Posts Tagged ‘Heroines’

We should have a national day for camp followers.  –  Brendan Trainor

The Pro-Rape Coalition 

You mean pictures don’t have magic anti-love powers?  Who could have guessed?

In [a] 1989…study, subjects were exposed to photos from Playboy  and other types of erotica.  Subjects who had viewed these nude images then [supposedly] found other women—especially their wives—to be less attractive…[and] reported that they were actually less in love with their wives…This research has been heavily cited in…[pro-censorship] arguments…recent research has attempted to replicate some of the hallmark findings of some heavily-cited, influential research in psychology and the social sciences.  [Un]surprisingly…many of these…[attempts] have failed, suggesting that in many cases, the original studies were limited by statistical strategies, methodological flaws, or just over-interpretation by…researchers eager to publish sensational findings in an academic market that feeds on hype.  Balzarini, Dobson, Chin, and Campbell recently undertook research to recreate the findings from the 1989 study…over three distinct experimental tests.  In each trial, the researchers were unable to replicate the original findings…

Public Service Announcement 

Are politicians actually stupider than other people, or does it just seem that way?

A Louisiana [politician] admits that he sent a then-17-year-old boy sexually charged text messages and gave him a “graduation present” pair of racy designer underwear, but insists that he was only “playing along” with the teen and that no sexual contact took place…He maintained that many of the details revealed in a 2015 blog post by the boy about the affair were false and that he never had sexual contact with the teen beyond kissing, nor was he grooming the boy for a sexual relationship…[which even if he were is] not illegal because the age of consent…in Louisiana is 17…Yenni said…“I’m not gay”…

So all those times I kissed girls, it wasn’t sexual contact & it doesn’t mean I’m queer?  Wow, that’s kind of a shock.

Saving Them From Themselves

What could possibly go wrong?

Under-18s should be prevented by social media companies from texting sexually explicit images, the health secretary has said.  Giving evidence to the Commons health committee on suicide prevention efforts, Jeremy Hunt also called for a crackdown on cyberbullying by the technology industry via the introduction of [magical] software that can [magically] detect when it is happening…

Heroines (First Updates of the Year) sailor-moon-vs-stis

Well, if Wonder Woman can teach breast self-examination

…Sailor Moon…and her creator, Naoko Takeuchi, have teamed up with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to…raise awareness about the rise of diseases like HIV and syphilis among young Japanese women.  Condoms and fliers featuring the pretty soldier, as she is famously known…will be distributed at several venues…The ministry…reworked the…famous catchphrase – “In the name of the moon, I will punish you!” – to: “If you don’t get tested, I will punish you!”…

Hard Numbers (#321)

Sex workers in [Australia’s] Northern Territory would be significantly safer if the industry was decriminalised…as a motion called for at a Labor conference held in February…the Northern Territory would become only the second state or territory in Australia to do so, after New South Wales.  The Attorney-General and Minister for Health Natasha Fyles confirmed…the new Labor Government would revise the Prostitution Regulation Act within its first term.  However she stopped short of indicating when exactly that would happen…[one] key reason why decriminalisation is necessary is to remove the mandatory requirement on sex workers to register with police…[sex workers are thus] branded for life, and there are instances of police releasing that information to third parties…

Creating the Crisis (#322)

I think the definition of “sexual predator” used here is much too broad to be useful, but the study is still interesting:

…a…peer-reviewed paper,  “Sexual Victimization Perpetrated by Women: Federal Data Reveal Surprising Prevalence”…[was] co-authored [by Lara Stemple] with Andrew Flores and Ilan Meyer…[using] federal survey data [that] challenged conventional wisdom.  “These surveys have reached many tens of thousands of people, and each has shown internally consistent results over time,” the authors note. “We therefore believe that this article provides more definitive estimates about the prevalence of female sexual perpetration than has been provided in the literature to date…the reports…document surprisingly significant prevalence of female-perpetrated sexual victimization, mostly against men and occasionally against women.”  Those conclusions are grounded in striking numbers…

No Difference

And this is different from the US…how, exactly?

An eight-year-old Ugandan girl has been arrested on suspicion on “lesbianism”…after she was found kissing friends…[and] a neighbour [snitched on her]…Human rights organisations have called for the child’s immediate release…the country’s notoriously stringent anti-homosexuality laws…amount to life imprisonment for those found in breach…

In the US, ten-year-old girls are arrested and charged with “aggravated sexual assault” for playing doctor.  And they are consigned to the “sex offender” registry, a form of imprisonment with invisible bars, often for life.

Uncommon Sense (#435)

Essentially, a mobile tippelzone:

Michael Lodberg Olsen…[created] Sexelance, his mobile sanctuary for street sex workers…A notice inside informs prostitutes that volunteers will call the police at the first sign of violence and encourages them to make contact if they are victims of human trafficking…Soon he hopes to have a generator and a small heater…Even if the project fails, he and his partners will have learned that they need a permanent facility like the ones that have been successful in bringing Canadian prostitutes off the street in Vancouver…

All-Purpose Excuse

One of the more predictable uses of the “sex trafficking” excuse: mass censorship:

A New Mexico legislator is getting on board with an effort to force manufacturers of electronics that connect to the internet to install filtering devices that would block online “obscenity”…David Gallegos…[says] he plans to sponsor…the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, [which was written] by a [prohibitionist] group attempting to introduce identical bills in the legislatures of at least 23 other states this coming year…the proposed law labels all devices that don’t install such filters “pornographic vending machines”…The bill lists child pornography, revenge pornography and online prostitution hubs as specific types of material that must be filtered…Free speech and digital rights advocates are lambasting the proposed legislation…as [blatantly] unconstitutional …the…bill would require New Mexico to declare all pornography a “public health crisis”…Consumers…would have the authority to turn the electronic filter off and view such “obscene” material, but only after making the request in writing and proving that they are 18 or older either in person “or through means that verify” their adult age…[they] must also pay a $20 opt-out fee “to help offset the secondary harmful social effects”…

Is the group backing this idiocy so desperate and delusional that they don’t recognize its blatant unconstitutionality?  Even if this shitshow passes it will instantly be challenged by watchdog groups and struck down in federal court.  Perhaps it’s just intended as a stalking horse, so as to force civil rights groups to waste money?

Camp Followers

It’s quite nice to see my ideas quoted positively in the mainstream press:

Nov. 11 was Veterans’s day.  Nov. 10 is Marines Founding Day…Politicians make tribute speeches and lay wreaths at memorials while bands play patriotic songs.  Americans everywhere show their appreciation to our troops.  But there are those who provide aid and comfort to our troops who are never mentioned.  They are the “camp followers,” who from time immemorial have followed warriors, providing immensely important services that help heal physical and mental wounds and raising the morale of our troops so they could endure the long stretches of boredom punctuated by adrenaline-fueled violence that is the reality of warfare.  Camp follower, of course, is a euphemism for sex worker, prostitute, whore.  No one has ever erected a monument that a wreath can be laid at for these women—or men—who provide vital services to our servicemembers in uniform at home and overseas, in peace and war.  Although the camp follower is as old as warfare itself—Homer mentions their role in the Trojan War—it wasn’t until the 19th century that modern Western governments began to pay attention to them…

Legal Is as Legal Does (#601)

This is what “legalized and heavily regulated” actually looks like in practice:

The laws surrounding sex work are complicated in [Hong Kong]…where the legal system consists of a tangled yarn of a colonial British past and ever-growing influence from China.  While solicitation for “immoral” purposes in public is flatly illegal, prostitution itself…is not illegal…this means in practice that they can offer services, but only if they are alone, in their own apartments.  The strange state of affairs has led to the proliferation of what are [moronically] called “one-woman brothels”…leaving many women at the mercy of predators, [most] of them cops…Hong Kong police…[often] threaten…or entrap…sex workers instead of protecting them…While this is [just as common]…in Western countries where prostitution remains illegal and vice cops are plentiful, critics suggest it is deeply ingrained into local policing in Hong Kong…

To Molest and Rape

Once again: if you think it matters whether a cop is “on duty” or not when he commits a sex crime, you are part of the problem:

A[n Oregon] sheriff’s deputy…used a work cellphone to film a minor in a state of nudity…Marc Smith…also…touched a girl’s breast, exposed his genitals to her and filmed and  photographed her [vulva]…in August and September of 2015 and 2016…while he was off-duty…

The Clueless Leading the Hysterical (#687) 

Funny how much delusional anti-drug nonsense sounds like delusional anti-sex nonsense, isn’t it?

…WANE, the CBS affiliate in Fort Wayne, Indiana…warns that “dealers [are] using THC-laced ‘edibles’ to attract young people”…that “much of it is done online,” and that “buyers order the candies online and use them to get high discreetly”…But…presents [no] evidence of such online commerce in cannabis candies for kids.  The genesis of the story was an incident…”involving suspicious lollipops” at West Noble High School in Ligonier.  The…package…indicates they were made by…an edible manufacturer that serves patients in Michigan…[reporter Angelica] Robinson compounds the deception with some bizarre scaremongering…”Typically, edibles can contain anywhere between 70 and 100 percent of THC.  Marijuana has just 17 to 30 percent.”  These numbers are nonsensical. A lollipop that was 100 percent THC would not be a lollipop; it would be pure THC.  Even a product that was 70 percent THC would not have the taste, consistency, or appearance of a lollipop, which consists mostly of sugar…a seven-gram lollipop that was 70 percent THC would contain 4,900 milligrams…[in actuality] the label on the…package indicates that it contains…25 milligrams per lollipop…

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The Constitution tells us that…the state may not use a butcher knife on a problem that requires a scalpel to fix.  –  Judge John T. Nixon

No Other Option

A former madam…[will] open the UK’s first brothel…for disabled clients.  Becky Adams…said:  “People have the same sexual urges whether they’re disabled or not…A soldier who comes home from war disabled doesn’t stop being a normal, healthy person with normal, healthy needs…Our new brothel will be kitted out with ramps and hoists for wheelchair access, just like any other service for disabled people.”  The two-roomed establishment, called Para Doxies from the old English word for prostitutes, will be sufficient for two sex workers…and staff to assist clients…the brothel will provide transport to collect clientsIrene Norton born Adler by Allen St. John and take them home afterwards…


As I’ve mentioned before, Irene Adler was one of my favorite fictional heroines, yet a number of people seemed surprised when I was displeased with the BBC turning her from a courtesan into a dominatrix in its “updated” Sherlock Holmes series.  This recent io9 article by Esther Inglis-Arkell explores the problems of modern Adler adaptations at some length:

Irene Adler only appeared in one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, but she’s considered a pivotal figure in the Holmes canon, nonetheless.  And we’ve seen several of the latest…interpretations debut their own versions of Irene Adler in recent years…Why is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler so much better than the versions crafted by Steven Moffat and Guy Ritchie?…In both…Irene Adler is not simply an admirable person with a taste for sleuthery and adventure.  In the movie series, she’s both a woman who marries rich men for a living and a thief…In the TV series, she’s a dominatrix who dabbles in blackmail and international terrorist intrigue (on the side of the terrorists).  Both characters lean very heavily on sexuality and criminality…and…while the original Adler was independent, they’re both pawns of Moriarty…

Secret Squirrel

Intra-family spying gets ever more intrusive:

…KidTrack™…monitors text messages, incoming and outgoing phone log, each web site visited, location and media…“We see this as being no different than a parent examining the contents of a backpack…” said Ernie Rush of Rush Software…[customer] Rebecca Quesada [said] “As a mother, I feel much safer knowing that I have access to every single text message my daughter sends and receives…I can know where she is at all times, know who she is calling and who she is being called by and have access to every picture that she takes, as well as every single web site that she visits”…KidTrack silently captures this information and periodically uploads it to…servers where it can be viewed by the parent via a web browser…

“Silently” = “without the kid’s knowledge”.  And that means it can just as easily be loaded onto a spouse’s or employee’s phone.  My mother was incredibly overprotective by ‘70s standards, but you know what?  She respected my privacy, and never once (to my knowledge) snooped in my purse, read my mail or censored my reading material.

Droit du Seigneur

Normally I’m against lynch mobs, but in the case of “authorities” I make an exception because it’s often the only way they will face any consequences for their actions:  “…a politician in northeast India accused of rape was stripped and beaten by a crowd of women.  Bikram Singh Brahma is a member of the Congress Party in Assam…He was arrested…[after attacking] the woman…while he was staying at her family’s house…

The New Victorianism

Apparently, the average age of Xactware board members is 12:

The Lehi [Utah] City Council has renamed Morning Glory Road after a technology company planning to relocate to the street raised concerns about the name’s sexual connotation…”Morning glory” is the name of a flower…but…is sometimes used to describe male arousal.  Councilman Johnny Revill…[said] he didn’t know about the term’s slang meaning previously but was happy to appease Xactware officials…

With Folded Hands

This reaction to a terrible freak accident is, apparently, not a parody:

22 year old stripper in Cleveland, OH [died]…after a freak lap dance accident.  She apparently launched herself over a railing, falling head first to the floor 15 feet below…she should have been provided with adequate safety gear.  Safety straps and fall netting should have been an absolute minimum protection…something clearly needs to be done.  Better equipment and improved training are clearly called for…drug testing might also be in order…

The Punitive Mindset

Time tries to glorify the controlling behavior of a pathologically-entitled prude:

Administrators let offenders at one of Iowa’s most dangerous prison units watch violent and sexually explicit movies and TV shows…despite repeated complaints from a female officer who said it encouraged inmates to sexually harass her…administrators told [Kristine Sink] not to turn off the…shows.  When she did, they accused her of insubordination…Sink said she has fought a lonely battle under four wardens against movies that caused inmates to become sexually aggressive — through “10 years of misery.”  She filed a lawsuit…against prison officials alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace retaliation, seeking an unspecified amount of damages…

I have a solution for you, Kristine.  If you are too prissy to handle the sort of raw behavior any sane person would expect from male prisoners, why don’t you get a job someplace other than a FUCKING MEN’S PRISON?

Presents, Presents, Presents!

BullshitI receivedSex Power two more generous presents this week:  the whole series of Bullshit! from Paul Reinerfelt, and the Sex Power soundtrack from Pat Murphy.  Also, I’ve discovered that it was Gumdeo who sent the copy of Crisis and Leviathan last week.  My sincere thanks to all of you!

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs

Notice that “feminists” aren’t too concerned with “stereotyped gender roles” when it comes to “rescuing” sex workers:

…in an endeavor as far removed from their former lives as the gleaming banks and trendy boutiques of Tel Aviv are from the city’s sleazy subculture…former prostitutes…have received…training in dress design and sewing…[and] are now aiming to find a place in the world of fashion…

One later passage is absurd even by lawhead standards:

Up until a few years ago Israel was a prime destination for traffickers of women.  An estimated 3,000 women per year were smuggled in, mostly from Eastern Europe, to work in the sex industry.  That number has declined since Israel passed an antitrafficking law in 2006…and most of the prostitutes here are now said to be Israelis.

3000 per year for, say, 10 or 15 years…where did they all go?  Obviously, they must have obediently vanished into Sheol when the magical law was passed.

The Prudish Giant (TW3 #9)

Paypal is at it again; they’ve blocked the account of regular reader Frank Adamo for distributing “sexually oriented material” involving a minor.  Girl Becomes Woman is a photo-documentary of breast development, starting at age 9; Frank said, “[It’s] no more ‘sexually oriented’ than a documentary about pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding…I used Paypal to process donations to create the Breast Pride Education Foundation, and after a year…[and] approximately 100 donations Paypal suddenly decides to protect itself from possible scandal by blocking my account and holding my money for six months!”  He filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but they closed the complaint without action.  Frank notes that the sudden condemnation of his work as porn conveniently came just after he tried to transfer $1000 from Paypal into his bank account.

Above the Law

Yet again:  As long as government actors have excessive power over individuals, this will keep happening:

Two Los Angeles Police…officers…allegedly [preyed] on women…[for] five years, luring them into an unmarked car and forcing them to perform sex acts…Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols targeted at least four women whom they had arrested previously or who worked for them as informants…The pair repeatedly used the threat of jail to get women into their car and drove them to secluded areas where one…demanded sex while the other kept watch…Larry Heyward

And keep happening:  “…[South Carolina cop] Larry Heyward [has been arrested and charged with sexual] offenses on a child between the ages of 11 and 14 years [while assigned to the child’s school]…

And keep happening:

[Washington, D.C. cop] Wendel Palmer…pleaded not guilty…to charges of first-degree child sexual abuse…Wendel Palmer[which] occurred while Palmer directed [a church] youth choir…Palmer would tell the girl to stay with him…while the rest of the choir members went to a store.  The assaults began in August 2004 when the girl was 11…[and] ran through August 2006…she told investigators there were “too many incidents to count”…

Much Ado About Nothing

Foreign officials visiting Colombia:  Pay your damned hookers!  Colombian hookers:  Please start charging your damned clients in advance!  “prostitutes stole numerous items from the Honduras embassy in Bogota, Colombia…an employee of the Ambassador…organized a party with alcohol and sex at the facility…[but] they were not paid for their services…[and retaliated by stealing phones, computers and national security documents]…”  And just in case you thought American media had let go of the story featured in the original column of this name:  “Two [DEA] agents ‘facilitated a sexual encounter’ between a prostitute and a U.S. Secret Service agent…in April 2012…a third DEA agent present on the night of the incident was not involved…”  Translation:  two guys helped a co-worker find someone to provide a legal service he wanted.  Oh, be still my heart.

The Immunity Syndrome (TW3 #19)

In the past year, cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea has become five times as common in North America:

drug resistance has now reached North America in sizable numbers…of 133 patients [in a Toronto study]…6.77 percent…failed to respond to treatment…experts…call “its arrival deeply troubling; clinicians now face the emergence of cephalosporin-resistant N. gonorrhoeae without any well-studied, effective backup treatment options”…

First They Came for the Hookers…

Texas just won’t stop until it makes all sex work as dangerous as criminalized streetwalking:

After years of battling in court, the City of Houston and the popular…strip club, Treasures, have reached an agreement…in exchange for dropping three separate lawsuits against each other, Treasures will pay $100,000 into City-administered Nuisance Abatement Fund to help combat human trafficking.  Additionally, the club must post signs at every table stating no illegal activities, including lewdness, prostitution or drug use are permitted…The agreement effectively ends a court battle stretching back to 1983…attorneys for Harris County continue to move ahead with a lawsuit alleging Treasures is a haven for drug trafficking and prostitution…

Peeping Bill ZedlerMeanwhile, in Dallas:

State Representative Bill Zedler first gained attention…when he led a…crusade to block a Hooters from opening near his neighborhood in Arlington…claiming it would serve as a magnet for sexual predators…[he has] [continued] the fight against Hooters while expanding his focus to battle…other sexually oriented businesses.  His latest salvo…HB 337…would…license [strippers]…New York considered a similar measure several years ago.  And Alabama apparently passed one…But Zedler’s bill…would…require [dancers] to “conspicuously display the…license on his or her person when conducting business…” The bill’s stated purpose is to prevent human trafficking and protect public health…More likely, it will be used as a pretext for hassling businesses Zedler disapproves of…

Wise Investment (TW3 #31)

“Sex trafficking” is already criminal; what this law actually intends to do is wipe out inexpensive escort advertising:  “A federal judge has temporarily barred [Tennessee] officials from enforcing a law…intended to criminalize sex trafficking of minors, after a challenge by…Backpage.com…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #37)

While “authorities” in Rio de Janeiro try to persecute sex workers into hiding before the World Cup, other cities are instead helping them:

Prostitutes in one of Brazil’s biggest cities are beginning to sign up for free English classes ahead of this year’s Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup.  Cida Vieira, president of the Association of Prostitutes in the city of Belo Horizonte, said…”It will be important for the girls who will be able to use English to let their clients know what they are charging and learn about what turns them on…for the same reasons we are also thinking of offering free French and Italian classes”…

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Take something you love, tell people about it, bring together people who share your love, and help make it better.  Ultimately, you’ll have more of whatever you love for yourself and the world.  –  Julius Schwartz

A few days before writing this I had a dream in which I was Hawkgirl, probably because we’ve been rewatching the Justice League animated series.  And though she’s a bit different in the show than in Silver Age comics (in the show she’s single, more belligerent and naturally winged) the dream still made me think of my column of one year ago today, in which I discussed my love for her and two other comic-book heroines, Wonder Woman and Alanna of Ranagar.  As I stated in that column, all three ladies…

…shared something…in common; they…appeared in titles edited by the late, great Julius Schwartz, father of the Silver Age of comics…Schwartz loved strong women and was a supporter of women’s rights at least since the 1940s, and most of the ladies (whether heroine, love-interest or villainess) who appeared in the titles he helmed were interesting, well-developed characters who stood out in sharp relief against the flat, stereotyped females who appeared in most other comics of the time (such as the rightfully-mocked Silver Age depiction of Superman’s girl friend Lois Lane, whose life was entirely dominated by schemes to trick the Man of Steel into proposing to her).

The job of a comic book editor is to coordinate the efforts of artist and writer, to set standards for his titles and to reject work which falls beneath that standard; he has to set a tone and ensure that it is maintained, and to help plan the “big picture”, the framework into which stories in that comic are expected to fit.  So even though the typical editor neither writes nor draws comics (though there are notable exceptions), no other single person is more to thank if a title is good and to blame if it’s bad.  Schwartz produced the best comics of the 1950s and early 1960s, bar none; he was a wizard at inspiring his people to superior work, and could steer a course through stormy waters where lesser men foundered.  In 1964 two of DC’s most important titles, Detective Comics (for which the company was named) and Batman, were failing due to years of mismanagement by veteran editor Jack Schiff; the company did not want to fire him but the Caped Crusader had to be saved.  So Schwartz was offered the helm of the two Batman titles…on condition that he give Schiff his two best-selling science fantasy comics, Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space (the title featuring Adam Strange, whom I discussed last time).  Schwartz accepted the deal, and Batman and Detective soon soared in quality and popularity; Mystery in Space was cancelled two years later, and Strange Adventures limped on until it was rescued by another editor in 1967.  Schwartz then went on to revive the various Superman titles in 1971 and Wonder Woman in 1974.

One of the most important elements of Schwartz’ managerial style was concentration on characterization.  Though the restrictive “Comics Code” foisted on the industry after the Kefauver Hearings in 1954 tied creators’ hands in many ways, nobody was to blame for flat, static characterizations but the creators themselves, and Schwartz insisted on a higher standard.  You can see an example of it in the story “Earth Victory – By a Hair!” which I introduced in “My Favorite Authors”; though the characters are necessarily simple (it’s only an eight-page comic story, which doesn’t leave much room), they are comparatively round and “The Wrecker” grows beyond his initially sexist attitude toward the strong female lead.  Such competent, interesting female characters are quite common in Schwartz’s titles, and today I’d like to tell you about two others, one created by Gardner Fox and the other by John Broome, the two writers most closely associated with Schwartz.

The first, Zatanna the Magician, was the dedicated and courageous daughter of the crime-fighting Golden Age magician Zatara, who had mysteriously vanished.  She was working to find him, and her quest intersected the paths of virtually every hero whose adventures were edited by Schwartz, starting with Hawkman and Hawkgirl and ending with the entire Justice League.  This clever stratagem allowed Schwartz to tie his various titles together (an unusual idea at that time), and to present a new character without a magazine of her own in a multi-part story which made her popular enough to eventually gain her own strip (a back-feature in Supergirl’s title during the early ‘70s).  I first encountered her in mid-‘70s reprints, and like many other readers I was enchanted by the sweet, vulnerable but plucky young sorceress, who later grew into one of the most powerful characters in the DC universe.

The other, Katma Tui, was originally intended as a one-shot character in Green Lantern.  For those unfamiliar with the mythos, I’ll explain that Earth’s Green Lantern is only the local representative of the Green Lantern Corps, a sort of cosmic order of knighthood dedicated to justice and presided over by the mysterious Guardians.  From time to time our hero encounters other alien Green Lanterns, and in issue #30 he was sent to dissuade a promising young Lantern who had decided to resign.  But the Guardians, who are obviously less sexist than Terrans of the 1960s, neglected to tell him that this other Green Lantern was female…because they simply didn’t consider it an important detail.  Our GL succeeded in his mission, Katma stayed in the Corps, and the readers demanded to see more of her; she eventually became the most popular guest star in the series.

Both of these ladies, like those I discussed last year, showed my young and impressionable self that a woman could be tough, resourceful, intelligent and powerful, yet still be beautiful, graceful and wholly feminine.  And since all of them were to a large degree shaped by Julius Schwartz, one might say that, ironically, one of the first people who taught me about female power and self-esteem was a man.  Of course, as a child I didn’t really think about that; young girls see female characters as women rather than as the fictional constructions of men.  I don’t know what sort of negative garbage most neofeminists read that convinces them that most men prefer weak, stupid, useless sex dolls; Julius Schwartz and his crew taught me that men of quality like strong, resourceful women with minds of their own.  And you know what?  They were right.

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Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him.  –  Charles DeGaulle

As I said last month, it’s amazing how many of these stories seem to crop up around the holidays!  So without further ado, here’s the first batch of the year.

Real People (February 6th, 2011)

It’s a classic Catch-22; because of criminalization prostitutes need to be discreet, but anonymity allows the prohibitionists to invent lies about us that further support for criminalization.  So it’s always good to see articles that show sex workers are people like anyone else; this one is from the December 12th Daily Sundial, the student newspaper of California State University, Northridge:

 “I started stripping when I was 19 because I had huge debt…” said Jane Doe, 32, a doctoral student at USC…“I loved it…Of all the shit jobs I had ever had, it was the only shit job that was not a shit job.”    Doe’s story is not atypical; according to a recent study on…sex work by Widener University’s Sarah Elspeth Patterson…“10 percent of students know of students who engage in sex work in order to promote themselves financially, with 16.5 percent indicating that they might be willing to engage in sex work to pay for their education”…

For Jessie Nicole, 25, sex work was the only employment option that allowed her to make ends meet and remain a full-time student.  “I was broke,” Nicole said.  “I had a scholarship that paid my tuition and 70 percent of my books, but that doesn’t pay your rent, that doesn’t give you food, and you still have 30 percent of your books.”  Nicole, now the director of SWOP’s Los Angeles chapter, began dating “sugar daddies” when she was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Florida State University, but turned to escorting when she moved to Chicago for graduate school.  “One of the easiest things about escorting in grad school was that I could pay to live and work a couple of hours a week,” Nicole said.  “That was so crucial to me.  I had a thesis to write…[My] time [was] really precious.”

Though sex work helped pay for both Doe and Nicole’s schooling, the cost of education left each of them in an incredible amount of debt.  According to the Widener University study, 2010 college graduates are carrying an average of $25,250 worth of debt…“I did sex work to live and be a student and then I graduated and couldn’t find a job because I have a master’s in humanities,” Nicole said.  “…So I kept doing sex work.  And I’m still using sex work to pay off my student loans”…According to Nicole…many who critique and condemn sex work see the industry as coercive and degrading.  “(Sex work) is a job like any other job,” Nicole said…according to [her], there are more student sex workers than one might think.  “I didn’t (out myself) when I was in school,” Nicole said.  “When I did come out, I found at least three other friends that were doing sex work in Tallahassee at the same time that I was.  I was like, ‘are you fucking kidding?  Is this just my group of friends or is everyone carrying this around?  Why didn’t we work together?’”…

The story also interviews a professional submissive and has a short section on neofeminist anti-whore rhetoric.  Nicole’s last point is very true; in my experience university students are the second largest group among escorts, after young divorcees with kids.

Heroines (May 16th, 2011)

OK, so breast self-examination is a little off-topic, but I’ve mentioned superheroines before so I just had to tell you about this PSA from Mozambique in which Wonder Woman gives herself an exam.  Other ads in the series feature She-Hulk, Catwoman and Storm of the X-Men.  The only thing I want to say is that I find it easier to do my exams topless, but I guess then we wouldn’t know who they were (except for She-Hulk, who’s pretty recognizable in any state of dress).

A Procrustean Bed (May 19th, 2011)

Though this essay was about a Massachusetts law, the principle applies to any part of the US:

…trafficking  mythology…requires that the state produce victims other than the amorphous “public decency” or the faceless “state”.  A “human trafficker” requires a human to “traffick”, so the law amputates prostitutes’ legal “legs” (i.e. the presumption of adult self-determination), reducing us to victims unable to walk into or out of prostitution on our own.  And if all whores are victims, all those who assist us in our work must therefore be victimizers…[such laws define] anyone who “manages” a prostitute (of course, “manage” is not specifically defined) as a “pimp” and all pimps as “human traffickers”, thus stretching escort service owners, drivers, boyfriends and husbands into international gangsters.

Here’s the Big Apple’s version, courtesy of the December 14th New York Times:

…As prostitution has shifted off the streets and into hotels and apartments, the drivers who transport prostitutes have emerged as some of the industry’s most powerful players.  Sofia, who uses a pseudonym because she fears retribution from traffickers, said that when she was enslaved as a prostitute, her drivers organized her schedule, drove her to appointments and took half of her earnings before she turned over the remainder to her pimp…On Wednesday, Sofia will testify, from behind a screen, before a joint hearing of the City Council’s Transportation and Women’s Issues Committees, on two pieces of proposed legislation that would penalize drivers who knowingly transport prostitutes.  The first proposal…would raise the fines on drivers who knowingly transport trafficking victims, and would direct the Taxi and Limousine Commission to add training for all its drivers on the subject of sex trafficking…Sofia estimates that she worked with 70 drivers, who brought her to 5,000 clients…Sofia said that the drivers rarely spoke to her, except when they tried to recruit her away from her pimp.  “They promised us a better life,” Sofia said.  “I know a lot of girls who said they left the pimp they were working with.  In the end they just worked for the driver.”

Is there any truth at all to this story?  Who knows?  It’s hard to take seriously an article whose very first sentence is based in a fallacy (that the majority of prostitution used to take place on the street, which it never has), and which characterizes low-end employees as “the industry’s most powerful players”.  It also uses the phrase “enslaved as a prostitute” but then at the end states that the so-called “slaves” can work for whoever they like (including, logically, themselves).  The huge numbers (70 different drivers?  5000 clients?) sound suspiciously like “reframed experiences” to me, and a lot of dubious assertions are trotted out to justify giving pigs and prosecutors the power to railroad (mostly immigrant) cab drivers as “human traffickers” for the “crime” of giving rides to hookers.

The Enlightenment Police (October 1st, 2011)

French prosecutors with nothing productive to do now want to send Hind Ahmas (whom we met in this column) to prison, as explained in this December 13th article from the Daily Mail:

A 32-year-old mother from France is set to become the first woman ever to be sent to prison for wearing an Islamic veil.  Hind Ahmas refuses to accept the legitimacy of a Paris court which has ordered her to spend 15 days learning her civic duties…Ahmas was not allowed into the hearing…because she refused to remove her face covering.  But prosecutors made it clear to her lawyer, Gilles Devers, that Ahmas now faces two years in prison and a £27,000 fine.  ‘There is no possibility of me removing the veil,’ Ahmas said.  ‘I’m not taking it off.  The judge needs citizenship lessons, not me.’  Ahmas, who has already refused to pay a fine of around £100 for wearing a veil on another occasion, intends to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights…If Ahmas does become the first woman in the world to go to prison for wearing a veil, then it will be seen as a huge propaganda coup for Islamic-rights campaigners.

Mr Sarkozy said the ban on head coverings was not aimed at persecuting Muslims, but merely to make France a more tolerant, inclusive society…But the sight of a young mother being led away to the cells merely because she refuses to take off her veil will cause outrage around the world.  Mr Devers said the veil ban was ‘unconstitutional’, while senior police officers have told judges that it is unenforceable without persecuting women…

Only a politician could believe that it’s possible to create a “more tolerant, inclusive society” by being intolerant and exclusive.

One Year Ago Today

The Cold, Grey Light of Dawn” provides several examples of “the first feeble rays of light…[creeping] into the brains of those who, while perhaps not actually prohibitionists themselves, have always gone along with government policy on the matter.”

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Power without self-control tears a girl to pieces.  –  Wonder Woman, in Sensation Comics #19 (July 1943)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may have already noticed that I like comic books.  I don’t mean romance comics or Archie comic either; oh, no!  I love superhero comics, horror comics and science fiction comics of the Silver (late ‘50s-early ‘60s) and Bronze (‘70s) Ages.  And though I haven’t purchased a new comic since 1980, I still enjoy adding old ones to my collection or buying reprint editions to fill in the gaps.  I sometimes reread old issues, I enjoy superhero movies and TV shows, and I think the recent trend for people to become real-life superheroes is just about the coolest thing I’ve heard in years.

My affection for the genre began with two male relatives; the first was my cousin Jeff, who as I’ve mentioned before taught me to read.  Since he was only three years older than I he can probably be forgiven for quickly tiring of teaching me from “baby books” and switching to comics instead; one of the earliest ones I remember was a Superman annual full of these crazy Silver-Age “red kryptonite” stories (for those unfamiliar with the mythos, this substance does not weaken Superman as green kryptonite does but instead has weird and unpredictable effects such as giving him amnesia or taking away his powers).  The other influence was my mother’s younger brother, who died of leukemia in his late teens just a few months after I was born; he was made my godfather (a purely sentimental gesture, since he was already terminal at the time) and when I was old enough to understand I was given a few of his things, including his comic books.  Hence my affection for the old sci-fi comics such as Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space which made up the bulk of his collection.  And it was in the pages of the latter that I discovered one of my first heroines, Alanna of Ranagar.

Alanna was the beautiful daughter of Sardath, the most brilliant scientist of the city-state of Ranagar on the planet Rann, which orbited Alpha Centauri.  Sardath invented the “zeta beam”, a means of teleportation by which Adam Strange (a heroic young archeologist from Earth) travelled periodically to Rann, where he fought weird menaces with his intelligence, his courage and the invaluable help of Alanna, with whom he had fallen in love.  She had inherited her father’s formidable mind and was a scientist and adventurer in her own right, and Adam relied upon her wits and skills nearly as much as he relied upon his own.  I was absolutely fascinated with the stories and wanted more than anything to grow up to be as beautiful and smart as Alanna, who (like John Carter’s Dejah Thoris, Sherlock Holmes’ Irene Adler and practically every woman in the works of Robert Heinlein) helped me to develop the mindset which later caused me to reject the false neofeminist duality of “a woman can be valued for beauty or brains but not both”.

Nor was Alanna the only such heroine I discovered in comics; another was Shayera Hol, better known as Hawkgirl, who fought villains alongside her husband Hawkman as the first married couple in comics (that I ever heard of, anyway).  Like Alanna, Shayera was beautiful, intelligent, brave, and dedicated to helping her husband rather than trying to outdo him.  Like Adam and Alanna, the Hawks showed me that the power of a well-matched man-woman team was hard to beat.  The two ladies also shared something else in common; they both appeared in titles edited by the late, great Julius Schwartz, father of the Silver Age of comics and a former literary agent for such luminaries as Robert Bloch,  Ray Bradbury, and H. P. Lovecraft.  Schwartz loved strong women and was a supporter of women’s rights at least since the 1940s; most of the ladies (whether heroine, love-interest or villainess) who appeared in the titles he helmed were interesting, well-developed characters who stood out in sharp relief against the flat, stereotyped females who appeared in most other comics of the time (such as the rightfully-mocked Silver Age version of Superman’s girl friend Lois Lane, whose life was entirely dominated by schemes to trick the Man of Steel into proposing to her).  When I started selecting my own comics around my eighth birthday, I came to love another such heroine: Wonder Woman, whose adventures were overseen by Schwartz as of the July 1974 issue.

Wonder Woman was originally created by William Moulton Marston, the psychologist who invented the polygraph; he had previously written a book encouraging 1930s housewives to use their sexuality to help their husbands break bad habits such as drinking and gambling.  Marston was a kind of male archeofeminist; in 1942 he wrote:

Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.  There isn’t love enough in the male organism to run this planet peacefully.  Woman’s body contains twice as many love generating organs and endocrine mechanisms as the male.  What woman lacks is the dominance or self assertive power to put over and enforce her love desires.  I have given Wonder Woman this dominant force but have kept her loving, tender, maternal and feminine in every other way.

As I discovered many years later to my delight, early Wonder Woman comics were chock-full of bondage and bisexuality; unfortunately, this type of content was quickly suppressed after her creator’s death in 1947, and the character began a long, sad descent until by the mid-‘60s she was nothing more than a joke.  In the late ‘60s she was even de-powered and turned into an Emma Peel clone, and this sorry state of affairs might have persisted had not Gloria Steinem featured her on the cover of the very first issue of Ms. Magazine (July, 1972) and lamented her downfall in an editorial within.  DC Comics took notice; her powers were immediately returned without explanation and for a year (six issues) her title featured reprints with new artwork.  Finally Schwartz, who was well-known for his own super-power of reviving failing titles (he had previously rescued Batman in 1964 and Superman in 1971), was recruited to fix the mess and managed to put the Amazon Princess back on track from the very first issue he edited.  Luckily for me, the Schwartz Wonder Woman was really my first in-depth experience with the character; I previously knew her only from a single early ‘60s issue of my mother’s and her appearance in the Super Friends cartoon show.

Though comics of that time could never have featured prostitutes (except for one late ‘70s story I recall in which Batman got some information from a pretty streetwalker named Maria), I have no doubt that these heroines helped me along my path by teaching me from a very early age that women could be strong without being bellicose, beautiful without being fragile and intelligent without being bossy; that standing up for what’s right isn’t always easy; that it’s a good thing to be who you are even if some others don’t like it; and that a beautiful figure is nothing to be ashamed of.

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