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Posts Tagged ‘pragmatism’

Puritans realized long ago that nobody is buying their “sex is evil” bill of goods any longer, so they’ve broken it up into bite-sized chunks to more easily cram it down the gullets of the Great Unwashed.  These bites include “porn is evil”, “pragmatic sex is evil”, “sex between people more than a few years apart is evil”, “sex a woman later regrets is retroactively evil”, “kink is evil”, “any sex trans people desire is evil”, “any sexual thoughts occurring even one minute before the thinker turns 18 are both evil and unnatural”, “wanting more or different sex than a monogamous partner is evil”, and many others.  And as each of these was accepted into the popular consciousness, the puritans worked to expand it like driving a wedge into a log, until laws and policies nobody would’ve agreed to if presented up front are suddenly a fact, and the conversation is being dominated by people who actually think Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated qualify as “porn” and rather bland sex education materials qualify as “obscene”.  Paradoxically, the anti-sex mob are those most obsessed by sex; they see it even where normal people do not.  Moreover, they reveal their specific fantasies & kinks the second they open their mouths, because as those of us who have studied the psychology of human sexuality understand, taboos, either societal or personal, are the biggest turn-ons.  So when Joe Arpaio goes on and on about bestiality with dogs, and Gail Dines goes on about triple penetration, and when other “feminists” go on and on about semen despite the existence of condoms, what they’re actually doing is revealing the specific nature of the fantasies which simultaneously obsess and bedevil them.

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There are…conflicts of interest…that could disincentivise certifiers from indicating police involvement, including the fact that many medical examiners and coroners work for…police departments.  –  The Lancet

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish

What fraction of unsolved murders are committed by cops?

A [typical and representative] French [cop] unmasked himself as a notorious serial killer in a suicide note written just before he overdosed on pills [last week.  Cops are still hiding the identity of the monster, though he]…had been called for questioning in connection with the case of the killer dubbed “Grele” for his pockmarked face…he w[as]…responsible for a string of rapes and [murders by torture] in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s, including the murders of 11-year-old Cécile Bloch…38-year-old Gilles Politi and his 21-year-old au pair Irmgard Mueller, both of whom were savagely tortured…[and] 19-year-old…Karine Leroy…he…also [committed at least] six different rapes.  The crimes were shockingly brutal.  Block…was…found dead in a basement of [her] building, half naked and covered by an old carpet.  She had been raped, strangled, and stabbed in the chest…In three separate attacks on a 26-year-old German woman, a 14-year-old girl, and an 11-year-old girl, he had identified himself as a [cop, but the cops denied that and ignored the]…clue…

Down Under (#43)

Nine years after a previous government abandoned this same idiotic scheme:

The head of Australia’s…official online [busybody bureau]…has unveiled her proposal to censor adult content…Julie Inman Grant called the planned censorship measures a “child safety code,” although…[she admits] her goal [i]s to target “the likes of Facebook and Instagram”…Grant has continuously fudged the line between protecting children from what she calls “extreme pornography,” and creating censorship rules that affect all Australians regardless of age.  Neither…Grant nor [her like-minded cronies]…have clarified how “extreme” pornography will be distinguished from “regular” pornography, or who would be in charge of making that decision… Grant [recently]…appear[ed] on a podcast from…Morality in Media, whose avowed mission is “to eradicate all pornography”…including Sports Illustrated magazine, works of literature and LGBTQ+ education materials…

Australia ought to ask the UK how its own censorship scheme is going.

Torture Chamber (#843)

“Failure to exercise sound judgment” is a quite a euphemism for “serial rape”:

A Brooklyn [screw] convicted of repeatedly raping a…[defenseless woman] begged a judge to give him a no-prison sentence as h[is lawyer downplayed his crimes by saying]…“He failed to exercise sound judgment and made the worst decision of his life”…prosecutors asked the judge…to sentence [Carlos] Martinez to more than 20 years…the former warden of the jail had previously asked a judge to sentence him to life

Martinez was arrested with another rapist who took pride in the stench of his penis (see subtitle link).

Elephant in the Parlor (#907)

“Politician has a kept woman” doesn’t become interesting just because the politician is Russian:

…Svetlana Krivonogikh…reportedly grew up in a crowded communal apartment in St. Petersburg, and held jobs that included cleaning a neighborhood shop.  But…financial records combined with local tax documents show that Krivonogikh…became the owner of the apartment in Monaco through an offshore company created just weeks after she gave birth to a girl…at a time when, according to a Russian media report last year, she was in a secret, years-long relationship with…Vladimir Putin…

Rotting Fruit (#1015)

Why are men with so much to lose so goddamned stupid about sex?

Former Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard will be extradited to the U.S. to face sex trafficking and racketeering charges in New York…Nygard…won’t be extradited immediately…[but his] lawyer…expects Nygard will be in New York within the next 45 to 90 days…he doesn’t believe he will be held [in] the [usual filthy cage due to]…concerns [that the octagenarian may drop dead before his]…trial…

The Cop Myth (#1150)

Murder by cop is one of the most widespread causes of death in US males:

More than half of [murders committed by] police…aren’t labeled as such, according to new research published in The Lancet….[which] looks at roughly 40 years of fatal police violence in the U.S…the government’s National Vital Statistics System…left off 55.5 percent “of all deaths attributable to police violence” between 1980 and 2018, the researchers found…To put that in perspective…in 2019, more U.S. men died from police violence (1140 deaths) than from environmental heat and cold exposure (931 deaths), testicular cancer (486 deaths), or sexually transmitted diseases (37 deaths)…police [murder]…Black people at a rate of 3·5 times higher than White people, and [murder] Hispanic and Indigenous people disproportionately as well…Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alabama, Louisiana, and Nebraska were the most likely states to underreport police killings.  In Oklahoma, the misclassification rate was 83.7 percent, and in the other four top states, it was over 70 percent…

To Molest and Rape (#1177)

Not even a rapist cop’s own daughters are safe:

…an [Irish cop has been arrested for]…sexual abuse [of] his daughters…over a period of more than 10 years…he [repeatedly] issued threats to kill his family…in [order to discourage] the[m from reporting him, but eventually] all…[of them decided to] ma[ke] statements [together]…

The Irish do not generally release names or pictures until formal charges are filed, sometimes not until after conviction.

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Any time [cops use] an AI system…[to] affect an outcome for a human, it’s probably harmful.  –  Tristan Greene

First They Came for the Hookers…

The only thing unusual here is that the molester cop actually got in trouble:

The resignations of two top officials and a [lying, deceitful cop] at the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control this year are linked to a bungled undercover operation at Scottsdale’s Skin Cabaret, in which the [cop molested a dancer]…Director John Cocca and Deputy Director Mike Rosenberger resigned in April with no public explanation…[after pig] Mike Sanchez…[groped] her genitals during a…[strip club visit conducted using the pretext of]…COVID-19 health and liquor violations…in a VIP room…Sanchez…claimed [molesting the woman wasn’t a crime because] he “was never at any time sexually motivated” [when he groped her]…

Apparently, cops believe molestation and rape are OK as long as they pretend that they were thinking about ruining lives rather than getting off.

The Lesser of Two Evils (#414)

Principled Christians understand that prohibition is evil:

For years, my faith system told me that all forms of sex work were immoral and should be a crime, and the only way to eliminate the sale of sex…is [for the state] to impose heavy consequences that discourage the behavior.  Most people I know share similar beliefs…[but] the more I learn, the further I move away from this popular opinion…my prayers, my research and simply listening to those who trade sex, revealed that the greatest problem was the unnecessary burden society was placing on this community by criminalizing consensual sex work…criminalization has failed…to eliminate or even reduce the sex trade, nor has it improved the moral fabric of society.  If criminalization is not accomplishing any of these, then why does this remain our approach?…We eventually reversed [alcohol] Prohibition, so we should now be asking ourselves “why haven’t we reversed other laws like it, including those against consensual sex”?…

Disaster (#1000)

It’s so nice to hear this from someone whose name isn’t Maggie McNeill:

…if you’re talking about FOSTA/SESTA…someone, at some point, will [claim] that it was aimed at combatting sex trafficking [and] had unintended impacts on…sex work[ers]…there’s a law review article…called “good intentions and unintended consequences”…a…2018 OC Register article called “The Unintended Consequences of a Well Meaning Anti-Sex-Trafficking Law”…and [multiple examples of political bloviation]…But…the narrative of “unintended consequences” is utter nonsense.  Negative effects on sex workers (and there were many) were not “unintended.”  The text of the law explicitly criminalizes the promotion of prostitution and it’s hard to argue that an interpretation of the law that was clear from its text is unintended…this narrative is [even] contradicted by what the organizations that supported FOSTA say about their own goals

Guinea Pigs (#1079)

Just a reminder that this privacy-destroying abomination started as a means of spying on sex workers:

Hundreds of thousands of [cops] in the US have the authority to use blackbox AI to conduct unethical surveillance, generate evidence, and circumvent our Fourth Amendment protections.  And there’s little reason to believe anyone’s going to do anything about it…[because these] systems are a goldmine for startups, big tech, and politicians…Any cop, regardless of affiliation or status, has access to dozens (if not hundreds) of third-party AI systems…he…can…install…Clearview AI on [a] personal smartphone…take a picture of anyone and [find] their identity…then runs th[at]…through an app from a company such as Palantir…without a warrant, officer Friendly now has access to your phone carrier, ISP, and email records…medical and mental health records, military service history, court records, legal records, travel history, and…property records…[with] absolutely no oversight whatsoever…Predictive-policing is among the most common [of these] unethical AI systems…The[y]…claim to use “data” to determine where crimes are going to happen.  But…all [they] can [actually] do is determine, historically, where police tend to arrest the most people…

One small nitpick: hey headline writer, Pandora wasn’t in the box; she was the one who opened it.

To Molest and Rape (#1090)

“Police explorer” programs are nothing but grooming schemes for predatory cops:

Two NYPD cops [raped] a vulnerable teen [victim via] the police youth program, taking advantage of the underage girl to “satisfy their depraved interests,” an internal department judge has ruled….[after] Sanad Musallam and Yaser Shohatee [enjoyed a paid vacation for four years [after getting caught in]…2016…the case f[ell] apart [because] the [15-year-old victim was too afraid of her rapists]…to continue to cooperate with investigators…

The Next Target (#1127)

It was only a matter of time before “sex trafficking” fetishists extended their pet fantasy to OnlyFans:

…”[OnlyFans] is just one more avenue that traffickers can use to make money,” [bloviated a Texas cop named]…Joseph Scaramucci…[who] has spent more than a decade [masturb]ating [to fantasies of] sex trafficking…in recent months, much of his [wanking material has come from]…OnlyFans…”there was [sic] very obvious signs of people that were under 3rd party control, “Scaramucci [fantasized while making furtive movements in his pants]…He has [jerked off to] many pornographic images that [were] consensual, but…he…[fantasizes] that the females in…the pictures may be victims that have been coerced by sex traffickers…[especially] teenagers…

The Next Target (#1130)

Prohibitionists’ next target isn’t just porn; it’s all online sex work:

“Sugar dating” apps will not be allowed on the Android Play Store from September 1st, Google has announced…Google’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.”  But the updated wording expands this definition to explicitly include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’)”…

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There’s a lot of emphasis on the sex part of the sex industry rather than the trade part of it.  –  Catherine Stephens

The More the Better

Anything that helps demystify sex work is a good thing:

…sex sells and where there’s a juicy, marketable topic, the novelists will follow.  The compulsion to set stories in an “edgy” setting guarantees a constant stream of questionable fiction about sex work.  Sex workers appear only when they are dead; sex workers are ludicrously happy; sex workers are powerless victims.  Sex work is flattened into stereotypes or laughably misrepresented; sex work is stripped of all political context, erasing the real-life battles we fight over policing and legislation.  [In] my novel, The Service, I tried to give readers a glimpse of the wildly different ways in which we work.  I wanted to write a book about the mundanity of prostitution, the boredom and practicalities…If readers take anything from The Service, I hope it’s that sex work has as many meanings as there are sex workers…

The Enlightenment Police (#884)

The European Court of Human Rights just keeps kissing racists’ arses:

Businesses can sack Muslim women wearing the hijab headscarf if they work face-to-face with customers or if [other employees are racist shitheads who whine to the boss], the EU’s highest court has ruled.  The decision…w[ill encourage thuggery] at a time when [European] countries, such as France, are [wallowing in racism under the pretext of “]combat[ting] extremism[“]…

Working From Home (#1079)

The biggest problem with working through someone else’s platform:

[When] users…viewing their content then get…refunds via fraudulent chargebacks…[it is] the creator, not OnlyFans, [who] is [forced] to reimburse the money…despite the scammer already having accessed their content…OnlyFans [seem to feel it’s enough that] a User can only chargeback once and then they are blocked from the platform…

When I had my escort service, we had a separate “NO REFUNDS” form on which the girl entered the client’s driver’s license and required his signature; if he attempted a chargeback, sending a copy of the form to the credit card company would stop that shit.  It seems there should be some analogous practice for online porn purchases.

I Spy (#1098)

Anyone who doubts that politicians are deranged megalomaniacs should be following this:

…during a…late-night session, the European Parliament approved…a…set of “chat control” measures making it legal for internet companies to scan all private messages by users if they [pretend] they are looking for Child [porn]…EU [politician] Birgit Sippel described the measures as “a compromise between [government’s desire to pry into every single aspect of human existence] and protecting users’ privacy”…[but] did not specify what part of this “compromise” does anything to protect users’ privacy…Patrick Breyer, whose Pirate Party led the opposition to the measures, [said] that “chat control will allow email, messaging and chat providers to indiscriminately search your private messages for allegedly illegal material and report to the police, using error-prone algorithms”…

A Broker in Pillage (#1101)

Nobody will be safe until this odious, contemptible practice is recognized as unconstitutional:

…Maine repealed its civil forfeiture laws [last week]…join[ing] Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina as the fourth state t[o end]…one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in America today…the bill…only [allows the state to steal property without prior conviction] in a few narrow [circumstances]…death, deportation, or if the defendant fled or abandoned the property…Just as critically, LD 1521 closes the “equitable sharing” loophole.  Through this program, state and local police collaborate with a federal agency or joint task force, and outsource forfeiture litigation to federal prosecutors [in return for] 80 percent of the [loot]..

The Implosion Begins (#1145)

I’m really enjoying US newsmedia’s panic over the natural, predictable development of the hysteria they profited from for two decades:

In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat and the disappearance of the anonymous online account “Q” that once served as QAnon’s inspiration, many people who spout QAnon’s [version of the popular “sex trafficking” mythology] have hatched a new plan: run for school board or local office, spread the gospel of Q, but don’t call it QAnon….In June, the [NEA whined]…that “[Trump]ists and [others who adopted our favorite hysteria] are winning local elections.  And their new positions give them a powerful voice in everything from local law enforcement to libraries, trash pickup to textbook purchases [just like every other politician].”  These moves signal an important evolution for the QAnon [develop]ment…[of fantasies about] societal conspiracies of child abuse [which have been popular with politicians, cops, and the news media since the beginning of the century]…

To Molest and Rape (#1149)

Notice how often predatory cops’ victims are underage?

A [typical and representative] Florida [cop] has been sentenced to serve ten years in prison…[for] forcing two teenagers…to remove all their clothes and then run naked in front of him…Michael Martinez…was[n’t even] fired [until a] year after the [crime]…in August 2016.  Martinez [had] pulled over [his victims using the pretext of] a traffic stop…[and used their] alcohol and marijuana [to threaten them, even trying to get]…a hand job from…[the female victim, Remy] Riley…

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We open or we die.  –  open letter from Mexico City restaurateurs

Feminine Pragmatism (#913)

One day, reporters will learn that “people work to make money” is not news:

Like many other young Venezuelans, Valery Lopez has found a way to survive the…country’s crippling economic crisis…[by selling] online sexual content…she has found a way to avoid joining the exodus of five million migrants [who] have left the country since 2015.  “I was…[able] to stay in Venezuela thanks to OnlyFans,” [said] Lopez…[her] channel has more than 50 [international] subscribers…each one pays $10 a month: a figure six times the minimum salary in Venezuela…[but professional busybodies like] Abel Saraiba…[bemoan Lopez’ and others’ entrepreneurship, absurdly referring to merely selling pictures from the privacy of her own home as]…”a risky (line of work)”…

Hot Mess Alabama

Alabama is trying to make up for its late start by spewing “sex trafficking” idiocy most other states have quietly dropped:

…the purpose of the event series is “to promote…myths surrounding [sex work]”…focusing on…the sex [fantasies of prohibitionists about]…how traffickers recruit and subjugate young women and children…[chief busybody] Julia Meyers [recited the Shahada and tired old “King of the Hill” tropes about]…I-20 and I-65 as…major human trafficking corridors…the commercial sex industry generates $110 million each year in the Birmingham-metro area…this does not include illegal activity that occurs in massage parlors or strip clubs…90 percent or more people that are prostituted people are actually being trafficked…

“People that are prostituted people” is a tautology that well encapsulates the circularity of these wankers’ parade into their own rectums.

False Witness (#980)

Once the Satanic panic returned as “sex trafficking”, charlatans began to work on rehabiltating the dangerous and discredited doctrine of “repressed memories”, which was use to destroy so many lives in the 1980s and ’90s.  In this article from The Cut, writer Katie Heaney pretends that the science debunking “repressed memories” is “controversial” (it isn’t), and that the theory behind what is now called false memory syndrome originated in a couple’s defense against accusations of abuse from their adult daughter (it didn’t).  She also tries her best to smear Elizabeth Loftus, whose work in the field of memory was the actual origin of the theory.  Heaney’s motivation is probably just page-clicks, but the people who want to re-convince courts that memories can magically reappear decades after the end of a statute of limitations (and the disintegration of any evidence or alibi) have a decidedly more sinister motive, and unless mental health professionals nip this in the bud, we’re once again going to start seeing people’s lives destroyed based on nothing more than delusions created or validated by unscrupulous, malicious cops, bureaucrats and prosecutors.

Nonessential

Working people all over are done with arbitrary authoritarian “lockdowns”:

It was assumed that…[on] January 11, Mexico City and the State of Mexico would [be done with the government-assigned COVID risk category called “]the red light[“, the most restrictive designation, but politicians arbitrarily] decided to extend it for another week.  Given this, many restaurateurs decided to ignore this measure and under the social media hashtag #AbrimosOMorimos, they announced that as of today they will reopen…”Open or die is a reality in the industry in general, from the taco stand to the most sophisticated restaurant…and the oxygen is over,” said José Sánchez…of Sonora Grill…Manolo Ablanedo…of…Fisher’s, said…more than 500 restaurants in [Mexico City] will open…”because…the next option to survive is to fire waiters and cooks”…[in] a letter addressed to the…government…the…restaurateurs requested to be considered essential…”They are extinguishing us…Let’s not condemn restaurant workers to unemployment, or thousands of businesses to bankruptcy!”

The Crumbling Dam (#1057)

Remember this when apologists claim prohibitionists are “well-intentioned”:

A divided federal appeals court…blocked…the nation’s first supervised drug-injection site from opening in Philadelphia, saying it ran afoul of a federal law originally passed to [further criminalize] drug [users]…The decision overturned a lower court ruling in favor of Safehouse, a non-profit that aims to open a facility where drug users can safely inject heroin, fentanyl or other drugs in the presence of medical professionals who could treat them for overdoses…[attorney] Ilana Eisenstein…who represents Safehouse [said]…”We remain confident that the law was not intended to force Americans to stand by as idle witnesses while our brothers and sisters are dying.  Conscience compels us to pursue all legal options, and we shall”…The government[‘s case relies on]…a provision of the Controlled Substance Act commonly known as the “crack house statute,” which makes it a crime to knowingly open or maintain a place for distributing or using controlled substances [such as a doctor’s office, hospital, or pharmacy]…

Quiet Genocide (#1086)

Another firsthand account of China’s torture of Uighurs:

My [family] fled to France…in May 2006, just before Xinjiang entered an unprecedented period of repression.  My daughters, 13 and 8 at the time, were given refugee status, as was their father.  In seeking asylum, my husband had made a clean break with the past.  Obtaining a French passport in effect stripped him of his Chinese nationality…[but] I couldn’t bring myself to do [the same]…so instead, I’d applied for a residence permit that was renewable every 10 years…[then in November 2016] I [was tricked into] going back to Xinjiang…[so the police could] pull [me] in for questioning…[about] a photo…[of] my daughter Gulhumar…in Paris…[holding] a miniature East Turkestan flag in her hand, a flag the Chinese government had banned…I…was [condemned]…to…two years…of…violent…brainwashing…[until] on 2 August 2019…a judge…pronounced me innocent…[after] they had tortured my body and brought my mind to the edge of madness…

One of the more subtle ways that Western governments enable this abomination is by supporting the evil doctrine that countries permanently own their citizens, even if those citizens choose to live elsewhere.

You Were Warned (#1099)

Remember that whores are even less popular with the Establishment than MAGA types are:

Parler has — for now, at least — vanished, after Amazon canceled its web hosting contract with the company…Google also banned Parler, on [January 8th], with Apple following suit [the next]…day.  The companies cite posts making threats against Mike Pence, organizing last week’s events in Washington, D.C., and making plans for further action to challenge the 2020 election results…Plenty of digital platforms — including those much bigger and more mainstream than Parler — provide a place for conspiracy theorists, MAGA riot organizers, and threats of violence, as well as the politicians who back and encourage these forces.  To take action against Parler and no other social media sites or web forums — and to do it so swiftly, without providing them with a little buffer to find new options — feels…designed to stave off becoming a target themselves…this provides…a…glimpse of what a world without Section 230 would look like all the time, not just in the wake of incidents that rattle us.  Nobody would want to even tangentially do business with apps and other web forums that don’t aggressively police and limit user speech, for fear that liability would work its way up the food chain to them…

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My friend Brooke Magnanti has a new project named Body of Work on the new platform Substack, and to call attention to it I’d like to share my favorite of the posts she’s published there so far. It’s both a moving memoir and a powerful rebuke to the sheltered puritans who pretend sex work is “The Worst Thing a Woman Can Do“, which is incidentally the title of this piece.

My dad was mowing strangers’ lawns on the day that he died.

He woke before sunrise – the habit of a blue collar lifetime – with his schedule for the day written out on a piece of college-ruled paper, copied from the app where homeowners booked him for reasonably priced lawn services. He had the rest of the week drawn up as a grid too, with blank spaces for last-minute jobs that might pop up on his newly purchased smartphone.

He loaded the truck with the tools of his trade: edgers and whips, a spade and a rake, a refurbished secondhand push mower, and drove the ride-on mower (also a refurb) onto the small trailer behind his 15-year-old F150. He put a lunchbox with two turkey sandwiches and four bottles of frozen water into the cab. They would melt during the hot Florida spring day, keeping his food cold and providing hydration as he worked in the full sun.

Sometime after 8am, he started having abdominal pains. The worst of his life. My father – no hypochondriac, also the habit of a lifetime – called 911. The hospital did some tests and discharged him by 10am, diagnosis mild constipation, prescription two kinds of laxatives. He didn’t feel better. His last few outgoing texts were to friends letting them know he couldn’t meet up later, he was sick. He went on to complete 3 of the 5 jobs on his schedule.

He died that night. 70 years old, retired not even one day of his life. When we found his phone, most of the missed texts and calls were from the app, set to automatically ping when he didn’t check in online for his agreed jobs.

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

“What, are you too proud to scrub a toilet?”

That was a question I have heard a lot. After coming out as a former sex worker in 2009, I could count on at least one know-it-all standing up to pronounce more or less this exact accusation at every book signing, public speaking event, or festival I appeared at.

The question askers never stuck around to hear, really hear the answer: it’s hard to get a job in the UK as an American student, I couldn’t work more than 15 hours a week, no one was allowed to hire me if any qualified EU applicant was available, and that wouldn’t have made a dent in my bills anyway. ‘Too proud to scrub a toilet’ also seemed to be the takeaway most columnists went with when discussing my writing. According to everyone with a public opinion my problem was not lack of cash but that I was too proud, or precious, or whatever to do real work. I was spoiled.

Thing is, I wasn’t just spitballing about whether or not scrubbing toilets pays the bills. I knew already, from experience, that it would not – because cleaning was the very last job I held before moving to London. I worked for months at a hostel in Aviemore while writing up my PhD thesis. In between changing beds and mopping bathrooms, I collated data on forensic pathology cases and assembled chapters on the processes of human decomposition. Because I also was the hostel’s cook and lived on site, I was able to save almost everything I earned. I thought this would put me in good stead for the autumn, when I planned to submit my PhD back in Sheffield, then move to London to look for work.

Long story short: my calculations of expenses for life in the capital city were way, way off. By the time I paid the extortionate deposit and rent on a sad little room in Kilburn, I was already out of cash. But with my PhD not yet approved I couldn’t apply for science jobs. So I became a call girl. A choice that I thought (also mistakenly as it turned out) would be lucrative, not require a particular visa, and that I could leave behind as soon as I started my “real” career.

That was then.

This is now: I’m scrubbing a toilet in a million dollar house in one of my county’s fanciest neighborhoods. American Standard. The water in the American Southwest is mineral-heavy and leaves rings on everything; I’m not so much scrubbing as chipping away at stalagmites of built up lime.

It’s the first toilet I’ll clean today, the first of four bathrooms in this house, but it’s not the last time I’ll think about those people who imagined I was too proud to scrub a toilet. I’ve been scrub-a-toilet poor before; it’s not that big a deal. No, instead they were telling me the thing they considered to be the last-resort job of choice before “selling your body.” Their deepest fear, the most undignified thing short of being a whore (which as we all know is the worst thing a woman can do).

That’s the calculation according to society. Whore is worst, cleaner is second worst, and no one in their right minds would do either. Let alone both. Yet the jobs persist. Even in a recession. Even in a pandemic. Key workers both. Not the front lines, accumulating accolades and sometimes hazard pay, but the back lines, doing jobs few want to admit always need done.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic it seems cleaning after oneself is still a job for someone else. Lifestyle columnists Sarah Ditum and Janice Turner raised a few eyebrows when they staunchly declared the unavailability of house cleaners in the first wave of covid to be beyond bearable. Not for them picking up the mop, or worse yet, asking one’s husband and children to chip in. No, went the logic, cleaners wanted the work. They loved their clients.

I’ve heard people say things like that before almost word for word. People who are the customers of sex workers. Do I have to tell you women like those are just the sort of people whose husbands I once would have fucked for money? I know it, and I guess they know it too.

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

If you too are in possession of a house and neither the time nor the inclination to clean it, you could book me or someone like me through any number of websites and apps. They all have slick, modern sites, enormous market capitalisations, and most importantly in this buoyant gig economy: they employ none of the people who show up at your door to do the work.

The landing pages show clean, modern homes resplendent in bare wood, white tile and brushed metal fixtures. Homes with six-burner gas ranges and fresh cut peonies in fishbowl vases. The kind of homes that few of the cleaners could ever dream of calling their own. The vibe is upscale, quiet suburb or cool high-rise urban.

And if you don’t mind what happens to your body, to your health, then there are always jobs like this, just not careers. With ubiquitous smartphones and widespread internet services that previously were available mainly to the well-heeled can be booked at the touch of a finger. In many ways the rise of sex workers on the internet when I was an anonymous blogger presaged the way many would soon be working in the 21st century.

My entry into cleaning for apps is straightforward. Sign up, submit a photo of my driver’s license, wait for a background check. Answer a few (very few) questions on my experience as a cleaner. I have a bit, from the aforementioned pre-London days turning over an 80-bed hostel in the Scottish Highlands for a summer, to helping out friends with holiday cottages.

I’m accepted on the platform and my rate is set at $15 per hour. That’s 4 dollars an hour above the nearest city’s minimum wage, more than twice the Federal minimum of $7.25, but well below anything that could result in the “thousands” the app’s ads on Craigslist promised. Up to thousands, I remind myself. Technically that means anything above zero. I’m assured through a short series of videos that work is straightforward and easy to come by, and that any problems I might experience with the app itself are quick to figure out. I’m told if I book 10 jobs this week my rate goes up, maybe as high as $22. I complete the series of Youtube videos that constitute training and log on.

There are no jobs. At all. Not today, and not tomorrow.

There’s one in three days! I click, eager to “claim” before anyone else does (because that must be what’s happening, right? There are no jobs because they’re already taken?) But when I google the location I find it’s in central Colorado – a 330-mile round trip from where I am now. Sure, there’s a $20 “bounty” for picking this one up, should I choose. But I decide to forego it. There is zero chance at this rate I will ever earn more than $15 an hour through the app.

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We live in the age of the side hustle. Everyone I’ve met since moving back to the US has one. The fine artists with an Air B&B, the candle maker who cleans for them, the solar installer who is also a part-time fire captain, the fire captains who sell third party phone cases on Amazon. The jiu-jitsu instructor with a window washing business. The college professor who works as a part-time paramedic on ski patrol. The ski patroller who proctors exams at the college.

There is no mystery as to why. None of these people are rich or have any illusions of becoming so. Side hustle as a phrase sounds cool, as if a few hours of your week here and there will make it rain and make the Moet pour. The reality is more prosaic. Life in the land of opportunity is expensive. With a stunted public transport infrastructure, cars are a necessity if you want to get by in most of America. The college degree has more or less taken the place of a high school diploma, sought out even for entry-level customer service, and the expansion of the student loan industry leaves many in debt long beyond their 40’s. Credit rating determines everything from your ability to rent accommodation to even whether or not you get a job, obliging people to spend and keep spending in the name of being a trustworthy consumer. Being a consumer obliges you to work. Once entered, the cycle has no end. Not even retirement, for those (unlike my father) lucky enough to contemplate it: in 1985, 10.8% of people over 65 in America were still working. The number in 2017 was double that, and expected to become still higher when the twilight years of Baby Boomers give way to geriatric Generation X.

It gets worse. A shocking number of America’s personal bankruptcies are due to inability to pay medical bills. From a high of 1.5 million in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act came into law, it declined to 770 thousand in 2016. And yet the problem is not solved: the requirement to buy insurance even on price-capped markets still leaves a lot of room for expenses in the form of deductibles that can be thousands of dollars or more. People still avoid accessing preventive care and instead end up in the emergency room, sometimes not until they are on death’s door. We may be in post-Obamacare America, with many on the left making noises about some form of universal, free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare, but the wolf of sudden medical emergency could turn up and destroy your life anytime. Even in the coronavirus pandemic America did not manage to elect a candidate who promises universal healthcare.

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Four-Toilets is not a bad job as these things go. I know that immediately. It isn’t a 330 mile round trip to get there, for starters; only an hour from my house. The place is owned by a couple of about my age, pet- and child-free. They are not hoarders, and while some of it requires elbow grease (the aforementioned hard water in toilets situation) they’ve not left cleaning so long that any of it is out of hand, save a giant walk-in shower I spend about a third of the allotted five hours scrubbing.

The man goes out, and when he comes back, has brought me a sandwich. I don’t have time to eat on the clock of course. The app’s clients feed in the size of the job and the app gives them an estimated finishing time (no breaks). I do the last toilet, vacuum and mop, and am done bang on the hour the app predicted. I can’t help but wonder if there was a box they ticked that said “our house is already pretty clean” (it was) or if, in the future, similarly-sized jobs with less scrupulously tidy clients will be assigned the same five-hour time slot.

I don’t think about that, just sign on to the app to confirm completion of the job, load up my car (you are required to bring all supplies, including mop and vacuum, and more recently, PPE), and accept a shyly-offered $30 tip from the man. They want to book me again, once every fortnight. I say I’ll have a look on the app but I’d like that.

I have no illusions: few jobs will be as straightforward as this. On the drive home, I start making a list of what I need to replenish. Paper towels, microfibre rags, oven cleaner, furniture polish. Pick up some limescale remover! And some drain unclogging liquid. The tip covers my time driving to and from the house, and the gas, just about. It reminds me of being an escort when the client’s tips usually covered my transport.

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I think the ideal philosophy is to only care about the fact that you do your job with integrity.  –  Kiran Deshmukh

Social Autoimmune Disorder

Cops think they can never have enough pretexts to harass people:

Dallas [cops]…arrested 88 people in [just the first half of this year for]…driv[ing through a particular neighborhood, claiming they committed the thoughtcrime of]…looking for sex…All but one of those arrested were people of color.  [And now] Dallas [politicians want to make it easier for them to dramatically increase the score by]…allow[ing them] to [arrest people for the “crime” of] passing through [that neighborhood three times]…in…two hours…[using the all-purpose excuse of] trafficking women for sex.  The penalty is a fine of up to $500…[if pigs claim they] suspect[ed their victims]…of being pimps…

An Example to the West (#329)

An interview with Kiran Deshmukh, president of the National Network of Sex Workers in India:

I still remember Meena Seshu…telling us that we had to band together…to fight back.  I still remember that exact day this realization sunk in:  A gangster was on the streets making a scene and threatening us with knives.  All the women who’d usually shut their doors and sit tight poured out into the streets.  One woman undid her saree on the road, and the others used it to tie the gangster to a nearby pole.  The women beat him up so much and so badly that not a single gangster has created a scene in our area since then.  Once women band together, they become formidable opponents…Sex workers…work put food on the table and feed their children.  Society, on the other hand, views the world in a moral–immoral binary…Society will point out how our work is related to our bodies and how many men we “sleep” with…two people having consensual sex is justified but if you attach sex to money, it’s completely immoral.  Why?  You’re all saying it’s totally fine to have sex for free?…As for tragedy, if a woman enters sex work due to a tragic situation, but eventually decides to continue in the same profession, why would you bother her with the circumstances that influenced her choice 30-40 years ago?…

Don’t Call It Trafficking (#934) 

Remember, this is not slavery, but lucrative, flexible, voluntary work is:

Most [drug] rehab programs that require work act essentially as temp agencies, farming the [pati]ents out to…third parties, such as tree trimming services, dairies, poultry processing plants or oil refineries.  The wages are remitted not to the workers but to the rehab centers…the…workers…receiv[e]…no pay, no Social Security credits, [and] no unemployment insurance payment…Other rehab-affiliated programs, notably the Salvation Army, have their patients perform grossly underpaid work for their commercial enterprises — if they did not have this captive workforce, they would have to seek [fairly-paid] labor from the open market…

You Were Warned (#1007)

But please, tell me more about the “wings”:

It is now broadly recognized that Joe Biden doesn’t like Section 230 and has repeatedly shown he doesn’t understand what it does…[now] his…top tech policy advisor, Bruce Reed, along with Common Sense Media’s Jim Steyer, have published a bizarre and misleading “but think of the children!” attack on Section 230 that misunderstands the law, misunderstands how it impacts kids, and…suggests incredibly dangerous changes to Section 230..[among] its myriad problems…is…citing FOSTA as a “good example” of how to amend Section 230…

Rotting Fruit (#1015)

Why are men with so much to lose so goddamned stupid about sex?

[Paul Alexander,] the owner of a charter-jet company…has been charged with sex trafficking after [NYPD cops claim he]…offer[ed them] sex with a 12-year-old girl and 14-year-old girl for $300…In March, an underage girl went to the police and told them Alexander…had been…pimping her out…An undercover cop posing as a customer met with Alexander—who showed him nude photos of the girls, charged him $300 for sex with them, and suggested he ply them with drugs and pot so they would be more cooperative…Alexander…has…a 1996 sexual assault conviction…and in 2003 he was convicted of possession of…child [porn]…

Dangerous Speech (#1092)

Backpage case judge claims it’s OK her husband has publicly attacked Backpage because the Backpage case “isn’t about Backpage”.  Seriously.

…the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals…[has] ordered federal prosecutors to respond to the defense’s request for a “writ of mandamus,” which would order U.S. District Court Judge Susan Brnovich to remove herself from the case.  The order…[comes only days after] a hearing in…[which] Judge Susan Brnovich claimed that inflammatory comments made by her husband, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, about Backpage.com’s alleged guilt in facilitating illegal sex work, were unimportant and did not warrant her recusal.  “This case is not about Backpage,” she contended at one point…an assertion that might come as a surprise for anyone familiar with the federal government’s superseding indictment in the case, which mentions Backpage more than 600 times[it also] seem[s] a startling statement given that the prosecution’s theory of the case from jump has been one of vicarious liability, in which the government seeks to hold Lacey and Larkin responsible for alleged illicit acts supposedly connected to 50 ads cited in the indictment — ads never seen by Lacey and Larkin and posted by persons unknown to them, among the millions that once existed on the site…

The Next Target

Prohibitionists care only about “messages”, not facts:

Pornhub has released…statements about…Visa and Mastercard [announcing] their cards would no longer be accepted on the platform, following…Nicholas Kristof[‘s spurious]…allegations against the company…”These actions…come just two days after Pornhub…[banned] unverified users…from uploading content — a policy no other platform has put in place, including Facebook…Any assertion that we allow CSAM is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue…Pornhub’s safeguards and technologies have proven effective:  while…Facebook reported that it removed 84,100,000 incidents of CSAM over two and a half years, Instagram reported that it removed 4,452,000 incidents…over one and a half years, and Twitter reported that it suspended 1,466,398 unique accounts for CSAM over two years, the Internet Watch Foundation…reported [only] 118 incidents of CSAM on Pornhub in a three year period”…

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I make way more money per hour playing a professor in the dungeon than being one in real life.  –  Mistress Snow

Aggressive Ignorance

In Florida, you can now get a “certification” in racist, misogynistic propaganda:

Florida State University has launched a new certification in human trafficking prevention and intervention…to [indoctrin]ate [authoritarians in the approved]…human trafficking [propaganda]…the Tallahassee Police Department [recently] charged over 170 people [with various misdemeanors it pretended were linked together]…into a sex trafficking network…[authoritarians and profiteers] who seek to get the certification can use what they learn and apply it to…[profiting from the] crim[inalization of consensual acts and inventing propaganda]…just like [the cops did with] this one…

Buried Truth

I think we have enough evidence to start calling this “McNeill’s Law”:

An anti-LGBTQ+ Hungarian politician has resigned from the European Parliament after being caught in what’s being described as an orgy involving 25 men.  József Szájer, who has spoken proudly of writing a ban on same-sex marriage into Hungary’s constitution, acknowledged…that he had been at what he called a “house party”…in Brussels…[which was] raided [using the excuse of] violation of Belgium’s COVID-19 restrictions, banning gatherings of more than four people.  Szájer was caught “shimmying down a drainpipe” in an attempt to escape police…He had no identifying documents with him and had drugs in his backpack…[but] was released with a warning after [cops] escorted him home and he produced his diplomatic passport.  Police, however, “have opened a case against those present for violating lockdown rules, as well as against Szájer for possession of drugs”…

Shame, Shame

The state believes it’s OK for its operatives to dox you, but not vice-versa:

French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party agreed…to completely rewrite a draft plan that would have c[riminaliz]ed the…shar[ing of] images identifying [violent cops], after large protests over the weekend against police violence…More than 133,000 people, including 46,000 in Paris alone, demonstrated against the draft bill and in favour of free speech…The rallies followed the publication of video footage of a Black man being beaten up by three [cops] inside his own music studio…Macron…branded [the evidence] “shameful” for France [and therefore tried to prevent it happening not by controlling the pigs, but by criminalizing the act of revealing it]…Article 24…[would have] made it a crime – punishable by a year in prison and a 45,000 euro ($54,000) fine – to share [pictures of cops] with an “obvious intention to harm” [as determined by authoritarian bureaucrats]…

Imaginary Evils (#737)

Remember, huge police operations have never found more than a single-digit number of “sex trafficking” cases anywhere in the UK:

[Cops fantasize that] nearly 100…woman were [magically] trafficked into Scotland and forced into prostitution despite the ­lockdown restrictions…Fil Capaldi, head of Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit said: “[Pimps are magical ninjas who can walk through walls and pull screaming children through computer monitors, so naturally they have no trouble with travel restrictions]…Slavery is not a thing of the past, it’s happening in every local authority throughout ­Scotland…When ­international borders open up again, we will see a spike in trafficking”…he said Covid rules may have helped the traffickers keep their vile trade hidden…

So “sex trafficking” increases under restrictions, and it also increases when there are no restrictions.  It’s easy to make contradictory statements when nobody expects you to provide even the most rudimentary evidence of anything you say.

Feminine Pragmatism (#970) 

It’s good to see that the media are beginning to grasp this:

More than half of all college professors are now “adjuncts”: part-time freelance instructors who…have the same PhDs as their tenured and full-time colleagues, but who get paid low amounts on a per-course basis, with few or no benefits and little job security.  Typically, adjuncts (also known as “contingent faculty”) string together gigs at multiple colleges, which pay an average of $3,984 per course…So, many adjunct professors now find themselves needing to find significant side-work to stay afloat…Last December, Mistress Snow…wrote a personal essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “I Told My Mentor I Was a Dominatrix: She Rescinded Her Letter of Recommendation.”  The summer before the article came out, she found herself without a teaching gig—which is common for adjuncts…[so] she w[ent]…back [to] the sex trade…

Social Distancing (#1055)

So many “enlightened” countries still believe that disease is caused by “sin”:

On September 26, 2020 the Government of Ontario closed down strip clubs without warning or consulting strippers.  At the same time, other similar businesses such as bars continued to be allowed to operate.  Strippers are not demanding we be given exceptional treatment…we only want to be treated fairly.  This means being consulted about the implementation of prevention and other occupational health and safety measures at our workplaces, rather than government officials assuming we are vectors of disease that pose particular risk to public health…

Social Distancing (#1082)

Another example of how “lockdowns” cause far more harm than good:

…In sub-Saharan Africa, 16 countries have an HIV prevalence rate greater than 37 per cent among sex workers.  “To ignore HIV prevention and sex workers during an emergency is self-defeating,” said Innocent Modisaotsile…[of] the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.  “New infections and demands for ARV treatment will burden the health system.”  COVID-19 has brought hardships to sex workers in Africa…in terms of loss of income, police crackdowns, exclusion from social protection schemes, and increased violence…in the past two decades Kenya’s robust HIV prevention and care programme has reduced HIV prevalence among sex workers significantly…[via] drop-in centres (DICs) that provide safe spaces, healthcare and peer support…[but] under the lockdown [police roadblock are preventing sex workers from accessing the centres]…

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Diary #543

This tweet sums up my weekend pretty well.  Though the walls of the guest cottages are thick, the floorboards are not; we therefore decided a layer of R30 fiberglass insulation was called for, and Jae found a good deal on enough to do the job.  So a week or so ago I crawled under the cottages and attached the insulation; I finished all of one and about half of the other.  Then on Saturday, I finished the rest of the insulation and attached a netting of chicken wire (with a layer of plastic sheeting above it) underneath the insulation to hold it in place and keep it from dropping as it has in several neglected houses I’ve seen.  On Sunday, I followed with the wire net for the other cottage, but that was a piece of cake compared to the first day; since the ground slopes down to the east, there’s a lot more room under the eastern cottage than under the one closer to the main house.  On Saturday, I came out from the basement not only tired, cramped and filthy, but sneezing out bits of fiberglass and with considerable debris in and around my eyes.  A long, hot shower rectified most of that, but I knew I was going to be pretty badly bruised on my right side, where I had done most of my lying and creeping.  While I was getting dressed the next morning, I tried to count the bruises, but lost count somewhere above 30, stretching in a long line from my shoulder all the way to my knee.  But if this winter’s electric bills are lower than last winter’s, it will be worth it; the bruises aren’t nearly as painful as a $500 electric bill.

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Though I’ve been a Trekkie since childhood, I had never seen all of Deep Space Nine until recently.  The reason is simple: the series premiered in January 1993 and was midway through its third season when my first husband left me without warning.  My life was thrown into turmoil and it took two years for me to get it straight again, during which time money was much too tight for the relative extravagance of cable TV.  So though I saw all of the first two seasons, half of the third, and occasional episodes (at friends’ houses or via borrowed videocassettes) of the fourth and fifth seasons, I got rather lost due to the complex story arcs and decided not to see any more individual episodes until I could rewatch the whole show from the beginning.  I gave Grace the complete series on DVD for Christmas about a decade ago, but still never got around to viewing it until this year, after I moved to Sunset as my primary residence.  As I watched, I soon found that I agree with many reviewers’ opinion that the series is the best of all the Star Trek sequel series; though it was a direct spinoff of The Next Generation I find it very much superior to its parent, not only because of its greater consistency, better writing, and relief from the pressure of being THE Star Trek show of its decade, but also because it discarded the moral oversimplification which (unfortunately) permeates most of The Next Generation in favor of a universe full of greys in which few characters were either moral paragons or cardboard villains.

This realistic portrayal of the ethical tangle that is real life was on full display in a 6th-season episode we watched a couple of weeks ago, “Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night“.  In it, Major Kira Nerys discovers that her mother, whom she believed to have died in a concentration camp during her planet’s half-century-long occupation by the militaristic Cardassians, actually survived for seven years after the very young Nerys had last seen her…as a “comfort woman” claimed by the Cardassian governor, Gul Dukat.  At first, Kira (who started the series as a morally rigid, almost puritanical character, and only slowly grew to accept that real life rarely resembles such abstractions) refuses to believe that her sainted mother could have been guilty of collaboration horizontale, then as she explores the truth (with the help of a mysterious alien device which grants her visions of the past), she instead becomes terribly angry with her mother for literally sleeping with the enemy.  But as the vision goes on, she realizes that her mother’s position as the governor’s mistress not only resulted in better living conditions for herself, but also for her husband and children, who might otherwise have died in a labor camp.  By the end of the episode she has not forgiven her mother, but has come to accept that she did what she thought best for her family, just as Nerys herself had to make hard choices (including becoming a terrorist) in her own struggle to survive the occupation.

The episode is not a highly rated one; perhaps the topic is too uncomfortable for many viewers, especially in these neo-Victorian times.  But as a sex worker and hard-nosed pragmatist, I deeply appreciated the show’s willingness to recognize that sex work, even under duress, can almost never be fit into a pat narrative of villain and victim, and its repeated depiction (in this episode and many others) of war as a filthy business from which nobody emerges entirely clean.

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