Posts Tagged ‘survivors’

The idea that prostitution should be stopped by non-sex workers…devalues and dehumanizes people who are struggling to make ends meet. – Svati Shah

Check Your Premises

Oh, the mental gymnastics:

…Law enforcement and [feminist] groups [pretend that] tough…penalties are an appropriate response to pimps who prey on vulnerable young women…But at times, the law enforcement efforts that are meant to target the pimps also sweep up the women who assist them in their crimes, women who often are also victims themselves…

Blah blah “sold for sex”, blah blah “sex-trafficking network”, blah blah “control over her”, blah blah “enslaved to their pimps”.  You get the idea.

Repeat Offenders 

There’s something deeply disturbing about Catholic nuns aiding and abetting the police state; it’s even more disturbing when the collaborators name their operation after a Biblical whore famous for hiding fugitives from the police:

Sister Ancy Mathew …founded a charity called Rahab…and accompanied officers…raiding flats where trafficked women might be held…Women who have been trafficked into Britain to become sex workers have invariably been lied to, and have often been encouraged by the criminals who control them to fear police.  As a result, few trust the police enough to be able to open up…about what they know after they have been freed…

Enabling Oppression

Even the more perceptive survivors of forced prostitution recognize that criminalization enables it:

…I would never have had to go through that terrible situation if prostitution was legalized…If it was legal, I would have signed a contract, I would have known what I was getting myself into, and I could have held the recruiters accountable for their actions…

The Scarlet Letter (TW3 #19)

A woman that had been arrested in 2012 for allegedly working illegally as a prostitute and accused of intentionally causing clients serious bodily harm, has died from a drug overdose…she also left behind a suicide note.  Katerina…was among 12 HIV-positive women…whose names and photographs were published on the Greek police’s website in 2012…HIV stigma victimPositive Voice, a group that helps people with HIV, had denounced the incident as an unacceptable breach of  ‘medical confidentiality…Katerina…served a one year prison sentence and was released after a court…[found] no evidence [she] engaged in illegal prostitution…

The Widening Gyre 

Evidence?  This is Sweden, we don’t believe in evidence:

Sweden’s Security Service has expressed concerns about a rapid rise in the number of Swedes heading to Iraq and Syria to fight for Isis, as Sweden’s official coordinator against violent extremism suggests some girls are being forced to make the journey…she said that while many young people choose to join…others – especially girls – are…”trafficked” to the middle east and southern Asia…

Sexual Predators

Yakopovich believes cops should relax, have fun, rape a few whores and laugh at their tears:

Police say they are cracking down on prostitution…Lt. Vince Yakopovich said…”We always try to take the time and say, ‘Hey, drop what you are doing and let’s go'”…Local motels are cooperating for the most part…

Coming and Going (TW3 #311)

In the long run, tight budgets work in our favor:

Dallas County’s prostitution diversion [scheme]…was meant to serve as a model for the state’s largest counties.  But some officials, including those in Collin and Denton County, have passed on the state’s mandate…that counties with more than 200,000 people start [similar schemes]…Officials…say…prostitutes…in their jurisdictions …aren’t at the street level…and [harassing them] requires more [expensive]…investigations…

The Leading Players in the Field, Not (TW3 #316)

Gloria Steinem went to India earlier this year…with Ruchira Gupta…of Apne Aap…Feminists in India…disagree with Steinem’s take on prostitution…Steinem…repeatedly calls Apne Aap a “grass roots” organization, which would imply that it has little or no international profile, and primarily works with local people…[but] Apne Aap…receives funding from outside India regularly, and…is part of the international trafficking industrial complex, that combination of non-governmental organizations, governments, and money that has enabled the strange rise of the idea that “trafficking”, whatever it may be (chattel slavery, forced prostitution, any prostitution, forced labor, illegal migration, and/or debt bondage) is a universal problem requiring huge resources to resolve…

Original Sin (TW3 #322)

Pope Francis and other leaders of the world’s main religions…signed a joint declaration to work together to eradicate modern slavery…by …2020…they declared that “Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution…is a crime against humanity”…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (TW3 #329)Yoda

If something’s in a movie, it must be true!

When Tim Matsui began working on his project about the sex trafficking of teenagers around Seattle in 2012, he followed a group of police officers…The Long Night, a film…directed by…Matsui and funded by the [rescue industry] is a gut-wrenching [fantasy] of the effects of sex trafficking on seven people, including victims, survivors and law enforcement officers…

Policing for Profit 

Wally Kowalski, an engineer living in a farmhouse in rural southwest Michigan, came home one day…to find his property swarming with cops…Kowalski has a license to grow and distribute medical pot to several low-income people who depend on the drug…state police…seized his power generator—even though it had nothing to do with his marijuana plants—and some expensive equipment.  They also destroyed the plants.  Kowalski [said]…they grabbed anything likely to be sold at a police auction…”When they found my bank accounts here in my office, they let out a yell.  They said, ‘Here’s the bank accounts, we got him.’  It’s like the happiest thing for them, to find my bank accounts.”  The police froze his accounts, rendering him unable to make payments on his student loans or other bills…The authorities haven’t charged Kowalski with a crime…

Scapegoats (TW3 #334)

Once again, vanillas reveal themselves as the true perverts:

A report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour describes an unusual field trip made by Canadian researcher Debra W. Soh – to a furry convention…she had expected to find herself in a dimly-lit orgy “filled with couples – or groups – of costumed folks engaging in kinky sex” but she saw nothing of the kind.  In fact, she saw nothing sexual at the whole convention except some erotic…fan art that was on sale.  Instead, the furries were chatting, playing board games, smoking, and so on…

Absolute Corruption (TW3 #349)

Former day care owners who spent 21 years in prison…[for Satanic panic] convictions…are struggling to convince prosecutors that they should be fully exonerated.  Dan and Fran Keller…were freed on bond last year when the only physical evidence against them was found to be a mistake…But…prosecutors remain unwilling to proclaim them innocent [despite the fact that everyone knows their conviction was the product of a witch hunt]…[their] claim…will be decided by…conservative judges [who protect the status quo and]…will be guided by the recommendations of [the] judge…who [convicted them in] 1992…and…has already twice ruled that they had failed to prove their innocence.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410) Fiona MacTaggart

a few weeks ago in Parliament…Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart added two clauses to the Modern Slavery Bill that would criminalise the clients of sex workers in England and Wales…MacTaggart and her supporters hoped to bring the Nordic Model here with almost no notice or debate…The English Collective of Prostitutes…lobbied their MPs on the phone or in person, and parliamentarians were blasted with anti-criminalisation briefings from left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell…Supporters Women Against Rape pointed out that: “To target men who have not been accused of violence just because they purchase sexual services, diverts police time and resources away from reported rapes”…MacTaggart has claimed that the majority of sex workers were coerced in some fashion – a view based on discredited statistics, and one for which she has been taken to task before

Shift in the Wind (TW3 #430)

Rare honesty in a mainstream American newspaper:

Let’s be honest.  Paying for sex has been around a long time, and it’s not going away anytime soon.  Recent court cases have established sexual rights and privacy in protecting what consenting adults do behind closed doors, but those rights end for people who wish to exchange sex for money…some people do not believe sex workers should have the same legal rights as other workers.  A study recently published in The Lancet found that even partial criminalization…such as the Swedish model…places sex workers at equal risk for human-rights violations and exploitation.  Trying to stop demand will not stop prostitution…Nearly every industrialized nation has made prostitution partially legal or outright legal. It’s time America does the same thing…

Special thanks to Mark Bennett for the unlocked version of the story.

Uncommon Sense (TW3 #433)

Any amount of criminalization of sex work allows cops to play their evil games:

Five people were arrested…after police raided brothels in Germany…Austria, Bosnia and Romania.  More than 900 [cops]…took part in the raids…Police also seized cash, computers, hard drives, business records and one pistol.  Stuttgart prosecutors [demonized the sex workers’ relationships and told lurid “trafficking” tales]…

The Public Eye (TW3 #439) 

She’s a victim!  So let’s help her by making her homeless, too!  “Connected‘s Kate McGrew has revealed that she’s found it hard to find somewhere to live since revealing she is a sex worker on the reality show…

Monkey Business (TW3 #442)

Let’s hope this legal rationale of why chimps aren’t “persons” is extended to fetuses, too:

petitioner requests that this Court enlarge the common-law definition of “person” in order to afford legal rights to an animal.  We decline to do so, and conclude that a chimpanzee is not a “person” entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus…chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.  In our view, it is this incapability…that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights…that have been afforded to human beings…

Held Together With Lies (TW3 #447)

thousands of…sex slaves in Russia are…waiting for a good samaritan [sic] to come along and save them…since the government and society in general prefer to look the other way, anti-trafficking activists [pretend]…Russia…is now at once a destination, origin and transit country for sex slaves…and…ranked as the country with the sixth-biggest slave population in the world…in a fresh annual report by the…Walk Free Foundation…

Divided We Fall (TW3 #447)

Twenty-five Toronto city councillors have signed a letter asking Premier Kathleen Wynne to take…Bill C-36…to the Ontario Court of Appeal to determine if it is constitutional.  The new legislation, which received royal assent last month, will become law on Saturday…”we work to promote measures that increase public safety…In particular, we are united in our efforts to end violence against women…Bill C-36 has introduced…unsafe conditions into Canadian society, bringing foreseeable detriment and real danger to some of the most vulnerable women we represent”…The letter will be presented at City Hall on Friday (Dec. 5), which is the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and the 25th anniversary of the Montreal massacre…

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After breaking down doors and waving…guns around, it’s gratifying [for cops]…to pacify terrified slaves by tasering them.  –  Joyce Arthur


An elderly Italian man got a rather unwelcome surprise when he ordered an escort – and his…40-year-old son’s South American girlfriend…arrived at his house…the pair declined to take the encounter further and swiftly parted ways.  The man [decided]…to tell his son…prompting a bitter fight between the pair…the son [sued] his father for injuries…Barbie and Lammily


While whitebread feminists wet themselves over the newest version of “Happy To Be Me”, Virginia Postrel isn’t having any of it:

…All right-thinking people  seem convinced that Barbie instills in her pre-school fans a false and remarkably detailed standard of beauty.  Hence the widespread  praise for Lammily, the latest anti-Barbie concept doll.  A crowd-funded project from artist Nickolay Lamm (the source of her ungainly moniker), Lammily is based on the average proportions for a 19-year-old…[but] the average 19-year-old female American stands 5 feet 4 inches tall.  She has a 33.6-inch waist and…weighs 150 pounds…If Lammily were true to life…she’d have rolls of fat, not a firm plastic tummy…Celebrating one version of average as “normal” and “realistic” implicitly stigmatizes everyone who doesn’t meet that standard.  Barbie doesn’t pretend to do that; Lammily does…

A Narrow View

This NPR article on diversion programs is full of the usual “sex trafficking” nonsense and dishonest platitudes about the programs’ effectiveness, but one section was especially troubling:

…Judge Pratt says that initially her treatment-focused approach…improved the ability to prosecute the traffickers.  But…a lot of the boys…were becoming pimps.  “The foster care system and juvenile justice system is creating both sides of this market, the suppliers and the goods,” she says…

Her revolting dehumanization of girls as “goods” is bad enough, but her willful mischaracterization of young male sex workers as “pimps” in order to prop up the vile “pimps and hos” myth is utterly reprehensible.

To Protect and Serve (August Updates)

San Diego cops use “sex trafficking” as an excuse to send a SWAT team to a strip club:

A manager at Cheetahs strip club says his dancers felt violated by police who photographed them almost nude…10 officers swarmed the building with guns and bulletproof vests, interrupting business for a couple of hours…to make sure all 30 dancers had proper permits and were in compliance…

Don’t Take My Word For It

Male delusions about sex work start extra-early in Sweden:  “Swedish police have received a report that three underage boys [as young as ten] speaking bad German tried to sell sex to women at a busy commuter hub in central Sweden…

Not for Everybody

Though Meg Munoz had a very bad time as a sex worker and for a while supported prohibition, she eventually recognized the harm it creates:

…Poorly conducted, [biased]…research needs to stop being used as the foundation for fundraising…the refusal to have sex work acknowledged as real work…has all but halted any civil discourse…Allowing moral biases to dictate policy is dangerous for those who are there by choice and force…

Above the Law Deon Nunlee

No, you lying asshole, it’s exactly what police officers do, which is why this is the second most common subtitle on the blog:

…while police responded to [a] domestic violence call, one of the officers allegedly took the woman into an upstairs bedroom and sexually assaulted her…Deon Nunlee has been charged…Detroit Police Chief James Craig said…“This is an anomaly.  This is not what our police officers do”…

In fact, here’s another in the same city:Geoffrey Townsend

A former Detroit police officer who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct involving participants in his boot camp for misbehaving teens is being sued by two of the victims…Geoffrey Townsend…began making unwelcome sexual advances [eventually culminating in rape when one]…victim was 13 years old…and…the…[other] 16…

And it’s not limited to the US, eitherScott Andrew Terry

[Durham, Ontario police Constable Scott Andrew Terry] sexually exploited [a 16-year-old girl] …with whom he first came into contact after she was busted for shoplifting in May of 2000.  Instead of filing charges…he…[offered] her a rental room in his house…[then] began making advances which…escalated to nude photos, sexual touching and eventually rape…“in exchange for the rent”…

First They Came for the Hookers… 

This dumb story about dumb strip-club restrictions in Chicago is, as you might expect, mostly just dumb.  But these comments from anti-whore zealot Bob Fioretti venture into a higher realm of dumbness:  “we have an underlying social problem.  Between 15,000 and 25,000 women a day engage in prostitution…in this city.  That underground activity undermines us a city — a world-class city…”  I’ll bet you didn’t know we were so dangerous, or that roughly 4% of the adult female population of Chicago were whores.

Higher Education (TW3 #23)

Unlike the last time we saw this, these teachers are actually qualified:

An enterprising association of sex workers in Barcelona has angered some of Spain’s most prominent feminists by offering an “intro to prostitution” course…at a cost of €45…the four-hour intensive course for aspiring sex workers was held last month by the Asociación de Profesionales del Sexo…Lidia Falcón…[who] has spent years fighting to have prostitution [criminalized] in Spain…said…the problem with the course lies in its underlying suggestion that some women are working in the profession out of their own free will…

So Falcón wants the course banned because it blatantly disproves her lies.

Imagination Pinned Down

Though the social climate which led to the Satanic Panic had been building for years, it was the McMartin Preschool hysteria that really launched it.  Now that it’s a generation in the past, even media outlets like the New York Times which fully embrace “sex trafficking” hysteria recognize its earlier incarnation for what it was.  Here’s a good retrospective called “McMartin Preschool: Anatomy of a Panic”; watch it with the current hysteria in mind and note the many parallels.

The Widening Gyre

If “authorities” don’t want stupid myths about women being abducted spreading around, they sure have a strange way of showing it:

[A rumor] warns of attempts to abduct women and girls in broad daylight at crowded shopping centers.  It warns that a new gang initiation requires members to kidnap, rape and beat womenBig Pimp and then dump them in parking lots.  For years, authorities have tried to keep such messages from spreading, debunking their claims as urban myths…

To clarify:  Women being abducted by gangs for quick rape = “right up there with Bigfoot”, but women abducted by gangs for years of captivity and sexual slavery = 100% credible.

South of the Border

In Mexico, a respected advocate is arrested as a “pimp” for helping sex workers organize:

…the recent arrest of Alejandra Gil…[is due to] new legislation, which…conflates sex work with human trafficking…Gil has worked tirelessly for the human rights of sex workers for many years…Laws and policies that target “third parties” under the premise of “protecting” sex workers, increase our vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, and create real barriers for sex workers organising…


Considering that more than 90% of whores prefer to work illegally than submit to licensing, how well do you think this colossally stupid Italian law will work?

…prostitution will be permitted in private houses, subject to certain conditions, including the use of condoms…the draft law, which was presented…by…Maria Spillabotte…includes the issuance of a licence, stating that the holder is free of sexually transmitted diseases and confirming that a payment has been made…of €6,000 for a full-time licence or half that amount for part-time work…Prostitutes will also be required to get a certificate of mental fitness.  “This is a fundamental way of getting women away from coercion,” says Spillabotte.  “During an interview, the specialist will be able to tell if the girl is being forced into prostitution or if it is her free choice”…

That Old Black Magic

Patrick RockThe Sharjah Police…arrested an Arab woman and a man for forcing women into prostitution and engaging in black magic…

Buried Truth

When a politician obsesses about “protecting children from porn”, this is usually the reason:  “A senior aide to David Cameron resigned…the day before being arrested on allegations relating to child abuse images.  Patrick Rock…was involved in drawing up the government’s policy for…online pornography filters…

Between the Ears (TW3 #133)

This article on “Why Viagra Ruined Sex Work” quotes a few ladies whose names regular readers may recognize:

…“I wouldn’t say ED drugs are the worst thing, but they are really annoying,” laughed…Jolene Parton…“it…makes it harder for the client to come.”  Anna Gristina…dubbed [it]…“The working girl’s worst nightmare come true…It went from wham-bam, thank you ma’am,’ to ‘Oh my god, can you just finish, man’”…Amanda Brooks…says…men become obsessed with having an erection at the expense of any enjoyment for anyone…

It Looks Good On Paper (TW3 #311)

Texas joins the states arresting people to force them into “diversion” programs:  “The Corpus Christi Police…conducted a ‘Jane Sting’…in conjunction with the Red Cord Diversion Program…all six arrested persons were signed up to participate…rather than have criminal charges immediately applied.”  Yes, they actually referred to sex workers as “janes”.

The Crumbling Dam (TW3 #315)

Joyce Arthur hits it out of the park with this satire:

In a bold move aimed at protecting workers from exploitation while on the job, the government today passed a new law that criminalizes most employers and customers…Law and Order Minister Punter MacCunny…pointed out that 95 per cent of people hate their jobs and want out, according to a new government-commissioned study…Police welcomed the new law, which gives them sweeping new enforcement powers to target the huge increase in organized crime.  According to Det. Sgt. Billy Clubber, head of the RCMP’s new Slave Save Squad, “We’ll be cracking down on slavery rings, basically any place where workers are bribed with wages to provide services”…The law now designates employers and customers as “pimps” and “johns,” respectively…

Long Spoon (TW3 #351)

Reason’s video on condom criminalization specifically refers to the Human Rights Watch report condemning the practice in New Orleans:

Ladies of the Night

Saith Dr. Brooke Magnanti in The Telegraph:

It’s an unusual move to go from policy and social commentary to fiction, especially as the stories cover a range of genres from romance to crime to sci-fi.  And yet it works.  The eye for detail that fans of Maggie’s non-fiction writing appreciate is well played here.  She invents worlds with ease and populates them with thought-provoking, yet never two-dimensional, women and men.  If you love plots with twists, she has them to spare.  (If you’re not into twists, or women who aren’t always whiter than white, probably best to stay away.)  And the cover art by acclaimed cartoonist and Louis Riel author Chester Brown is wonderful.

She also reviews Daddy by Madison Young and Playing the Whore by Melissa Gira Grant.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #410)

Sex columnist Suzi Godson presents “10 Things You Need to Know Before You Support the Swedish Model of Sex Work” in response to the new push by UK prohibitionists.  It’s not anything new for readers of this blog, but it’s possible ammo for online discussions you may get involved in.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #410)

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz answers the many criticisms of Project ROSE by denying them to Christian Post after refusing interviews with mainstream reporters.  And if you imagine the denials are substantive or backed by facts, think again:  her entire rationale for cooperating with cops to railroad people and deny them lawyers is, “sex-work…is against the law.”  Meanwhile, in last week’s other installment of “Traffic Jam”, a demonstration of the motivation behind the fakery:

A study of advertising placed during the recent Super Bowl in New Jersey suggests the volume of sex trafficking that will occur when the event comes to Arizona in 2015 will likely exceed the ability of any one law enforcement agency to address.  Phoenix Police Lt. James Gallagher, who co-authored the study…said law enforcement must coordinate to combat sex trafficking during major events…

In other words, “give us more money and power!”  Here’s a Storify of the fun several of us had with this mess last Saturday.

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Memory works a little bit…like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people.  –  Elizabeth Loftus

One of the forms of magic characters might encounter in a Dungeons and Dragons game is illusion.  Some kinds of wizards or magic-using beings can create realistic illusions that fool the victims into believing something awful is happening, and unless they realize these phenomena are unreal and actively refuse to believe in them, they will suffer harm just as though they were real.  My friend Walter (whom I’ve mentioned before) had a running joke; whenever his character was in some sort of a dire predicament that he couldn’t think of a way out of, he would announce “I disbelieve it!” in the forlorn hope that whatever-it-was would vanish away like an illusion dispelled.

The ArrivalOf course, since the situations in which Walter announced this were never illusionary ones, his goal was just to make everyone laugh and/or break the tension of a harrowing episode.  But many people in real life think that disbelieving things, no matter what the proof of their existence, should have the legal or actual power to make them vanish; those same people also imagine the reverse, that strongly declared belief in something will make it so no matter what the evidence to the contrary.  Fortunately for those of us who prefer to live in the real world, neither of these is true:  bad things, or those which are inconvenient to one’s political agenda, cannot be dispersed by denying their existence; neither can nonexistent things, or those convenient to one’s agenda, be materialized by repeating a Shahada often enough.  But unfortunately, those who imagine otherwise are in the majority, and the law is often on their side.  The declared “beliefs” of cops (whether sincere or otherwise), and the first-person testimony of victims (or those who believe themselves to be victims, or who have been convinced by others that they’re victims) regularly trumps physical evidence in court, even when that evidence is solid and the human statements are incredible, absurd or even impossible.  And legislatures are even more disconnected from reality than courtrooms:  in statehouses, senates and parliaments the world over, sound evidence and credible, well-supported testimony is routinely disbelieved in favor of political or religious dogma, and the laws enacted from such beliefs are then enforced by vast armies of thugs prepared to inflict violence upon anyone who refuses to let the faith of irrational busybodies define his reality.

If human memory were like a videotape, and people were basically honest, the credibility gap between physical or documentary evidence and human testimony would at least be narrower than it is, and that might justify some degree of prejudice in the minds of the irrational and overly-emotional.  But it isn’t, and they aren’t; memory is both fallible and flexible, and people will lie to advance their own interests even when they know it will harm others (and even more so when they can convince themselves that the falsehood advances some “greater good”).  These two uncomfortable truths converge in special interest groups; as I explain in my forthcoming research paper “Mind-witness Testimony”,

…after-the-fact input from other people, either peers or authority figures, can distort memories so powerfully that after many repetitions the false memory will actually be much more powerful than real ones from the same time frame.  When confronted with proof of the falsity of their memories, some people have even insisted that such proof is either mistaken or manufactured…But even if there has been no external interference at all, the mere repetition of a distorted memory has the effect of strengthening it…The retelling of stories within a group biased toward a particular view produces an even more pronounced distortion, thanks to a psychological mechanism called group polarization…Obviously this dynamic tends to intensify moral panics, but because it alters the mental schemata of those involved it also affects the process of stereotypic conformation…[which means that] memories which fit the individual’s preconceptions are reinforced and those memories which do not are discarded, regardless of whether those memories are true or false

believe in fairiesIn other words, even if nobody is actively trying to manufacture false memories, then tend to occur anyway due to the powerful psychological need for group cohesion; when the leaders are actively working to create such confabulations via “reframing experiences”, they can will new memories into existence as easily as audience members heal Tinker Bell by demonstrating their belief in her.  And given the willingness of juries and lawmakers to believe in these fictions, the motive to create them is very strong indeed.  It is long past time we as a culture grew beyond believing in fairies and imagining that if we shut our eyes and cover our ears, unpleasant things will go away and trouble us no more.  Judicial proceedings and public policy must be based on evidence, not on belief, and such evidence cannot be disbelieved away even when we don’t like what it says.

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Come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.  –  William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

As regular readers know, the chief organization crusading for imposition of the Swedish model on Ireland is Ruhama, the new mask worn by the orders of nuns who for centuries enslaved many thousands of women in the horrible Magdalene laundries.  Just barely over a year ago I published “Puppet Show”, in which I shared information from Irish and British activists exposing Ruhama’s chief puppet, Justine Reilly, as a convicted “pimp” with a long history of “reframing her experiences” to transform herself from ruthless businesswoman to naïve hooker to pathetic victim of “pimps” herself (whichever was most profitable at the time).Rachel Moran  But soon after that column appeared, Ruhama unveiled a new star, Rachel Moran, whom they paid to present herself as the author of a fabricated memoir entitled Paid For.  I say fabricated because over a year before it appeared a correspondent wrote to me saying that during a bad time she had shared her own unfinished memoir with people from Ruhama and had reason to believe they had photocopied much of it and would in the near future build some tragedy porn around it; when this book appeared she confirmed that much of it was plagiarized from her manuscript.  But while Moran’s pantomime performance as victim-turned-author seems credible to True Believers and ignoramuses, it is utterly unbelievable to those involved in the tiny and close-knit world of sex work in Dublin.  For months now, activist Gaye Dalton has been “tweeting” about the holes in Moran’s story, and on February 26th she actually filed an affidavit swearing to that testimony.  When I expressed an interest in publicizing the affidavit Gaye kindly provided me with both scans and a transcription; I have combined the scans into a PDF for your perusal (her address and phone number have been pixilated to preserve her privacy), but here’s the heart of the document:

I sold sexual services on Waterloo and Burlington Roads in Dublin…between approximately June/July 1987 and March/April 1993…I worked there 5 or 6 nights a week…usually [arriving] at about 9:30pm and [working] until at least 2:30am.  I spent most of my time on the streets either walking or in two places:

  • At the top of Waterloo Road by the corner of Wellington Lane
  • Near the corner of Burlington Road outside Dublin Institute of Advanced technology

In cold or wet weather I might also sit in my car either at the top of Waterloo Road, or on Burlington Road looking out on to Waterloo Road.  The sex workers and regular clients were a small community that could be compared to the regular clientele of a pub, we all knew each other, at least by sight and were very much aware of new people, unusual occurrences, or any form of crime or abuse.  Every woman I knew at that time worked independently, for herself, apart from two women who were in personal relationships that would have been abusive and coercive in any environment…Anyone who seemed underage was prevented from working, sent home if possible and reported to Gardai.  Many of the women had teenage children of their own and were not easy to fool in this respect…Drug abuse was extremely rare and many women were actively involved in the “concerned parents” movement in their local communities.

At no time did I ever see, or hear of “Rachel Moran” author of Paid For and founder of “Space International” nor anyone resembling her, working in that area.  In her book she claims to have worked near the corner of Wellington Lane from early evening until “the small hours”, which would have placed her within 15 yards of me for several hours most nights.  I have asked several people…from that time and nobody else can remember her, or anyone like her, not only there but in any form of sex work indoor or outdoor, at any of the times she claims to have worked, between 1991 and 1998.  Beyond this, in her book Paid For and…blog The Prostitution Experience she has described several people, but not one of them even resembles anyone I ever met or heard of.  Like any small community of people there was gossip…we knew plenty about each other’s lives and were familiar with the known details of any abusive, awkward, or even interesting clients.  She does not allude to anyone recognisable  to me at all.  At no time does she show any awareness of the terminology we used, nor even the material realities of our work.  She has also, at times, claimed to have been arrested for soliciting before 1993.  Not only was this impossible, but also, one of the first things you would be told as a sex worker at that time is that you could not be arrested for soliciting. She did not even know that.

Rachel Moran is making money from her book and speaking engagements as well as…making significant input into Justice Committees both sides of the border through totally misrepresenting herself and that entire community and time.  Meanwhile real sex workers are denied all…self representation to refute [her claims]…I understand that it is unlawful for a person to obtain financial advantage from deceit, but I am personally more concerned with the damage to vulnerable, voiceless people that Rachel Moran will do with her lies.  The idea of anyone so unscrupulous having any degree of control over sex workers’ lives in future…absolutely horrifies me.  Justine Reilly, her partner in “Space International” (all reference suddenly removed from website in past few weeks) was discovered to be a convicted pimp in February 2013, after…putting herself forward in the media as a helpless victim.  RuhamasharonaI have never observed her to show any remorse towards the women she exploited, while at least one of these same women has been openly chastised by Ruhama for “disrespect” for alluding to her convictions.  During consultations in both North and South of Ireland genuine sex workers have been treated as animals who cannot think and speak for ourselves while dishonest persons such as these have been put forward as speaking for us. Genuine sex workers have been abused, intimidated and excluded while blatant lies are treated with the greatest courtesy and respect…

I wish that I could believe that this affidavit will help to undermine Moran’s credibility with the Irish government, but I have little hope for that considering the obsequious deference it has rendered and continues to render to the Magdalene orders, both on the issue of compensation to their past victims and the issue of their current attempts to bring sex workers under their control once more.  But I can and do hope that it has some deleterious effect on her credibility with the Irish people; each revelation like this one adds to the growing heap of evidence that Ruhama, like all prohibitionists, is a pack of sociopathic liars who will stop at nothing to subject all human sexual behavior to police and institutional violence.

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

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

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

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

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Slavery works as a public fantasy through which the real problems of the world can be pushed to one side and replaced with…“evil slave-owners” who allegedly lurk behind such phenomena.  –  Frank FurediSWAT thugs

The Slave-Whore Fantasy

Many organizations…receive inquiries from potential volunteers whose primary desire is to kick in doors and rescue…victims…once a potential volunteer learns that the organization does not have a covert SWAT team…they seem shocked and in disbelief.  The concept of private entities using…armed…[“rescue”] teams…is fueled by Hollywood and…non-governmental organizations…who play DVDs at anti-human trafficking events indicating their organization uses [such] teams…some even indicate their activities are unhindered by the bureaucracy of governments…

Handy Figures

I find this number very credible, given that 1% of comparatively-prudish Western women have worked as whores, plus an unknown (but certainly larger) number in other kinds of sex work:

…economist Yasuyuki Iida…says that five percent of women in Japan have [done some kind of sex work.  He]…begins by estimating that there are 10,000 clubs, bars and parlors offering sex nationwide… “each employs 30 women on average…That puts the number of women…at 300,000”…Iida settles on 10 years as the average tenure…based on data from the Ministry of Justice…the average woman enters the biz between the age of 25 and 29.  Census data…indicates that a total of 700,000 women fall within…that…group.  If 30,000 women [per year]…enter the fuzoku trade, that would represent…4.29[%] of that total…

The Course of a Disease

The Vietnamese government has just passed a decree under which clients of prostitutes will be punished more severely than the call girls…sex buyers will be fined VND500,000-VND1 million (US$23.7-$47.4)…prostitutes…will be issued a warning…in less severe cases or a monetary fine of VND100,000-VND300,000 (up to $14)…If the prostitutes are foreigners, they can be deported from Vietnam…

Legal Is As Legal Does (TW3 #7)

Another example of the need for eternal vigilance:

A delegation of former prostitutes…[and] advocates have appeared before…Parliament calling for a change to prostitution laws…the organisation Freedom from Sexual Exploitation (FFSE)…says…”the Prostitution Reform Act…not only encouraged more men to buy sex, but transformed prostitution into an acceptable, even attractive job for young, poor woman in New Zealand”…FFSE is asking the government to…[criminalize] the purchase of sexual services…

Above the Law

Three more “isolated incidents”:

Nearly twenty years after two young women were shot and stabbed to death at a Kentucky massage parlor…former [cops]…Edward Carter and Leslie Duncan are among three men charged…Tammy Papler, the woman who once ran the parlor, claimed years ago that she had been bribing police…and that the killings took place after she stopped paying.

Of course, it isn’t only whores they target:

A…San Antonio [cop raped a young woman]…Jackie Len Neal pulled [her] over…[on the pretext] that her car was reported stolen.  Even though [she] produced a sales slip…Neal insisted on patting her down…[then] placed [her] in handcuffs…[in] the back of his patrol car…[and raped her]…video cameras mounted in Neal’s cruiser were not functioning…[but] a GPS tracking system did corroborate that…[it] was parked for 18 minutes…as the woman had claimed…

And an update from the original “Above the Law”:  “A victim of a…Pittsburgh police officer…filed a federal lawsuit…Adam Skweres…failed his psychological examination before [hiring and]…the city [allowed him to keep working]…after it received complaints against him…[for] three years…Frankenstein - angry mob

The Widening Gyre

You know a moral panic is nearing its zenith when you start seeing mobs with torches:

Hundreds of people [gathered]…on Long Beach Boulevard in Compton to march against the sex trafficking of children and teenagers along the notorious strip.  The march…[followed] the route often used by johns and pimps in buying and selling young victims…”We are marching tonight to shine a light in the darkness and let these men know we see them,” [politician Mark] Ridley-Thomas said…”And to let businesses that profit from this vile trade…know that we’re coming for them”…

A Tale That Grew in the Telling (TW3 #34)

Don’t believe our data; believe our dogma instead!

In Maine…its hotline netted 19 of what Polaris Project defines as high- or moderate-level indicators of trafficking in the most recent year…Destie Sprague…[of] the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said…Mainers should not reach the conclusion that only 19 people in the state were victims of trafficking in the past year…the number is in reality much higher…

Lower Education

The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May…the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)…said that “the agreement in the Montana case represents the resolution of that particular case and not OCR or DOJ policy”…the Montana agreement included an overly broad definition of punishable sexual harassment: “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct” (i.e., speech)…Serious First Amendment and due process problems remain with…other recent OCR pronouncements…

The Crumbling Dam (TW3 #326)

Wouldn’t you love to see articles like this in the US?

Media organizations worldwide have been busy crucifying Rob Ford for his alleged crimes and intoxicated buffoonery…but mainstream outlets in Canada…need to apologize for repeatedly presenting Ford’s crimes in conjunction with allegations of “prostitution”…Having sex for money is not a crime in this country.  Even though many activities associated with it remain illegal, having sex for money…is a job…Every major mainstream media source in the city latched onto the “hanging out with suspected prostitutes” allegations…what makes someone a “suspected prostitute,” anyway?  Fishnets?…

Backwards into the Future (TW3 #329)

Though registration is a poor idea because of the inevitable bottleneck, the general tone of this article is far more sensible than anything from the US:

…Swaziland’s sex workers are not a major contributor to the spread of HIV…[it] is spread widely by people in [unpaid] sexual encounters …However…if HIV is to be contained in any country the need to protect sex workers from HIV is a requirement…Identification of sex workers is the first step, allowing a registry of sex workers for contact and communication.  Thus reachable, these individuals can receive advice on health issues, HIV testing…counselling…treatment …and a supply of condoms…public health crises require realism…

Migliorini in PlayboyLittle Boxes (TW3 #332)

A woman who sold her virginity…for $780,000 but was unable to consummate the transaction has decided to put herself back on the market…Catarina Migliorini  was initially promised to a 53-year-old Japanese millionaire, but the deal fell through after Natsu ended up being a 21-year-old who looked nothing like his online profile.  She also had a falling out with the documentary filmmaker who recruited her…

Decentralization (TW3 #334)

Another example of “sex trafficking” as default bogeyman:

…bitcoin…is not backed by any central bank or government and can be transferred “peer to peer” between any two people anywhere…By largely eliminating intermediaries, bitcoin allows individuals to conduct transactions without being subject to anti-money laundering controls, which makes it an attractive currency to criminals — particularly those who prey on the weak.  Sex slavery and human trafficking generate $9.5 billion yearly in the United States alone, with each trafficked child yielding between $150,000 to $200,000 to her pimp, who controls four to six girls on average…

It’s That Time Again (TW3 #334)

The cuckoo clock is striking 13:

Cindy McCain slammed the National Football League…for not being “willing to deal” with the issue of sex trafficking at the Super Bowl…McCain…said the Super Bowl is the “largest human-trafficking venue on the planet,” but she will be working to tackle the issue in [Arizona] in 2015…McCain emphasized the necessity of bringing the issue to…Congress.  “This issue’s not sexy on Capitol Hill yet, but we’re going to make it sexy”…

Given all the one-handed writing politicians do about “child sex slaves”, I’d say they already find it plenty sexy.  But McCain’s comments, however idiotic, are at least coherent, which is more than I can say for those of her sidekick:

…Saada Saar spoke about her involvement in shutting down “adult services” ads on Craigslist in 2010…“I will never forget that morning getting calls from some of the girls who were still out there saying, ‘Oh my God!  The pimp’s [sic] are losing their minds because they can’t put us up for sale.  We are no longer for sale’…”

Imaginary Evils

Slaves found in London 'tip of the iceberg' Daily MailI knew this would turn out to be bogus, but I’m very pleased that it came apart so quickly:

The first stories in the London slavery reports…all gave the same horrifying account:  three women had been rescued by police after thirty years held against their will…But as details emerged, it seemed to be an entirely different affair…after contacting the charity, the women were encouraged to leave the house, which they did…with no dramatic police raid…[they] had joined a radical Marxist collective…which…was like a microcosm of a Soviet state- workers toil unrewarded for the benefit of the leader…”social services, education and housing departments had all had contact with the household” and…both the leaders had been previously arrested.  The presence of these women in the house was not a new discovery by any means…

And in Spiked, Frank Furedi uses the incident as a springboard for a strong criticism of the way the word “slavery” is used to describe phenomena which are absolutely nothing like chattel slavery.

Everything Old is New Again

Here are two more stories in which “sex trafficking” is described using ludicrous Victorian phraseology; this one from Ohio tells us that the mustache-twirling villains behind the “perfidious crime” are not usually stopped by “swift apprehension”, and that arresting sex workers “[fights] the vexing scourge” by “helping to restore a semblance of normalcy to [their] lives”.  The other, from California, gasps in horror at the idea of “children…at risk” from people having sex “in a home right across the street from an elementary school,” opines that “the horror of human trafficking…has destroyed the meaning of what it means to be ‘safe’ in a free world,”  and tells us that “expanding shackles” (presumably, a technology related to “invisible handcuffs”) are “fueled” by “assumptions that these are consensual interactions with women flaunting their sexual desire alongside pimps in outlandish suits with expensive cars.”

Meanwhile, if you click back to the original column by this name you’ll see something about how New Port Richey, Florida has a scheme to allow “authorities” to persecute “known prostitutes” at will.  Well, here’s an open letter to the town from its most famous daughter, Dr. Brooke Magnanti:

…Profiling has a false positive rate greater than zero, and some of those false positives will no doubt lawyer up.  Also, picking up people because you think they might possibly commit a crime in the future is not the same as detecting people who are actually breaking the law.  It is – hm, how you say? – oh yeah, now I remember the word.  “Unconstitutional.”  (My time in Florida’s schools did not go to waste, as you can see)…

Think of the Children! (TW3 #346)

Buried down near the bottom of this farrago of pearl-clutching nonsense about a persecuted Calgary massage parlor:  “Human trafficking is not a widespread problem among sex workers in Calgary massage parlours, police say…Mary Ann Franks threatens to beat up website owners

Shame, Shame

Activists seeking to criminalize “revenge porn” say they are…[preparing] federal legislation that would force Internet companies to take [it] down…law professor Mary Anne Franks…is helping draft the bill…”Going after intermediaries is a really bad idea,” says Matt Zimmerman…[of] the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  “The entire speech ecosystem…[suffers] because those service providers…decide what people can and cannot post”…Internet companies would likely respond to such a law by removing content any time there’s a complaint, to reduce their liability and…save time…

Hard Numbers (TW3 #347)

This ugly exercise in arse-backwardness repeats lurid nonsense about “sex tourism” in Brazil using Justin Bieber clickbait while describing dry stories about sex workers’ language lessons and business improvements as “titillating”; it then dismisses UN recommendations for decriminalization in a flurry of “sex trafficking” hoo-hah (describing the fringe group Equality Now as “many NGOs”), and adds insult to injury by mentioning Gabriela Leite’s Davida without stating that it’s a sex worker rights organization.  Compare it with this one, which despite being fixated on “grittiness” is at least basically honest.

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The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.  –  Herbert Agar

The Road of Lost InnocenceEven ignoring the immorality of using lies to support one’s agenda, there is another major problem with the tactic:  unlike the truth, lies are unable to stand on their own.  Facts are what they are; even if they are neglected, forgotten, buried and denied they continue to exist, waiting to be uncovered again.  Events produce effects, and the evidence of those effects may not always be obvious to those interested in hiding the truth; it simply rests wherever it falls, awaiting a future day of discovery.  A lie, on the other hand, is like a wooden house in a wet climate: without constant maintenance it will soon begin to rot and fall apart, and if there are forces actively working against it that day will come sooner rather than later.  Unfortunately, it is the nature of human folly that most of our species prefer comfortable lies to uncomfortable truths, and even when those lies start to collapse many will ignore the process until the roof falls in on their heads…at which point they will invariably insist it was due to sabotage by their enemies rather than to the inherent unsoundness of the construction.

Somaly Mam has built an elaborate edifice of lies in which to house her extremely profitable business, and has never been terribly concerned about those she has hurt in the process.  In my column “Schadenfreude” I wrote,

…Cambodian police, aided and abetted by Somaly Mam (who is herself financed by money from neofeminists, religious fanatics, trafficking alarmists and the garment industry), have conducted a series of high-profile brothel raids and streetwalker sweeps, often accompanied by Western journalists like Nicholas Kristof who are interested in advancing their careers and reputations by pandering to “trafficking” hysteria.  None of these people care one iota about the lives, needs and desires of women; “rescuing” whores is to them nothing but a means to their own personal ends, and after the cameras stop rolling or Kristof stops “tweeting”  they are no more interested in these women’s welfare than they would be in the container which held a portion of recently-consumed food.  The “rescued victims” are thrown into filthy, crowded cells at Somaly Mam’s “rehabilitation centers” where they are beaten, robbed, gang-raped and starved while their “savior” hobnobs with celebrities and receives accolades from anti-whore fanatics.  Young girls who submit to brainwashing become…“poster children” and older ones are sent as slaves to sweatshops, while those who refuse are simply left to rot unless they can escape.  Groups like Human Rights Watch have repeatedly protested this horrific abuse, and sex worker rights groups have released short documentaries like “Caught Between the Tiger and the Crocodile” or videos like “Somaly Uh Uh” in order to alert Westerners to the atrocities their ignorant and ill-considered jihad against harlotry has enabled…

Long ProsBut in the two years since that essay, Mam’s jerry-built structure has begun to crumble.  First, it was revealed that women she had claimed in her press releases as underage and coerced were neither, and those she claimed to have been murdered or abducted by “traffickers” were alive and well.  Her ex-husband also revealed that their daughter, whom Mam claimed “had…been kidnapped and gang-raped in revenge for her mother’s activism …had simply run off with her boyfriend”; the daughter, who lives with her mother, has confirmed that.  A year ago it was revealed that Long Pros, a young woman whose eye had supposedly been gouged out by a “pimp”, and whom Mam had exploited as an “anti-trafficking” poster child, had never been involved in sex work and had lost her eye to a tumor.  Just last month Meas Ratha, Mam’s very first iconic “trafficking victim” at the beginning of her crusade in 1998, said she could no longer live a lie; she admitted that (like Long Pros) she had never been a sex worker, and that “her testimony…was fabricated and scripted for her by Ms. Mam.”  Former “rescued sex slaves” who worked for Mam’s organization AFESIP have reported endemic sexual harassment and even rape by male bosses, especially two named Phana and Ou Sophan (the latter one of Mam’s relatives); those who reported them were fired and anyone who sided with the victims was disciplined.  And in a recent interview, Mam’s ex-husband disputed even her own claims of having been “trafficked”:  “She was a prostitute.  Was she abused?  Yes.  Was she trafficked?  I doubt it.  No one has proof.

As you might expect, Mam’s organization denies everything.  She “misspoke” when she made false accusations of murder and rape.  A spokeswoman who insisted that Long Pros’ parents, doctors and medical records were all wrong told reporters, “you are now bullying victims of sex slavery.”   The reaction to Meas Ratha’s revelation was, “We don’t know why, nor will we speculate on why Meas Ratha has allegedly made [these] claims,” accompanied by an accusation that the paper which reported the story “has never been historically fair with Somaly” and is involved in a “witch hunt”.  “Trafficking” fetishist Nicholas Kristof, one of the major proponents of Mam’s legend, doesn’t care; his assistant told a reporter, “Nick isn’t going to give a comment because it seems the reports are unrelated to the reporting and writing he has done on Somaly Mam.”  And not one of the Hollywood stars, American politicians or fashion-industry moguls who have feted, promoted and bankrolled Mam and her exploitative “foundation” have seen fit to distance themselves from her or to publicly demand an explanation.  It won’t be long before they’re forced to do so by increasing media attention,Somaly Mam and Nick Kristof but I don’t expect much fanfare; they’ll just quietly exit the collapsing building, dust off their expensive designer clothes, and move on to the next celebrity fad without so much as a word of apology to those who have been brutalized, marginalized and infantilized by the wicked schemes of the greedy, unscrupulous woman they have enabled for over a decade.

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Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.  –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reptiles by MC Escher (1943)Those of you who are sensitive to symbolism may have noticed that my metaphors about trafficking hysteria often involve circles, spirals and other such forms.  In “The Widening Gyre” I used Yeats’ image of the falcon who has spiraled too far from the falconer to hear his commands; in my column from this last New Year’s Day I used the image of a runaway carousel.  This is because a moral panic, like a living thing, has a life-cycle; but unlike a living thing, it can go through long periods of dormancy and then return again from the dead.  The “sex trafficking” hysteria is so similar to the “white slavery” panic that the differences are barely worth noting, except that this time around it went through a period of appearing to be something else (the Satanic Panic) before settling back into its old, colonialist, Victorian anti-sex shape, complete with racist violence disguised as concern for the welfare of “victims”.  The panic grew from the same filth which always nourishes such monsters, went through a larval stage in which it was difficult to tell what it might mature into, metamorphosed into its adult form and has now reached its maximum extent.  But unlike a living thing, hysteria does not decline into old age; rather, it expands until its structure disintegrates and it implodes upon itself.  As recently as the beginning of last year the “trafficking” myth was fairly coherent between the various cults which adhere to it, but now we’re beginning to see wide variation in the narrative; as Yeats wrote, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

To be sure, there are still plenty of paint-by-number “trafficking” articles on the market; this recent one about the New Jersey Super Bowl, for example, has all the typical elements: gypsy whores, denial of women’s agency, cartoon “pimps”, and the obligatory “survivor” witnessing to the congregation (Hallelujah!).  While those intended for a general audience usually rely on pompous pronouncements from authority figures with a few magic numbers thrown in for effect, those intended for an audience with pretensions to intellectuality are often dense with bogus statistics (including the impossible “average debut at 13” and “100,000 children enslaved per year” idiocies); this still works because the prohibitionists know they can count on their readers’ mathematical illiteracy and intellectual laziness.

Even some of these cookie-cutter articles have variations which demonstrate the lack of coordination between cultists; one of the most obvious is the absurd “King of the Hill” game in which cities vie for the dubious distinction of being the largest “sex trafficking hub”, citing whatever nonsensical “reasons” they can think of from “FBI reports” to the presence of highways to the number of nearby rivers.  The funniest of these in my opinion are those who claim that large rural areas are somehow “attractive” to “sex traffickers” for the exact opposite reason given to rationalize the “gypsy whores” myth: while mega sporting events are supposed to attract “traffickers” because of their high (temporary) population density, some fetishists (notably those in North Carolina) proclaim that their states are attractive because of low population density; even small towns want to get in on the act.  But one almost has to admire the chutzpah of officials in Two Harbors, Minnesota (population 3745), who want to have it both ways:  they claim that “hunting season…is a key time for traffickers and pimps because it draws…large groups of men into the Northland.”

Smaller and Smaller by MC Escher (1956)And that’s only in the articles which are strictly canonical; a growing number of them diverge from the narrative to varying degrees.  Some quote old-timey cops who obviously prefer to paint whores as “criminals” and give little more than lip service to the “sex trafficking” catechism; for example, here’s a clown who justifies arresting adult escorts in a “sex trafficking” sting on the grounds that “we don’t know…how many of these young women might have started in that profession when they were minors“.  Others seem to be on the verge of seeing the truth, then slap a hasty coat of “trafficking” paint on it:  “The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 60 percent of children likely to be victims of sex trafficking have run away from foster care or group homes.  They are easy targets for traffickers because of their lack of a strong family support system…” So, so close; all that’s left is for them to recognize that it’s the kids running away of their own volition, not being “lured” away by imaginary “pimps”.  And still other articles openly challenge “trafficking” claims:

Human trafficking…[statistics] are certainly alarming and appear regularly online, and in newspaper, radio and television reports.  They are seldom interrogated by the reporters who quote them.  But are they really accurate?  Is there research to back them up?…[Chandre Gould of the] Institute for Security Studies…states that…“The numbers of trafficking victims presented in…reports [are] not based on rigorous quantitative research, but on estimates which are almost certainly inflated based largely on anecdotal evidence”…[no research] suggests a figure close to the claims that between 30,000 and 45,000 children are currently or annually being trafficking for sexual exploitation in South Africa…Gould’s research revealed very few children working as prostitutes in Cape Town.  Over a 16 month research period, only five children were encountered working as sex workers.  None of [them] were victims of human trafficking…there is little tangible evidence available that human trafficking…plays a large part in the sex trade…only 8 of the 164 women [Gould] canvassed said that they had at one time been a victim of human trafficking-like practices.  “This finding is likely to cause controversy,” she writes.  “An enormous amount of donor money is available specifically for projects that counter trafficking, so organisations working in this area potentially stand to lose funding if trafficking is not in fact as prevalent as assumed”…

Spirals by MC Escher (1953)The article goes on to debunk the “gypsy whore” myth, and concludes that “The estimated number of human trafficking victims…are exaggerated…and sensational …claims regarding the trafficking of children for prostitution and the increase of human trafficking during sporting events are not supported by research.”  And while articles like this are entirely absent from the corporate American media, a few like this one are starting to pop up in the UK:

In recent years a motley crew of government agencies, police forces, human rights activists, feminists, religious groups and celebrities have turned human trafficking into one of the biggest issues of our time.  The anti-trafficking lobby claims that millions of people around the world – mostly women and children – are being smuggled across borders by means of threat and coercion and are forced into prostitution, bonded labour and domestic servitude. The UK media – both broadsheet and tabloid – has slavishly accepted this narrative, filling column inches with salacious reports of foreigners trapped in cellars, used for tawdry sex and held under the threat of murder and even voodoo.  But this modern-day slavery scare is underpinned, not by hard evidence, but by speculation and prejudice. It is a moral panic which masks a fear of foreigners, of fluid borders and of women who exercise their agency by moving across the world in the pursuit of a better life…time and again the thousands of victims and perpetrators that the anti-trafficking lobby claims are out there fail to materialize…For anti-trafficking activists, migrants are either vicious thugs who must be locked up (the traffickers) or helpless victims who must be rescued (the trafficked)…

Shortly after the collapse of the Satanic Panic, skeptical treatments were common (and now form the dominant, though not yet universal, consensus).  And from the safe distance of a century, virtually nobody outside of the Salvation Army hesitates to declare the “white slavery” hysteria a moral panic without any basis in fact.  The same will eventually be true for “sex trafficking” hysteria, and then the circle will again be complete…for our lifetimes, at least.

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Authors, activists, consultants, and futurologists are constantly warning us about threats so spectacular and exotic they make scenarios of nuclear Armageddon look quaint.  –  Daniel Gardner

The Science of FearIt is a tired book review cliché to declare a book “important”, but I’m going to do it anyway:  The Science of Fear is an important book.  Its author is a journalist (with a law degree) rather than a scientist, but the book is extensively researched and exhaustively footnoted, and has been praised by many psychologists and other scientists.  In twelve clear and readable chapters over about 300 pages, Gardner does what so many skeptic writers fail to do in book after book: he explains not just how people immerse themselves in fearful folly, but explains why we do so.  In other words, he doesn’t merely debunk hysteria by throwing statistics at it; instead, he looks at how the instincts which served us well on the African savannah betray us in the modern world.

As Gardner explains, humans actually have two different kinds of thinking going on simultaneously and more or less independently of each other.  “System One is the more ancient.  It is intuitive, quick and emotional.  System Two is calculating, slow and rational.”  He refers to the two systems as “gut” and “head”, and convincingly demonstrates how gut – which worked beautifully for keeping pre-verbal humans out of trouble in a natural environment – leads to lots of serious problems in the complex, artificial world we’ve built.  In early chapters he explains the various “rules” hard-wired into our brains which are the source of the problem:

The Law of Similarity tells our brains that things are what they look like.  In nature, a new creature which looks like a lion is probably best avoided, while one that looks like an antelope is probably edible.  But this principle is also the basis for sympathetic magic (the idea that harming the image of a thing also hurts the original), which in the modern age has given us censorship, draconian “child porn” laws, and neofeminists’ belief that what other women do in private magically affects them.

The Anchoring Rule means that when humans are exposed to a number, any numerical estimates which closely follow exposure are adjusted from the first number rather than calculated independently, even if the numbers have nothing to do with one another.  In other words, if I took a group of people and asked them for an estimate of the number of “child sex slaves” in the US, but told them that the oft-repeated claim of 300,000 is wildly incorrect, their guesses will still be much closer to 300,000 on average than those of another group who was given no information, or who was given another, lower false estimate.  In other words, once a ridiculously-high number is thrown out in propaganda, it’s in people’s heads whether they want it there or not, and only careful consideration of factual evidence can negate that.

The Rule of Typical Things directs the brain to grab ahold of single characteristics that seem to fit a stereotype, and to ignore the unlikelihood of other factors.  For example, because people believe the “most whores are streetwalkers” and “all whores have pimps” stereotypes, they will tend to believe any narrative in which those two factors are embedded, no matter how ridiculous the other claims (50 clients a night, $300,000 a year, recruited within 48 hours of running away from home, etc) in the story may be.

The Example Rule can be simply stated as “the easier it is to recall examples of something, the more common that something must be.”  In nature, that makes perfect sense; if you can think of lots of examples of brightly-colored snakes that are poisonous and few or none that aren’t, it makes sense to conclude that most brightly-colored snakes are poisonous.  But when people are shown image after staged image of pathetic child prostitutes, and told over and over about how horrible sex workers’ lives are, and exposed to a new “survivor” narrative every week, their guts tell them that those things are common despite the fact that they are nothing of the kind.

The Good-Bad Rule means that people judge things that make them feel good as less dangerous than those which make them feel bad; when people’s minds are full of images of pimps, drug abuse, used condoms, and other “icky” things, they will be more likely to conclude that sex work is harmful and dangerous than those shown neutral or positive images (which is why prohibitionists hate “happy hooker” stories so very much).

Daniel GardnerI used prohibitionist examples in the above descriptions not because Gardner uses them, but because I want to demonstrate why a book about the psychology of fear is important to this blog.  One of the examples he does use is the “child sex predator” panic (which is especially fed by the anchoring rule and the example rule), but the majority of the examples are not sex hysteria-related; he discusses things like cancer, nuclear power, breast implants, crime, chemicals and terrorism and shows how thanks to the rules described above, people imagine them to be much more dangerous than they actually are.  He also discusses other fear-promoting psychological functions such as confirmation bias, the tendency for groups to follow the lead of their most extreme members, and the formation of false memories; this section was very helpful to me in writing my paper “Mind-witness Testimony”, which will be published in the Albany Government Law Review this spring (and which I will share with you at that time).  Finally, he looks at those who profit from the encouragement of fear – businesses, the media, special-interest groups and governments –  and shows how they exploit the irrational part of the human mind for their own purposes.  Even if you don’t generally like books on psychology, I think most of my readers will like this one; it will help you to understand more about many of the things I discuss every week.

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Foolishness is indeed the sister of wickedness.  –  Sophocles

demon-slaying BuffiesIf you haven’t heard about the “teenage exorcists” yet, take a look at this short interview from Vice in which the girls helpfully explain that you can “catch” demons by having sex with prostitutes because “Satan can’t just go into anybody that he wants to.  He has to have a legal right.”  Apparently, they think harlots are licensed agents of the Devil, which A) would probably surprise Jesus, and B) seems to mean they’ve got us confused with witches, and witches with Satanists.  But since they also seem to confuse demons with STIs and mental illness with mythical metaphysical monsters, this is not really very surprising.

Now, most people in the general public and nearly all of my readers may chuckle over the earnestness with which these sheltered young women declaim their outlandish beliefs, but it wasn’t so long ago that the same news agencies who seem inclined to mock them now were reporting stories of gigantic Satanic conspiracies with a straight face.  Furthermore, those same agencies, and probably many of the same reporters, accept and repeat the ridiculous stories of the “trafficking” hysteria with the same level of credulity these girls display in discussing demons; as I’ve pointed out before, the “trafficking” narratives are practically identical to those of the Satanic Panic, except that the shadowy all-powerful organizations abducting hundreds of thousands of nubile virgins from their families are now called “pimps” instead of “cultists” and are supposed to be motivated by evil greed rather than evil religious fervor.  There is the same focus on lurid BDSM sex, the same impossibly-high numbers of victims and sex acts per night, the same claims of vast criminal organizations, the same inability to catch any of the supposed perpetrators and the same total lack of physical evidence.  In Sweden, Satanic cults, “sex trafficking”, “repressed memories” and “patriarchy” are part of one seamless narrative, and in the rest of Europe “trafficking” cults are said to control their victims with black magic.

So really, it was inevitable that the black magic connection would reach the United States as well; “trafficking” rhetoric has grown increasingly wild and bizarre for over a year now, and the age of the supposed victims has been slowly creeping down toward the range of those in the daycare sex abuse branch of the larger Satanic hysteria.  I haven’t seen a whole story devoted to it yet (though that’s just a matter of time), but hints are starting to appear in typical “sex trafficking” stories.  For a long time now “pimps” have been credited with preternatural powers of persuasion, but this is the first time I’ve seen it cross over into the quasi-supernatural:

…Sheila Simpkins McClain’s life was fractured by violence.  At around age 14, McClain left home and became involved in prostitution…Now, years later, McClain has dedicated much of her life to working with women who are coming out of situations similar to hers.  She’s the assistant resident manager for Magdalene in Nashville, Tenn., and an intervention specialist with End Slavery Tennessee…Pimps, McClain says, can almost hypnotize young women…McClain helps to break that spell…

White ZombieYes, McClain does use the qualifier “almost”, but the reporter also uses the word “spell” in the next line despite the fact that hypnosis is neither magical, nor can it induce a person to do anything she is strongly opposed to doing.  The general public, however, believes otherwise, and it is clear that the idea McClain is trying to project is one of paranormal power.  There is no way to tell whether she believes this herself or whether it’s just a useful lie; she also claims that the internet has increased the ability of pimps to control whores, when even a large fraction of cops and other political prohibitionists recognize it’s the exact opposite (which is why they’re so desperate to persecute online ad sites that make it much harder for them to catch a large number of hookers by raiding a single brothel or stroll).

That story appeared on NPR, which abandoned its façade of journalistic skepticism a long time ago; this one from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune doesn’t even make the pretense of it.  Author Christine Stark (a staunch disciple of Dworkin who has referred to animal testing as a “system of prostitution”) uses “trafficking” as a direct synonym for “prostitution”, utterly denies that sex workers exercise any agency whatsoever, and vomits out a number of bogus “statistics” such as the astonishingly-ridiculous claim that 98% of sex workers are homeless.  But while these are typical rhetorical devices in these anti-whore, anti-male screeds, even Melissa Farley might hesitate to make the revolting claim with which Stark concludes her deranged attack:

…Duluth harbor is notorious among Native people as a site for the trafficking of Native women from northern reservations…to be sold on the ships and in Duluth and Superior.  Native women, teen girls and boys, and even babies have been sold for sex on the ships…

As I’ve pointed out before, the common lie that the “average prostitute enters the trade at 13” automatically implies that a huge number of underage hookers are literal babies.  But because most of the people who repeat this idiocy are far too stupid to understand that, I don’t think most of them actually believe that large enough numbers of men want to rape infants to support a commercially-viable enterprise; Christine Stark does, though, and is willing to say so in print.  How the disappearance of all these babies is covered up (even in a marginalized population) she cannot say, but it’s not difficult to see the resemblance between Stark’s sex-trafficked infants and those the Satanists were supposed to have produced in droves by impregnating young girls, then wiping their memories and returning them to their homes.  And if one can believe that the magical hypnotic powers of “therapists” can “recover” memories, it certainly isn’t that much of a stretch to believe in the magical hypnotic power of “pimps” to erase them.  Or the magical power of demons to possess someone via sex.  Or the magical power of teenage girls to drive said demons out.

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