Not an elegy. Just a poem. Short, strong and stark.
Not an elegy. Just a poem. Short, strong and stark.
That works out to just 1,380 convictions per year, with 458,620 assailants walking. Shocking, innit?
And for how that fits into the experiences of women in the criminal justice system as a whole, here’s StatsCan’s most recent data.
You tell ‘em, kitty.
Every so often, I get to wondering why I haven’t picked up a copy of Maclean’s in years. And then I do, and I’m instantly, disgustingly reminded: Oh yeah, Barbara Amiel is still writing for them. Booooooring. And so are her little clones. Like, for instance, one Emma Teitel, who thinks it’s time we big bad meanie feminists stopped picking on pickup artists, just because she felt sorry for some poor little pizza-faced kid who once accosted her at the Eaton Centre:
About a year ago I was walking through the Eaton Centre mall in downtown Toronto when a teenage boy approached me and asked me very meekly if he could have a few minutes of my time. I said sure, assuming that he was working for a charity and hadn’t had much luck attracting donors during rush hour in the dead of winter. (I did a similar, soul-crushing job in college.) I waited for his pitch about poverty, child soldiers or land mines, but it never came. Instead, he told me how “cool” my glasses were and asked me if I had a boyfriend. It became instantly clear that he didn’t want a donation; he wanted a date. I told him I was a lesbian in a hurry (my go-to exit strategy with street preachers) and I was soon on my way—confused about why a teenage boy would so boldly pursue a four-eyed woman in a ski jacket 10 years his senior, but flattered nonetheless.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized my age and attire were irrelevant to the equation, because my adolescent suitor didn’t have eyes for me; he had eyes for literally any woman with a pulse. According to multiple news outlets, Toronto’s biggest downtown shopping mall had recently become ground zero for so-called pickup artists (PUAs as they are known online), a loosely connected international community of guys who share seduction tips with each other on the Internet and take to the streets to “woo” as many unsuspecting women as humanly possible. Their techniques range from corny (showering women with compliments) to cruel: “Negging,” a PUA technique popularized by American pickup artist and journalist Neil Strauss in his 2005 book, The Game, consists of showering women with low-grade insults. According to Urban Dictionary, “negs” are “meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.” (An example, used frequently by my own grandmother: “Wow, you have beautiful eyes. It’s a shame I can barely see them behind your bangs.”)
The Eaton Centre, obviously displeased with the fact that some of its female shoppers were being subjected to this bizarre breed of socially awkward male interference, issued a statement on Twitter alerting customers about the PUA presence on its premises. “Rest assured security is briefed and your health and safety are our top priority,” mall staff tweeted before Christmas last year.
The pickup artist who tried and failed to woo me on account of my cool glasses was, as far as I could tell, a threat to nobody’s health and safety. In fact, I felt a little sorry for the guy. Spending one’s free time trying to engage strangers romantically in a shopping mall doesn’t merely reveal an absence of social grace, but quite possibly, an absence of friends.
Gawd, it sure is windy out there in beautiful downtown Toronto today, eh? But wait, here comes something that looks like a nut graf…finally:
But it is no longer socially acceptable to pity the PUAs, because they are apparently—in these socially divisive, Ghomeshi-saturated times—a viable threat to the feminist cause. That cause has been active against the PUA culture, and has borne fruit. For example, Julien Blanc, the 25-year-old pickup artist of the PUA organization Real Social Dynamics—and author of such promotional gems as: “Develop panty-dropping masculinity with this rock-solid structure to self-generate the powerful emotions girls crave”—was banned from Australia this month on the grounds that his dating seminars (for which he charges more than $1,000) incite violence against women. Several petitions asking the Canadian government to bar Blanc from entering Canada are in the works here too; the outcry against him has been so strong on Twitter that Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued a statement on the social media platform last week condemning the pickup artist’s teachings, and ensuring the public that his office is “looking at all options and will consider using every tool at our disposal to protect the rule of law on Canadian soil.”
Er. What’s with the “apparently” there, Emma? And what’s with all the sneery commentaries on “these times”? This isn’t some new thing. This is the same old shit that has always been with us. Why are you undermining efforts to stop it?
If a guy walks down the street randomly grabbing women by the throat and shoving their faces into his smelly crotch, do you not see that he’s committing blatant, overt violence against women? Because that is what we feminists oppose, among other manifestations of sexism and the patriarchy.
And if a guy makes it his mission to preach this same violence like it’s some kind of gospel, and make big money at it like Jimmy Fucking Swaggart, do you not see a problem there, one worthy of feminist efforts to expose and eradicate?
Nope, apparently she doesn’t:
Blanc, by comparison, is a sophomoric ass so blatantly trolling the feminist community with idiotic rape jokes and a following that is insignificant in comparison to the number of people speaking out against him. He has 8,200 Twitter followers; the petition to have him barred from entering the U.K. just reached 150,000. In other words, he isn’t Hitler. He’s Stifler. Which makes the current media blitz he’s enjoying all the more annoying. The most ironic thing about Blanc’s notorious hashtag is that the vast majority of people who appear to be using it are feminists. (I searched the hashtag and scrolled down the results for roughly 25 minutes trying to find one tweet that championed the sentiment rather than derided it. I failed.) Were it not for the scores of women using it in their posts to denounce Blanc, it would likely cease to exist.
Huh. I see she bought his “only joking” defence. Poor dear, she doesn’t realize it, but she’s the one being trolled.
Emma, I’m with your grandma. You really do need to pin back your bangs. An unobstructed view of reality is so much better than looking cute but being unable to see past your own cutesiness. When even the stuffy old Torygraph says nobody’s buying that “apology”, doesn’t that tell you anything? Here, let me brush that wool out of your eyes:
Before he locked down his Twitter account (probably because he realized, belatedly, that no one was actually finding his rape “jokes” funny), Julien Blanc was promoting the Duluth Power and Control Wheel as a “checklist” on how to “Make Her Stay With You”.
Does this sound “funny” to you, Emma? Because it’s actually a teaching tool which feminists helped to develop, and which is used by counsellors of abused persons to help them recognize common strategies of control used by abusers. And there is nothing “sophomoric” about that. On the contrary, it speaks to just how controlling, abusive and downright cynical Julien Blanc really is.
But hey! Let’s throw a few bones to the feminists before we throw them to the dogs, eh Emma?
It appears that out of a laudable and deeply felt outrage at a potential injury to women, some in the feminist movement have amplified exactly the misogynistic messages they’d like to snuff out. They’ve effectively become Julien Blanc’s spokeswomen, his PR firm. Kirsty Mac, a feminist and stand-up comic whose activism was instrumental in the decision to ban Blanc from Australia, disagrees with this idea wholeheartedly. “Australia said no to violence against women and the world followed,” Mac wrote to me in an email. “Social media might very well be the beginning of the end of the misogyny in pop culture.”
Drawing attention to a problem in an effort to eradicate it is not the same thing as promoting it, Emma. And knock off that divide-and-conquer shit about “some in the feminist movement”. This is something we can all get behind, and should. As the AIDS activists used to say, Silence = Death. You might want to remember that before you start prattling about nuance.
Oops, too late. She’s prattling about nuance, now…
It is certainly the beginning of the end of nuance. Feminist causes have exploded on Twitter in the last year, from #YesAllWomen (the viral hashtag that emerged in the wake of misogynist murderer Elliot Rodger’s violent rampage in May) to #BeenRapedNeverReported, the infinitely powerful and informative viral hashtag that emerged in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi in October. The social media movement against “street harassment” (a.k.a. cat calling) is just as lively. So too, whether we like or not, is the backlash against the Rosetta mission scientist Matt Taylor who wore a tasteless shirt on TV during the live broadcast of the comet landing, emblazoned with hundreds of miniature pictures of semi-nude ladies; a problematic message, many argued, in an industry that employs so few women.
These conversations are overdue. Yet the downside to their playing out on social media is the lightning speed at which online feminism has amalgamated sexist offenses of wildly varying severity—pickup artistry, cat-calling, date rape—into one melting pot of equivalency. The result is that the difference between what’s idiotic, what’s lecherous, and what’s criminal is lost.
This is the hapless kind of false equivalency that has infected so many worthy social movements and reduced their stature, with moral persuasion replaced by ideological bullying. The greatest heresy is for anyone, male or female, to suggest that there might be another side to the story—like, for instance, Brandon Thomas, an 18-year-old self-styled pickup artist who lives in Tulsa, Okla., who told me he was virtually friendless before he got involved with the PUA community two years ago. “I had no idea how awkward I was . . . Parents and friends tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “A dating coach tells you what you need to hear.” (He claims that every PUA technique he uses is imbued with respect for women.)
Not all pickup artists are equal; and very few of them are the spawn of the devil. (Most, I suspect, are merely virgins.)
Yes, Emma, and I was a virgin too, once upon a long time ago. But it never turned me into a serial harasser of strangers in shopping malls.
In fact, I was still technically one on the night this one very slick operator, who I thought was my friend, first “rescued” me from his, er, over-enthusiastic roomie, then took me out of their basement apartment, and later, after a few beers, brought me back to my place, ostensibly safe and sound. On my parents’ own living-room floor he made out with me for a couple of minutes. That was fine; he was a buff, good-looking guy, and I kind of fancied him. But then, without warning, he undid his pants, clambered up over me until he was straddling my neck, and popped his half-masted cock into my mouth.
I was so confused that I didn’t know what to do, other than docilely lie there and let him, so as not to risk offending him and maybe getting myself hurt. (Nice Girl Training, goddamn.)
Perhaps he sensed that there was something ironic and not quite kosher about what he was doing, because after a few half-hearted ins and outs, he stopped, put himself away, and zipped up. He left shortly thereafter. I locked the door behind him.
Then I silently slunk upstairs to bed, bewildered and still a little tipsy, and feeling — not violated or traumatized exactly, but still somehow betrayed. Because he had just a few hours ago saved me from getting raped, and I honestly expected him to know better than to do it himself. He could have asked, and I might have said yes.
But he didn’t. And I didn’t. He never gave me that chance.
I never reported this as a sexual assault, because what would have been the use? I can’t say I was injured, because I wasn’t. My technicalities were still intact, and he hadn’t used any overt force. (Overt is the operative word here. And maybe it’s kind of a moot question when someone’s in a position to crush your windpipe merely by sitting his ass down.) Worse, I knew how it would look if I told the cops, my parents, and maybe even a judge and jury everything that happened: “Well, first we made out on the floor…” Who would believe me if I told them that I did not want him to do that, I did not ask him to do that, and I most certainly did not give him permission to do that?
Not saying “no” does not equal “yes”. But pickup artists don’t teach you that, they teach you the opposite. “Make the ho say no” is just one of their many rapey mottoes. In fact, there is even such a thing in pickup artistry as “rape game”, and yes, that is exactly what you think it is. (Google it. And be sure to take your ulcer meds first.) The entire thing, in fact, is nothing BUT rape, because honesty is not a pickup artist’s strong suit, and especially not when you’re trying to up your notch count by any means possible.
Yes, Emma, nuance is a very important thing. And nowhere more so than in your black-and-white world of “rape rape” versus mere “pickup artistry”, eh?
It is profoundly important for both its relevancy and survival that feminism retain the ability to distinguish between the handsy jerk who pushes his luck on the dance floor, and a man who allegedly assaults women in the presence of a stuffed bear.
And then, to judge them accordingly.
Uh, Emma? In case you forget, Jian Ghomeshi did both. He was, by all accounts, both a pickup artist AND a violator of the law. There is no rule saying you can’t be both. In fact, there is no rule that you can’t smoothly segue from the one to the other. Feminists have long understood that. It’s time you did the same.
And Maclean’s? Yeah, you suck too for publishing this rag-load of hog snot. But I won’t be holding my breath for you to improve. You’ve been full of crap-ass suckitude for the longest time. Nearly ten years ago, as I recall, you published a fluffy, uncritical feature on PUAs, portraying them merely as a titillating, mildly goofy bunch of totally awesome he-men. That article nauseated me then, and still does now. Seems you haven’t yet twigged to the fact that they are, in reality, all scungy-ass woman-haters. Particularly one of your profilees, the PUA who called himself Gunwitch — who turns out to be not only a would-be “ladykiller”, but a bona fide aspiring lady-killer, too.
PUA coaches are worse than the slimiest snake oil salesman. They are not a source of hope for the socially awkward; quite the opposite, actually. Their methods don’t work, except to lure unwary males. And among those poor saps there is many a ticking time bomb. Who can forget the “sexual frustration” of that poor ignored virgin, Elliot Rodger? When he failed to pick up anyone, he churned out a misogynous “manifesto”, then went on a murderous, suicidal rampage.
No, PUAs are not funny. Nor are they harmless. And they are most certainly not a separate entity from violent, even murderous abusers. On the contrary, they are all on the same continuum. It is a question of degree, not kind.
And since Maclean’s has abdicated its social responsibility to make that connection, I guess it’s little wonder that I haven’t read them in years…and don’t feel like I’ve missed out in the least. They’ve sold out information in favor of titillation, and thrown women under the bus. None of them has any business telling Canadian women how to do feminism, because none of them know how the hell to do journalism.
“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.
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.
An 18-year-old Bosnian Muslim war survivor recovering after abortion of a rape-induced pregnancy, September 1992. Photo: Nina Berman, Sipa Press.
Even as German politicians are coming under heavy pressure from the local pimp lobby to do away with all laws around prostitution, another group of voices is rising up to join the opposition to that very wealthy and powerful force. They are trauma therapists who have worked extensively with women and girls in the trade, and what they have seen in the course of their careers is enough to convince them that prostitution is not, and never will be, a normal job for the vast majority of those who do it:
“Prostitution is in no way a job like any other. It is degrading, torturous, exploitive. On the side of the prostituted, there is a lot of horror and disgust at play, which they have to repress in order to get through it at all.” So says Michaela Huber, psychologist and head of the German Society for Trauma and Dissociation.
“In this system of prostitution, women are systematically put down, used, and degraded into objects.” So says Lutz Besser, head of the Centre for Psychotraumatology and Trauma Therapy of Niedersachsen.
“Prostitution has its roots in the violence that is done to children. And society must not block out or whitewash this violence!” So demands Susanne Leutner, vice-president of the trauma-therapists’ association, EMDRIA.
Leading German trauma therapists speak out sharply for societal awareness and support the “Stop Sex-buying” initiative. The organization, a coalition of citizens and centres of expertise, demands that johns be punished, in line with the Swedish model: “It is our goal, not to criminalize the prostituted, but to turn the focus on the johns, whose demand creates the market. They are actually responsible for the fact that increasing numbers of young women from the poorest countries in the world are brought to Germany to work in prostitution here.” Because “The reality of women in prostitution is being glorified or trivialized and ignored — and the sexual exploitation of women in this manner is being normalized and cemented.”
This offensive position in the treatment of traumatized persons by specialized therapists is, to put it mildly, a sensation. Among the therapists who have joined the initiative is Prof. Günter Seidler, head of psychotraumatology at the University of Heidelberg and a pioneer of German trauma research. “There are already more than enough psychologically traumatized people. The mental wounds of prostitution are avoidable,” says Seidler, one of the first 90 signatories of the EMMA appeal to do away with prostitution.
“Prostitution is violence, not a profession!” charges Prof. Wolfgang U. Eckart, director of the Institute for History and Ethics in Medicine at Heidelberg, in the journal Trauma and Violence. He argues: “Little is free in prostitution on the whole, and nothing in mediated prostitution. Because the striking asymmetry of power and the potential for violence in the relationship between the mediator and the practitioner generates in this oldest form of the enslavement of women constitutionally dependent relationships, which almost automatically deliver all the façades and backgrounds for the practice of traumatizing acts of violence of every sort.”
Dr. Ingeborg Kraus is the initiator of the therapists’ protest. The trauma therapist from Karlsruhe has dealt with victims of war rape in Bosnia, and after her return to the German trauma clinics, she realized: “Even here, every other female patient has experienced sexual violence.” At some point, Kraus got fed up with the “constant task of patching them back together”. She vowed: “I want to work preventively as well!” For her, too, the fight against prostitution is part of that. “In my long years of psychotherapeutic experience, I have accompanied prostituted women and learned their backgrounds. It thus became clear that prostitution was, in all cases, the continuation of violent experiences in their biographies.”
Michaela Huber can only confirm that, from her own therapeutic experiences and those of “many, many colleagues.” “Who even gets the idea to sell their own body? The prerequisite for that is to be alienated from one’s own body.” She continues: “You have to picture it: One has to let oneself be penetrated, again and again. One has to have practiced it, or one can’t do it. One leaves behind just a shell that can still go through certain motions, certain gestures.”
This beaming-oneself-away — dissociation, in specialists’ jargon — is forcibly learned, early on, by victims of violence. Not coincidentally, studies show that the majority of women (and men) in prostitution have suffered sexual abuse or other traumatic violence, eg. neglect, as children.
Traumatologist Lutz Besser demands a rethink of the acceptance of prostitution. He fears that “we are in danger of sliding into an Ice Age of ethics. Morality is one part,” says Besser. “But ethics also poses the question: What happens to another person if I do something?” This question, however, is one the johns don’t ask. “The men who go to prostitutes don’t realize that most of the women in this trade are doing so under pressure and duress. A society that legitimates that, demands the stance that prostitution is the most normal thing in the world,” says the therapist. “And it is a scandal that we as a society don’t have a clearer position on this!”
In Berlin, politicians are currently seeking advice. Not only as to how prostitution should be legally regulated; they will also decide how our society stands in regard to it: Whether prostitution should continue to be “a job like any other” — or whether prostitution goes against human dignity and destroys human beings. The signatory therapists hope that the politicians don’t just consign even more traumatized people to them, but finally take the side of prevention.
I have often seen prostitution referred to not only as the “oldest profession”, but also likened to several actual professions: nursing, for one; various medical and psychological therapies, for another. Often the excuse is trotted out that “sex workers” serve a clientele which is disabled, and thus unable to form normal sexual and romantic relationships — an excuse that, to my mind, demeans the disabled as well as those tasked with disposing of their sexual needs. I know a fair number of disabled men who have happy relationships, and so are not reliant on prostitution — far more of them than of those of the other sort! Then there are the quite-able-bodied men who go to prostitutes because the women in their lives are disabled and they just can’t seem to get it up for them — a strange “disability”, that. And on top of that, the vast majority of johns are not disabled in the least, whether physically, mentally or even socially. They’re just lazy when it comes to seeing women as people, or treating them as something other than conveniences that might cost a couple hundred dollars at most for the kind of sexual servicing that a “regular” woman or girl, being the “sexually repressed bitch” that she is, won’t provide.
Considering that my own sister, a registered massage therapist whose job emphatically does not include rubbing anyone’s genitalia, has worked in clinics that had panic buttons installed in case a client came in expecting a different kind of massage, I find all talk of prostitution-as-profession to be something rather worse than a dirty joke. The creeps who wander into massage therapy clinics expecting bawdy-house prostitution are a real and constant menace to public safety. So are those who expect sexual servicing from nurses, or from women doctors. Such things are not on the list of training requirements in any actual health-related profession, no matter how much those who talk of prostitution-as-profession would like to blur that distinction.
My sister went through four years of specialized training at a pricey massage-therapy school. She even had to dissect preserved human cadavers in anatomy class. Nurses, too, require college or university degrees these days in order to advance professionally and be hired by hospitals. Some take Ph.Ds in nursing science, putting them on a level with actual medical doctors, as far as education and training goes. As for medical doctors, it’s not unusual to see one with a long string of degrees after their name. B.A., B.Sc., M.A., M.Sc., M.D., Ph.D., etc. At a bare minimum, it takes six years to graduate as an M.D. in Canada: two years’ university at the bachelor level (preferably in the sciences), followed by four years’ med school. (Something similar, I imagine, pertains to dentists and eye specialists.) And none of that time is devoted to learning how to sexually service a “client”.
This is what is meant and generally understood by a “profession”: A long period of training in a specialty that requires extensive and in-depth knowledge. And one is graduated with a certificate that states that this person is qualified to work as a physician, surgeon, nurse, dentist, optometrist, etc. Or as an assistant to any of the above. Or, like my sister, a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT).
What professional training and certification does it take to work in prostitution?
As far as I know, there is no real certification process for prostituted persons at all. Maybe, if one works in a country where some health regulations are in place, you are required to get regular gynecological exams and be declared STD-free, but that’s about it. And even that is unusual. It seems to be the case mainly in Holland, where, as we now know, the liberal laws legalizing prostitution have come into question by local authorities seeing a surge in organized crime. If the current anti-trafficking laws are a joke to the mafia networks supplying girls to work in the “windows” (and they are), what must health regulations be? And how many euros a month does it cost to get fake HIV status certification for all the girls in one’s stable? If johns insist, as they so often do in Germany, upon “AO” sex — “alles ohne”, meaning “everything without [condoms]”, then how long can any girl in the trade reasonably expect to pass her HIV tests and obtain a clean bill of health? After all, being prostituted alone does not magically transmit the virus; it has to come from someone else. And that “someone else” is usually the buyer. (Or, if the prostitute is also an addict, from sharing needles with someone who is infected, as many street junkies do. And, in fact, a lot of prostitutes are junkies themselves; it’s one of their key coping strategies, as drug use facilitates mental dissociation.)
So much for certification. Now what about professional training?
Well, there’s where we start getting into some seriously murky territory. And that’s precisely the bailiwick of the trauma therapists mentioned in the EMMA article I linked and translated above. All of them have found that the only real prerequisite to working in the sex trade is previous experience, usually in childhood, of severe malign neglect and/or sexual abuse. And dire poverty in one’s immediate present. That’s it! Well, that, plus a round of rape if the girl is not already broken down enough to take whatever abuse is dished out to her. Gang rape is the only “professional training” that practitioners of the “oldest profession” receive in the trafficking networks. It takes, at most, just a couple of intensely traumatic days. There are no professional colleges, no formal training programs, no exams, no boards to certify that one is proficient in “sex work”.
Does that sound like a profession to you? For that matter, does it sound like the training you’d get for any other job? After all, the “oldest profession” is supposed to be a “job like any other”…
Even the most menial joe jobs out there entail longer training periods than that of a trafficked prostitute. At a fast-food joint, on average, it’s two weeks. And the training is far more humane. If scrubbing toilets by hand were paid at the same rates as prostitution, those in prostitution would jump at the chance to become toilet-scrubbers. At least a toilet won’t grab you by the neck and rape you, sodomize you, try to kill you, or just beat the shit out of you. A toilet won’t demand that you play the all-obliging “girlfriend” or fake an orgasm in order to satisfy it. And you don’t have to dissociate mentally in order to face the next toilet, either. You don’t need crack, meth or heroin to numb you in anticipation of yet another damn toilet.
I’m not surprised that there is so little pride in being of the “oldest profession”, outside of the usual highly vocal designated spokespersons for the “sex workers’ unions” (i.e., the pimp lobby) who still insist on pushing the “Happy Hooker” fairytale as somehow representative of the trade as a whole. Just as I’m not surprised that nine out of ten people in prostitution — predominantly women and girls, cisgendered or trans — have expressed the wish to get out again, as soon as they can. Who would not want to get out of a “profession” where one’s “job” entails so much dissociation, often through drugs, in order to escape the reality that one is being repeatedly sexually abused? And where the PTSD rates are comparable to those of women who have been raped in a war zone like Bosnia?
In fact, a lot of the rape victims of the Bosnian genocide were forced into prostitution. The only real difference between a “rape camp” and a brothel was that in the latter, money was changing hands. And, most shamefully, a large part of the “clientele” were the same UN troops charged with peacekeeping in the region. That just laid insult on top of injury for the Bosnian women and girls. Because if you couldn’t trust a UN peacekeeper to keep you safe from your tormentors — and indeed, if the peacekeepers were complicit in the abuses, as they were later shown to be, in Bosnia and Kosovo — whom could you trust at all?
The trauma therapists of Germany have worked with two groups of traumatized women: survivors of war rape in the Balkans, and survivors of prostitution at home. They have seen similar patterns at work in the lives of both. They can no longer dissociate from the disturbing reality that sexual abuse is not just an ugly episode from these women’s pasts, it is also an ongoing fact of their present. Flashbacks can strike at the most unexpected moments, leaving the victim incapacitated and vulnerable to even more abuse than she has already endured. They require drugs, often hard and dangerous street drugs, to numb out and dissociate again. The cycle becomes more vicious with every turn. And when all the coping strategies evolved during one’s time in the “life” stop working, that’s when they land in the psychiatric clinic, if they are lucky, to unpack it all for someone who will listen, care, and not judge them moralistically for what they have done in order to survive.
And when someone whose job it is to listen and care nonjudgmentally comes out in favor of abolition, you can be sure that this person’s conclusion is the product of long reflection upon what they have seen in their own profession. One can’t call them “repressed Victorian moralists”, as these therapists are the beneficiaries — and in some cases, pioneers — of the most modern psychotherapeutic and psychosexual training in the world. These are no buttoned-up church ladies and ignorant backwoods preachers of abstinence and procreation-only; these are urbane specialists with the highest educations, and the best training, that the highly reputable German university medical system has to offer. If they speak out against prostitution, and do so precisely on the basis of what they have learned from those in the thick of it — you can take their word to the bank. They have made the scientific case against a “profession” that has no real scientific basis whatsoever.
Now, I wonder if the politicians are also listening — caringly, and without judgment, as the therapists have learned to do.
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.
Ladies! Ever wonder how YOU can cover up everything just to save face? Take a lesson from the NFL and watch this:
Not sure how it works on black eyes, broken noses, or split lips. But it’s worth a try, right?
The signs read “For Sale”. But these women are not for sale. And no, this is not a joke, either. One German city is taking creative action against the mega-bordello industry:
The looks of passersby change from amusement to shock as they realize that the young women with the sad eyes in the shopping carts are not a PR gag. They stand for a serious topic: the sale of women in forced prostitution. The actions of Krefeld citizens against human trafficking and forced prostitution began on Saturday in the inner city, and in a short time, gathered 1,650 signatures.
Franziska Feldhoff is one of the signatories. “I’ve known for a long time that human trafficking is shrouded in silence. No one in Germany thinks about it. It’s good that there’s an organization on the streets,” she says. She doesn’t know if her signature will change much. “But there has to be a start. Maybe I can help get something rolling.”
Passerby Denise Hochheim says that there’s a lot not being talked about, including the sale of people. “It’s a purely human topic, the way women and children are treated. The least I can do is sign.”
Walter Voss also signed. “Forced prostitution is not okay. That goes against all human dignity.” He adds: “So that the world’s oldest profession can exist for men who don’t have a woman, in order to avoid overreach.”
Erwin Kaltenbacher and Ute Horn, of the initiative say that their consciousness was awakened by the actions on the Neuen Ritterstrasse. “We were horrified when we saw what was going on there.” They are happy with the strong agreement among the populace. “On Wednesday, we’ll hand the list of signatures to the members of the federal government and the Bundestag. We challenge them to correct the prostitution law — the most liberal in all Europe — as soon as possible, so that forced prostitution is no longer possible in our land.” Among the demands: Authorization requirements for all brothels, no prostitution under age 21, and no solicitation in public.
Meanwhile, half a dozen masked men in black passed through the streets with their shopping carts. Mark Yahya pushes his wife, Karo. “For sale” reads the sign on the front of the cart. “At first people laugh when they see us. One of them asked what I cost. But then their looks change. Lots of them don’t know what to do about it.”
Before Saturday, the initiative had already gathered around 350 signatures. On Wednesday, they’ll deliver over 2000 voices against human trafficking and forced prostitution to Berlin.
Krefeld is a city of over 200,000 people. Gathering the signatures of 1% of those might not sound like much, but that amounts to a little over one day’s work, and that’s not bad, considering.
Likewise, the demands sound modest, but remember what these people are up against: An extremely powerful pimp-lobby that wants to do away with all regulations, including authorization of brothels and age limits for prostitution. As for public solicitation, it’s so blatant right now that the biggest bordellos actually publish their website addresses in neon on the marquee. Any kid with an internet connection could “visit” and see what’s on offer. Same goes for the johns and their “ratings” fora. It is a public disgrace, and no amount of whitewash can hide it any longer.
And, as the protesters themselves have said, maybe this will get something rolling. As it is, there is a groundswell building in Germany to end human trafficking, because it’s becoming a national embarrassment. Raising awareness of what’s wrong with the picture is just the start.
“John #9″ rates a woman he bought for 30 euros: “170 cm tall, long dark hair, early 20s, 5 pounds overweight (which actually doesn’t look so bad), and what a wonder, obviously a Carpathian girl. Wasn’t bad today though, I wanted fucking not conversation. And her German is surprisingly good. Big plus: She washes beforehand, so that’s fine for tongue-action lovers. Blows well, no teeth, no rubber, holds her own well in fucking, but no fingering. You can fiddle with her pussy or her rosette, but don’t put your fingers in! And don’t cum in her mouth, but what can you do? For spoiled clubgoers a zero, but for the street, not so bad.”
As you can see from the above, a fairly typical entry on a German sex-buyers’ forum, the “Invisible Men” are everywhere. Even in Germany, where sex-buying is fully legal, you can find these skulking cowards, taking advantage of the anonymity of the internets to dish on women they don’t really know and don’t care to know in anything other than the strictly biblical sense. Mira Sigel, writing for the anti-fascist feminist site “Die Störenfriedas” (a wonderfully punny name incorporating the female name Frieda with the German word for “peace-disturbers”), has the goods on them:
In the current debate on prostitution, everything revolves around women in prostitution. They are the ones who are fighting the battle over the legalization of prostitution. Johns only speak up, if at all, in the anonymity of the Internet. But the business of prostitution wouldn’t exist if there were no demand from the men’s side. So the debate should actually revolve far more around the men who go out to buy women. If we go by the number of 400,000 prostitutes in Germany (and this number is from the year 2002, so there is no doubt that it has risen in the meantime), then between 1.5 and 2 million men go to prostitutes every day, and so presumably every other man has been to a brothel at least once. Our brothers, husbands, friends and colleagues.
Studies show that the legalization of prostitution and the rise in its social acceptance lead to a rise in visits to prostitutes. In plain language: Where prostitution is legal and affordable, it will also be readily used.
What is the least clear about it is this: The men who go to prostitutes are not Richard Gere from Pretty Woman. Many of them regard the women they use with undisguised disdain. The basis for that, as Julie Bindel already established in the Guardian in 2010, is plain misogyny. A john she asked why he went to prostitues revealed to her that he did not want the prostitute to enjoy it in any way. Then he would feel that he had been cheated out of his money. Also, it didn’t much matter to the men whether the women were forced prostitutes or not. The important thing was that the “service” was right. Julie Bindel’s interviews were part of a study of some 700 johns. The men were also asked what would have to happen for them to no longer go to prostitutes. The answer was was simple: Were sex-buying illegal, and they had to deal with its consequences in their private lives, many of them would shy away from it.
Men go to prostitutes because they can use them. For them, these women are just objects that they can take out their drives on at whim. The fora in which they exchange views are called “Hurentest” (Whore Test) and “AO-Forum”. The men there candidly give their misogyny free rein. Some have photos of the women they have visited as their profile pictures. Semen-smeared faces and red, swollen genitalia are shown off like trophies. The men themselves, naturally, remain invisible. They talk about where they get what for their money. One of the most important subjects: Whether you can also go “AO” — that is, without a condom, and in how many holes. Women who are in pain or pull faces get bad ratings. Before one goes to a woman, the community gets asked if there is any info about her and her “service”. Racism and misogyny are shamelessly aired, and they show how often both these forms of discrimination come up together. There is talk of the “Turkish whore”, or the horny “Thai pussy”, or the “coal bucket” that got “speared”.
Studies show that there is no “typical” john. Men who go to prostitutes come in all ages and social strata. Most are looking for good-looking women who offer pretty much everything and don’t cost much — greed is also good in prostitution. In Germany, it’s socially unacceptable to buy non-organic meat and vegetables, clothes made in Asia, or eggs from battery farms. But in prostitution, it doesn’t matter a bit how poor and exploited the women are, or that they have sex for a Big Mac. The johns see it practically — not much money for “useful services”. For many, it’s important that the women show interest, kiss them, talk with them, and charm them. Obviously they don’t get that for free in real life, so they have to buy the feeling of being desired.
Melissa Farley has made an interesting study comparing sex-buyers and non-sex-buyers. It showed that men who look for prostitutes generally are more inclined to sexual assault, and have less empathy for prostitutes. So, those men who have the most to do with prostitute, are least likely to see the women in it as human beings. Or, to put it another way: Sex-buying brutalizes and intensifies misogyny — quite contrary to the claim that prostitution would save us from rape. Johns choose women according to age and ethnicity (“today I’m gonna treat myself to something Asian”) and travel specifically to other countries to make use of prostitution there. The women should say as little as possible about what’s being done to them; if they are too “engaged”, so it’s said in the fora, they’re just faking everything. Pleasure in sex is not allowed for the women. But if they are in a bad mood or even sad, the johns also rip them apart. 41 percent of johns questioned said that they had had sex at least once with a forced prostitute, and in both groups — johns and non-johns — 68 percent said that most women in prostitution were forced into it. Obviously that, as previously stated, doesn’t put sex-buyers off when it comes to abusing these women.
More and more often, the women also get taken along for private porn videos. For a little extra money, they then find themselves on websites like Tubegalore. The women thus become porn performers, and their videos will haunt the Net forever. There is no exit, and can be none for them under these circumstances.
The johns talk about when and whether a woman is ready for anal sex. Others say just shove it in without asking. Or take the condom off before you cum. It is the johns, whose demand determines the low German prices, whose demand for condomless sex raises the health risks for women. It is the johns whose demand for paid sex ensures that human trafficking is a more profitable business in Germany than drugs or guns. The men shamelessly ask where they can find under-age girls. They get answers right away — openly readable for anyone who visits the fora. The fact that what they have in mind is a crime under several existing laws doesn’t matter. Only the assurance that they won’t catch a disease. For that, there’s a johns’ health forum. What’s up with the women is not important. On the contrary: Their bodies are the subject of degrading exchanges, comments over too-small breasts and flabby butts. On the search for a “wild junkie-fuck”, women get picked up in front of shooting galleries. Their request for someone to buy them a bit of food gets laughed off.
Johns are men who find it acceptable to have sex with others who are not interested, and even in pain or grossed-out. They buy these people for themselves. So the argument that prostitutes only sell a service and not themselves falls flat. The john side clearly sees it differently: For 20, 40 or 100 euros, the woman in question belongs to them. Former Danish prostitute Tanja Rahm made that clear in her open letter to sex buyers:
“When you regularly tried to cross my boundaries by kissing me or sticking your finger in me or took the condom off — even when you knew perfectly well that that wasn’t allowed — you were testing my ability to defend myself. And you took advantage of it when I wasn’t being clear enough or too negligent. You took advantage of that in a sick way the next time you tried to test your own power, and how far you could go in crossing my boundaries. When I finally said no and made clear to you that you shouldn’t come back, when you didn’t accept my boundaries, then you restored your honor by putting me down in my role as a prostitute. You talked down to me, were coarse and threatening.”
The johns’ statements show that prostitution is a patriarchal institution, one of oppression for women, whose sole aim is to make bodies readily available to men. Since we live in capitalism, it is also set up according to capitalistic laws: Money and services and, quite according to the “Amazon principle”, ratings after the fact. The betrayed john is the one who didn’t get enough for his money. The prostitutes themselves, their life stories, their personalities, don’t come up in there at all. No one realizes that they are not merchandise to be delivered to a man, but persons with lives, feelings and perceptions. They travel all over Germany, get passed from house to house so that the men always have a fresh supply of women. They get mistreated, their boundaries continually crossed — and when that goes well, it even gets celebrated in the fora — that is, anal sex without consent or continuation despite whimpering and refusal. The man who goes further is a hero in this community. A rapist, a woman-abuser, quite legally. Because the law allows it. The same man then goes out and meets us, the unprostituted women, with all his judgments, with his victory-feeling in his head. Do we then wonder why rape is practically unpunished and sexual violence is on the march despite all our resistance? How can we believe that we live in a society of equal rights as long as men can legally buy this for 20 euros, in every city, every town, even every village — at the expenses of the women they use there?
Johns don’t care about the merchandise, the woman-product, that they buy. They aren’t paying into a health fund, they aren’t paying taxes, they don’t even care about condoms. They don’t even openly defend prostitution, but the bordello-owners send the women they make money from out in public to do it for them. Johns are customers — that’s what they want to teach us. But the reality is: Johns are woman-haters, woman-abusers. The only way to deter them is to make sex-buying illegal. For johns, women aren’t people, but the means to their satisfaction, and this attitude has become socially acceptable through the legalization of prostitution. Do we want to live in a society in which women are consequently dehumanized?
Translation mine. Linkage as in the original.
You can see here that prostitution in Germany really does deserve to be called sex capitalism. It is capitalistic in the grossest sense, and right down to the last detail. Even the bargain-basement rates for female flesh that literally does everything are no coincidence. Neither is the demand for child prostitution, which logically follows on the heels of its adult counterpart. Why pay 50-100 euros for a grown woman when you can get an under-age girl for half that or even less — and with her, the illicit thrill of being able to cross yet another human boundary? And why bother looking for women who will do it willingly and for free, when you can get girls who won’t — but you can buy the privilege of doing to them what no consenting adult would allow?
The idea that prostitution somehow protects women against rape is nonsense. If anything, it furthers the rape-culture mindset. Men who buy sex tend to think that “every woman has her price”, or that a “whore” is fair game for anything, and are infuriated when that turns out not to be the case. No small percentage of those will still illegally take what they can’t legally buy. The idea that a woman should be willing, and thus demanding of pleasure, is anathema to them. So, they reason, if they’re buying, they may as well get their money’s worth, and really abuse the shit out of her. Under those circumstances, unnegotiated sex acts are the rule, not the exception. Every boundary gets pushed and violated, right up to and including unprotected anal sex. The worst and most painful and dangerous acts are, not coincidentally, also the ones in greatest demand. And the johns on the Internet score them as “victories”. After all, you can’t get that from your average unprostituted woman…unless, of course, you rape her. But really, the only difference between the one and the other is that for the one, money changes hands. A very paltry amount of money. These guys may be willing to pay for the privilege of raping, but they’re cheap as shit and don’t want to pay a penny more than they think a woman is worth. And they don’t think any woman is worth much. No price is ever too low for these guys!
And just think: One out of every two German men has done at least some of this quite unhindered, at least once in his life, since 2002. That’s when sex-buying became legal and the mega-bordello boom began. And no wonder: This sort of thing is not limited to the mean streets of the big cities. You don’t have to travel far from home, if you are a German, to buy sex. Even small towns and villages are home to brothels. There is nothing in the law to forbid it, and local complaints often fall on deaf ears. The town is required to let them do business there if there is demand. And there IS demand. There is always demand. If it’s not from the locals, it’s from the tourists. Sex tourists are “good” for the local economy, especially in small towns! Only if the brothels are found in violation of the health code might they be shut down. (Might is the operative word here. Getting in to run a health inspection is often the hard part, since brothel owners, as I’ve said before, want the police out of the hookering game altogether, and are lobbying hard for just that, right now.)
One out of every two German men is a john. And by that token, very likely, an abuser. Would you marry that, knowing beforehand what you were getting? Would you want to live in a society where rape culture is so easily propagated…and so easily waved aside with a 100-euro bill? Would you want to risk your health and your life sleeping with a guy who regularly pushes for condomless sex with strangers who deal with others just like him, dozens of times a day? Given that there is no “john look”, that there is no one type of men who buys sex, how can you even tell the good guys from the bad? You can’t…and that’s what’s truly scary about all this.
And this, too, is what’s at stake here in Canada, right now. We don’t have mega-bordellos…YET. And I’d wager that few women, if any, would work in one voluntarily. Especially if they knew what’s going on in Germany. And if they were being expected to do more and more for less and less, as the women in the German bordellos must. The demand for paid sex greatly outstrips the supply of willing providers, and always has. And as the overall economy declines, as it is doing, demand for lower prices grows, and the voluntary supply shrinks even further. So human trafficking must pick up the slack, and there is a lot of it.
What does that mean in human terms? You can do the math.
Imagine half of all Canadian men turning out to be just like half of all their German brethren. Go on, I dare you. Take your ulcer pills and think it over. Imagine the Russian mafias, the Yakuza, the Triads, the Hell’s Angels, and Bog knows who all else taking over the local politics of YOUR town, and constantly trying to lure local girls in with totally legit advertising for “waitresses”, “bartenders”, “dancers”, and so on. Can you picture it? Because that’s what goes on in Germany…
And if you find yourself saying “Nein danke”, you can consider yourself in the same boat with half the human race, anywhere, at any time. Because the women of Germany, prostituted or not, want that the least of all.
And their voices are those being heard the least of all, too.