Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2012

Artistic inspiration ignores the law of supply and demand.  –  Mason Cooley

I’m often asked how I manage to keep up the breakneck pace I’ve maintained for the past two years, and my usual answer is “I honestly have no idea.”  Now, that’s not entirely accurate; the primary secret is just plain hard work, over 12 hours of it most days (and that includes Saturday and Sunday).  As I’ve said before, my husband travels a great deal for his work, and since he supports me I can devote most of my waking time to the blog while he’s on the road.  Obviously I have to stop to cook, answer the phone, tend to my animals, take care of personal hygiene and all that, plus go to town for groceries and errands once or twice a week, and when my husband’s home I only work on the blog while he’s on his own computer writing reports or the like.  On rare occasions I even take short trips, such as my recent one to Atlanta for the Southern Harm Reduction Conference.  But other than all those exceptions (and the extremely rare instance of physical illness), I generally spend most of my time right in front of this computer.

Now, not all of that time is spent writing; obviously a lot of it is taken up in reading other websites, looking for news items for my TW3 columns, answering correspondence, dealing with support issues such as index maintenance, etc.  And the time I do spend actually writing is more productive than the typical person’s because I’ve never believed in the myth of multitasking, which steals about 40% of the productivity of those who believe in it; when I write there is no music or television on and I’m focused only on what I’m writing and nothing else.  It also helps that I run my blog on a tight schedule:  exactly one post a day, no more or less, queued for automatic posting at 10:01 UTC so that everyone in the world can see it on its posting date (though at different times of day).  This consistency allows me to take advantage of good writing days to get several columns done, and I needn’t worry about taking days off because I’m usually a good bit ahead.  Furthermore, I keep my columns to an average length of 750-1500 words (though a few are shorter and TW3 columns come in at about 2000); if I have more to say than can be said in the allotted space, I break it into two or more parts.

But those are all practical considerations; writing also depends on creative impulses that don’t always consent to keeping a schedule, and that’s where “I have no idea” becomes true.  What I mean is that I really don’t know how I’ve managed to churn out over 800 daily columns without more than an occasional (and always short-lived) case of writer’s block; apparently Aphrodite has asked the Muses to watch over me.  Still and all, I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s always (or even usually) easy; in fact, it’s quite often exhausting.  The fact that it’s extremely rewarding, and the frequent praise I get from my readers, more than balances that; however, I’m still wary of the possibility of burnout, and so I’m ever-so-slowly decreasing my workload so as to give myself more time for other commitments (including working on the new house, catching up on my reading and maybe doing that book everyone keeps insisting I write).  The Sunday links columns are an example of that decrease; I put them together as I spot likely items all week long, so by Saturday all I have to do is arrange them in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion, add an epigram and index the thing.  I’ve also changed some of my indexing standards, which won’t affect y’all much but decreases my behind-the-scenes work.

There is one more way in which I’ve been slowing the pace lately, and though it wasn’t originally intentional it seems as though it’s become inevitable.  For the first year, I tried to answer every comment or email which asked a question or gave me a compliment, and to do so promptly; lately, however, I’ve found myself unable to do so.  I still read every single comment y’all post and every single email y’all send, but all too often I find myself so busy that I put off replying until later, and then I can never catch up.  And when those comments contain praise and/or good wishes, I feel rather ungrateful and rude for not replying.  Maybe that’s silly, but it’s partly my nature and partly my upbringing; even though I intellectually know that with the dramatic growth in readership something had to give, when I neglect to provide a personal response to each and every complimentary comment, I feel like a lazy bride who can’t be bothered to do her thank-you notes.  So though I’m still going to spend as much time giving personal responses as I possibly can, I have to recognize that some days will be better than others and it may be that the busy ones will start coming more often.  What I’m trying to say is, please don’t take it personally if I don’t reply directly to your comment, or if I take a few days to respond to your email; it just means that I’m tied up with work or circumstances.  I sincerely appreciate every single reader who takes the time to send me kind words or encouragement, even when I don’t reply; in fact, the desire not to disappoint my loyal readers may be the most vital ingredient in the magic formula which keeps me going.

Read Full Post »

A pseudo-event … comes about because someone has planned it, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.  –  Daniel J. Boorstin

It’s rare that I present an article about sex work written by a conventional journalist which lacks any obvious flaws; most of them have several, and some are absolutely riddled with them.  But every so often I discover an article which is so absolutely packed with errors, disinformation, myths, dysphemisms, stigmatization, infantilization and just plain stupidity, that it is like a train wreck:  horrible and repellent, yet exerting a hideous fascination.  This article by Bankole Makinde in the October 14th Nigerian Tribune is just such a disaster:

…Should one take to the statements coming from Abuja commercial sex workers, then there is nothing to worry about.  One might even conclude that nothing is wrong having them around, in view of what they termed; “Our contribution to economy”…most of [them] refused to be…addressed as harlots or prostitutes, but as “marketers” who exhibit their “products” to make ends meet…

Right from the start, Makinde’s bias is clear; he obviously wants his readers to think there is something “to worry about” when some women earn a living just as some women always have since time immemorial.  To his credit, he describes the “sex hawkers” as “enterprising” without a trace of irony and mentions that many of them support aged parents, but he’s equally glad to quote outrageous rubbish like this:

A top civil servant, who spoke…on condition of anonymity, blamed the growing permissive promiscuity…on the sex hawkers…“They will leave their campuses…for Abuja by the first flight on Wednesdays and travel back by the first flight on Mondays.  The money they make from prostitution is spent on bribing their lecturers so they could be awarded marks to pass them in their courses, though some spend the money to buy drugs.  After graduation…[their clients] find jobs for them in the civil service.  Since they learnt nothing in school, they would not be able to even draft a memo”…Abuja sex hawkers don’t believe in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), they often negotiate with their customers based on whether they (the customers) want to use condom or not.  Aside that the customers must be ready to do vigil making love to them otherwise they could lose all their valuables before dawn…they are not afraid of being used for rituals too…

In other words, they’re all stupid, drug-addicted, ignorant, diseased, jet-setting thieves and witches.  Makinde also seems to consider it astonishing that “some of [them] have…organised themselves into cooperative societies,” and willfully misinterprets their stated motivations to declare that “the reason why many of them took to it had nothing to do with money”:

“…if you are lucky to locate one guy that could satisfy you, you don’t bother disturbing him to give you money…Same reason, I’m sure drove many girls into it”…

Sounds like money to me.

…another student…said she was into prostitution because she was the breadwinner of her family since she lost her father six years ago…“I have vowed that all my younger ones must be graduates, so that they won’t experience what I am experiencing presently.  So, I must work very hard now when I am still capable and able.”

Yep, that sounds like money, too.  Of course, “many people” (i.e, many non-sex workers) who spoke to the reporter offered their ignorant opinion “that the ladies were involved in the dangerous trade because of greed,” which is what people call the desire to earn a decent income when the person with that drive is a woman; in a man, the same thing is called “ambition.”  Still, you’re probably thinking that this article isn’t all that bad, and that you’ve read worse in American media.  And that would be true so far, but we’re just getting to the good part.  Above we were told that whores are witches, and now we see that they’re affiliated with another dangerous sexual “cult”:

…prostitution…seems to have taken another dimension as cults of lesbians and gays in the [Federal Capital Territory] have emerged.  Many people dressed in sexually attractive attires…could be seen in the public cuddling and kissing one another in various parks and recreation gardens in the city…When contacted on how to tackle the social menace, the Director of Social Welfare Services…Mrs Folashade Ayileka, said the secretariat was helpless.  “They…have their rights guaranteed in the constitution; so, you cannot force them out of Abuja but continue to sensitise them to the dangers inherent in the business.  The other time we raided a popular brothel…we rounded up many of them and asked them to convince Nigerians on why they should continue with the illicit act…we found out that over 90 per cent of them were not even from FCT but from Lagos, Benin, Jos, Kano, Port Harcourt and so on”…

The horror!  The horror!  Roving gay and lesbian cultists canoodling in parks, and it’s all those dirty whores’ fault!  And some of them weren’t even from the capital, but from other cities!!!! I weep for Nigeria (weep I tell you!) and especially for the children.  WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

…On what government is doing to stem the tide and bring the ladies out of prostitution, Mrs Ayileka, said that her organisation was…[looking for] a lasting solution to the problem…“At Bwari rehabilitation centre…we graduated 407 women [this year], among them were 137 repentant sex workers.  We attend to other categories of women too such as vulnerable women and single mothers that could be attracted to night life.  So, rather than allow them to get to that life, we decided to create an intervention method.  We believe that if we empower the mother, the child would be off the streets”…

So first hookers were a gang, then a cult, and now a “tide”.  The use of the word “repentant” demonstrates that it’s a sinful tide, full of skinny-dipping floozies, hussies and jezebels who fall into the dirty, scummy water and flail helplessly about until they’re rescued by Mrs. Ayileka, who at least is thinking of the children.

…The National Human Rights Commission has, however, frowned at the way and manner sex hawkers and other women are being arrested in Abuja…and…pleaded with the minister to…“repudiate this pattern of official misconduct and bring it to an end promptly.”

You have just read the one entirely sane passage in this entire disaster, but it doesn’t last long; Makinde wraps up the spectacle by referring to sex workers as “women of easy virtue”, apparently with a straight face.  That’s more than I can say for myself; it’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so hard at something which was clearly intended to be serious.

Read Full Post »

It is not to be forgotten that what we call rational grounds for our beliefs are often extremely irrational attempts to justify our instincts.  –  Thomas Huxley

As I predicted in last week’s links column, I had a surfeit of material this week, so much so that I cut off the flow Friday and allotted the links which came in yesterday to next week’s column (which may be short again due to the Thanksgiving holiday).  This week’s champ was perennial Linkfinder General  Radley Balko (who contributed everything down to the first video), but five others contributed two links each:  Jesse Walker (first video and the first link below it), Walter Olson (“baseball bat” and “psychotic judge”), Furry Girl (“fan death” and the one just above it), Lenore Skenazy (“zip ties” and “oak trees”) and Franklin Harris (“omnishambles” and “sphinx”).  “Bird passwords” was contributed by Antonio Lorusso, “tased boy” by Thomas Larson, “d20” by Nick Tolman, “Hays code” by Cthulhuchick and the last link before the second video by Melissa Gira Grant.  One more thing:  most of you have probably heard that Irish doctors murdered a pregnant Indian dentist this week, but because the defenders of the law which allowed this travesty to happen have thrown up a cloud of obfuscation, here’s an explanation of what happened by regular reader Korhomme.

In 28 years we’ll be able to laugh at the more extreme “trafficking” excesses as easily as we laugh at this sample of “Satanic” hysteria from a May, 1984 episode of the Today show.

Rachel Bloom (the “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” girl) has a new video:

Read Full Post »

I am a sex worker and I make my money from clients seeing me. Some clients just happen to have a disability.  –  Rachel Wotton

When Someone You Love is A Sex Worker

Do you have a sex worker in your family, or are you in a relationship with one?  If so, Stacey Swimme of SWOP would like to talk to you.  She’s writing a book called When Someone You Love is A Sex Worker, which is intended to support family members and partners, and she recently sent out an email to ask for input:

…I am inviting family members, partners, lovers and friends of sex workers to be interviewed for my book.  I’m looking for examples of challenges as well as successes.  I want to hear about your fears, disagreements and compromises with the sex worker(s) in your life.  It would be a privilege to include your perspective if you have time to do a short interview (about 15-30 minutes) on one of the four dates below.  You do not have to provide any identifying information.  You’re welcome to provide a fake name…

The four dates are Wednesday November 14th (at 11AM, 11:40AM, 12:30PM and 1:15PM), Wednesday November 21st (same time slots), Monday November 26th (at 9AM, 9:40AM, 10:30AM and 11:15AM) and Tuesday November 27th (same time slots).  If you’re interested please email StaceySwimme@gmail.com  with your preferred name, age, city and times from the list that work for you.

Updates

Bad Girls

farmers are losing thousands of shillings to prostitutes in [Kenya]… social services chairperson Elizabeth Kibii…said the department has received many complaints from farmers who have been robbed… “They either lace the drink with drugs that will make you unconscious or they send one of their own to the room early and hide under the bed.  And when he and her partner are busy, the one under the bed walks away secretly with the money”…

All in the Family

Australian whore and activist Grace Bellavue uses the intense story of how she came out to her parents as a springboard for a discussion of whore stigma, in which she convincingly argues that those who oppose prostitution should actually be fighting that stigma rather than perpetuating it.  It’s powerful and well worth a read, but skip the comment thread.

Reaction Formation

This sort of story is only “shocking” to the psychologically and sexually illiterate:

An ordained counselor dedicated to “freeing” people from homosexuality has been arrested on charges of molesting…young men…Rev. Ryan J. Muelhauser …was connected with OutPost Ministry…[and] allegedly fondled two young men  who were seeking to “cure” themselves of homosexuality, as well as asking them to masturbate for him…

Furthermore, “leading a crusade” against any form of sexual behavior should be considered probable cause for suspicion of practicing that behavior:

A former top [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] official who helped lead the [South Florida] crusade against child sexual exploitation was sentenced…on a child pornography charge.  Anthony V. Mangione…possessed up to 150 images of child pornography, some depicting the “extreme abuse of children”…

Crying Wolf

Neofeminist fanatics who foam at the mouth about “rape culture”, insist that normal economic needs constitute “coercion” and pretend that compliments are a form of “violence against women” need to have stories like this one drilled into their brains:

Mah Gul, 20, was beheaded after her mother-in-law attempted to make her sleep with a man in her house in [Afghanistan]…Gul was married to her husband four months ago and her mother-in-law had tried to force her into prostitution several times in the past…The suspect, Najibullah…said the mother-in-law lured him into killing Gul by telling him that she was a prostitute…

That is what sexual coercion, forced prostitution and violence against women actually look like.

My Readers Write

Aspasia writes in her own blog on would-be allies and “concerned parties” who expect sex worker activists to spoon-feed them the way prohibitionists do, and why it’s a bad idea to cater to their demands.

Don’t Confuse Us With Facts

Dean Boland, the lawyer who was fined $300,000 for demonstrating the absurdity of America’s draconian “child pornography” laws, has lost his appeal; the judges ruled that there really is such a thing as sympathetic magic, so that altering the images of children actually and literally harmed them in some tangible way.  So much for science, logic or common sense.

Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark

Another “dog bites man” study:

…a group of boys ages 8 to 11 whose fetal testosterone had been measured from amniotic fluid when their mothers were 13-20 weeks pregnant…were shown pictures of negative (fearful), positive (happy), neutral, or scrambled faces while a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine tracked changes in their brain activity.  In the boys who had higher levels of fetal testosterone, the brain’s reward system was more responsive to positive…facial cues…[suggesting] those boys have a greater proclivity for “approach-related behaviors,” such as fun-seeking and impulsivity…

Useful Idiots

The US government’s scheme to collect and indefinitely retain DNA from virtually anyone has been challenged a number of times since it was first slipped into the Trojan Horse Act of 2005, and the Supreme Court has finally deigned to rule on it:  “…at least 21 states and the federal government have regulations requiring suspects to give a DNA sample upon arrest…[which is then] cataloged in state and federal crime-fighting databases…the justices opted to take on an April decision…from Maryland’s top court, which said it was a breach of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure to take, without warrants, DNA samples from suspects who have not been convicted…

The Pygmalion Fallacy

The “sex robot” morons are at it again:

Could sex with robots help extend human life spans?  Some futurists seem to think so. A Nov. 7 article on the futurist website Transhumanity argues that robot lovers could help extend life spans by giving users mind-blowing “longevity orgasms” far superior in quality to those from human…partners…”[Sexbots will] be more desirable, patient, eager, and altruistic than their meat-bag competition, plus they’ll be uploaded with supreme sex-skills from millennia of erotic manuals, archives and academic experiments, and their anatomy will feature sexplosive devices…They’ll offer us quadruple-tongued cunnilingus, open-throat silky fellatio, deliriously gentle kissing, transcendent nipple tweaking, g-spot massage & prostate milking dexterity, plus 2,000 varieties of coital rhythm with scented lubes“…

Is it just me, or does this one-handed typist sound badly in need of a girlfriend?

Confined and Controlled

The inevitable result of busybody laws which treat women as helpless victims of male sexuality:

[Toronto] City council…adopted…changes to…regulations…Now…strippers can’t sit on patrons’ laps or make contact with breasts, buttocks or pubic areas.  And rooms, booths or cubicles for private dances have to be transparent on one side…As the Licensing and Standards Committee was formulating the amendments…its staff consulted with us…but…management at the club I worked in…[collected the surveys] and [filled] them out on our behalf.  The manager told me…“This has nothing to do with what you think they want…They want the girls to see all these stupid questions so they can answer, ‘Oh, people touching me…Oh, I don’t like the dark.’  Then they come in the court and say, ‘Look, the girls don’t like the business’”…The city’s data shows that 98 per cent of respondents in the surveys submitted by the [club owner’s association] denied ever being sexually assaulted or touched without their consent, while 67 per cent of strippers who submitted surveys themselves said they had been…

If governments didn’t persecute adult businesses, managers would have no cause to worry and standards could be determined by the sex workers’ needs rather than those of the managers or prohibitionists, who both use the women as pawns in their power game.

Imagination Pinned Down

Quote from the snake catcher himself on a snake expert’s message board:  “Sorry but this is ridiculous, I was the one who caught this snake, never did I say anything like that, in fact I stressed to her that it was incredibly unusual for that to happen and quietly doubted it even occurred as she told it.”

The Public Eye

Burlesque as a hobby is less stigmatized than professional stripping, Portland, Maine is unusually tolerant, and a seat on the school board isn’t exactly high office, but it’s still amazing this happened at all:  “Holly Seeliger, a 26-year-old teacher and burlesque dancer, won the District 2 seat on the Portland Board of Public Education, getting 59 percent of the vote…

Metaupdates

No Other Option (Updates Galore, Part One)

Rachel Wotton’s wonderful charity “Touching Base”, which connects disabled people with sex workers who specialize in helping them, has experienced an upsurge of publicity due in part to the documentary Scarlet Road and in part to the movie The Sessions, which I’ll be discussing in a column two weeks from now.  I hope this sympathetic and respectful article in The Age calls even more attention to it, and that one day the US may grow up enough for a branch of the organization to operate here.

Blackball (TW3 #33)

Douglas Fox of Harlot’s Parlour shared an essay written by a male escort named Steve, which demonstrates  how governments can ruin a simple idea used effectively by individuals and peer groups for decades:

There’s been a lot of hype about the Nationwide Ugly Mugs Scheme [but it’s useless to most sex workers]…Take…[this] recent…complaint [from] a male sex worker who didn’t get paid by a client who was drunk and told him he kept a knife [nearby]…Extracts from the warning read:  “business was agreed to take place at the man’s home which was a flat in a communal block in Basildon…He is described as; 45-49, White, 5ft 9, stocky, shaven grey/white hair, blue eyes and pale complexion, with a local accent and scars to his torso”…No address, no phone number, nothing.  Sex workers…need to access real information if we are to protect ourselves.  Phone numbers…that look like…“0*********1″ do nothing to help…there are probably about 200 similar blocks of flats in Basildon…[and] the description sounds like every other client who has walked through my door in the last two weeks…

The organization which administers the NUM project made this (typically political) response.

Down Under (TW3 #43)

The Australian government has axed its “Cleanfeed” porn-filtering plan that’s been shrouded in a campaign to fight spam and malware.  Backers…pushed the idea for the last five years claiming that the Cleanfeed filter would protect children from predators…The filter even passed a government trial and was expected to be adopted… [but a backlash started] when a secret…Communications and Media Authority blacklist of targeted websites…was outed by Wikileaks…Cleanfeed was opposed by online consumers, lobby groups, ISPs, network administrators, some children’s welfare groups, Google, the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, and a number of government officials.  Opponents…feared the filtering would foster Internet censorship and new online restrictions…

The More the Better (TW3 #45)

Apparently some Greek officials believe in “sex rays”, even if the people don’t:

…local officials insisted that a primary school return [brothel owner Soula Alevridou’s] donation…[of] €3,000 to cover the costs of [a] photocopier and a small library…the school was grateful…[but officials were embarrassed by] a brothel madam stepping into a gap created by fiscal recklessness and state profligacy…”We must protect our children,” [said provincial director of education Giorgos Panayiotopoulos]…

This Week in 2010 and 2011

I presented biographies of Mata Hari and Veronica Franco, looked at whore-hatred in World War II France, contemporary Iceland and a fictional future, and examined the truth about federal “sex trafficking” stings, the use of “Swedish model” rhetoric in American police departments, the campaign against Backpage and a fake escort blogger.  I also discussed cops who rape, the increasing number of academics telling the truth about sex work, the reason sex worker rights have languished while gay rights thrived, and the difference in sex work news stories between Europe and the US, and featured short items on internet censorship, the government’s intentional hiding of information on “missing children”, the underuse of HPV vaccines, weird search terms, a murderous proposal and “don’t panic” plans.

Read Full Post »

Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.  –  William James

Walter savored the Cohiba and poured himself a second tumbler of Glenfiddich, then turned to look down on the city.  Since the year this whiskey went into its cask he had worked to build his business, and after the most recent deal he felt that he had at long last arrived.  In all that time he had rarely relaxed, seldom taken a vacation and never allowed himself the luxuries other businessmen did, but all that was about to change; perhaps he might even restrict himself with the kind of business ethics he had always totally disregarded before.  But now that he had finally reached the goal he set himself at eighteen, he could afford morality as easily as he could expensive indulgences.

With that thought, he turned back to his computer screen and hit “send”.  His days of cheap cigars, second-rate liquor and reasonably-priced escorts were over; now he was playing in the big leagues, and could easily spend the money for a companion of real quality.  For him that meant Sibyl, the woman who had fascinated him since he first encountered her website months ago.  Still, he had hesitated; though her price was well within his comfort zone, he found her screening requirements rather daunting.  He did not like the idea of identifying himself so clearly and definitely to a stranger about whom he knew absolutely nothing, but two generous servings of Scotch had helped to steel his resolve and now he was committed.

Walter wasn’t sure how long Sibyl would take to get back to him, but he certainly didn’t expect it to be within minutes.  Perhaps it was just an autoreply, though it didn’t sound like one:

My Dear Mr. Grey,

Thank you for sending the information I requested!  Though I know you’ve been frightfully busy with that important deal you mentioned in your last letter, I was beginning to think you had perhaps changed your mind about meeting me.  I’m glad to see you haven’t, and I look forward to meeting you in person after I’ve finished my screening process, which I’m sure you will understand must be very thorough.  I’ll let you know by Friday afternoon, but as my preliminary inquiries have indicated that you’re exactly the sort of man I like to see, I don’t imagine any difficulties.

Very Sincerely Yours,
Sybil

Friday!  What kind of damned screening could take three whole days?  Walter shrugged, closed the email program, and barely even noticed the fleeting error message which flashed on the screen during the shutdown procedure.

***********************************************************************

He had thought about taking the next day off, but he was a creature of habit and so eventually found himself at his office again, though several hours later than usual.  It was more than early enough; there weren’t really very many loose ends to tie up, and he would’ve been done in plenty of time for a round of golf had he not been required to deal with a long column of annoying emails on a computer which seemed uncharacteristically sluggish, while at the same time dealing with phone calls from the accounting and contract departments.  It was a singularly frustrating day, and while it was not bad enough to completely ruin yesterday’s celebratory mood, it did demonstrate exactly how much the intense negotiations of the past few months had exhausted him; after his date with Sybil this weekend, a long vacation in the Caymans would be in order.  In the meantime, though, a leisurely day tomorrow would help; he had been cooped up in this damned office for so long he kept receiving the bizarre impression that his computer was watching him, and that the screen was its enormous, unblinking eye.

The night’s sleep did not alleviate the delusion at all; if anything, the next day was even worse.  Every screen he passed or used – his plasma TV, the stereo display in his car, even the touch-screen on his iPhone – seemed to be watching his every move, carefully examining him, peering through his clothes and skin to the nerves, dissecting his brain and smearing his soul onto a slide to be viewed under some impossible, intangible microscope.  Walter was far too rational and self-assured to actually believe what he thought he saw; it was perfectly clear to him that this was merely the inevitable but long-delayed result of years of intense stress which would have destroyed a lesser man, but was now catching up to him.  Sybil would do him a world of good, and he had already told his secretary he might be out of touch for weeks after he left for his holiday next Tuesday.  And though there would be far too many screens at the airport and on the airplane for his liking, he would be far away from the hateful things on a lovely beach in the Caribbean.

In the meantime, though, the scrutiny from the peering eyes behind the screens grew almost unbearable.  They watched him from his golf partners’ phones after he turned his off, and later from the windows of stores after he covered the car’s console screen with his jacket.  He felt so surrounded in the restaurant that he was forced to cut his dinner short, and though there was a movie he wanted to see the thought of sitting for over two hours in front of a screen twenty meters wide was absolutely unbearable.  So he instead went directly home, took a bottle and glass into his bedroom, and closed the door so he wouldn’t have to see the huge flat screen in the living room.  He then tried to read for a while, but mostly drank until he sank into terrifying dreams of gigantic, long-lashed eyes prying into every corner of his home.

***********************************************************************

When he at last awoke to the sound of a ringing telephone, the day was already half gone.  The nightmares had finally ceased about dawn, and the beautiful, sultry voice on the other end of the phone heralded a far brighter day than yesterday as Sybil told him that she was done with her screening, and would be happy to see him tomorrow evening as he had requested.  She told him the address at which he could pick her up, and suggested they begin the evening with dinner at a restaurant he had heard good things about, but never tried for himself.  He hung up the phone with a smile on his face and a much lighter heart, and he dismissed the lingering scent of a strange and spicy perfume as a figment of his imagination brought on by the unsettling presence of the television set within view of his breakfast table.

Friday afternoon passed without incident, and Walter enjoyed the postponed movie as much as the reviews had assured him he would.  A lovely late dinner and a good bottle of wine made for the perfect conclusion to the day, and back at home he laughed at yesterday’s ridiculous fears as he flipped channels to relax before bed.  His sleep was peaceful and unhaunted by ghastly disembodied eyes, and he awoke the next morning refreshed and optimistic about his date with Sybil and his life in general.  He had always regarded his doctor’s warnings about overwork with a mixture of amusement and annoyance, but now he recognized that he had been wrong and resolved to apologize at his earliest possible opportunity…after his vacation, that is.

He hurried out for a haircut, had his car washed and went through all the other preparations he would have made for an unpaid date; though he knew Sybil was a professional, he also knew she was very selective and might refuse to see him again if he made a bad impression.  He arrived exactly at the agreed-upon time, having already made an electronic payment to her account yesterday as instructed.  She was more beautiful than he imagined; her face and body were flawless, her style impeccable and her personality enchanting.  The only thing which kept her from total perfection in his eyes was her perfume; it was strange and spicy, yet vaguely familiar and somehow associated with the unpleasant memory of Thursday.  But that one sour note soon vanished into the symphony of her presence, and the disquiet it caused was more than drowned out by his rising passion for her.

The next few hours passed in a blur, and Walter felt as excited and nervous as a teenage boy on the drive back.  Her house was nearly as intriguing as she was, and her parlor adorned with all manner of beautiful, unique and obviously expensive furnishings and curios.  She offered him a drink, then suggested with a mysterious smile that it was time for her to change…but he felt an unaccountable chill sweep over him when she glided off to a shadowy corner of the room and slipped behind an ornate Oriental screen.

Read Full Post »

O God, protect me from my friends, that they have not power over me.
Thou hast giv’n me power to protect myself from thy bitterest enemies.
  –  William Blake

As I pointed out in “So Close and Yet So Far”, “the allies of sex workers [often] make arguments that, though well-meant and partially correct, contain some glaring flaw that spreads disinformation, undermines the work of other advocates or, in the worst cases, actually cedes ground to the enemy.”  But every once in a while one of these allies says something so wrong, so completely off-base, offensive and counterproductive, that I just want to slap her and suggest she join the prohibitionists because at least that way, her statements would be properly seen as attacks.  Allow me to illustrate:  someone “tweeted” a link to this article just a little while after I read the news that the ACLU was joining with the EFF to challenge one narrow section of California’s odious Proposition 35, and given its headline (“ACLU supports decriminalizing prostitution”) I dared to hope for a few seconds that the venerable civil rights organization was at long last perhaps going to start caring more about the persecution of over 450,000 women and almost 30 million men than about straining after gnats or encouraging the petty bean-counting of upper-middle-class white women.  Silly me.

If one consenting adult pays another consenting adult for sex, “it’s not the government’s business,” said Barbara Keshen, an attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union.  But the government doesn’t see it that way.  Known as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution remains illegal in 49 states, with Nevada the exception…

It’s all downhill from that first sentence, which is instantly followed by a statement which relies on a confirmation bias to make decriminalization seem like a weird idea, and the listed “exception” actually isn’t one!  American prostitution law is not remotely representative of the Western world; imagine the difference in the reader’s mind had this sentence expressed the truth:  “Though many activities around it are restricted or criminalized in different countries, prostitution itself is legal in every populous Western nation, with the United States the only exception”.  Furthermore, the Nevada system is not even close to decriminalization; in fact, it’s the most narrow and restrictive legalization system in the world, so close to criminalization it can barely be differentiated from it, and not one single sex worker rights group supports it.  But the reporter is a typical member of a profession now dominated by credulous halfwits, so her ignorance is no surprise; I expect better from a civil rights lawyer.

…”I think it’s unfortunate that some women are forced into the situation of prostitution by economic and other situations,” Keshen said.  “But making them criminals is not the right answer”…The ACLU…opposes any state regulation of prostitution…[between] consenting adults.  “Prostitution laws violate the right of individual privacy, because there are penal sanctions for private sexual contact between consenting adults, whether it’s for recreation or money…it’s not the government’s business unless someone gets hurt.”  Keshen said the ACLU also backs decriminalizing prostitution because “the laws represent a direct form of discrimination against women…generally the women are stigmatized and penalized, while generally the male customers are not.”

That first sentence was my first sign that Keshen is nothing more than an exceptional parrot with a law degree; it is patently obvious that she has a neofeminist view of sex work and imagines that everyone who does it is “forced” (she states this explicitly at the end of the article).  It’s also clear that she has no real personal commitment to the concept of decriminalization, because once she gets beyond the boilerplate “privacy” rationale she has no freaking idea of what else to say, and even spouts a typical argument used by Swedish model proponents!  The next part of the article quotes the typical pompous ignoramuses with titles, vomiting out the usual filthy anti-whore slander:

…Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald said…prostitution often goes hand-in-hand with illicit drug use and other crimes, while traveling prostitutes tend to have security guards who can pose a threat to local officers.  That sentiment is shared by…Rockingham County Attorney [James Reams]…”Classically, people involved with prostitution are also involved with drugs, guns and other crime”…Reams [also] said…the state of Nevada “banished” legalized prostitution to rural areas, at so-called ranches, which have been studied over the years.  “Former prostitutes have said it’s akin to slavery,” he said.  “They all complain about the way they were treated, and I think that’s pretty troubling”…

FYI:  I’ve never heard of a single touring escort who travels with “security guards”; how could she possibly afford it?  MacDonald is the typical semi-literate cop who gets his information from other cops, but Reams has no excuse; if he’s intellectually able to comprehend the studies of Nevada brothels he’s also capable of understanding that legalization is nothing like decriminalization and of reading methodologically-sound studies that refute his “whore as criminal” mythology.  But since that would mean thinking critically about the status quo, it ain’t gonna happen.  In fact, he purposefully mentions the buzzword “slavery”, so you just know what’s coming next:

…state Rep. Laura Pantelakos said she understands why some would want to decriminalize prostitution between consenting adults, but said…”it runs into a very slippery slope, which is why I think it should be kept illegal.  I would be afraid of the consequences.”  One of the consequences, she said, is the risk that minors would be sold for sex.  Even if there was a house of ill repute around the corner and they were all 21, I think you would end up with minors in there,” she said.  “The thought of a 14-year-old being forced into prostitution makes me sick to my stomach.”

Because obviously, bars have a huge problem with underage bartenders and waitresses.  Pantelakos could study the statistics from New Zealand and New South Wales if she really wanted to, but that would require bucking the currently-popular moral panic so she would rather shout “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” instead.  She and Reams are specimens of the lowest order of moral development on Earth, the professional politician, so it isn’t surprising they prefer to lie and/or deceive themselves about sex work.  But Keshen has no such excuse, so her concluding statement is far more painful to the informed reader, and far more damaging to the cause she supposedly espouses, than any of the prohibitionist dogma chanted by the “authorities”:

…”For me, the right answer is a good education from the start, a stable family from the start,” she said.  “People don’t choose to become prostitutes.”

This moronic assertion makes it abundantly clear that Keshen has never as much as read a blog like this one, much less taken the time to read a study or {gasp!} actually talk to any sex workers, else she would know that lots of us are as educated as she is (or more so), most of us come from families as stable as anyone else’s, and the great majority of us do indeed choose our profession.  If she really wants to help, she needs to educate herself before she does any more damage to our cause; if we get many more “allies” like her, Farley and company will just be able to go on vacation and leave the work of harming sex workers to them.

Read Full Post »

The censorial power is in the people over the government, and not in the government over the people.  –  James Madison

I’ve written before about ad hominem arguments, those which attempt to attack the speaker rather than his position; generally, they are employed by those who are unable to present a cogent counterargument, and must therefore appeal to the listeners’ emotions rather than their minds.  A related logical fallacy is circumstance ad hominem, which seeks to discredit a claim merely because the proponent has some compelling interest in it: “Of course Maggie would say avails laws are bad, because she owned an escort service.”  In the past few years, governments have unveiled a new weapon in the fight against civil rights which is actually a reversal of circumstance ad hominem; because individual liberties are inalienable and therefore very difficult to argue against, government lawyers are increasingly turning to arguments against “standing” rather than valid counterarguments against the claimant’s case.  In other words, when a challenge to a particular rights violation is brought to court, government lawyers do not argue that it’s OK for the government to violate that right, but rather that the person bringing the case has no right to make the challenge because the law didn’t “really” affect him.  Brian Doherty discussed a recent example in Reason:

…A…licensing board in North Carolina tried to suppress a blogger who talked up and advised people on the health benefits of the “paleo” diet…telling him…what he could or could not say about his belief that the high-meat, low-carb diet helped him with his diabetes.  The case was dismissed by a federal court…the Institute for Justice’s press release [states]:

…a federal court dismissed diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey’s free speech lawsuit on standing grounds.  The case, which has received significant national media attention, seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law:  Does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?  “In America, citizens don’t have to wait until they are fined or thrown in jail before they are allowed to challenge government action that chills their speech,” said  Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes.  “When the executive director of a government agency goes through your writing with a red pen and tells you on a line-by-line basis what you can and can’t say, that is censorship and the courts can hear that case.”

In December 2011, Steve Cooksey…started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his diet blog to answer readers’ questions.  In January 2012, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informed Steve that he could not give readers personal advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics.  The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls with friends and readers were illegal…Steve’s case was dismissed October 5 on the grounds that Steve did not suffer an injury that gives him a basis to challenge the government’s actions.  The Institute for Justice plans to appeal and will argue that the government cannot single people out, tell them that their speech is illegal, and then plead in court that it has not chilled their speech…

…This sort of insanely stringent attitude about “standing”–roughly that you have no right to challenge a law damaging your rights until you’ve actually been arrested or fined–was also at play in the history-making Second Amendment challenge Heller v. D.C…[in] which…five of six plaintiffs were kicked off a case trying to vindicate their ability to own a weapon in D.C.  The only reason any of the plaintiffs survived is that one of them, Dick Heller, had had an attempt to file for a permit to own a weapon denied.  The Court recognized a permit denial as an injury; having a core constitutional right denied, not so much…

Regardless of what you think of the “paleo” diet, the fact is that answering questions informally and without making a profit cannot be construed as the practice of a profession by any stretch of the imagination; one might as well prosecute a farmer who helps his neighbor build a barn for “practicing architecture without a license”.  Furthermore, I must point out that Cooksey could legally publish a book saying exactly the same things as he says on his blog, and that book could then legally be sold in North Carolina and everywhere else in the U.S.  Though the licensing board probably didn’t  think things through before throwing its weight around (no surprise there), the state’s attorneys clearly recognized that the case was without merit and therefore, like the poor debater reduced to ad hominem, decided to attack the arguer rather than the argument.

Nor is this practice limited to the United States; the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled against the exact same argument, which government attorneys have used to block a challenge against Canada’s prostitution laws for the past five years.  As I stated in TW3 (#39),

The government’s argument against the suit relied on the sophistry that one of the parties in the suit (Sheryl Kiselbach) was no longer affected by the laws due to being retired, and that the other party (the DESWUAVS) could not be affected because it was an organization, therefore neither had the right to sue.  But the judge realized that the government’s claim that streetwalkers had to bring such suits individually was absurd, and ruled in favor of the group.

Let’s hope that the court which hears Cooksey’s appeal comes to the same wise decision, and thereby establishes the precedent that the government cannot silence citizens by preventing them from even having their day in court.

Read Full Post »

As our self-interests differ, so do our feelings.  –  Pierre Corneille

It’s interesting how two different organizations doing work that on the surface might seem very similar can nevertheless be extremely different, both morally and practically.  This is nowhere more true than in sex worker outreach, where a harm reduction organization working in the same city as a “rescue” organization nearly always has much better results, even if the “rescue” group is better funded.  The reason is simple:  harm reduction groups treat their clients as human beings who have fallen into a bad situation, but still deserve respect and autonomy; such an organization may offer shelter, services, health care, legal assistance, vocational training and the like, but none of it is compulsory or conditional.  “Rescue” groups, on the other hand, look upon their clients as things to be done to (“saved”, “lifted”, “converted”, etc); though they offer the same type of services as harm reduction groups, these are generally conditional upon the women leaving prostitution or even submitting to captivity and/or brainwashing.

Two charities recently came to my attention; both operate in Asian countries and run boarding schools for poor girls with the specific intention of providing them an alternative to sex work…but there the similarity stops.  Let’s look first at Chaithanya Happy Home in Hyderabad, India:

…Chaithanya Happy Home is part of Chaithanya Mahila Mandali, India’s first nonprofit organization founded by a former sex worker, Jayamma Bandari…the 35 girls living in the home are all daughters of…sex workers.  Even a decade ago, the fate for these girls was to join the same profession as their mothers once they came of age.  Today, however, they are living in a safe place and…attending one of the best…schools in Hyderabad, dreaming of becoming schoolteachers, engineers, doctors and revenue collectors.  The stigma and discrimination attached to…sex workers in Indian society trickles down to their daughters.  To change this, nongovernmental organizations are working to secure basic rights for the girls…but activists say more needs to be done to change age-old societal attitudes stigmatizing sex workers and their daughters…In Hyderabad alone, there are more than 25,000 female sex workers…Bandari’s organization has helped 600 of them to possess valid proof of identity.  But thousands of others are still unable to access free health care, to vote or to open a bank account.

More than 60 percent of the total number of sex workers in Hyderabad do not own any property and live in rented apartments…They do not reveal their real profession to their landlords or to their neighbors, fearing that they will be evicted and shunned.  A [non sex-working] parent will never allow…her kids to mingle with the kid of a sex worker…[the] exclusion for being sex workers…[thus] trickles down to their children, denying them basic rights in the past such as education…some schools reasoned that parents of other children would oppose, others refused to accept them on the grounds that the children had only one parent…None of these children had a birth certificate, as their mothers delivered at home…[but Chaithanya Mahila Mandali] appealed to the schools to consider this and accept the children without a valid birth certificate…also…the…Right to Education…law, in effect since April 2010, has made elementary education compulsory and free in any government school.  This has encouraged more sex workers to enroll their children in local schools…As a result, the number of daughters of sex workers attending school is increasing across India…

The girls in the “Happy Home” were all brought there by their mothers, who wished for them to have a better life; Bandari and the other interviewed activists all place the blame for the situation exactly where it belongs, on bad laws and social stigma which marginalize sex workers and thereby trap their daughters so that sex work is their only option.  There is nary a mention of “sex traffickers” in the whole article, which is more than can be said for “House of Grace”:

…House of Grace is a home for tribal girls [in Northern Thailand] at risk of being sold into sexual slavery.  House of Grace has rescued hundreds of girls, before the horror of child prostitution became a reality…“the finest children’s home in Thailand”…is a first-rate facility that houses and tenderly raises Akha girls in a loving Christian atmosphere…In most cases we are doing a preventative work — trying to get the girls to safety…before they are sold into prostitution.  It is very difficult to rescue a girl who has already been trapped into that lifestyle, so our main focus is to reach little girls before this horror has become a reality for them.  As God extends our reach, we will also be able to rescue those who are trapped…[if] a father or stepfather is going to sell his daughter…often there is a kind person in the girl’s life who will try to keep this from happening.  Many times a grandmother, aunt, older sister or a good neighbor will bring a young girl to House of Grace to protect her…

Though the last sentence claims that those who bring girls there are “often” relatives, all that talk of “rescuing those who are trapped” and the fact that the Akha are a favorite target of “rescue” groups leads me to believe otherwise.  While Chaithanya Mahila Mandali recognizes that young girls are pushed into sex work for social and legal reasons, House of Grace prefers to promote “trafficking” hysteria and “slavery” rhetoric and to demonize male relatives (when poor families sell their daughters into brothels, the mothers are to blame at least as often as the fathers).  And while the language of the Indian article is fairly objective even when it’s discussing the awful and often violent conditions under which poor sex workers in Hyderabad live, the second is rife with dysphemisms like “horror”, “slavery” and “lifestyle” (which is always a pejorative term for Christians, evoking the idea of “temptation” into sexual “sin”.)  But the most striking difference of all is that while Chaithanya only takes girls whose sex worker mothers voluntarily surrender them, it is clear that House of Grace has no such scruples and is happy to abduct any “heathen” girls they can get their hands on, with the help of whatever confederate they can arrange, using the excuse that somebody said she might end up as a whore.

Read Full Post »

If the law commands me to sin, I will break it.  –  Angelina Grimke

Though the words “morals” and “mores” come from the same Latin root (mos, meaning “custom”), they do not mean the same thing:  “morals” are the same as “ethics”, in other words principles of right and wrong; “mores”, on the other hand, are simply customs which are universally accepted in a culture.  Leaving a restaurant without paying is a violation of morals, but leaving without tipping is a violation of mores:  theft is always wrong, but not every culture practices tipping and restaurants don’t post signs announcing that doing so is a condition of service.  The distinction is not always as clear-cut as one might like; religions which pretend that their rules were directly dictated by a deity intentionally confuse the two by pretending that private, personal actions are an offense against that deity, and modern secular societies do the same by speaking of offenses against nebulosities such as “the law”, “the state”, “decency” or “the public order”.  In most cases, however, it’s pretty easy for a reasonable person to tell the difference, despite the obfuscatory efforts of “authorities” and moralists (a word which might be defined as “those who demand that mores be treated as though they were morals”).

Morals are precepts which govern forceful interactions between people.  Every individual owns himself, his actions and the products of his labor unless he has freely consented to some agreement which assigns rights over one or all of those to someone else in exchange for some compensation.  For example, a person may agree to allow someone else to control his actions and own his produce in exchange for a wage or salary.  If such an agreement is made due to force or threat of force applied by the other party or one acting on his behalf, it is invalid and immoral; if, however, the force is applied by a third party with no connection to either it is not.  For example, if I choose to give sex to a man in response to his threatening me, it is rape; but my choosing to have sex with him in order to get money to pay a third party is not.  Now, it may be that the third party’s demand for money is an immoral one, but that has absolutely no effect on my sale of sex to the man; our interaction is morally equivalent whether I’m using the money for rent, drugs, food, gambling debts, education, taxes, a retirement fund, a blackmail demand or anything else.  Similarly, if a thief buys food from a grocery store with stolen money, that transaction is the exact moral equivalent of buying food with money that was rightfully his; the grocery store owner is not morally responsible for the thief’s actions unless he somehow caused them himself.

Actions which exert control (including harm) over others which they neither desire nor require (for example, in response to incapacity or their own immoral actions), are legally described as malum in se (wrong because they are wrong); they do not require a law to be thought of as wrong by moral people, nor can they be made less wrong by law.  Laws do not determine the rightness or wrongness of an action; they merely determine a government’s official response to that action.  Laws against consensual, private activities do not make such activities wrong; all they do is to declare that the state will use those behaviors as an excuse for its own immoral conduct.  Nor does the lack of a law make an activity right; slavery was accepted by most cultures for millennia, but it was still always wrong because it is a flagrant violation of the principle of self-ownership.

Mores, by contrast, govern either wholly private behaviors or public behaviors which do not violate others’ rights.  Belching and farting in public don’t hurt anyone, but they’re certainly considered offensive in Western culture (though belching, at least, is not at all rude in some other cultures).  Public nudity is another example; it has no direct effect on anyone else and in some cultures is (or at least was) perfectly normal.  But in Western culture, it’s a violation of mores, as are a number of harmless private (especially sexual) behaviors which might nevertheless cause significant social embarrassment if they were discovered by others.  The majority of laws are made against behaviors which violate mores, yet aren’t actually wrong; many others ban acts which violate neither morals nor mores, but somehow offend the rulers.  Behaviors which violate such laws are legally described as malum prohibitum (wrong because they are prohibited).  Because such laws are arbitrary they vary widely from place to place, and because they are not based in morality they often conflict with moral actions, either by forbidding actions which are not wrong or by compelling actions which are.

From the very beginning, then, would-be “authorities” faced a problem: how to get sane, reasonable people to obey laws that conflicted with their own judgments.  In the days before science and mass communication this was accomplished by a combination of extreme violence and appeal to supernatural beliefs:  “Omniscient gods made these laws, and if you disobey them they will punish you, either now or after death; furthermore, your disobedience offends the righteous so if we catch you we won’t wait for the gods to strike you down, but instead will do it ourselves.”  Nowadays, it’s a lot harder; supernatural beliefs aren’t as universal as they once were, and the internet makes it possible for people to see exactly how arbitrary their own counties’ laws are.  And while early mass communications like printing, radio and television were largely centralized and unidirectional (and therefore subject to control by governments), the internet is both decentralized and omnidirectional (which is why governments and other control freaks yearn to censor it, hobble it or bring it under their control).

The majority of people are no better than their Bronze Age ancestors; they still have faith in a priori arguments which bear no resemblance to the real world, in the superhuman powers of charismatic leaders, in mystical principles which contradict each other and in demonic forces which move about in the Unknown waiting to carry off nubile young virgins.  Given that, it’s no real surprise that so many still accept the equation of mores with morals and malum prohibitum with malum in se; the world is full of people who really cannot understand the difference between weed-smoking and assault or between prostitution and rape, and are willing to say so in courtrooms and legislatures.  And that’s why it’s so very important that those of us who do understand are very clear on the distinctions and therefore able to offer a cogent answer when someone demonizes cultural differences as “moral relativism”, says “why don’t we just legalize murder, too?” or declares that laws have the power to alter reality or to force others to believe the same things he does.

Read Full Post »

…All of the men in this war torn land/Salute the nurses of Vietnam.
–  Barry Sadler

Very often a new column brings together a number of threads from previous ones, weaving them together into a new tapestry with a unique pattern forming yet another swath of the grand tapestry of sex work.  Today’s column is one of them; it is a very small section, just a tiny detail in a very large picture that is ignored, glossed over or at best mentioned in passing in most conventional histories.  I’ve linked the other columns from which the threads come, so you can explore them at your leisure.

The story begins somewhere in antiquity, with the rise of the Ouled Nail, a Berber tribe whose women often worked as prostitutes in order to establish themselves before marriage.  Though the custom clearly predates their conversion to Islam about the year 700, it is unknown exactly when it started (though in my story “Dance of the Seasons” I imagine it as already established in Carthaginian times).  Like the Javanese people I described in Thursday’s column, they saw no conflict in continuing their traditional sexual practices, and their Muslim rulers allowed them to do so for over a thousand years.  The French, however, had other ideas; after their conquest of Algeria in 1830 they treated the Nailiyat just as badly as they treated their own home-grown whores,

…[subjecting] them to arbitrary travel and residence restrictions, heavy taxation and ruinously expensive licenses, fees and fines.  By the First World War they were reduced to working in specially-licensed cafes (owned, as usual in such regimes, by the politically-connected) whose management devised ways of extorting even more money from the increasingly-exploited Nailiyat.  Thus deprived of their traditional means of livelihood, many of them jumped at the chance to earn good money in the new Bordels Mobiles de Campagne (BMCs), mobile brothels housed in trailer-trucks which were used to bring whores to soldiers at the front lines or in isolated outposts…

One of the songs in my first hooker songs column is about a French soldier who has a bad experience in one of these BMCs, which were used by the regular army until the concluding events of today’s column and by the Foreign Legion until about 15 years ago; the term is still used by some French people for the white vans which French prostitutes have used since 2003 to circumvent new anti-streetwalking laws.

The First World War ended 94 years ago today, and the occasion was celebrated as Armistice Day until the Second World War, after which it was known as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth and Veterans Day in the US.  It’s been my custom for the past two years to commemorate the day with a “hookers in war” theme which purely by coincidence has involved the French each time:  two years ago I presented a biography of Mata Hari, and last year I explained how the French revenged themselves upon prostitutes for their humiliation at the hands of the Nazis.  This anti-whore campaign led to the increased repressions which gave rise to the sex worker rights movement and eventually developed into the current insanity of attempting to impose the Swedish Model on France.  Just as they did in 1945, French politicians have chosen a female figurehead for this crusade, this time in the person of a North African woman; I’m sure that isn’t a coincidence, given the association of the Ouled Nail with prostitution in the minds of many French.

That association became, if anything, stronger after World War I; due to French repression the Nailiyat could no longer make a living in the cafes as they once had, and so increasing numbers of them went to work in the BMCs.  Whereas before the only Frenchmen who encountered them were those who travelled to Algeria, for almost four decades any man who had been in the French military had probably had sex with one.  After World War II they were often joined by Vietnamese girls, especially in those BMCs sent to care for the troops in Indochina; thus it was that when about 14,000 French troops were airlifted into the town of Dien Bien Phu, more than 150 km behind the Viet Minh lines, they were accompanied by two BMCs staffed with a total of 18 Vietnamese and Ouled Nail prostitutes (the latter usually described as simply “Algerian”).

Though conventional accounts mention the fifteen nurses who flew in and out to evacuate casualties, these eighteen women who stayed with the men around the clock are often ignored or, if mentioned at all, treated as a kind of joke.  Considering that the French hid their existence from American journalists and military advisors for fear of offending their prudish sensibilities (and thus endangering American support for their war), it is very likely that nobody would even remember them were it not for war correspondent Bernard Fall, who devoted a chapter of his book Street Without Joy to them.  Fall spoke highly of their heroism, especially after the battle began in earnest.  One of the flight nurses, Geneviève de Galard, was stranded when her plane was destroyed on the airfield by enemy fire; she gave the whores a crash-course in assistant nursing and they helped her to care for the sick and wounded and comfort the dying all through April of 1954.  After the fall of the French garrison on May 7th Galard and the Nailiyat continued to care for the wounded until the Viet Minh allowed the French to evacuate them a few weeks later, but the Vietnamese women were arrested.  For her courage and effort Galard was awarded the Légion d´Honneur and the Croix de Guerre TOE; the press dubbed her “L’Ange de Dien Bien Phu” and she was invited to the US, where she was given a ticker tape parade in New York and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for being a “symbol of heroic femininity”.  Meanwhile, the Ouled Nail who had displayed the same courage, resolve and concern for the soldiers were forgotten, while their Vietnamese sisters were carted off and incarcerated in brutal “re-education” camps of the sort which are still being used in Vietnam to this day (though the National Assembly voted this past July to close them for good next year and replace them with simple criminalization punished by fines).

Obviously, I have nothing against Galard, who certainly deserved the honors which were heaped upon her.  However, it is equally certain that her assistants, women who probably were not really told the danger they were being flown into and yet rose to the occasion anyway, deserve far more honor than they received (doubly so for the Vietnamese women).  So I hardly think that, in the absence of any power to confer posthumous knighthoods upon them, anyone has valid cause for complaint if I extend Galard’s title of “angel” to the valiant harlots of Dien Bien Phu.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »