Archive for October, 2012

Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve.   –  Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree

It’s upon us again:  my very favorite of days, Halloween.  This would have been a glorious year for trick-or-treating; the weather was already cool by the first, an autumn cold snap arrived on the sixth and the weather has been quite lovely since then.  The leaves turned gradually and gloriously over the course of the month, and best of all we’re only barely past the full moon!  It would have been a fine night for trick-or-treating, if I were a third of a century younger and our culture not afraid of its own collective shadow.  Even so, I’m looking forward to a lovely evening of movies and stories with my loved ones, as I described in my recent “Halloween Favorites” column.

This is actually my second attempt at writing this column; the first time I was moved by the Muse in a completely unexpected direction, and before I knew it I had produced tomorrow’s column (which is a lot more sober and serious).  That isn’t to say it came from some gloomy mood; far from it, despite the black subject matter.  Death and I are old dance partners, and he knows I won’t play hard to get when he eventually comes to claim me.  However, few people are as comfortable with the topic as I am, so I felt it best to simply rewrite the introductory paragraph and move it to tomorrow, which is El Dia de los Muertos anyhow.  For today I really wanted something much more in keeping with the witchy joy I generally feel on Halloween, so I’ve decided to point y’all toward a few older columns which may help you to get into the Halloween spirit. “Halloween”, “Samhain” and “Moondance”  all discuss my own feelings about the season, and “Saint Death” introduces you to Mexico’s Santa Muerte, patron goddess of death.  “Mass Hysteria” compared the “sex trafficking” panic to that attending the famous War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938 (and links a recording for your listening pleasure), and “October Miscellanea”  contained an item about horror comics and a listing of shows featuring vampire whores.  Finally, a number of my fictional interludes include horror themes, including this month’s “Pandora”, “Friend” from August, “Dry Spell” and “Pearls Before Swine” from previous Octobers, and also “The Trick”, “Painted Devil” and “Ripper”.

Happy Halloween, Dear Readers, and Blessed Be!

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Why do we never get an answer
When we’re knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
  –  Justin Hayward

Please email maggiemcneill@earthlink.net if you have a question you’d like answered; I’m a bit slow with my correspondence lately but I should still be able to answer you within a few days.

I’m twenty-seven years old and I’ve been fantasizing about visiting prostitutes for at least ten years.  The problem is that I live in a country where buying sexual favors is much more stigmatized than selling them.  Indeed, the common view seems to be that prostitution is morally equivalent to rape and that anyone who buys sexual favors has a deficient sense of empathy.  Though I vehemently disagree, it has an unconscious effect on me and I’m worried that I would begin to feel guilty over what I’d done.  What is your advice?

As you know from reading my blog, the idea that paying a person for a service somehow harms that person is ludicrous in the extreme.  However, the human mind being what it is, I understand your concern.  My suggestion is that you travel as soon as you can to a fairly-affluent country where sex work is either decriminalized (New Zealand, NSW Australia) or very nearly so (Germany) and hire a native girl (not a foreign one).  That way, you can head off any of the possible guilt-trips right from the beginning by demonstrating to yourself that the lady is neither desperate, nor criminalized, nor “trafficked”.  And by going to another country you dramatically reduce the chance that anyone in your own will find out about it.

I am a 22-year-old European boy who fell deeply in love with an Australian girl last December, but she broke up with me a few weeks ago because she wants to open a high class escort agency and said that she needs to be an escort herself for a while first.  She says has always been a “sex-person”, but had a troubled past and has gone through depression; she is also very immature for 21 years old (she plays with soft toys and watches cartoons) and is very shy, insecure and innocent.  I won’t stop her because it is her life and I don’t judge this industry, but I really think this is the wrong choice for her because I’m worried that she’ll get sucked into this environment and lose herself.

Like practically everything else in the world, escorting is not right for everyone; some women thrive in the trade, and others view it as a job no better and no worse than others, but for some women it is a really bad idea.  Generally, these are women with negative, moralistic or overly-romanticized views of sex, because they feel degraded by the work; from what you’re saying, though, it doesn’t seem as though your lady has any of those issues.  This isn’t to say she’ll like the work; it’s entirely possible the reality will be nothing like her fantasy and she’ll quit in under a week (a young friend of mine had a similar reaction to the realities of stripping).  But it’s also possible she may find it very satisfying and it may even help her to overcome her shyness and insecurity.  The only way for her to find out if she likes it or not is to try it, so you’re wise not to obstruct her.

I understand that you’re concerned for her; it’s normal for a man to feel protective of a woman he loves.  But at the same time, it’s possible you might be infantilizing her a bit.  You say she’s had a troubled past, and has gone through depression, but that could be said of many people (including me, and I still watch cartoons even though I’m old enough to be her mother).  The popular wisdom is that damaged people should wallow in their pain forever, but that’s self-destructive nonsense; the only hope of escaping the past is to live in the present and look toward the future.  Even if she’s as fragile as you think, the only way to get stronger is to go out into the world, face its challenges and either overcome them or fail and learn.  The only cure for innocence is experience, and a sheltered child never grows up.  Furthermore, she’s in no more danger of getting “sucked into” anything as an escort than she is in many another high-paying field that nobody would think twice about her entering (such as modeling or sales); sex work is a lot more mundane than people think, and there really aren’t any mysterious tentacles waiting to drag unwary ingénues down into the abyss.

There’s one more thing I have to say:  you won’t like hearing it, but it’s necessary.  And that is, it may be time for you to move on.  From your words I’m guessing that this is the first time you’ve really been in love, and that means you’re in the grip of some of the most powerful brain chemicals Nature devised to get us to do her bidding.  I know that right now you believe you’ll never feel like this about anyone else, and that if you let her go you’ll never be happy again; I know it because I’ve felt the same way before, and so have most people.  But the truth is, it really does get better, and in a few months you’ll have a much clearer perspective on her, your own feelings about her, and the difference between the two.  It’s even possible that she may change her mind and come back to you, but at that point you really need to try to be as logical as possible and ask yourself if you really want to stay with a fickle woman who will probably keep you on an emotional roller-coaster for years to come.

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You have to accept the fact that part of the sizzle of sex comes from the danger of sex.  –  Camille Paglia

As Paglia pointed out, second-wave feminists were fighting a losing battle in trying to paint sex as a wholly good, positive, non-scary, sunshine-and-rainbows thing in order to make it palatable to the naïve young coeds and sheltered housewives they hoped to liberate from the rigid traditional roles of Madonna and whore.  Though their motives were commendable, no good can come from hiding the truth and infantilizing those one hopes to help; the dark, chthonian power of sex is so important to its function and appeal that the only way to disguise it was to indulge in an ever-escalating (and ultimately futile) series of myths and denials which paved the way for the anti-sexual, anti-humanistic tyrannies of neofeminism.  Rape had to be absurdly presented as an asexual power exercise, which of course meant that BDSM had to be rejected  because its very nature refuted the claim that power could be cleanly divorced from sex; the second-wavers also didn’t want women thinking too hard about how much of a turn-on being overpowered or restrained (by the right man under the right conditions) can be.  Similarly, porn had to be demonized by creating arbitrary and fanciful distinctions between it and erotica, and because scary situations can arise in sex work it also had to be amputated from the mutilated, sanitized body of “good” sex.  At first this was a tough sell to women who had enjoyed the taste of sexual freedom in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but once the feminist establishment succeeded in stoking the fires of rape paranoia, all that had to be done was to define all “unacceptable” sex as rape, and AIDS hysteria drove the last nails into the coffin.

If sex were that easily buried, however, the human race would have died off long ago.  The efforts of the neofeminists and crypto-moralists to enforce a rigid sexual orthodoxy were as doomed to failure as those of Christianity (even when allied with the State since the late 19th century) had been.  As the “light side” of sex was locked into ever-tighter bondage by the forces of law and middle-class mores, the “dark side” grew correspondingly stronger.  The more sexless marriage became, the more popular whores grew; the more chaste the popular media, the more explicit the pornography. Beneath the orderly facade of Victorian Europe and America the buried majority of sexuality grew in the darkness, erupting forth in fusions of lust and horror ranging from the literary (Bram Stoker’s wildly-popular Dracula and its many imitators) to the grotesque (the lurid spectacles of Paris’ Grand Guignol theater) to the terrifyingly real (the sex-driven crimes of Jack the Ripper).  It is no accident that erotic horror waned in popularity as sexual mores loosened in the 1920s, and vanished almost entirely by the end of the 1930s; contrast the tame sexuality of The Wolf Man (1941) with that of Dracula (1931) and other pre-code horror movies and you’ll see what I mean.

As the mass media grew in the 1960s and 1970s, they became harder to censor; the internet has made it nearly impossible.  Because of this, the character of horror fiction has become less reliable as a means of examining the relationship between sex and fear; though a great deal of horror literature and art is still highly erotic, most 21st-century horror is now comparatively asexual and most erotica lacks any element of fright or violence (despite the claims of neofeminists).  But at the same time, the deep relationship between fear and sex is still clearly visible if one only cares to look:  the trappings of BDSM would be equally at home in a gothic horror setting, the rape fantasy is as popular as ever and the lurid fantasies of “sex trafficking” fetishists can be found in mainstream news outlets every day, forced up from the collective unconscious by the pressure of the return to Victorian levels of prudery.  Nor does one always have to look outward to find the connection; I’m sure many of my readers have realized that the things that sexually excite them most are often related to things that frighten them.  For example, some of you may recall my mentioning that I have a phobia of being trapped (including in traffic jams), and I think even the veriest psychological amateur could recognize that I have a tremendous aversion to authority.  Yet at the same time, I’m turned on by bondage and themes of dominance and submission.

Why should this be?  Is there some evolutionary reason that the emotions of fear and arousal should be so closely related that they’re often intermingled?  Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa suggested that fear of death might stimulate a male to want to mate in order to pass on his genetic material one last time, but obviously that wouldn’t apply to females; yet the sex-fear link is at least as strong in us as in men (as evidenced by the enduring fascination of sexualized monsters such as vampires).  My personal theory is that in women it’s a defense mechanism evolved to prevent trauma in forced-mating situations  where a woman might very well be terrified, but needs to relax and go with the flow so as to minimize injury and maximize the possibility of conception; this idea is supported by the fact that when a woman has sex, the area of the brain stem which controls “fight or flight” response is activated, and activity in the amygdala and hippocampus (which regulate fear and anxiety) is suppressed.  This is, of course, exactly the opposite of Todd Akin’s astonishingly ignorant “theory” that biological mechanisms evolved for the convenience and peace of mind of individuals rather than for the continuation of the species.

There’s one final possibility, either an alternate explanation or another, additional factor.  Human beings evolved to be risk-takers and novelty seekers; it is the driving force behind our curiosity, the exploratory urge which caused us to spread over the entire globe and our tendency to become bored and dissatisfied with unchanging routines.  Most humans are always in search of new experiences, and many seek adventures and thrills even when those thrills are frightening.  Horror movies, thrill rides and mind-altering substances give a controlled thrill, the exhilaration of an adrenaline rush without the danger of a real life-or-death situation.  And since sex is another “safe” thrill, another stimulus which produces feelings of excitement without the need for “fight or flight”, it may be that the feelings are easily confused by the brain’s limbic system in much the same way as pain and pleasure are in some people.  In other words, the intermixture of fear and sexual arousal, like that of pain and pleasure, may simply be an accident of our neurological wiring rather than something which had a specific survival function.  But whichever explanation is correct, there is no denying that sex and fear are deeply intertwined, and that attempting to separate them by shame, social engineering or government edict will be just as spectacularly ineffectual as attempting to suppress other human drives, urges and behaviors by those same means.

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We must abandon the notion that the people govern. Instead, we must adopt the theory that, by their occasional mobilisations as a majority, people support or oppose the individuals who actually govern.  –  Walter Lippman

Though I could always hope for more, I’m fairly satisfied with the number of appropriate items in this last link column before Halloween.  This week’s link champ is Ken White of Popehat; actually he and Radley Balko are tied with five links each, but since one of Ken’s is something he wrote himself I’m going to consider that a tiebreaker.  All the links down to the new Amy Winfrey cartoon are Ken’s, and all the links after the second video are Radley’s; that one reframes one of the scariest movies of all time as an ’80s sitcom.  The first few links after the first video were provided by Rachel BloomMs. Samantha,  Chi MgbakoFranklin HarrisCthulhuchick and Mike Siegel (in that order), and the last two before the second video by Jesse Walker.

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She was not sold to a brothel like they said…the people here always pitied and loved her.  –  Men Voeun

Safe Targets

How would this have played out if prostitution were fully legal in Canada?

Calgary police have arrested an Ontario man accused of making fake emergency calls…claiming that distraught women were being held against their will, either at gunpoint or knifepoint.  “It is alleged two individuals were responsible for numerous calls to police in an attempt to reveal and disrupt competition in the escort business.  These same individuals are also believed responsible for extorting escorts by calling or threatening to call police if the women refused to work for the two accused”…

Backwards into the Future

Add Rwanda to the list:

Commercial sex workers must be protected from assault and any other kind of mistreatment, lawmakers said…criminalisation of prostitution denies sex workers easy access to crucial services, with devastating consequences on their health, their clients and partners of their clients…The legislators called for more support to sex workers by encouraging and facilitating them to form and join cooperatives…[and] called for the review of the Penal Code…to avoid cases where the law might…be a liability to society…

Down Under

Dr. Marty Klein’s post about his trip to Australia discusses the absurdity of prohibitionism, properly brands “sex trafficking” a moral panic and starts by teaching me something I actually did not know:

…in Australia…it [became] legal to PURCHASE and POSSESS adult porn in 1983.  But all Australian states ban the SALE of X-rated video…Enforcement…is very low, so there is a gray market…[and] Australians buy it anyway…the government loses tax revenue, as well as respect.  The foolishness of attempting to ban a popular, victimless activity like watching adult porn is even more obvious when considered in light of Australia’s decriminalizing of most adult prostitution in 1992…

It’s Different Because It Involves Sex, Part Umpteen

Predictably, the New York state appeals court agreed with tax officials against a strip club.  Unpredictably, the dissenting judges clearly “get it”:

…A very divided New York Court of Appeals has ruled that lap dances are not art…“The court split 4-3, with the dissenting judges saying there’s no distinction in state law between ‘highbrow dance and lowbrow dance’”…Judge Robert Smith pointed out…that the majority ruling here does not actually comply with the…state’s legislation… “[T]he only question…is whether the admission charges that the State seeks to tax were paid for dance performances.  There is not the slightest doubt that they were…It does not matter if the dance was artistic or crude, boring or erotic.  Under New York’s Tax Law, a dance is a dance…I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker.  I would be appalled, however, if the State were to exact from Hustler a tax that the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the ground that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently “cultural and artistic”…discrimination on the basis of content would surely be unconstitutional”…

Presents, Presents, Presents!

I enjoyed Chester Brown’s Paying For It so much I asked him which of his other books I should read next, and he responded by generously sending me four of them:  Louis Riel, I Never Liked You and two short works which are not commercially available.  Thank you so much, Chester; I’m very much looking forward to reading them!

Above the Law

…Tacoma police said when Sylvester Haliburton tried to convince a prostitute he was an undercover police officer, she didn’t believe him, and when she tried to get out of his car, Haliburton wouldn’t let her…police…are looking into the possibility that he committed similar crimes before…

Much Ado About Nothing

I don’t think I can adequately explain how ridiculous this looks to any experienced escort; there’s about a 70% chance that the “shocked” officials have done the same thing themselves, and a better than 95% chance they knew others who did:

An investigation into the U.S. Secret Service prostitution scandal…contradicts Secret Service director Mark Sullivan’s adamant assertion before Congress that “this just is not part of our culture”…The report…revealed that one of the agents who was in Cartagena…admitted to soliciting a prostitute on two previous occasions…and…mentioned allegations of similar misconduct by agents on trips to Romania and China…

Meanwhile, Dania Londoño (her last name was previously reported as “Suarez”) is writing a book.

Naked Truth

Melissa Gira Grant on how the equation of “human trafficking” with prostitution harms the more than 75% of people whose exploitative labor conditions are not sex-related; I strongly suspect it won’t be long before The Guardian officially adopts an anti-trafficking hysteria editorial position.

True Colors

On May 24th the offices of New Orleans activist group Women With a Vision were destroyed by arson, but you can’t keep good women down:

As of October 1, 2012, we are well on our way to securing a new home for WWAV, and have a targeted reopening date of January 1, 2013.  In anticipation…we have officially closed our temporary office location…Please call 504.301.0428 for further information on how to access services while we are rebuilding.

You can also call that number to donate, or just go to their website.

First They Came for the Hookers…

The extension of “sex trafficking” hysteria to stripping continues:

Albuquerque city councilors…adopted a host of new regulations for strip clubs aimed at discouraging human trafficking, prostitution and other crimes.  The ordinance sets out record-keeping requirements on the identity of performers and calls for signs to be posted telling employees how to report human trafficking.  It also prohibits “adult cabaret entertainment” in private areas of the club that aren’t open and visible to others…Voting “no” were…Rey Garduño…[who] repeatedly questioned whether anyone had actually been arrested for human trafficking in an Albuquerque strip club…[and Trudy] Jones…[who] asked why other businesses that might involving the trafficking of minors weren’t covered by the bill.  She mentioned hotel maids and landscaping workers…

Though I’m disgusted by the registration, infantilization and attacks on women’s livelihood, I’m encouraged by the questions asked by the two dissenters.

Imagination Pinned Down

What, no UFOs or Satanists?

…a British woman has claimed that she spent five years being raised by monkeys in a Colombian forest…Marina Chapman says the colony of capuchins cared for her after she was kidnapped and then abandoned…[she] survived by catching birds and rabbits with her bare hands until hunters found her…took [her] to a nearby city and sold her to a brothel.  However, she managed to escape to Britain and…worked as a housemaid…[her] story has been made into a book…and TV crews plan to make a documentary…Chapman believes she was born…about 1950 and…was kidnapped when she was five before being abandoned in the jungle.

Shift in the Wind

Three UN agencies have officially called for total decriminalization across Asia, specifically naming New Zealand and New South Wales as examples:

…[A] study issued…by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)…examines 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific to assess laws, legal policies and law enforcement practices that affect the human rights of sex workers and…effectiveness of HIV responses.  Where sex work has been decriminalized, there is a greater chance for safer sex practices… “evidence from the jurisdictions…that have decriminalized sex work – New Zealand and New South Wales (Australia) – indicates that the approach of defining sex work as legitimate labour empowers sex workers, increases their access to HIV and sexual health services and is associated with very high condom use rates”…


Welcome To Our World in February Updates (Part Two)

From Ireland, another example of the inevitable result of the idea that sex is a horrible thing from which the “innocent” must be “protected”:

…One would assume that [40-year-old Mandy Finlay]…is entitled to enjoy an intimate sexual life with her partner…[but] not only is [that] socially unacceptable…it is also a crime…the…Sexual Offences…Act, 1993, criminalises sexual relations between two adults with intellectual disability…who are not married.  This includes mild disability and autism…

Schadenfreude in TW3 (#17)

Somaly Mam has been caught in another huge lie:

For years now, the scarred face of Long Pros has symbolized…sex slavery in Cambodia…“My eye was stabbed by a brothel owner,” Ms. Pros recounted in [Nicholas Kristof’s documentary] Half the Sky…with blood still flowing from the destroyed eye socket, Ms. Pros said that she was still forced to have sex with clients…”when I returned home, my mother and father didn’t want me around”…[but] Pros’ parents…denied that their daughter was ever a victim of human trafficking, had ever been enslaved in a brothel, or had lost her right eye at the hands of a savage brothel owner.  Long Hon, 60, and Sok Hang, 56, described…their daughter’s…eye condition:  a non-malignant tumor that had developed when she was just 7 years old…[and] was…removed by an eye surgeon…in 2005 when she was 13…Te Sereybonn, the…director of the…hospital…said that…medical staff…contacted [Somaly Mam’s organization] to…admit Ms. Pros to one of their vocational training programs…it had nothing to do with the sex industry…

The parents’ statement was confirmed by doctors and medical records.  Brandee Baker of the Somaly Mam Foundation insisted that the girls’ parents, doctors and medical records were all wrong and wrote in an October 21st email to reporters, “you are now bullying victims of sex slavery…”  Furthermore, Keo Thea, chief of Phnom Penh’s anti-human trafficking police bureau, said he had no record of any complaint about a brothel girl stabbed in the eye, and even the type of the supposed attack has changed; in its first published form in 2008, Pros claimed to have “lost her eye after a pimp kicked her in the face.”

Neither Addiction nor Epidemic in TW3 (#20)

As I’ve stated before, “sex addiction” is not the same thing as hypersexuality; the latter is a real disorder which may be included in DSM-V, while the former isn’t and won’t be.  But since “sex addiction” is too good a myth to discard just yet, we’ll just lie by redefining the former to mean the latter:  “…New research shows that sex addiction is indeed a mental health disorder–one that can be easily and accurately diagnosed…It’s formally called ‘hypersexual disorder,’ and it’s much more than enjoying sex a little too much…”  I shall now prove the existence of the Tooth Fairy by redefining the word “fairy” to mean “ache”.

The Course of a Disease in TW3 (#26)

Here’s something rather unusual:  a short anti-Swedish model play.  I have included it not for its dramatic qualities (which are, I’m sorry to say, essentially nonexistent), but rather as evidence of the fact that there is considerable anger toward the model in Norway, home of those who inspired the play.  Furthermore, its central philosophical point is that since all sex is transactional in some way, the Swedish model technically outlaws sex completely.

Change of Heart in TW3 (#41)

This article about the journalistic ethics of outing Alexis Wright’s clients is an excellent example of a journalist just starting to wake up.  Though he recognizes “end demand” as bunk and rightfully compares persecution of sex work to persecution of homosexuals, he doesn’t actually challenge the morality of the laws per se; furthermore, though he understands that stigma can harm families, he thinks only of the clients’ families rather than those of the hookers.  Still, this is a big improvement over most of the American journalistic establishment, and therefore deserves recognition.

This Week in 2010 and 2011

Three of these columns were about Japan:  there was a brief history of Japanese prostitution, my husband’s experience at a “soapland” bath house, and a study of Filipinas working at hostess bars.  I also presented the stories of two eccentric New Orleans characters, two columns full of hooker songs, and two columns in which I answered questions about anonymity, the fraction of men who hire us, hotels, STDs, female sex tourists, pimps, parents, spam and circumcision.  Finally, we looked at the “pedophilia” heffalump and the prostitution elephant, a thorny BDSM case, the ethics of egg-selling and short articles on Bob Guccione, Clarence Thomas, Gardasil, funny album covers, horror comics and vampire whores.

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When witches go riding,
And black cats are seen,
The moon laughs and whispers,
‘Tis near Halloween.
 –  Author Unknown

Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I thought it might be fun if this month’s “favorites” column were about all of my favorite things associated with it.  Now, I’ve already written a column about my favorite horror movies, and another which listed my picks for the scariest short stories (many of which I included in PDF form).  Furthermore, four of the selections in “My Favorite Books” would be considered horror:  The Illustrated Man, Conjure Wife, Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe.  Three of those, though, are anthologies; though I have often stated that I don’t like novels as much as short stories because it’s too difficult to maintain a mood for the whole of a long work (especially when it comes to horror), surely there must be some exceptions?  The answer is of course “yes”, so let’s start with that:

My Favorite Horror Novels

Conjure Wife would have to be my absolute favorite, because it’s the only horror novel (and one of the few novels of any kind) which made it into “My Favorite Books”.  But Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a very close second; in fact, it was on the short list when I was preparing that column, and I only cut it because my one-to-an-author rule resulted in its being elbowed out by The Illustrated Man.  Two other favorites are actually on that list as well, as part of larger books: H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (which contains one of the scariest passages in his entire oeuvre) starts on page 510 of Complete Fiction, and Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket starts on page 708 of Complete Tales and Poems.  If you’re a Poe fan and have never read that one, you really ought to; though it starts out slowly and not very frighteningly, the pace and weirdness both gradually build to a shattering and horrific conclusion.  I don’t generally like modern horror novels, but Tanith Lee’s The Book of the Mad  is a notable exception, and the series it concludes (The Secret Books of Paradys)  was another that almost made the final cut for my favorite book column.

My Favorite Monsters

Of the classic Universal horror movie monsters, I’d have to say my favorite was the Mummy; interestingly, I also find he’s the one that loses the most in remakes.  Karloff’s Im-Ho-Tep was menacing, yet in a way sympathetic; he was a complex monster, unlike the automatons of ‘40s and ‘50s mummy movies or the unremittingly malevolent demigod of the recent ones.  Frankenstein’s monster as portrayed in the first two Universal movies has similar appeal, though he also degenerated into a zombie in later films.  The shape-shifting alien from The Thing is probably the most powerful of all movie monsters, and my vote for the most unique one would have to be the menace from The Monolith Monsters (1957), which is not any kind of creature but rather a chemical reaction.

My Favorite Horror Stars

When I think of horror actors, one name stands out above all others:  Vincent Price.  He is the only actor I can think of whose name alone is enough to get me to watch a movie, and his performances can make a poor movie watchable and a mediocre movie entertaining.  The first movie I can recall recognizing his name in was The Mad Magician (1954), and it’s still among my favorite of his films, but there are so many others there’s no way to list them all.  I’m also very fond of Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, but I’m afraid they don’t quite reach the level of esteem I have for Vincent.

My Favorite “Horror” Songs

When it comes to setting a horror mood, there’s nothing like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (I especially recommend the E. Power Biggs recording).  But for just plain Halloween fun, I would have to say my all-time favorite song is Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”:

Other favorites:  “Jekyll and Hyde” by Renaissance, “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult, “Mr. Crowley” by Ozzy Osbourne and “The Phantom of the Opera” from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

My Favorite Halloween Candy

When I was a child, people gave all sorts of things for trick or treat:  candy, cookies, popcorn balls; my husband says someone in his neighborhood even used to give comic books.  But since candy is the classic (and most common) treat, I’ll concentrate on that.  As I’ve aged my taste in candy has changed somewhat, but there are two kinds of chocolates I’ve loved since I was a child:  the kind with some sort of fruit or fruit gel inside, and the kind with crunchy stuff mixed in.  The former type was largely represented in trick or treat bags by Raisinets, and the latter by Nestle’s Crunch bars; I also like Kit Kats, but those weren’t available in Louisiana until I was in my early teens.  Other favorites included Sno-Caps (nonpareils) and Three Musketeers.  Alas, since I retired I just can’t eat chocolate candy any more; I no longer burn enough calories to keep it from going straight to my waistline.  C’est la vie.

My Favorite Way To Spend the Holiday

I’ve never been a Halloween party type of gal; I’ve been to a few over the years, but they were never really my preferred pastime on the night itself.  As a child I of course went trick-or-treating, but when I got into my teens that fell by the wayside.  Still, I found plenty to do:

If there was a “haunted house” fund-raiser in the planning I was involved, and while I was with Jack in the early ‘90s we always set up our house as one for the trick-or-treaters.  While I was working I usually costumed on Halloween; since many people in New Orleans do I didn’t even attract any undue attention, and the clients seemed to like it…Since we live in the country now we don’t get any trick-or-treaters, but we usually celebrate with a Jack o’ Lantern, a Halloween cake and a scary movie, and I read a horror story aloud at some point in the festivities.

Oh, and one other thing; those with sharp eyes have probably noticed that in all the pictures where my fingernails can be seen, they’re different colors; that’s because I get my nails done every three weeks, and always use a color which is appropriate for the season.  For Halloween, as you might expect, they’re always glossy black.

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Picking up on all kinds of strangers
If the price is right
You can’t score if you’re pocket’s tight
But you want a good time.
  –  Donna Summer, “Bad Girls”

For the third year in a row on this date, I present a column featuring the lyrics (and this time, videos) of songs about whores.  Whenever I do one of these I like to present as wide a variety of types as possible, and this time is no exception:  Here are songs about a thieving Liverpool streetwalker, a “hooker with a heart of gold” and an irresistible black call girl, but we’ll start out with one suggested by reader B.B. Wye, whose work has appeared in a previous song column.

The Magdalene Laundries (Joni Mitchell)

I was an unmarried girl
I’d just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for Heaven
I’d be cast in shame
Into the Magdalene laundries

Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
We’re trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the steaming stains
Of the Magdalene laundries

Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me–
Fallen women–
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery…
Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
Oh charity!

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they’d know, and they’d drop those stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They’d like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries

Peg O’Connell died today
She was a cheeky girl, a flirt
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God you’d think at least some bells should ring!
One day I’m going to die here, too
And they’ll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring

As I discussed in “Dirty Laundry”, the Magdalene Laundries started out as asylums for “repentant” prostitutes, but quickly devolved into nothing more than prisons and, as depicted in this song, were eventually used to incarcerate any girl who somehow embarrassed her family or the “authorities”.

Our next selection was written in 1925, and has changed in two major ways since then.  First the two verses, containing lyrics specifically describing Georgia as “colored”, largely vanished within ten years and left only the far catchier double chorus.  Next, the rest of the lyrics (which were never exactly graphic or obvious to start with) were modified depending upon the singer’s level of prudishness.  The video below is the Ella Fitzgerald version, which cuts out the verses but leaves the choral lyrics intact and adds a few lines near the end to demonstrate just how successful Georgia is in her trade.

Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard and Kenneth Casey)

She just got here yesterday,
Things are hot here now they say,
There’s a big change in town.
Gals are jealous, there’s no doubt,
Still the fellers rave about,
Sweet, sweet Georgia Brown;
And ever since she came
The colored folks all claim, say:

No gal made has got a shade on sweet Georgia Brown;
Two left feet but oh so neat has sweet Georgia Brown;
They all sigh and wanna die for sweet Georgia Brown;
I’ll tell you just why,
You know I don’t lie,
Not much!

It’s been said she knocks ‘em dead when she lands in town;
Since she came, why it’s a shame how she cools ‘em down;
Fellers she can’t get are fellers she ain’t met;
Georgia named her, Georgia claimed her,
Sweet Georgia Brown!

Brownskin gals you’ll get the blues,
Brownskin pals you’ll surely lose,
And there’s but one excuse.
Now I’ve told you who she was,
And I’ve told you what she does,
Hand this gal her dues,
This colored maiden’s prayer
Is answered anywhere, say:

No gal made has got a shade on sweet Georgia Brown;
Two left feet but oh so neat has sweet Georgia Brown;
They all sigh and wanna die for sweet Georgia Brown;
I’ll tell you just why,
You know I don’t lie,
Not much!

All those tips the porter slips to sweet Georgia Brown;
They buy clothes at fashion shows with one dollar down;
Oh boy, tip your hats; oh joy, she’s the “cat’s”,
Who’s that Mister?  ‘T’ain’t her sister,
Sweet Georgia Brown!

Our next song was one of the most popular of 1931, and became Cab Calloway’s signature tune (performed regularly until his death in 1994).  Prudes who believe that music has become “dirtier” would do well to consider this song, whose heroine falls in love with a cokehead who leads her into opium use, then runs off with her bail money after she’s arrested in a raid of the opium den.  Though he generally played the whole song in live performances, most recorded versions stop at the end of Minnie’s opium dream.  Calloway was one of the masters of scat singing, and though the chorus featured the famous “Hi-dee hi-dee hidey ho” line he often varied it or embroidered upon it.  The video I’ve chosen is actually a Betty Boop cartoon, but the dancing walrus is actually a rotoscoped Calloway.

Minnie the Moocher (Cab Calloway)

Folks, here’s a story ’bout Minnie the Moocher;
She was a red hot hoochie-koocher.
She was the roughest, toughest frail,
But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.

(Scat chorus)

She messed around with a bloke named Smoky;
She loved him though he was cokey.
He took her down to Chinatown
He showed her how to kick the gong around.

(Scat chorus)

She had a dream that the King of Sweden,
He gave her things that she was needin’,
He built her a house of gold and steel
A diamond car with platinum wheels!

(Scat chorus)

He gave her his townhouse and his racing horses,
Each meal she ate was a dozen courses.
She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes,
She sat around and counted them all a million times.

(Scat chorus)

Now Min and Smoky, they started jaggin’;
They got a free ride in a wagon.
She gave him money to pay her bail,
But he left her flat in the county jail.

(Scat chorus)

Poor Min met old Deacon Lowdown,
He preached to her that she ought to slow down,
But Minnie wiggled her jelly roll,
And Deacon Lowdown yelled, “Lord save my soul!”

(Scat chorus)

They took her where they put the crazies;
Now poor Min’s kicking up those daisies.
You’ve heard my story, this is her song;
She was just a good gal, but they done her wrong.

(Scat chorus)

Poor Min, Poor Min, Poor Min.

Our last selection today is an early 19th-century sea chanty about a streetwalker who robs a sailor; Lime Street is a traditional Liverpool waterfront stroll.  The Beatles often performed the song in their early concerts, and a short performance of the first verse (and a little of the second) appears on Let It Be.

Maggie May (traditional)

Oh dirty Maggie May, they have taken her away
And she’ll never walk down Lime Street any more.
Well the judge he guilty found her,
For robbing a homeward-bounder,
That dirty no good robbin’ Maggie May.

Now I was paid off at the Pool, in the port of Liverpool.
Well three pound ten a week that was my pay.
With a pocket full of tin
I was very soon taken in,
By a gal with the name of Maggie May.

Now the first time I saw Maggie she took my breath away,
She was cruisin up and down in Canning Place.
She had a figure so divine,
Her voice was so refined,
Well being a sailor I gave chase.

Now in the morning I awoke, I was flat and stony broke.
No jacket, trousers, waistcoat did I find.
Oh and when I asked her “where?”
She said “My very dear sir
They’re down in Kelly’s pawnshop number nine”.

To the pawnshop I did go, no clothes there did I find,
And the p’lice they took that gal away from me.
And the judge he guilty found her,
Of robbin’ a homeward-bounder,
She’ll never walk down Lime Street anymore.

Oh dirty Maggie May, they have taken her away
And she’ll never walk down Lime Street anymore.
Well the judge he guilty found her,
For robbin’ a homeward-bounder,
That dirty no good robbin’ Maggie May.

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Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law?
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed?
  –  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A. H. H. (LVI)

One of the reasons the “rape is not sexual” myth has such staying power despite its clear absurdity is that it appeals to both men and women; as I said in “The Rape Question”,

… the truth – that rape is a natural, though unfortunate, outgrowth of our sexual programming – is scary to men because it reduces them to the level of animals, and to women because it means there is always the risk of rape in heterosexual relations.  By ignoring the 73% of all unwanted sex which isn’t forcible, people of both sexes could pretend there was no elephant in the parlor…

Very often, humans prefer to believe a comfortable lie than to accept the uncomfortable truth that Nature is a bitch goddess who doesn’t give a damn what any of us might want, and if She had Her way human life would be, as Hobbes put it, “nasty, brutish and short.”  From Her point of view, we exist for one reason and one reason only:  to be fruitful and multiply.  And both male sexual aggression and female sexual response evolved to fulfill that one goal, individual health and happiness be damned.  This is not to say that natural impulses are “corrupt” or “evil” as the Platonists (and their modern philosophical descendants) would have it, nor that they are “pure” and “good” as the idealists believe; they are amoral, and it is for the human mind, guided by the individual moral compass, to determine when to follow them, when to sublimate them and when to control them.  In order to make these determinations the individual needs understanding, and in order to understand he needs knowledge; the reason belief systems and mass movements want sexual knowledge suppressed is so that the faculties of rational decision-making are starved, and many therefore turn to the leaders of those movements for guidance.  If people understand the underlying reasons for rape, they can learn how to control it themselves rather than being forced to rely upon the morally bankrupt dogmas and paternalistic, authoritarian non-solutions pushed by governments, feminists, religions and others with a vested interest in controlling the interaction between men and women.

The most important thing to recognize is that, contrary to dogma, rape is neither an asexual act nor a result of “patriarchal culture”:  it is a type of reproductive behavior, and occurs in many species that have neither cultures nor hierarchical social interactions.  As I explained in “Ice Cream in the Hand”,  reproductive success for males depends upon spreading their sperm as widely as possible so as to inseminate as many females as possible; rape can therefore be an effective strategy for a low-status male who might not otherwise be able to pass on his genes in any other way.  Remember that concepts like law, fairness and individual autonomy are very recent arrivals on the landscape, and our sexual behaviors evolved in their absence.  The fact that we now recognize unwanted sexual contact as a violation of personal rights is no more germane to a discussion of how the behavior evolved than moral stipulations against murder are in considering the feeding habits of carnivora.

When one contemplates the big picture, human females are fortunate:  rape did not evolve as a primary mating strategy among the primates, and though it occurs in chimpanzees and some other apes and monkeys it is not the norm in any primate species.  That’s not so among ducks and geese, where sex is always violent and apparently coercive, and among a number of species of large herbivores, where it’s usually so; I can even tell you from personal observation that billy goats don’t wait for consent, and if they’re big and strong enough can sometimes force sex even with a nanny who doesn’t seem very happy with the proceedings.  Bottlenose dolphin sex is extremely aggressive, and what seem to be gang rape situations are not uncommon (we can’t be sure if they all take turns or if she’s forced to choose one, because dolphins are very averse to copulating within view of humans).  But in some species, there is absolutely no courtship at all; instead evolution has produced a sort of “arms race” between their sexes, with males evolving mechanisms to facilitate rape and females evolving mechanisms to make it more difficult.  Here’s an example from a recent news article:

A male fish from Mexico has…genitalia…equipped with four hooks…[to] allow him to grab onto a resistant female during mating…Brian Langerhans of North Carolina State University…explained that the male’s hooked genitals may be a counter-response to the female’s own defenses against undesirable mates.  “Typically, reproduction is more costly in females, so females favor ways of reducing mating with ‘lower quality’ males, but reproduction is cheap in males and so selection favors ways of mating with as many females as possible”…Females of this species have evolved to have a big ball of tissue that blocks most of the genital pore.  This means the female would have to deliberately allow the male to mate with her unless the male evolved a counter-response, Langerhans explained.  The four-hooked genitalia could help the males overcome resistance and latch onto a female’s genital pore and deposit sperm inside her…Another…species…recently discovered in Vietnam sports sex parts that jut out of its head and are equipped with a rod and a jagged hook to clasp the female during mating…

One can only imagine the thorny issues of consent and coercion which might arise if a species like this were to evolve high-order intelligence; the “War of the Sexes” would be more than just a metaphor among such creatures.  In humans, as in all other animals, conflict arises whenever the reproductive aims of an individual male and an individual female fail to coincide; the key to reducing the number of such incidents, and to mitigating the damage they cause to both parties (and to society as a whole) when they occur despite precautions, is knowledge.  Understanding why an organism behaves in the way it does may allow one to halt or divert that behavior, but the lack of understanding which inevitably results from an incorrect theoretical framework empowers nobody but those who want the conflict to continue in order to further their own self-serving agendas.

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Thaïs the courtesan [conducted] the ceremony.  She was the first after the king to throw her blazing torch into the palace…What was most remarkable was that the sacrilege committed by Xerxes…against the Acropolis of Athens was avenged by a single woman, a fellow-citizen of the victims, who many years later, and in sport, inflicted the same treatment on the Persians.  –  Diodorus of Sicily

In order to give the broadest and most interesting picture of the lives of harlots, I try to choose the subjects of my harlotographies from as wide a range of time periods as possible.  I have decided that I won’t write on anyone who is still alive, but that still means I can cover contemporary figures such as Deborah Jeane Palfrey or Robyn Few, who have passed on very recently.  But on the other end, the boundary isn’t nearly as clear; I would be willing to write about a whore of Uruk or Mohenjo-Daro could I find a biography of one to draw from, but it seems as though Rhodopis of the 6th century BCE may be about as early as I’m able to go; her life story is a mixture of fact, surmise and legend, and though we know the names of earlier whores (such as Shamhat and Rahab), they are largely inhabitants of the sphere of legend.  This is really not so surprising when one considers that we know little more than the names and dates of most kings from earlier times, and virtually nothing about anyone else unless they had some impact on the affairs of kings.

Thaïs was an Athenian hetaera who, unlike most of her profession, enjoyed travel.  Nothing is known of her life prior to 334 BCE, but she must have already achieved quite a reputation as a courtesan because sometime around that date she attracted the attention of Alexander the Great (either directly or through a relationship with his general and close friend Ptolemy) and afterward accompanied him on all of his Persian campaigns.  Her exact relationship with Alexander is unclear; obviously the fact that she was often seen with him demonstrates that he was extremely fond of her, but it is unknown whether she was his lover or Ptolemy’s at this time.  It may be that he merely enjoyed her company; she was said to have been very wise, an accomplished orator and a ready wit with a large repertoire of dirty jokes.

Her most famous (or infamous) contribution to history came soon after Alexander took Persopolis, capital of the Persian Empire.  After allowing his troops to loot the city for several days, Alexander decided to rest here for a few months and set up his headquarters in the Palace of Xerxes.  Historians have varying views about what exactly happened next, but let’s look at some facts and see if we can’t connect the dots:  Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 BCE and, after defeating the Spartans at Thermopylae, occupied Athens.  Immediately after he took possession of the city it (including the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis) was largely destroyed by fire; though this may have been an accident caused by Athenians fleeing Xerxes’ approach, naturally the leaders preferred to claim that the conqueror had done it on purpose, and by the time Thaïs was educated almost 150 years later this was taught as historical fact.

Now, Alexander was a heavy drinker, and after one of his legendary wild parties had been underway for long enough for his judgment to be well and truly numbed, Thaïs stood up and made a speech which convinced him that Xerxes’ act of sacrilege against Athena should be avenged by burning down his palace.  A great procession was arranged in which all the participants either played music or carried torches, and Thaïs ordered the building evacuated; when everyone was safely clear she egged Alexander into hurling his torch into the building, and hers immediately followed.  Everyone else then did the same, and the blaze was so great that it soon spread out of control and consumed the entire palace district, though apparently the neighbors fled quickly because there were no recorded fatalities.

If she ever was Alexander’s lover, she had ceased to be by 327 BCE; in the spring of that year he was smitten by the strikingly beautiful Roxana, Princess of Bactria, who married him and accompanied him until his death four years later.  Whether Thaïs had started with Ptolemy or not, it is certain she ended up with him and bore him three children named Lagus, Leontiscus and Eirene.  After Alexander’s death Ptolemy became the King of Egypt, but though he married Thaïs around this time she did not become his queen because he opted for a political marriage instead.  Her daughter Eirene, however, did become a queen as the wife of Soli, King of Cyprus.

Though history records a few minor references to her children, Thaïs herself lapses into obscurity after their births; we do not even know the year of her death.  Like so many people of pre-modern times we see her only in proximity to great events in which she was involved:  she emerges from shadow into the great circle of light cast by that burning palace, is visible while she crosses the area, and then vanishes again into the darkness on the other side.

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Books are never far from a scholar’s hands, just as songs are never far from a singer’s lips.  –  Chinese proverb

Though I was a voracious reader from the age of four until my early thirties, I’m just so very busy these days writing that I don’t have nearly as much time for reading.  More accurately, I don’t have as much time for book reading; I still spend plenty of time reading articles online.  If I didn’t set aside about 15 minutes in the morning and a similar amount at bedtime, however, I probably wouldn’t get to read books at all any more (which is why it takes me so long to get through the rather large stack of books generously sent by my readers).  These four books have something else in common:  they were all written by people who read this blog (at least from time to time).  Three of these are my most recent reads, but I read Sex at the Margins about a year and a half ago and just recently realized that I had neglected to review it.

Paying For It:  A Comic-strip Memoir About Being a John by Chester Brown

By the time I go to bed in the evening I am often so exhausted that I fall asleep over whatever book I’m trying to read, even if it’s something I like a lot (such as reprints of Silver Age sci-fi comics).  But I had no such problem with Paying for It; I repeatedly found myself saying, “I’ll just read for a few more minutes,” and finished it in a very few days.  If I had to sum up this book in a single word, it would be “sincere”; it’s an honest and frank illustrated journal of Brown’s experiences with Toronto hookers, starting with how he came to prefer paying for sex over the serial monogamy he had (like most people) previously practiced, and ending with his becoming a long-term regular of one exceptional lady and planning the book.  Along the way he shares his thoughts, impressions, joys, concerns and misgivings, and also his conversations with friends who had internalized prohibitionist propaganda; he depicts several arguments, discussions and debates with them in comic form, and also includes 23 appendices in which he effectively refutes prohibitionist arguments.  For me, the most fascinating aspect of the book was its revelation of the author’s internal monologue, which is presented so matter-of-factly that its honesty is irrefutable; it’s one thing for a client to say “this is what I was thinking” when speaking directly to me, and another thing entirely for him to share with the world even those thoughts which could be perceived as unflattering to himself.  Though die-hard neofeminists will continue to believe that all clients are evil exploiters no matter what evidence is presented to them, I believe this book is powerful enough to sway many of those who are “on the fence” about the subject, and I really hope it gets the extensive exposure and brisk sales it deserves.

Sex at the Margins:  Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry by Laura Agustín

The term “groundbreaking” is regularly and carelessly thrown about in reviews on books which cover controversial topics, but in this case it is wholly accurate and entirely deserved.  Regular readers are already familiar with Dr. Agustín, whose blog The Naked Anthropologist I have often quoted and linked, but what you may not realize is how much those of us fighting “sex trafficking” hysteria owe to her and especially to this book.  She started studying the intersection of migration and sex work back when “human trafficking” still meant the smuggling of undocumented immigrants across international borders, and hers was among the first voices raised in protest when the moral panic around it went into high gear in 2004.  Sex at the Margins doesn’t only challenge the mythology of millions of passive, helpless, exploited victims, but also clearly and thoroughly explains what is really going on with most of those labeled “trafficked”, how their actions are viewed through a sexist, racist and colonialist prism to interpret them as some kind of global disaster, and why it’s so important to listen to what migrants (in sex work or otherwise) have to say about their own experiences rather than forcing an ignorant, biased interpretation onto them.  Furthermore, the book has not only helped many people (including me) to understand these phenomena, but has also given us the language to talk about it:  for example, the term “rescue industry”, now a common one in sex worker rights discourse, was coined by Dr. Agustín and first widely disseminated herein.

The Sex Myth:  Why Everything We’re Told is Wrong by Brooke Magnanti

Dr. Magnanti, as the big yellow sticker the publisher has pasted on the cover  reminds us, had already published a number of books as Belle de Jour, the stage name she used as a London call girl while working on her PhD in Forensic Pathology.  But this is her first written specifically as a scientist and statistician, and I hope it’s at least as successful as her previous books because she thoroughly and effectively debunks nine myths about sex (including “sex addiction”, “premature sexualization”, “negative secondary effects” and myths about porn, prostitution and “sex trafficking”).  She does this not only by presenting facts and studies which disprove the myths, but also by demonstrating how the entire approach of those who create, define and spread them is designed not to discover the truth, but rather to promote a predetermined agenda by picking and choosing only those facts, pseudo-facts and opinions which can be made to fit the desired pattern and excluding the rest.  Her writing is sharp, clever and compelling, and she has a gift for coining useful terms like “constellation maker” (one who chooses which data points to include in the desired “picture” just as the ancients chose which stars made up a constellation).  Though she is generally more polite to the prohibitionists than I tend to be, let that not be mistaken for her being soft on them:  she convincingly demonstrates that those who manufacture and define sex myths are fully aware of what they’re doing, and in fact her last chapter refutes the claim that prohibitionists are largely well-meaning, if deluded.  The book has not yet been released in the United States, but is available from a number of British vendors who offer international shipping for a competitive price.

You Will Die:  The Burden of Modern Taboos by Robert Arthur

Rob Arthur defines a taboo as “a topic that a culture prevents its people from discussing freely,” and this book is based around the philosophy that “taboos are a burden on society…[and] hinder progress toward greater happiness.”  Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows the truth of that statement:  if it weren’t for the general ignorance about sex in general and sex work in particular, an ignorance maintained by sexual taboos, no reasonable person would accept laws against consensual sexual behavior and the ridiculous lies about the harms which supposedly result from sexuality would be widely recognized as the ravings of miserable prudes.  Arthur also discusses taboos against drugs and bodily wastes, though the latter doesn’t get nearly as much space as sex and drugs because there is no vast, expensive and oppressive “War on Poo” whose chief result is human misery.  In a sense, You Will Die is two books in one; it is written in a pleasant, conversational style and presents fascinating, often obscure facts in such a way as to make it a great pleasure read, but is both exhaustively researched and so extensively footnoted that it will make an important addition to my reference library.  Note:  I read this book in the third edition, but the link and picture are for the fourth, which will be available in a few weeks; Rob consulted me while updating the section on prostitution and sent me a copy as a thank-you.

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