In Germany, fear is prostitution’s constant companion

sex-harrassment

Remember how, back in 2002, progressives from all over the world heralded Germany’s suddenly liberalized prostitution laws? Finally, they said — the “oldest profession” would become a job just like any other! Unionization! Freedom of sexual expression! Workers’ rights for sex workers! Street prostitution will become a thing of the past! Everyone will work independently indoors, where it’s safe! And on and on.

Well, that hasn’t happened. What happened instead is that this well-intended but badly flawed legislation came together with the neocapitalism of Eastern Europe in a perfect storm of open borders, organized crime, and near-total impunity. So what effect has all of that had? The Frankfurter Rundschau news team went on the streets, and what the women there have to say may shock you…

The well-tended, good-looking woman — let’s call her Anna* — knows whereof she speaks. “Ever since the East Bloc arrived, prices are kaputt. Lots of johns are really shameless. Everything’s turned around: once, the ladies named their price. Today, the men tell them what they’ll give. And if I say ‘I won’t do it for 15 euros, and definitely not without a condom’, then he’ll keep on driving. And later he’ll honk going by, to show me that he found a Bulgarian or a Romanian who will do what he wants.”

Anna is prostituting. For 25 years, as she herself says. It’s cold this evening on the street corner of the Theodor-Heuss-Allee in Frankfurt. Anna stands there in an open down jacket, with a low neckline and high boots. It all comes bubbling out of her: “Ever since I started, lots of things have gotten worse. Respect is gone. But it’s all right for me, I have lots of regulars and don’t have to hop into every car. In the end, you just don’t want to do everything.”

Not everyone radiates so much self-assurance. 100 metres away is Anna’s transsexual colleague, Mia*, who’s happy just to have 50 euros in her pocket at the end of the night. “For having sex twice.” Five years earlier, she used to make several hundred euros a night, says the Bulgarian with the big, sad eyes. She earns a little extra with table-dancing. Otherwise, she has to stand on the curb.

“Earning good money fast” — you can still do that, says pretty young Dana*, on the other hand. Seven months ago, she quit her job as head salesclerk in a supermarket in Bulgaria — “badly paid 12-hour days”. Today she earns a lot more (“25 euros for 15 minutes”) and is, so she says, content. If only she weren’t afraid. Above all, of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

Dana keeps hearing from the men that they’re married, after all, and she looks quite healthy. “Sometimes they agree when I insist on a condom. And then suddenly, in the middle of sex, they yank the rubber off.” Would a condom requirement help her? Dana smiles bitterly: “Only a few Germans would stick to that, the ones that follow rules. My other customers, probably not.” With those, she often senses their disdain, finds them aggressive.

Dana, who works for her “boyfriend”, also fears the other pimps. “They’ll pull women into their cars, beat them up, and drag them off to someplace. Last year, a woman disappeared from here.” All the same, there’s no question for her of working in a bordello, where it would be less dangerous. She shakes her head energetically. She feels “protected” by her boyfriend, who always waits on one of the side streets. “He’d be here in three to five minutes.” But above all, what she earns matters to her. “In a bordello, the clients pay less.”

Only a few women are still working the streets of Frankfurt, maybe about 30. In any case, fewer than 50, according to chief criminal inspector Jürgen Benz. In total, some 1200 to 1400 prostitutes are offering their services in the city. Benz and his colleagues in the K62 Task Force against human trafficking in the Frankfurt Police Presidium are particularly busy in the brothels. There are 18 of those in Frankfurt, with 750 rooms in all.

Above all, the “East Bloc”, as Anna calls it, has arrived: Since the eastward expansion of the EU in 2007, Bulgarian and Romanian women have been flooding the German sex market. In the brothels of Frankfurt, some 90 percent of the women are Eastern Europeans — poverty prostitutes, who unlike Dana have never had a job they could give up. Uneducated — many can’t even read or write — and often experienced in violence. They come from slums, from conditions that no one here can imagine. And they land in circumstances that no one here would wish.

Brutally and unscrupulously, the pimps take advantage of the precarious situation of the mostly very young migrant women, taking a majority of their already meagre income. “With a woman, a perp can earn 70,000 euros a year,” Jürgen Benz estimates. The brothel owners also cash in big-time; the “business landlords” charge 125 euros per day. “A woman has to sleep with 200 men a month — just for the rent”, says Benz. And even though the officer, who used to work in narcotics, isn’t easily shocked, in his sober words there is an ominous tone: these figures scare even him. “A woman who is out sick for one week would be 1000 euros in debt after that week,” Benz continues. That’s why there’s the great danger that she will continue.

That many prostitutes are “in a pitiable state of health”, Elvira Niesner also emphasizes. She’s the head of the group “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” (FIM, by its German initials). In Frankfurt, the organization has its offices near the red-light district; from there, in the evenings, street workers fan out to provide women on the streets and in the brothels with condoms, to advise them, and to offer help. The social workers speak the women’s languages, even if they can’t speak German despite years in country.

Niesner describes the changes in the sex market as dramatic also, particularly the degree of exploitation, foreign control, and violence. “Many women don’t even know in which city they currently find themselves,” says the sociologist and shakes her head, as if she herself can’t believe it. Pimps cart the young women from one brothel to the next, in order to offer the johns variety — “Fresh meat”, they call it in the trade. Thus isolated, the women are easier to exploit. “They don’t know that prostitution is legal in Germany, and that they can work without pimps.”

Most Eastern European women aren’t forced prostitutes, in the sense that human traffickers have lured them from a good job in housekeeping or gastronomy with false promises. Not only the former chief supermarket clerk, Dana, has made a conscious choice. As social workers keep reporting, the women knew that they would be working as prostitutes in Germany. However, the boundary between free choice and compulsion is fluid. Because the perps have deliberately left unclear what actually awaits them: a job that will physically and psychically wear them out. And the way out of this destructive dead-end street is blocked off. Because the pimps won’t let them go, because they’re in the debt trap, and above all, because they have no alternatives.

How different is the picture of sex work which the representatives of the prostitutes’ unions paint, the ones who often set the tone in public debate. To work on one’s own terms, to decide for oneself whom to service and how. A lucrative profession, which one can confidently proclaim. One might suspect that this picture is too rosy. But in fact, the daily routine in a nudist “oasis”, a flat or an escort service is a completely different reality. A high priced-part of the sex market. Or — depending on your viewpoint — an antisocial subculture. And pretty please keep politics out of it, say the “whores’ unions”, who dread fresh interference from the prostitute protection law being tabled in Berlin. That would be understandable, if they did not hand-wave away human trafficking, forced prostitution and exploitation in the same breath.

On the other hand, the women of FIM emphasize that “the biggest group are the poverty prostitutes”. They hail the decision of politicians to concern themselves more with the shabbier side of reality. FIM is hoping that the prostitute-protection law will give a boost to protection for victims. Niesner supports, for example, the planned requirement for health checks, which are under heavy dispute. Critics speak of stigmatization. FIM’s women, on the other hand, see more of a chance to reach the sealed-off women and build contacts based on trust. But: “Health checks must be tied in with consultations with qualified social workers, with low thresholds, in the women’s native tongue, and personal. It’s all about strengthening the women.”

Such structures are lacking in many places at the moment. And they will still be lacking, when the law maybe kicks in next year. But Niesner harbors the hope that they will be brought about under pressure of the law.

And what do the women in the Theodor-Heuss-Allee say? Would they find mandatory counselling discriminatory? There are no clear answers to that question. But it’s plain to see that the street workers are welcome among the prostitutes, even when they come, as on this cold March evening, with two politicians and two journalists in tow. Federal representatives Michael Brand (CDU) and Kordula Schulz-Asche (Greens) tell them again and again that they are working on a new law for the trade, and for that reason want to know, how politics can best be of help. Puzzled faces, embarrassed smiles, shrugging shoulders — I can’t be helped, seems to be the message. “A different job,” says Ilona* (41), eventually. But she can only dream about that. The mother of three children, from Hungary, is drug-addicted and homeless.

“Do you regret your decision to come to Germany?” asks Brand of former supermarket clerk Dana. Anger flashes up in her eyes: “I’m not ashamed of what I do,” she replies, defiantly. That’s not how the question was meant. It’s more about finding out whether it’s true that most prostitutes don’t want to exit. In fact, the social workers of FIM have made exactly this finding. Only a few Latinas have exited lately. Encarni Ramírez Vega, who looks after this group, describes them as “self-aware pros” who didn’t want to go along with bargain-basement prices. The others, to her, are captives of a destructive lack of perspective.

Even the fight against human trafficking is in trouble. The number of legal cases has been declining for three years, but human trafficking hasn’t. It used to be that women would seek police protection. “Nowadays they only rarely come to us,” said police commissioner Benz. “We have to go to them.” And repeatedly, so that they lose their fear of the police and learn to trust. Only that way would there be a chance that they could testify against their tormentors. “No testimony, no trial.”

The commissioner is, for that reason, in favor of legislation requiring registration for prostitutes. “Because whenever I speak with a woman who could be the victim of a crime, then she’s already not there anymore the next day. Where the pimps have brought her, I can’t find out without mandatory registration.”

This proceeding, however, is particularly controversial. It is a delicate matter of personal privacy, and many prostitutes oppose it as discriminatory. Above all women in rural regions fear for their anonymity, and dread a “forced outing”. Anna is afraid that her information could end up in the wrong hands, maybe even those of a client. That couldn’t be very possible. But Anna holds firm: “Later one of them will be at my door, harassing me. No, what I’m doing here must remain discreet.”

Translation mine; * denotes a name changed to protect privacy.

So much for the sex-workers’ paradise of liberalization. Not only has it not cleared the streets of streetwalkers, it hasn’t empowered them one whit. It hasn’t even empowered those in the “safety” of the brothels — a relative term, that “safety”, given that cheap flat-rate sex is the new normal, and room rates are extortionate, and there is no guarantee that brothel keepers will protect anything but their own bottom line. The girls get trucked in from all over, and trucked around until they don’t even know where they are anymore, much less how to speak a word of German beyond what it takes to reel off a menu of acts and (low, flat) rates per.

But hey, at least the johns don’t have to duck their heads anymore when they walk in, eh? Their part of the whole exchange, at any rate, is now loud and proud. That of the ladies, not so much. As even Anna, the most self-confident of them says, she fears the johns. All the girls fear those guys. They’ve gotten cocky, and they are spoiled for choice, thanks to the glut of desperate, impoverished girls from Eastern Europe. And some of those even end up on the street, where it’s not only cheaper to buy one, it’s also dead easy to just yoink one into a car, drive off to someplace where no one can see or hear, and do whatever. For a paltry few euros, anything goes…even without condoms, a fact shamelessly advertised by flat-rate brothels all over Germany.

And of course, no health checks, either. A perfect breeding ground for every STD under the Sun, and probably quite a few we haven’t yet heard of. The rationalizations abound: “I’m married, and you don’t look sick.” That’s as good as a condom, isn’t it? And if the long-suffering wife does end up with a case of the clap, you can always pretend it’s the fault of some public toilet seat, even though that is, in fact, never the case. Prophylaxis: what’s that? And why should it matter?

And if a girl goes missing…well, who’s going to notice or care? As long as she’s not registered, and doesn’t want to be, the johns can literally get away with murder.

And that’s not even counting the pimps. You know, those Eastern European mafiosi who truck the girls in, and around and around until they’re dizzy with disorientation, so that the johns can have the eternal illusion that they’re getting fresh meat, and so no girl sticks around in any one place long enough to form a relationship with a potentially sympathetic client…much less local social workers or the police. Who are effectively hamstrung when it comes to helping or protecting them, as it currently stands, and probably will continue to be when the new law passes. Whenever that is.

Yeah, a hell of an improvement that 2002 law has been. And wow, such empowerment for the prostituted. Yay, sex capitalism.

Crappy Women’s Day, ladies. Here, have a carnation.

In lieu of my usual Music for a Sunday feature, I’m just going to leave this here:

Aren’t those the best lyrics? And the most badass sax riffs, too?

Anyhow. Here’s what women in another part of the world are working at. Specifically, in Germany. Mira Sigel has some hard words about what work ISN’T getting done:

“Happy Women’s Day!” my porn-watching neighbor yelled at me this morning, he who otherwise likes to say that women can’t parallel-park. That he himself hasn’t had a driver’s licence for years doesn’t keep him from grinning snarkily. “Only on March 8: Special offer for women” — my e-mail box is full of messages like that. The sexist shitpile of the Left Party won’t stop handing out carnations to unsuspecting women this year, instead of troubling itself about the deeply misogynistic behavior of its members and representatives. The daily newspaper has a special Women’s Day edition — letting dominatrices tell about their great jobs and invite others to come and “play the whore” while the laughable 30% quota for female employment rings the death-knell of western civilization for many. My boss gives out yellow roses every Women’s Day to his female employees, but doesn’t consider it necessary to pay them the same wages as their male colleagues, much less promote them to leadership positions.

Women’s Day serves as a reminder to all parties, unions and organization do something for women once in a while. A little feminism just looks good nowadays — and can you believe it, women are now allowed to earn their own money and drive cars, so there’s a corresponding marketing strategy. “Women, today it’s all about you,” is the message, which also makes it clear that during the rest of the year it’s not about us anymore. On Women’s Day 2014, feminists were shoved around, yelled at, and sprayed with paint by so-called “sex workers”, johns, and male members of the Pirate Party. Despite more calls for security this year, the stone-cold reply was that there are many forms of violence. Motto: It’s your own fault, you RadFems.

97 percent of board members in Europe are men. Party leader Volker Kauder said in November that female quotas would remain the same, and that family minister Manuela Schwesig could forget about pay equity, and that it was only thinkable for businesses with more than 500 employees. Women earn on average 22% less than their male colleagues; their pensions are 60% lower than those of men thanks to maternity leave and part-time work. That’s how inequality gets cemented — meaning that our own daughters still have to fight for fair pay, even though women still do the lion’s share of the child-care work. Since 2014 there’s a discriminatory caregiver law, that together with an extremely “father-friendly” arrangement of youth offices and judges sees to it that children can even be taken with police force to their fathers, never mind if he beat their mother or otherwise terrorized her. Whereas when it comes to child support, or a fairer tax plan for single mothers, we see just as little action as with trial judges handing down a proper sentence to rapists. The morning-after pill is now prescription-free for German women, but only because the EU has taken it to heart. One in three German women has experienced domestic or sexual violence, but women’s shelters are constantly being closed or charging fees of the victims. The perpetrators have little to fear.

The female portion of city and municipal councils is barely 23%, while 97% of all single-custody parents are women. Germany is “Europe’s bordello”, where women are quite legally auctioned off as wares. The new prostitution law won’t change much there, either.

All of this is no coincidence. And it’s not the fault of women, with their “bad” choices in careers, partners or clothing, but that of the mighty institutions of patriarchy. In a society where the most important decisions are still being made by men, there can be no equality for women. So you can shove your well-wishes, your carnations and your special Women’s Day offers up your ass. In a patriarchal society, all of this is a slap in the face of every woman on Women’s Day. Instead, make this world a fairer place for women. Don’t go to prostitutes, don’t hit or rape women, don’t watch any more porn, don’t harass women on the street anymore, and pay women fairly. Then we won’t need any more Women’s Day.

Translation mine.

If we’re not equal yet, it’s certainly not for lack of effort on the part of women. We’ve been “leaning in” until our noses are buried in the dirt, only to have more of it rubbed in our faces by the Menz Rightzers, the latest and “greatest” crop of anti-human-rights activists to be spawned by good ol’ Papa Chauvin. Yay! Just in time for our so-called day.

And now we’re being sold the “agency” lie by the pimp lobby, who claim that peddling our asses for cash is somehow sexually liberating and even “empowering”. Really? If that were true, this world would be run by gigolos, because think about it — who’s more power-hungry (and sex-“positive”) than men?

Porn hasn’t liberated women’s sexuality; it’s just feeding us instructions as to how to satisfy the male gaze better. We don’t even know what our own sexuality looks like anymore, because we’ve never been free of imagery foisted on us by people who don’t care about our pleasure or our satisfaction. Instead, we’re being told that servicing men according to their specs is “a job like any other”. Well, why not? We’re already getting fucked over by capitalism; might as well make it literal, eh ladies?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: When it comes to store-bought sex, women who sell it are not the empowered party. They never have been. They have always been dependent on the men who pay for the privilege, and those men call the shots, always. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

I note in passing that there are still precious few women out there even contemplating buying sex. “Equality” on those terms is unthinkable for us. Partly because we can’t fucking afford it, yes — but much more the fact that we don’t see ourselves as entitled to it. We don’t lack for libido, that much I’m sure of. No, what we lack is the political power to compel men to service us, as well as the bullshit belief that it’s okay for us to do that in the first place. The fact that the converse is not true for the other side, even among men who call themselves leftists, ought to be proof enough that capitalist patriarchy is not dead, that “girls” don’t rule the world even though we do the vast majority of its grunt-work, and that we sure as hell need more than just one day a year, ostensibly dedicated to women, to get it right. Every day should be women’s day, uncapitalized, everywhere on Earth.

Cristina kicks Israel’s ass; Bibi own-goals himself before US congress

A half-hour portion of Cristina’s speech before the Argentine parliament the other day, which lasted about four hours in all. This portion specifically concerns the AMIA and Israeli embassy bombings. If you can understand Spanish, you really need to see this. It’s just stunning. She calls out ALL THE BULLSHIT. And all the bullshitters, too.

Hot off the dismissal of a scandalous so-called case against her by a prosecutor later found dead of an apparent suicide, the president of Argentina is turning the spotlight on the very country that wants this negative attention the least. No, it’s not Iran. Guess again…

Argentine president Cristina Fernández requested of Israel that the former ambassador, Itzhak Aviran, testify in regard to the cause of the attack on the Jewish mutual centre, AMIA, in 1994, in order to explain why he said months ago to the media that his country killed the terrorists.

During her speech opening the legislative year, the president announced that “since no judge has requested it”, she herself will “formally request of the state of Israel that ex-ambassador Itzhak Aviran please come to testify”, so that Argentines may know “at least, [who were] the material authors” of the AMIA attack.

Aviran, who was ambassador in Buenos Aires between 1993 and 2000, caused a great controversy early in 2014, when he stated in an interview that “the great majority” of those responsible for the attack that left 85 dead in 1994 “are now in the other world, and we ourselves did that”, referring to the state of Israel.

The Argentine foreign office at the time deemed the declarations to be of “extreme gravity” and accused Israel of concealing information, but the Israeli government denied the information and called Aviran’s statements “pure fantasy”.

“21 years have passed and we don’t have a single person sentenced, nor even one prisoner due to AMIA,” the president said, accusing the Argentine judiciary of failing to advance in investigating the attack, as well as that against the Israeli embassy two years before, which left 29 dead.

“It has always strongly called my attention, I still can’t understand why the state of Israel accuses [Argentina] over AMIA, and not for the bombing of its own embassy,” Fernández pointed out.

“Does anyone know, can anyone inform this president what is the result of the investigation (of the attack against the embassy) by the Supreme Court? Can anyone inform me why the state of Israel isn’t making accusations about the embassy?” Fernández asked.

The attack on AMIA has come to the forefront of the political scene after the death, in circumstances still unexplained, of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor charged with the investigation, who was found in his home with a gunshot wound to the head on January 18.

Four days before, Nisman had presented a denunciation against the president, foreign minister Héctor Timerman, and several directors of the ruling party, over a supposed plan to cover for the Iranians suspected of carrying out the attack.

The denunciation was dismissed last Thursday by magistrate Daniel Rafecas, on the basis that there was no evidence to support the accusations.

Translation mine.

Well. Wasn’t that a party? Cristina sure knows how to drop a bombshell, doesn’t she. Imagine an Israeli ambassador — or former one, rather — being called to testify before an Argentine court about the attacks on his country’s embassy and on the AMIA centre, too! I doubt he’d show (because diplomatic immunity blah blah, and also BAWWWWK buk buk bk bk), but it sure would be interesting to hear him clear up his statements to the effect that Israel disposed of the guilty parties already, without so much as a word of by-the-way to Argentina! Because if Israel did that, then why this twenty-year campaign to pin the blame for the still-unresolved crime on Iran? And why the current campaign to discredit Argentina in the eyes of the world? And if the assassins were in fact, as Israel insists, Iranian — then why hasn’t there been an international incident in which Iran declares war on Israel as a result? Because I doubt very much that Tehran would take the murder of Iranian nationals lying down, especially if Israel were behind it.

All of this comes at a very interesting time for Argentina, when the country has shrugged off its debts and kicked the vulture capitalists out of country. Little wonder, then, that the right-wing international media are out to demonize Cristina Fernández by any means possible — even publishing that ridiculous, superstitious bullshit about her standing godmother to a Jewish young man in order to save him from becoming a werewolf! Can’t let her look good for righting the dire economic situation that led to Argentina’s debt default in the wake of the crash of 2001, can we?

All this comes at a very inconvenient time for Israel, too, since Bibi came to blah-blah, without presidential invitation, before the US congress. This is not only irregular, it’s illegal, and 56 US representatives have boycotted the speech in protest. It’s unleashed a torrent of blatantly racist hate from one teabagger crapagandist, who wants to see the dissenting parliamentarians strung up and lynched. How fitting that a troll who clearly learned nothing from history would allude to Jim Crow-era practices in defence of an apartheid state where black and North African Jews are treated as second-class citizens, to the point where some are even covertly chemically sterilized. It’s like they learned nothing from their own history, either — else why recapitulate the sort of things that one expects to hear about, say, a Josef Mengele?

And suddenly the bizarre accusations of Alberto Nisman start to make a horrible kind of sense. If Nisman was indeed working at the behest of Mossad handlers, then we can place him (and maybe his death as well) in the context of a demonization campaign by Israel against Argentina. And this in the face of all Argentina’s extensive efforts to co-operate with Israel. Talk about bad faith!

In the end, this will be an own goal for Israel. And they’re already losing badly on the global stage, so they can ill afford to look any worse.

After 40 years, a victim of Franco’s Spain tells her story

lidia-falcon

Lidia Falcón in an archival photo, likely taken before her seventh and final arrest under the Franco dictatorship. The leftist lawyer and feminist was falsely linked to a crime allegedly carried out by Basque separatists in Madrid in September 1974. A café frequented by secret police was the target. Falcón had nothing to do with the attack at all, but that didn’t stop the dying dictator’s sadists from doing their worst to her. For 40 years she was unable to talk about it. Now, she tells her story to Público:

Lidia Falcón was tortured to the limit in the fall of 1974. She was beaten, insulted and humiliated. But not only in prison. In the official media as well. The daily newspaper, ABC, didn’t hesitate to publish her photo on the front page and link her to an ETA attack on the Rolando coffeehouse in Correo Street, near the Puerta del Sol, on September 13, 1974. Falcón had nothing to do with that massacre. But for the police, the Franco régime, and for its hangers-on, it was all the same. She was arrested in Barcelona and transferred to Madrid three days after the attack. She thought she would never get out of jail. That they would kill her first. Franco was near death, and the hatred of his Political and Social Brigade was running rampant throughout Spain. Tortures unimaginable today were commonplace.

The lawyer, writer and founder of the Feminist Party has taken 40 years to recount that dramatic episode of her life. The nine months she spent in prison and the nine days she suffered the interrogations of Billy the Kid and Roberto Conesa. She kept it hidden as much as possible, she doesn’t really know why, she says. Every victim manages the trauma of torture as well as they can. Every person has their own defence mechanism. Silence and pretending were the methods Falcón chose.

Today, forty years later, she has decided to put those tortures in writing and present a denunciation before the Argentine embassy in Madrid as part of the so-called Argentine Case, the only judicial proceeding currently investigating the crimes of the Franco dictatorship and the Spanish Civil War.

“They arrested me seven times between 1960 and 1974, but no one has ever been told what I lived through during that last detention. Why? I don’t know,” Lidia Falcón told Público. She says she finally decided to take that step and make the denunciation in order to “help my comrades who are making such a great effort to put an end to the impunity of Franco-fascism.”

On September 16, 1974, three days after the ETA attack, the Politico-Social Brigade (BPS) arrived at Lidia Falcón’s office to arrest her and take her to Madrid, accusing her of taking part in the attack by planting an explosive charge in the Rolando Coffeehouse in Madrid, a place frequented by the BPS police. They had no evidence. They probably also knew that Falcón was not implicated. But it was all the same to them. They forced her into a car and drove her to Madrid. The same for her daughter and her companion, Eliseo Bayo. They wouldn’t even let her go to the bathroom during the 12-hour trip.

The worst, obviously, was still to come. Falcón spent nine days in the Franco-fascist terror’s station. “They threw Grimau out the window there. They tortured him to the point of uselessness. One thinks it’s possible not to talk about it, that it not come out,” Falcón said, in front of the Argentine embassy in Madrid. “They were furious and hungry for revenge. We can’t forget that 13 people had just died, and there were 84 injured,” Falcón continues.

A doctor examined her upon arrival. “Do you suffer from any illness?” he asked her. “I’ve recently had hepatitis,” she replied. Billy the Kid and Roberto Conesa now had the perfect target to destroy their victim: “They hit me in the stomach and in the liver and tugged at my arms until I thought they’d fall out.” This for three days. No sleep, no food, no drink. Between beatings, they talked about her daughter: “She’s in jail. Maybe she’ll find a boyfriend.”

After 72 hours in detention, she was visited in her jail cell by the instructing judge, the commander of the First Military Tribunal of Judges and Officials of Madrid, and after a lengthy interrogation, Falcón signed a declaration in which she did not confess to participation in the attack, nor any relations with the terrorists. “I’ve asked myself whether the CIA was implicated in the attack,” Falcón remembers, describing how the judge thumped his chest and exclaimed, “I will not allow betrayals of this uniform!”

After the official left, she was returned to her cell. The next day, Billy the Kid and Conesa came back for her. They handcuffed her to two hooks in the ceiling, but Falcón’s wrists were too small. Her 50 kilograms of body weight were not enough to fill the cuffs. Falcón fel again and again. Finally, they tied her with ropes and began to punch her in the abdomen, stomach and liver.

“Do you recall anything Billy the Kid said to you during the interrogation?” asked a journalist.

“Yes. Of course. There’s one thing that I’ll never forget. Ever. While he was beating me about the stomach, he said to me, ‘Now you’ll never stand up again, whore,'” replied Falcón, recalling that after the interrogations, she had to have five surgeries to try to repair the damage from the tortures to her shoulders, stomach and uterus.

Like other victims of Antonio González Pacheco, alias Billy the Kid, Falcón remembers his face well. Those eyes that sparkled upon seeing another’s pain, which enjoyed inflicting terror and exercising the superiority of having a victim tied up and free rein to torture. “He was a sadist. He liked it. You could see he was enjoying those moments,” Falcón adds, recalling that she finished most of the torture sessions by losing consciousness.

When she fainted, they untied her and laid her on the floor. They woke her with a bucket of water. Then the doctor examined her, checking the whites of her eyes and her blood pressure. “Let her rest,” he usually recommended. She remained on the floor, wet, for hours, until they brought her back to her cell. The next day, the tortures continued. On the sixth day, the torturers could not continue with the same abuses. They could not hang her from the wall because she would lose consciousness quickly as a result. Then, when she awoke, she went on receiving punches and kicks while lying on the ground.

On the ninth day, they transferred her to the Women’s Prison of Yeserías in Madrid. The tendons of her arms were torn, as were her uterus and abdominal muscles. She spent nine months in that prison. On June 11, 1975, they gave her provisional freedom and a fine of 30,000 pesetas. Though she had been accused, she never went to trial. In fact, No one ever went on trial for that ETA attack. Neither she, nor the other 21 accused.

Years later, Falcón went to the Historical Archive to look for the documents from her stay in prison, her detention, and the seven arrests. They didn’t exist. Her name only appears on a document which recounts a conversation between two police officers. “Everything has been eliminated. It’s part of the pact of silence of the Transition. Everything stays behind. There are no guilty parties. No one was sentenced. No investigations. Spain is a single country, and bipartisanism shares a big part of the blame,” Falcón says.

Translation mine.

In case you wonder why Argentina should be involved in this case, you may recall what I blogged a few weeks ago about the exchanges between the military academies of Spain and Argentina. Even as Franco’s régime was in its last gasps (literally, since the dictator was on his deathbed), that of Argentina was just around the corner. Already the fascist (“anticommunist”) brigades, both military and civilian, were harassing Argentine leftists, and bodies were beginning to fall. In a country with a long history off generals-as-presidents, a military coup is never far behind, and in 1976, it finally happened. The fragile Argentine democracy crumbled even as an equally fragile and uncertain so-called democracy emerged from the dictator’s death in Spain. It was like the two countries sat at either end of a see-saw: as one went up, the other went down.

But even as the public balance was shifting, something covert was going on, something that would assure the continuation of fascism, its migration between one Spanish-speaking land and another. Spanish and Argentine military officers were involved in an exchange program, and specifically one dealing in so-called “counterinsurgency” methods. In plain English: Terrorism, murder, torture, abduction, permanent disappearance of victims, and erasure of their very names from the records. Officers from one country went to train in the other, and vice versa. The new Spanish democracy was a sham, as much as the former Argentine one had been. In truth, fascism would continue unabated, hidden. Just as the Argentines had their secret prisons in places the public never suspected, so did the Spaniards harbor their torturers in plain sight. And this even with Franco in his grave, and a two-party electoral system supposedly now in place. Officers and torturers of both régimes enjoyed total impunity, and some still do to this day.

It’s getting late, and yet there is so much still to be done to bring real democracy to Spain and Argentina. As long as the victims live, the torturers’ crimes can still come to light…even after 40 years or more.

Ontario sex-ed fight gets ugly. What century is this, again?

sex-ed-daughter

Good lord. I would have thought that teaching kids the facts of life at public school was no longer even a little bit controversial, but apparently it’s become just that. AGAIN. And today, in the Ontario Legislature, the pot boiled over:

Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Essex), a leadership hopeful, attacked Premier Kathleen Wynne on Tuesday for not doing enough to consult parents before implementing the new syllabus that takes effect in September.

McNaughton told the house that the premier should not be imposing views upon mothers and fathers concerned about the revised program designed to protect children by better informing them about sex.

Note that the oh-so-concerned-for-concerned-parents Mr. McNaughton is a Conservative “leadership hopeful”. Hence all his laudable, laudable concern for the unheard voices of parents who don’t want their kids learning anything about sex at school. His leadership hopes took a bit of a trouncing, though, at the hands of the woman whose job he’s eyeballing:

Wynne, Ontario’s first female premier and lone openly lesbian first minister, suggested the Tory MPP was being homophobic when he said Monday “it’s not the premier of Ontario’s job — especially Kathleen Wynne — to tell parents what’s age-appropriate for their children.”

“What is it that especially disqualifies me for the job that I’m doing? Is it that I’m a woman? Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a master’s of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education?” she told the house.

“What is it exactly that the member opposite thinks disqualifies me from doing the job that I’m doing? What is that?”

Yeah, Monte, go on going after her job. After all, she’s just a trained schoolteacher with a master’s degree, a former provincial education minister, AND a parent. What the hell would SHE know about age-appropriate sex ed?

Could the real reason he’s so squiffy toward her new curriculum be none other than the simple fact that she’s gay? Or is it something more sinister, namely the anti-intellectual bent that we’ve seen so much of in the Ontario SupposiTories since the bad old days of Mike Harris and his No-Sense Devolution, when he put a high-school drop-out in charge of the provincial education ministry and basically ordered ol’ Snowballs to ransack it and leave no textbook untorn? The same generation that grew up on a starved education system now takes such governmental neglect for not only normal, but a correct course of action. Twenty years of undoing the good work of William B. Davis, the Education Premier?

Yeah, let’s stay the course. That’s still an electable strategy, right? I mean, just look at the peanut gallery these guys are playing to:

McNaughton and one of his rival PC leadership candidates — MP Patrick Brown (Barrie) — met with the raucous protesters, many of whom brandished anti-abortion signs.

Yup, it’s the anti-intellectual brigade, out in full force against anything that might inform their kids more and better than they themselves would! To hear this crowd talk, you’d think that just not telling kids anything about sex at all, other than “don’t do it till you’re married, and only for procreation” would be an effective means of preventing unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and that deadliest of all sins, Teh Ghey. Meanwhile, the precious, protected children of people like these grow into the kind of harassers who stand outside women’s health clinics, baptizing imaginary “murdered” babies.

But what am I saying? Nobody knows better than a parent what’s really good for the kids, right? RIGHT???

“Parents should be the first educators on serious issues like sex education . . . Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals are not respecting parents,” McNaughton told a rally of more than 200 people outside the legislature.

Oh, but of course. Parents are the bestest sex educators a kid could have. And the government has no right to “interfere”! That’s why schools that teach “abstinence only”, in accordance with religious parents’ wishes, have higher pregnancy rates and STD rates than schools that teach comprehensive sex ed. That’s why so many people whose parents “protected” them by withholding all sex information other than “Just Don’t Do It” are parents before their time, perpetuating the vicious cycle faster and faster than ever before. That’s why antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea and syphilis are wreaking havoc on kids whose folks told them condoms were the devil’s toys. That’s why AIDS is still incurable and there’s no vaccine on the market for it yet. The same people who think a few shots of Gardasil will turn their daughters into harlots when those girls haven’t even put down their Barbie dolls yet. The same whose kids are so desperate to learn anything at all about sex that they turn to porn for info. Yeah, those people are the greatest sexperts on Earth, and nothing they say could possibly be fallible.

And it could never fail their kids, either.

Music for a Sunday: Down right to the happy end

Posted in Music for a Sunday, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off »

“Fifty Shades of Shit”: A German feminist’s heretical thoughts

no-sexual-violence

“No to the eroticization of sexual violence! Boycott Fifty Shades of Grey.”

A sentiment I can heartily get behind. This article from Mira Sigel, of the German radical-anarcho-socialist-feminist blog, Die Störenfriedas, basically says it all for me, too:

It’s February 2015 in Germany, and as a feminist, one wants to pull the covers over one’s head and wait till summer so that the sexist shitcrap that’s currently washing over us from TV and movie screens will at least be made tolerable by sunshine and ice cream.

On Thursday, in Berlin, there was the world premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey. The film version of the book, which is a — yawwwwwn — love story about an emotionally disturbed, violently inclined, rich and dominant man and a woman inferior to him in every way, is creating buzz around the world. There’s talk of “eroticism” and “lust”, and even Germany’s top-ranking feminists are applauding approval, because it has something to do with women’s liberation. That’s right: Getting your ass paddled or playing the choking game is just as sexually liberating as playing the prostitute in a bordello. The eroticization of violence and exploitation is a wonderful instrument of oppression that the patriarchy has just begun to discover. We now think of Playboy Bunnies as kindergartners, and the nonsense of Sex and the City, which for ten years was meant to prepare us for a life as constantly horny luxury queens.

But let’s go on. What’s really upsetting about the story is not that Anastasia sets out to finally find the limits of her sexuality and to cross them, but that she gets “seduced” by a rich, smart, and — naturally — “mysterious” man. What exactly is self-determined about that? It’s the age-old tale of King Bluebeard. Didn’t you know? Well, then, read up. A patriarchal fairytale par excellence. She naturally somehow “senses” that Christian Grey needs emotional rescuing, because hey, why else are we women here, with our bodies, our psyches, and our whole lives, to take care that it goes better for men, insofar as they can take it all out on us? Anastasia isn’t into S/M. She lets him do it to her, because she thinks she’ll get access to Christian’s disturbed emotional world this way. She realizes that he’s overstepping her boundaries, and still keeps going on. As well, she was a virgin before she met him, and has nothing, literally nothing, to compare his sexual experiences to.

Christian likes to hit women because his bad mama neglected him and was also a drug-addicted prostitute. Naturally, the whole wide world of women has nothing but understanding for that, and willingly sticks out its butt, so that the poor boy can take out his feelings on it. In turn we get to see him constantly in the film with his bare chicken breast. Because Anastasia takes his boundary-crossings so self-sacrificingly, eventually he does let his guard down a bit — and makes her his princess. One might laugh about that, because it’s so silly. In reality, though, it’s dangerous. Because it idealize a toxic view of relationships, in which women consequently deny their own needs and boundaries so that they’ll be better off. Women become clumsy twits, who fall so far under the influence of an experienced man’s sexual wishes that they become willing partners for damaging relations. It’s called grooming.

At the Berlin premiere, minors sashayed around with leather whips and other paraphernalia that they presumably consider sexy — because everyone tells them that sexuality is the thing of the hour. A chance to find out for themselves what they like, and to look for a corresponding partner, though, is something that neither our society nor Germany’s leading feminist group will concede to them.

Even the fact that there are also submissive men is no argument. What turns them on is subservience. The fact that a WOMAN is debasing them. Not a man. A woman. A woman who, however, is socially far beneath them. Therein lies the arousal — that is, it comes out of a deeply sexist and misogynous world-view. Sexuality is always to be viewed in the context of social reality. Why else have chambermaids been in the Top Ten list of male sex fantasies for centuries? Why do colonialist world-views express sexual desire in terms of white women and black men, and vice versa? Why are pornos full of racist stereotypes? Why is the horny secretary or nurse a fantasy that gets passed down from generation to generation? Why not a female professor or politician? Because female power — real female power — doesn’t stand for the male dominance of sexuality in a patriarchal society.

Soon, as well, we’ll see the next installment of Germany’s Next Top Model. Heidi ate burgers, döner and sausages in order to shut up the thinness critics. “I’ve been watching the show for ten years,” shrieks an 18-year-old hopeful. “It’s always been my dream to take part.”

Why doesn’t everyone wake up? Shouldn’t girls dream of high-school graduation, university, science, creative heights and successes, instead of making monkeys of themselves with Heidi & Co.?

Society shows young women their place. Either as sex toys for male power fantasies, or as skinny models without dignity.

Hopefully it will be summer soon.

Translation mine.

Full disclosure: I’m not a kinkster. I’m not even remotely curious, having read enough already to know quite well what it’s all about. I have no desire to try it for myself; what I’ve read and seen doesn’t resonate with me — at least, not in a titillating way. I will admit to feeling disturbed by a lot of it, though, and for the very reasons Sigel outlines so succinctly here. The overwhelming majority of it plays to the age-old male power fantasy of “owning” a woman. Even the reversed situation derives its power mainly from the temporary inversion of the accepted order of things. But it doesn’t question that order, nor does it seek to subvert it in the real world. What happens in the dungeon, stays in the dungeon. And anyway, even the most submissive of male subs has his safeword, meaning the action stops when he orders it to. So in the end, even he still has power — even if his male privilege is momentarily (and voluntarily) doffed. The same cannot be said for female subs, whose submission is socially encoded as “normal”.

Worse, the ugliest aspects of the male-dominant power dynamic are so egregious in Fifty Shades that even the most ardent kinksters feel the need to dissociate from the franchise. I may not share their proclivities, but I don’t blame them a bit. They say they don’t stand for Christian’s blatantly illegal moves to control Anastasia, for stalking, for isolation, for abuse, and for the actual, slave-master ownership of a person, right down to a ludicrous, legally unenforceable “contract”. I would hope not! Who’d want to be associated with something so conservative, so un-edgy, so damn OLD? Because really, this is indentured servitude, when you get right down to it; good old-fashioned indentured servitude with a side order of medieval torture.

And yet, heterosexual kink* does partake of the same old dynamics, and that’s what makes it so primal and titillating to some, and fraught — and frankly, ripe for abuse. The kink community has always had its Christians, out to exploit a ready and willing pool of inexperienced young women. And every female sub has found herself at least once, it seems, in Anastasia’s unenviable shoes, being sexually assaulted and having her bounds blatantly overstepped by a dom who refuses to hear NO. And has had to warn others away from that freak. Who is not, unfortunately, that much of a freak.

Sometimes, the only thing that separates a kinky abuser from a garden-variety one is the leather costumery. And even Christian, in his “kinky” mode, is not that much of a one for the leather gear. He can play out his “master” role just as well in banker’s grey flannels. (But hey, at least we get to see him shirtless and sweaty. Whoopee!)

The disturbing thing about Fifty Shades is not the boring-ass sex (which has been described in detail elsewhere, and if you want to read about it, just google) — it’s the mental abuse. And the most abusive thing is that it teaches girls that if they submit enough, they’ll be rewarded with the prince and a tiara and, presumably, a whole stable full of sparkly pink Pegacorns with mauve manes and tails, who piss perfume, fart rainbows, and poop marshmallows, and heal all hurts with the magical light of their crystal horns. That sacrificing themselves and having no desires of their own is the way to a man’s heart, and that they’ll cure him of all his demons that way.

In real life, as has been often pointed out, that way leads straight to the women’s shelter, and often the morgue.

Abusive men aren’t for women to cure, and they don’t even want to be cured. They’re as hooked on their violence as a junkie on the needle. The power fantasy has been marketed to them, too, as a drug that they need to score and go on scoring in ever greater hits, for ever higher highs. The fact that they become numb to it eventually is never mentioned. They end up not in control, but in thrall. The fact that they end up in jail or dead in a grisly murder-suicide is the only logical outcome for that power dynamic. And it’s a fact that gets glossed over by the media time and again. When we do hear talk of a guy going to jail for beating his female partner to death, or of one who shoots first her (and/or their kids) before turning the gun on himself, it’s always couched in nonsense phrases about “senseless violence” that “no one could have predicted”.

In fact, the violence makes a lot of sense, and is dead simple to predict, given the dynamics of the patriarchal, capitalist world we live in. This “fantasy” is a big, money-making reality. Every little Joe Schmoe wants to be a Christian, on some level. With access to an Anastasia, who takes every slap, every punch, every rape, without complaint…just as she’s been taught.

Even the stuff you grow up thinking is so “subversive” and “transgressive” really isn’t. The Marquis de Sade? Hardly a libertarian “citizen” of revolutionary France, but an opportunist who took full, gory advantage of the old droit du seigneur. His perversions weren’t even particularly extreme for his day, at least insofar as literature went; there was already plenty of “blasphemous” spanky-spanky erotica kicking around even then. He didn’t invent a libertine tradition; he grew out of one like a fleur-de-lys from shit. Most of what he cut his teeth on was anticlerical, clandestinely published, and meant to shock with its childish defiance. And it shaped his tastes, without a doubt. His contemporaries were blasé about that. But what made him truly grotesque and ultimately a criminal in their eyes was not what he read and wrote, but what he actually did. To powerless underlings who had virtually no rights in pre-revolutionary France. This was no harmless fantasy of consensual role-play. His victims were predominantly young women in poverty and/or prostitution, who had no choice but to submit to whatever he meted out to them, even death. (Oh yes, did I mention that he was most likely a serial killer, one who pre-dated Jack the Ripper by about a century? Plus ça change…)

Even now, the “sadists” of BDSM are slow to wake up to the fact that their cherished fantasies are the products of some mighty banal evils. Not necessarily childhood abuse, or mommy/daddy issues (lots of kinksters have no history of those), but forces from the larger society writ small and personal, marked “private” and for individual sale only. Some, to their credit, are at least distancing themselves from the mad Marquis, recognizing that a man of the upper class, who poisoned, mutilated and flayed young peasant women without pity, is no role model. They stress safety, sanity, consensuality. They take it as a bounden duty to provide aftercare, and laudably tend to the wounds they inflict. They are seeking alternative terms for their kink, words that don’t hark back to droit du seigneur — at least not so blatantly. Bless them for trying. It’s just a pity that those same terms they stress so hard — safe, sane and consensual — are also being used by some, who are far less scrupulous, to gloss over the serious examination of kink’s background forces that is long overdue.

But that, too, is quite understandable, in light of the blinding obvious. People want to have their cake, and their fetishes too. What else is there to do on your own time in this god-awful crapitalist soul-eating world? Why kill the buzz of kinky “transgression” with structural analysis of its deep-down conservatism, with examination of class and privilege, with history, with the nasty inconvenient fact that the playing field is not finally level now, but still every bit as lumpy and unfairly tilted as it’s ever been, even without the old seigneurial class?

And whose rights are being perpetually eroded by all the bogus talk about “sexual freedom”, used by real sadists like Jian Ghomeshi to assert that their ugliest whims are nothing less than a basic human right?

Take a wild guess. Take several. Take all the time you need.

*Gay kink — more liberating/liberated than straight? Don’t bet on it. A lot of butch/femme and even racist and homophobic stereotypes are played out there, following problematic templates similar to those of the straights. After all, they all have the class consciousness of a heterosexist society as their biggest (and really, only) role model.

Saudi Arabia, progressive kingdom of irony

saudi-arabia-womens-conference

Saudi feminists sure do love them some manspreading.

According to Konbini, this photo was taken last year at a conference at Qassim University on women’s rights. The piece also notes that Saudi Arabia ranks 127th out of 136 countries on gender equality.

I don’t know what’s more impressive: That such a deeply sexist country managed to fill a whole lecture hall with men interested in women’s rights, or that there are 9 countries still below them in terms of equality.

I guess this must be what the crapagandarati meant when they characterized the late King Abdullah as a “reformist” ruler.

When perverts become “victims”

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Sebastian Edathy, personifying chutzpah on Facebook. In English, no less.

Right now, in Germany, there’s a huge scandal going on. A former parliamentarian, who resigned shortly before his home was raided by police, has been found to have bought and downloaded child pornography, and even pretty much confessed that he whacks off to it. So, why is this self-admitted pervert not behind bars yet? Well, as the Störenfriedas blog has found, the problem lies in German society itself, and their way of addressing — or rather, NOT addressing — the nature of the problem:

On Thursday, December 18, Sebastian Edathy gave a press conference. The 45-year-old Edathy is facing criminal charges for possession of child pornography. An investigation is now under way to find out exactly who knew what, and when, about the accusations against the Saxon state politician. Also to determine if Edathy was warned. SPD parliamentarian Thomas Oppermann and federal delegate Michael Hartmann play a particular role.

It is surely important [to know] who warned Edathy, because it tells us something about the social position of children and sexual violence in our society, and of complicity in their trivialization. Above all, Edathy is using this question right now to present himself on the media stage — and the media are playing along — to push the actual acts into the background and thus whitewash them.

There’s talk of the “Kiddy-Porn Affair”. Just this headline contains an ugly verbal distancing and a further objectification of children for purposes of sexual exploitation. It is not a “kiddy-porn affair”; it concerns actual children, who were and are being made to serve as masturbation fodder for men. These are not some films that have nothing to do with reality, but children with real feelings, who remain forever caught in the net of men’s sexual exploitation. How must a person feel when he or she knows that their own body is serving again and again as wank-fodder, and one can never do anything about it?

Says Adrian P., who was affected, about that: “The pictures of me are horrifying. I can never get rid of them.”

Edathy himself talks of “purchases” when he’s talking about the children to whom he masturbated: “I believe that the majority of the critical public voices on the purchases — to be honest — are right.” In the final analysis, Edathy takes no responsibility for his own conduct.

A reporter asked: “Are you a pedophile, Herr Edathy?” Edathy replied: “Are you homosexual or heterosexual? Maybe you’re a pedophile…you know what, that simply doesn’t concern you.”

This response is very clever because it brings pedophilia down to the same level as homosexuality and heterosexuality. This excuse is symptomatic of Edathy’s position, which resonates with that of the pedo-criminal organizations, such as the “Crooked 13″ and others. These have been trying for decades to sell sexual interest in children as normal sexuality, which should be acted upon. Because this is, according to their definitions, normal, and the results of such “normal sexuality”, as they call it, meaning the sexual exploitation of children, is consequently whitewashed and negated. Finally, it’s all the same in fact whether Edathy’s conduct fits the definition of pedophilia or not. On exactly which grounds children have suffered violence is unimportant. The consequences must be borne by those who have exerted sexual violence, and by those who have profited from it (after the fact). The perpetrator-type of one Herr Edathy is, in fact, irrelevant.

This justification of such deeds is socially widespread. The grounds for it will be laid out here, because they have very real effects upon the Edathy case and its medial reception:

The concept of “pedophilia” comes from the Greek and is made up of παῖς (“boy, child”) and φιλία (“friendship”). It seems to suggest that men with sexual interest in children, and those who sexually exploit children, actually act on the basis of a real, genuine friendly inclination. Even in this case, language reshapes what is actually a very gruesome reality. The motive of a friendly inclination can be doubted, anyway, and even if one considers it valid, it could still be laid to rest, at latest, when power relations are used and boundaries overstepped, as in when sexual violence is used against children.

Pedophilia is listed as a “disease” in the ICD-10 and the DSM, and above all, it is a “disease” in the mind of society. That brings much sympathy for “afflicted” men as a result. It has also led to the notion that people are under pressure, and thus “understanding” — for the perpetrators, that is, not the victim — is necessary, and to look at “both sides” when it comes to sexual violence by men against children. “Aware” men, who are “ready for therapy”, are celebrated. And people who are against that celebration are characterized as heartless, without character, and devoid of empathy. At any rate, we must discuss how much of “pedophilia”-as-sickness is a social construct; if we leave out this consideration, we can still at least ask ourselves who has ever celebrated a victim of sexual violence when she or he has gone into therapy (insofar as there is even a slot in therapy for them; the totally inadequate psycho-traumatological care of victims of violence is worth an article in itself).

“Do you even regret anything?” asks a reporter. Edathy replies in a roundabout way. In his opinion, it’s wrong to expect persons in public office to be flawless. He sees himself as a victim of the rule of law. “The children are victims too”, says the reporter. Can Edathy be sure that children have acted without duress? Edathy, again, blames the Criminal Prosecutor’s Office: “I have paid a high price for what I’ve done. I will try to build up a new existence for myself. Maybe someday it will be possible for me to live without fear in Germany.”

The “flaw”, to have had [sexual] contact with children or youths, will always stick with someone — even when such charges are proven false. The Canadian company from which he obtained the films in question has been under criminal investigation without charges for years. Edathy keeps emphasizing that the films are “legal”, but only once does he say, in an aside, that it “was morally not okay”.

Again and again, the question gets asked: Were the nude photos legal? The headline reads: “Harmless nude photos, or criminal child porn?” Edathy himself says: “I didn’t act conspiratorially. I was firmly convinced that the pictures are not criminally relevant.” He also says: “We are not talking here about a capital crime.”

He also says it’s okay to consume such pictures or films whose production “did not use recognizable violence”. In the Stern, it says: “It was wrong to buy the films. But it was legal.” Where is the responsibility on the part of a currently active federal delegate to society, when he sees everything as “okay” and “legal”, but as a consumer he can’t tell if violence was behind it or not? Can he still shuffle off responsibility for that onto others? Or would it not be better to take responsibility in this sense: “As long as I can’t be 100% sure that no violence was used, I am morally and legally obligated to keep my hands off it”?

If everyone were to act that way, there would be no market for prostitution or pornography with adult “protagonists”, because it is simply impossible to rule out force. Aside from that, why should one be absolved if one assumes that no violence was used because that is “not visible”? What does Edathy mean when he speaks of violence? Must violence be “visible”? Does it depend on that? It does not. It speaks to Edathy’s posture, and that of society, that there can be a context of “under normal circumstances” and “violence-free”, a moral-ethical as well as judicially representable one, in which such photos can be produced, distributed and commercialized. Ergo: When it comes to minors, the question of force or no force cannot even be asked.

The manifold attempts of the sex-industry lobby to make even children into “self-determined actors” and to legalize “child prostitution” and “child pornography” (these concepts are real bones of contention), point to yet another way.

A further question should be what difference it really makes whether a politician masturbates to “legal” or illegal nude photos. Doesn’t the whole affair show that there are loopholes in the law, and that as a result, the legal framework for nude photos of children must be urgently evaluated and made stricter? On what grounds does a man (or woman) even need nude photos of children? Is “art” not simply the usual excuse for sexual violators to get off scot-free? It is a sheer insult that politicians, whose job it is to make laws and be responsible for the protection of women and children, to make legalistic excuses for their acting-out of power. So the assertion that people were acting out “sexual urges”, not crimes, calls into question why this is not a crime. With legal silence, society leaves countless victims in the lurch and betrays them. Edathy’s dismay that despite his immunity a search raid took place on his home clearly shows that powerful men enjoy particular protection.

During the press conference, Thorsten Denkler stated that there surely is a difference between legality and moral rightness. Edathy aggressively waved that off: His private life surely doesn’t concern anyone!

This reference to the private sphere is a cheap trick, but it works when it comes to offering criminals protection. It’s self-evident that everyone has their private sphere, and that this must be protected. But it is also self-evident that this cannot come at a cost to others. A collective looking-away from pedocriminality on the part of society doesn’t protect the private sphere, it supports criminals. Edathy is aware that in this society, sensitivity toward dealings with children is very high, but goes hand in hand with hysteria. This perception supports him in his self-portrayal as victim. He would never get rid of that stain. His recurrent aggression when talk turns to the film material is noteworthy. Again and again he attacks the questioner verbally, and sticks to excuses over the legality. He sees this film material as “art”, not child pornography. It is obvious that even here, mostly economically weak children are serving rich men. But when only visible violence is relevant, then economic forces, violent experiences, addictions and other consequences are obviously of no interest to either criminals or lawmakers. To shrug off he exploitation of these children as problematic sexual practice clearly shows the media’s trivialization of the subject. That the earnings of legal recordings obviously also finance criminally relevant materials, is a clear and present danger that is not being debated.

“Is it not humane to warn others?” runs an oft-asked question. That surely depends on the conscience of the person. Whoever has empathy will hardly be in the mood for that. When it comes to sexual violence, it must be clear that there can be no protection for perpetrators. How the many witting individuals still in public office can live with the knowledge that they didn’t care about the fate of the children, and that they let a criminal go on offending, is hard to imagine. “What do you think goes into the making of those posed photos of little boys that you got off on? Have you any idea of what production process takes place, and when did you begin to think about it?” asks Dieter Wonka. Even here, Edathy can’t think of anything but that it was not illicit material, and right away goes on the attack, saying that Wonka has mistaken him for a jurist and hasn’t done his homework. The same thing happens to a female journalist, who points out to him reports of heavily traumatized children from various films. How does he stand regarding that? Angrily, he counters that she wasn’t paying attention for the last two hours, and that the Phoenix TV channel should just send her a transcript. No matter how many times this reporter looks at that transcript, she will look in vain for a sympathetic word for the children. He has no answer either for the questions of a children’s aid representative.

“Pedophiles” are very creative in their use of masturbation fodder. It doesn’t take much, in a pinch, to make their fantasies come alive. One genre, for example, is the use of child models in tights, in various poses. Do children have to be served up for men on silver platters in order to serve their sexual interest in them? Does society want that for its children, and would we want such a society? Is it important and necessary for children to have nude photos of themselves on the Internet?

In the Stern issue of December 17, 2014, the headline reads: “The Edathy Affair”. Even here it’s not about children, but party politics. Nothing is coincidental, and the slogan on the front page reads: “The Power of Forgiveness”. It has to do with other people in another article, but naturally, an association with Edathy is meant to be established here. It is in fact a mistake to believe that forgiveness helps. This idea has more to do with Christian beliefs, which have forced the idea that good people can forgive, and bad and weak people can’t. In fact, for many victims of violence, it is very important that a perpetrator be punished, and in a fitting manner. For many victims and their families, life has become hell on Earth, and just the thought that a perpetrator can go on committing crimes with a smile on his face is hard to tolerate. Forgiveness is a concept, and helps no one other than predators and their irresponsibility. The idea of forgiveness even puts victims under more pressure, because they can’t even face their feelings, because with religious people, feelings like hate and vengeance are seen as “bad”. But victims can and should be able to feel whatever they want. That’s all.

The reactions of the media and many people are explainable, but not very helpful:

Most people see the world through rose-colored glasses, in order to feel good. Otherwise, they would not be able to handle the real proportions of gruesome crimes and violence. At least not without being forced to deal with it. Some even say “there is some good in everyone”. This saying is obsolete and trivial, even laughable, because with many crimes, it doesn’t matter if there’s anything “good” in a person. Who cares here if a man who, for instance, has raped children, cares about his sick wife or children, or likes flowers or animals? In the English-speaking world, sexual criminals, regardless of type, are called predators. They seek out their victims in a goal-oriented way, and plan exactly how to successfully carry out their crimes. In German-speaking spheres, meanwhile, there is much to seemingly legitimize the criminals and their crimes. There is talk of “urges”, which expresses a lack of control, and opens the way for criminals to give up responsibility and suggest to society that these criminals can and should not be accused of anything. A further, very common designation is that of “inclinations”, a further total whitewashing of terrible violence against children. Some people also say “sickening”, which surely comes from the fact that some behaviors make us sick because they are so repugnant and gruesome, which is true in and of itself. But that cannot mean that these criminals are “sick”, because that would mean that they can’t do anything about their behaviors, and that their actions are free of blame.

Many people make the mistake of believing that they can recognize a lie. But people are very bad at recognizing lies, as studies have been showing for years. Even police officers are no better than other people or psychiatrists. All professions had the same results as pure chance. Even in the case of Herr Edathy, maybe some believe that based on their seemingly great knowledge of human beings, Edathy could not have done anything bad.

There are many theories as to why people, almost always men, are attracted to children. But in fact there is no proven knowledge. The modes of conduct, however, are known. There is always a long period of planning and fantasizing in advance. The obsession with children is supported by constant masturbation to fantasies about children, or actual pictures of children.

Maybe we don’t always have an answer to the question as to how to stop men like Edathy, or how to explain their behavior. We, and those responsible for the media, should however stop making excuses for them. It is not our job to explain and justify the actions of criminals. That is, ultimately, a distraction and doesn’t help the victims. We should take an interest in the victims and give them a space. The criminals are responsible for ending their own criminal behavior, and they should have to bear the consequences for it in all regards. Victims must bear the consequences of sexual violence all their lives. Edathy has gotten a lot of space in the media. And there, the victims were reduced to a “kiddie-porn affair”.

Translation mine.

So you can see clearly what kind of linguistic gymnastics we’re talking about. Germany has a pedophilia problem in its major media. Germany has to take a long, hard look at itself. No doubt about that.

Well, I hate to say this, but the exact same thing happens all the time in English-speaking media, too. There’s a lot of sympathy for pedophiles who claim to be “aware of their problem” and “seeking help”. On the other hand, one has only to look at how the media covers the acts themselves to see what kind of contempt still exists toward victims. Sexism, racism — you name it, the prejudice is there, coded right into the language. The New York Times, of all “respectable” publications, fudged the gang-rape of an 11-year-old black girl in Texas three years ago. Rather than treating the perpetrators as predators seeking out the youngest, the weakest, the lowest on the social totem pole, the Times report painted them as the victims, and insinuated that the girl was a prematurely grown-up temptress:

…the paper of record speculates on how the small town of Cleveland, Texas, has been rocked by the story, and the torturous question of “how could their young men have been drawn into such an act.” How, indeed? It’s surely a horrifying scenario when 18 young men are implicated in a crime of violence and degradation. The victim’s affidavit says the assault began when a local 19-year-old offered her a ride in his car, and escalated to a protracted group assault, featuring “threats she would be beaten if she did not comply” and participants recording the abuse on their phones. How could these boys have been “drawn into such an act”? Was it drugs, sociopathy, coercion? Or was that little girl just asking for it?

After all, as the Times helpfully points out, “Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.” Gosh, I wonder if she’s pretty or you know, developed, because that’s relevant too.

So you can see it’s not just the Germans who have a language problem when it comes to child rape and sexual abuse. Americans have it too. And Canadians. And Britons. And…you name it.

Any country where sexual assault occurs, you are bound to run into language barriers when it comes to talking about it. Not because adequate words don’t exist to cover the problem; most of us surely have a big enough vocabulary of those. The problem, as the Störenfriedas piece makes clear, is not words, it is the willingness to use the correct ones. To “make nails with heads”, as the German saying goes, implies that you can’t properly hammer a thing together without them. And this is true, for it is the head of the nail that takes the hammer’s impact, and drives the shaft into the boards. Headless nails are just bits of wire that get bent out of shape and won’t hold anything together at all. So it is with language, too: The wrong words, like headless nails, won’t hold together; they distort, they bend out of shape, they are worse than useless.

And that is what all this perpetrator-friendly talk of “being drawn into” gang-rapes, or “purchases” of child porn videos, also does: It distorts a situation, bending our mental view of it out of shape. It is worse than useless to the victims of those crimes; it takes the blame off the perpetrators and throws it right back onto those who have already suffered the most. Especially if, like bad Christians, they refuse to “forgive” those who “trespassed against” them. Don’t you love that phraseology? It makes the body sound like property. Like turf. Only — and this is grist for a whole other article — whose property, whose turf, is it? Surely not that of the victim, since women have long been legally reckoned to be property of men, and children likewise. The horrific implication is that one can do what one wants to them, as long as one owns them. Human chattel, it is still a thing.

And yes, law enforcement has long supported that view, too. I can still remember when the phrase date rape first hit the media (yes, I’m that old), and when police routinely refused to “get involved” when a man beat the shit out of his wife, even if it put her in hospital, because that was “only a domestic matter”. Even now, there are still people who think that if a man buys a woman dinner, he has essentially bought her sexual consent, and she is “a real bitch” if she doesn’t “give it up” to her entitled date. Or that Ray Rice had a God-given right to punch out his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer. She has since married him, believe it or not, and even “taken his name”, i.e. signed herself over as his chattel under the old coverture laws, though she probably has no idea that the slave-era implications of name-changing are still there, wriggling away below the surface of things.

Coverture may have fallen out of legal fashion, but he idea that a woman has a will of her own, which deserves respect, has yet to be adequately — i.e. FULLY — transmitted in English. Can you imagine what that implies for the children?

Sebastian Edathy certainly goes about whitewashing his own actions with a great deal of chutzpah, but he didn’t figure out how to do that on his own. Just as kids learn how the world works by watching the grownups, so a pedocriminal learns how to twist language to his own advantage by watching others do likewise. The media may ask him all kinds of hardball questions, but in the end, they too are complicit in the overall mishandling of the problem-with-the-fancy-Greek-name.

And that’s not just a German thing; it is a problem everywhere. Edathy bought those movies from a Canadian company, so we as a country share in the scandal and the blame of this trans-Atlantic miscreant. Who knows where, in turn, those movies were made?

In the end, adult male supremacy is a global problem, not limited to any one country. And the globalization of capital, the global nature of capitalism itself, has proved to be nothing but a boon for the abusers of children, traffickers of women and girls, and perverts who whack off to not-technically-illegal photos and movies of naked boys. One cannot stamp it out at one end and declare the whole thing dead; it will only look for another, more congenial place to resurrect itself, hydra-headed, worse than ever. The problem is global in nature, and demands a collective, global solution in turn. And it demands that we all, together, change the way we look at women and children — radically. We must, collectively, give up all ideas of people-as-property, infinitely interchangeable, disposable, and exploitable.

Language plays a definite part in that radical change; a wonderful German word comes to mind. The word is both verb and noun: Umdenken. A re-thinking; to re-think. That is what we need to have, and to do. Until then, we’re just spitting into the wind, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it all just blows right back in our faces.

Why the Marquis de Sade is nobody’s hero

martyrdom-of-st-barbara

Detail from “The Martyrdom of St. Barbara”, by Jean Bellegambe, 1528. Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai.

What gives with the idea that a notorious 18th-century aristocratic sociopath — a chronic, pathological liar who ruthlessly took full advantage of his high social rank to carry out the vilest depravities with near-total impunity — could somehow be transmogrified into a modern-day hero of democracy, freedom of speech, and sexual liberty? The Marquis de Sade, who could rightly be called the Jack the Ripper of late-royalist France, literally got away with murder…almost. For the crimes he committed, his head should have rolled off the block of the guillotine when the Revolution stormed the streets of Paris. Yet he was somehow, stupidly, spared, and wound up being locked away in a religious hospital for the rest of his days. Now, he’s being lionized for the same repugnant sort of things we would have condemned in the lower-class “Jack”, whose real identity is still much debated (although it was claimed to have finally been revealed just this past year).

It’s worth noting that class differences make all the difference here. It was his class alone that assured that the Marquis would go free and unpunished (though closely surveilled by police) for many years while France was still a monarchy. He eventually landed in the Bastille (for sodomy and poisoning), but was later transferred to a mental asylum, from which he was released in 1790. And even after the old class hierarchy was shaken up, his cleverness at lying, and feigning libertarian-democratic ideals in line with the new order, served to keep him free for a short time longer, and eventually, in the eyes of the modern public, rehabilitate a name that had already fallen under criminal suspicion during the reign of France’s last two kings.

Or so it would appear.

French historian Olivier Blanc has taken exception to Sade’s modern-day apologists, however, and called out their blindness, disingenuous motives, and general stupidity in an open letter occasioned by a new exhibit on Sade at the Musée d’Orsay:

I am surprised at the patience with which the public, more or less feminist, supports the numberless untruths and fallacious interpretations of the facts and acts of the Marquis de Sade. Since the [era of the] Surrealists, who have, if one may say, returned the personage to fashion, one witnesses a multitude of idolatrous, literary, theatrical or media productions (from Le Figaro to Le Monde) paying homage to the “Divine Marquis”. He shook off the yoke of oppression, which crushes the body and spirits, and to him alone flies the flag of liberty.

But all that is currently said of Sade, whose name applies to great national impostures, be they historic or intellectual, resides in the calculated omission of facts, or removes their abusive interpretation. Or these attempts at rehabilitation, enterprises with commercial ends, today attain the proportions necessary to make the point about this personage by relying minimally on historical method — mostly on his own texts about himself — and in the first place, by taking context into account.

When he was arrested during the Revolution, on December 4, 1793, Sade had acquired the reputation of being a patented liar. And at that time, when the law cracked down on suspects, his wife and in-laws, the family of Cordier de Montreuil, his constant “accomplices”, no longer had the means to smother the new accusation by the Parisian sansculottes who had taken aim at their protégé. In the ledgers of the surveillance committee of Piques, where his residence was located, the revolutionaries expressed their reservations about the duplicity of the former marquis, who had succeeded in being elected president: “From August 10, when he arrived at the section, he has never ceased to play the patriot. But these (patriots) here were not fooled.”

Biographers of Sade, notably Maurice Lever, have abundantly shown that Sade was neither a defender of new ideas nor an admirer of the Revolution. And no one, in 1792, was in fact fooled by his claimed republican convictions, nor the writings of circumstance which he published after the fall of the monarchy. At first he cited the democratic Girondins, braiding garlands to Roland — and then, when that same was in trouble, he turned toward Marat, one of the principal artisans of the fall of the Gironde. As everyone knows, it was not 24 hours before Sade was to be executed, the same day Robespierre retrenched in the Paris Commune and was caught. If Sade, according to the accusation well and truly drawn up by Fouquier-Tinville, was not on the last carts to the guillotine, it was because of an administrative error, which did not permit them to localize the prison in which he was detained.

At any moment, furthermore, it must be underlined that it is not a question of the “immorality” of Sade’s writings, which, according to modern legend, had justified the prosecutions and persecutions to which he was subjected during the Revolution. During the Ancien Régime as well, in an era of practically no rights for the weakest and poorest, it was not Sade’s writings that posed problems, but his comportment as a sexual and criminal predator.

Titled and immensely rich through his marriage to the heiress of a powerful family, beneficiary of an incredible indulgence on the part of his own and the protections of ties to his caste of origin, Sade acted up time and time again, such that his turpitudes nonetheless reached the highest spheres of the police institution which, in 1764, advised the madams of Paris not to send him any of their girls. Police inspector [Louis] Marais, very well informed, wrote: “One never has to wait long to hear tell once more of the horrors of the Count de Sade.” An informer to the count and minister of Sartines, who transmitted to King Louis XV himself, by regular bulletins, the sexual indiscretions of debauched courtiers, Marais was not wrong when he spoke of the horrors of Sade.

The troubles had begun for Sade when one of his victims, Rose Keller, who was subjected to a bloody sado-masochistic ritual at Arcueil — which was certainly not the first — had the bad idea of undoing her bonds, and escaping him through the window of the room wherein he had imprisoned her. And, even more extraordinary under the Ancien Régime, this young person was able to register a witness statement attesting to sexual abuses and attempted murder, even if that same were challenged as, apparently, a false statement. Since Sade’s life did not in fact revolve around his writings, which interested almost no one during the 18th century, but around his endless lies and also his impunity, scandalous in the eyes of his contemporaries, which his status as a nobleman, privileged son-in-law of the influential parliamentary family of Cordier de Montreuil, procured for him.

At a time when the rule of law did not exist, the conclusions of judiciary affairs are, for historians, to be regarded with much circumspection. It is understood that the monarchic powers, and the parliamentary caste, had the tendency to protect their own, favoring, for example, the flight abroad of those who had been accused of crimes (sometimes also their internment, via letter of cachet, to prevent the unpleasantness of a scandalous court process and condemnation to death). One also knows that innocent men of the people were sent to the gallows, and that they willingly abandoned to the gibbet young servants vaguely suspected of having stolen a silver spoon. The processes by which such things took place — without a jury of their peers, reposing on a minimal inquest — which, whether before the Châtelet de Paris, before Parliament, whether that of Paris or the provinces, offered no guarantee of equity and the certitude of pressures from above, and eventually of false witness statements aimed at neutralizing complaints from below.

The judicial tribulations of Sade under the Ancien Régime have not, however, shed any significant light establishing his culpability in the disappearances of young women (often beggars or prostitutes, therefore numerous), or the attempts at murder exercised upon two or three who survived more or less unhurt (at the same time removing the force from their statements). But what are we speaking of? Sexual phantasms not ritualized or limited, or the delirium of sexual compulsions inscribed in the very real suffering inflicted by a man and suffered by an unconsenting, kidnapped woman?

The very detailed witness statement of Rose Keller, tortured in a house in Arcueil, gives an idea of what pleased Sade: slow bloodlettings, cuts rubbed with salt or hot wax, cuttings and excisions of the skin, maybe even partial dismemberment. Death, by infection or assault upon a vital organ, was nothing but the logical end of such criminal acts.

This type of phantasm, which could have come to the attention of those who may have had the task of gathering witness statements in Paris or in the village of Lacoste, explain how justice could have sought to avoid that due process, even behind closed doors, be done, giving way inevitably to contradictory debates and crudely revealing these deadly practices. Not so much to protect Sade himself, but to avoid public condemnation — even limited to the aristocratic sphere — it did not extend to his immediate family.

An interesting and little-used witness statement was published in the 19th century by the author of Memories of the Marquise de Créquy, a Breton compiler and very erudite royalist, who had gathered an impressive mass of diverse documents about the end of the 18th century and, notably, exemplars of “news at hand”. These unauthorized texts, under Louis XV and Louis XVI, passed from hand to hand, and were read in the literary and political salons, and their reliability is today scientifically recognized as much greater than even non-censured writings. They have to do with Mme. de Boulainvilliers, the chatelaine of Passy and wife of the provost of Paris, himself the younger son of Samuel Bernard, and the mother of three influential ladies of the court — Madame de Faudoas, Madame de Crussol, and Madame de Clermont-Tonnerre. The descendants of this powerful and highly esteemed lady, in their day, could not let their names be associated with anything imprecise or inexact. So this witness statement from the Marquise de Boulainvilliers, who of course ran in aristocratic circles, consolidates in all points the veracity of that given by Rose Keller, who escaped from Sade. In this case, it concerns another woman, held prisoner and tortured in a house in the village of Passy, where her cries of pain alerted Monsieur de Boulainvilliers, who by chance was passing close by at an early hour of the morning. Imagining that it was a childbirth going badly, he ordered that his wife be awoken so that she could come by with a physician. While first aid was being rendered to the victim, badly cut with a partially flayed leg, two individuals were intercepted who turned out to be the Marquis de Sade and his valet. The death of the victim, a few hours later — incapable, they say, of signing her deposition, gathered by the bailiff of the marquisate of Passy — thus extinguished the legal proceeding which had begun under the guidance of the president of Boulainvilliers himself. Sade alleged that the woman, even though bound and gagged, was consenting, and that the wounds which he had inflicted on her were aimed at testing, with her agreement, a healing balm of his own manufacture. “The examining magistrates were unable to listen without horror, but respect for the formalities got them to the bottom of it all, and if the Count de Sade was not hanged, it was due to the delicacy and magistral probity of M. de Boulainvilliers. The king does not lose his rights, as is just, and that abominable man was locked up with the brothers of St. Lazare in perpetuity, via letter of cachet…though it may displease these adroit criminals against whom the laws and the judiciary can do nothing.”

There are other witness statements along the same lines, notably those of Jeanne Testard, Catherine Trillet, or even the witnesses of the “Marseilles affair”, which provoked predictable condemnation of the marquis for contumacity, a judgement which his wife tried to have quashed. What to conclude, except that Sade was not a libertine but a criminal, and that in his case, the rare witness statements which have come to our attention constitute but a small part of reality? It seems useful to us to remind here all those who, through ignorance or deliberate calculation, at this moment, with very consequent means, great lack of awareness, or decidedly poor faith, have rehabilitated an individual whom the sansculottes of Piques, and a number of his contemporaries, were not fooled by.

All those persons who practice BDSM respect conventional codes regarding limits not to be overstepped in consensual games of sexual domination. These enshrined practices, whose practitioners belong to organizations, apparently have nothing to do with the unrestrained and deadly sexuality of Sade, but the paradox is that his name serves as well to designate BDSM practices and games deemed “safe”. This semantic ambiguity is the breach into which have fallen those sycophants of Sade who conflate sexist violence, murderous sexuality, and literary audacity.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

It’s also worth noting that many BDSM practitioners of the current generation, realizing that Sade was not at all like them (he relied on the poverty and powerlessness of his victims, as well as their youth, to help protect him from charges of abuse), are now distancing their parasexual pastimes from the term “sadism”, which should better be understood as a form of sexual psychopathy, rather than a consensually staged power-play that stops with a safeword. The D and S now typically stand for “dominance and submission”, and are generally understood to be roles played, as in a drama, rather than real-life states of master- and servanthood, as they were in Sade’s day and in his real-life practice.

That’s not to say that there aren’t quite a few would-be real-life Sades in the mix, and it’s a problem that the BDSM community still has to contend with on a regular basis, as the Jian Ghomeshi affair, among others, has shown. Trying to join such a community is often hazardous for young newcomers, especially submissive females, and abuses are rife. Abusers gravitate to that community, in large part, because it makes them harder to stop. Sometimes the law catches up to them; sometimes, the details are too murky for much to be done. The dangers of libertinism are much more than just a psychological fillip; the potential for damage is real, and great. Here in Canada, the importance of consensuality wanes as the danger level of any given activity rises; if it endangers life and limb, “but-but-but she consented!” is no more an excuse for what happens than it was when the Marquis unsuccessfully tried to evade a murder charge. (Which only failed to be lodged on the grounds that the tortured victim died, unable to sign her own deposition against him!)

For those willing to look beyond the usual platitudes about sexual freedom as an absolute human right — a notion that ought to be good for more than a few cynically raised eyebrows by now — it is clear that the old adage about power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely, holds true in the case of the Marquis. He was close to the royal court, and that degree of power offers a great deal of protection that a common man of similar predilections could never enjoy. The Marquis was the quintessential spoiled brat, debauched from an early age. His entire upbringing predisposed him toward the abuses of power, and toward sexualized abuses in particular. His own nihilistic “philosophy” — the Randian objectivism of its day — makes it clear that the Marquis was the very opposite of a libertarian, at last of the small-l kind. (The capital-L kind, on the other hand, wishes it were more like him, minus the mitigating powers of a king and judicial system.) “Don’t you see, Justine?” says his fictional Bressac, to the heroine of that eponymous novel. “Man does not repent of what he is in the habit of doing. Get used to evil, and remorse will vanish. If you so much as feel a twinge of remorse after having committed a crime, commit still another one. Ten, twenty or thirty evil actions shall remove all possibility of remorse.” If that is philosophy, it is the philosophy of the psychopath, of the serial killer. It does not deserve to be elevated any higher in the public’s esteem. And neither does it deserve any protection under law.

Had Sade’s crimes been more fully investigated in his day, we might today recognize him not as the revolutionary hero he tried (and failed at the time) to pretend he was, but as the prototype for a Ted Bundy or a John Gacy. There is no doubt that he killed and disposed of a great many of his impoverished victims quite unnoticed. The ones who lived to tell, or to accidentally gain the attention of the authorities in the case of the victim who later died, were merely the lucky ones.

Most of all, we would not be in danger of continuing to mistake him for some kind of great sexual freedom pioneer, when he was in fact no better than the medieval torturers France had supposedly left behind in a previous century. You know, the ones who tortured and killed countless women for daring to exert any sexual choice or agency at all.