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.

Posted in Confessions of a Bad German, Crapaganda Whores (and PIMPS), Drugs, EuroPeons, Filthy Stinking Rich, Human Rights FAIL, Isn't It Ironic?, Law-Law Land, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on German women launch new anti-prostitution campaign »

Quotable: Ashley Callingbull on using one’s voice


Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Quotable Notables, Teh Injunz, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Quotable: Ashley Callingbull on using one’s voice »

Music for a Sunday: Tunes for Harpo to hate

So, it would appear Harpo really hates it when people sing about him and what he’s done to our fair land. And he’s slapped the censure on a scientist who did just that. Well, it looks like he’s gonna have a lot more protest-songs to hate, because Canadians of all stripes are now Idle No More. And they’re coming up with some good tunes, too.

First, there’s this one:

And then there’s its sequel, made with a little help from commenters on the first one who contributed their own additional verses:

Twelve-bar blues beat SupposiTory blues anytime. Especially with a native beat at the roots.

Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Environmentally Ill, Music for a Sunday, Teh Injunz, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Music for a Sunday: Tunes for Harpo to hate »

Quotable: Buffy Sainte-Marie on violence against women


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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.


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.


Why it’s never “too soon” to talk about gun violence — or racism, or misogyny


Every time there’s a gun massacre somewhere in the United States, every time there’s an occasion for them to finally start addressing the gun-crime connection, this happens: Right on cue, the NRA rolls out its paid-off bottom-feeder of the moment — invariably, some Republican politician or other — to announce that it’s “too soon” to talk about guns. And boom! Just like that, debate is shut down. Effectively censored until the next time there’s a massacre, only to be censored again.

And again.


When nine black people were murdered in their church in Charleston, South Carolina, that was a great occasion to debate how the hell someone like Dylann Roof — white, racist, with expressed ties to other racists and fascists — could get his hands on a gun. It was absolutely striking how easy it was for someone like him to enter a black church, armed and loaded for bear, and gun down black people, seemingly at random (but not really, because he most certainly selected his targets by race).

But right after it happened, it was Too Soon to talk about that. Too Soon to talk about racism. Too Soon to talk about guns. And for damn sure it was Too Soon to address the fact that this young guy was a terrorist with fascist sympathies and some downright arcane racist ties. No, better to just portray him as “mentally ill” and a “lone wolf”. That way, no one would have to question the many social structures that supported Dylann Roof in his homicidal plotting. And no one would have to address them, either.

And now the bodies from that month-ago massacre are all buried, the immediate shock of mass grief has somewhat abated — and STILL it’s Too Soon to talk about that. Or so we’re told.

And now, just a few days ago, another shooter entered another peaceful space down south, killed a bunch of people who were just in that theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana, to watch a movie, not shoot it out barrel to barrel with a gunman. For inevitably, it was a gunman — again white, again racist, again with fascist ties. This one, on top of all else, was a raving misogynist. And all his victims were women.

Oh sure, they were randomly chosen — he didn’t have his sights on anyone in particular — but they were all, just the same, selected in a non-random manner: namely, by gender. Because they were female, and had come to take in a movie starring a famous female comedian whose main schtick is sexual promiscuity, they were scum in the eyes of John Russell “Rusty” Houser. And so they had to die.

But of course, it’s Too Soon to talk about THAT, too.

In the United States of Amnesia, there have been as many mass shootings this year as there have been days in this year. No wonder it’s always Too Soon to talk about gun massacres. Not a day goes by that there isn’t one happening somewhere in that country.

And because it’s always Too Soon, the common denominators of all those seemingly unrelated “isolated incidents” (was there ever such a callously fraudulent phrase?) will never be addressed. Bigotry in all its various guises: that’s one. Lust for power: that’s another. The ultimate one is, of course, the too-easy availability of guns, the culture built around “freedom” as conveyed by guns, the way every problem looks like a target at the firing range when the only thing you’re allowed to do about anything is, you guessed it, to carry a gun.

That’s why no one’s talking about the shocking gun-crime statistics in the United States. They’d rather blame Mexicans (who apparently all belong to drug cartels, don’tcha know) for their high gun crime rates, their high gun murder rates, and even their high gun suicide rates. Anything but point the finger at the real crime cartel: the NRA, an industry lobby group whose sole reason for existence is to gin up panic and hysteria over all manner of Others — women, non-whites, LGBT+ people, foreigners — so that the dominant social class, namely native-born white cis-het Amurrican men, will have all the reasons they need to stock up on lotsa guns ‘n’ ammo.

Oh sure, there are also armed women (most of whom are white, cis-het, blah-blah). And armed minority members (not all of whom are necessarily in gangs). But let’s face it: The NRA’s target market (pun fully intended) is that very specific band of white men, the same that commits the bulk of massacres. And the reason for that is not hard to guess, either: They are the very group whose monopoly on power is eroding under the efforts of women, minorities, LGBT+ folk, and foreign immigrants of all kinds. They are taught to fear what will happen if All Those Other People get too uppity. They are being pushed to “defend themselves” against All Those Other People. It stands to reason that they will do all in their power to maintain the old monopoly, or die trying.

And their power IS eroding, but it’s not for the reasons they’ve been led to believe. It’s because they’re all working harder, and getting less and less to show for it. In that sense, white cis-het Amurrican males are just like everyone they have been carefully taught to hate. But since they can’t fight capitalism (and won’t, because it’s the dominant ideology which they were carefully indoctrinated to believe in as surely as if it were God), about all they can do when confronted with the futility of their lives is get a gun and start popping off a pitiful few “random” targets which may reflect their own cluster of bigotries, but who have nothing to do with their real problems. Which is why, as far as the gun lobby is concerned, they are sitting ducks. When a gun’s the only power you can still reliably get your hands on, by God, you just go get your hands on a gun, son.

So people are dying in droves for an illusion of power that their killers will do anything to maintain. An illusion of white supremacy, male supremacy, cis-het “Christian” (note the quotes) supremacy. Whatever your delusion, the gun lobby is more than happy to sell you an illusion — and a quick-fix false solution. It doesn’t matter to the NRA how many blacks, women, LGBT+ folk, etc., are dropping dead. All that matters is that gun sales keep going up, up, UP. Capitalism is king, y’all! King and God and government all rolled into one.

That’s why we keep hearing so many inane bullshit “solutions” being pushed by the NRA and their lackeys. The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — remember that? Since criminals carry guns, the best thing to do is push guns into the hands of law-abiders and enable them to carry those guns wherever and however they like. Concealed carry! Open carry! Carrying in a bar, a church, a store, a movie theatre. Any place where a bad guy could be packing, there must the good guys pack also.

The only problem with the “good guy with a gun” trope is that there’s no proof at all that it works, but ample proof that it fails. There has has been a massacre for every day in 2015. Good guys with guns have been conspicuously MIA from the scene every time. Turns out, the only guys packing and pulling and shooting in all those instances…were the bad guys.

And the worst part is, those bad guys thought they were the good guys. Dylann Roof thought he was cleaning up the scourge of those danged uppity blacks. Rusty Houser no doubt thought he was cleaning up a scourge, too, namely women. And the fact that both littered the Internet with their intentions before carrying them out should not be overlooked, either. Both men were operating under the presumption that they were “taking out the trash” — the “trash” being innocent people, complete strangers, those who hadn’t transgressed against them in any way, except to accidentally embody something that the bad guys were dead set against.

And their legal right to carry, no doubt, was all the justification either one needed. Might makes right, and guns make might — so runs the myth. In a South dominated by the Castle Doctrine, these guys no doubt felt they were just “standing their ground” against the respective phantom menaces that posed such a danger to the unearned power and privilege — however limited, however illusory — that they felt was their birthright.

But of course, it’s always Too Soon to say that, isn’t it?

No. It is never too soon. In fact, by the time the massacre has happened — yet another massacre, yet another day — it is already far too late. This is a debate that should have been settled long ago, in favor of the right to life of those who don’t have powers and privileges, however paltry, to defend at the point of a gun. Because in the final analysis, a society is only as good as how it treats its least powerful, least privileged, and least defended members. Where guns and gun ownership are privileged over people, gun massacres are not only more likely, they are inevitable. And those with an eye to seizing power, via terrorist coups, will not stop trying to do so as long as they can get their hands on a gun.

Posted in Fascism Without Swastikas, Guns, Guns, Guns, Law-Law Land, Men Who Just Don't Get It, Not So Compassionate Conservatism, The "Well, DUH!" Files, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Why it’s never “too soon” to talk about gun violence — or racism, or misogyny »

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.


“Behind closed doors”: How domestic violence led to a rampage in Austria


Another day, another rampage, another vigil. This time, it’s in the downtown pedestrian zone of Graz, where a young man drove at full speed into a crowd…on purpose. What lurks behind such “senseless” violence? EMMA investigated, and found the following:

Just imagining it puts a lump in one’s throat. On a summer day around 12 noon in the middle of Graz, a man flooring it at 150 km/h in a pedestrian zone kills three people. Exactly where passersby stroll and people sit at café tables. He just mows them down with his green SUV, adults and children alike.

Then he gets out and attacks a couple with a knife. Gets back in, and races on through the inner city. Three people die immediately, 36 are injured, some of them clinging to life. “The inner city is like an open wound. It will take a long time to heal,” says Austrian minister of the Interior, Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

The man in question is a 26-year-old truck driver. He grew up near Graz, after leaving war-torn Bosnia with his family as a small boy. He is believed to have suffered a psychotic break on the day in question, according to authorities. But at the same time, he must have planned his crime exactly. Otherwise it would be impossible to explain how he could have backed up for such a distance with his SUV before he hit the gas and then raced toward the people and chased them down in a targeted manner. Psychologist Salvatore Giacomuzzi, of the University of Innsbruck, speaks of “ice-cold calculation”.

The Bosnian man who drove his green SUV into the pedestrian zone is now sitting in the Jakomini jail in Graz. His process has just begun; until now, he was impossible to talk to. So we still know very little.

In the report of the rampage in the Styrian capital city there is, however, another detail that brings a lump to one’s throat. But the fear, in this case, creeps up rather slowly. When local police director Josef Klamminger speaks of a “relationship crime”. The 26-year-old has already previously “shown himself to be violent”. But not in public; behind closed doors at home. In May, he was charged with violence against his wife and two sons in their home. Even before that, the police had been called to the scene several times. Once, the police confiscated a rifle. The wife, according to various media, has fled with the children to Bosnia. According to other press reports, the wife was arrested and interrogated in Graz on Sunday, but had known nothing of her husband’s plans. She had filed for divorce some time ago.

A man very injured in his pride, who is capable of driving his SUV at 150 into a pedestrian zone — what could he be capable of doing behind closed doors, where no one can see him?

Of course, such a rampage doesn’t just create a nationwide shock, but a wave of sympathy for the victims and their loved ones, too. Of course such rampages are followed by expert analyses over violence in general, and the question of what could drive a 26-year-old to do such a thing, and how it could be prevented in future.

But just as naturally, precisely because of its details, this case should become an occasion to talk about a form of violence that, even in 2015, is blanketed in silence and in this case, is directly connected: Domestic violence. Which happens every day, without anyone knowing about it. Which unleashes no national shock or public mourning. Even though thousands, if not millions, are affected by it. All the women, who fall victim to the terrorism of their boyfriends and husbands each and every day: rampagers behind closed doors.

In Austria, on average, an estimated 30 women are killed by their (ex-)husbands or (ex-)boyfriends every year. “Often, the murder is the terrible climax of a long history of violence, and usually, the murderers make their crimes known ahead of time,” according to the Austrian Women’s Help Line Against Violence in their yearly report from 2014. The femicides are “just the tip of the iceberg; the level of reported violence against women is very high and the number of unreported crimes is presumably much higher still.” Of the more than 8,000 callers to the hotline that year, 7,000 were female.

Meanwhile, the Agency of the European Union for Basic Rights found in a Europe-wide study that every fifth Austrian woman over the age of 15 falls victim to physical or sexual violence. Every tenth one suffers violence from a partner or ex-partner. In Germany, it’s no better: Every third woman falls victim to physical or sexual assault, every fifth one within or after the breakup of a relationship. Germany represents the European average with those figures. And this too is in the report: The majority of these victims don’t report partner violence to the police or an aid organization.

Even rampages, according to recent history, are all too often motivated by hatred toward (strong) women. Two examples among many: In Montréal, Québec, in 1989, Marc Lépine opened fire on female students in an engineering school with the words: “I hate feminists!” 25 years later, in Santa Barbara, California, mass killer Elliot Rodger wrote, before his rampage: “I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman….I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB.”

Such statements, so far, are not known in Graz. But looking at the depressing details of that rampage, one question keeps coming up: How can we get large violent outbreaks under control, when we ignore the small ones so criminally? It’s not surprising that violence that goes on unhindered for months or years behind closed doors can explode, can at some point break out on a larger stage — such as the downtown core of Graz. Above all, when the lightning rod suddenly disappears. For the wife of the rampager of Graz has dared to do something, that most victims of domestic violence take a long time to do, if at all: She escaped from her tormentor.

Translation mine.

So we can see a number of layers of social trouble at work here. Domestic violence as precursor to violent rampages in the street; the lingering mental torments of the Balkan wars in survivors; the shockingly high number of assaults on women by intimate male partners in both Austria and Germany (and remember, these countries represent the European median for inter-partner violence of this nature); and the prevalence, throughout the world, of spoiled, entitled males exacting a gory “revenge” on women when they don’t get their way, be it in work or in love.

Most significant, for me, is the fact that this man (and presumably, his wife as well) is a survivor of the Bosnian conflict. In the Balkans, violence against women was a weapon of war, and a grotesque means of “ethnic cleansing”. Raping a woman on the enemy side, leaving her pregnant with an enemy’s child — this happened thousands of times. It’s a trauma that has marked and scarred women and girls from the 1990s to this day. Yet as traumatic as it is for the female survivors, none of them to date has gone on a violent rampage. It’s always been their partners. Why?

Could it be, maybe, the fact that their “manhood” was somehow offended by all the mass assaults on “their” women — a reproach against their “failure” to “defend” their “honor” properly? And that ever since that time, they’ve been trying to “get their manhood back” by taking out their rage and controlling impulses on the women, rather than dealing with the unresolved pain of that time in a more constructive manner?

If that’s the case, then it’s little wonder that this one ran amuck when his wife left him. When she escaped his violent, bullying control, she stripped him of what was left of his perceived “manhood”.

The only really surprising thing, in the end, is that this hasn’t happened more often. It’s not as if there’s any lack of motives, means or opportunity. Machismo and sexism are global problems. And that’s why trying to prevent individual rampages like this will probably fail; society is failing to tackle the root causes of male rage and vengefulness. Instead, it’s putting the onus and the blame on women, when it should be teaching men to stop viewing women as “property” that is “ruined” by another man’s hand. Until we collectively make machismo, rage and violence obsolete, we can only expect more of the same.

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