid research methods and data…the document is illogical, misleading and therefore potentially damaging to on-going efforts globally to prevent trafficking and protect the rights of trafficked persons…these assumptions are not proven in any empirically meaningful way, and [we] believe that they only serve to deflect attention away from the structures and actors that in fact lead to trafficking of women, men and children.  The proposals and statements in the document threaten to divert precious resources from protecting victims of trafficking who urgently need help into a politically contested and futile anti-prostitution campaign…”

Interestingly, Lehmann also compares the “anti-trafficking” campaigns in South Korea with California’s Proposition 35, about which I wrote last week.

Whorearchy in TW3 (#19)

Barcelona’s ill-considered and Swedish-flavored campaign to drive vulnerable women into poverty continues:

…[As of ] 17th August, street prostitution will be totally banned in Barcelona…the…ban will persecute both prostitutes and clients; although the later will have to pay significantly higher fines.  Clients might be fined between €1,000 and €3,000…[while] prostitutes will…[be fined] €100 [to] €750, depending on the situation…

This Week in 2011

I examined a claim that porn causes terrorism, described my “girls’ night out” with two other whore activists, discussed attempts to restrict adult behavior under the excuse of “protecting children”, expressed my opinion on a conflict between two activists, published the tale of an experiment in sexual robotics, looked at several examples of sex work scams and criticized the demonization of “sexting”.

This Week in 2010

What happens when an escort already knows her client personally or because he’s famous?  How should clients treat hookers, and what sorts of presents do they give in addition to fees?  What kinds of tricks do unscrupulous whores use?  What do we think about people who try to “rescue” us?  And what does one do with a talking painting?

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The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.  –  Philip K. Dick

We’ve talked many times about the way “sex trafficking” numbers are inflated by bogus “studies”, mathematically-unsound “estimates” and redefining an increasingly-large number of totally separate phenomena as “trafficking”.  But even those powerful tools of disinformation are insufficient if those who use them carelessly leave the real facts lying around for skeptical readers to discover; the really thorough prohibitionist covers his tracks by the use of so many dysphemisms that it’s difficult to tell what the hell he’s even talking about in the first place.  A recent “study” of so-called “sex trafficking” in Ohio provides an excellent example:

For the victims of sex trafficking in Ohio, the recruiters are usually women, and many buyers are men in positions of power and authority.  Those are two of the key findings from a three–year study of human trafficking in Columbus and four other major Ohio cities.  The report was based on a survey of 328 self-identified victims, including some who were adults and no longer involved in the industry…one year before they entered human trafficking, nearly half of the victims had an older boyfriend, 46 percent were unsure of where they would eat or sleep and 44 percent had trouble in school.  And more than 60 percent of victims from Columbus said they were persuaded to enter the industry in part by another woman who sold herself…A sample of 43 victims provided information about the professions of the “johns” — the buyers — in the human-trafficking industry…The profession that victims most frequently reported as manipulating them into providing sexual services was law enforcement, at 47 percent.  The other professions of buyers included businessmen, drug dealers, truckers and lawyers.  Also on the list:  politicians, military men, teachers, government employees, judges and pastors and ministers…

The fact that the subjects of this survey self-identify as “victims of sex trafficking” already introduces a selection bias so huge as to render the entire “study” worthless; this tells us nothing about an actual crime, but rather about the claims made by women who for whatever reason, truthfully or falsely or distortedly, want to think of themselves as passive victims of a currently-faddish construct of “social evil”.  But even if we ignore that for the sake of argument…what does any of this actually mean?  Though the word “underage” is not used anywhere in the article, phrases like “some who were adults”, “older boyfriend” and “trouble in school” strongly imply that; however, they are also described as “women” despite the fact that standard lawhead usage is to describe anyone below the Age of Shazam as a “child”.  There is also a strong implication that “sex trafficking victim” is being used in place of “streetwalker” (we’re told half were homeless), yet the trade is also represented as some kind of organized “industry” into which women are “recruited” (“persuaded” seems to be a dysphemism for “gave the idea to”).  The phrase “manipulated…into providing sexual services” is even more opaque; the fact that half of those who do this are supposedly cops implies coercion via threat of arrest, but the rest of the list would indicate it’s merely a convoluted, agency-denying dysphemism for “hire”.

This dense tangle of undefined terminology would render the whole report useless even if it had been drawn from a proper sample with rigid methodology, but in the present circumstances it has something like the effect of a lawnmower hitting a dog turd.  Since the “study” was sponsored by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, however, its total lack of real information is no barrier to its being used as an excuse for further criminalization of clients, infantilization of sexworkers and expansion of both police and prosecutorial power despite the report’s own pronouncement that police and other government actors make up the majority of the problem.

But bogus “studies” aren’t the only reports in which dysphemisms are employed to disguise the true nature of the subject; this recent case from Oklahoma displays a similar strategy:

…Gloria N. “Diana” Giammalva, 51, admitted that from at least 2009 through March 2012 she conspired with others in the operation of a multistate prostitution business that coerced and enticed women across state lines to participate in commercial sex acts…Juan “Fernando” Rosales Garza, 40, pleaded guilty…to conspiracy and money-laundering charges…[because] he agreed with others to benefit financially by transporting women across state lines into northeastern Oklahoma to participate in a commercial sex venture…The women who were used as prostitutes are from other countries, including Mexico and some Central and South American nations…

And so on.  Fortunately, court officials are less practiced at obfuscation than academics, so it’s much easier to tease the truth out of this one:  these luckless folks owned an escort service in Tulsa, which lies fairly close to where four states  (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri) converge, hired some immigrant employees and allowed their girls to cross into towns just across state lines.  This simple act of careless administration and poor judgment was inflated by prosecutors into a nefarious multi-state “human trafficking” scheme; normal business discussions thereby become “conspiracy” and ordinary bank deposits such as everyone makes become “money laundering”.  And a routine prosecution for something which isn’t even against the law in civilized countries is thereby inflated into a triumph of “justice” over a dangerous criminal cartel, all via the magic of dysphemisms.

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I feel it only fair to warn you:  this story is very strange. The seed idea came to me while watching one of my favorite movies, but it’s not exactly a sequel; perhaps we could call it a quasi-sequel, a story which could have taken place in the world of that movie had things gone just a little differently.  I think most of you will probably pick up on it pretty quickly, and if you don’t…well, that’s what comment threads are for.

Greta ground the butt of the cigarette into the ashtray, then opened her case for another.  Upon realizing that she only had four left and wasn’t sure when she would be able to get more, she decided to conserve them.  She didn’t normally smoke as much as she had tonight, but she was unusually nervous; her instincts told her something was very wrong, and they never lied.  Perhaps it was the way Klaus had behaved when he let her know this group was on the way last night; perhaps it was the unusually large size, more than twice as many as usual.  Maybe it was the one little girl who simply would not stop crying, or the heavy rain.

But most likely, it was the fact that Albert was an unprecedented three hours late.

Ignoring the silent question in the refugees’ eyes, she went back upstairs, put on her coat and hat and went onto the balcony with her binoculars.  It was a futile gesture, really; in this weather she wouldn’t be able to see anything outside her own grounds.  But it kept her occupied for at least a few minutes, and allowed her to avoid the frightened people downstairs who might be able to read the apprehension on her features.

After returning the wet things to the rack she went to Goliath’s room at the end of the hall, knocked and let herself in; she found him where she knew she would, seated in his massive wooden chair staring out at the storm with a strange look of fascination.  When she touched his hand he turned to her and smiled that silly grin of his, and perceiving his empty tray she asked, “Was your supper good?”

“Yes.  Very good,” he said.

“I’m glad.  It shouldn’t be much longer now, then we’ll have the house to ourselves again.”

“Good,”  he frowned.  “I hate crowds.”

“I know you do,” said Greta, “but what we’re doing is very important.  These people are trying to escape bad men who want to capture them, to lock them in chains and maybe even kill them.  The bad men hate them because they’re different, and you know what that’s like, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said quietly, with incredible sadness.  “I know.”

Greta was fairly sure he did.  Her father had taken him in over 20 years ago after his previous caretaker had died of influenza, and though he was simple and childlike, his great size and terribly ugly features frightened people so much the family kept him hidden as much as possible.  “I’m going to leave your door ajar, so you can hear if there’s trouble, all right?”  He didn’t answer, but she knew he understood.

She found the leader of the little group waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.  “What can I do for you, Rabbi?”

“I wanted to thank you on behalf of my people, for endangering yourself to help us.”

“Greta is just a stage name, Rabbi; my mother called me Judith.”

“Ah.  Then you are in as much danger as we are should you be found out; why do you not escape to Switzerland yourself?”

“Guilt.  At first I was as happy to take their money as I was to take that of any other man, and even more so after the Nuremberg Laws made them all criminals for hiring me.  But after the war started and the usual hate turned into something monstrous, I knew what manner of men I had entertained and I feel I will never be clean of their foul touch.”

“Yet their money paid for our refuge, and your profession gave you the contacts you have used to help so many of your people, just as Rahab sheltered Joshua’s men in Jericho,” he said.  “Think about that.”

Before Greta could answer there was a squeal of brakes followed by the sounds of running feet and a pounding on her door; she saw shadows flitting past the windows and knew that disaster had come upon them.  The door flew open, and in strode a Gestapo officer, announcing that everyone was under arrest; in moments several of his men had entered the room.  There were not many but they were armed and organized, and thus more than a match for a group of panicked refugees, most of them women and children.

They were no match, however, for the nightmare that came lumbering down the stairs a moment later, ignoring their bullets as completely as he ignored the officer’s frantic orders to halt.  Goliath flung aside the first men he encountered as easily as an angry child might fling a doll, and both refugees and Gestapo alike screamed in terror when he put his right hand on the officer’s shoulder and in one quick motion tore his head off with the left.

Greta knew it was imperative she get the refugees away from the melee; in his berserk state Goliath might not be able to tell friend from foe, and might perceive screaming and panic as a threat.  “The back door!” she shouted. “Out the back door!”  The Nazis who had originally gone around to block that way had immediately returned to the front when the screaming started, though they would soon wish they hadn’t.  Once outside, she directed the fleeing group toward the barn and then made a wide circle around to the front herself, hoping to calm Goliath down once the battle came to its inevitable conclusion.

Only once before had Greta been directly exposed to her protector’s incredible capacity for violence; years ago a client had turned brutal and, summoned by her screams, Goliath had burst through the door and literally dismembered her assailant.  But that incident had been over before it started; this was carnage on a scale she had never even imagined.  Body parts lay strewn madly about, the windowpanes were opaque with blood and Goliath was stumbling around the front lawn in the pouring rain, growling and crying out incoherently and swinging a grisly club (which Greta took to be a human shin) at invisible, airborne opponents.

“I’m safe!” she shouted at him, “Look, it’s me, Judith!  Your friend!  The bad men didn’t hurt me!”  He heard, and turned toward her with a look of such implacable fury that for a moment she was terrified he could not recognize her.

But then his features softened abruptly; he dropped his grotesque weapon, reached out toward her with open hands and plaintively called out, “Friend?”

“Yes, it’s me, I’m all right!  You did good, you protected the people!  But the battle is over now, and you have to be calm again.”  But as she spoke, she realized he was looking past her and scowling, and she turned to discover that several of the men had come up behind her after arming themselves with the dead Nazis’ guns.  “He won’t hurt you!” she cried.  “He only attacks people who threaten him or me.”

“Do you know what that is?” one of the older men shouted.  “It’s…”

“It is a golem!” interrupted the Rabbi, in a voice that commanded attention.  “Do you not know the story of Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, who created a man-like creature from inanimate matter in order to defend the Jews?  This is another like it.”

His authoritative declaration had the desired effect; the guns went down, albeit slowly, and Greta suggested it would be better for them to wait in the barn with their families while she tried to discover whether Albert had been captured or merely delayed.  In either case, they would have to leave soon, and this time she and Goliath would go with them; this place wasn’t safe for anyone now.

“Come on,” she said, as calmly as she could manage.  “We both need to get out of these wet things.”  And with that she took his huge hand in hers, and led him back into their home for the last time.

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Science is properly more scrupulous than dogma. Dogma gives a charter to mistake, but the very breath of science is a contest with mistake, and must keep the conscience alive.  –  George Eliot

As so often happens in American politics, a politician has said something incredibly stupid, and many people have reacted with either real, exaggerated or faux outrage.  It’s inevitable that politicians will say stupid, ignorant, bigoted, offensive things because only a brutal savage wants control over other people; therefore only brutal savages seek power and we are governed by the most foolish, greedy, irresponsible, power-mad and least evolved among us.  So it’s a bit tiring to see people behaving as though such statements are somehow surprising or shocking, and abhorrent that they ignore equally-outrageous statements from other power-mad throwbacks when it suits their political agenda to do so.

I’m speaking, of course, of the recent comments by a Missouri politician that victims of “legitimate rape” are somehow immune to impregnation:

Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri…justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.  “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday.  “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim.  “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said.  “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child”…

This reaction to this moronic statement was as predictable as sunrise:  the media had a ball with it, Akin’s opponent and others claimed to be “shocked”, Republicans distanced themselves from him, Democrats touted the statement as a purely Republican form of buffoonery, Akin claimed to have “misspoken”  and feminists entirely missed the point and began an endless and dreary denunciation of the term “legitimate rape” based on the nonsensical but politically-advantageous concept that everything legally classified as “rape”, from teen sex to alcohol-fueled misunderstandings to aggravated rape by a stranger at gunpoint, is morally indistinguishable and equally traumatic.  But the most revolting reaction of all was the one from partisans, academics, journalists, politicians and other pseudo-intellectuals who jumped on Akin for being scientifically illiterate, despite the obvious fact that they are every bit as willing to ignore science as he is when it suits them to do so:

For a party intent on closing a gender gap that could spell electoral disaster, the Republican Party sure keeps saying the most remarkable things.  Put aside for the moment the persistent efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, the many personhood and mandatory invasive ultrasound bills, and even Mitt Romney’s selection of the vehemently anti-choice Paul Ryan as his running mate.  Now we have this from Rep. Todd Akin…[who] informs us—based on fake science that he and others on the far right endorse—that the body can shut down a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate” rape, therefore abortion should not be legal in any case.  For the record, about 32,000 pregnancies every year result from rape…

Now, I’m not surprised to see such blatant hypocrisy spewing forth from the likes of Eliot Spitzer, one of the filthiest and most disgusting hypocrites currently besmirching the Earth with his loathsome presence.  Nor am I at all shocked to see he and others who can’t do simple math pointing fingers at others for being ignorant of biology.  After all, they are politicians, the moral equivalent of the sorts of things one finds upon turning over a rock.  But what does royally piss me off and fill me with righteous indignation are the number of partisan sheep currently polluting the blogosphere and the Twitterverse with their bleating about how ignoring facts, reason and science in favor of a faith-based dogma is only bad and wrong when it supports the ugly, hateful, repressive agenda favored by another “tribe”, but right and good when it supports their own equally ugly, equally hateful and equally repressive schema.  Either one accepts the scientific method, or one does not; either one recognizes that the universe is innately knowable via the tools of research, data collection and rigorous testing, or rejects that view in favor of the doctrine that truth is revealed via the sacred pronouncements of authority figures.  Anyone who has ever rejected cold, hard facts because they are inconvenient to his or her world view, or presumes the right to speak for others whose experience he or she does not share, or who proclaims that public policy should be based upon the way he or she would like the world to be rather than the way it is, has absolutely no damned business criticizing others for their equally false, pseudoscientific and faith-based beliefs.

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