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Posts Tagged ‘The Privilege Paradigm’

Any act that would not be illegal if no money changed hands is not a crime just because money changes hands.  –  Mistress Matisse

R.I.P. Grace Bellavue Grace Bellavue

The prominent Australian sex worker and activist, Grace Bellavue, died on Sunday.  I’m told she wrote her own obituary some time ago, and I’ll publish it in its entirety as soon as it can be located; in the meantime, this profile  and this account of how she came out to her family may give you some vague idea of what this extraordinary woman – one of the first in Australia to risk legal and social consequences by showing her face as an activist – was like, and why she will be sorely missed.

Rough Trade 

A King County Superior Court judge sentenced [Christopher Beck] to 33 1/3 years in prison…for raping three women — two of them sex workers — over 15 days in March 2014…should he be released, Beck will be required to register as a sex offender for life…defense attorney Walt Peale said…each victim “contributed significantly to the crime being committed” by engaging in illegal sex work…[in reality] Beck is a serial rapist who terrorized women he specifically targeted because he thought they wouldn’t report the rapes to police and if they did, that no one would believe them…Beck didn’t pay any of the women…

Profit from Panic 

Listed below are job openings in non-profit organizations and for-profit (FP) companies that are fighting human trafficking.”  I’m sure it won’t surprise you to see that most of them are in either PR or finance.

The Public Eye

Here’s a profile of Denver’s Domina Elle:

I like to call myself an adult play facilitator.  The type of work I do is much broader than just BDSM or fetishistic type stuff.  I specialize in helping people to open this part of their sexual selves, and be playful and creative.  That’s one reason I love balloons.  It’s a very friendly catalyst.  It’s erotic and playful, and yet it’s not as scary as some of the other stuff when you start looking at BDSM…

Cuckoo Advertising

Uber-sleaze Dennis Hof is another master of tricking gullible reporters into printing his ads for free as “news items”:

…the owner of Nevada’s Bunny Ranch…announced a new perk for his…employees:  He will match their student loan payments 100% for two months, up to the amount they make as prostitutes at the ranch.  Brothel owner Dennis Hof says he was inspired by the growing number of debt-laden college students he’s seen turning to sex work as a fast way to pay off their loans.  His offer covers payments for education at any two- or four-year university…

The Privilege Paradigm

I’m part of a nascent but growing movement within the left to question the efficacy of current left political and rhetorical tactics, particularly concerning the privilege frame…[it] is a deeply limited way to look at the world, and at times it leads to perverse consequences.  To see the way in which they can really screw up political analysis, check out this Daily Kos piece by Shaun King…The question for people like King…is whether or not they really want to oppose mass incarceration and our current police state.  Because that edifice is so powerful, and so deeply embedded into our system, that it will take a genuinely unified front to oppose it.  That means not siding with the police…What’s the priority?  Scoring the purely rhetorical point of identifying privilege?  Or actually transforming the system that hurts so many poor people and people of color?

Frequently Told Lies

Eithne Crow explains the problems with common responses to prohibitionist propaganda:

When someone is telling you that you don’t know your own life or your own experiences, that you don’t know what you do or don’t consent to, and they’re making no attempt to hide their revulsion – asking invasive questions and telling you that you’re damaged and a liar and a victim – it’s hard to keep it all together.  The implication that we’re dirty, disgusting and desperate draws on a narrative so firmly established, institutionalised and legitimised by nearly everything in our culture that sometimes it’s hard to keep swimming against the tide…I still see these narratives of empowerment versus exploitation being perpetuated all over the place. and I think we need to start saying to each other: “I see you, and I understand that your back’s against the wall and that’s really hard, but when we’re trying to demand rights and you say ‘I like my job’, what does that mean for people who don’t?”…

Another Fine Mess

No, Rhode Island didn’t “accidentally” decriminalize prostitution.  But maybe Georgia did:

In Georgia, it is an absolute defense to a charge of prostitution that the defendant was being sexually trafficked….but the law is so broad that virtually any…prostitute can make a credible claim to being trafficked.  Coercion can mean threats of “bodily harm,” but it can also mean “threatening to expose… information… that if revealed would tend to subject to…. ridicule,” “providing a controlled substance,” or “threatening financial harm.”  So a prostitute who accepts crack cocaine…meets all the elements of the statute…Or let’s say a prostitute…asks the john for $40, and the john declines, saying it will be either $30 or nothing.  Now there’s a threat of financial harm.  Deception is even broader.  It can include promising a benefit…then not delivering.  Or “[c]reating or confirming another’s impression of an existing fact or past event which is false and which the accused knows or believes to be false”…Arguably, [this] might even apply to police officers making undercover busts…

Little Boxes (#504)

It looks like the “cuddlers” are competing with masseuses to see who can come up with the most pompous rationalizations of why they aren’t sex workers:

…To help [pretend that it’s]…an…industry with no connection to prostitution, the therapeutic massage industry emphasizes training and certification.  Most states have massage therapy licensing boards that regulate practitioners. To obtain a license typically takes at least 500 hours of supervised, in-class training…Such requirements help reinforce the [notion] that massage therapy is a skilled discipline practiced by experienced professionals who possess genuine medical knowledge and hard-to-acquire skills…Along with the training costs, some states or municipalities impose additional fees [and legal restrictions] on therapeutic massage businesses…But if professional cuddling attempts to go this route, an obvious issue arises.  “There’s only so much information you can give on teaching cuddling versus massage,” says Evan Carp…

Guinea Pigs Female Head with biometric facial map

Note Facebook’s half-assed “correction” near the bottom of the original:

…New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Facebook engineers will help his office use “innovative data and analytical methods” to combat online child sex operations…Facebook declined to further provide details, but a likely guess is the project will draw on Facebook’s massive database of “faceprints” to identify victims who appear in the sex ads…law enforcement agencies could cross-check images of their faces to discover their identities—and possibly pictures of the people who are controlling them…

What Were You All Waiting For?

Another pro-decrim article, this one quoting Mistress Matisse:

…In August, Amnesty International voted that the best policy to protect sex workers is the full decriminalization of consensual sex work…the recommendation…served as a mainstream wake-up call about the dangers of the current legislation in the U.S…Current laws regarding sex work can be seen as the criminalization of an exchange between consenting adults.  However, Nevada is currently the only state in the U.S. that allows for the legal exchange of sexual service, legalizing prostitution in regulated brothels (as opposed to decriminalization, as argued for by most sex work activists)…

The Face of Trafficking (#567)

This is what really happens when a wannabe “pimp” abducts a girl:

[On October 5th, Alabama] Police received a call from family members of a 14-year-old saying she wasn’t where she was supposed to be and was missing.  Moments later, an anonymous caller told police a girl about that same age was being used as a prostitute inside a residence…“After talking with the parties there, we located the juvenile,” explained Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan…[he] said there were drugs and money exchanged to have sexual contact with the 14-year-old girl in a back bedroom…Rashard Ricks, has been charged with human trafficking…Jerrin Donley is charged with rape…

Broken Record (#575) 

The descent of “sex trafficking” hysteria into self-parody continues unabated:

…The New Colossus is a…group in Sioux Falls that raises awareness about…human trafficking…[they] say here in South Dakota there’s two times a year when there’s a spike in trafficking – during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and the [pheasant] hunting season….[which] brings the problem into rural communities…[Polly] Dean says some of the girls being trafficked…are from reservations in the state, but also from places like Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.  While people will be keeping an eye out for birds…The New Colossus want everyone to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity as well…Some of the things people should look for are women who appear in multiple locations…

That’s right, women moving around in public (instead of staying in the home, presumably) are inherently suspicious.

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All prostitution laws are conceived as methods to control women who, before ideas of victimhood took hold, were understood to be powerful, dangerous figures associated with rebellion, revolt, carnival, the world upside down, spiritual power and calculated wrongdoing.  –  Laura Agustín

The Pro-Rape Coalition

Dr. Robert King on porn, with a nice endorsement of yours truly:

…Some would like to ban fantasies—hide them away…fantasy can function as an outlet for desire…violence—including sexual violence–has been decreasing across the board.  Has consumption of violent fantasy decreased?  Quite the reverse.  Violent video is everywhere but violent crime has gone down…we really need to stop thinking that we…know what is good for others—especially when those others are consenting adults…puritans…try to control others’ sexuality…through guilt, fear, and misinformation… as documented in exhaustive detail by the excellent Brooke Magnanti and Maggie McNeill…If the puritans were serious about harm to children they would spear-head proper realistic sex education…

Decentralization

Brian Doherty draws on a Forbes article to discuss the government’s latest efforts to shut Bitcoin down, destroy everything good about it or, failing in both of those, to steal a cut of it.

If It Were Legal

One wonders how much more often sex workers could help to fight actual crime were we not absurdly and arbitrarily classed as criminals ourselves:

A prostitute given $300 in dye-stained $20 bills led police to the home of the man suspected of robbing a…bank…she…told the FBI agent [that the suspect, Anthony] Nugent…began behaving erratically [after paying her, so]…she left…later that night…her boyfriend…told her [the money] appeared to be dye-stained…Bubblegum Husky

Scapegoats

Frankly, what’s most “unclear” to me is how this is even physically possible:

An Idaho man was arrested Thursday after police say he sexually penetrated a cat on more than one occasion.  Ryan Havens Tannenholz, 28 – a…”furry” who dresses up as a dog he calls Bubblegum Husky — is charged with six counts of crimes against nature, and one count of cruelty to an animal…It’s unclear how [police] learned about [his] alleged actions…Furry News Magazine Flayrah reports that Tannenholz was a member of…furry fandom…who portrayed himself as a “sparkly” husky, a blue fox named Kismet…and another purple canine…

Above the Law

I’ve said it countless times:  As long as government actors have excessive power over individuals, cops will continue to rape women in their homes:  “A deputy in Texas accused of raping a woman in front of her children has resigned…Lisa Rodriguez…said [he] told her if she resisted he would take her to jail…” or during traffic stops:  “…Thomas Merenda and Franklin Hartley…are charged with unlawful compensation, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison…Hartley ordered the passenger to perform oral sex on him, then [raped] her.  Merenda…asked the victim…to punch him in the…genital area…’Tom really enjoys this’, [Hartley] reportedly told the driver…”  Note that the cops are charged with “accepting bribes” rather than rape, and the reporter even avoids the word.  TSA agents can’t even confine their groping to travelers:  “A [TSA] manager at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport resigned after he was charged with sexually abusing a co-worker…Shane Hinkle, 38…is accused of forcibly touching [his victim]…

Enabling Oppression

The Polaris Project continues its loathsome and exploitative campaign to link sex work to historical American black slavery:

New undercover footage of pimp-controlled prostitution will be shared…at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and End Slavery Cincinnati to show the realities of enslaved women.  The Polaris Project developed the 20-minute footage from the streets of Washington, D.C.  Following the showing, representatives from The Salvation Army’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program, the Cincinnati Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Off the Streets program will speak about the reality of pimp-controlled prostitution in Cincinnati…

Imagination Pinned Down

Elizabeth LoftusHere’s a short overview of the work of Elizabeth Loftus, the foremost expert on the malleability of human memory:  “…Loftus…has done more than any other researcher to document the unreliability of memory…and…has used what she has learned to testify as an expert witness in hundreds of criminal cases…informing juries that memories are pliable and that eyewitness accounts are far from perfect recordings of actual events…Now…[her] research is starting to bring about lasting changes in the legal system…” I drew heavily upon Dr. Loftus’ work for the research paper I wrote for the Albany Government Law Review, to be published this autumn.

Hooker Humor (TW3 #31)

Miranda Kane, the BBW escort turned comedienne, is getting good reviews; here’s an introduction she wrote for the Edinburgh Festival:

…There’s a stigma to sex-workers, as well as their clients.  We’re all shown the negative side, the poor, helpless trafficked victims.  But all the women I knew were just ordinary, happy ladies who just happened to enjoy having sex for money…Our clients weren’t seedy, sex-obsessed perverts.  They were kind, keen, appreciative men who just wanted a moment of luxury, intimacy… to be able to be with the kind of women they could only fantasise about normally…My show exposes the every-day life of a sex-worker; how we work in the digital age, the bizarre and strange requests from clients, what both elated and annoys us.  I try and show the human aspect – that the women are normal, they’re not drug addled victims, nor are they overtly beautiful and wealthy courtesans.  They’re women you see every day…

Bottleneck

[Queensland] Police Minister Jack Dempsey is considering allowing sex workers to make suburban house calls after lobbying by the Prostitution Licensing Authority.  While it is lawful for sole operators to make house calls it is illegal for brothels to send their workers to clients…brothel owners…[say they] need the extra business to remain profitable…[PLA] chairman Manus Boyce…[said] that illegal prostitution was operating without fear in Queensland and that allowing more outcalls could put more pressure on the illicit trade…

The Naked Anthropologist

Last week Dr. Laura Agustín published “Prostitution Law and the Death of Whores”, a primer for those who haven’t thought much about the harm anti-prostitution laws cause:

…Twenty years ago I first asked two questions that continue to unsettle me today.  The first is answerable:  What does a woman who sells sex accomplish that leads to her being treated as fallen, beyond the pale, incapable of speaking for herself, discountable if she does speak, invisible as a member of society?  The answer is she carries a stigma.  The second question is a corollary:  Why do most public conversations focus on laws and regulations aimed at controlling these stigmatized women rather than recognizing their agency?  To that the answer is not so straightforward… My focus on the female is deliberate.  All who propose prostitution policy are aware that men sell sex, but they are not concerned about men, who simply do not suffer the disgrace and shame that fall on women who do it…

Though it’s not extremely long, the article covers agency denial, the “rescue industry”, the irrationality of prostitution law, neofeminism, the Swedish model and media sensationalism; it’s thus one you should bookmark for sharing with people who are ignorant, but will listen to reason.floating brothels Utrecht

Dutch Threat

As the Netherlands continues to cave in to greed and hysteria, Dutch sex workers have been forced to find their own solutions:  “A group of 15 prostitutes in Utrecht have set up a cooperative to run floating brothels after the council withdrew operating permits from their previous landlords.  The cooperative, named Macha’s, is now applying for a…brothel licence and a boat mooring permit…Some 300 Utrecht prostitutes lost their place of work when the council cancelled contracts for the operation of brothels…because of human trafficking fears…

Backwards into the Future (TW3 #321)

The Commission for Gender Equality has [submitted] a proposal…for the decriminalisation of sex work [in South Africa]…“The current position of total criminalisation has not succeeded in addressing problems associated with sex work”…said the…commission…[which] was informed by studies conducted in…New Zealand and Australia.  “Legislation…should adopt the principle that sex work is work, and allow the industry to be governed by the wealth of existing labour and business laws aimed at preventing unsafe, exploitative and unfair business practices”…The commission said studies…offered strong and concrete evidence that decriminalisation empowered sex workers to protect themselves from violence…improved relationships…[with] the police…[and] reduced chances of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation of children…

Zurvivor

Deals with devils always have more conditions than anticipated:

The Maine woman convicted of running a prostitution business out of a Zumba fitness studio is headed back to court…to fight having to testify at the trial of one of her clients.  Alexis Wright…has been subpoenaed by prosecutors to testify at the trial of Donald Hill…

It’s That Time Again (TW3 #326)

A politician’s wife wants her state to look even stupider than New Jersey by starting “gypsy whores” panic a year and a half in advance:

The wife of Sen. John McCain…is calling on the [Arizona] legislature to pass tougher laws against human trafficking…[for] the Super Bowl in 2015.  “The Super Bowl, as all of you know, is one of the world’s largest human trafficking centers when it goes on in the world,” McCain said…Forbes reported that 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.  There were 133 prostitution arrests in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl…

No, Forbes said that habitual liars NCMEC claimed there were that many, and there were 133 arrests of all kinds in the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area during a 2½ week period before the Super Bowl…which is typical for DFW.Spreadsheets

Between the Ears (TW3 #332)

Dr. Brooke Magnanti writes about others who think good sex can be defined by statistics:

…Thanks to the new [iPhone] app Spreadsheets, no longer will you have sex without being able to save and analyse the stats of your performance…according to the company’s website:  “Spreadsheets monitors data from user’s movement and audio levels through the accelerometer and microphone to provide statistical and visual analysis of their performance in bed”…The notion that longer is better…and that loud equals enjoyment has gained such traction in popular culture that it’s hard to find any other measure of what “good” sex is…I once dated a guy whose sole measure of whether a good time had been had was how long he stayed erect.  Being jackhammered long into the wee hours is hardly a great way to spend your time…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do (TW3 #332)

A pastor from…Sweden has been convicted of buying sex from a prostitute after…police broke up a major pimping operation…[he] has been temporarily relieved of his duties…”  Synopsis of the rest:  “human trafficking”, “These woman were used as if they were on a conveyor belt“, blah blah blah.

Election Day (TW3 #332)

As you might imagine, I find this new trend of cops arresting retired madams on drug charges to be a highly disturbing one:

…Heidi Fleiss has been charged in Nevada with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell…officers found nearly 400 marijuana plants growing in and around…[her] home in Pahrump…She said she had been growing marijuana without a license and that she intended to sell it to a cooperative in Las Vegas…she was not arrested.  All the plants were taken away by police as evidence.

Yeah, “evidence”.  Pull the other one, guys.

The Privilege Paradigm

Coincidentally, someone else wrote about the problem with the word “privilege” and came to almost exactly the same conclusions as I did:

…A privilege is something extra — and from a very young age, I knew that when something was referred to as a privilege, I was in danger of losing it.  How does that make sense…with something like being free from fear of police harrassment?…when it is called a “privilege,” my initial thought is that it is something unjustified that should be taken away — i.e., we should all have to be stopped and frisked…I [have] some degree of autonomy and dignity in my work — do we really want to say that that’s a “privilege”?  In both cases, aren’t we dealing with something more like a right that’s been denied to a great many people?…

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The war on privilege will never end.  Its next great campaign will be against the privileges of the underprivileged.  –  H.L. Mencken

check your privilegeI finally figured out exactly what it is about the word “privilege” that annoys me so much.  It isn’t just that it’s thrown about so often these days that its place in an identity politics or “feminist” drinking game or bingo-card parody would be a given; nor that it’s often used (generally in the phrase “check your privilege”) to shut down discourse; nor that it’s increasingly employed by statists to subvert the concept of individual liberties; though of course all those things are part of it.  Over a year ago I wrote that

…I tend to tune out when sex worker activists start blathering about “privilege” as though it were some specific quality like height, skin color, IQ or income.  There is no single quality in the modern world which confers “privilege” as birth once could, not even money or education.  I’m not denying that some people are underprivileged and others start out with greater advantages, but this is inevitable in a world where everyone is different; even in a hypothetical post-scarcity economy of the future where teaching machines gave everyone a university degree at the age of five, there would still be a plethora of areas in which some had advantages over others.  Furthermore, early advantages no more ensure success than early disadvantages guarantee failure, and in fact a growing number of psychologists point out that too much privilege often makes a child (and the adult he becomes) fragile, maladjusted and less likely to succeed than one who has to struggle to achieve his goals.  It is as pointless to feel guilty about one’s natural advantages as it is to resent those with other advantages one lacks…

At the time, I knew that overuse of the word irritated me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on the exact reason.  But now I realize what it is, and it’s twofold.  Firstly, a privilege is something that is conferred upon a person by others; we don’t speak of a dog’s “superhuman hearing privilege” or a bird’s “flight privilege” because we all understand that these things are innate in the animal.  Yet similar natural characteristics in humans are often referred to as “privileges”, despite the fact that they cannot be considered such by any normal understanding of the word; no conscious entity “grants” a human a good brain, a healthy body or a stable neurochemistry, therefore these things can only be advantages, not “privileges”.  And that brings us to the second part of the problem:  the word “privilege” implies an advantage which is undeserved and unearned, and thus something for which the individual so “gifted” supposedly owes some debt or obligation to someone else (generally God, country or “society”).  The replacement of semantically-neutral words like “characteristic” with the semantically-loaded “privilege” is an overt attempt at emotional manipulation, an effort to make the fortunate feel guilty for characteristics over which they had no more control than their eye color or height.

not a privilegeGovernment’s conversion of natural rights into granted “privileges” is a similar cognitive game; if civil liberties are unearned “privileges” magnanimously granted by beneficent governments, “authorities” arguably have the power to take them away again under certain conditions just as a landlord has the right to evict a tenant who has violated his lease.  But when we recognize that self-ownership and personal agency are the birthrights of every single sentient being, governmental abrogation of those rights is seen for what it truly is:  Violation.  Usurpation.  Theft.  Rape.  For example, using the phrase “white privilege” pardons the government for its systematic violations of the rights of minorities; if the way white people are preferentially treated in Western societies is a “privilege”, an “extra” thing conferred upon some but not others, the onus of guilt seems to fall upon those who are fortunate enough to have received this (undeserved) gift.  But if we recognize the truth, that such treatment is the birthright of everyone, then the onus falls where it belongs:  on those government actors who act independently or collectively to rob minorities of what is rightfully theirs by virtue of their humanity.  Being harassed relatively less by cops, being treated more leniently by the courts and the like are not “privileges” conferred upon white people who otherwise would be treated as poorly as minorities; rather, minorities are cheated and robbed of their inalienable right to be treated in the same way as white people.  To refer to decent, respectful treatment as a “privilege” is to imply that nobody actually deserves it, when in reality everybody does.  And nothing that rightfully belongs to everyone alike can reasonably be called a “privilege”.

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