Archive for February, 2014

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on January 26th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Modern feminists expend considerable time and energy criticizing societal pressures for women’s bodies to conform to certain sexual norms.  While I reject asinine assertions like “clothes, cosmetics, diets, gym membership, trips to the hair salon, the waxing salon and the nail salon [are indicators of women’s] self-loathing” and mercilessly ridicule those who spend their time calculating the body proportions of plastic dolls, I do think it’s worth discussing the way people of both sexes think they have the right to control women’s bodies and to limit what we are allowed to do with them.  Furthermore, while I believe in both the free market and individuals’ right to modify their bodies as they please, I reserve the right to criticize sleazy businesses which use deception to capitalize on women’s powerful desire to be “good enough”.  In fact, I don’t think mainstream feminism is nearly vocal enough in its condemnation of societal attempts to control women’s sexuality and big business’ efforts to profit therefrom; if anything, most vocal feminists are perfectly happy to reduce women’s sexual freedom if it means reducing that of men in the bargain.  But when their publicly-stated goal of “equality” conflicts with their true goal of sexual repression, such women are liable to experience cognitive dissonance which renders them uncharacteristically speechless, as they have largely been on the issue at hand today.

pink viagraIn the last two decades, the pharmaceutical industry has succeeded in medicalizing a number of issues which were previously seen as behavioral or even normal: for example, the ordinary restlessness of schoolboys is often misdiagnosed as “attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder” so that they can then be drugged into docility, and the totally understandable resentment young people feel when they’re treated as “children” is now pathologized as “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” (for which I’m sure some drug will soon be forthcoming).  Virtually all male sexual dysfunction (and some behavior that isn’t actually dysfunctional) is now treated with medication even when it really isn’t appropriate to do so, and for years now the corporate pill-pushers have been dying for a “female Viagra” by which they could profit both from women who are unhappy with their sex lives and, more importantly, those who can be convinced that they’re “not good enough”.  Unfortunately for their dreams of a vast new source of profit, female sexual response is much more complicated than male; it cannot simply be quantified by measuring how often sex occurs or how long it lasts, and it can’t be cured by improving blood flow to the genitals or raising the testosterone level.  Yet there are those who bemoan the fact that female sexual desire has not yet been fully medicalized as male desire has been, and who eagerly await the day when we can see television adverts telling women that there’s something “wrong” with them for wanting sex less often than their partners do:

…there are no medications available in the United States for female hypoactive sexual desire disorder.  That’s the technical term for when women have a distressing lack or absence of sexual desire or fantasy.  Up to one-third of adult women may experience it…But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rejected applications to green-light [flibanserin]…If there is no positive action on the drug, it could spell doom for pharmacological efforts to manage female sexual desire…The drug works by increasing brain blood flow in particular ways…it increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, and lowers levels of serotonin.  Side effects of flibanserin include dizziness, nausea, fatigue and sleepiness.  Unlike some treatments for men, flibanserin needs to be taken once a day, every day…

Let’s break this down point by point, shall we?

1) Calling something experienced by 1/3 of a population a “disorder” is a flagrant misuse of the word.   We don’t even consider homosexuality a “disorder” any more, and it’s only about 3% of the population; how then can the sexuality of 11x as many people be considered a “disorder” in any meaningful way?  Female desire and fantasy cannot be measured by male norms; we stopped doing that decades ago in most areas, so why are we still doing it with regard to sex?  As I’ve written on a number of occasions, “I rarely feel anything like what men think of as normal lust, and I think that’s great; if I felt anything like the kind of near-constant desire men feel, I’d ask my gynecologist if there was anything we could do about it without ruining my looks.”  Yes, the word “distressing” is included in the description, but I think it’s important to differentiate between distress deriving from sexual dissatisfaction and that resulting from either partner pressure or from big businesses telling women they’re “abnormal” because they don’t want to fuck like bunnies in every room of the house 365 days a year.

2) If you don’t find the phrase “efforts to manage female sexual desire” chilling, you haven’t been paying enough attention to either my writings or the news.flibanserin

3) Flibanserin is a psychoactive drug which was originally tested as an antidepressant; its whole raison d’être is to alter the mood and behavior of a third of the female population, and journalist Elizabeth Landau appears to think that’s just peachy (and probably even “feminist”).  A huge fraction of womankind is being defined as Not Good Enough and told that the very chemistry of their brains is in need of correction; if you don’t consider that troubling, there’s nothing else I can say to help you “get it”.

As I wrote in “Caveat Emptor”, there’s a vast difference between a woman choosing to alter her body and her being tricked, talked or shamed into doing so.  And when the characteristic she’s being pushed to change is not merely an aspect of her physical appearance but the very machinery of brain and personality, it seems to me that feminists should be paying a lot more attention to this than to the pressing issue of whether bikini waxing is “feminist”.

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Natalie wrote…that she was…madly in love with a woman…[who] outstripped all her other loves by a long way.  Rather vexed, I answered: “The best in your life was me! Me! Me!”  –  Liane de Pougy, My Blue Notebooks

Perceptive readers may have noticed that though I share a profession with the subjects of all of my harlotographies, I don’t think I would have gotten along with many of them.  This is especially true of the Grandes Horizontales of La Belle Epoque; while I admire their spunk and envy their income, most of them were possessed of character traits I find irritating or even repulsive:  among these are incredible irresponsibility, the tendency to use people and a pathological affection for falsehood.  Though the former two would probably have caused me greater distress had I known the ladies in person, it is the latter one which annoys me most as a chronicler of whoredom because it makes it almost impossible to declare anything about their lives with certainty, despite what biographers who have never personally known a whore (much less been one) seem to believe.  Case in point Liane de Pougy, whose statements about her exes (and herself) are usually reported as fact despite their conflicting with her earlier statements about the same people.

Liane de Pougy, 1887Anne-Marie Chassaigne was born in La Flèche, France on July 2nd, 1869, the daughter of Pierre and Aimée Chassaigne; like so many others of her time she was educated in a convent, but unlike most of her peers she somehow managed to evade the nuns often enough and well enough to get pregnant at 16.  She eloped with the father, a young naval officer named Armand Pourpe, but predictably the marriage was both short and unhappy; she treated her baby son Marc as though he were a doll, and professed to be disappointed that he was not a girl so she could dress him up and fuss over him more.  When Armand was transferred to Marseilles she remained behind and promptly took a lover, Marquis Charles de MacMahon; when her husband later caught them in flagrante delicto he shot at them but only succeeded in wounding her wrist.  In response she sold her piano, abandoned her son and lit out for Paris on the first train she could catch, changing her name to “Liane” upon arrival.  She later wrote in her memoirs that her husband had “taken her violently on their wedding night”, supposedly traumatizing her; consider, however, that she was already sexually involved with him before they were married, and that this supposed emotional shock didn’t stop her from having sex with someone else as soon as he was over the horizon.  Furthermore, her arch-rival La Belle Otero claimed to have been raped at ten; one must wonder if Liane didn’t invent her marriage-bed ravishment so that she, too, could have a sexual horror story for those who responded to that sort of thing.  She also claimed that her husband was a brute who beat her, and that she had a scar on her breast from one such beating; perhaps, but it also provided a convenient excuse for her infidelity.

In Paris, the 18-year-old Liane immediately set out to become a courtesan, and learned the trade from the highly-respected Countess Valtesse de la Bigne.  Much to her mentor’s annoyance, Liane was bored by intellectual pursuits, but she was simply more attuned to the zeitgeist than the older woman:  it was a time when appearance and style were prized over depth and substance, as evidenced by the fact that, though utterly devoid of any acting talent, she was hired to headline a show at the Folies-Bergere on the basis of the impression she had made while attending the Grand Prix with the Vicomte de Pougy (whose surname she promptly appropriated).  So hopeless was she that Sarah Bernhardt, who had been given the job of teaching her to act, eventually told her, “when on stage, just keep your pretty mouth shut.”  But as with so many others up to the present day, this did not stop her from becoming a wildly popular celebrity; it started on the night of her debut, when she picked up the visiting Prince of Wales as a client.

Liane de Pougy (November 3rd, 1902)The ‘90s were the heyday of Liane’s career and the period of her infamous rivalry with La Belle Otero, played out in the various theaters and the dining room of Maxim’s restaurant, a favorite of the demimonde.  Though Otero became more famous and sought-after than de Pougy by about 1895, Liane was the wiser investor and the more careful bookkeeper, and appears to have had a larger number of less-famous clients compared with Otero’s smaller number of kings and princes.  Both women derived a sizeable secondary income from licensing their images for postcards, as was typical for courtesans of the time; as I have noted before, this period saw the beginning of the modern cult of celebrity, and the Grandes Horizontales were at the center of it.

Like most courtesans, Liane began to opt for longer-term arrangements as she aged; unlike most, not all of hers were with men.  In 1899 the American heiress and writer Natalie Clifford Barney became infatuated with her after seeing her at the Folies-Bergere, and though their lesbian relationship was very intense it was also very short because Barney kept insisting she wanted to “rescue” Liane from prostitution (a notion much more popular in America at that time than in France).  The two continued to have deep feelings for one another, though, and corresponded for the rest of their lives (see epigram).  Never one to miss a moneymaking opportunity, in 1901 Liane published a thinly-fictionalized account of their affair, Sapphic Idyll, which became a runaway bestseller and caused Barney considerable trouble with her straight-laced parents.  She also profited in another way:  when it became known that she was bisexual, she gained a small but profitable upper-class lesbian clientele.

Liane de Pougy in a detail of Une soirée au Pré-Catelan by Henri Gervex (1909)On June 8, 1910 the almost-41 Liane married the notably-younger Prince  Georges Ghika, after which she was called Princess Ghika.  Though neither as rocky nor as short-lived as her first marriage, this one was not without its major difficulties; the first of these came on December 2nd, 1914 when her son Marc, a French pilot in the First World War, was killed in action near Villers-Brettoneux.  Though she had never been close to him, his death precipitated a period of soul-searching in which she turned back to the Church, becoming a lay Dominican sister.  Though this phase did not last long, she remained devout for the rest of her life (though like many Catholics, she ignored sexual prohibitions she found inconvenient).  In 1926 Ghika ran off with a much younger woman, and while Liane’s diaries of the period brand him a pervert (whereas before he was described in glowing terms), the two did not divorce.  She consoled herself with lesbian lovers until he came back to her a few years later, and they remained together until his death in 1945; the latter period was not a happy one, however, and each had a series of extramarital girlfriends.

After his death she re-entered the Dominicans permanently as Sister Anne-Marie, and spent her last five years caring for physically and mentally handicapped children; she died at the Asylum of Saint Agnes in Lausanne,  Switzerland on December 26th, 1950, at the ripe old age of 81.  Her memoirs, My Blue Notebooks, were published posthumously.  Though many who wish to believe in such things have praised the “repentance” for her “sinful” past (most especially her prostitution and lesbianism) she proclaims in this work, the more cynical eye of this harlot sees instead the pièce de résistance of a long series of deceptions.  While her previous writings merely reinterpreted other people in her life, this one reinvented herself; and while the others were only intended to deceive mere mortals, this one was designed to pull the wool over the eyes of God himself.  And no matter what else I feel about her, I have to admire her for that one, grand, final act of chutzpah.

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Kony 2012I like to consider myself a level-headed, rational person; someone who isn’t easily swept up into fervor or misled by the charismatic.  Being on a major college campus has certainly put these traits to the test.  Massive emotional appeals rock the campus constantly, and appeals to donate to many organizations are commonplace; my lack of unconditional support of every such endeavor has damaged some of my relationships.  However weak the premise, I can never effectively reveal the falsity of the claims; to even try is to be ostracized.  Lately “sex trafficking” hysteria has become more and more prevalent here, and speakers are coming to ply their trade.  How I should try to educate my peers?  I loathe misinformation in all its forms, but I am not so charming a person as to be able to sway the opinions of the passionate.

Many beside yourself have commented on the sad fact that the modern university campus is not only inhospitable, but actively hostile to free speech and rational thought.  A whole organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, exists to fight the top-down abuses, but unfortunately they can’t do much about peer-to-peer behavior.  You didn’t mention your course of study, but even if you’re in the sciences that doesn’t protect you from the irrational belief-systems of everyone else; even science students and some full-fledged scientists can be incredibly irrational about subjects other than their own (during my time at UNO there was a tenured chemistry professor who was a well-known creationist).

Don’t feel bad because you aren’t able to fight disinformation single-handedly; though there are a few people who can do that, they are driven in a way that most of us simply aren’t.  Even the most dedicated and skilled campaigners need a support network, others who see things in at least a similar way and will fight alongside them.  A lot of people view me as larger than life, but in truth I need that support just like everyone else does; if it weren’t for the readers who praise my work and the fellow-activists who brace me up in areas where I’m weak, I might have quit long ago.  So in order to effectively oppose “sex trafficking”, other moral panics and the host of other ridiculous beliefs which infest modern Western culture, you need a group of like-minded others.  I’ll bet there are a lot more students (and faculty) who feel the same way as you do than you might imagine; the reason you don’t know about them is that like you, they don’t want to be ostracized.  Human beings have a powerful need for the approval of peers, and fanatics take advantage of that to silence their critics; what you therefore need is your own group of peers who will “have your back” when you’re attacked.  Does your campus have a skeptic’s society or the like?  If so, you might consider joining it, and if not, why not start one?  You may still have to fight “sex trafficking” beliefs even within such a club, but at least there you’ll have the advantage of dealing with people who can be reasoned with,NYU Human Rights Day poster and who can be swayed by presenting facts from the many academics, activists and other writers who oppose the panic (there are many good articles on my Resources page).  If your group is large enough, you can probably come up with the means to print flyers or posters to counter prohibitionist claims, and perhaps even get your own speakers to counter the hysterics’ “trafficking” porn.  I’m not telling you it will be easy, but with enough help and support it will at least be possible.  And though you won’t win overnight, time is on your side:  moral panics have a limited life span, and as time goes on you’ll find increasing numbers are listening to the truth rather than wallowing in hysteria.

(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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If ignorance about sex is grounds for a court order forbidding it, neofeminists and religious fundamentalists need to start worrying.  –  February Updates (Part Two)

Josie Arlington's TombBy February I had settled into a groove.  Though I still posted each column just after eating breakfast (a habit I maintained until the end of July), I had a buffer of prepared columns I could intersperse with newer items so as to avoid being caught unprepared as I sometimes was in the first few months.  Patterns which were to last for a very long time (some to the present day) were well-established:  the month had two holiday columns (“Imbolc” and “Valentine’s Day”), a harlotography (“Josie Arlington”), a fictional interlude (“Carnival”), and the two-part “February Updates”, and “February Q & A” closed it out.  There was also a miscellanea column named “John Law” because all of its items were about cops; somehow I forgot the title “February Miscellanea”, which did not appear until literally the day before the debut of “That Was the Week That Was” the following February.

brides of DraculaThanks to the fact that my columns debunking “sex trafficking” hysteria (especially the “gypsy whores” myth) catching the attention of reporters (as detailed in “Maggie in the Media”), the blog was growing fast; despite only having 28 days, February saw almost twice as many visits as January.  With so much of my time focused on the Dallas Super Bowl hype, it’s no wonder there were so many columns on it this month.  In “Don’t Buy It” I linked many resources debunking previous iterations of the myth; in “Life Imitates Artifice” I pointed out that the one single pimp arrested around the event admitted to getting the idea from the hype,Book Illustration Depicting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in a Train Cabin and in “See How Well It Works?” I mocked the ludicrous excuses Texas “authorities” offered for the utter and complete failure of their apocalyptic predictions.  I further attacked them in “Coming and Going”, but that actually had nothing to do with the Super Bowl; strangely, a map showing Texas counties made that column my most often visited one for that entire year.

Nova Scotia adMy new popularity began to attract the attention of neofeminists, one of whom came by to lie (“Misrepresentation”) in an attempt to sell the vile Swedish model (which I also discussed in “A Distorted Lens” and “The Swedish Disease Spreads”).  But while “Bedelia” represented herself as a “survivor” of coerced prostitution and pretended that all sex workers share her experience, just two weeks after her appearance I presented a four-part interview with Jill Brenneman, who was actually a coerced teen prostitute, yet understands that her experience was extremely unusual and that criminalization makes situations like hers far worse (three of the ways criminalization harms sex workers are detailed in “To Protect and Serve”, “Not the Same Tree” and “Crime Against Society”).  And the month was rounded out with “Between the Ears” (why there is no chemical “cure” for low female sex drive); “Real People” (realistic media portrayals of sex workers); “Not an Addiction” (a debunking of “sex addiction”); “An Educated Idiot” (my first column on the unethical and incompetent Sudhir Venkatesh); and the self-explanatory “Old Men and Young Women”. Lupercalia

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the magic puddingThere was considerable controversy in the comment thread of “Something in the Milk”  about whether emails could be tracked as my correspondent described, and how such a thing would work.  So on the evening of Valentine’s Day, she and I decided to test it out:  she sent me an email, I forwarded it to others and she told me what we had done.  The results convinced me, and I think they’ll convince you as well.  The tracking utility is called Readnotify, and though it isn’t free the cost is small.  Normally there is a notification in the email that shows it’s being tracked, but in “silent” mode this information is hidden from recipients.  Note that all ISPs and the names of local towns have been disguised to protect privacy. 

This email was initially opened on IP; the device it was opened on has specific software specifications, listed under “Browser”.  This shows the brand and version of the browser agent that was used when opening my email; these specifications are unique to each machine as updates are not always installed.  I can see that this user is showing MSOffice in the browser info, so this user receives email via Outlook more than likely.

Opened 3-Feb-14 at 23:58:55pm (UTC -5:00)   –   59mins46secs after sending
Location Middle, Nowhere, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Browser used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 7.0; WinNT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; MSOffice 12)

This information by itself is meaningless; you can’t determine a user, a physical location, or anything else other than the IP information and the browser info.  But what this information can provide is a “dog tag” for a device; as you compare it to other email tracking data that you receive, you can begin to notice whether any single “dog tag” appears in the circulation of any other emails that you are tracking.  Now Reader 1 reopens the mail; only the end of the IP is different, you will see that change with reopens.

Opened 4-Feb-14 at 00:20:32am (UTC -5:00)   –   1hour21mins23secs after sending
Location Middle, Nowhere, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Browser used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 7.0; WinNT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; MSOffice 12)
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 00:21:12am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was read for at least 40secs (approx.)

Now for Reader 2:

Forwarded/opened on different computer
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 00:21:24am (UTC -5:00)   –   1hour22mins15secs after sending
Location Redmond, Washington, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-ca (English/Canada), en (English), en (English)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (WinNT 6.1; WOW64; rv:26.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/26.0
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 00:22:52am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was read for at least 1min28secs (approx.)

This recipient is using a Canadian English setting and running Firefox version 26.  I am doubtful as to location as Redmond comes up often and seems to be the location of an ISP.  Mountain View, California, where Google proxy servers are located, also comes up often.  Though I am not mentioning all of them, each individual identifier in the report will match when a “dog tag” reappears.

Moving on to Reader 3:

Forwarded/opened on different computer
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 00:24:40am (UTC -5:00)   –   1hour25mins31secs after sending
Location Bacontown, Nova Scotia, Canada (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (407.81.23.715:56789)
Language of recipient’s PC: en-US (English/United States), en;q=0.5 (English)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (WinNT 6.1; WOW64; rv:26.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/26.0
Accepts Files browser can open: i/png,i/*;q=0.8,*/*;q=0.5

This one appears to be in Bacontown, Nova Scotia, and the ISP is Eastlink Ca, running Firefox version 26.  Wait, it appears that Reader 2 has opened my email again from the same device.

Re-opened (by earlier reader #2)
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 00:24:49am (UTC -5:00)   –   1hour25mins40secs after sending
Location Redmond, Washington, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-ca (English/Canada), en (English), en (English)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (WinNT 6.1; WOW64; rv:26.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/26.0

Now the original reader is taking a third look:

Re-opened (by earlier reader #1)
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 00:59:25am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours16secs after sending
Location Middle, Nowhere, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Browser used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 7.0; WinNT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; MSOffice 12)
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 01:00:09am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was read for at least 44secs (approx.)

Now we arrive at a 4th device that appears to be a mobile phone.  I say that because it is showing a Google proxy; this is a new way Google is protecting phones from malware by opening images on a proxy for view.  That proxy shows up as Mountain View, California.  In this case we are viewing Google proxy info, and that “dog tag” will match any other proxy lookup so it is pretty useless for significant matching.

Forwarded/opened on different computer
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 01:00:36am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours1min27secs after sending
Location Mountain View, California, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  google-proxy-11-234-56-78.google.com (
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (Win; U; Windows NT 5.1; de; rv: Gecko/2009021910 Firefox/3.0.7 (via ggpht.com GoogleImageProxy)
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 01:01:49am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was read for at least 1min13secs (approx.)

Reader 5:

Forwarded/opened on different computer
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 01:11:13am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours12mins4secs after sending
Location Beachville, California, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-us (English/United States)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 7_0_4 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/11B554a

Looks like an iPad running a mobile version of something opened it.

Reader 6

Forwarded/opened on different computer
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 01:11:23am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours12mins14secs after sending
Location Beachville, California, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-us (English/United States)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 7_0_4 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko)
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 01:11:39am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was read for at least 16secs (approx.)


Interesting.  Only the last digit of the IP is different.  It is also an iPad running the same versions except for the mobile part.  I am guessing it is either a second device on a home network, or a non-mobile email agent causing a difference in the reverse name resolution.  Now Device 5 appears again showing the mobile version and another slight difference in the reverse name resolution.

Re-opened (by earlier reader #5)
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 01:12:53am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours13mins44secs after sending
Location Beachville, California, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-us (English/United States)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 7_0_4 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/11B554

Now Reader 7:

Forwarded/opened on different computer
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 01:14:26am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours15mins17secs after sending
Location Middle, Nowhere, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-US (English/United States), en;q=0.5 (English)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/24.3.0
Accepts Files browser can open: i/png,i/*;q=0.8,*/*;q=0.5
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 01:16:47am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was read for at least 2mins21secs (approx.)

Reader 7 is on the same network as reader 1.  It is a different device though, operating Linux i686 Thunderbird/24.3.0  I would guess this is a second device on either a home or office networked computer.  Next Reader 5 opens it on the iPad again using the mobile version.

Re-opened (by earlier reader #5)
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 01:17:44am (UTC -5:00)   –   2hours18mins35secs after sending
Location Beachville, California, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-us (English/United States)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 7_0_4 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/11B554a

Now Reader 7 opens it again on the same device:

Re-opened (by earlier reader #7)
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 10:39:06am (UTC -5:00)   –   11hours39mins57secs after sending
Location Middle, Nowhere, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-US (English/United States), en;q=0.5 (English)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/24.3.0
Accepts Files browser can open: i/png,i/*;q=0.8,*/*;q=0.5
Last log No more activity after 4-Feb-14 at 10:57:31am (UTC -5:00)   –   Log data indicates email was open for at least 18mins25secs (approx.)

Then Reader 7 decided to get a little tricky, and though they used the same device, they opened it on a different browser.  Not Linux, they went with  Moz4.0 with an MS Office tag indicating it was opened thru Outlook perhaps.

Opened 4-Feb-14 at 11:49:57am (UTC -5:00)   –   12hours50mins48secs after sending
Location Middle, Nowhere, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Browser used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 7.0; WinNT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; MSOffice 12)

Finally, the activity with this email concludes with one final open on the iPad in Beachville, California, mobile version:

Re-opened (by earlier reader #5)
Opened 4-Feb-14 at 21:07:02pm (UTC -5:00)   –   22hours7mins53secs after sending
Location Beachville, California, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on  (
Language of recipient’s PC: en-us (English/United States)
Browser used by recipient: Moz/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 7_0_4 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/11B554a

Ending Summary

Summary   –   as at 5-Feb-14 at 16:29:00pm (UTC -5:00)   –   1day17hours29mins51secs after sending
Total  Opened 15 times by 7 readers
Reader #1  Opened 4 times for 1min24secs total
Reader #2  Opened 2 times for 1min28secs total
Reader #3  Opened 1 time
Reader #4  Opened 1 time for 1min13secs total
Reader #5  Opened 4 times
Reader #6  Opened 1 time for 16secs total
Reader #7  Opened 2 times for 20mins46secs total

Now, if this were a client interaction I would have concerns. Why would our interactions be shared so many times? And with whom were they shared?  I would then begin to scan other email reports to see if any dog tags from this individual match any dog tags from any unrelated (or supposedly unrelated) emails match these. By comparing dog tags, you can identify when a network of devices are constantly sending you emails then circulating your replies through the network.  In comparison, most email tracking reports say opened 1 time by 1 reader, or 2 times by 2 readers (two devices).  Even 15 times is ridiculously high, as we see in this test but take a look at a recent summary of the activity on the email that I wrote about in “Something in the Milk”:

Summary   –   as at 5-Feb-14 at 16:36:41pm (UTC -5:00)   –   22days19hours12mins46secs after sending
Total  Opened 134 times by 4 readers
Reader #1  Opened 124 times for 28mins8secs total
Reader #2  Opened 7 times for 22mins23secs total
Reader #3  Opened 2 times for 15mins3secs total
Reader #4  Opened 1 time

The last entry on the log shows my email still being opened more than 20 days later; the dog tags on his report match dog tags on four other contacts all claiming to be in different parts of Florida and one in New Orleans.  Why would this P411 member be forwarding my emails to a network of individuals centered in Orlando who are all responding to my Eros ad?

Her tracking and conclusions were spot on.  I opened the email, then asked Aspasia and Kevin Wilson if they’d help; when they agreed I re-opened it and forwarded it to them (Middle, Nowhere is where my DSL service originates from).  Soon afterward my husband returned my call and agreed to participate; he’s working in California right now and did open the mail on two devices in three ways, then forwarded it to a different email address of his and opened that one.  Meanwhile, Grace was opening it as well, and when I read this report to her she laughed and said that she had indeed tried to trick the software as described. rice pudding

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Young people are taking Viagra because of terrorism.  –  Dr. Samiullah Khan

As y’all have probably noticed by now, I like unusual covers of well-known songs.  Well, this week we’ve got one of the most unusual ones yet; not only is it a cover of a cover (specifically, Soft Cell’s version of the obscure ’60s B-side “Tainted Love”), but it’s played on a really unusual instrument.  The video comes to us via Mike Siegel (who also provided “Voynich”), but if you prefer one with a vocal track you can thank Melissa Gira Grant for that.  The second video is a terribly rude (but also very funny) commercial called to my attention by  EconJeff (who also gave us “Obama“).  Everything above the first video is from Radley Balko, and the links between the videos were contributed by ClarkhatMike RiggsMistress MatisseCop BlockDan SavageFranklin HarrisPopehatJolene PartonGrace, and Kevin Wilson  (in that order).

From the Archives

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If the patriarchy is about men making decisions for women…why do some feminists want to control other women’s decisions?  –  “Lauren”

Gorged With Meaning

The situation described by this article – girl does sex work to pay for university – is so typical as to be a case of “dog bites man”, and nowadays doing porn won’t stay secret for long.  But the article actually says more about its author than about its subject:  “Lauren” seems like an intelligent, sensible, pragmatic young woman, while writer Katie Fernelius appears to be a supple-spined airhead who lets other people do her thinking for her.  In response to this:

I worked as a waitress…and not only did it interfere with my school …but also I was making $400 a month after taxes…For people to tell me that doing porn and having sex, which I love, is more degrading than being…somebody’s servant and…being treated like a lesser, second-class citizen, that…makes no sense…I felt more degraded in a minimum wage…service job than I ever did doing porn…

…Katie  crawls into her navel, quotes Gloria Steinem and babbles about “patriarchy”, “power dynamics” and words being “problematic”.  Yet I’m sure she thinks she’s better-adjusted than Lauren is. African artists protest in Korea

Where Are the Protests? 

There’s a word missing here, but I just can’t think of what it might be:

African artists hired by a Korean museum have been laboring under conditions “similar to indentured servitude”…The 24 artists came from various countries…to sculpt, perform, and do other tasks at the Africa Museum of Original Art in…Pocheon…They…were promised salaries of…minimum wage — 1,269,154 won ($1,183) per month — and comfortable accommodations; instead, they were paid [only] 500,000 or 650,000 won…and forced to live in cold, mice-ridden rooms.  Their salaries barely covered the cost of three meals a day, and the museum gave them only spoiled rice to eat.  Their contracts stipulated three performances per day, but they were often forced to do four to six performances…when they complained…their concerns were either ignored [or] dismissed…

Held Together With Lies

The new claim:  “The number of British children being trafficked for sexual exploitation has more than doubled over the last year…The figures…are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg…”  And the truth:

…these statistics are…drawn from…the National Referral Mechanism…a…process adopted in 2009 to identify…potential victims…the most recent NRM statistical bulletin states…“the number of referrals…is not a measure of human trafficking in the UK”…[but only those suspected by officials]…

The Scarlet Letter (TW3 #19)

Human rights activists in Kyrgyzstan are concerned that…police…[are] forcing sex workers…to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases…and…[have] carried out numerous raids since…November…Prostitution by individuals has been decriminalised in Kyrgyzstan, although organised activities like running a brothel are illegal. Sex workers report widespread harassment and extortion by police…

Whorearchy (TW3 #19) Spain protest 1-16-14

Prostitutes in Spain…[protested] a planned crackdown on streetwalking…Hetaira said it would rally…against plans to fine prostitutes and [clients]…fearing it will force them to work in dangerous conditions….[a new] law would make offering or soliciting sex in prohibited areas punishable by a fine of between 1,000 and 30,000 euros…

Backwards Into the Future (TW3 #41)

Theatre for a Change says there has been tremendous progress…in its efforts to raise awareness on rights of sex workers…[in] Malawi…Eric Saforo…says since 2012 the Malawi Police Service is beginning to recognize that abuse against sex workers is…not acceptable and that the police service is opening up to…[improving] working relationships between the two parties…

Due Consideration

Jennifer Whalen…was charged…with felony and misdemeanor counts for ordering…misoprostol and mifepristone online…for her 16-year-old pregnant daughter…She said she couldn’t find an abortion clinic nearby, she didn’t want to go out of state, and she didn’t know she needed a prescription…The felony…is for “medical consultation and judgment”; the misdemeanors are for not being licensed as a pharmacist, endangering the welfare of a child, and “simple assault”…The same thing happened to a mother of three in Idaho in 2012 who took RU-486…[because]…the closest clinic was hours away, would have charged $500, and because of state law, required multiple trips…


A mob armed with wooden clubs and iron bars, screaming that they were going to “cleanse” their neighborhood of gay people, dragged 14 young men from their beds and assaulted them…Four of the victims were marched to a police station, where they…were kicked and punched by…officers who…threatened that [they] would be incarcerated for 14 years…under Nigeria’s new Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act…[activist Ifeanyi Orazulike said] “They were told ‘If you come back, we will kill you'”…The walls of [their] houses…have been painted with graffiti declaring “Homosexuals, pack and leave”…

Original Sin (TW3 #321)

Trafficking math is hardThis mostly-typical “sex trafficking” gobbledygook is only notable for “Michigan is one of the top five states for human trafficking” and for its use of “sex worker” rather than “prostituted woman”, “trafficked child”, etc.  But the picture that came with it, borrowed from one of the numerous Christian sites linking porn to “trafficking”, has some interesting math:  6000 total “rapes” (i.e. transactions) over 7 years is only 857 a year…awfully low for “50 per day”.  Even with weekends off that’s just over 3 per day, which is pretty realistic; obviously somebody is deviating from the program.

Unclean Situation (TW3 #330)

Justice for Magdalenes Research has hit out at the “subterfuge” being employed by the Government [against]…victims of the laundries…the department is writing to women offering formal lump sum payments, while stating that all other aspects of the scheme remain subject to legislation or discussions with other Government departments.   Despite the fact that the full terms of the scheme are not finalised, women are requested to sign a waiver accepting “all the terms of the scheme” and waiving “any right of action against the State or any public or statutory body or agency” arising out of their time in a Magdalene laundry…

Opting Out

The UK government’s futile and ham-fisted attempts to purge the Internet of all of its rough edges and naughty bits are about to see international escalation…David Cameron’s government has long-stated they want this filtering to eventually extend to websites deemed “extremist”…and it appears that…[ISPs] will soon [be ordered] to include websites declared to be promoting terrorism…as we’ve seen with the porn filters, there’s probably no limit to the number of entirely legal and legitimate websites UK citizens will find suddenly inaccessible.

UK readers who use Chrome and haven’t yet installed “Go Away Cameron”  should probably do so immediately.

Lack of Evidence (TW3 #344)

Nine men [arrested in a November raid]…were convicted of prostitution and sentenced to between three and nine years in prison…[followed by] a three-year…period for rewiring…in…mental institutions…The police report…and the results of anal examinations do not connect the…men to prostitution.  But…the arrest and prosecution of men who don’t fit acceptable standards of masculinity reassures Egyptians that the ruling military regime is as conservative as any Islamist party…


The moral purification of the Armed Forces continues:

The commander of the Naval Ordnance Test Unit at Port Canaveral has been relieved of duty for allowing two strip clubs to sponsor a military-related golf tournament last year…“Those type of organizations just don’t reflect positively on the Navy” [a spokesman]…said…

Number Puzzle (TW3 #349)

Matthias Lehmann has put together a short video of highlights from a symposium about the German Prostitution Act last December.

Where Are the Protests? (TW3 #350)

Miranda Barbour has a delightful conversation with credulous cops:

A Pennsylvania woman charged in the…slaying of a man she and her husband met through Craigslist [claims]…she killed many more victims…A law enforcement source close to the investigation said Miranda Barbour’s new claims could be “the real deal”…the 19-year-old Barbour [said] she participated in at least 22 killings in the past six years in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California.  “When I hit 22, I stopped counting…I can pinpoint on a map where you can find them”…Barbour [said] she had her first experience with killing when she [was] just 13, shortly after she…joined a satanic cult in Alaska…she [says that she] felt no remorse for her victims and…killed only “bad people”…

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #350)

No justice for victims of the Soho pogrom:

…at least six sex workers have fought the closures, [saying] they had not been coerced into working and that closing the brothels would make their work more unsafe.  In the first of three appeals…two women…lost their battle to have their flats reopened after a judge [claimed] that unknown figures were “controlling” prostitution in the area…However…the Reverend Simon Buckley wrote that trust in the police had been severely undermined by the “seemingly ham-fisted” nature of the operation.  “The girls who continue to work in the unclosed flats say that they would not feel confident in turning to the police if they were a victim of crime…[they] previously…had a good rapport with the police”…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #351)

As preparations for the World Cup accelerate, Brazilian authorities are attempting to sanitise the country’s image by clamping down on sex-related businesses.  More than 2,000 websites have been targeted, and prostitutes are being threatened with prison sentences for…[advertising]…according to Thaddeus Blanchette…media hype…rests on the false assumption that fans will…seek out sex with children…Tatiana Mauro…of Promundo Brazil…points to a report published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which finds no evidence that large sporting events cause an increase in trafficking or prostitution.  Sensationalist reporting on trafficking and mega-events is not only unfounded, it is also paving the way for a more repressive prostitution policy…

What Next? sex work is real work

Canadian readers, here’s your chance to be heard:

The Conservative government wants to hear from Canadians about how to rewrite the country’s prostitution laws [which] were struck down by the Supreme Court…A month-long online consultation period on the Justice Canada website…runs to March 17.  The high court gave the government one year to come up with new legislation…the…government has made it clear that simply allowing the laws to lapse…is not an option…


The [survey]…is being criticized for…loaded questions and misleading information about available options…It assumes prostitution is dangerous and that all sex workers want to be saved, said Chris Bruckert…[of the] University of Ottawa.  She also criticized government for not conducting town-hall style consultations where people have more time to unpack their opinions…She also says the Nordic model could contradict the reasoning for striking down the Canadian laws in the first place…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #404)

549 NGOs and civil society organizations…have signed letters to the members of the European Parliament asking them to reject a report by MEP Mary Honeyball, which asks EU Member States to consider the criminalisation of the clients of sex workers.  The letter…denounces the conflation of sex work and trafficking, the disregard for sex workers’ health and safety and the lack of evidence [in] the report…signatories include…many women’s rights groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation …Another document drafted and signed by [45] academics and researchers…[analyzes] the lack and misrepresentation of evidence in [the] report…amongst other astounding errors…Honeyball completely misinterpreted a [Dutch] report…by…“mistaking” data on coffee shops for data on brothels…

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #404)

As thousands of cash-strapped Italians take to the streets to protest against their tax bills…[prostitutes] are instead…fighting against a tax code that does not recognise their profession, even though paying for sex is legal, leaving them no chance to…qualify for a pension…What has really irked prostitutes is that…the tax office has now decided to fine them for tax evasion, even though it has given them no way of paying tax…Playing the Whore

The Public Eye (TW3 #406)

Another good interview with Melissa Gira Grant about her new book, Playing the Whore; she speaks to Noah Berlatsky of the Atlantic about sex work as work, the range of sex worker experiences, anti-sex feminism and the similarities between the gay and sex worker rights movements.

Drawing Lines

Because obviously sex work isn’t a profession, uses no creativity and nobody earns a living through it:

…Mercy Mushaninga…has taken to social network sites to address her bitterness over the labeling of models as prostitutes…“Modelling is a career…and a profession with some people earning a living through it…Models…use their natural endowment and creativity…”

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on January 19th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

Idealized Portrait of a Courtesan as Flora by Bartolomeo Veneto (1520)For most of human history, nobody thought of taking money for sex as a defining activity.  This is not to say that there were no whores, because of course there were; it isn’t called “the world’s oldest profession” for nothing.  But it wasn’t the fact that a woman took money for sex which defined her as a whore, but rather the fact that she made a living from it.  As I wrote in my Cato Unbound essay, “Treating Sex Work as Work”,

…It was almost universally understood that many working-class women and a not-inconsiderable number of those in higher classes would accept money for sex, at least on occasion, and it was impossible to draw a bright, clear line between behaviors that constituted “prostitution” and those (such as concubinage, mistresshood, and political marriage) which did not despite their often-mercenary basis.  The manifold laws regulating sex work were not intended to preclude pragmatic motivations for sexual behavior, but rather to keep up appearances, guard the purity of bloodlines, and maintain public order.  But as the Victorian Era dawned, a new idea began to take hold of European minds: if science could perfect Man’s tools and techniques, why couldn’t the same process be applied to Mankind itself?  The immediate result of turning (pseudo-)scientific inquiry upon sex was that taking money for it was no longer considered merely something that “unladylike” or “sinful” women did for a living or extra income; instead, the “prostitute” was defined into existence as a specific type of woman, separate and distinct from other women.

Prior to the 19th century, any sexual behavior outside of marriage was considered “sinful”, regardless of its motive, but there were also class considerations; sexual “immorality” was both expected and assumed of working-class women, and whether a girl occasionally asked for money or not could make little difference in the way she was perceived by her so-called “betters”.  This is why it was not unusual in pre-industrial cultures for a disgraced upper-class woman to turn to sex work; once she had fallen from her elevated station, taking money for sex did no more harm.  But once the idea of “prostitution” as some uniquely disgraceful activity was invented, and the “prostitute” was defined as the lowest of the low, it was inevitable that women who would previously have been considered more or less the same as whores would attempt to draw lines between themselves and the new pariah class.  And once governments began to criminalize prostitution or activities around it as a result of the new ideas, distinguishing oneself from a “common prostitute” became a matter not only of dignity, but practical necessity.

The first group to successfully shed the whore stigma was actresses, who had since classical times been considered interchangeable with harlots; after the dawn of cinema they actually moved into a de facto higher social class, especially in the United States.  Dancers whose style could be credibly represented as asexual or highbrow (preferably both) followed them, then masseuses and women who had extramarital sex for non-financial reasons.  In the past several decades, the number of such groups has exploded and now includes many whose claim to being different from sex workers is threadbare indeed; burlesque dancers, competition pole dancers, glamour and lingerie models, professional “cuddlers”, nude maids, waitresses catering to sexual fantasies  and even sugar babies insist that they are different from strippers, hookers and fetish workers in some real (and legally defensible) way.  Even people who are directly paid for a hands-on sexual service claim that being “certified” or “spiritual” or whatever makes them not sex workers, and some who cannot possibly deny that they are still pretend to be “better” than other sex workers because they are “legal”, or because they don’t have direct intercourse and parrot “trafficking” propaganda to kiss up to cops.  But this example from the January 15th Guardian takes the biscuit:  “As a professional dominatrix, I…[know] sex is a human need, and kink can be a meaningful part of the sexual spectrum.  We sex workers turn the erotic into a humane and powerful art.  [But] too many of us, particularly escorts, are miserable slaves, and we must fight tirelessly for their freedom…Mudflap Girl Tesselation  Way to go there, Margaret Corvid; boost yourself up on the backs of all us pathetic, dirty escorts…oh, excuse me, “miserable slaves”.  Because only wonderful, superior dominatrices can choose freely, while those of us who prefer to sell more mundane sexual services are clearly dysfunctional.  In my essay “Whorearchy” I wrote,

…a whore is a whore is a whore, and legal, moral or procedural lines serve only to break people into smaller groups which are more easily dominated by the power-hungry.  If you accept money from someone that he gives due to sexual interest in you, then you are a whore and everything else is just semantics.  When politicians, pundits or rulers use some arbitrary determinant like penetration, duration, location or motivation to bless some harlots while damning others, what they’re actually doing is reducing the size of the group who might oppose them and winning supporters from among those granted legitimacy.  This is why I’m harshly unsympathetic to those who vehemently maintain that their species of sex work or sensual therapy is absolutely not prostitution:  all they’re doing is throwing other women under the bus, and if we had all stuck together from the beginning of second-wave feminism…prostitution would’ve been decriminalized long ago and many women who are now dead or damaged might still be alive and healthy…

As I’ve pointed out before, gay people only won their civil rights by forming a coalition, and until sex workers stop drawing arbitrary lines between each other and accepting the lies and false divisions promoted by those in power, we will never have the same kind of success.

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When the newspapers have got nothing else to talk about, they cut loose on the young.  –  Kenneth Rexroth

goofy woman swinging hammerAs I’ve written before, all prohibitionism is the same:  some object, substance or activity is depicted as intrinsically harmful  regardless of context or actual outcome, a connection to children is invented if one does not exist, and the prohibitionists then argue that any abrogation of personal liberty (no matter how invasive) and any expansion of the police state (no matter how destructive, evil and counterproductive) is justified to stop the threat to Our Treasured Way of Life.  Moral panics involving young people are basically interchangeable as well: parents discover their (usually biologically adult) offspring doing something unfamiliar; overreact; imagine all sorts of horrible consequences that probably didn’t actually happen; insist that someone else induced their perfect, innocent little angel to do this horrible thing; and then pretend that it’s a “growing problem” because they refuse to believe that Johnny or Suzie might be unusual in any (bad) way.  The penultimate item in that list will likely be embraced by the young person in an attempt to eschew responsibility, and the ultimate is amplified by the Law of the Instrument:  once the outraged parent is armed with this shiny new hammer, suddenly nails in need of pounding start appearing all over the place.  The interesting thing is that it makes no difference whether the behavior might conceivably pose genuine risks or if it’s completely harmless:  the parent’s moral outrage, lack of rational thought and unwillingness to accept parental responsibility for the youth’s mistakes are the drivers of the panic, not any genuine assessment of danger.

What made me think of this was the development of two moral panics in the same week and just a few hundred kilometers apart:  the one which started in Nova Scotia involved a behavior which could pose real risks, while the one which started in Rhode Island was mere juvenile foolishness, yet the reactions to the two and the development of the panic were essentially interchangeable. Let’s start with the Nova Scotia case:

A Halifax mother is on a quest to stop underage prostitution…after discovering her daughter was appearing on classified sites with near-nude images of herself…A CBC News investigation reveals that the problem of underage prostitution is growing, and police are seeing more girls — some as young as 13 — being exploited…Karen said she learned that there are many girls — at least 40 — in the area selling their bodies for sex…Her daughter says she’s out of it, but that isn’t enough for Karen…Fiona Traynor is chair of the board at Stepping Stone, an outreach organization for sex workers based in Halifax.  She said some young girls may be hesitant to come forward because service providers [are legally required]…to report any [underage sex worker to the cops, which] puts a barrier between offering services and being in conflict with the law…

Now, even as a whore who fully supports both a woman’s right to harlotry and a biological adult’s right to do as she pleases with her own body, I can understand a mother getting upset over discovering that her daughter was doing full-fledged sex work with ads and all.  We aren’t told how old the girl was (I’m going to guess 16 because if she were any younger the reporter would have been sure to mention it), but it’s pretty clear she was pretty damned careless to use an ad in which she could be recognized by the person who ratted her out to Mom.  Anyone that careless isn’t ready for professional-level sex work; she should have stuck to dating college guys she could hit up for cash.  Furthermore, given all the prohibitionist disinformation flying about nowadays, it’s unsurprising that the mother had a conniption.  But that’s not actually what’s at issue here; the problem is that after resolving the situation with her daughter to her satisfaction, she has taken it upon herself to harass, endanger and sic the cops on other people she does not know, waving her ignorance as a flag while charging wildly across an imaginary battlefield bellowing that oft-heard cri de guerre, “FOR THE CHIIIIILDREEEEEENNNNN!!!!”  And the reporter, rather than investigating the facts, reports the whole thing without a trace of skepticism, larding the account with the usual Copspeak and silly dysphemisms.

Now, here’s the one from Rhode Island:

A middle school in Portsmouth, R.I. recently sent parents an alarming e-mail about kids who are “snorting” or “smoking” Smarties, a silly fad in which kids grind up the tart candy into a fine powder, then blow out the vapor as if they were smoking…Yet everyone is worried. Portsmouth School Committee Chair Dave Croston asserts that the fad “would not be normal behavior” (God forbid!), and raises the “troubling issue of modeling.”  That is, kids who pretend to smoke today will become smokers later.  The warning sent to parents also cautions that the act may be a “precursor to future cigarette smoking and drug use.”  I don’t know of any empirical data to support that contention…in 2009, a Wall Street Journal article on [a previous iteration of] the alleged trend quoted a Mayo Clinic physician who warned that the act could lead to something called nose maggots.  That was also mentioned in the warning to Portsmouth parents.  Local blogger John McDaid  interviewed that doctor, who conceded that he’d never actually seen a case of “nose maggots” from Smarties, only that it was a possibility.  Nevertheless, the fallout from these panics has already led to suspensions of students across the country  for improper ingestion of a confectionery…

smoking SmartiesThese parents and teachers, their heads full of drug-war propaganda and “social construction” idiocy, go off exactly the same way as the Nova Scotia mother, despite the relative harmlessness of the observed behavior; when McDaid sent the story to CBS, they turned it into a scare story which called it a “dangerous activity” and included an interview with a loon who not only said it could be fatal, but also opined that “children who engage in this behavior may need a mental health evaluation from a medical professional.”  I agree that somebody needs a mental health evaluation, but it isn’t kids playing a silly game.  Fortunately, because of the internet we are no longer at the mercy of big media corporations selling panic for a fast buck; there are plenty of writers challenging the “sin, fear and crime” mold into which the mainstream outlets try to force any story about behavior which isn’t mind-numbingly conformist.  Here’s what a skeptical blogger had to say about the “quest to stop underage prostitution”:

A teenage girl becomes involved in sexual activity that most grownups, regardless of their own sexual behaviour as teens, find shocking and horrific…the distraught…parents construct a frame…[which] invariably posits the existence of a large but hitherto unacknowledged social problem that explains how a good child falls into bad situations…a journalist…[publicizes the] salacious…story…in which digital media are implicated…and…police are interviewed…[they] call for greater resources…and…powers…to deal with the putative trend…In extreme cases, this unholy coalition will propel politicians to pass hastily contrived, ill-thought-out legislation giving authorities over-broad powers to address problems that may or may not exist.

Some say the internet is killing the traditional media, and when I compare the way they handle stories like this to the way alternative sources like bloggers do, I must say that their death isn’t coming quickly enough to suit me.

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What would be the ideal mate for a sex worker be like? I would think honesty and trust would be a big deal, but what else? 

Venus and Adonis by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (after 1800)I don’t believe in “ideals”; every person is different, and needs different things in a mate.  That having been said, there are some qualities which tend to be necessary in every relationship: you mention honesty and trust, and those are certainly important…but isn’t that true of every relationship rather than just those involving sex workers?  The same could be said of qualities like understanding, patience, loyalty, fairness, etc.  If there is one quality that the partner of a sex worker needs which isn’t necessarily indispensible in other relationships, I would have to say it’s the recognition that sex is neither special nor magical.  While the myth that sex equals love  and/or vice versa is a destructive factor in most normal relationships, it is highly destructive in those involving sex workers for reasons which require no explanation.  When both partners believe in the myth and continue to provide sex to their spouses, or the extracurricular activity of a partner who doesn’t believe the myth is never discovered, the negative effects alone are probably insufficient to doom the relationship (“if you love me you’ll take constant no for an answer and never look for sex anywhere else” is a related but slightly different and more complex issue).  But in a sex worker’s relationship, it is a ticking bomb waiting to go off at some unpredictable time.  The person who loves a sex worker cannot ever afford to allow himself to see current professional activities as “cheating”, or past professional activities as some sort of ritual pollution or moral failure, because such feelings will inevitably rise to the surface during arguments (and we all have them) with catastrophic effect.

There are a couple of other columns you may wish to read for on this subject: in “May Q & A” I answered a reader who was curious about how sex workers could still be interested in partner sex after a day at work, and just a little over a month later I published a two-part interview with my husband which used questions supplied by readers; the latter will allow you to get some feedback straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

(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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