German women launch new anti-prostitution campaign


Huschke Mau, the formerly prostituted German woman whom you may remember from my “Dear Madame Minister” post awhile back, has been busy lately. She’s banded together with some like-minded colleagues from the political and social-work spheres, and together, they’ve formed a new group aimed at helping women to exit prostitution. Die Welt interviewed them to find out what they’re doing, and why:

Lobbyists of the prostitution industry love to swear by their ideal image of the free and self-determined whore, who provides her quasi-therapeutic services with pleasure, and who provides life help on the side.

For 90 percent of all prostitutes in Germany, however, another reality holds true. They need to service at least seven johns a day just to pay for their rent and food. They get degraded, abused, sometimes even tortured. And the vast majority of them do their job not freely, but out of material necessity or because they were forced to — by pimps, acquaintances, even their own families.

Whore, a normal job? “I know of no job in which it’s normal to be abused every day, in which mental harm is an occupational hazard, and gives men the feeling that it’s hot to degrade women,” says Huschke Mau.

She prostituted for ten years; the “voluntarily”, she puts in quotation marks. Three and a half years ago, she exited, with great difficulties. Now she’s the star witness of the scene for journalists, and tries to explain how prostitution is not a job like any other.

Along with Stuttgart social worker Sabine Constabel, and unionist Leni Breymaier, she campaigns for an exit from prostitution — and for the newly founded group, Sisters e.V., which will accompany [exiting] prostitutes along the way to a new life.

Counseling services to help women exit prostitution are still much too rare, says Sabine Constabel, who has been working with prostituted women for 25 years. “A woman who wants to exit is no happy sex worker. She’s ashamed, she’s disgusted with herself, she takes painkillers daily because her genitals hurt, or she does hard drugs because she just couldn’t take it anymore otherwise. We want to make these women a concrete offer.”

Sisters is to be the cornerstone of a network of volunteers helping exiting women on their way into a life outside of prostitution. For that, above all, Constabel emphasizes engagement by civil society. “I’ve given up all hope that political regulation can protect women,” she says. For that, the planned prostitute-protection law will do little to change things; it includes a registration requirement and regular counselling for the prostituted.

Leni Breymaier says that the real scandal is that Germany has long been Europe’s bordello. “For me, it’s not about morality, but about human rights.”

The picture painted by the two Sisters representatives is altogether different from what is still being presented to the public. 80 to 90 percent of the women come from foreign countries, says Constabel; most recently, from Romania above all. Some were sent by their own families after being told that one can earn enough money through sex in Germany to feed entire families at home. Hardly anyone cares what price the women pay for that.

And what’s up with those who so self-assuredly call themselves “sex workers”? “Half of them are dominatrices, and the other half are madams,” says Huschke Mau, the exited woman. “This pro-sex lobby is not representative for us.” The vast majority of prostitutes, by contrast, have stories much like her own: Violence and abuse in their own families, and the resulting sense that they are only good for sex and nothing else. “I have never met a single prostitute who hasn’t suffered violence,” says Mau.

Whether the planned prostitution law can provide help in exiting is doubtful for the Sisters activists. It still follows the demands of the prostitution industry lobby, according to Constabel. At least a hike in the minimum age from 18 to 21 would have made some sense. But this demand failed. The draft proposal, by family minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD), is still before an interdepartmental committee.

Breymaier, the SPD deputy chair for Baden-Württemberg, is also wrestling with the law. “But anything’s better than the law we have right now. We’re going in the right direction, but of the 100-metre dash we have before us, we’ve only put five behind us.” Most preferable, the women have made more than clear, would be a world without prostitution.

That’s a vision that the sex lobby naturally doesn’t share. The “Hamburg Prostitution Advice” group invited the public to a “Second Hamburg Culture Stroll”, in order to “get to know everything about the topic of sex work in St. Georg — with workplace tours from an hourly hotel to an S/M studio to an exclusive nightclub.” Afterwards, at a question-and-answer session with sex workers, one can then “relax over coffee and sweets” and quiz the experts “in peace about everything you’ve always wanted to know about sex work.”

Welcome to the parallel universe.

Translation mine.

Somehow, I don’t think that info-stroll will include the inmates of the megabordellos. For one thing, a lot of them are foreigners, who can’t speak much German beyond negotiating a transaction, and who in any case are probably much too busy trying to pay the extortionate costs of room and board at the hooker-hotel to have much to do with this Happy Hooker lobby group. For another, even if they could speak fluent German, or talk at length about their work, they’d not have much nice to say. After all, they have to service at least seven johns a day just to break even. Little wonder, then, that the “stroll” will be limited to the “sex work” lobby’s preferred domain of hourly hotels (used by better-paid call girls, not lowly flat-rate brothel prostitutes), S/M “studios” (remember, half the lobbyists are dominatrices) and fancy-pants sex clubs. After all, it wouldn’t do to sicken any prospective clientele — or Amnesty-style supporters — with the shabby truth.


Compare and Contrast: Harpo vs. Harpo


Leadership you can trust? LeaderSHIT, is more like it. Typical ShitHead…


Chris Alexander, refugee killer


Chris Alexander killed little Alan Kurdi.

Alan is the three-year-old Syrian boy whose drowned body, washed up on a Turkish beach, has been plastered all over the media, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. His mother, Reham, and older brother Galib, 5, also died trying to reach Greece in an overloaded rowboat. Only the boys’ father, Abdullah, survived the journey.

It was a journey they might never have had to make had they not been denied asylum here in Canada. Abdullah’s sister, already living here, was ready to vouch for them. But the Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander, refused even to see their claim. So they were forced to take the most dangerous and desperate route: the waters of the Mediterranean, in a tiny and fragile boat not capable of withstanding the rough conditions of that sea, overcrowded with other desperate refugees. On that boat, they were 13 in all.

And three members of the family paid for that passage with their lives.

Alan’s small, pathetic body, still fully clothed and shod, made headlines as a Turkish policeman scooped him up and carried him out of the surf. And the damning pictures from that tragic moment have forced refugee-shy European countries to rethink their harsh immigration policies.

It’s all too little and too late for the thousands of families like the Kurdis, who have been streaming across the Mediterranean from the east and south in a desperate effort to escape various war zones and the dire poverty that stalks countries rich in resources, but made poor by colonialism and capitalism. The same global north, also known as “The West”, that has forced unwanted regime changes upon their lands and invaded them politically and economically in order for its corporations to scoop up all the resources they can, is unwilling to accept the consequences of its actions. Those consequences are human, they are hungry, and they are desperate enough to die trying to get away from what has been foisted upon them. And those who did the foisting are trying futilely to beat them back, any way they can.

In Hungary, trainloads of refugees have been held up for days, for no apparent reason. Hungary is in the grip of a far-right government with a fetish for control, but no clear notions of what to do about the influx of people who just want to get through Hungary and into some more hospitable final destination. It’s an awful irony when you consider that just a few short decades ago, Hungary was itself a civil war zone, and refugees were fleeing from there to other European lands, and across the ocean to Canada. (One of them, Stephen Vizinczey, even worked his refugee experiences into his acclaimed novel, In Praise of Older Women.)

But in a way, Hungary’s irony is emblematic of the shitheadedness that prevails more or less throughout Europe right now. Right-wing governments everywhere, and not one of them can work up a drop of empathy for refugees. German chancellor Angela Merkel was caught flatfooted when a Palestinian girl burst into tears before her upon learning that she was probably going to be deported. The incident was much mocked in the media, and caused a hasty backpedal on the part of the German government. Germany is now a much-sought destination for Syrian and other Middle Eastern and North African refugees. And the German people are clear on where they stand, even as their government waffles ineffectually away; whole cities and towns are stepping up to help the newcomers, and the German internet is buzzing with families opening their homes to refugees, giving them a place to stay until they can make a more permanent home somewhere.

I am a Canadian of German immigrant parentage. My mother, born to ethnic German parents in pre-World War II Yugoslavia, came “home” to Germany after some 200 years in the Balkans when war and the invasion of the Russian army drove them out in 1944. Her family were refugees. That makes me, in turn, the daughter of a refugee. And the descendant of other refugees, too: What was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire once took in Germans fleeing religious persecution back home. My mother’s ancestors, Lutheran protestants, fled a Catholic-ruled land. It was either convert to the local princeling’s religion, or else, back then. They chose “or else”. And that meant moving to the Balkans, where the Austrian queen, Maria Theresia, hoped to stave off the invasion of the Turks by populating the land with German-speaking Christians. It didn’t matter to her whether they were Catholic or Protestant, as long as they kept the Turks out. And then they were forced to flee, and my mother’s family became refugees once more…

And now, in an ironic twist of fate, the Turks are in Germany anyway, and the only parts where it’s truly gone to hell in a handbasket are the ones where local neo-Nazis have terrorized and murdered them. And after the Turks, the Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and other refugees have come. Germany hasn’t “gone Muslim” as PEGIDA and other right-wing fearmongers have claimed it would. Rather, the Christian spirit of charity and loving-thy-neighbor is making itself felt. German families are helping refugee families to acclimatize, to make a home, to learn whatever they need to learn, and to find their place in the world.

It wasn’t nearly so hospitable when my mom and her family arrived during the war, though; the refugees, though every bit as German as the locals, were looked down upon endlessly because they came from the Balkans. Whatever refugee-abuse wasn’t the result of Nazism, was down to plain old snobbery. And this went on for years after the war ended, too; the refugees were never fully accepted. My mother ended up going to work in New York for the local Daimler-Benz importer and his family as an au pair, and on a vacation to Canada, in northern Ontario, she met my dad, by then a landed immigrant himself. They married three months later.

I am proud of my ancestral people for having learned history’s lessons so well. And I am ashamed of my home and native land for having turned its back on Syrians, just as it did to Jews during World War II. Clearly, Chris Alexander hasn’t learned a thing from history.

And that is why I call him a murderer. He is just as responsible for the deaths of Alan, Galib and Reham Kurdi as if he had held their heads underwater himself. Because by cold-bloodedly refusing even to see the family’s refugee claim, that’s exactly what he did. By making the rules so that relatives could only sponsor one family member at a time, he ensured that Alan’s father did not even get a look-in. It’s the same, in effect, as denying outright the claim of Alan’s uncle, Mohammed, which he also did. Let’s dispense with inane technicalities here: The truth is that with the Harper government’s cruel changes to our immigration and refugee policy, the Kurdi family was doomed from the outset.

Cursed are those who refuse to learn from the past, because they will be doomed to repeat it.

PS: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has a petition up calling for Chris Alexander’s resignation. You can sign it no matter where in the world you are. Please do!


Majority of Germans oppose prostitution


FEMEN protesting Amnesty International (photo: EMMA). The feminist “sextremists” may not be so extreme after all; in Germany, it turns out, they speak for more people than one might think. A clear majority of Germans opposes pimping, and an additional one in five would like to see prostitution gone altogether. Here are some interesting facts and figures, courtesy of STERN:


The blue bars represent the percentage of Germans who think that prostitution should be totally legal in all its forms; purple, those who think it should be legal for the prostituted, but not for pimps or traffickers; and pink, those who think it should be altogether illegal. As you can see, the greatest number, across all age groups and both sexes, think it should be legal for a woman to be a prostitute, but not for anyone else to sell her. The “totally legal” and “totally illegal” groups are much smaller, and even in the groups most likely to favor totally-legal prostitution — men, and those between the ages of 18 and 29 — most want to see the pimps and traffickers cut out of the business altogether.

It’s a slap back at Amnesty, which recently voted to support total legalization of “all aspects of sex work”, including pimping and brothel-keeping, and by extension, trafficking (because let’s face it, there’s no other way supply could keep up with demand). The mainstream of German society thinks that if a woman makes her living in prostitution, the police should not harass her, but rather protect her from abuse and exploitation.

STERN’s Werner Mathes claims that these figures “support the German model”, but the fact is that the “German model” of prostitution law is full of holes, and favors the pimps and traffickers heavily, while the general public doesn’t feel that this lobby should even get a look-in. EMMA’s analysis is clearer:

A Forsa survey for STERN magazine found that 78 percent of all Germans are against prostitution. 59 percent want pimps penalized, 19 percent a total ban. Nowhere is the opinion gap between people and politicians in Germany so great as in the area of sex-for-sale.

While the Great Coalition is trying, after 13 years of failed politics, to prepare a soft reform of the fatal prostitution law, which once again protects the interests of woman-traffickers, pimps and brothel owners, and sells women out to prostitution, the populace has long held a clear position.

According to a survey by the Forsa Institute for STERN, 59% of the 1005 persons surveyed want prostitution to remain unpunished for the prostituted — but not for Pimps & Co. Another 19 percent — that is, almost every fifth person — want to see prostitution forbidden altogether. So some 78 percent want punishment for pimps, who work hand in hand with also-to-be-prosecuted traffickers and exploitative bordello owners. Only 15 percent of Germans are against prosecuting the peddlers of woman as merchandise: 19 percent of men and 11 percent of women, that is, barely one man in five, and one woman in nine.

That is the expression of a radical change of heart and disdain for sex-buying, even in Germany — in the country that today, thanks to deregulation of the prostitution market in 2002, is known as “the hub of sex-trafficking in Europe”, and with its “wellness bordellos” and megabrothels, and their bargain-basement flat rates, has become a haven for sex tourists.

Translation mine.

Yes, EMMA is a radical feminist publication. But as prostitution has become more public in Germany, and its abuses more blatant, the outcry against it has grown. EMMA’s long-held position on prostitution is gradually going mainstream. Art students in Osnabrück recently protested the trafficking of Eastern European women and girls with a public installation of worn-out shoes with “price tags” offering sex-for-sale; men have protested sex-buying and trafficking by pushing women around in shopping carts bearing placards denouncing the practice. German trauma experts have turned out in force against prostitution, having found that the majority of prostitutes they see have PTSD as a direct result of their jobs. Photographer Bettina Flitner has won awards for her work, which often takes the viewer inside bordellos, and features empathetic, non-judgmental portraits of women in prostitution, as well as a sober confrontation with their johns. And the mainstream media keep reporting what women really face on the streets, as well as in brothels…and on the human trafficking that brought them there. It’s not a sexy picture, no matter what the brothel billboards might try to sell you.

Little by little, the German public is coming around to rejecting the idea of woman as sexual merchandise. For it is, after all, mainly women and girls who are bought and sold. And the buyers are almost exclusively male. It is such a heavily gendered industry, so heavily skewed in favor of men and against women, that the inequality can no longer be missed. Where, after all, are the bordellos dealing in men, marketed with gleeful abandon to an eager female customer base? There aren’t any! (That’s because a majority of women the world over can’t bring themselves to buy a man, even if they could afford one. We are not taught that men were put on this Earth to sexually service US, after all.)

Furthermore, it has proved impossible to provide sexual servicing at a price without the inevitable market forces bearing down and making it a race to the bottom. Megabrothels now outcompete each other at “flat-rate” prostitution: all-inclusive sex (minus condom, even!) at a low, fixed rate. And with a shortage of German women “volunteering” for that kind of service (would you?), trafficking of impoverished women (and increasingly, under-age girls) from Eastern Europe has become a “necessity” — as have raids on bordellos dealing in such persons. Of the nearly half-million prostituted women in Germany, a majority are not Germans, barely speak the language beyond what it takes to negotiate a “transaction”, and come from dire poverty — often in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, etc. They are trucked in by mafiosi who confiscate their passports and papers, making it impossible for the women to escape or alert the authorities. And their health is at risk, too, because to cover the extortionate room rates and other fees charged by bordellos (which are NOT to be mistaken for women’s shelters!), they have to service three or four johns before they break even and start making any money of their own (assuming their pimps don’t take it all for themselves, of course).

A dozen johns a day and scarcely a condom in sight makes for a very bad health situation among prostitutes, and don’t think the average German has failed to notice! It’s bordering on a public health emergency, with STD rates up and little wonder. It’s a striking irony in the glitzy world of the “wellness” bordello, where the simple act of getting one’s rocks off is assumed to be the healthiest thing one can do…if one is a man, that is. The women who have to act as receptacles to all these men’s bodily fluids tell another story.

And it’s hard to imagine how Amnesty manages to square all this with their tone-deaf call for “sex workers’ rights”. Um, WHAT rights? When the women don’t even know that what they’re doing won’t get them arrested (and the traffickers tell them that they will, and make sure they do by leaving them without documents, thus rendering them illegal migrants), how on Earth are they supposed to assert even the most basic rights granted to them by the lax and putrid German prostitution law — which, by Amnesty’s lights, is A-okay?

The STERN survey is flawed, too, in that it does not ask what should be done about the johns. It tacitly seems to assume that they are doing no wrong. But without them, this industry would not even exist. Is it right to leave the driving economic force out of the equation?

It’s time for a new survey, this time one that asks Germans what they think of the Nordic Model, where johns are penalized along with traffickers and pimps. I’m guessing that the figures from such a survey would be even more interesting, and an even bigger slap in the face of Amnesty’s men’s-rightsy, pimp-lobby-financed resolution.


All you need to know about Amnesty’s new prostitution resolution


I was going to parse the meaning (or lack thereof) of this mealy-mouthed resolution that was recently approved in Dublin, but it bored me so much to tears that I couldn’t be bothered. And really, all you need to know about it is contained in the above tweet. When a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist and all-around hatemonger like Dean Fucking Esmay approves of your pro-prostitution stance on specifically masculist grounds, that’s proof that you’ve forgotten that half the human race is female. And that your vision of human rights could use a lot more work.

Posted in Crapaganda Whores (and PIMPS), Human Rights FAIL, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, Men Who Just Don't Get It, Sick Frickin' Bastards, The Hardcore Stupid. Comments Off on All you need to know about Amnesty’s new prostitution resolution »

Leading German mega-pimp plans his exit

I’ve often heard it said that of every ten women or girls in prostitution, eight or nine want out. Apparently, they’re not the only ones. Sometimes, mirabile dictu, a pimp also wants out of the game. Of course, in the case of a certain notorious German one, the reasons for his doing so vary considerably from those of the ladies:

“I’m in negotiations,” says Jürgen Rudloff.

The entrepreneur, who among other things is head of the Paradise megabordello in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung on Friday that he intends to sell his “entire business”. By that he means three houses, in Frankfurt, Saarbrücken and Echterdingen. About the negotiations, he’s not saying anything else.

In the trade, they’re talking of some 30 million euros for all three businesses. Leinfeld-Echterdingen is estimated to be worth eight or nine million euros. “I can’t comment on that, as long as talks are underway,” says Rudloff. As for his own business plans for the future, the 61-year-old is keeping that to himself.

That Rudloff is apparently withdrawing from the sex industry is not surprising, as his business is currently under investigation by the public prosecutor’s office. Since last fall, charges have been laid against him and his business manager. Rudloff is alleged to have drummed up investments, but then not used these for the building of other brothels, but for his own purposes. In the local courts, there’s a case concerning human trafficking, sexual exploitation and pimping against two prostitutes at the Paradise club, as well as against a young man. The man is alleged to have claimed to be in love with young women, and thus lured them into prostitution.

The bordello chief, who is currently believed to be living in Switzerland, continually emphasizes that he did not offer his businesses for sale, but that someone had approached him. It allegedly concerns “a large undertaking” that has the necessary capital, but has long had nothing to do with the sex industry.

Also important for Rudloff is to advertise that the interested buyer allegedly intends to continue the existing business. “That is, no one in the houses need fear losing their job, everyone is staying,” says the outgoing boss. After all, he created some 60 jobs in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, so he preens himself. The sale price, at least in the case of the Paradise, concerns only the business and not the building. The building is allegedly rented. “The business revolves around the whole company, with rented and purchased buildings,” Rudloff adds.

Translation mine.

Yes, I can see why Jürgen Rudloff would want out. Last December, I blogged on a raid that took place on Rudloff’s premises in Stuttgart, which was part of a larger police operation against human trafficking and “loverboy”-style pimping, as well as alleged bilking of brothel shareholders (yes, there is such a thing as brothel-investing in Germany!). Rudloff is now a household name for all the wrong reasons, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before he’s hauled into court himself to answer on pimping and human-trafficking charges. So it’s little wonder that he’s making coy noises about “selling the business”. He’s trying to wash his hands of the whole affair before the investigators can trace it all back to him.

But hey. In a world where pimps routinely refer to themselves, as well as their prostitutes, as “sex workers”, thus blurring the lines between exploiter and exploited, is it really so surprising that a pimp might get fed up, and decide to exit too?


Glamour’s love advice is a big ol’ Don’t


This cartoon has been around for a while, but unfortunately, not nearly as long as Glamour magazine’s recommendations on How To Make A Man Fall For You:


I won’t bother with a point-for-point analysis; that would be giving this drivel a lot more taking seriously than it actually deserves. This bag of warmed-over chestnuts from the 1950s can basically be boiled down to three simple things: Feeding, Fucking, and Faking. Not only does it make men out to be painfully simple-minded (misandry!), it also makes women look and feel like idiots — not least when they bother to follow such risible advice.

Leaving aside the dubious ethics of trying to “make” a man fall in love with you, will this “advice” even work in the long run? Spoiler: NOPE. Anything this cheesy and shallow is bound to wear on one after a while, and when the pretence drops, can the “love” be far behind? What’s so wrong with just being oneself…or, as these cute Cuban guys would put it, baring one’s soul and acting like how you really feel?

Authenticity: what a concept!

I’m guessing that Glamour, which has been dumbed down in recent years and is steadily growing dumber (which is why I no longer buy or read it with any regularity), also hasn’t heard of how mercilessly feminists on the tweeter recently savaged a similarly outdated list of “flirting” tips that appeared in Bravo, a German women’s mag with the same intelligence deficits as its cousin from across the pond. Well, just for that, they got their own tweeter-savaging, en anglais. Maybe they should take a gentle hint from what Bravo did in response to said savaging: namely, pull the article down and replace it with a humble apology for the unacceptable content.

Oh for the day when ladymags simply refuse to publish such eye-bugging bullshit at all anymore. Not only because it insults the considerable intelligence of their target readership, but also that of the men they love. That day, it seems, is still a long time coming. What to do while you wait?

One could write letters to the editors, taking them to task for the magazine’s decline, and pray that they’re brave enough to publish those. One could also vote with one’s wallet and simply refuse to buy any rag which doesn’t take its readership seriously as something other than an incidental source of revenue. Hell, there’s no reason why one can’t do both!

In the meantime, the best thing Glamour has going for it is — I shit you not — the “Dos and Don’ts” feature on the next-to-last page. That’s where the latest fashions get dissected. It’s honest-to-Goddess educational; one learns how to wear them right, or how not to wear them, EVER. It’s good for a cheap chuckle — and it might just keep one from becoming a fashion victim if one does one’s due diligence.

In the case of romantic fashion (which apparently hasn’t changed a lacquered hair since the days of Eisenhower), the above list is one big fat hairy old Don’t.


Videos of the day: An historic moment, and an hilarious one.

First, the one for the history books:

Yes, that’s right: After more than half a century of US stupidity and embargos in a futile effort to break the Revolution, there is finally a Cuban embassy open in the US again. And no, Cuba did not have to change governments to get one, either.

By now it’s quite clear that the Brothers Castro are NOT the blood-slurping boogymen they’ve so frequently been made out to be. And it’s now obvious that the island’s socialist medical system and universal literacy and education programs are to be envied and copied, not disparaged. The heroes of the recent Ebola virus crisis in Africa were the Cuban medical teams to went in to help the locals get the outbreak under control. And Cuba’s recently developed anti-cancer vaccines have the most noted researchers in the US sitting up and taking notice, too. And thanks to the normalization of relations, they’re getting a chance to learn more about them. With any luck, the US will finally get a true picture of Cuba now that they’re on speaking terms again.

Now, from the sublime, to the ridiculous…the sublimely ridiculous:

The other day, the KKK, local neo-Nazis, and other assorted losers of the War Between the States converged on the statehouse in South Carolina. Their widdle rally wouldn’t have been complete without musical accompaniment: in this case, an inspired young sousaphonist who kept pace with their dumpy march, then broke into a farty “Ride of the Valkyries”, from Wagner’s Nibelungenring cycle.

Guys, I really think it’s time you relinquished all this Stars ‘n’ Bars stupidity. That war was over a century and a half ago. Face facts: YOU LOST. The South ain’t gonna rise again. Time to pick your corn-fed butts up and move on.

Posted in Cuba, Libre (de los Yanquis), Isn't It Ironic?, Schadenfreude, Socialism is Good for Capitalism!, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia. Comments Off on Videos of the day: An historic moment, and an hilarious one. »

Old “flirting” tips still suck after all these years


Where do I sign up?

Yes, the Anti-Flirt Club was a real thing…back in the 1920s, when cars were beginning to take over the roads from horses and buggies, and motorized mashers were routinely pushing their luck with young women to whom they “chivalrously” offered lifts. Alice Reighly and her anti-flirt gang set out to protect their younger sisters from stranger (and not-so-stranger) danger by warning them against any behavior that might encourage unwanted attentions.

But while this club (and the antiquated, victim-blamey social code it perpetuated, albeit with good intentions) is now a thing of the largely forgotten past, some “flirting” tips which must be from at least as long ago are still au courant, at least according to one German girls’ magazine, ridiculed by EMMA:

Yesterday, about 4 p.m., EMMA conference. On the table, a printed list of 100 flirting tips for women, from Title: “How to make boys notice you: 100 tips for a knockout aura”.

For women over 30, it was an unexpected trip back in time. Take Flirting Tip #20, for example: “Stumble into your crush. Apologize profusely. He’ll find you totally cute, because you’re such a little klutz.”

Such, pardon me, bullshit has been in Bravo (and Bravo Girl) since forever. Even the tip about dreamily twirling a strand of one’s hair (“It’s girly and sweet!”) seems somehow familiar.

“I’ll write ten points on how Bravo has screwed up youth, in hindsight, for women like me”, proposes Colleague #1, born in 1980.

“Why all the fuss? Nobody reads Bravo anymore,” says Colleague #2, who still remembers the magazine from the 1970s.

Even our intern, who at 18 is closer in age to Bravo’s target group than any EMMA editor, shrugs her shoulders indifferently and says, “We used to read it” — in her case, an eternity of some four years ago. “Mostly it was boys buying Bravo, so they could look at the pictures of naked girls.”

Aha. Even there, it seems, nothing’s changed.

Briefly, for people under 25, who grew up with the Internet and smartphones: Way back, before the invention of the World Wide Web, and looooong before there was Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat, even before MySpace and StudiVZ, young people read a leaflet of crumply paper, in which many a, shall we say, imaginative article about stars and starlets appeared, which were popular among teenagers (along with autograph cards and life-sized posters). As well as pages and pages of kitchen-psychological life advice (“Psycho-test: How self-confident do you appear?”). And extensively illustrated sex tips. Voilà, Bravo.

Today, the magazine is fighting against a dwindling readership. Colleague #2 is right: Nobody really reads it anymore. The 100 flirting tips are actually yesterday’s news: They’ve been online since the beginning of July, unnoticed. Why, is clear: Young people today would rather run their own YouTube channel, and some are so successful at it that they can even interview the Chancellor herself, as a guy who calls himself LeFloid recently did.

But just a few hours after the conference, the Internet buzzed. The hashtag #flirtennachbravo (#FlirtingAccordingToBravo) trended on Twitter. Outrage over the 100 tips even made it to the homepage of the freemail service — in other words, even reaching people who don’t read news, but who will read e-mails. Above all, women made fun of the list: “Rules 1-99: Bend yourself out of shape to get boys to like you. Only then are you worth anything. Rule 100: Be yourself. YOLO”, tweeted one. “Essence of #flirtennachbravo tips: Submissiveness and conformity. The ’70s want their magazine back,” writes another. Or: “Steal your parents’ car and run it into that sweet boy. Then you can visit him the next day in the hospital.”

Bravo hasn’t gotten this much attention in years. Why all the fuss?

Two answers come to mind. First: Sooner or later, women realize, with a mixture of shame and rage, the amount of manipulation that lurks in such articles. But that won’t stop them from reading more of these articles. We can see that in the broad market for women’s magazines, online and print, that all do nothing but what Bravo has done with this list: train women to be creatures who want to please men, and must.

Of course, this message comes with the advice: Be natural and be yourself. Which is why even 12-year-olds start to optimize their bodies. Because, as the logic holds: A woman is only herself when she is as flexible and beautiful as the current beauty ideal — and she’ll get there with the lipstick from Page 12, the dress from Page 30, and the diet from Page 56. Or, as Bravo would say: “Wear an orange or peach-colored scarf around your neck. That makes your complexion glow and makes you look more attractive” (Flirting Tip #43).

Secondly: In the meantime, women are using the Internet very successfully to defend themselves against such sex-role clichés. And above all, to present counter-examples.

The current shitstorm also arises from a third cause: For days, the Net has been buzzing, not about the lovely Bravo list, but about hot, hot hotpants. Under the hashtag #hotpantsverbot, all of Germany is debating whether it’s prudish or appropriate for the director of a vocational school in Horb-Altheim to bring in a dress code for her school. The Bravo list is just a sideshow.

The main show is, no doubt about it, the female body in itself, which is being discussed over and over again, whether it’s about hotpants or flirting tips. And as is so often the case, here again there are only two poles in the discussion: Women should be modest and pleasing. Or: Women should be (but now reallytrulyfinallysupervoluntarily) sexy. Madonna and whore. What women are never allowed to do: Simply be.

Meanwhile, Bravo has taken down the 100 tips. The magazine writes: “Last week, we published an article on the subject ‘100 tips for a knockout aura’, which has been the cause for discussion by some of you, but in particular the media public. We were criticized for painting a backward picture of women. In fact, some of the tips are absolutely unfortunate, and on the whole, the report doesn’t meet the quality standards that we ourselves have set. For this, we would like to expressly apologize.”

It’s a small victory.

Translation mine. Links as in original.

A victory, indeed. And one that could only have happened with today’s communication technology and networks. How I wish the Internet had existed when I was a confused young thing. Oh, what fun I’d have had hashtagging all the idiocy that came my way. Here’s a small sampling:

I think I saw “tips” just like those on The Brady Bunch, once. Or was it The Partridge Family? It’s hard to remember. I was just a kid. It was like 40 years ago, and I’m an Old. But the show did demonstrate how silly such tips were, because they always backfired spectacularly on the poor girl who tried to implement them. The take-home message: This “advice” is outdated and dumb. And if you try to use it, you’ll look outdated and dumb, too.

And then, just when you’d think some progress had been made, I saw the exact same crap in the teen magazines I read in the 1980s…all the while shaking my little messy head (no doubt ratty from all that ditzy hair-twirling, which is a disgusting nervous habit, not “girly and sweet”), and wondering how on Earth this “advice” (which smelled of 1950s-vintage mothballs) was supposed to be practical. Because it was all so blatantly contradictory: Be yourself, guys like natural women! Here, go on this crash diet to fit into this hot outfit! No, wait: Boys like ’em curvy, so eat those two scoops of ice cream and don’t worry about it! But don’t overdo the burgers and fries. You are what you eat! You wouldn’t want to turn into a cow or a greasy potato, would you?

I swear, I read reams of that. Wish I still had those rags, if only so I could scan a few representative pages and show ’em to you. It was a mind-fuck, kiddies.

Also, I think I’ve actually tried Bravo Tip #20. Inadvertently, mind you, since I really AM a little klutz, and I used to get discombobulated (and still sometimes do) at the mere sight of L’Amour Du Jour. Unfortunately, I don’t recall him finding it cute at all. Most likely, he thought I was an idiot. As did I. (That may have been the only real thing he and I ever had in common. Damn!)

And while I really do look good in peach, and must confess I do own quite a few scarves that color, I’ve never worn it just to flirt. Mostly, I wore it because I liked it, and liked how I looked in it, and how it made me feel: warm, cozy, quietly confident, and for once, MYSELF. Yes, that’s right: I WORE IT FOR MYSELF, AND NOT SOME DAMN DUMB DUDE. (Sorry for the ALL FUCKING CAPS SHOUTING, but it had to be said out loud.)

Oh yeah: Speaking of damn dumb dudes, here’s something else from the ol’ Eighties memory bank: Thirteen-year-old me had the (cough) privilege of having one boy I had a minor crush on at the time tell me that he didn’t know why I bothered with makeup, because he didn’t like it. As though I was doing it for HIM. No, Jim, it wasn’t for YOU. It was for ME. Dabbing different colors on one’s face is a surprisingly introspective, meditative art for some of us. It’s our own private theatre, and we do it for the fun of seeing what new persona emerges in the mirror, not to rouse (or kill) your stupid boner.

(And, in case you’re wondering: No, I didn’t like Jim anymore after he gave me that little unsolicited bit of “advice”. Not even hardly. I felt nothing for him after that but a sickly mixture of pity and contempt. Sucks to be you, Jim.)

And this was just the first time. There were others. I kept running afoul of “Jim”, in one form or another, all through high school, university, journalism school, and so on. Maybe it’s just as well I had no tweeter back then; there were way too many guys to put on blast, and who has the time for that? I was too busy trying to unfuck my head every time they’d messed with it. I’ve given up all hope of finding out at what precise age they outgrow it. I suspect they never do, because no one ever tells them to. I certainly never could, because I could never rehinge my jaw in time; the sheer force of the gobsmack is too great. Always, always it amazes me how dim a technically very bright, adult guy can be when confronted with a female person who doesn’t live up to his petty expectations.

It’s like they all revert to the mental age of 13; probably because by that age, they’ve already been programmed by propaganda to think of us as Lesser Beings. It’s not their hormones talking; it’s their training. Little boys get taught early and often to think of females as lesser, if they think of them at all. And they get shitty advice on how to deal with us, too. Fathers pass it on to sons, men’s mags pass it on to readers (who are usually boys hitting puberty and looking for something to wank to), and on and on it goes in an endless vicious loop. And just at the age where they’re starting to think of girls as something other than cootie-ridden pink things, BLAMMO! — out comes all that ingrained sexism in one rude, cutting “opinion” that no one asked for. GIGO has never held more true.

Pity no one ever teaches boys that opening their big yaps and letting ‘er rip can instantly kill any liking or respect a girl might have for them. Maybe boys’ and men’s mags should carry articles on that sometime, instead of all the vapid fap-fodder they print that’s not fit to wipe one’s ass with.

And yeah, how about just letting women and girls simply BE? Not to do, be, wear things, etc. AT some male or other, but to do, be and wear things to please no one but our own fine selves?

Clearly, that all is too much to ask. Only boys are allowed to simply be (and boys will be boys, don’tcha know). Girls have to be…well, whatever boys want them to be. Which has no clear definition but, it seems, is anything but themselves. And has been since time out of mind…

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the old Anti-Flirt Club. This time with a new purpose: not to slut-shame or morally panic young women into acting more modestly in the vain hope that all those bounders and cads would stop getting the wrong idea (because they get those wrong ideas from other men, not women), but to teach the guys that the gals don’t exist just for their use and pleasure. That girls and women are people, and no matter what they look like, or do, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And that when you treat them right, good things happen. Things like true friendships, honest communication, and the sense that love and life are collaborative adventures, not a messy brawl in which there can only be one victor.

Think it would catch on?


Of knockout drops and pudding pops: The “respectability” of Bill Cosby


Isn’t this old Bloom County ‘toon prescient? Because yes, there is finally a black man in the White House, and sure ‘nough, he’s a conservative — and fuck all those racist idiot ratbastards who claim he’s a socialist from Kenya. They know nothing about Kenya. Or socialism. (BTW, Bloom County is FINALLY coming back to the newspapers this year, presumably to make hay off Donald Trump’s toupée. Yay!)

Anyhow. Black conservatism, a.k.a. Respectability Politics, is what I came here to rant about this fine morning. And yes, Bill Cosby figures prominently in all that.

About ten years ago, you see, Bill Cosby said something about black kids needing to dress better and act more respectable, so all the totally-not-racist white people would finally start treating them as human beings, instead of the filthy animals they’ve long been made out to be — first under slavery, then Jim Crow, and most recently, drug policing. That latter, by the way, is what spawned the sloppy-pants trend in the first place.

It’s called “sagging” now, but originally it was called jailing, and it all began when black kids started being rounded up en masse and sent to jail for extended periods — often for the kind of simple, small-scale marijuana possession that would get a richer — ahem, more respectable — white kid let off with a warning. In the jails, you’re stripped of anything you might want to hang yourself with, be it belts, shoelaces, or what have you. So you have no choice but to slop around in baggy pants hanging off your skinny hips, and unlaced sneakers too big for your feet. The fashion became an ironic commentary on the futility and stupidity of trying to be “respectable” when nobody respected you, just on the basis of your color alone.

And then Bill Cosby came out with that whole “pull up your pants” shit. Like he hadn’t even been paying attention to what was going on while black kids were being decimated by crack cocaine (which the CIA, by the way, actively allowed to come in, because those cuddly Nicaraguan “Contras” who trafficked the stuff just needed some love!)

It was a stupid thing to say, and it was precisely the sort of thing one would expect of someone who couldn’t bring himself to say the R-word, because those same oh-so-conservative white folks who made the bad drug laws (and let the bad drugs into the ghettoes) had, after all, bankrolled him. And how could Bill denounce something that had basically made him who he is? Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima are fictional figures, based on the old plantation stereotypes of happy, respectable “house negroes”, but Bill Cosby was the real, present-day thing, and he made a lot of boodle pushing Jell-O Pudding Pops. Chocolate AND vanilla!

And now we know that the entire time he was preaching Respectability and shit, Bill Cosby was, in fact, pushing illegal drugs himself. Onto women. Black women, white women, didn’t make no nevermind to ol’ Bill. He liked both chocolate AND vanilla, and he preferred them all to be unconscious when he did…well, whatever it was he did to them that none of them can remember a thing of after he fed them alcohol laced with knockout drops.

When you get dozens of women all describing remarkably similar patterns of behavior, you know something is hinky in Huxtable Manor. You’d think that the word of at least 50 different women would be enough to send him up Shit Creek, but no. Nothing less than an admission of guilt — to buying Quaaludes under seven prescriptions! — was enough to finally convince respectable (cough) folks that yes, Bill Cosby DID rape all those women whom nobody believed.

What’s really shameful was how he got away with such blatant abuse for decades. Even now, Bill Cosby is still not in jail. Because, as Cee Lo Green said, it ain’t rape if you can’t remember shit. Right?


It IS rape when the victim can’t remember what happened between that funky-tasting drink he kept urging her to have (and which she didn’t actually want), and waking up sore between her legs the next morning while he hung around her naked self in his bathrobe, looking all weirdly smug. It is, by definition, rape — because she did not consent to being penetrated. The very fact that her assailant had to administer drugs to make her pliable ought to be a huge red flag.

But the proponents of Respectability are especially hard on women, be they chocolate or vanilla. You can’t prove anything! they say. She took that drink willingly! That means she consented to sex! Women don’t accept drinks from men unless they want to — and if they do, that makes them filthy sluts whom you should never believe!

Wrong again. Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong WRONG.

Taking a drink of alcohol — especially one that’s been drugged and urged upon you by a man with ulterior motives — is NOT consent. Only the word “yes”, freely and consciously given, is consent. Only if a man asks if you want to have sex, and you say you do, is it consent. There is nothing difficult or complicated or “grey” about this, people. Anything outside of that simple, clear band is coercion, and that makes these creepy encounters rape. By definition.

But even now, the proponents of Respectability are still trying to spin this to make their misogyny (and their misogynoir) look normal. You see some mighty strange things at the corner of Racist and Sexist, including old married ladies who, even knowing that their husbands have done wrong, still defend him as though their own lives depended on his innocence. Yes, Camille Cosby, I’m talking about YOU here. Being his business manager, as well as his wife, no doubt gives you a stake in his “respectable” image…and also makes you complicit in his crimes, when all’s said. After all, covering up a crime is a crime in itself.

Bill Cosby is no Trayvon Martin. He’s no Emmett Till, either. There is no need to defend him in the name of black kids who couldn’t defend themselves. He is perfectly capable of sticking up for himself if he so pleases. Nobody’s lynching him for crimes he did not commit. He’s still walking free, and still making money off his public appearances, where he routinely tells unfunny “jokes” about how to get women to “have sex with” you by drugging them. And it seems that he will go right on doing so until a warrant goes out for his arrest — or someone flings rotten tomatoes and makes them stick, whichever comes first. Money, and the appearance of respectability it confers, goes a long way toward excusing just about anything, you see. And he’s still making it by the bucketful. In his sleep, even.

Yes, I do believe it is finally okay to loathe Bill Cosby and his fucking pudding pops. And all the racism and sexism that he’s perpetuated in the name of Respectability, too.