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Archive for the ‘Perception’ Category

The day my last diary column appeared, I was driving into Seattle; much too early the next morning I got on a plane for Rapid City, South Dakota to attend Freedom Fest, where I did some panels and speaking and such.  Both flights out were much too rough for my medicines to handle, because apparently both pilots thought they were auditioning for a remake of Top Gun or something (and let me tell you, that takes some doing when taking off from SEATAC in an Airbus A321), but I was fine by Thursday morning (except for dehydration that just wouldn’t go away despite walking around all day with a bottle) and Friday was my big day anyhow.  In the morning I was on a main-stage panel called “Feminism Needs to Stop Calling the Cops” with Avens O’Brien (of Feminists for Liberty), Brittany Hunter (of the Pacific Legal Foundation), Melissa Mann (of Reason), and well-known author Naomi Wolf, moderated by Elizabeth Nolan Brown (whom I’m sure needs no introduction on this blog).  I must admit I was really worried that such a crowded panel crammed into 30 minutes would result in all of us just kinda lining up to blurt out a few sentences, but I’m happy to say I was wrong; the synergy was amazing and we all worked well together to create an experience that audience members declared one of the best of the conference, despite its brevity.  Later in the afternoon Liz joined me on a panel (“DecriminaLIES: Exposing the Failed Global Policy to Regulate Prostitution”) with Savannah Sly and Kaytlin Bailey, moderated by the ever-awesome Alex Andrews of SWOP Behind Bars; that one was an hour, and we hurled out enough information to send any lurking prohibitionists running for the Black Hills; both that day and the next day at the airport, I ran into a number of people who told me how great the talks were, and thanked us for opening their eyes to the truth on the subject.  For years now, I’ve been one of the few sex workers willing to reach out to the libertarian ecosphere, but that time is long over, and I think we’re going to win a lot of allies this way; Alex tells me she’s already signed us up for next Freedom Fest, and it won’t be the only one.  Our days of largely preaching to the choir are over, and we’ll be withering a lot of prohibitionist disinformation with the blinding heat of our concentrated sex rays.

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Some escorts in my area insist I pay with an Ebay gift card instead of cash because they believe that this will protect them from prosecution if I am a cop.  Is that true?

Nothing protects anyone from prosecution; prosecutors can basically do anything they like, and pretending otherwise is just whistling past the graveyard.  As the expression goes, “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride”.  A competent lawyer might be able to use various things as part of a defense to win a dismissal or “not guilty” verdict, but cops can arrest anyone they like without any valid reason, and since the invention of plea bargaining, prosecutors have no reason not to file charges against anyone (except violent cops, of course).  The only relatively-sure way to avoid prosecution is not to end up in a room with a fantasy role-playing cop in the first place; from the escort’s side that means good screening practices, and from the client’s side that means sticking to established providers with good reputations.  There are no magic words, practices or talismans that will ward off the evil of state violence any better than carrrying a rabbit’s foot or making the sign of the cross.

(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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Ten years is a long time for one human to do anything without a break, much less publish a blog post without missing a single day.
–  “Tenth Anniversary

I’ve always been an outsider, even among outsiders.  I’m an atypical intellectual, an atypical writer, an atypical sex worker, an atypical bisexual, an atypical nerd, and even an atypical blogger; I came to the internet later than most of the bright kids, started blogging sometime after the peak of the medium had passed, maintained an atypical level of consistency, formality and sheer volume, and have continued blogging long after most of the sort of people who would have blogged in the Oughts have now moved on to vlogs and/or podcasts.  And though I’ve aged and tired, I haven’t stopped posting content every single day for eleven whole years.  Oh, I’ve gone from a full-length essay every day to less time-intensive features, and in the coming year I’m going to try to limit myself to one high-effort feature per week.  There are four main reasons for the change:  First, because I’m doing a lot of other things (both personal and professional) which take up increasing amounts of my time; second, because in the time I’ve been publishing The Honest Courtesan I’ve aged from “still able to see 40 in the rear-view mirror” to “just able to make out 60 on the horizon”; third, because censorship keeps increasing with no end in sight, and I’d rather not be going full speed when the Establishment drops a wall in front of me; and finally, because I’ve already published over 4000 posts and I feel as though I’m starting to repeat myself a little too often.  Furthermore, I’m no longer one of a very few voices crying out in the wilderness; there are now lots of sex workers publishing a lot of powerful content in more mainstream venues than I ever had the patience and humility to approach, and our message finally appears to be penetrating the thick skulls of politicians, the soft ones of reporters, and even the empty ones of the American public.  In short, my work is no longer as vital as it once was, and since I was one of the loudmouthed harlots who helped create the social climate which made all this possible, I think I’ve earned at least a little rest.

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Partisans are so hampered by the blinders they’ve voluntarily allowed their “leaders” to strap to their heads that they often come up with truly bizarre interpretations of anything involving members of the enemy tribe.  At the moment, the reigning emperor’s troubled son is one of those:My response to this on Twitter was, “‘Buying a person’? This looks to me like he’s trying to hire a sex worker.”  As it turned out I was wrong; the pictured exchange was apparently with a cousin who was trying to set up an amateur or semi-pro date for him.  But there were apparently a large number of fetishists and nitwits who looked at this and fantasized about “sex trafficking”.  And as is usual for True Believers, the idea that someone with actual experience in the topic at hand might know more than someone without such experience was like some kind of abstruse and esoteric branch of mathematics; a number of these butt-scratchers hastened to tell me that sex work really is the literal buying of a human being.  Now, I’ve taken a flamethrower to this absurd canard more times than I can count, and even speculated on the sexuality of anyone who could believe anything so deeply stupid.  But a new metaphor leapt to mind, so I mocked the imbeciles thus:

So you truly believe that everyone who pays a sex worker has that sex worker to keep, presumably in a hatbox in the closet?  How do you think that works when the average sees about a client per day?  Are they split up into increasingly-smaller fragments that yet retain the appearance of the original, like holograms?  Do you really believe that I am a godlike being, existing in 6 or 7 thousand places all over the planet simultaneously?  It’s a fascinating fantasy; you ought to write it up as a Doctor Who story.  I’m also trying to figure out where “hobbyist” clients, who might see a couple of dozen different workers a year, hide all the women they “buy”.  It must get to be a real strain on storage space; presumably they rent storage facilities in which to store all these holographic harlots.  Or maybe they just flush them down the loo like unwanted goldfish?  Seems like it might be an awful strain on the plumbing.

Twitter is an inherently volatile medium, though, so I thought it best to preserve in a place I can find it again the next time I want to mock the ludicrous beliefs of some prohibitionist chucklefuck.

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Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free.  But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.  –  Frank Herbert, Dune

On Saturday, my Twitter account was locked for twelve hours because a mindless censorship algorithm could not tell the difference between mocking an idea and professing that idea; said algorithm was given power to judge human thought for “acceptability” because Twitter (at the insistence of legions of nitwits) has decided that it’s a good idea to silence wrongthink in the first place.  I’ve already pointed out the deep foolishness and simian stupidity of censorship in many other essays, and I’ll be doing so again this year on the last Monday in September, as usual; today I’d like you to think about just how incredibly dumb it is to give machines that kind of power without human supervision or functional appeals process.  Now, I’m not a Luddite; I certainly recognize that there are certain circumstances in which computers can be trusted with limited power (such as controlling an aircraft in flight) provided there is a human around to supervise.  Computers are, as Isaac Asimov once expressed it, high-speed morons; they do whatever they’re told to do, exactly as they’re told to do it and for as long as they’re told to do it, very very quickly.  The problem, of course, is that they are completely incapable of anything even approximating actual thought, which means that they will follow the most mind-bogglingly stupid (or even self-destructive) orders with the same degree of speed and efficiency as they would obey more sensible directives.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to have their computer infected with a virus should know this, yet people keep happily entrusting more and more of their lives to hopped-up pocket calculators they insist on pretending are “smart”; many of them even think it’s a good idea to let these overcomplicated abaci drive their cars at highway speed or tell them how to write.  Computers are useful tools and (usually) dependable servants, but apparently generations of science-fiction writers have failed to pound into the heads of the intellectually lazy what a colossally bad idea it is to accept them in positions of authority.

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As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, women are more likely than men to support the violent policing of other women’s sexualities; were it not for this fact, it would be very difficult indeed for even the staunchest patriarchy to effectively enforce laws intended to keep women in line.  In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the “aunts” are women who collaborate with the religious dictatorship to control other women, and in fact Atwood has said that the novel is (among other things) a critique of the kind of “feminism” whose adherents are only too happy to police other women (some of her “aunts” are even depicted as former feminists).  In the real world, such women – those who are willing to sell out their own gender by assisting a violent patriarchy to oppress them – can be found in every form of prohibitionism, but the most self-deluded of their ilk are probably female cops who belong to “vice” gangs.  And that’s why I have absolutely no sympathy for the women involved in this ugly mess:

…Several high-ranking Harris County [Texas cops]…sexually assault[ed] and harass[ed] their female colleagues under the guise of stopping human trafficking.  In a new federal lawsuit, [several of these] women…accuse [boss cops] Alan Rosen…Chris Gore…and…Shane Rigdon of having “molested and traumatized” them in…prostitution stings…Rosen, Gore, and Rigdon are the [ring]leaders of the department’s federally funded human trafficking unit…”an opportunity for notoriety and media attention”…[which] considers entrapping sex workers…to be the main part of its mission.  The unit[‘s underlying propaganda claims]…that most sex workers are forced into it and if you only arrest enough of them, someone will give up “their sex traffic business handlers”…Liz Gomez, Marissa Sanchez, and Felecia McKinney…were selected for…“bachelor party” prostitution stings [that] soon grew into a booze-fueled playground for sexual exploitation in which young, untrained [women] were subject to disgusting abuse…the Harris County District Attorney’s Office…[knew] about this abuse for months, but…refused to take any action and rebuffed anyone who complained…[plaintiffs] spoke up about their abuse…but…were ridiculed by their commanders, retaliated against by their abusers, and quietly reassigned to less prestigious duties.  In addition, Jacquelyn Aluotto, a “human trafficking advocate” employed by the county (and the fourth plaintiff in this suit) spoke up about went what on as part of these undercover operations and was fired the day after giving an interview to the office’s Internal Affairs division…

Summary:  “When we agreed to trick other people into cages with face-eating leopards, we didn’t know the leopards would eat our faces!” said Gomez, Sanchez, McKinney, and Aluotto.  Waaah, waaaah, waaah.  Liz Brown goes into the whole disgusting scam with her usual thoroughness, so I advise you to follow the link and read it all yourself.  Female vice cops and other violent prohibitionists like to imagine that there are two different kinds of women, “good” and “bad”, which are self-evidently as different as chalk and cheese, so it’s a rude awakening for them when they realize that the difference, such as it is, isn’t as obvious as puritans like to pretend; if it were, there would be no need for elaborate scams intended to tell the sheep from the goats, and no women getting harassed or even arrested for “prostitution” on the basis of “evidence” such as being alone in public; wearing high-heeled boots or skinny jeans; owning lingerie; possessing condoms or cell phones; being trans, black, or Asian; and of course “looking like a whore“.  Unfortunately, far too many women refuse to accept this until the fronts of their heads are being chewed off by vicious animals they intended to sic on others.

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Today is International Whores’ Day.  It is not “Sex Worker Day”; that is March 3rd.  Today is a day to shamelessly celebrate our shameless history, not a day to cater to the precious fee-fees of amateurs by neutering our terminology so as not to offend their delicate sensibilities with a raw, unsanitized word like “whore”.  But for the past several years, I’ve seen a number of sex worker organizations and social media accounts doing just that, and in doing so participating in the same process of sexual sanitization which inspires modern picket-fence gays to absurdly claim that huge fascist corporations and gangs of uniformed thugs employed by the state to inflict violence on sexual minorities are more welcome at an event commemorating an anti-cop riot than kinky queers are.  While the neo-Victorians who dominate 21st-century public discourse

…reject the belief that sex is innately bad, they also believe against all reason and evidence that it’s something like a radioactive material which must be handled with special and elaborate precautions or else it becomes the single most destructive force on Earth.  They imagine that engaging in sex for the “wrong” reasons, or without the benediction of elaborate rituals of consent, or with people separated from one another by more than a very few years of age, is terribly harmful…the desire to describe…sex…as “good” or “bad” is a very strong one, and for the neo-Victorian mind to accept sex into the “good” category it must be ritually purified by amputating all of its darker aspects, branding even the discussion of them as “violence”, and even pretending that they aren’t even sex at all.  This belief flies in the face of reality; sex, fear, dominance and violence are inextricably bound together, and only by living in a state of complete denial can someone pretend that the only valid, “healthy” and legal sex is that which is so sanitized and neutered that it resembles the real thing about as closely as a hamburger does a heifer…

Today is not a day for sanitized words or concepts; it is, in fact, exactly the opposite: a day to fight society’s attempts (via law and police violence) to sanitize the wilder, unrulier, more chthonic aspects of sex.  This is a day for sexual outlaws, not well-behaved “workers”; it is a day to celebrate the triumphs of criminalized human beings against a society that would rather we didn’t exist.  It is a day to oppose censorship, not to engage in self-censorship; a day to honor a means of survival that predates laws and governments by eons; and a day to celebrate a power which will always defeat even the most pernicious attempts to domesticate it.

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We are quicksilver, a fleeting shadow, a distant sound…our home has no boundaries beyond which we cannot pass. We live in music, in a flash of color…we live on the wind and in the sparkle of a star!
–  Endora (Agnes Moorehead)

A couple of years ago I rewatched Bewitched, a show I always enjoyed in my youth but hadn’t seen since the early ’80s.  I’ve always thought Elizabeth Montgomery was an excellent actress, but this time the magic of cannabis (which slows down my hyperactive nervous system so that I can really watch these shows in a way I’ve never been able to before) opened my eyes to just how talented she really was; she could convey so much with just her facial expressions and vocal manner, and her comedic timing was brilliant.  But beyond that, I saw aspects of the show itself that were previously opaque to me.  I’ve always recognized that many of the episodes are veiled commentaries on racism and other forms of bigotry; that was typical of the 1960s, when fantasy and science fiction shows could sneak controversial issues past uptight sponsors and network censors by disguising them as the stuff of alien worlds or magical happenings.  When Samantha angrily denounced ugly witch stereotypes or mortals’ fear of those who are different, the perceptive viewer understood what the show was really saying.  As I grew older, I realized that there was also a more-deeply-buried queer subtext which was too radical even for most contemporary viewers who thought of themselves as liberal:  beside the fact that several of the principals were played by gay men, Samantha had to hide her true nature in order to exist in the judgmental mortal world, and only in the company of other witches could she really be herself.  Furthermore, those mortals were willing to hunt, persecute and even burn those like her merely because they were different.  But queer people weren’t the only sexual minority violently persecuted and actively hunted by 20th-century puritans; while I’m sure it was unintentional, sex workers can also see ourselves reflected in this magic mirror.

When I last watched the show, in my late teens or very early twenties, I naturally identified most with Samantha.  But on this rewatch, I found myself identifying with her mother, Endora, due in part to her age, in part to her unique personal style, and in part to her attitude toward her daughter’s marriage.  I’m old enough to have a daughter in her twenties or early thirties, and I can certainly understand how I’d feel if she married a man I thought wasn’t good enough for her.  But it goes beyond that: the association between sex work and witchcraft is a very old one, and even today many sex workers metaphorically describe our work as “magic” (not to mention the many sex workers who actually do specifically practice witchcraft, though obviously not the fantasy TV variety).  Endora’s chief gripe with her son-in-law isn’t really that he’s mortal; it’s that he wants to rob her beloved daughter of her birthright by forcing her to eschew magic and submit to mortal drudgery.  And every time I heard her say this to Samantha (in quite a few episodes), I imagined how I would feel if my beautiful daughter gave up a successful career in sex work to marry a “dumbo” who demanded she renounce her heritage, shun her whore friends, and work a shitty square job when she could make far more with far less effort by doing what she’s good at instead of letting herself be limited to behavior that doesn’t make dreary, unimaginative authoritarians uncomfortable.

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As anyone with half a brain could’ve predicted, Team MAGA and Team Unpronounceable String of Capitals are still fighting over COVID masking despite the fact that it will soon be a moot point.  This is especially sad because, like so very many societal issues, it has a very simple solution: “Mind your own damned business.”  A person has the right to cover their face in public if they want to, and their reason for doing so is none of your concern.  Maybe they’re paranoid; maybe they’re Muslim.  Maybe they were burned by acid.  Maybe they’re hopeless fantasy geeks cosplaying in public.  Maybe they’re overcautious about germs.  Maybe they’re severely immunosuppressed.  Maybe they are justifiably worried about facial recognition.  Maybe they were wrongly convicted and wish to avoid recapture.  Maybe they’re in mourning.  Maybe they just have a weird sense of style.  But no matter what the reason, nobody else has any more right to violate their boundaries, harass them about it, attempt to involve the state, etc, than they’d have to veto others’ tattoos or get Delta Dawn arrested for walking downtown with a suitcase in her hand.

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I have often expressed how disappointed I am that the cultural reaction of Americans to The Hite Report and other ’70s studies & surveys of female sexuality was for most women to become (sexually) more like men, in other words for their sexuality to become less about the experience and more about the relentless pursuit of orgasm.  And it’s only become worse since the ’80s; virtually nobody (and yes, women are often just as bad as men) is willing to accept any more that some of us simply aren’t very orgasmic, and that whatever new “technique” or “toy” or “process” they want to try isn’t going to make any difference.  My anorgasmia is only partly due to a recessed clitoris; the rest is due to my neuroatypicality in general and my cognitive hyperactivity in particular.  And though most people recognize that I’m really quite intelligent and have had many, many thousands of hours of practice over the last 40 years, they still refuse to grok that I already figured out long, long ago (by the mid-’80s) what will produce orgasm on a semi-regular basis, “but will probably never act on [those things] again because they either come with too much baggage or it’s much too difficult to find the right person or persons to do them with.”  Though this is considered heresy in “sex-positive” circles, I simply don’t think it’s important enough to invest my time, effort, and money in toys, books, classes, Gwyneth Paltrow gimmicks, or silly cults in a fruitless effort to pursue an experience my body and nervous system seem disinclined to undergo.

If you’ve never seen a woman write about this before, it’s probably because most women who feel as I do are afraid to admit it.  They’re afraid of being considered defective, freakish, or simply not good enough, and not only by entities who reside outside of their own skulls.  But most anorgasmic women don’t write about sex; most women writing about sex haven’t been sex workers for their entire adult lives; and most of the sex workers who both feel as I do and write about sex (probably already a rather small group) are too concerned with commercial viability to admit that no, they really can’t orgasm 17 times from some dude’s fumbling around with their genitalia, and they’re really not thinking about sex as often as their clients do.  But for me, the best thing about paid sex is, I get the reward I want regardless of whether my wiring decides to respond in a way that will feed my partner’s ego.  And sex work gave me the confidence not to be ashamed to say that I don’t give a shit if I don’t orgasm.  But I understand that I’m unusual in many respects, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see this stunningly-honest article in The Atlantic:

I am a 39-year-old woman, and I have never, to my knowledge, had an orgasm…I love sex, and I’m probably on the kinky side—there’s very little that I haven’t tried.  But no matter how much I am enjoying myself, there inevitably comes a time, both on my own and with a partner, when the physical pleasure, having built and built, either fades to nothing or becomes a sensation too uncomfortable to bear, and provides neither the rapture nor release I have imagined…In the early days of [my] relationship [with my future ex-husband], I made…an appointment with a sex therapist, therein getting a glimpse of the growing and highly lucrative female-orgasm industry.  A plump, elderly woman…advised me to eat more dark chocolate, stop taking birth control, and sign up for what she called “orgasm camp,” an immersive experience …that would have me masturbating all day long.  She also sent me home with some female-centric 1980s porn, a list of recommended herbs and vitamins, and a prescription for Viagra that the pharmacist, alarmed by my gender, initially refused to fill.  For months I dutifully followed her advice…but…eventually, exhausted and even a little bit bored by the effort, I once again resigned myself to my anorgasmic fate…

…In her 2018 book, Faking It, the sex educator Lux Alptraum denounces a culture in which, for many men, the female orgasm has become “the primary, if not entire, purpose for pursuing sex—a sentiment that suggests that anyone who isn’t able, or doesn’t want, to achieve orgasm is some kind of freak or failure.”  Alptraum lays no small amount of blame for this on She Comes First, a wildly popular cunnilingus manual by the sex therapist Ian Kerner, which…established a new paradigm in which the female orgasm, once seen as mythic, was recast as compulsory…

…I finally embraced the obvious solution: I started faking it…sex therapists…think that faking it breeds guilt and resentment…but the truth is that, for me, faking it was instantly empowering, even revelatory.  Overnight, the emphasis shifted from what I lacked to what I offered…faking it threw into relief my sexuality; for the first time since my divorce, maybe for the first time ever, men began to see me as I saw myself, and as I knew myself to be, which is to say, no less carnal than the next person, and perhaps even more so…

There’s a great deal more, and I think it’s especially worth reading if you’re anorgasmic yourself, or if you would like to understand why some women aren’t interested in catering to your emotional need to give them orgasms.  I myself have written in defense of faking orgasms on several occasions, and I’m in agreement with author Katharine Smyth about faking being a legitimate strategy to reclaim one’s sexuality from the tyranny of others’ selfishness disguised as generosity.  There’s quite a bit more after the part I’ve quoted, in which Smyth tries all sorts of other things for which I lack the patience, the credulity and the dedication; I must also point out that when I was her age, I had already been doing sex work on and off for 21 years and full-time escorting for 6.  But even so, I hope that by the time she’s my age she either finds what she’s looking for, or learns to stop caring about it.

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