Jian Ghomeshi: Kinky, or hinky?

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“Hey, ladies. Want a piece of this? Better lawyer up, because I am gonna FUCK YOU UP.”

No, Jian Ghomeshi didn’t actually say that to anyone, as far as I know. But that, in effect, is what he said this week, when he announced that he was suing the CBC for $55 million, following a sudden dismissal after 14 seemingly very successful years. And when he posted a 1,586-word Facebook status (yes, I counted) claiming he was just a poor innocent kinkster, being let go by a bunch of sex-negative fuddy-duddies who were afraid of, in his words, a “jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer” wreaking havoc on their family-friendly brand.

On the surface of things, it was a masterstroke in terms of PR and pre-emptive strikes. However much Ghomeshi paid that “reputation recovery” firm for their services, it would appear to have paid off handsomely. The women in question (four of them, initially) were more afraid than ever to go public with their stories, much less press criminal charges. If it were a simple matter of “he said, she said”, then what he said carried the day. Even though there was way more than one she. Even though he’s officially out of the CBC, Jian Ghomeshi is by no means out of power and control.

And of course, right away, his fans only amplified the big noise he made. Reactions ranged from purblind defences of male privilege and sexual-satisfaction-at-any-cost, to an unbelievable amount of very ironic slut-shaming aimed at the women (eight of them now) who have accused him of assault, harassment and stalking. There’s even a Change.org petition (which I will neither link to nor endorse here) to sign for his reinstatement, and it’s racked up thousands of signatures in just a couple of days. Remember the Fukushima tsunami? This was, easily, the media equivalent. The sheer magnitude of his chutzpah, the unheard-of damages he’s seeking in this far-from-litigious land, the avalanche of slut-shaming, victim-blaming and fan outcry combined — well, who wouldn’t be intimidated by all that? And who wouldn’t be cowed into silence and submission?

If one reads between the lines, however, a very different picture emerges. And it is one that bears talking about, and criticizing, rather nicely. It may even spell a turning of the very tide he has tried to steer in his own favor.

For starters, it seems highly unlikely that the CBC would turn their most profitable radio cash cow out to pasture over a little thing like a naughty-naughty kinkster image. Ghomeshi’s radio show, Q, is not only popular north of the 49th Parallel, but also syndicated to some 180 US public-radio stations. At a time of deepening government cutbacks, CBC is keen to keep the cash flowing from wherever they can get it. Letting him go, lawsuit or no, is already costing them money, and that’s not something they’d countenance unless they had a compelling reason to fire him in the first place.

And private matters like a consensual BDSM lifestyle don’t, generally speaking, count as such. Q is, after all, a pop-culture show by and for mature adults. It’s not aimed at small children. The discussions featured on it are not “family” fare. Not everything that CBC does is strictly family-oriented, nor do Canadians expect it to be. We’re a liberal country, and CBC is a liberal network. So the idea that an overt-but-consensual kinkster would be fatal for CBC’s wholesome “family” image simply doesn’t wash.

Also, it’s hardly the first time a CBC radio host has had a brush with sexual controversy. In 2006, Sook-Yin Lee (of Definitely Not the Opera) appeared in the indie film Shortbus (whose focus, significantly, is open sexual experimentation), not only fully nude but masturbating. To an actual, unsimulated orgasm, yet. And while it drew a lot of outrage from the usual pearl-clutchy places, she was not let go. DNTO is still alive and well. After all, Sook-Yin’s erotic movie role had no bearing on her CBC radio antics, which were already pretty irreverent. And, more to the point, she also didn’t go around hitting and choking people, grabbing people’s asses, forcing them to supply sex, and making lewd propositions to unwilling ears.

All of which Jian Ghomeshi stands accused of doing, in and out of CBC’s downtown Toronto broadcast centre. The accusations against him are not about sex, but about violence.

Granted, no charges have been filed…yet. And there is no police investigation…yet. Nobody has even filed civil suit against him…yet.

And yet, and yet.

I’ve perused an eye-glazing number of comments on various websites breaking news of the story. And while the commenters are anonymous, a startling number of them are saying the same basic things: Jian Ghomeshi is arrogant as hell; as he’s grown older (he’s 47), he’s hit on on progressively younger women, the most recent ones a good 20 years his junior; he routinely oversteps the boundaries of propriety too; and yes, physical violence is a prominent part of that. And no, it’s NOT consensual.

A damning pattern, to be sure. And one easily dismissed as just hearsay, not legally actionable, and so forth. But it constitutes a groundswell of sorts, and one that he’ll be absolutely unable to control if it continues to grow, as indeed it has.

But anonymous scuttlebutt commenters aren’t the only ones with the power to undermine his carefully-wrought PR campaign. Sex educators — and specifically, ones specializing in kink issues — are also calling him out. And they’re pointing out the flaws in his argument with the meticulous communicative skills that are vital to their practices. After all, in kink, you have to use your words, safe and otherwise. People can get hurt badly if you don’t. Accidental deaths due to kinky activities are rare, but they have been known to happen. And, all too predictably, the kink community has also seen a number of straight-up abusers hiding behind the kink shield, and thus endangering real kinksters, especially women, in ways that go far beyond just a battering of the community’s reputation. This sort of thing is just what they don’t want, or need, to raise their profile. So whenever a well-known and reputable kinkster says “hell no, Jian’s not one of us, what he’s doing isn’t safe, sane, OR consensual”, you can be sure I’ll chalk up one more point against him on my mental scoreboard. (And yes, I’m keeping one.)

If it ever comes down to a civil lawsuit, or a criminal prosecution in this case, kink educators and writers should be called as expert witnesses. They are undoubtedly the best ones qualified to poke holes in Jian Ghomeshi’s assertions that his troublesome behavior was just a “lite” version of Fifty Shades of Grey. (And for the record, that god-awful trilogy isn’t about BDSM, it’s about physical and mental abuse. Actual kinksters have said as much. Which makes that reference just one more creepy little red flag among many.)

Legal experts like Brenda Cossman, too, are weighing in on where “consensual kinky sex” ends and actual, sexualized violence begins. And what they’re saying points, again, not to sex but to violence. Because in Canadian law, the more extreme forms of BDSM are not treated the same as the lighter stuff. If it can cause serious injury or death, it doesn’t matter if you gave consent beforehand; you have to be able to withdraw it at any time. And this, too, is important; in matters of life and limb, there’s no such thing as no-holds-barred. Some holds are legally barred for safety’s sake. It’s one thing to be open-minded about sexual experimentation; quite another to let one’s brains fall out. And when it comes to the risk of severe brain damage (or psychological harm equivalent thereto), the law errs on the side of barring that hold.

Our law also errs on the side of refusals being non-negotiable safewords, incidentally. No means no; you cannot legally negotiate no, don’t, and stop into meaning “no, don’t stop!” Because there is always a chance that a sub may accidentally forget to say “pomegranate”, “brambleberry”, “palomino”, or whatever. No is a perfectly good safeword to fall back on when you can’t remember anything else.

And if the word NO isn’t respected in kink, where negotiation is key to all interaction and even a weak demurral should spell an immediate halt, then that sets a bad precedent for the non-kinky world as well. Rape culture, which Jian Ghomeshi earlier this year reprehensibly characterized as a mere “debate”, is already so pervasive everywhere. There is no “debate” about it; it is a constant, horrid fact of women’s lives. Do we really need to have a former pop singer turned radio host blurring those lines out of all recognition with a whiny, windy, possibly scripted but definitely douchey manifesto, full of “nutty and slutty” dog-whistles?

Yeah, NO. Because that’s not kinky. That’s hinky.

And that creepy screed, like the rape culture that spawned it, is just downright stinky.

UPDATES:

Looks like Jian is strangely silent now that the first of his named accusers has bravely come forward to tell on him. He issued a terse tweet, but no new manifestos about “jilted girlfriends”. Meanwhile, the big long whine on his Facebook page is losing support by the hour. Cheese with that, Jian?

Also, there is a petition to show love and support for all the women in question. Several leading Canadian musicians have added their names to it; please consider doing so as well. There’s also this one, to Change.org, asking them to take the other ones supporting Jian Ghomeshi down.

Canada’s real terrorism problem

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This mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta, was spray-painted by xenophobic vandals. The town is home to an airbase from which CF-18 jet fighters recently departed en route to the war zone of Iraq. The people of Cold Lake have since banded together to clean up the graffiti while the police search for the perpetrators.

Oh, Canada. What’s happening to you?

You used to be such a nice place. Liberal. Socialist, even. And it worked out great for you while it lasted.

You used to be such a livable, lovable place. The country to the immediate south of us may have billed itself the Land of Opportunity, but when it came to real opportunities, we had them beat. Our social safety net ensured that no one got left too far behind by the ups and downs of the mixed economy.

Everyone who came here used to feel so welcome. We got immigrants from all over the world, and they helped make this the most diverse country on the planet. And the most multicultural. And the place where the most disparate people had a chance to coexist peacefully. From Vietnam War draft dodgers to Iraq War refugees, we’ve been enriched by the presence of people who were outcasts in their own lands. And the religious and ethnic clashes of the old country were left far behind, much to the relief and joy of all. Here, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were or where you came from; you were accepted. You were always at home.

And now I feel like a stranger in my own land, even though I was born here.

We seem to have caught terrorism-itis from south of the border. Everyone’s so paranoid now. Instead of waiting to learn what’s going on, we start jumping to false conclusions. The embarrassing truth leaks out too late every time.

Like this week. These past few days saw us “attacked” by two “terrorists” who, it turns out, were something else altogether. One was a paranoid schizophrenic; the other, a drug addict. But since both were Muslims, and chose to attack and kill soldiers of the Canadian army, with a confused mess of ISIL propaganda and madness roaring through their heads, they just automatically got labelled as terrorists. As if they had flown fully loaded passenger jets into the Peace Tower and the banking district of downtown Toronto on a suicide mission co-ordinated from a cave somewhere near the Pak-Afghan border.

The truth is stranger, and sadder, and nowhere near as dramatic as that.

In fact, the “terrorists” were not foreigners, as was initially reported/speculated. They were both native-born French-Canadians. And they both had mental problems that could easily have been treated. This tragedy was totally avoidable, and neither a war nor even changes to our nation’s security systems was necessary to avert it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at who these guys were, and how they acted.

Martin Couture-Rouleau was a convert to Islam; he converted only last year. He was not an immigrant. He was not even remotely an Arab, or Muslim by birth. His religious conversion appears to have arisen out of a growing heap of personal problems. Apparently he made enough radical-sounding noises that the RCMP was investigating him, and his passport was revoked, preventing him from travelling to Turkey (and presumably, from there, to Syria to join ISIL forces). He was alienated from his family, and everyone who knew him was bewildered by the recent changes to his personality. He was divorced, and his ex-wife was apparently frightened enough of him to seek sole custody of their child. It was not Islam that had made him that way, though; it was his own schizophrenia. His “radicalization” was concurrent with the worsening of his illness. And his own imam struggled in vain to dissuade him from supporting ISIL or taking up battle — or terrorism — on their behalf.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was also not an immigrant, although his father was one (from Libya), and his mother a deputy chair at the federal immigration department. At school he was simply known as Mike Bibeau, the big, gregarious good-time guy voted most likely to succeed, especially with the ladies. But drug addiction shortly after his graduation from high school put an end to all that. He was known to police, but only as a petty criminal and drug abuser. His parents are long divorced, and bewildered as to what has become of him. Like Martin Couture-Rouleau, he was alienated from his family; his mother said she hadn’t seen him in five years. In that time, he had fled to BC, looking in vain to escape his addiction (which had shifted from marijuana and PCP usage to crack cocaine). He tried everything from religion to prison to cure himself. He wasn’t jailed long enough to keep him away from the dealers, and the imam of the mosque where he broke in at night to sleep on the floor locked him out. His religious fervor was a direct outgrowth of his efforts to replace one drug with another. At the time of his final desperate acts, he was homeless and so isolated from humanity that even at the Ottawa homeless shelter where he’d taken refuge, he was an outsider.

Neither man was connected to the other, nor to any known terrorist groups. Both were entirely isolated, and more so thanks to their respective mental conditions.

Meanwhile, our social safety net has eroded. Mental health services have faced severe cutbacks in all provinces. People who should have been hospitalized, as much for their own safety as anyone else’s, are instead left to roam the street, helpless and untreated. A few years ago, we were horrified by a beheading on a Greyhound bus; the killer, in that case, was a schizophrenic too, and should have been hospitalized. Not until he’d killed and partially eaten a complete stranger in the thick of a psychotic episode did he finally get the help he needed. If by “help” one means psychiatric incarceration, that is.

Six years after Vince Weiguang Li began his treatment, our mental health system has not improved a whit. It is still chronically starved of funding and professionals. The mental hospitals we so desperately need are still closed, with no new ones opened to replace them. The few still remaining have waiting lists a mile long. Those who can’t afford private counselling and rehab are shit out of luck.

And worse, we no longer have a federal long-gun registry. That’s right; a crime-fighting tool born out of a terrorist attack in Montréal was scrapped by the same wonderful Conservative party that’s also behind all the other rips in our social safety net! The police are thus officially hamstrung. Who knows if we’ll ever find out how Mike Bibeau, who was legally prohibited from owning firearms due to his criminal and drug record, managed to get his hands on the rifle that enabled him to kill Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the federal War Memorial?

Yeah, tell me the Conservatives are not the real terrorists in all this. They’re using the hysteria surrounding these events, even now, to push their own very anti-Canadian agenda. And the sad part is, too many people are all too happy to LET them.

Of course, salient facts like that have escaped the major media, or the myriads of know-nothings who pontificate in the comments sections of their websites. Most of them seem quite convinced that if we only shut our doors tightly enough, ramped up the security high enough, and went to war in enough foreign countries to “bomb them back to the Stone Age” and “teach them a good lesson”, the “terrorist” problem would be best addressed. Never mind that neither of these guys was a foreigner, and that both in fact were born right here.

Or they’re all full of self-righteous Islamophobia, oblivious to the fact that in both cases, imams actually tried to deter these guys from taking the criminal turns they did. And oblivious, too, to the fact that Canadian Muslims are right on the same page with all the rest of us in condemning such attacks, and terrorism in general.

And above all, they’re oblivious to the role that a too-easy access to guns, and a too-hard access to mental health care, played in this whole goddamn mess. They simply cannot and will not see those connections, even though it doesn’t take a brilliant sociologist to draw them.

Oh yeah, and that’s another thing: We’re not supposed to commit sociology in times of terrorism, according to none other than Stephen Fucking Harper himself. Yes, that’s right…the tough-talking macho PM, who bravely, bravely hid in a broom closet while his underlings barricaded the door with spears made from flag poles!

But hey. At least the parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, proved that his role is not merely ceremonial, even though his costume may be. Like René Jalbert many years before him, he was the one who engaged a confused, deranged gunman hellbent on wreaking terror. Unlike Jalbert, though, he couldn’t talk the shooter out of it; he ended up having to kill him. “Terrorist” crisis ended, either way.

And all this without recourse to war.

Now the PM’s security detail has modified its protocol so that they can enter the Commons chamber and protect him at all times. That’s fine; at least it doesn’t unduly curtail anyone’s civil liberties. Not so fine, however, is the legislation the government apparently passed on the same day as Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down Patrice Vincent in a fit of psychosis. We’re now facing intrusive, unconstitutional online surveillance under the pretext of “crime prevention”! Yay!

So, now you know. And if this is the last post you see from me, you’ll know why. I’ll have been arrested for committing the supreme terrorist act of daring to think un-conservatively and sociologically, and tying together all the things they don’t want us to understand are related. If you think Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau were crazy (and they were, alas), you ain’t seen nothin’ . My own country just totally outclassed them in the losing-one’s-shit department.

And since it’s already at war in Iraq, too, it’s also outdone them in terms of real terrorism.

Reuters is up to its old dirty tricks in Venezuela

Oh Reuters. You nest of hacks. Do you think Venezuela isn’t onto you? Or, for that matter, every person with a brain? It’s not like you’ve never tried THIS before…

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros, denounced a media campaign by the Reuters news agency against Venezuela to create an opinion matrix of a country supposedly in “default” or unable to make payments.

“Venezuela has the economic and financial capacity; the resources, the strategic politics and the supreme will to continue on its path and comply with international financial commitments,” said the president during a meeting of the Federal Council of Government taking place at the White Palace in Caracas.

“I denounce this news agency, Reuters, because they are doing harm with all their international wire stories, trying to create alarm in Venezuela,” said the president, regarding news published in recent days of a supposed case of ebola in Venezuela.

Maduro emphasized that the interest of the journalists is monetary, “being paid in dollars to do damage to their country. There is a Venezuelan journalist working there.”

Translation mine.

“Being paid in dollars” means something more in Venezuela than it does, say, in North America. Journalists being paid that kind of salary are not only being paid in non-local currency; they are also being paid to promote non-local interests, albeit covertly. If you’re working in Venezuela and drawing your pay in dollars rather than bolivars, that’s a handy way for employers to foster loyalty to foreign interests and causes. And in a country like Venezuela, where disloyal locals are all too easily riled up by irresponsible reporting by private media interests (who do you think has been actively promoting all those coups?), it doesn’t take much to start the next round of bogus accusations and calls for foreign “intervention” from the not-so-loyal opposition. If Reuters is smart, they’ll watch their backs…and not try to pass off rumormongering as “reporting”, as they’ve done all too often in the past. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves personae non gratae.

Why isn’t legalized prostitution safer?

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Ah yes. Pity the poor john who got the short end of that stick, eh? He came hoping to pay for the illusion that she was really into the “mutual pleasure” of his escapist fantasies, only to be left cockadroop by the hard realities of her life (complete with “biker boyfriend”!) Instead of “an hour or two” of (poorly) paid schtupping, he left frustrated, and she came away empty-handed. I guess it could have gone a lot worse, though. She could have been raped and/or killed, as well as robbed of whatever paltry few bucks she happened to have lying around. She is at the mercy of guys like him and the “biker boyfriend” — who, for all we know, could have been her pimp. Which is why I don’t feel so bad for this particular entitled — oh sorry, “hard-working” — specimen of manhood. Nor do I feel inclined to praise him for being “merciful” and just walking out without paying. He could have done to her what johns have done to prostitutes since time immemorial. And he could have gotten away with it, too.

And if anyone thinks that legalization of the “oldest profession” (oldest crappy joe job, more like it) would have made a positive difference to that poor woman, maybe you should read all about what’s happened in Germany since exactly that:

Again and again, defenders of legalized prostitution assert that prostitution serves a kind of “channeling” function for society; that all the presumably uncontrollable urges of men can be acted out there, and so women can be protected from rape. Aside from the fact that this attitude makes men into urge-driven idiots who, due to the gladly-invented concept of “blocked urges” then go on to commit crimes — who wants to live with such men, really? — this argument also most profoundly robs prostitutes themselves of dignity, making them into “dumpsters” for that which men cannot act out at home because, we all know, that in the eyes of prostitution-defenders, all wives are per se prudish and frigid and thus drive their husbands into the arms of prostitution. But how do prostitutes defend themselves from this “acting out” by men, which has always come with a potential threat of force? The sex-worker lobby claims that it’s part of the professionalism of prostitutes to recognize dangerous johns and prevent them from doing violence. Should this fail, the prostitute has acted unprofessionally — the man, with all his “blocked urges”, naturally is not at fault.

Since 1988, there have been 51 murders and attempted murders of prostitutes. These are only the incidents that abolitionists have so far been able to research. The list is by no means complete and will be expanded in future. In 1988, a dermatologist from Frankfurt committed one murder and three attempted murders on prostitutes. He was sentenced. In 1993, 16-year-old Mandy of Hamburg was brutally murdered; her killer was only arrested years later. The papers wrote of a “Murder in the Milieu” instead of the murder of a minor. In 1999, 20-year-old Sandy of Chemnitz was brutally mistreated and killed over debts. The list goes on and on, and shows that no type of prostitution is safe, whether on the street, or in a “lovemobile”, or in rental housing, or a bordello. Absolute protection from violent johns cannot exist.

The Wiki “Sex Industry Kills” has collected all known instances of murders, attempted murders, and crimes against prostitutes. It is a gallery of horrors. Murder and rape are among the “occupational hazards” of prostitution.

Prostitution is legal in Germany since 2002. Again and again it gets argued that only legalized prostitution makes it safer for those who practice it. We can see that the number of violent acts against prostitutes has actually increased — which is no wonder, because the number of prostituted persons has also increased. Woman as merchandise — since 2002, she is available everywhere, visible everywhere. Whoever ascribes “blocked urges” to men, must also now acknowledge that they can’t resist this “offer”, and also use force. The cynicism of the “blocked urges” and “channeling” arguments is profoundly inhumane — and also stems from the 19th century. It has nothing to do with “freedom” and “self-determination”; it turns prostitutes into a usable vessel, and men into idiots. The latest attempted murder, of a prostitute in Köln, was just a few weeks ago.

Since the fall of last year, as well, those who fight against prostitution are being blamed for violence against prostitutes — because they point out the risks of prostitution, some people get “ideas”, according to one forum. Again, here there is no responsibility for the doers of the deed; instead, it’s everyone else’s fault. It is in the interests of all those who defend prostitution to make johns out to be friendly customers. The reality shows that many of them are potential violent offenders.

How closely violence and prostitution are intertwined, we can see in reports on crimes against prostitutes. Media reports on the matter teach fear. The Stuttgarter Merkur newspaper wrote, of the murder of 31-year-old Alina Gruso, in 2009: “The motive is completely unknown. Could there be a relationship problem behind it? Because the murder doesn’t follow the usual way prostitutes become victims: No fight about unsatisfactory sexual services, nor over the payment. Even robbery is ruled out. And Alina had no enemies. What then could have driven the killer?” So robbery-murder is a commonly accepted form of violence against prostitutes, as well as rape, which many don’t even regard as a crime.

Countless other crimes took place in the same time frame against prostitutes throughout Germany. Rapes, arson, armed robberies. These crimes didn’t even merit a mention of the victims’ names in the media, for the most part. It’s just “a prostitute”, whereas the entire focus is on the offender. These are almost exclusively johns. Their motive is not just sexual violence, but also extortion and robbery. In January of 2008, three men attacked a woman in Wiesbaden, raped her, robbed her and threatened to come back again. When the woman, who worked in a rented flat, went to police, she was criticized by her colleagues; she had made “too big a deal out of it”. For these men, women who work as prostitutes are just objects that they can mistreat and rob as they please, even up to sadistic torture. In Fürth, a man subjected a prostitute to electric shocks, beat her with cables, stabbed her and eventually cut off one of her finger joints. The man managed to escape unnoticed, but was apprehended shortly thereafter, because there was a security camera in the bordello. In 2010, a john in Mainz-Marienborn raped a prostitute four times and recorded it on video — he wanted to film a successful home porno, and for that he needed “real panic” in the eyes of his victim.

Johns always get violent towards women because they aren’t happy with the “service” they get for their money. One unbelievable case is that of a 51-year-old Stuttgarter, who held a prostitute prisoner in his home and abused her because he was not satisfied with her service. He ordered his mother to call the police because he felt he was in the right. In 2012, a paramedic, a family man, raped a prostitute for hours until she lost consciousness, and threatened her with “real problems” if she went to police.

Even those who defend prostitution know how dangerous it is. Their “safety tips” speak volumes about what prostitution means for those who practice it:

– Women shouldn’t wear long earrings, because they could get ripped out. Also no scarves or necklaces, because these could get used to strangle them.

– No tight skirts or dresses, so they can run away more easily.

– They should carry whistles to call for help.

– Keep defensive weapons close at hand.

– There are also concrete tips: If a woman is being held by the back of the neck, she should kick him in the balls rather than try to pry his hands off.

These and other tips can be found here.

Prostitution kills, that much is clear. The above violent incidents are not “coincidences” or “exceptions”, they are the consequences of a kind of thinking and acting that turns women into merchandise that can be bought and used. Prostitution dehumanizes, and dehumanization is the first step to gruesomeness and violence. Men who attack prostitutes see themselves as customers who have a “right” to this stranger’s body and power over it, and in the event of an emergency, they can use force. A prostitute is a preferred victim for all those who want to grab a couple of euros — because who believes a prostitute? And to square the deal for the offenders, they rape the woman too — taking “for free” what would otherwise cost. Others use prostitutes for their perverse little games, duplicating the oh-so-beloved violent pornos with “real panic in the eyes”, or sadistically abuse them.

Prostitution doesn’t channel any drives, it doesn’t protect anyone from rape. It kills and opens opportunities for offenders to take out their perversions, their misogyny and their violent fantasies where they have the least to fear. Further legalization of prostitution would only lead to women and their lacking “professionalization strategies” being made even more responsible for any violence against them. Because if prostitution is to be a “job like any other”, then the dangers can’t be acknowledged. And above all, the focus cannot be turned on the johns, who must continue to be legal clients and not potential lawbreakers. Prostitution without violence doesn’t exist. Without the degradation of women into objects, sex-buying isn’t possible. This degradation contains dehumanization, and leads to violence, whether out of greed or “blocked urges”, in just one small step. The answer is to ban sex-buying. The day before yesterday, preferably.

Translation mine. Linkage as in original

So you can see that legalization hasn’t made prostitution safer in Germany. Prostitutes are still being attacked, robbed, raped and killed there. If anything, it’s become more common, because the number of prostitutes has shot up so dramatically since legalization.

And crimes against them have been given a gloss of bizarre legitimacy. The murder of a 16-year-old can be written off as a “murder in the milieu” because she was a prostitute; the fact that she was also a minor gets conveniently swept under the rug. If she were NOT prostituted, the story would have been reported so differently; the killer would have been made out to be a heinous, pederastic pervert who must be caught soon, before he does it again. But since she was turning tricks, who the hell cares that he’s a menace to public safety? Even if she WAS under-age, she was still one of Those Women. Nobody gives an under-age prostitute the consideration that would otherwise apply to girls of her tender years. Being prostituted is considered as conferring “agency”, and hence maturity. And if you don’t exercise your “agency” properly, you end up in a world of hurt. Or dead. And the killer might not ever be caught, because you were only a prostitute. Too bad for you!

But hey, that’s the way the “free market” of sex capitalism works, right? Personal Responsibility with a vengeance. Demand drives the market, not supply. Which is why all this “sex-positive” talk of “agency” just makes me laugh sardonically. In case you haven’t twigged to this yet, it’s obvious that prostitution has nothing to do with female sexuality at all. It’s not about what SHE wants, it’s all about what HE wants. If demand drives the market, then those who exercise demand exert control. And since supply doesn’t drive it, those who provide sex don’t actually control the terms of the transaction. No matter how hard the privileged few who run the “sex worker” lobby try to make out that they do. The old adage of paying the piper and calling the tune holds truest of all in prostitution. And if the “tune” isn’t sweet enough, then…well…

See, this is why I can’t buy into the libertarian-capitalist exception that so many of my peers here on the left seem all too happy to expound. It boggles my mind that anyone could be a socialist (and/or anarchist) and not see the contradiction here. How can you be in favor of workers seizing the means of production when you also think it should be perfectly legal for a man to buy a woman and get her to do “sex work” for whatever price he deems fitting — oh sorry, “whatever the market will bear”? How can you be all “no lords, no gods, no masters” on the one hand, and perfectly okay with a man lording it over a woman in such a crassly capitalistic way on the other? How can one talk of breaking the grip of the “Invisible Hand” while turning a blind eye to the death-grip it exerts on the necks of women? Does one need to identify as female in order to see this contradiction clearly?

And conversely: Does one need a penis in order to think there is no contradiction here? Boner, Boner, über alles?

Yeah, I guess that must be it. My ladybits and ladybrain are getting in the way of the complex slew of rationalizations needed to arrive at such preposterous conclusions. Again. Why else would I insist on taking my anarcho-socialism to its logical ends even in the murky area marked S-E-X? Since I don’t have the kind of little head that drains blood (and thinking capacity) away from the big one so efficiently, I just can’t wrap my big head around the way a guy’s little one just seems to take the whole thing over and turn him from a rational, intelligent human being into a sex-crazed rabid baboon.

Antifeminists constantly accuse radical women like me of “misandry”. And yet they fail to see that when they posit men as being led by their dicks, they’re committing a much more real and profound form of man-hating than anything, actual or imagined, that they could ever accuse us feminists of.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I prefer to think of men as coming, like women, from Earth. None of that “Venus and Mars” shit for me. And I prefer to credit them with rationality and intelligence, like us, instead of just a crazy chemical stew of ill-defined and dangerous “urges”.

Above all, I insist that we be allowed to approach sex on an equal footing. Turning it into a pay-for-play transaction destroys the equilibrium, to say nothing of female desire. Money not only can’t buy love, it can’t even buy a half-hearted ladyboner.

But then again, who needs ladyboners when you’re only paying to get your own rocks off? And if you get off on the inequality of it all, why shouldn’t you be allowed to pay for it? After all, inequality is only to be expected when one sex/class is naturally superior, and the other naturally inferior. So goes the sex-capitalist line of reasoning.

And if that line of reasoning seems a bit too crass for you, hey, there’s always prude-shaming. It’s the go-to strategy of the modern “leftist” man who wants to have his capitalism and eat it, too. Or the “empowered” woman who hasn’t fully digested the concept of self-determination. Yeah sure, go ahead and call me “Victorian” because I take an abolitionist stance. Bluster your big head off about my so-called 19th-century morality if it makes you feel better. But here’s the kicker: If you believe that buying sex is the answer to rape and female poverty both, you’re the real Victorian. Because back in the 19th century, there was another mindset that ran parallel to that of enforced prudery for wives and virgins; namely, that of the Necessity of Prostitution. To keep the wives and virgins “safe” and “virtuous”, natch. How else were men supposed to “channel” all those “dangerous urges”? By taking them out on a certain class of women made conveniently available for the purpose.

And that class of women was denigrated and degraded not only in terms of the social discourse of the day, but in the eyes of their own clientele. They were thus easy targets for all kinds of male violence. Remember Jack the Ripper? His killing spree began and ended right at the zenith of Victorian England. During the height of a time of extreme prudery, in other words. And his victims were all street prostitutes from the down-at-heel London district of Whitechapel. “Jack”, whoever he was, was the quintessential Victorian man. He saw prostitutes as a class that was conveniently available for him to use…and abuse. Even to the death. He was smug in his taunting of the authorities, daring him to try to catch him. He was never brought to trial, at least not as the Ripper. For all anybody knew, he remained at large. And no doubt there was a certain smugness in the way the yellow press of the day reported on that, too: with overt sensationalism on the one hand, and a tacit “thank God it’s only them and not nice ladies” on the other. True, prostitution wasn’t legal…but it wasn’t abolished, either. The laws and mores of the day saw fit to ghettoize and exploit it instead of eradicating it. How do we know? Because they only criminalized the women, and not the men who bought, sold and used them. Remember, demand drives the market…and the Victorian authorities weren’t interested in dealing with the demand side. They often WERE the demand side. Why would they act against their own interests? That would have been not just taking prudery too far, but also doing capitalism wrong.

Early anarchists and socialists both opposed prostitution, recognizing it as part and parcel of the hypocrisy of the Victorian-capitalist bourgeois mindset, and their reasoning was not prudish. Read Emma Goldman if you don’t believe me. Or Alexandra Kollontai. And if you don’t have time for that, just remember: It’s not the sex that makes prostitution dirty. It’s the CAPITALISM, stupid!

Prostituted women in Germany are no longer criminalized, as they were in the “good old days” of Kaiser Wilhelm. But are they empowered? No! They still can’t count on the police to protect them. Because the johns have always been legal and legitimate, even when prostitution was not. The legal status of the women may have changed (ever so slightly!), but for the johns it’s the same as it ever was. Those guys could always “discreetly” take out their unsavory “urges” on a certain class of women. The fact that the women are now “legal” doesn’t change a thing, except to make sex capitalism more readily profitable for those running the show. Capitalism wins out over feminism. If the police are not allowed to bust bordello owners and shut the business down, they are also not allowed to arrest johns who don’t play by the official rules…at least not so long as those men are still on the premises. Because when a bordello charges a cheap flat rate for “unlimited sex”, why would they want the cops in there, banging down the doors? That’s bad for business. Makes it look like a House of Ill Repute, nicht wahr? And worse, it scares the johns into realizing that maybe “unlimited sex” has its limits, after all. What a boner-wilter!

Laws are inherently limiting, and that’s just what the sex-capitalists who run the prostitution and human-trafficking networks don’t want. Why else would they throw so much money behind their extensive lobbying efforts to remove all legal limits from prostitution in Germany — including the perfectly reasonable compromises like minimum ages, the right of police to inspect brothels, etc.?

They’re certainly not doing it to protect the women, or else we’d have seen not a single one murdered since prostitution was legalized there in 2002.

The German sex trade’s leading lobbyists, unmasked

sex-trade-lobbyists.jpg

Johanna Weber and Fabienne Freymadl, two leading “spokespersons” for the recently-assembled German “sex workers’ movement”. Who are they, and what lies behind them? EMMA investigated, and found the following:

In the middle of the summer, BILD.de came out with the provocative headline: “These Whores are Government Advisors”. And then readers who were so inclined found out that the “whores”, Johanna Weber (46) and Fabienne Freymadl (35) were regarded as “specialists” in conjunction with a proposed change to prostitution laws in the capital city. They took part in “several informative background talks”, “met various political specialists from the CDU/CSU, SPD, Green and Left parties, and telephone regularly with them” (BILD). Apparently they have a particularly good connection with Eva Högl (SPD party representative), Ulrike Bahr (SPD family policy specialist), and the Greens, Volker Beck and Hans-Christian Ströbele.

Johanna Weber, the political spokeswoman of the so-called “Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen e.V.” [Trade Union of Erotic and Sexual Services, Inc.], also advised the federal family ministry at their prostitution hearing on June 12, 2014. “The politicians often come to us with supposedly good ideas, but those mostly don’t fit with the realities of the branch,” she reveals. She apparently knows what fits.

But does she fit? Let’s start with the fact that Johanna Weber’s real name is Verena Johannsen. Her specialties as a dominatrix are “Schweinereien” [literally "piggeries"]: “Natursekt” (“natural champagne”, or “golden showers” — urinating on men), “Caviar” (defecating on men, sometimes directly in the mouth), or “Facefarting”.

This sort of job is actually new for Weber/Johannsen herself. The front-woman of the “union” for “sex workers”, founded just last year, has been, by her own account, on the job for just four years. Before that, the professional distance runner taught sports, was an active sports marketer, and organized women’s runs, for example at the Lesbian Beach Festival. Politically, too, the dominatrix seems to be engaged in women’s and leftist causes. By her own account she donates five percent of her income, mostly to “sex worker” organizations like Hydra, but also to ATTAC or Terre des Femmes.

The positions Weber/Johannsen subscribes to regarding prostitution law sound correspondingly politically and movement-experienced. Not from below the belt, but stepping high. Like the 23-page “Position Paper on the ‘Regulation of Prostitution'” for the federal family ministry. The introduction reads:

“We apologize that we did not submit our position paper on the expected deadline date of June 2, 2014. June 2, the International Whores’ Day, is a day of remembrance for the whores’ movement. On that day in 1975, French sex workers went on strike and occupied a church in Lyon, in order to defend themselves against police brutality and lingering discrimination. This event is the watershed of the worldwide whores’ movement. We hereby dedicate our position paper to these brave colleagues.”

Colleagues? The in fact very brave prostitutes of Lyon, unfortunately, can’t defend themselves. Because they don’t know Johanna Weber, and have no idea what is being done in their name. If they knew, they would surely not allow it.

Starting with the label “whore”. “Nous ne sommes pas des putes!” goes their slogan, with which they took to the street at the time, shoulder to shoulder with feminists who had travelled from Paris to accompany and support their protest. “We are not whores!”, but persons. The women of Lyon fought then for their rights — and not those of pimps and brothel owners.

That’s what Weber and her colleagues are doing with their “union”, founded on October 13, 2013. But who are they really?

In a wobbly photo taken at the founding, there are some thirty women, many of them hidden, plus one man. Since then, the same half-dozen people keep popping up on talk shows and at events, saying what fun it is to prostitute oneself, and making the case for the recognition of prostitution as a “profession like any other”.

These women have names like Undine, Amber or Fabienne, and are often current or former dominatrices in the BDSM field. Some are now running BDSM “studios”, in which they work together or have other women working for them.

Across from them are an estimated 400,000 women who work as prostitutes. Some 70 percent (estimated by the pro-prostitution front) to 98 percent (police estimate) are migrants, and as a rule come from the poorest Eastern European countries. The dommes from the “union”, therefore, speak for maybe two percent of German prostitutes. But even among these, many see it differently than these politically-correct “sex workers” do. All the same, this atypical, vanishingly small minority has been the front-row conversation partner of politics, and apparently the only voice for the prostitutes.

But these “specialists” don’t represent in any way the interests of the prostituted, but rather those of pimps and brothel owners — even those of the human traffickers, in that they minimize or cover up their roles in the prostitution industry.

One can read as much in the 23-page position paper for the women’s ministry from June 12, too. It reads like the work of experienced jurists. Here, the legalistic argumentation speaks not of the interests of women in prostitution, but that of the sex industry, which has long been hand-in-glove with organized crime.

The position paper pushes the “decriminalization of sex work”. But for whom? Women and men in prostitution have not been punished in Germany for years. The only ones who are still punishable are those who trade women as wares: the pimps and brothel owners. And the position paper of the “sex workers” contains almost nothing but demands to decriminalize these woman-traders. They speak out against raising the legal prostitution age to 21, against mandatory health checks, and against mandatory condom use. They also demand that the punitive laws against pimping be struck without replacement, as well as those on exploitation of prostitutes, and youth-endangering prostitution. The “sex workers” want the police to stay out of the business altogether. That would be a “disruption of business”. So, free rein for the pimps and human traffickers.

The “union” is calling for state-sponsored “entry counselling” for prostitution, and “development”. What kinds of practices are involved in that “development”, can be seen on the “union” website: The “sex workers” are against abolishing flat-rate prostitution and “gang bangs” (simulated gang rape). It couldn’t get any more cynical.

The “union” is also working toward total deregulation of prostitution in Germany, as well as furthering its spread. So, the lady “sex workers” are, plainly and simply, lobbyists for the prostitution industry. And they are no longer even taking the trouble to hide it.

On June 30, 2014, Johanna Weber wrote in the name of the union to “Dear Madame Minister Schwesig”. In her letter, she congratulated the minister responsible for prostitution on her “political and juristic separation of the subjects of human trafficking and prostitution”, as well as her “participative efforts to include sex workers”.

All of that was already more than enough. But Weber didn’t sign the letter alone. A fellow signatory is Holger Rettig, a representative of the very un-transparent “Unternehmerverbandes Erotikgewerbe Deutschland e.V.” [Erotic Enterprises Chamber of Commerce of Germany, Inc.]. The organization was founded in 2007, and according to Rettig, a former boxing trainer, it has 170 members. But other than himself, none of them has appeared publicly. The brothel-owners’ association and the prostitutes’ “union” are lobbying shoulder-to-shoulder for a convenient law. That would be as if a business association and a workers’ union were to band together. The concept of a “union” label, then, is a pure lie.

At the end of September, these two organizations, along with the BuFAS (Bündnis für Sexarbeiterinnen und Sexarbeiter; in English, “Union for Sex Workers”), will be holding a sex-work congress in Berlin, titled “Sex Work in Movement Times”. The three-day get-together is organized by Johanna Weber, front woman of the “union”, member of the “whores’ project” Hydra, and advisor to BuFAS. According to announcement, at the congress will discuss “concrete measures to improve working conditions” and “the future viability of the field”. Goal: “A basis for political decisions”.

On the first day, one of the model dommes, Undine de Rivière, will take the podium at Humboldt University alongside female politicians of all parties. Says Rivière: “I’ve been a sex worker for 20 years, but I don’t know a single victim.”

The keynote speaker will be Henny Engels, from the German Women’s Ministry, the umbrella organization of all established women’s organizations (from political parties, churches, professional organizations, etc.). To the amazement of all other European umbrella organizations, in December 2012 the German Women’s Ministry was the only women’s organization that did not sign the “Brussels Call” for abolition of prostitution.

And BuFAS? Alice Schwarzer’s book, Prostitution: A German Scandal has analyzed in which measure these state-financed “whores’ projects”, such as Hydra, Madonna and Kassandra, which head up BuFAS, have become lobbyists for the sex trade. The “whores’ projects” campaign overwhelmingly for entry into prostitution, instead of for exit. And this, although some of them are receiving money from the federal women’s ministry’s model project for exit. A look at their websites tells the story. For example, Kassandra’s website is headed with the slogan: “Prostitution was, is and always will be part of our sexual culture.”

Prostitution and human trafficking bring in a lot of money. A whole lot. Not only millions in state monies, but billions of euros change hands; in Germany in 2013 alone, according to the federal statistics agency, some 14.6 billion euros. And the profit rates are up to 1,000 percent. Drug and weapons traffickers can only dream of that.

So the lobbyists are not lacking in power or money for fancy websites, juristically savvy position papers, and congresses. In contrast, there are hundred-thousands of nameless, bitterly poor prostitutes, whose earnings lie below minimum wage and who, in most cases, can’t even speak German.

But oh yes, who is Fabienne Freymadl, the second “whore” advising women politicians in Berlin? The 35-year-old coms from arch-Catholic Freising [a suburb of München, in Bayern], where even the German Pope has long seemed blessed, and is, according to her own statements, a “sadist out of passion”, which often comes up in those circles. Freymadl performs as “Firelilly” at parties, including “burlesque dancing” or “children’s face-painting”. Or she plays the golden angel on stilts at Christmas markets. Cute, eh?

As a domme, the multi-faceted Freymadl is stricter, though. She specializes in pain-infliction (“Your suffering makes my eyes sparkle.”). Her specialty is a “dungeon with authentic atmosphere”. There, her clients can submit to “dungeon rules”, be interrogated, chained up and tortured, sometimes for twelve hours or even longer. Perhaps some ladies and gentlemen politicians from the capital should take a tour there sometime?

Sure, some women might really enjoy torturing men. Usually, something like that is just called man-hating. That these man-haters gladly let men pay them for that is understandable. But that they offer themselves as political lobbyists for the sex trade at the expense of hundred-thousands of women — that goes too far. Someone should put a stop to that. And soon!

Translation mine.

Aside from the “man-hating” bit, which is editorializing on the part of the author (and may or may not in fact be true), the most egregiously humiliating linguistic slams here come from the oh-so-politically-correct “sex workers’ union” leaders themselves. (You’ll notice I put that in quotation marks; there is a reason for that, and if the EMMA article doesn’t article make clear why, then just keep reading.) “Whores”, they “proudly” call themselves? Well, so much for those who claim that prudish feminists are the ones perpetuating the hurtful old “whore stigma” — here, it is none other than the so-called “sex workers” themselves! The prostitutes of Lyon, supported by feminists from Paris, made it clear in their protests that they are NOT “whores”, they are PEOPLE, and deserving of dignified treatment. The ongoing use of that false word (oddly, alongside the vague and whitewashy term, “sex work”), in an ahistoric denial of what the Lyon uprising stood for, is a gross insult to any woman in prostitution who has ever stood up for her own humanity. And it gets grosser.

In the economically depressed lands of Eastern Europe, where most of the women and girls in the brothels were trucked in from, that word is the most humiliating in the entire, extensive vocabulary of misogyny. In Moldova, a leading source point for trafficked prostitutes, poverty is so bad, and patriarchy so deeply entrenched, that the first pimps the girls get are their own male relatives. “Whore, go out and make money!” is the thing they hear when, upon turning a certain age (generally given as 15 or 16), they are turned out to work. Work, that is, in foreign countries, where they are taken by mafiosi with tentacles all over Europe, to German mega-bordellos where clients pay a flat rate for unlimited “sex” (note the quotes; obviously, enthusiastic consent is NOT on the menu). And where the management looks the other way, not only when it comes to the shadowy origins of their supply chain, but also when it comes to the use of condoms, state-mandated health checks, etc. Numerous mega-brothels have been shuttered due to violations of the health and safety code. Which, in Germany, is enforced from time to time, but not nearly often enough to be meaningful to the women who must work the brothels night and day, for what amounts to sub-minimum wages once their room fees and other “expenses” are subtracted. The brothel owners have set up a tidy profit-making enterprise for themselves, so it stands to reason that they will do anything, not only to keep it going, but to make it even more profitable.

And that’s where the hastily-clapped-up “sex workers’ union” comes in.

Now, an actual prostitutes’ union would, one should think, fight the bosses tooth and nail for better working conditions for the employees. It would be headed by those actually working in the field, instead of arcane “specialists” in the decidedly minority ranks of the BDSM dommes. Nobody elected these women, “Johanna Weber” and “Fabienne Freymadl” (the latter’s pseudonymous surname means “free girl” in the Bavarian dialect, and most girls in prostitution are anything but free.) And since nobody elected them, they represent nobody’s interests, as far as the 400,000 prostitutes in Germany are concerned. The “union” leaders are not only not fighting for the “workers”, they are actively sweeping their concerns under the rug, minimizing and whitewashing all the day-to-day horrors and miseries the women and girls must suffer.

And worse, these “whore” lobbyists are all working to abolish even the minimal, inadequate workplace protections the prostitutes receive, in order to protect — whom? Well, considering who they really work for, that’s obvious: the traffickers. Because who else could possibly benefit from prostitutes being completely without protection by the state, the health authorities, and the police? And who else would be so keen to mount such a massive whitewashing campaign?

The johns are already protected by law and social convention, after all. The worst thing they might come away from the brothels with, aside from a vague, nagging sensation of emptiness (and not so much about the wallet, either; remember, those joints are flat-rate, and the rates are dirt cheap), is a dose of some sexually-transmitted disease or other. German society is all too happy to shrug and look the other way; some non-prostituted women even express “relief” that “those women” exist, because then their husbands and boyfriends and bosses won’t pester THEM with sexual demands they can’t or don’t want to fulfill. And there is also the unspoken “relief” that the “whores” act as a kind of “escape valve” for the imaginary “pent-up head of steam” that would otherwise turn a “sexually frustrated” man into a rapist.

All of this is implicit in the idea of the “whores’ project”, that odiously named bit of legalistic chicanery that, quite conveniently, benefits not a single one of the estimated 400,000 women, most of them Eastern European, in Armutsprostitution — that wonderful German word meaning “poverty prostitution”. There are no “Happy Hookers” there; nobody makes that kind of money. What little is left after the brothels extort their “room rent”, most of it goes back to the old country, to support relatives (mostly male) who are out of work thanks to the fall of the socialist bloc. The benefit to the woman is almost nil, and the German economy on the whole sees little of it, either. The tax collectors, like the police, tend to look the other way as long as all the papers are in order and the cheques are sent in on time. The lion’s share of the profits goes to those who run the brothels — and the trafficking networks that supply the “sex workers”.

I’ve long thought that what some call “sex work” should rightly be called SEX CAPITALISM, because in fact, that’s what it is. And these few “specialists”, like the two in the picture above, who speak for far fewer than 1% of women in the sex industry as a whole, should quit calling themselves “workers”, because their “unions” are literally and figuratively in bed with the bosses. (They should call themselves the Point-Zero-Zero-One-Percenters, really.) The only analogous situation that comes to my mind is that of Venezuela just before and during the coup of ’02, when the country’s corrupt trade-union congress, the CTV, actively got in bed with FEDECAMARAS, the umbrella organization of the Venezuelan chambers of commerce, to try to topple a democratically elected president. Real union workers, who were overwhelmingly pro-Chávez, got so upset with the CTV that they ended up ditching it and forming a new organization, the UNT, whose leadership was free of unelected toadies like Carlos Ortega, and which actually represented the workers’ concerns before the state. (Not surprisingly, the crooked CTV was heavily aligned with the interests of another big bunch of shadow-dwelling pimps: USAID, and the CIA.)

I don’t know if Germany’s prostitutes (most of whom are not German, and barely even speak the language) will ever get to doing what the Venezuelan trade unionists did — namely, kick out these corrupt “spokespeople” who speak for no one. Somehow, I doubt they will ever gain the power to do that; their non-citizen status and economic vulnerability keep them in chains. But the German state can do something about it, and as the EMMA article points out, it is high time that they should. Starting, of course, with a purging of “pro-business” elements across the board from the halls of power. Lobbying, after all, is the legalized form of corruption.

The German model for “regulating” prostitution is clearly failing the very women it was ostensibly designed to protect. And if the pimp lobby gets its way, there will soon be no regulations left at all. It is time to replace that defective model with something else that works.

Right next door to Germany, the Dutch are having a lot of second thoughts about their liberal prostitution laws, and this due to precisely the same conditions that prevail in Germany: organized crime running the whole show. What was once the free domain of independent women just making a living, is now the Mafia’s game. And the response is the last thing the liberalization advocates expected: Amsterdam shuttered hundreds of its famous red-light district “windows”, where prostitutes used to sit in their scanty lingerie, waiting for clients, in 2007. The city has also raised its legal age for first-time prostitutes to 21. All this and more because the Dutch are being inundated with cheap, disposable female flesh from Eastern Europe, the very sort of thing that used to plague Sweden. That is, until someone there decided to consult with actual Swedish prostitutes, to find out what they thought and felt. The result of that extensive consultation? The Swedish “sex purchase” law, which has since been adopted also in Norway, Finland and Iceland, making it truly a Nordic model. Now the Dutch, too, are tentatively looking into it. The Europarliament has approved it. And even France has adopted something similar. Why is that model so popular? Because it works. It reduces harm for women in the sex trade. And it enables them to exit at their own chosen moment, too.

What? A prostitution law written, if not literally by prostitutes, then certainly FOR them? By those who actually listened to them, and heard their concerns, and consulted them every step of the way? Police that protect the women, not the pimps, traffickers and johns? Social welfare agencies helping women get out of prostitution, and not into it, as the pimp lobby — oh sorry, “sex workers’ unions” — of Germany would have them do?

Heresy!

It was 100 years ago today…

Canada’s part in World War I began at the same time as Britain’s: on August 4, 1914, when the latter declared war on Germany after what was considered an “insufficient” response by Germany to a British order not to violate Belgium’s neutrality by passing through it en route to France, against whom Germany had declared war just the previous day.

Contrary to Sir Robert Borden’s claims that it was a war “not for lust of conquest, not for greed of possessions”, it was very much a clash of imperial interests. One has only to look at how many of the key players in the whole ungodly mess were emperors, and how many of them had recently annexed territory that wasn’t theirs (Austria-Hungary), or were claiming to “defend” the same, with an eye to annexing it themselves (Romanov Russia). And one has only to look at how many key players lost their emperors around the war’s end to realize that imperialism-disguised-as-honor was a load of bullshit that the common folk of those lands were no longer buying.

And Canada? Well, we’re still wrestling with that one. We’re no longer “Children of Empire”, a phrase that fell out of fashion after the end of the second world war — a war made inevitable by the unsettled animosities of the first, and especially by the ruinous conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. But back then, according to official accounts, “our boys” were all gung-ho for king and (distant, overseas) country. There was the usual clichéd appeal to honor and glory on this side of the Atlantic, and Anglo-Canadian enlistees were quick to sign on. (Non-Anglo immigrants and their sons, not so much. Especially not those who happened to be German. Perhaps because theirs was a kind of third-class citizenship to begin with, and because on top of this bigotry, they faced a lot of persecution from snobby twits with English names, and so felt, with justification, that the glorious British imperial cause was not worth dying for? Oh, probably.)

And speaking of clichéd appeals, if you were to have a drinking game based on the use of the word “gallant” (often in conjunction with “little Serbia”) in news and propaganda of the day, you’d have died of alcohol poisoning. The British Empire actually couldn’t have cared less about “gallant little” Serbia back in 1908, when it was first annexed by Kaiser Franz Josef. It was just some barbarous little backwater in the Balkans, its annexation largely ignored for a full five years. And it quickly fell by the wayside in the clash of imperialists, aside from its usefulness as a propagandist’s talking point. After all, you couldn’t sell imperial wars as a “noble cause” if you didn’t have a gallant little thing to squabble over, now, could you?

When I was 18 and obsessively devouring Rilla of Ingleside, a sequel to the Anne of Green Gables books (Rilla being the youngest daughter of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe), I was blown away by all the noble turns of phrase in the passages describing the war. Those phrases, I now know, were not actually the author’s own, but were simply passed along without analysis or criticism. Although L.M. Montgomery was supportive of the war effort in her capacity as a dutiful Presbyterian minister’s wife, she privately agonized and suffered many doubts. Knowing where those howlers come from might not lessen my enjoyment of the overall story (which is, after all, just that of a teenage girl at home, looking on in helpless frustration and fear as her brothers, school chums and boyfriend get caught up in all this imperial background noise), but it kills my willingness to believe that there was anything at all noble about the war. The hearts of the boys and young men who went, yes, they were noble. As were the hearts of the families, friends and girls they left behind. But the emperor-kings and the countries they squabbled over, with no regard whatsoever for the millions of lives their imperialism would cost? Ugh. The wartime saying “lions led by donkeys” is most applicable here.

And frankly, the sheer brutality of the trenches, the barbed wire, the machine guns and the gas-shells is the very opposite of nobility and gallantry, and the destroyer of both. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) got its first official mentions in those days, when it was known as “shell shock” — a bit of a misnomer, since there was a lot more than just shelling to demoralize and destroy the minds of soldiers and civilian casualties alike.

Propaganda initiatives also played a devastating role in the barbarity, ushering in the modern era of psychological warfare. One of the most ignoble of these was the White Feather campaign, in which the “manhood” of those reluctant to enlist and fight was impugned, and women were brainwashed (by a British admiral, no less) into doing the impugning. (The irony of a big, brave man of the elites sending women to do his warmongering work of calling frightened lower-class boys sissies should not be lost on anyone. Neither should that of upper-class suffragists being man-talked into abandoning their work of campaigning for the vote in order to promote a most undemocratic, sexist and classist imperial war!)

While World War I may have given Canada an opportunity to prove its collective mettle (especially at Vimy Ridge, where Canadians notably triumphed after British and French forces both failed), I tend now to regard it as an opportunity largely lost. This country could have gone the same way as Germany and Russia in throwing off the yoke of royalty and empire, and it still has not. And we have been dragged into every bloody mess our “commonwealth” overlords have made ever since. In that sense, the real fight hasn’t ended yet…even now, 100 years after the first time we got dragooned into one of Britain’s imperial disasters. Our democracy and institutions are poorer for it.

Where our collective mettle has done much more for us, it has tended to be in peacetime, at home, and with challenges to the human-rights abuses of our colonial elites. The patriation of our constitution in 1982, along with the attachment of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was the real marker of our coming of age. And yet our so-called government will not honor or even recognize it, preferring instead to point back to the myth of Vimy Ridge while trampling human rights here and now. We still have so much work to do on this front, and it won’t be glamorous. No bugles will call us to this battle from “sad shires”, only the increasingly atomized and isolated voices of the powerless. And I fear that they will not be heard.

I am bracing myself for a fresh onslaught of “patriotic” tripe about how we “came into our own” 100 years ago when we answered a distant foreign call to war in the affirmative, instead of standing up in opposition to it, like a country that has truly come of age. Once I used to believe the noble lie; no longer. And I’m not holding my breath for much in the way of serious analysis. If there is one thing that “noble” and “gallant” propaganda does very well, it is to drown out all criticism of empires and the twits who run them.

Israeli crapaganda is for the birds. Literally.

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Who would think the shrapnel injuries to an owl (a BIRD, for fucksakes) to be more worth mentioning than the deaths of over 1000 Gazan citizens, fully a quarter of them children, even as Eid al-Fitr gets underway? The Times of Israel…that’s who:

About two weeks ago, a long-eared owl was injured by mortar shrapnel in Kibbutz Nirim, near the Gaza border. The owl was found by Ben Itay, a kibbutz member and veterinary student, who brought him to his home. When rocket fire from Gaza eased enough to allow Ben to bring him to the Zoological Park in Ramat Gan, also known as the Safari, vets discovered that the poor creature had lost his vision in his right eye, had a broken beak, and was suffering from shrapnel in his head.

Nice of them to care so much about an owl. I like owls. They’re fierce, beautiful birds. But why is this even a story? And how do they know Hamas is to blame? Doesn’t Israel have mortars?

And really, if this is the best they can do for pro-invasion crapaganda now, that’s fucking pathetic.

Brazilian women: beyond the media icons

Video in Portuguese (with Spanish subtitles — no English, sorry).

And if the first thing that came into your head when you read “Brazilian women” was a blond supermodel, or a pair of muscular buttocks wiggling in a teeny bikini, congratulations: You’ve been sucked in by a media bullshit campaign. Brazil’s TV stations are owned by just six families, and heavily invested in promoting (or rather, pimping) just ONE picture of Brazilian women: white, rich, with straight blond hair, tall and slim, heterosexual, usually surgically enhanced…and a constant, parsley-like sexual accessory to the menfolks. (In one scene, a businessman is seen talking away to another man at his desk while his bare foot is fondling the rump of a bikini-clad model lying on a lounge-chair next to him. Yes, really!)

But the “icon” of Brazilian womanhood is being challenged…by Brazilian women themselves. Black, brown, Asian and white, they’ve taken up the fight against this media campaign. The Slutwalk movement, which began here in Canada as a response to a Toronto cop who stupidly told women not to “dress like sluts” in order to avoid rape, has caught on big-time in South America, where women — over-sexualized in the media for decades, and in the minds of church and state for centuries — are now marching and chanting slogans like: “Beware, beware, beware, machista! Latin America is turning feminista!” Women are challenging not only their false image in the media, but capitalism itself…for, after all, that phoney image is there to sell things, by presenting an “aspirational” world that ignores reality, and poverty, completely. And when the media in one country — a land with a population in the hundred-millions — are owned by just six wealthy families, it’s glaringly obvious what the real problem is. And so is why women everywhere — in Canada as well as Brazil — are sick and tired of it.

A few random thoughts on yesterday’s Ontario election

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So, the Ontario Liberals have formed our new government. And it’s a majority. We now have our first elected woman premier (who is also our first elected out gay premier). Tim Hudak was handed his Not-So-Progressive Conservative ass, and has resigned in the wake of his resounding defeat. Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath, who led the provincial NDP — supposedly the most progressive of the three mainstream parties — got handed an object lesson in how NOT to win new friends and influence people. People who neglected to vote got just what they deserved, too: NOTHING.

And I, who swore over a decade ago never again to hold my nose and vote for a Liberal when the party lost to Ernie Eves and his nasty band of Harrisite leftovers (of which Hudak was one), have voted for a Liberal. I did not hold my nose this time.

And I’m not even sorry.

I didn’t leave the NDP; they left me. And they did it right around the time that Andrea Horwath decided it was clever to court the business vote and maybe pick off a few disgruntled SupposiTories, and throw the real, long-time NDPers under the big orange bus. And to cap off the ignominy, the provincial New Democrats ignored my demands to be taken off their call list, and instead deluged me with donation requests by phone and e-mail, as well as robocalls trying to rope me into an “unscripted” town-hall that I had no desire to take part in. I was pissed as hell over that. And yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I finally took my frustrations out in the only way I knew. I voted for the local Liberal in my riding. And he won.

And that’s why I’m not sorry. My riding is a swing riding; it could go either way in any given election, and vacillates between Lib and Con. An NDP vote would be wasted here, and doubly so under the circumstances. The Liberal I voted for unseated the Conservative doofus who’d been squatting uselessly in Queen’s Park on our supposed behalf, making idiotic proposals to attract more tourists to our area by building covered bridges. Yeah, that’s right: he was shooting for The Bridges of Madison County. Only this is NOT Madison County, and it doesn’t have a lengthy tradition of covered bridges to preserve, let alone add to. But hey — wouldn’t it have looked cute? Guess that would have created maybe a couple dozen of those million new jobs Timmy promised us. No wait, that would be public-sector jobs. And Timmy was for chopping 100,000 of those. He seemed to think that with fewer taxes to pay and less accountability than ever, the private sector would pick up the slack. Since when has it ever done that? Since, oh, about NEVER. The only thing that trickles down from Uncle Miltie Friedman’s economics is raw sewage — and, if you have the misfortune to live and work in Alberta, tar-sands waste.

And Ontario voters, those who showed up yesterday at any rate, aren’t stupid. You can’t piss on our heads out here and tell us it’s raining. Which is what Tim Hudak was trying to do. And Andrea Horwath, too. The one was handed a harsh lesson in how not to do economics, and the other, in how not to do progressive politics. On both counts, they are bullets that I chose to dodge. As for the Greens, they’ve long been off the progressive radar here, because their environmental solution boils down to too much capitalism and not enough socialism. And again, Ontario voters not being stupid, we know that that’s not enough to keep our province clean and healthy. Trying to appeal to the goodness of a businessman’s heart is a losing proposition, because they don’t have one. Big Business will almost always pay only the merest of lip service to progressive causes, and very rarely do things differently out of a knowledge that the common good is also good for business. If you don’t believe me, watch The Corporation. If corporations are legally persons, then the kind of persons they are is diagnosably psychopathic. (And just think: That’s who Andrea Horwath was trying to court, too. Oy.)

So, all bullet-dodging and ass-handing aside, what was this election about?

In the end, the “surprising” Liberal majority tells me that there was something more at work here than just avoiding the worst and punishing their fellow-travellers for jumping on the dumb populist bandwagon. Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga (and the longest-serving mayor in the country), nailed it when she picked Kathleen Wynne for her endorsement. Hurricane Hazel is no lightweight; she shepherded her city through the great train derailment of 1979, when she was newly elected, and Mississauga was newly amalgamated. It could have been the kiss of death for her, but it proved to be her finest hour, because that was when she proved not only her political mettle, but her unswerving dedication to her constituents. Hazel McCallion has never lied or played her people false. She always stood up for them, and that’s why they kept voting for her, term after term after term. So her recommendation bore some weight with me. And lots of other Ontarians too, it seems.

And then there was the Globe & Mail’s editorial board. They all endorsed Wynne too, in a consensus that took time and thought to reach, only to have orders come down from on high to throw their weight behind Hudak instead. Now, those board members were not idiots, either. Whoever told them they were going with Hudak was. But then, the Grope & Flail has always endorsed the Tories, so I guess that was to be expected. Even though the party leader was a complete twit, it didn’t matter; tradition is tradition. And the editorial high command ended up mopping egg yolks out of their beards for that.

But then, is that really so shocking? Ontarians can’t afford to vote based on tradition anymore. And neither can politicians rely on conventional, traditional strategies for roping them in. The conservative base is aging and dying. They can’t be counted on in the numbers they once had. And that’s a good thing for progressives, even in this ludicrous first-past-the-post system we have. Because we younger voters of Generations X and Y are informed by grassroots movements like Occupy, Uncut, and the 99%. We are restless, and we don’t give a hang for party loyalty when the parties betray us. We are the untapped progressive vein that the traditional party strategists are missing. They think we’ll fall for some right-wing yutz when, in fact, we are much further to the left than any of the big parties. And we are the ones with an increasing power to force the most progressive candidates to the top. In this case, it was Kathleen Wynne…who ran as a Liberal, but sounded a lot more like a New Democrat than the NDP did. For me, she was a no-brainer choice.

My polling station was surprisingly busy, given that I live in a fairly small town. Line-ups are uncommon on voting day at any station here. Usually you’re in and out in less than five minutes. But yesterday, I found myself waiting behind another woman, who was waiting for yet another woman to vote. I wonder if we all voted for the same candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did! I smelled motivation in the air…and desperation in the Conservative camp, which indeed there was. Maybe my single vote wasn’t much on its own, but then again, lots of others were probably thinking the same thing. And, quite possibly, that was what put our local Liberal very soundly over the top, with several thousand votes over the incumbent Conservative doofus. If you vote, you can still make a difference; if not, you might just end up getting not the government you want, but the one you deserve.

And now that that’s all over, it’s time for the next step: holding all the new electees’ feet to the fire, as well as those of the losers, and making sure they don’t get away with more of the same old. Which is to say, politics by, of and for the money, rather than by, of and for the people. We have to make sure they don’t go throwing a “surprise” austerity budget at us. Let’s hope they’re learning a thing or two from the Eurocrisis, and specifically, the French, who are throwing debt out the window in favor of the public interest. Ontarians should get a referendum on whether a “balanced budget” is really a worthwhile priority, instead of an inflexible law. It’s time to scrap the legacy of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves once and for all. No more tax cuts for big business, and no more austerity budgets to appease the suits. For that, we’ll need concerted action.

And a lot more of it than just dutifully turning out on election day.

The scandals of King Juan Carlos

Video in Spanish, detailing a lot of things you probably never knew about the soon-to-abdicate king of Spain. That he squandered thousands of euros of public money per day on a canned hunt in Botswana is well known; not so obvious, however, is the fact that his “man of the people” image is a carefully cultivated myth. And that it all began with Generalissimo Franco, who covered up the fact that Juan Carlos killed his own brother, Alfonso, with a revolver as a boy. (The Wikipedia entry on Alfonso perpetuates this myth, claiming it was a gun accident, and that the pistol went off as Alfonso was cleaning it. The article cites only two sources.)

Of course, a killer-king is one thing nobody wants on the throne…and most Spaniards never knew they had one until recently, as Franco-fascism gradually gave way to more press freedom. But, as my most recent entry shows, there is still not nearly enough of that…because the whole damn world doesn’t know about this yet. And because the whole damn world still doesn’t know how badly Spain wants to be a republic again.