Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Safety of Prostitutes

It was decided a long time ago not to criminalize prostitutes. For thousands of years (it is "the world's oldest profession" after all), prostitutes were treated like thieves, or at least like public nuisances. Gradually, our legal system discovered that many prostitutes were victims of circumstances (or of patriarchy, or of gangsters) and couldn't bring itself to punish them for their own bad luck,

But we still didn't want it as a society. We didn't want women on street corners propositioning men in front of families. We didn't want men driving cars slowly down streets where prostitutes were known to work and propositioning daughters and wives of decent folk. Hence the laws against communicating for the purposes of prostitution.

We didn't want houses of ill-repute, brothels, operating openly, with all the imagined shouting, fighting, fornicating, and accompanying criminal activity and overall bad influences on the community they were presumed to bring. Hence the laws against keeping a common bawdy house.

We wanted to go after the exploitative pimps who we all knew were keeping poor women trapped in prostitution and taking the bulk of their earnings for themselves to finance their repulsive lifestyles. Hence the laws against living off the avails of prostitution.

But the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled against all those laws saying they denied the freedom and safety of the person Charter rights of prostitutes. For reasons you can look up if you're so inclined.

Proponents for the freedom of sex-workers to be sex workers were delighted, whereas social conservatives and feminists for the abolition of prostitution were appalled. The fraudulently-installed harper regime, under the leadership of our moronic, corrupt "Justice Minister" Peter MacKay returned with a law (which will surely be tossed-out upon a challenge), based partially on what is known as the "Nordic Model" of prostitution regulation; in that it targets the clients, the buyers of sex, rather than the prostitutes themselves, the sellers of sex. (It also criminalizes prostitutes though, outlawing communication for the purposes of prostitution, and providing criminal penalties for conducting the business anywhere near where a child might come into contact with it. This bit of overreach is what will doubtlessly have the law thrown out.)

When all is said and done, I think the reality of prostitution for most people who have ever been in the trade has been a bad thing. And therefore, I'm prepared to say that if the "Nordic Model" works, and it really reduces prostitution without producing all the dangers for those who remain in the trade (especially if it doesn't reduce their numbers by all that much, producing an absolute increase in human misery) then it should be tried.

As a result there is a heated debate between sex-workers and their advocates and abolitionists. The sex-workers accuse the abolitionists of making their lives more difficult and dangerous and the abolitionists accuse the sex-worker freedom advocates of being dupes to patriarchy and, furthermore, that they are putting their imagined "freedoms" before the actual sufferings of other women (especially minorities, especially - in Canada - indigenous women, who are disproportionately forced into the trade). As Sooey Says says, it is unfair to blame abolitionist feminists for the male violence that they claim will result from this continued criminalization.

I'd like to offer some of my own speculation. All of the things that sex-worker freedom advocates talk about: Operating from a safe space, having a phone number to screen calls, having a security system, ... don't apply to some poor woman, perhaps a drug-addict, working the street. But much more work is going to be necessary in our society be able to stop poor women from going out to the streets in desperation to  try to sell their bodies. Aboriginal rights activists and feminists,, especially those who had been former sex workers themselves, ... that's not going to have much impact on the desperately poor aboriginal women who are going to inevitably find themselves in the trade.

What is needed is genuine alternatives to prostitution. (Which is why I wonder about the persistence of prostitution in the Nordic countries with their advanced welfare states.)

What is needed is an assault on the mental prejudices, such as misogyny, that poison society in all sorts of areas, including the sex trade. But racism is another one. Less misogyny and racism will mean greater equality and social justice for racialized minority women in our society and less likelihood that if a man finds himself with a prostitute who is a racialized minority female, that he will feel ENTITLED to treat her like garbage.

My position is that there is nothing inherently wrong with prostitution per se., but there is a lot wrong with our society. There is so much wrong with our society, that if the Nordic Model works, then it should be implemented. But if the Nordic Model doesn't reduce prostitution by as much as its advocates claim and it makes things more dangerous for those who remain, then it should be abandoned.

There is nothing inherently wrong with coffee really. But it is often harvested by exploited peasants who are murdered if they organize against their exploitation. There is nothing inherently wrong with lap-tops, but they contain the mineral coltran, which is often mined by child slaves, and they are often manufactured in Chinese sweat-shops by workers whose working conditions sometimes drive them to suicide. We continue to  drink coffee and work on our lap-tops while issuing blanket condemnations of prostitution and calling for its utter abolition. And, no, I'm not trying to back-handedly condemn abolitionists of glaring hypocrisy. I'm saying only what my words say: That I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with prostitution but I recognize that the conditions for most prostitutes are appalling. It is the factors (anti-sex psychoses/misogyny/racism/economic injustice) that make it horrible that should be attacked. But that's true with or without the Nordic Model.

Here ends my series on prostitution.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Arguments For and Against Prostitution

Now, I've said that I wouldn't partake of the services of prostitutes. At the moment I can't see myself doing that. It's entirely possible that I might one day be a 65-year old lecher calling up some escort service for a 20-year old vixen, but I don't see it.

That having been said, I don't see prostitution as inherently evil and degrading. Certainly as it manifests itself, I think that in practice it is often evil and degrading. This is due to our love-hate relationship with sex and to the general level of misogyny in our society.

From what some sex-workers have to say though, it isn't always the case. In interviews with sex columnists, I've read that individual prostitutes have reported that anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of their clients express sincere gratitude for their services. The actual number of abusive clients being quite small in comparison.

If it's possible to separate sex from love (and it most certainly is), prostitution can serve as a useful way for inexperienced people to become comfortable with the act, instead of fumbling and embarrassing themselves with a hopeful romantic partner.

It's possible that individuals might have difficulty finding a romantic partner for extended periods of time. Rather than suffer in undesired sexlessness, or entering into a doomed relationship with an incompatible partner, people could relieve the tension by paying for a prostitute.

It seems to be the case that neither men nor women are hard-wired for lifetime monogamy. Unfortunately for us, we arrange our lives in the hopes of having lifetime partners, especially when we have children together.  Rather than have "affairs" and all the messiness that entails, men and women could obtain sexual variety from prostitutes.

Finally (for now) people interested in exploring sexual "kinks" could investigate these desires with specialist prostitutes who can moderate the level of intensity as these newcomers require.

What could go wrong?

Virgins can find their initial sexual experiences to be cold and mechanical. (As opposed to fumbling and embarrassing.)

Difficult people can swear-off ever trying to be emotionally mature enough for a romantic relationship and instead be self-centered assholes to prostitutes.

Married partners can blow the kids' college fund on prostitutes.

Prostitutes can be unwillingly forced to perform unnatural acts for perverted, sadistic employers and clients.

At the back of it all is coercion. Let's not kid ourselves.  If "red-light districts" or brothels and rub-and-tugs didn't exist, there wouldn't be so many human traffickers tricking or coercing so many women (especially from poor countries) into sexual slavery. (Gorgeous women from Eastern Europe don't have an innate desire to fuck all sorts of Western men for money which the end of the Cold War has now made it possible for them to do. Those hot Asian babes in the classified ads don't all consider themselves to be "living the dream.")

On the other hand, there definitely are women for whom (who?) prostitution is freely chosen. NOT because it's the dream job they saw themselves doing ever since they were little girls, but because it's the steadiest work they can find and it pays the best wages they see themselves as being able to command. I don't think this is the same thing as economic and sexual exploitation. Please follow: Sex is not inherently degrading. Prostitution is not inherently degrading. Prostitution is an occupation. The vast majority of their clients are either noticeably grateful and/or repeat customers. It pays the bills far better than any other occupation that they see themselves as able to obtain.

It's these women who have decided that in this world, in this life, at this place and time, that this is what they're going to do. And they saw the laws that prevented them from working from a safe space, able to freely communicate with and screen their clients, and able to employ drivers/bodyguards, have boyfriends, support their children, as violating their rights to freedom of expression and security of the person.

Does legalized prostitution mean that human trafficking is now legal? Did the Supreme Court strike down laws against fraudulently telling Chinese women that they could provide them with modelling jobs in Canada, force them into prostitution, keep their passports from them and threaten them with violence if they try to leave?

It did not.

Did the Supreme Court say that juveniles are free to sell their bodies and to turn the money over to their pimps?

It did not.

Again though: Where is the line separating a respectful, grateful client of an independent individual who has (for all intents and purposes) voluntarily entered into the sex-trade, and the entitled, selfish creep who doesn't care that the young woman he's using is the victim of kidnapping and coercion? Or the men who are having sex with children? I don't know where that line is. I honestly don't.

One constant is the vast over-representation of men as the clients. Why is this?

A lot is said about "male entitlement" and a lot of that is valid. Supposedly men feel entitled to women's bodies and will become resentful and violent when their desires are frustrated. This is true. But in the same way that people cannot see their "privilege" because it seems so natural, some men can't see their sense of "entitlement." To them, it's just "desire." They haven't constructed the world so that women's economic choices are such that so many of them see prostitution as the best of a bad situation. (Albeit sometimes a lucrative best of a bad situation.)

And I want to advance a possibility that I honestly have no idea whether it's valid or not: But might it not be the case that the general lack of a sense of "entitlement" among women is at least partially the result of society denying women's sexual desire? In a culture where little girls are discouraged from burping and farting and otherwise being human, and where sexual women are shamed as "sluts" and "whores," the paucity of female demand for male prostitutes a result of sexual repression? (Or is it also the case that if a woman wants to get laid, she only has to make this information public to be satisfied, which is not always the case for men?)

When I first opened this line of discussion, I mentioned that there are social-cultural-economic reasons why men don't become prostitutes in as great numbers as women. There's a lack of demand, but also a lack of necessity or free choice to do so.

So, the end result of today's post is that I don't know the answers. I'll conclude with a final post about the issue of safety.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is Prositution Inherently Degrading?

What kind of a question is that?

Is sex inherently degrading? No. But it sure can feel that way sometimes. (Louis CK has a routine where, early in his career, he sleeps with a drunken patron and she wakes up and looks at him and then holds her face in her hands in disgust. He says it's always interesting to find out you're part of somebody's hitting rock-bottom in their life.)

So, yeah. Sex can be messy and sordid and nothing you'd want your parents or your pastor to see you doing. But other times it can be pretty darned nice. Darned tootin'!

So I think it is with prostitution.  Most of the time I'm sure "sex work" is disgusting. For the vast bulk of the people performing it. Other times, it must seem pretty rote and repetitive. (Just like it probably is for a lot of married people.) For a lucky few, it might be extremely well-paying and occasionally enjoyable and fun. No doubt, for almost everyone in the trade, there are a lot of insights on the human condition to be had (if they're sensitive enough to pick them up).

I think I'm going to skip ahead a bit here. I 'll just come out and say that I think a lot of the reason why prostitution is outright loathed though, is because there is, in our society, as in most societies, the feeling that sex is inherently degrading. That sex is bad.

I also think that in our society, as in most societies, women are degraded. Women are inherently bad and inferior.

And, therefore, women who engage in the sex trade get the appellation "WHORE" which is up there with among the worst things that you can call someone. And I think it's the combination of these two toxic mindsets that produce most of the evils of prostitution.

I could probably come up with something more profound and insightful, but that's all for today.

 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Prostitution Again

There seems to be a lot of rhetoric on both sides of the abolition/de-criminalization/legalization debate. Very often this rhetoric backs up some valuable insights.

Personally, I can't see that I'd ever use the services of a prostitute. There's too much of coercion and desperation in that line of work. I can't even see myself getting a high-price "escort" (assuming I could afford it) because of the continuities between the exploited victims of human traffickers and the drug addicts and the confident, highly remunerated "lady of the evening."

(Pornography; now THAT's a different matter. For the most part they get to choose who they work with, that is, who they fuck. That's different from going on pay-dates with strangers. Obviously, some women in porn aren't where they want to be, and there a continuities between them and the porn-stars, but my aversion to high-priced prostitution isn't based on rationality. Also, I don't watch pornography that has men slapping faces, pulling hair, choking women. Seeing that makes me queasy. Truth be told, I prefer that men not be there at all. They either look like lumpy things, or scrawny shapeless things. And I always get uncomfortable that they're going to start with the slapping and the choking.)

But a lot of the people using the rhetoric are supposedly not arguing about the morality of it at all, but about the issue of safety for sex-workers, or women's rights (with abolitionists and legalizers taking up that mantle). Even if Dr. Dawg accused the abolitionists of being Miss Grundy's and the abolitionists say that prostitution is inherently about misogyny and male privilege.

Okay: Safety.

"Sooey" of  "Sooey Says" takes umbrage at blaming abolitionist feminists for the male violence that women sex-workers will be subjected to if sex-work is driven further underground by the harpercons' abolitionist new prostitution law. (Prostitution politics makes for strange bedfellows.)

Does the "Nordic Model" work? It's proponents say that it does. It's detractors disagree. (Again I ask; Why is there prostitution in the Nordic countries??? With more developed welfare states than we have?) If it works, then it works. And good. (I guess.)

I'll pick this up later. Maybe make a series of it. Because so many divergent facets are popping into my head as I type.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why I'm So Intolerant

NOTE: It has been pointed out to me by the estimable Alison at Creekside, that the target of my ire in this post; retired parliamentary law clerk Rob Walsh, is a stand-up guy. She provides evidence of this in her comments. I still find his statement:  "It's just self-serving politics." to be inexplicable. I also find his claim that Wright's hush-money to Duffy was more like "settling a lawsuit" to be completely wrong. I don't deny the evidence that Alison presented and I don't rule-out that Walsh has sounded intelligent on other matters, in other places, or that I might be misinterpreting him here. But I still vehemently disagree with his analysis in this context.

And let the above stand as proof that I can dispute with or disagree with a person without believing that they're an idiot!

THE ACTUAL, ORIGINAL POST

There's something about me that rubs some people the wrong way. I do NOT believe that anyone who disagrees with me is stupid. I think it's more the case that when I write about people I disagree with, I make damn sure that I'm confident that I'm right on the subject of our disagreement and that what my adversary thinks is clearly wrong. On top of that, there ARE a lot of stupid people in the world and you can't blame me for disagreeing with some of them.

One example of this is my disagreement with the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada in their asinine (and possibly treasonous) ruling allowing Ted Opitz to keep his stolen federal seat in Etobicoke-Centre. Who am I to disagree with the learned Supreme Court Justices? A citizen of Canada with his own brain. That's who. Any ruling that says that glaring clerical errors shouldn't nullify an election won by a plurality of .001% of the vote and who cares if we don't know who really won, is a piece-of-shit ruling. Plus, the minority opinion demonstrates the lunacy of the majority decision.

Here's another example. The CBC is tying itself in knots trying to figure our how the RCMP can be investigating Mike Duffy for a pay-off that was found to have been totally innocent when Nigel Wright's neck was on the line:
On the face of it, it seems at odds with basic logic.

How did a payment seemingly deemed perfectly legal while in the hands of the giver — in this case, the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who lost his job over the controversy — turn into an alleged bribe the instant it found its way to the recipient, Senator Mike Duffy?
Apparently, retired parliamentary law clerk Rob Walsh took a whack at explaining this to the CBC in Fall 2013:
"What benefit did Duffy give to Wright in exchange for the $90,000?  That Duffy make no further media comments? This is not a benefit to Wright," he pointed out via email.

"The funds were given to Duffy to bring the Duffy expenses controversy to an end, like settling a lawsuit. This is not fraud, nor is it breach of trust."

"I don't see any of this supporting criminal charges," Walsh concluded. 

"It's just self-serving politics."
Rob, you miserable, ignorant slut. stephen harper made Mike Duffy the Senator for Prince Edward Island (even though Duffy wasn't a citizen of that province, possessing, as he did, and Ontario health card, and was therefore not constitutionally allowed to represent hem) so that he could fund-raise for the Conservative Party of Canada on the taxpayers' dime. When it turned out that Duffy's claims for his Ottawa residence were rejected and his travel expenses were audited and found to be unrelated to his Senate duties (since he was fund-raising for the Conservatives), Duffy was told to pay them back. Not being a wealthy man, Duffy balked at the idea of being out of pocket because of harper's fuck-up and he kicked up a fuss, threatening to expose the whole scam. (Alison at Creekside does a better job than I'm capable of in describing this fiasco.) Suffice to say, it eventually came to super-rich harpercon cheif-of-staff Nigel Wright to pay Duffy's debt, in return for his silence. In a farrago of lying, first it was Duffy paid the money back himself with a loan from the Royal Bank. Then it was "good friend" (they weren't) Nigel Wright paying it to save the taxpayers' money (who would never have seen that $90,000 otherwise or some such stupid thing.

Again, go read the posts by Alison at Creekside to get a firm grasp on this cover-up. It was political power, class privilege and RCMP corruption that saved Nigel Wright from the consequences of his actions. Duffy is already on the hot-seat and threatening to squeal, so harper is trying to destroy him now.

So, to revisit Rob Walsh's stupid question:
"What benefit did Duffy give to Wright in exchange for the $90,000?  That Duffy make no further media comments? This is not a benefit to Wright," he pointed out via email.

"The funds were given to Duffy to bring the Duffy expenses controversy to an end, like settling a lawsuit. This is not fraud, nor is it breach of trust."
The "benefit" in question is Duffy's silence, which would "benefit" the Conservative Party of Canada, which is the political party that Wright nominally worked for and the party which (more importantly) works for Nigel Wright's political class.  Any honest person looking at this fiasco could see that.

Interestingly enough, the CBC story quotes Section 119 (1) of the Criminal Code in a discussion about whether Wright's $90,000 to Duffy was a "gift":
A gift, after all, is freely given, with no strings — or, to use the parlance of Section 119(1) of the Criminal Code, no requirement that something that has or is to be "done or omitted by that person in their official capacity."
Wright's hush money was definitely NOT a "gift." A more relevant piece of legislation to have looked at would be the Parliament of Canada Act; more specifically:
Parliament of Canada Act
Part II - Senate


16. (1) No member of the Senate shall receive or agree to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, for services rendered or to be rendered to any person, either by the member or another person,

(a) in relation to any bill, proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate or the House of Commons or a committee of either House; or

(b) for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence any member of either House.

Offence and punishment

(2) Every member of the Senate who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of not less than one thousand dollars and not more than four thousand dollars.

Offering prohibited compensation

(3) Every person who gives, offers or promises to any member of the Senate any compensation for services described in subsection (1), rendered or to be rendered, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and to a fine of not less than five hundred dollars and not more than two thousand dollars. 
Now, I'd say that abusing taxpayers' dollars for the specific benefit of the government party is a pretty grievous crime. I'd say that paying a Senator's legal bills for him to get him out of an audit and to buy his silence about who thought up the plan to steal taxpayers' money to benefit the Conservative Party of Canada is clearly in violation of the Parliament of Canada Act.

Let's not kid ourselves here. This farce is a mockery of the rule of law in Canada, despite what fools such as Mr. Walsh or the corrupt RCMP say or do. 

And it's shit like this that makes me so intolerant of the stupidity that passes for politics in this country.

Friday, July 18, 2014

OMG

When is Dr. Dawg ever going to fucking learn??? He writes a great post about Israel's slaughtering of Palestinians, and then, he allows those two scum-bags, K-Z and Marky Mark to pollute it.  I stopped reading so who knows? Maybe that Old Peter (or whatever the fuck his name is) contributes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another Take On the Do-Nothing (English-Canadian) Left

A somewhat different take on the pathetic lack of ability of progressive Canadians by rabble.ca's Mike Laxer:

"Limiting the Possible: English Canada's invisible left"

Laxer starts off by telling us that good things are happening elsewhere:
In virtually every single developed, nominally democratic capitalist country in the world, interesting anti-capitalist or left social democratic movements are being formed, winning seats and threatening the established do-nothing centrist "left" that has become a collaborator with the austerity agenda.
In Quebec, Quebec Solidaire, which is the victim of an almost complete media blackout in English Canada, has shown that a real left party is, indeed, possible in Canada even without proportional representation (the lack of which so many fall back upon as an excuse for doing nothing) and that it can elect people.
But that all English Canada's left can offer are excuses:
Typically and predictably leftists in English Canada, when seeking to explain their total unwillingness and inability to build movements like QS, try to claim that Quebec has such a fundamentally different political culture that what is possible there is not possible "here."

The line is that "realism" dictates that we have to tack to a very narrow set of ideas, all of which accept, in every way, that capitalism is an absolute fact and that neoliberalism is an inescapable framework that requires us to truncate our aspirations so as to leave out anything that might actually help workers or those living in poverty.
Is it just an excuse about the difference between, say, Ontario and Quebec? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure is the case that we have to press for more. I myself push for "Workers as Citizens." (Well, I used to, before I'd either get a room full of silence or some bullshit about how groovy co-ops were and the subject is changed and co-ops haven't spread like dandelions in the almost twenty years since I used to bother.) 
But, if this is true, English Canada has one of the truly great reactionary, empty-headed and seemingly unalterable political cultures in the world. This is convenient as a narrative for those who wish to do nothing!

It is as if the near universal defeatism within what passes for an English Canadian left feels that there is an English Canadian exceptionalism of some kind and that English Canada is simply incapable of what every other part of the advanced capitalist world is capable of... a political alternative to capitalism.

Much of the labour movement and many social activists aid and abet this by advocating for ideas "in theory" that they do little to achieve in practice.

In theory the left and labour movement in Ontario, for example, is in favour of living wages and a $14-an-hour minimum wage now. They share memes online about how great it is that Americans are really mobilizing en masse about this and getting results, they turn out for rallies, but when push comes to shove they do nothing to counter the fact that absolutely no politicians in the province are willing to campaign on this.
Strong stuff!
They endorse and tell people to campaign for candidates, be they Liberal, NDP or municipal, who do not actually advocate for what they claim to want to achieve, and are then eternally sidelined by the fact that they will not only be taken for granted but that no one will take their demands seriously.
Why should they? If Liberals and New Democrats know that they will ultimately be backed one way or another, they have no reason to care.
The inconvenient truth is that you cannot and will not achieve what you claim to want to achieve by backing politicians and parties that are not advocating for what you claim to want! Calling for living wages or real workers rights and then backing liberal or pseudo-social democratic politicians in elections means that the demands are not legitimate and the politicians know this.
You cannot "demand" something and then advocate voting for people who do not support it. This negates the very idea of a "demand."
This is true. But it's not so cut-and-dried is it? What's a better use of my time? Volunteer for a Liberal candidate from the "Not Totally Contemptuous of Parliament Party" to try to stop harper, or get doors slammed in my face for the Socialist Party of Ontario? Should we form a left party (or join Laxer's?) and put our hearts and souls into it and maybe, in fifty years, achieve the stunning heights of power of the Green Party of Canada (which has a lot more potential)?

The fact of the matter is that there are no easy answers.