Archive for January, 2013

There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons and Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others.  –  Thomas Radecki

Every so often I run into an item in which prostitution somehow intersects with some other subject in which I’m interested, and because this one brings together several such topics – censorship, moral panics, infantilization of adolescents, prohibitionist lies, social constructionism, the drug war and Dungeons & Dragons – I just had to do an article on it despite the fact that it’s several months old.

A Clockwork OrangeThomas Radecki has made a lifelong career out of minding other people’s business.  As a young man, he felt the best path by which he could accomplish this was psychiatry:  he graduated from Ohio State in 1973 and pursued his specialization in psychiatry, receiving his license to practice in 1977.  In 1980 he founded the National Coalition on Television Violence, one of the earliest of the “watchdog” groups which became so popular with puritans in that decade; its rationale was that people (especially teenagers) are infinitely-malleable putty whose minds are warped by portrayals of violence (and sex, though that doesn’t appear in the group’s name) on television and other media.  The way he claims to have come to this conclusion is quite interesting:

…his concern stemmed from his days in medical school, when he went to the movie A Clockwork Orange then saw a nurse and ”had this fantasy of me kicking and beating” her.  He became convinced that violent entertainment could trigger real violence and warp attitudes to the point that ”we are taking a serious chance of causing the end of the world”…

His proposed solution? “…mandatory announcements on television saying violent entertainment is harmful.”  Even among prudes, however, he was viewed as an extremist; Sam Simon of the Telecommunications Research and Action Center said Radecki’s “tendency to overstate things and exaggerate damages his credibility,” and Peggy Charren of Action for Children’s Television described his strategy as “the Chicken Little approach.”  Perhaps she had the wrong barnyard fowl in mind; in a review of the Disney Channel Radecki said, “I was particularly disturbed by the Donald Duck and his nephews cartoons …

Dungeons & Dragons cartoonBut it was a different cartoon which eventually brought him to my attention.  In 1983 the Dungeons and Dragons show premiered; like most ‘80s cartoons it was basically a commercial intended to get kids interested in a line of toys (or in this case, the popular role-playing game I had already been enjoying for three years).  The (laughably bad) show seems to have done its job with Radecki, but in the wrong way; his interest took the form of an obsessive hatred for the game manifesting in a campaign to get it banned by convincing everyone that it caused murder and suicide.  Radecki claimed to have personally investigated “8 or 9 cases of death due to role-playing games, and…[to have] familiarity with over 130 more”.  He demanded that a warning be broadcast during each episode of the cartoon “stating that Dungeons & Dragons had been linked to real life violent deaths”, and testified to that effect as an “expert” witness in at least 12 criminal trials (all unsuccessful).  His “evidence” largely consisted of incredibly tenuous connections (such as D&D books being present in the room of a teen who committed suicide), except when it was entirely fictional (such as a fictitious letter from the scare-novel Mazes and Monsters).

Fortunately for gamers, Radecki was by then widely recognized as a liar and a fraud; researchers whose studies he had misrepresented made public statements denouncing his interpretation of their work, and the University of Illinois School of Medicine debunked his claim to be a member of its faculty (he was not a teacher but rather a temporary, unpaid, volunteer advisor for a short time in 1983).  He quickly fell out of favor after 1985, and in December of 1992 his license to practice psychiatry was revoked by the state of Illinois due to ”allegations of inappropriate sexual activity…with one of his female patients”; at that time he also he resigned leadership of  NCTV.

Thomas Radecki 2012But really compulsive busybodies just can’t let it go; deprived of his license to interfere in people’s lives via psychiatry, he decided to pursue another effective route of control by getting a law degree in 1998.  He was also on the boards of various anti-drug and pro-censorship organizations throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s (including Tipper Gore’s infamous PMRC) and owned a fertility clinic called the Surrogate Parenting Institute.  As a lawyer Radecki fought to have his medical license reinstated, finally succeeding in 2002; he then moved to Pennsylvania to specialize in addiction therapy.  His probation ended in 2008, but his neuroses got him in trouble again last year:

…Thomas E. Radecki has agreed to the permanent voluntary surrender of his medical license…[for] over-prescribing patient medications and trading prescription drugs for sex…Authorities executed search warrants at Radecki’s offices in…late June.  Evidence was also seized from [his] home…Radecki specialized in treating patients who are addicted to heroin and highly addictive pain pills through the use of a controversial prescription medication called Suboxone…The case remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office…

In the final analysis, I think it’s safe to say that the demons Radecki imagined he saw in cartoons, games and television shows were nothing more than the ones which have driven him to anti-social behavior for over 30 years.

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The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom no clock can measure.  –  William Blake, from “Proverbs of Hell”

As I explained in December, I’m now answering reader questions in short columns (some even individually) rather than saving them up for the ends of months; I’m leaning toward making it a regular Wednesday feature, though of course it won’t appear every Wednesday unless there are enough questions to warrant that.  Today there are four questions; if you have one of your own, please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.

Recently I met a lady who provides sensual massages; she is not full service, but does provide happy endings.  We have become rather close and she has intimated that she has rather deep feelings for me; I feel the same about her, and over the past few months we have started to do things that she does not normally offer clients.  Furthermore, I have seen her in a non-business setting where nothing sexual took place between us.  How do I know that our relationship has moved from client/provider to other than business?  I could ask, but I don’t wish to cause any undue stress to our relationship; also, she states that she has a longtime boyfriend.  I want to believe that her feelings are also genuine, but how can I be sure I’m not being led on by a talented actress?

Wind Window by Shuka4If she didn’t already have a boyfriend I would say that her giving you services that aren’t on the menu and seeing you off the clock would be pretty good signs that she is indeed interested in you; in that case I would suggest the next step would be simply to ask her out to a movie or dinner or whatever just as you would any other woman, and with as little expectation of her “putting out” in return.  But the existence of the boyfriend makes it much more complicated; if she’s told you she has feelings for you and is giving you sex she does not think of as part of work, technically she’s cheating on him (with all that entails).  I appreciate that you don’t want to press her, but at the same time she is sending you mixed messages and you need to sort it out before you get hurt.  The best course of action would probably be to invite her to that same “non-business setting” again, and once you’re out of the work environment try to gently coax the story of her relationship out of her.  I warn you that you may not like what you hear, but I think you need to hear it so you can make a sensible decision about how to proceed with her.

Can you give me advice on whether things have changed here in Ontario?  Is it legal at an escort’s home now?

In Ontario, escort prostitution is legal.  Until recently it was illegal to keep a location specifically for incall use, to accept money from a prostitute or to discuss the subject in public, but even those restrictions are in dispute right now; furthermore, even if the “bawdy house” law is upheld the prohibition is against “keeping” such a place, not visiting it.  As long as you don’t cross over into territory ruled by fanatical American puritans, you should be safe from the police when contracting with any internet escort (most especially if she visits your house or office).

What advice can you give sex workers about underage clients? 

courtesan with young manThrough most of my career I wouldn’t see anyone under 21, though I lowered it to 18 in 2004.  I advised my girls to do the same, and many internet escorts have even higher thresholds (25, 30 or higher).  Generally, we’re protected by the fact that young men generally don’t have that kind of money, though of course that doesn’t hold true for streetwalkers because they charge much less.  I seem to recall once hearing of a hooker being charged with some absurd crime for seeing an underage client, but it doesn’t happen often.

I was involved in an online discussion about the discrepancy in reported sexual partners between men and women, and the question “what proportion of sex is with prostitutes?” came up.  I figure if anyone knows of such a study, you would; have any idea? 

Yep; the Potterat study is about exactly that.  Some of the conclusions are erroneous because the researchers ignorantly assume all hookers are streetwalkers, but the client-side raw data is good and the prostitute numbers work very well as a streetwalker census, as I explained in “By the Numbers“.

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Firmness in decision is often merely a form of stupidity.  It indicates an inability to think the same thing out twice.  –  H.L. Mencken

Despite my steady progress toward cronehood, I find that I still do change my mind on some things from time to time.  Really, this isn’t surprising; while most people become steadily more conservative as they age, I have become steadily more radical.  The reason should be obvious: as many of you have observed, I am unusually pragmatic and unafraid to follow ideas and observations to their logical conclusions.  When I was younger and far less battle-scarred I allowed far more sentiment to contaminate my moral views, and was much less likely to recognize the extent to which people will abuse even the slightest power over others.  But as I’ve lived in the real world, paid attention to its mechanisms and watched even the best-laid plans of mice and men gang agley, I’ve come to understand that the more control anyone (individually or collectively) is given over the lives of anyone else, the more often things go horribly wrong.  And while it’s true that some small amount of authoritarian violence is, unfortunately, a necessary evil, the optimum amount is vastly lower than that which exists anywhere in the world today.

DUI checkpointI’ve expressed many ethical opinions over the past three years, and many of you have disagreed with me; I’ve also read the words of many other writers expressing different, tangential or totally contradictory opinions.  And while most of the time my own positions, developed as they have been over three decades of careful observation and consideration, remain unmoved, once in a while little things add up enough so that I recognize that my previous opinion on a subject was unformed, naïve, incomplete, erroneous or even dead wrong.  Sometimes it’s just because I never really thought deeply enough about the issue; for example, because I don’t drink I never thought enough about the way “drunk driving” laws are written to recognize them as fallacious and enabling of tyranny, but then I read an essay which asked why it’s legally considered worse to drive well with a blood-alcohol level above an arbitrary limit than it is to drive poorly (or even cause an accident) cold sober.  Had the authoritarians not taken these laws to their logical conclusion with police-state checkpoints (now with blood extraction and forced catheterization), I might never have been forced to consider the subject enough to recognize their wrongness.  Similarly, I never devoted any serious thought to the laws governing gender-reassignment surgery until a commenter on my column “He or She?” very politely pointed out that my supporting the psychiatric community’s “gatekeeping” over the process violated the principle of self-ownership:

…governments and moralists who presume to know more about our minds and ourselves than we do?  Telling us what we are and are not allowed to do with our bodies, “for our own good”?  People who have no experience (or even understanding) of transsexuality unilaterally deciding that the desire to be the opposite sex HAS to be the byproduct of disturbed thinking, simply because it’s not something they can conceive of wanting to do?  I’m not equating transsexuality with prostitution…but I hope the rhetoric sounds familiar…Those safeguards…are not, and never have been, for the benefit of transsexuals.  They’re a buffer for medical professionals against malpractice suits, and the next best thing for the moralistic assholes in power if they can’t criminalize transsexuality outright…it does much more harm than good to set up an endless row of hurdles that transsexuals must clear, usually with a hostile or uncomprehending system, before we’re “allowed” to be what the rest of the population takes for granted.  Prohibitively difficult “safeguards” don’t make the process any safer, they just make it longer, more humiliating, and far more expensive…

In other cases, however, my thinking was clouded by my own emotions.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have fairly pronounced maternal instincts and suffered a very late-term miscarriage (22 weeks gestation) which still tends to upset me emotionally if I dwell on it.  Rationally, I understand that it’s probably best I did not have children, and that my own feelings on the matter no more constitute an argument against the legality of abortion than my aversion to depictions of male homosexual behavior constitutes one against its legality.  And yet, up until last year it always seemed to me that 12 weeks was enough of a window for legal abortion; despite compelling arguments that the limit of viability (roughly 24 weeks) is a far more logical dividing line, I simply did not want to think about ending pregnancies more advanced than my own was at the time of its spontaneous abortion.

Homunculus by Nicolaus Hartsoeker (1694)But 18 years is a long time on a human scale, and I’m nothing if not reasonable; though dogmatic “feminist” arguments which ignore or even deny the fact that Roe vs. Wade also invalidates prostitution laws are even less convincing to me than Christian superstition about ensouled zygotes, arguments based in the philosophies of liberty and harm reduction are another matter entirely.  An email I received last July from Joyce Arthur of FIRST (the Canadian pro-sex worker feminist group) contained the following passage:

Delays in seeking abortion…are often the direct result of legal restrictions…making gestational limits even more unjust.  Canada has no laws against abortion whatsoever, not even gestational limits, yet only about 0.4% of abortions happen after 20 weeks, and over 90% are before 12 weeks.  This is what happens when you treat abortion like any other medical procedure, it does not turn into an irresponsible free-for-all when it’s not criminalized.  In fact, our abortion rates are much lower than the U.S. and have been in decline since 1997.  Abortion can be…handled the same way as any other medical procedure – through medical policies, codes of ethics, doctor discretion, etc.  The problem with imposing legal limitations…is that women will find a way – if you make it too difficult or too expensive, many will just try to do it themselves or have an illegal unsafe abortion…

Nor are unsafe abortions the only problem; government powers inevitably expand until they are forcibly stopped, and laws defining fetuses as citizens to be protected by law inevitably result in prosecution of women whose actions inadvertently result in miscarriage or stillbirth.  And it gets worse:

…Our study identified 413 criminal and civil cases involving the arrests, detentions, and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women’s physical liberty…between 1973…and 2005…[and] 250…since 2005…A [Utah] woman…was…charged with…homicide based on the claim that her decision to delay cesarean surgery was the cause of the stillbirth…a [Washington D.C.] court…[forced] a critically-ill pregnant woman…to undergo cesarean surgery over her objections.  Neither she nor her baby survived.  A judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her from having an abortion.  A woman in Oregon…was subjected to involuntary civil commitment [for disobeying a doctor’s orders]…A Louisiana woman was charged with murder and spent…a year in jail…[for] miscarriage that resulted from [prescription] medication…In Texas, a pregnant woman who sometimes smoked marijuana…was arrested for delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.  A…Wisconsin…court…[arrested a] woman…and [subjected] her to involuntary…medical treatment [because she planned to use a midwife instead of an obstetrician]…if passed, so called “personhood” measures would: 1) provide the basis for arresting pregnant women who have abortions; and 2) provide state actors with the authority to subject all pregnant women to surveillance, arrest, incarceration, and other deprivations of liberty whether women seek to end a pregnancy or not…

pregnant caucasian woman portrait attached with handcuffs isolated studio on white backgroundFor those still stuck in fantasyland about the innate trustworthiness of government, consider that Brazil has already tried to force all pregnant women to submit to compulsory registration and monitoring.  Even people who believe abortion should be illegal don’t generally think women should be arrested for it, but that is exactly what would happen because authoritarian governments totally lack both self-control and the ability to differentiate between an illegal act and a criminal one.  Having given the matter all the consideration it is due, I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer back any legal limits on abortion whatsoever; though I still feel it is unethical for a doctor to abort a viable and healthy fetus without some compelling reason, I also believe it is no concern of the state or any other uninvolved party, and that laws governing pregnancy inevitably lead to far greater evils than the rare ones they prevent.

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Although we recognize that patriotism is often the handmaiden of dehumanization, we haven’t yet given up the notion of Manichean struggle between evil and good.  –  Zach Weiner

Surprised to see this on Monday?  Next week it’ll be on Tuesday, and so forth until it arrives back in its normal Sunday slot on March 17th.  The reason for this is that I wanted to do something a little different while the TW3 columns are borrowing the Links columns’ numbers, and beside it’s nice for a change.  We’ve only got one video this week, but that’s OK because I really wanted to share this large graphic of Venn diagrams which Radley Balko discovered on Reddit; the graphic puts Balko just barely ahead of Grace this week because each of them contributed three links (Balko the three above the graphic, and Grace “old people”, “crumpled paper” and “spiders”).  The video (a parody of early ’70s anti-drug films) and the link just above it were provided by my cat, and the links between the graphic and the video by Amy Alkon (“Hello Kitty”), Popehat
(“printers”), Eugene Volokh (“Uncanny Valley”), Michael Whiteacre (“Shirley Temple”), Mike Siegel (“drug war” and “Leviathan”), Nun Ya (“flaming cheese”),  Jesse Walker (“lone villain”), and Brooke Magnanti (“bakemono”).

school shooting Venn

From the Archives

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In our family we don’t divorce our men; we bury ’em!  –  Stella (Ruth Gordon)

In common with most people, I like movies.  I don’t pretend to know much about movie criticism, I’m painfully ignorant about directorial techniques and I probably couldn’t recognize a “great” film even if I had a cheat-sheet.  I do, however, know what I like, and can often even tell you why I like it.  I’m not going to claim that any of these films are “great” in the artistic sense, and though I’ve seen several of today’s selections on “great film” lists I don’t like them for that reason.  Despite today’s title, these are not actually my favorite movies; I already listed those in my very first “Favorite Things” column over a year ago.  Other columns have discussed my favorite horror movies, musicals, short films, obscure movies, Christmas movies and monsters and horror stars; this one lists 16 more of my favorite movies that don’t fall into any of those categories (though I did mention #8 in the “obscure movies” column), listed in my usual reverse chronological order.

1)  Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)  What I like best about this movie and its sequel is that they’re unrepentantly dumb.  In other words, they make no pretense to be anything other than good, clean fun.  And while most time travel movies defy logic due to poor writing or failure to think things out, I get the feeling the writers of this one made a list of time travel rules and then broke every one on purpose.  My love for these flicks has rendered me totally unable to take Keanu Reeves seriously no matter what role he plays.

2)  Highlander (1986)  Truly unique movies are rare in modern Hollywood, but this was one; the aesthetic failure of several moronic sequels and a TV series ripoff prove that.  If you’ve never seen it, the trailer is a decent introduction, though I have one major quibble with it (and with the film itself):  the hero’s modern love interest is completely unbelievable and pales into insignificance besides the beautiful depiction of his first marriage, which never fails to reduce me to tears.

3)  Dune (1984)  Yes, I’ve read the book, and I’m aware of how the film departs from it; I’m also aware that Herbert was satisfied with it.  There are three cuts of this movie: the theatrical cut, which leaves out far too much exposition; the extended television cut, which includes the additional material but removes important scenes that were deemed too intense for broadcast, and a combined cut from a region 2 DVD (of which I own a bootleg) which has all the scenes from both theatrical and TV cuts.  The best part about this film is that there were no concessions to modernism chauvinism; the culture is depicted in all its strangeness and political incorrectness.

4)  Star Trek:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)  As I’ve stated before, this and The Undiscovered Country are IMHO the only Star Trek movies truly worthy of the legacy; Khan is the only one which feels directly connected to the series, and in all of Hollywood history it may be the sequel which surpasses its progenitor by the greatest margin (though you’re welcome to make other nominations).

5)  Time Bandits (1981)  Terry Gilliam’s visions are always baroque and usually tinged with darkness (except when they’re absolutely immersed in it), and Time Bandits is no exception.  Though the movie is absolutely hilarious, its portrayal of a chaotic universe ruled by a rather cold and disinterested God is rather like Monty Python meets H.P. Lovecraft, and can be disquieting if one thinks too hard about it.

6)  Serial (1980)  This little-remembered satire of Bay Area ‘70s nuttiness is probably best appreciated by those old enough to remember the time period, and though it doesn’t bear quite as much repeated watching as most of the other titles on the list I still enjoy it every time I see it.  Bonus for horror fans:  Christopher Lee in a very unorthodox comedic role.

7)  Bedazzled (1967)  This isn’t the only film on this list who memory has been sullied by a shoddy remake, but it may be the only one so completely eclipsed by that remake that almost nobody seems to remember the original.  And that’s truly sad, because this one is very funny, very clever, very wicked and very, very British.  Dudley Moore plays a hapless and rather silly short-order cook who sells his soul to the Devil (Peter Cook) for seven wishes and learns about the proverbial “long spoon” over and over again, but the bits between the wishes are actually the funniest.

8)  Lord Love a Duck (1966)  One of the blackest of all black comedies; it would not be out of place on a double bill with Dr. Strangelove, though this one prefers to take pot-shots at a large number of cultural absurdities (often in drive-by mode) while Strangelove is a sustained attack on one target.  The trailer isn’t lying; Roddy McDowell’s character really does commit mass murder (during the opening credits!) and the rest of the movie explains what drove him to it.

9)  Goldfinger (1964)  In a sense, this movie is here as a representative of all the Sean Connery Bond films, but I also feel it would stand on its own merits without the others.  Everything that is right with the series is exemplified in this one, and its problems less apparent here than in other installments; even some of the series’ conventions are lampooned here, but without devolving into self-parody as the later Roger Moore films did.

10)  Bell, Book and Candle (1958)  The lovely Kim Novak is a modern witch who casts a love spell on her neighbor in order to get back at his awful fiancée, an old schoolmate of hers…then finds herself falling in love with him for real.  Though this film was one of the inspirations for Bewitched, the witches here are not semi-godlike but rather just people with an extra talent (stronger in some than others).  The supporting cast is fantastic; of especial interest for readers of this blog is Ernie Kovacs’ character, a writer whose utter ignorance of the witchcraft on which he claims to be an “expert” calls to mind certain self-proclaimed “experts” on prostitution.

11)  Twelve Angry Men (1957)  One set.  Twelve actors.  No special effects.  Virtually all talk and no action.  But if you’re anything like me, it will rivet your attention from start to finish.  One conscientious holdout juror (Henry Fonda) in a murder trial eventually helps the others to recognize the gaps in the prosecution’s case that they at first ignored or did not want to see.  One of those movies that’s more timely now than when it was first filmed.

12)  Rashômon (1950)  The story of a rape and murder in feudal Japan, told from four points of view:  that of the murderer, those of the two victims, and that of a witness the others did not know was there.  This device has since become a trope, and the film’s name practically an idiom, but none have ever done it as well as the original.

13)  Mighty Joe Young (1949)  Though the movie was a conscious imitation of King Kong (and even shared a writer, star and special-effects director), I must admit that I really like it better than its more iconic predecessor.  Joe is a character rather than simply a monster, and thanks to the wizardry of the young Ray Harryhausen his personality really shines through; the audience cares about him in a way we never really care for Kong, and later incarnations of the King have included more than a little Joe in him.

14)  Rope (1948)  An underappreciated Hitchcock adaptation of a 1929 play based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case.  Like Twelve Angry Men, it’s a very “pure” drama: one set, a small number of characters, mostly talk with little action, and designed so as to resemble a stage play as closely as possible.  Beside the masterful buildup of suspense, one of the things I like best about it is its use of very long takes (up to ten minutes each), cut so as to appear like one long, seamless filming.

15) Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)  You’ve probably noticed that I like black comedies, and here’s another one:  Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) discovers that his elderly maiden aunts are bumping off lonely old men with poisoned wine and burying their bodies in the cellar.  And then there are his two brothers…as Mortimer explains to his new bride, “insanity runs in my family…It practically gallops.”

16) The Thief of Bagdad (1940)  Though I love Arabian Nights movies in general (such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, which just barely missed the cut), I have an especial love for this one.  It has been remade several times, but this one is by far the best; if you’ve never seen it, you’ll be amazed at the extent to which Disney plagiarized it for Aladdin.

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If we are going to call attacks on reproductive and sexual rights a “war on women,” then let’s talk about a war on women that has actual prisoners and a body count.  –  Melissa Gira Grant

Thomas LoweThe Biggest Whores

Res ipsa loquitur:

Minnesota’s Supreme Court last week barred attorney Thomas P. Lowe from practicing law for at least the next 15 months after it was revealed that he was billing a client for sex.  Lowe…was approached in August 2011 by an acquaintance who asked him to represent her in a divorce.  Their…relationship soon evolved into a sexual one, but…Lowe…[billed] the woman for [all] the time they spent [together, including] having sex…[after] Lowe…[dumped her] the woman… attempted to commit suicide and was hospitalized…Lowe was previously on probation for purchasing cocaine from a client…

The second lawyer isn’t nearly as bad, though still terribly unprofessional:

A public defender…is facing charges after allegedly exchanging texts with an undercover cop who he thought was a prostitute, and then trying to exchange sex for legal representation.  Christopher Hollander…allegedly sent a text message to a phone formerly used by a prostitute [but now in possession of a cop who] Hollander met…in a hotel room…The two discussed the phony prostitute’s alleged legal trouble.  When the officer asked “How much is it going to cost me” for the legal services, Hollander started to caress her hand…then allegedly began trying to kiss and hug the officer, and told her he had two condoms…

Lawyers, if you want to propose exchange of services just say so; real hookers appreciate honesty, not some clumsy attempt at seduction.

Good Fantasy, Bad Reality

Ed Bagley has accepted a bargain in which he pleaded guilty to having sex with his supposed “victim” while she was underage, in return for prosecutors dropping all other charges (despite their insistence that he “swear” that the other accusations are true).  The one is bad enough; it can carry a 20-year sentence, and several of the other “conspirators” (as the state labels them) will also get very hefty sentences.

Something Rotten in Sweden (December Updates)

Remember, prostitution has never been illegal in Canada; these men were arrested for the “crime” of talking about it in public, which demonstrates the importance of taking this kind of power totally out of cops’ hands:  “Ottawa police swept the city’s downtown core…in an effort to find, charge and re-educate men looking for prostitutes…They arrested 15 men, 13 of whom escaped charges and will attend ‘john school’…a partnership with the Salvation Army…”  Please note the Orwellian term “re-educate”.

The Cold, Grey Light of Dawnsex work flow chart by Anne Johnsen

Looks like the Philippines is moving toward British-type legalization (erroneously called “decriminalization”):  “The Department of Social Welfare and Development…has endorsed a bill…which would decriminalize prostitution but punish those who control and profit from…[it, repealing] clauses…which punish ‘women who, for money, engage in sexual intercourse, or lascivious conduct’…

It Looks Good On Paper

Another bit of feel-good legislation which capitalizes on hype but will actually help virtually nobody, due to its basis in fantasy:  “A bill filed in the Oklahoma Legislature…would erase the prostitution records of human trafficking victims…[who] average…12 to 14 years old…

Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic

This article has so much to recommend it:  Dr. Brooke Magnanti debunks “porn addiction”, describing the “studies” which claim to support it as “poorly conducted surveys on a level of market research, not science.”  In the process, she also quotes Dr. Marty Klein and lampoons both Cosmopolitan and Naomi “Stopped Clock” Wolf, all in less than a thousand well-chosen words.

Nikki Sixx's girlfriend, Courtney BinghamGirls, Girls, Girls!

Of all the media one would expect to be least likely to side with puritans against a business persecuted for supposedly “corrupting public morals”, a rock music radio station has got to be pretty high on the list.  Though the article itself is dry enough, the wording and scare quotes in the headline and lede amply demonstrate the editor’s attitude:  “Lawsuit Claims Dancing in a Topless Bar ‘Improves the Self Esteem’ of the Stripper – seeks to have San Antonio’s strict new strip club law thrown out, also claims stripping is a ‘socially fulfilling experience’.”  It gets much worse; the station appears to have some close association with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue…author of the titular song celebrating strippers.

A Whore in Church

The most interesting part of this article about sex workers in Malawi wearing hijab to attract Muslim customers is not the mere fact of it (which would simply be an example of the clipboard effect), but rather the fallacious notion (expressed both in text and comments) that a whore cannot be Muslim (or “truly” Christian either).  Also worthy of note is the author’s reversal of the usual feminist complaint that not covering up leads to “objectification”; this only goes to show that the real issue such women have is not some imaginary harm to women, but rather heterosexuality itself.

Above the Law

[Las Vegas] police officer John Norman is going to prison for two years…after pleading guilty to…coercing women to expose their breasts after stopping them on the road…Once Norman is released from prison, he will have to register as a sex offender…

The Crumbling Dam (TW3 #13)

Once again, Canadian government prohibitionists are trying to convince the courts that dangerous, repressive laws which deny sex workers’ agency are actually intended to “protect” them:

Hundreds of shadowy body rub parlours operated by exploitative pimps…are operating on the outskirts of Toronto, the Ontario Crown warns in a court document…[urging] the Supreme Court of Canada to let police keep the powers they have to protect female sex workers, who are often cowed into submissive silence…However, a group of prostitutes who have successfully challenged the ban through two levels of court accuse…Crown lawyers of scaremongering.  In the decision under appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal invalidated the…prohibition on keeping a brothel…[and] granted prostitutes the right to…hire staff to protect them…the…court is scheduled to hear the…challenge in June…

Melissa Gira Grant
Naked Truth

Melissa Gira Grant’s “The War on Sex Workers” appears in this month’s print edition of Reason; though regular readers will already be familiar with much of the ground she covers, it never hurts to revisit it.  More importantly, for an unrepentant sex worker to have the opportunity to discuss the neofeminist war on whores in a national magazine (albeit a libertarian one) is a sign that this issue is beginning to move into the mainstream.

Imagination Pinned Down

This article entitled “Sex, Lies and Audiotapes” is 12 years old, but is an excellent look at how “fantastic tales of sexual abuse” are instilled into the minds of the vulnerable, and why radical feminists were largely to blame for “sex abuse” hysteria and the Satanic Panic; it is thus still topical as background for the new guise of those moral panics, “sex trafficking”.

Shift in the Wind

Though it may be difficult to recognize for sex workers in the US, British Isles and any place else strongly affected by “trafficking” hysteria, 2012 actually saw net gains for sex workers; Cheryl Overs reviews the high points (without neglecting to mention the low ones) in “A Good Year for Red Umbrellas”.

Texas Tall Tales

Texans aren’t the only ones who can tell tall tales about new technology being used by “human traffickers” to “entrap innocent girls”:

…Mobile phone recharge shops have been reportedly taking advantage of innocent girls who approach them for recharge coupons and give their numbers.  The employees/owners of the shop or their friends call the girls…develop friendships and later misuse them…ruining the girls’ lives…human [traffickers in]…Kundapur…are said to be running a mobile recharge outlet…the accused lure the girls with jobs and then use them for their own ends.  Later, the girls are allegedly blackmailed and trapped, and their escape route is closed…apart from flesh trade, a drugs network is also interwoven in the racket…

Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

As expected, a UK judge has ruled that the case of Mark Kennedy, the cop who was allowed to trick women into sex in order to spy on them, will be heard in a Star Chamber proceeding.  What was unexpected was that he would say what Kennedy did was OK because James Bond does it:

James Bond is the most famous fictional example of a member of the intelligence services who used relationships with women to obtain information…[such] fictional accounts…lend credence to the view that the intelligence and police services have for many years deployed both men and women officers to form personal relationships of an intimate sexual nature…in order to obtain information or access.

James Bond meets Pussy GaloreAs Heresy Corner points out, “James Bond isn’t just ‘fiction’, it’s escapist fantasy…[which] doesn’t ‘lend credence’ to anything…and Mark Kennedy’s ‘targets’ weren’t exotic Russian agents with a handbag full of nuclear secrets and the sexual etiquette of a praying mantis…nor were they dangerous international terrorists intent on blowing up airports or shopping malls.  They were…largely peaceful activists engaged primarily in democratic dissent, however misguided or naive…

Buried Truth

Remember Lisa Biron, the anti-gay lawyer who “transported a teen girl…to Ontario …and coerced her into engaging in sexual acts with another person”?  It turns out the girl was 14, there were two men, and Biron also had sex with her.  Oh, and one more thing:  the girl was her own daughter.  She was convicted of child porn charges on the 11th.

South of the Border (TW3 #49)

The creation of “sex trafficking rings” from people who used to be called “illegal aliens” continues, complete with childish “code names”, bombastic rhetoric, exaggerated numbers and infantilization of sex workers:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the results of a lengthy investigation called Operation Dark Night.  It looked into a sex trafficking ring stretching from Florida to Georgia to North and South Carolina…women…were forced into prostitution and traded like slaves in various cities for about a week at a time…11 victims were rescued and 40 customers called Johns were also taken into custody.  Investigators say the women were forced to perform up to 30 sex acts per day…

Like most “trafficking” articles, this one contains the Profession of Faith:  “…‘its a bigger issue than many people thought,’ said Joan Garcia-Melendez…‘Human trafficking is a very hidden crime’…Authorities say this is a wakeup call as to how widespread sex trafficking has become…”  But what will happen to those poor “victims” who were “rescued”?  The BBC says what the American story won’t: “Those who were illegal in the country would be deported.”

Q & A (January 2013)

Wisconsin danger zoneI mentioned that “the only time [verification services] fail is…when some idiot fails to stick to the plan, gets caught in a sting and then ransoms his worthless hide by giving the busybodies his login info so they can pop several girls before the service gets wise.”  One of my readers supplied more details:  there were several instances, all in the Appleton/Oshkosh area of Wisconsin, and P411 removed those entire cities from the site as a precaution and directly warned all the ladies who might be targeted.  Apparently cops in Little Rock, Arkansas have also attempted the same thing, though less successfully.

Perverse Incentives

Susie Bright on how perverse prosecutorial incentives spawn abominations:

Twice in my career I’ve been asked to serve as an expert witness on the defense team of an obscenity trial…the defendants were low-hanging fruit…targeted because of their…vulnerability…The Justice Department [bags] obscenity law trophies by going after the poor, the suicidal, the insane, the cognitively impaired— because that’s the way they rack up numbers and status.  That’s the way they fuel their careers…not by taking on constitutional issues, or injustice, or fat cats who believe they’re above the law…They find someone who’s drooling, or depressed, or friendless— and then throw the book at them.  It doesn’t take long because the “defendant-target” is overmatched…

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I will go root away the noisome weeds which without profit suck the soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.  –  William Shakespeare, Richard II (III, iv)

Nothing in this sublunary world can be perfect; every pleasure has its price, every rose its thorn, every joy its pang.  Those who win lotteries often find themselves plagued by beggars and opportunists, and over every throne hangs a Damoclean sword.  So while I’m very pleased with the great success of my blog, it also carries a cost:  though I’m visited by several thousand good readers every day, people who are here to learn and explore and share their knowledge and opinions, I am also increasingly targeted by parasites eager to draw some of that traffic to their own sleazy commercial sites.

Al Shea, Mr. Bingle & Pete PenguinI have nothing against advertising, as long as it represents itself as such and makes fair payment for the space and time it occupies.  It was advertising that first made broadcast radio and television feasible and supported it for most of a century, and a well-designed commercial can be just as entertaining as any other short film; I have voluntarily featured several on this blog without compensation because I enjoyed them and thought y’all might as well.  But comment spam is as different from Mr. Bingle as violent assault is from massage; though they are both technically forms of advertising, comment spam is boring, inane, deceptive and attempts to steal attention rather than offering fair compensation for it.  As I said in “Parasites”,

…this plague…pours into popular blogs every day like a veritable river of leeches…the Akismet program monitors all comments and shunts spam into a folder for later review and discard; it’s extremely rare that it misses one, but even that goes into the moderation queue where I can catch it and throw it back into the spam folder.  If it weren’t for the fact that it’s sometimes too aggressive and mistakes legitimate comments (even from regular posters) for spam, I would simply empty the folder without looking at it because scanning the contents of that folder now takes up a measurable fraction of my time here…72% of all attempted comments over the life of the site have been spam, which will give you some idea of how repellent and uninviting the comment threads would be if they got through.

As of this writing, that fraction is now 83% total, and on any given day the ratio of spam to real comments sometimes exceeds 10:1.  One recent afternoon I closed my browser, went to town, came home, cooked and ate dinner and then signed back in to find that Akismet had trapped 100 spam comments in just over five hours; if that becomes typical (as I fear is inevitable) I will soon see over 500 spam comments per day.

katrina debrisClearly, something has to give, and I’m afraid that something has to be my scanning the spam folder for the rare legitimate comment which Akismet mistakenly discards.  Effective immediately, I will no longer browse this mountain of rubbish before clearing it away, so if there’s anything in there which shouldn’t be I won’t be able to see it unless I’m specifically advised that it’s there.  Instead of emptying the spam every time I go to the dashboard (as I have done since the beginning), I will instead empty it only once per day, just before I go to bed around midnight Central Time (6:00 UTC).  If you try to post a comment and it doesn’t appear as it usually does, here’s what you need to do:

1)  If you’re a regular commenter, please click on this link to send me a specially-marked email so I’ll know I have to go digging through the trash for your comment.  Please don’t ignore this; once one of your comments is rejected, for all I know Akismet may mark you as a spammer and trash everything you try to post from then on.

2)  If you’ve never posted before, it’s extremely likely that your comment is simply being held for moderation and will appear as soon as I notice it (usually within a few hours, but remember I’m in bed between 6:00 and 14:00 UTC).  If it doesn’t appear in that time, please click on this link to contact me; make sure you give me a rough idea of when you tried to post so I’ll know when to look.  If your comment is insulting, rude, dishonest or trollish it may be that I was the one who excluded it rather than Akismet; you may want read “How Not To Get Your Comments Posted” to see if you followed the instructions properly.

dumpster divingAs I said in “House Rules”  way back when, 96% of you will probably never have to worry about any of this; however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide some remedy to the actions of an over-enthusiastic robot.  I value my readers and your comments, and though I don’t have the time or inclination to sift garbage on a several-times-daily basis any more, I certainly don’t mind dumpster diving if I know there’s something valuable in there.

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Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.  –  Milton Friedman

James Buchanan (economist)Sometimes, I set out to write an essay and soon discover that it has turned into something quite different from what I intended, or at the very least grown to embrace much larger issues than the one with which I began.  Obviously, I’m not privy to the inner workings of other writers’ minds, but every so often I see an article which seems to have grown in that way.  Radley Balko’s “James Buchanan, RIP” was such a piece; though its title and opening indicate that it began as an obituary of the Nobel laureate, it contains so much more that I think even those whose eyes glaze over at the mere mention of economics may find it worth their time.  Balko begins with a quote from the New York Times obituary explaining Buchanan’s importance:

Dr. Buchanan…was a leading proponent of public choice theory, which assumes that politicians and government officials, like everyone else, are motivated by self-interest — getting re-elected or gaining more power — and do not necessarily act in the public interest.  He argued that their actions could be analyzed, and even predicted, by applying the tools of economics to political science in ways that yield insights into the tendencies of governments to grow, increase spending, borrow money, run large deficits and let regulations proliferate…

He then continues by pointing out that though “conservatives” have used Buchanan’s work to attack the kind of “progressive” bureaucracy they claim to oppose, they ignore the fact that it also casts unwelcome light on the big-government programs they favor:

…When a new federal agency is created to address some social ill…there’s a strong incentive for [its] employees…to never completely solve the problem…[because] there would no longer be a need for their agency…In fact, there’s a strong incentive to exaggerate the problem, if not even exacerbate it…But when it comes to law enforcement, [conservatives]…have the same sort of blind faith in the good intentions and public-mindedness of public servants that the left has for, say, EPA bureaucrats…you could make a strong argument that it’s more important that we recognize and compensate for the incentive problems among cops and prosecutors because the consequences of bad decisions can be quite a bit more dire.  If we reward prosecutors who rack up convictions with reelection, higher office, and high-paying jobs at white-shoe law firms, and…provide no real sanction or punishment when they break the rules in pursuit of those convictions, we shouldn’t be surprised if we start to see a significant number of wrongful convictions.  If we reward cops who rack up impressive raw arrest numbers with promotions and pay raises, and…don’t punish or sanction cops who violate the civil and constitutional rights of the people…we shouldn’t be surprised if we start to see a significant number of cops more interested in detaining and arresting people than in protecting the rights of…citizens…

I hope all of you immediately thought of “trafficking” propagandists upon reading the words “strong incentive to exaggerate the problem”; if not, I’m failing at my job.  They, and all those who promote any extreme and one-dimensional view of reality, must exaggerate not only their raison d’être, but also the differences between themselves and rivals.  Furthermore, they must deride those who are skeptical of their dogma; one popular means of doing so is by equation of skeptics with some demonized group.  Prohibitionists often brand supporters of sex worker rights as “pimps” or “trafficking apologists”, social conservatives tar their critics with such epithets as “communist”, and collectivists try to equate those who advocate for liberty with others whose motivations might be considered less noble by those of “liberal” bent:

Libertarians are often derided for being unapologetically selfish.  I don’t think that’s a fair criticism of libertarian thinking.  It is a fair criticism of Randianism/Objectivism…Libertarianism is a philosophy of governing, and only of governing…the difference…is best explained this way: Randianism is a celebration of self-interest.  Libertarianism is merely the recognition of it…

MADD virgin drinksBalko further points out, as I often do, that it’s a mistake to pretend that governments are intrinsically different from all other groups of humans, for good or ill; every group will seek to further its own ends at everyone else’s expense, and the only way to stop it is to stop letting people – any people – have so much power over one another.  A few examples:

The idea…is not that public employees are terrible, selfish, horrible people…It’s that they’re merely human, like the rest of us…Mothers Against Drunk Driving was enormously successful at attaching a social stigma to drunk driving…DWI deaths plummeted, until about the late 1990s…then the numbers began to level off…rather than declare victory, MADD expanded its mission, and began taking on underage drinking, happy hour specials, alcohol advertising, and other booze-related issues…the organization’s founder eventually came around to say that MADD had outlived its original mission, and become merely an anti-alcohol group.

One more example:  private prisons and prison guard unions.  Free market types who normally believe in the power of incentives for some reason think corporations that operate prisons will somehow resist the incentive to lobby for laws that will create more prisoners, even though more prisoners means a better bottom line for the prison company.  That hasn’t happened.  At the same time, progressives seem to think that some sense of solidarity with the greater, pro-union progressive cause will prevent prison guard unions from also lobbying for laws that create more prisoners, even though more prisoners means more prison guards, which means more dues-paying members of the union.  That hasn’t happened, either...in the aggregate, it’s generally wise to be skeptical of large organizations claiming to speak on behalf of large groups of people, and especially of those who claim to be acting in the public good.  It’s a safe assumption that the primary objective of MADD is the preservation of MADD, that the primary objective of the NRA is to preserve the NRA…The policies that best serve teachers’ unions are not necessarily the policies that are in the best interest of teachers.  The best interests of students are (at least) another step removed.  The policies that are in the best interests of police unions aren’t always the policies that are in the best interests of police officers, and certainly aren’t always the policies that are in the best interests of public safety (never mind civil liberties)…

I think you get the picture.  If you have time, read the entire original; Balko is a powerful and effective writer, and so sensible that the loony HuffPo commentariat eventually recognized that attacking him only made them look stupid.  And while you’re driving today (or waiting for a computer or employee to finish a task, or taking a shower, or anything else that gives you the opportunity to ponder for a few minutes) consider how well public choice theory describes the observable behavior of governments, feminists, the rescue industry, religions, political parties, and any other large group, and ask yourself if it’s really all that different from the observable behavior of corporations.  And if you wouldn’t trust big business to control your life, happiness and property, why on Earth would you trust any of those others either?

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Disguise our bondage as we will,
‘Tis woman, woman rules us still.
 –  Isaac Bickerstaff, The Sultan (II,i)

Here’s a letter from a very distraught reader, and my response:

I’m a 24 year old male virgin who couldn’t get laid to save my own life.  I’m in a very bad state of physical health and have severely low testosterone, a small penis and erectile dysfunction; I also have severe social anxiety and many other mental health issues.  I have no friends or social contact of any kind, and hate women with an all-consuming passion; I know this is irrational and mostly due to my complete failure with them, but this does little to quell the rage.  Although I have never been violent towards another human being in my whole life, and I have no doubt that I would never actually hurt a woman, I do have extremely violent fantasies; I don’t mean to freak you out, but I just want to explain myself completely.  At the same time I view women with awe and reverence and never stop thinking about them; I also envy them, which strikes as borderline homosexual.  I’m a severely porn-addicted, chronic compulsive masturbator and my fantasies have devolved into sickening femdom/chastity/cuckolding porn and incest; I can only relate to women as either a pitiful charity case to be coddled like a child, or as a victim to be tormented.  I want so much to get my head strait and respond sexually to things that are healthy; my desire is to be normal.

My feelings toward women in general are magnified with respect to highly sexual women; I abhor them whilst worshiping them, and I’m a reactionary traditionalist who wants to forcibly repress female sexuality and reverse the effects of the sexual revolution.  So for me (and I know how irrational this is), going to a prostitute would be an act of profound surrender, allowing myself to be completely vulnerable to that which I fear more than anything in the world.  Practically, what I think I need is a highly skilled woman who has patience and genuine compassion, somebody who’s had success in working with my kind before.Rachel Wotton with client  I watched a documentary called Scarlet Road about an Australian prostitute who works primarily with disabled dudes, and that’s exactly what I’m seeking.  What I’m not sure about, though, is whether I should go to a prostitute now, or else wait six months or so and really try and get my health in order so I could enjoy the experience more.  Since I’ve received very little help from doctors, it might possibly be years before I become healthy again, and I cannot wait that long without experiencing simple human touch and companionship; a healing experience with a talented prostitute might be a catalyst for me to make major changes in my life.  I’d really appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

I have written on a number of occasions about the severe problems which can result from a man’s being deprived of sexual release, and though I do think this has severely aggravated your emotional and mental health I don’t think it’s the major factor.  I’m not a psychiatrist, and even if I were I couldn’t even begin to make a diagnosis based on one email, but I think it’s safe to say that your social anxiety and whatever other issues keep you from having friends are the chief impediments to your happiness.  So though I am going to give you the advice about hiring a pro that you asked for, I also strongly urge you to research and seek out a competent therapist who could help you with the social and psychological problems.  That’s not necessarily going to be easy; there are boatloads of therapists, psychologists, counselors and the like in every city, but most of them are only semi-competent and finding a good one will take work and time unless you’re very fortunate.  It is possible that just finding a companion who will listen to your problems will go a long way toward helping you, but if your situation is as bad as you have painted it you may also need medication and only a doctor can provide that.  While it’s true that psychoactive drugs are overprescribed nowadays, it’s also true that when used properly they can give someone temporary respite from his emotional pain so as to allow him to regroup and get his life back into order.  You wrote that you’ve received little help from doctors for your physical problems; here again, you may just need to keep looking for the right one.  Improvement in your physical health might work wonders for your mental health, probably much more than you suspect.

The Rape of Persephone by BerniniI’m glad you were honest with me about your anger toward women and fear of female sexuality, and rest assured I am not “freaked out”.  While your feelings are unusual in their intensity, they’re not at all unusual in their character; while I would hesitate to call them typical, I must point out that this kind of love/hate relationship with women is evident in the writings of many men from antiquity to the present and suffuses Western monotheism (and as Camille Paglia points out, inspires an awful lot of art).  It’s the real-life syndrome from which neofeminist myths about “misogyny” and “rape culture” spring, but in actuality it’s simply the wholly predictable result of male sexual frustration.  When thwarted, powerful drives don’t just go away; buried, they rot in the earth and give rise to dark, unwholesome and unlovely things.  A caged tiger paces back and forth unceasingly; a man develops fantasies which may repel or sicken him, and grows to hate the thing which he blames for his condition.  But these are merely surface manifestations conjured up to hide the painful truth:  though you claim to hate and fear whores, you approached an unrepentant harlot for advice in dealing with her sisters.  Please understand that I am not belittling your feelings in any way; after all, you pointed it out yourself.  The only reason I brought it up at all is that I want you to understand that if I really thought you genuinely hated women in general and whores in particular, I wouldn’t be giving you advice on how to locate one for fear you might harm her.

I think your idea of seeking a really dedicated professional who views her work as a calling is a sound one, and I’m happy to tell you that such women exist in virtually every part of the globe (though if you live under a criminalization regime, it will take a little more care and research on your part).  I’m afraid you’re going to have to be very patient; it is imperative that you find the right woman, or else the experience will simply result in even more frustration.  Furthermore, you may not be able to perform the first few times you are with her; the combination of physical factors, frustration, anger, anxiety and everything else will probably prevent it.  You need to go into the early appointments with the attitude that you are just there to talk, to touch and to hold and be held; if you don’t expect intercourse and tell the lady not to expect it either, you can spend the time getting used to being with a naked woman without the fear of ridicule or failure.  One thing of which I can assure you is that absolutely NO professional worth her salt will mock you for your penis size, inability to achieve erection or fearfulness; trust me, we have all seen these things many, many times, and will no more ridicule you for them than a physician would mock you for being ill or a maid insult your dirty carpet.

In summary:  Take your time, as hard as that may be:  research the ladies in your area, find one who seems patient and understanding, explain that you may have difficulties and just want to touch and talk.  Then see her a few times, expecting nothing in particular to happen in any given session; enjoy the journey rather than focusing on a particular destination, and in the meantime do whatever you need to do to improve your health.  As you become comfortable with your escort the psychological and emotional barriers to physical intimacy will erode, and unless it’s physiologically impossible for you to achieve erection you should eventually be able to have intercourse, and thereby begin the process of healing your spirit and moving toward a healthy and fulfilling sex life.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.  –  Anthony Kennedy, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992)

Forty years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling.  Though the decision was a predictable step in a long series defending the rights of individuals to be free from state control of their private lives, its slaughter of several sacred cows made it many bitter enemies and it has been assailed as sloppy jurisprudence even by some who actually agree with its conclusion.  This is extremely unfortunate, because if the judgment had been more clearly defined as the natural outgrowth of the founding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and of the constitutional abhorrence of the state exercising undue control over people’s bodies or restricting their personal freedom (as exemplified by the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 13th amendments), the anti-sex crowd would have fewer legal avenues by which to challenge the right to abortion, and Roe vs. Wade would have been merely the first of many decisions rolling back unconstitutional 19th century intrusions into individual lives which would have appalled the Founding Fathers.

The majority of Americans are woefully ignorant of history; perhaps this is a predictable outgrowth of our cultural fascination with progress, because minds mired in dualistic thinking (as most human beings are) tend to abjure, abhor or simply ignore the “opposite” of whatever they believe to be good and admirable.  In other words, it isn’t surprising if a dualistic mentality which has been taught that “newer is better” concludes that the past is not worth knowing about.  I’m going to avoid the obvious Santayana reference because repeating the past is not really the issue here; rather, it’s the woeful lack of perspective.  Have you ever considered why alcohol prohibition was repealed in a mere fourteen years, while prohibition of other drugs has dragged on for almost a century?  It’s precisely because the drive to repeal was launched so soon after the enactment, and took less than ten months from proposal to full ratification.  In 1933 everyone in Congress and virtually everyone old enough to vote could remember the time before Prohibition, and the damage it had done was evident to all but the most delusional.  By contrast, the number of people who can clearly remember the time before widespread drug prohibition is very small indeed; a very large fraction of the population believes that drugs have essentially “always” been illegal, and that governments have routinely inserted themselves into people’s private business since time immemorial.  Similarly, most people believe that abortion, homosexuality, prostitution and other sex-related acts have been defined as “crimes” at least since Moses, when in fact none of these things was typically criminalized until the 19th century, and not on a massive scale until the early 20th.

MosesIncalculable damage is done to the principles of liberty by the ignorant but widespread belief that legal prohibition of private behavior is some kind of venerable tradition.  Most humans are naturally resistant to change, and the older they get the more calcified this resistance becomes.  The majority of people find “we’ve always done it that way” to be a compelling argument, and even those who do not may fear sailing into uncharted seas, and thus inclined to “leave well enough alone”.  Were these people to recognize that prohibitionist laws are nothing but a recent (and failed) experiment, and that secular governments in the Common Era did not generally base laws on Judeo-Christian religious teachings, things might be very different.  Certainly, we’d still have the fanatics who believe that “America is a Christian nation” and the “progressives” who believe that people are too stupid to make decisions on their own and must therefore obediently submit to the wise dictates of “experts” enforced at the point of a gun (and implemented through official theft and “corrective” imprisonment).  But these would-be dictators are a minority; shorn of their veneer of “precedent” and “tradition” they would be revealed for what they are: busybody cranks obsessed with other people’s private lives.

It’s not too late, however.  The supporters of human rights and individual liberty need to educate our less-informed brothers and sisters, to point out to them that prohibitionism is a relatively-recent scheme dreamed up by control freaks with the same mentality as those who want to ban soft drinks and censor the internet.  For too long, prohibitionists have dominated the discussion, pretending that those who oppose all the various consensual crimes are some kind of dangerous and wild-eyed radicals who want to plunge the world into chaos by dismantling some ancient edifice of “protections”; opponents of Roe, for example, are fond of saying that the justices “found” or “invented” a right of privacy in the Constitution, when it is obvious to anyone with eyes to see (and a knowledge of 18th-century history and philosophy to draw upon) that it is not only there to begin with, but clearly implicit in the document (not to mention spelled out in the 9th and 10th amendments).  It is prohibitionist laws that are unconstitutional, not rulings (however poorly-worded) which attempt to rectify the violation by removing the offending legislation; though it is rarely recognized as such, this principle (extended by Lawrence vs. Texas and future judgments against other tyrannical invasions of privacy and bodily autonomy) is truly the most important legacy of Roe vs. Wade, and the one for which it will be remembered in centuries to come.

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