Who is Maggie McNeill and What the Hell is She Doing Here?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My name is Maggie McNeill, and I’m a whore.

Well, more specifically, a retired whore.  Or if you want me to be really specific, a retired call girl and madam who now writes a blog called The Honest Courtesan, in which I discuss the realities of harlotry.  Sometimes I write about my personal experiences (sans lurid detail), sometimes about the history of the profession, sometimes about unusual aspects of it most outsiders don’t know about.  Once a month I do a biography of a famous prostitute, and once a month I write a fictional tale in which a professional plays some major part, and sometimes I even do funny or whimsical columns.  But the great majority of my posts are about the rights of sex workers, which are under heavier assault in the United States (and a number of other countries) than they have been in years.  A lot of people enjoy flattering me by telling me that I write very well, and sometimes they do more than just tell me; a few weeks ago Radley asked me to be part of the group filling in for him while he’s on sabbatical, and I was delighted to say “certainly”.  I’m not even going to attempt to fill his shoes (I doubt he could cram his feet into my size 8 1/2 spike-heeled pumps, either), but I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and to maintain some of his usual traditions in my own unique way.  Most of the stuff I publish here will be written specifically for this blog,  but Radley said it was OK if  cross-posted as well; so, some days I’ll do that if I think that day’s post is of a more general interest rather than something that would feel out of place anywhere other than my own blog.  This post is a hybrid; it’s an adaptation of one I did last year for another libertarian blog called Nobody’s Business, which y’all might also be interested in.

Now, even though most of you think of prostitution as a libertarian issue for the straightforward reason that the government has no business regulating what two or more consenting adults do in private, many of you may not realize that it’s actually much bigger than that.  Because prostitution is the only “crime” defined purely by motive (having sex with strangers is perfectly legal unless motivated by financial gain), in the absence of a videotape of the interaction it’s all he said-she said territory.  And because professional escorts never, EVER directly agree to the such-and-such sex act for such-and-such amount of money by which prostitution is defined, cops are forced to either A) lie and say they did, or B) come up with some sort of “evidence” of intent to commit prostitution.  In recent years, different districts in the US have claimed all of the following as evidence:  the possession of condoms or a cell phone, the lack of underwear, winking, dressing provocatively, loitering in an area known for prostitution, and many others.  Last year Utah passed a law which added “acting sexy” to the list,  but legislators assure us it will only be used against “real” prostitutes.

This sort of “evidence” belongs in a 17th-century witch trial, not a modern courtroom; yet women (both prostitutes and non-prostitutes) are arrested on such flimsy pretexts every day in this country, and mainstream “feminists” say nothing because they accept the arrest and harassment of individual women as collateral damage in their jihad against prostitution.  Nor are women the only ones who need to worry; in Sweden, radical feminists have succeeded in establishing a law which makes it legal to sell sex, but criminal to buy it.  Let that sink in for a moment:  it’s as though cops witnessing a drug deal were to haul off the buyer but wave the seller on his way.  The rationale (such as it is) behind this madness is that prostitution is a form of “violence against women”, essentially “paid rape”, so the client is treated as a type of lower-degree rapist.  The woman’s wishes are irrelevant; she is considered legally incompetent to consent to sex if there is compensation involved, just as a twelve-year-old girl is incompetent to consent.

This “Swedish Model” has also infiltrated Norway and Iceland (where strip clubs were also banned on the same grounds) and is now being considered in Ireland, Israel and France; the French minister for women’s rights recently declared she will try to impose it on all of Europe.  Radical feminists are trying to trick Canadians into embracing it by wrongly labeling it “decriminalization”, and it has already entered into the rhetoric of police departments in a number of states.  Massachusetts wants to define “human trafficking” so loosely that even the husbands or drivers of sex workers can be prosecuted for it (and all their possessions seized, naturally), and as of last week New York threatens cab drivers with $10,000 fines and loss of their licenses “if they if they ‘knowingly allow’ their vehicles to be ‘used for the purpose of promoting prostitution’.”  And given how easy it is to accuse a woman of prostitution…you get the picture.  In the sex worker rights movement we have a slogan:  “Sex worker rights are human rights”.  Just as the “War on Drugs” has resulted in widespread havoc, tremendous waste and wholesale abridgement of civil rights, so has the “War on Whores” (though to a lesser degree).  When the government is allowed to criminalize raw motives, thoughts and relationships, and when a woman can be arrested for how she acts, or a man for whom he knows or does business with, no one is safe.

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67 Responses to “Who is Maggie McNeill and What the Hell is She Doing Here?”

  1. #1 |  Difster | 

    Although I have never availed myself of the services of a professional for sex, and I think we should start being a bit more modest about overt displays of sexuality, the only remedy I want to “impose” is to convince people to adopt better morals voluntarily. Absent that, I prefer to just leave people alone as long as their not hurting other people.

  2. #2 |  CLH | 

    Maggie-

    I have only heard about your blog through this one (yesterday), and I read a few of your posts. I define myself as a Libertarian, and agree with you wholeheartedly about the decriminialization of prostitution, with a very strong caveat- where the prostitution is consented to, and where supervision exists to ensure that women aren’t be coerced by pimps and slave traders. You say that human trafficking has been overhyped, and if it’s in the context of spouse’s or drivers, who are not otherwise forcing the issue, I agree that would be an example of taking things too far. However, my own (very limited) experience with human traffickers has left a very powerful and disturbing set of nightmares and memories on my psyche that even eight years later leaves me nauseated and anxious whenever the subject is brought up. I am prior special forces, and I was frequently assigned hostile boarding type missions. Our team was called on to board and seize a ship with suspected traffickers on board, and what I found there still makes me nauseated. Given your background, I doubt that I need to elaborate for your benefit on the horrors actual human trafficiking entails.

    I would like to make two main points out of all of this. The first is that human trafficking should not be under-hyped, either. Let’s call that what it is, in many regards- a slave trade. The abuses that endure (and my experience was in the Med, between Turkey and Greece) world wide are shocking, and in my opinion, under reported. It oft seems to me that very few people care about what happens when girls are kidnapped, or coerced by pimps, into the sex trade. It’s vile, vicious, and perhaps the single most evil aspect of any organized crime. Again, I’ll forbear the graphic details. A motivated search will turn up all too many of those for a reader who needs them.

    My second point is that legalization is STILL the answer. One of my favorite libertarian cliches is “Sunshine is the best disenfectant.” Legalization can lead to regulation, proper testing, and proper societal observation . The reason the sex slave trade still flourishes today is that there is a demand not being met by a market. Whenever people have a vice that cannot be pandered to legally, they will simply turn to illegal methods to gain access to that vice- and to sellers who have absolutley zero moral or ethical hangups in how they provide access to that vice. (Not referring to willing participants on both parties, but to those that coerce and force women into slavery.)

    In other words, legalise drugs and prostitution now, but make sure that all parties involved are willing.

  3. #3 |  Stephen | 

    So… Maggie has gone from a link posted by Dave Krueger here to being a guest blogger. Congratulations Maggie. :)

  4. #4 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    The intent is to target prostitutes, especially underage ones who are forced into the sex trade and trained to evade arrest, Seelig said. The arrest would be the first step in helping them get off the streets, she said.
    —–
    The “underage” and “coercion” scourge stapled on to the bizarre “acting sexy” law article.
    What I find fascinating is that people who oppose legalization/regulation
    won’t admit it would tend to reduce the influence of drugs, minors, gangbanger pimps, and unsafe sex. And then there’s the hypocrisy
    angle–even NY Governor Spitzer, who railed against prostitution was banging hookers. The Oldest Profession will be around long after the USA crashes and burns…

  5. #5 |  Bernard | 

    ‘…noone is safe.’

    For accuracy, you should amend this to ‘only the rich and well-connected are safe.’

    Blanket confusingly written laws are a social filter. If you have money, influence and a legal team who can draft 1000 page pre-trial documents you have nothing to worry about from the justice system whatever you do.

    If you are of modest means then there’s a solid chance you won’t be hassled unless you commit a ‘real’ crime because you live in a ‘good’ neighbourhood and, if you are, you can probably afford a lawyer good enough to keep you from going to death row based on bite mark evidence (for instance).

    If you’re poor and live in the wrong neighbourhood you just have to keep your head down and hope noone notices you.

    Feudal systems were abolished, but the principles on which they ran never really went away. Rules based systems which don’t reflect the real balance of power are always corrupted and hollowed out.

  6. #6 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    ‘only the rich and well-connected are safe.’

    I agree, Bernard, but to be even more accurate you should leave it at just “the well-connected who have no moral issue with pulling those strings.”

    I’m sensitive to the “every rich man is the devil and wealth is evil”, which isn’t what you wrote, but it is a similar chant. Not that I’m rich—so don’t ask me for money for your great, new business idea.

  7. #7 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Last year Utah passed a law which added “acting sexy” to the list

    Just read more about that Utah law. Great. Don’t they know some of us just can’t help it?

  8. #8 |  Bernard | 

    Boyd, nah. I think there are countries in which wealth is a sure sign that you’re part of a conspiracy (Russia and North Korea are obvious examples) but in the US wealth is mostly earnt by honest toil (though sadly with lots of exceptions).

    The problem is that the kind of people who wouldn’t use wealth to subvert the system are the ones who generally have no reason to need to. It’S the ones who get bend the rules a little, see money flowing in and bend them a little further who usually end up needing to be brought to justice but too well connected for anyone to want to.

    And with consensual crimes it’s much wider. Most people knowingly break the stupid laws at least sometimes and expect not to be caught or charged because they’re not ‘that type’. That is corrosive because the influential have no reason to fight against absurd drug or prostitution laws if they, their friends and their kids are immune.

  9. #9 |  perlhaqr | 

    Well, as a libertarian (ok, market anarchist) I do feel that prostitution is just another transaction between consenting adults. As an internet intensive libertarian, I knew that the police and courts were using WoD style abuses of evidence and 4th amendment violations and asset forfeiture to make things even worse than one might suppose.

    But yeah, not having directly studied the matter, I didn’t know it was this bad. Welcome to Radley’s bag of Agitatortots, Maggie, and I’ll look forward to reading what you have to say. :)

  10. #10 |  dsmallwood | 

    hmmmmmmm
    as they say on the interweb, “pics, or it didn’t happen”

  11. #11 |  Windypundit | 

    Hey Maggie, nice gig you got here, and thanks for plugging Nobody’s Business.

    Bernard, “only the rich and well-connected are safe” is certainly the case. Streetwalkers are generally the poorest prostitutes serving the poorest customers, and they are the easiest to catch because they advertise their presence. Call girls serve wealthier clients and have a more secure process for vetting them. A high-end service could operate entirely by word of mouth among a wealthy group of men without any police department ever discovering it exists. And then there are the party girls and gold-diggers and sugar babies who are having sex with wealthy men who give them stuff but aren’t considered prostitutes by the law at all.

    As with most attacks against vice — think cocaine v.s. crack — it is the vices of the poor that are most strenuously punished.

  12. #12 |  idealist707 | 

    Congratulations. Good writing. Good thinking.
    Live in Sweden. Sorry to see our system is spreading. It at least leaves some girls free to run and sometimes cooperate in exposing traficking.

  13. #13 |  Other Sean | 

    Whenever I hear the words “Swedish Model”, I reach for my non-aggression principle.

    Okay, well not every time. As long as it isn’t being used to describe an idea or an economic policy, “Swedish Model” might mean something good.

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Trafficking is so over-hyped that it no longer bares any relationship to reality. Anti-prostitution crusaders apply the word trafficking to all prostitution because they were not getting any traction in their condemnation of it on the grounds of morality or women’s rights. Indeed, the world’s attitude toward prostitution has been relaxing over the years and people were beginning to question whether it should continue to be treated as a crime, so the crusaders decided it needed a new face.

    It’s fine if activists want to differentiate between voluntary prostitution and forced prostitution, but that’s a real rarity. Usually, voluntary prostitution is deemed to be an oxymoron by most women’s rights groups. No woman would voluntarily “sell her body”, therefore if she’s in the business, it has to be coerced (and if she insists it’s her choice, then she’s simply in denial).

    While there are probably legitimate activist organizations that focus on women who really have been victimized, the anti-trafficking movement in the U.S. (if not the world) is largely a cover for anti-prostitution crusaders (who come from both left and right political persuasions). A good example of this is the high profile campaign against CraigsList and Backpage.com.

    When I was active with sexhysteria.com, I found it stunning the degree to which “anti-trafficking” NGOs would propagate outright lies about prostitution. Complete distortion of statistical information was commonplace and repeated verbatim by almost every such organization. It left me skeptical of the claims of virtually all NGOs which seem to be guided by the philosophy that the ends justifies the means.

    But, even aside from the differentiation of coerced and voluntary prostitution, the idea that anyone who crosses international borders to engage in prostitution must automatically be a victim, is also far from true. The world is a rough place and women will use whatever tools they have to escape oppressive conditions to get somewhere better and there are people out there willing to facilitate that migration. I suggest visiting lauraagustin.com for a more sober and balanced perspective on migration and sex work.

    When women get arrested they are faced with a choice of claiming to be victims (and probably getting more lenient treatment) or admitting that they were intentionally breaking the law. Is it any wonder that many women tend to claim to have been forced into it? We complain about the perverted incentives created when drug arrestees are “encouraged” to inform on others, but we never think about hookers being put in the same position. And anti-prostitution NGOS are right there promoting this kind of bullshit.

    Trafficking exists and it can be tragic, but those who use it as a lever to crusade against sex work in general live on a moral plane that isn’t even in the same universe with those who actually engage in the work they condemn. And the implication that saturates the anti-prostitution movement is that women are too timid or dumb to make their own decisions about their own bodies. If that isn’t an insult to women, I don’t know what is.

    Goddammit, I knew I’d get my panties all in a wad about this if started reading the comments…

  15. #15 |  Jim | 

    “prostitution is the only “crime” defined purely by motive (having sex with strangers is perfectly legal unless motivated by financial gain”

    Wouldn’t selling one’s kidneys be another case where the added motive, I.e. Financial considerations, makes the act illegal? One may,after all, donate within certain guidelines. But heaven forbid if you receive anything in doing so.

  16. #16 |  Stephen | 

    Hey Dave, you brought us Maggie. Unwad your panties a little, you done good.

  17. #17 |  treefroggy | 

    ” Because prostitution is the only “crime” defined purely by motive ”

    Not quite. I can offer to donate a kidney to someone, but it’s a crime for me to sell it to that person.

  18. #18 |  KristenS | 

    CLH, since you only heard about Maggie’s blog yesterday, I recommend reading through a bit more before making judgements about the “human trafficking” hype. Maggie presents actual data and tries to stay away from illogical appeals to emotion. It will really open your eyes.

  19. #19 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    Thanks for the welcome, guys!

    #2 – Exactly right about decriminalization still being the answer even if coerced prostitution were as common as the prohibitionists pretend. There are activists such as Jill Brenneman and Emi Koyama who have a history of coercion and yet clearly recognize the role of criminalization in their victimization, and a recent report from New South Wales documents the decrease even when “coercion” is defined by very loose standards: http://maggiemcneill.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/nsw-sex-industry-report-2012.pdf

    #10 – I’m not going to post them here for the same reason I don’t strip at other people’s parties unless invited to by the host. But there are a few on my blog, such as the one in the comment thread of last Wednesday’s column.

  20. #20 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #15 and #17 – Exactly right; I have a recurring feature on my blog called “Welcome To Our World” in which I point out other instances of typical anti-whore rhetoric applied to different things such as organ donation, surrogate motherhood, arranged marriage, etc.

  21. #21 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Let me join the other agitatortots welcoming you, Maggie. I am a transgendered woman* and I am married to a retired high end escort. We are fortunate enough to have access to education ( I just finished a geology degree, she is working on a biology degree prior to going to med school to be a forensic pathologist), but I know many of my sisters do not have as many options. Sex workers need protection. They need protection from predators, and they need access to the courts and help from the police when necessary. Your voice on these matters is valuable, and I want to thank you for your work.

    *(trans women are notoriously over represented in the sex worker industry, particularly as street walkers engaged in ‘survival sex’ and throw away children cast out of their homes)

  22. #22 |  Mary | 

    This is the first thing I’ve read on the interwebs to make me smile since that SCOTUS abomination Thursday. Thank you for that Maggie. And welcome aboard. So looking forward to getting to know you and your writings.

  23. #23 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Aside note: I do understand that while sex work for trans women(any women, for that matter) may be a result of desperation and lack of privilege, it can also be an affirming, empowering and positive experience that has absolutely nothing to do with theories of patriarchy, societal oppression etc etc. Regardless, a choice to be a sex worker should be respected.

  24. #24 |  Warren | 

    Welcome!

    And thanks for the Balko Brand Nut Punch. I simply had no idea it was that bad.

  25. #25 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “This sort of “evidence” belongs in a 17th-century witch trial, not a modern courtroom; yet women (both prostitutes and non-prostitutes) are arrested on such flimsy pretexts every day in this country, and mainstream “feminists” say nothing because they accept the arrest and harassment of individual women as collateral damage in their jihad against prostitution.”

    Very well said! I am always disturbed when I see Left feminists and Right moralists standing together against prostitution, porn, etc. So much unhealthy statist energy when those groups cooperate to make matters worse.

    Welcome Maggie!

  26. #26 |  ClubMedSux | 

    This is the first I’ve heard of the “Swedish Model,” and I find it particularly interesting that Canadians are using the term “decriminalization” since it’s essentially the inverse of decriminalization as applied to the War on Drugs: whereas decriminalization of drugs continues to criminalize the sale of drugs but gives the buyer a slap on the wrist, decriminalization of prostitution would appear to do the opposite. The incongruity of saying one side of a consensual transaction is somehow worse than the other has always bothered me, but I guess it’s really just a reflection of who we see as the bad guy and who we see as the victim.

  27. #27 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    .”The incongruity of saying one side of a consensual transaction is somehow worse than the other has always bothered me…”

    Yeah, it sounds totally stupid. Isn’t Assange being extradited there
    as a sex criminal for not wearing a condom? I’m not going to Sweden
    any time soon; I might get put in jail for a romp in the hay….
    When I was at the Univ of Calif, any act of protest against
    a group of women or that pissed off campus feminists was called “symbolic rape.” Calling prostitution “paid rape” sounds like the same sort of mental disease.

  28. #28 |  Danny | 

    One thing skeptical people might wonder about you and other writers (i.e. Tracy Quan) who report being retired from the industry is “if it’s so okay, why did you quit when you did?”

    I can think of three possibilities off the top of my head:

    1) it was lucrative enough to retire early;

    2) given the legal status, it is impractical to be an advocate and an active worker at the same time;

    3) the conditions of the profession are bad enough that it drove you out, indicating that there really is an insidious social problem inherent in prostitution.

  29. #29 |  John Spragge | 

    @Dave Krueger:
    It kind of boggles me that I should have to say this on a libertarian blog, over 200 years after Wilberforce, but: slavery is a crime. Slavery, in fact, is one of the worst of crimes, right up there with homicide and rape. It just doesn’t do to use weasel words here. “Trafficking exists and it can be tragic…,” no, not tragic, criminal. Anyone who forces women, children or men into brothels (or diamond mines, or clothing factories, or chocolate plantations, or quarries) has committed one of the gravest offences possible against human freedom, and slavers, as well as anyone who knowingly buys their products or supports slavery in any other ways deserves serious sanctions.

    I agree that conflating sex work with slavery distorts the truth in several ways. Our current approach to sex work dehumanizes the workers, with dire results, ignores the huge numbers of people enslaved for purposes other than sex, and generally hobbles efforts to do something serious about real slavery. None of that justifies a refusal to face the horror of actual slavery and the pressing need for effective measures against real slavers and knowing collaborators.

  30. #30 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #28 John Spragge

    @Dave Krueger:
    It kind of boggles me that I should have to say this on a libertarian blog, over 200 years after Wilberforce, but: slavery is a crime.

    John,

    Before you take on such a condescending tone, perhaps you might want to point out exactly where you see anyone on this blog (libertarian or otherwise) posting anything that even hints that slavery is not a crime. Saying it “exists and it can be tragic” doesn’t seem to be a trivialization by any stretch of the imagination. The same can be said for kidnapping, child molesting, and murder (all of which are, of course, crimes). The point is that prostitution and trafficking are not interchangeable terms. Feel free to be boggled by my comments all you want, but please don’t suggest I said something that I didn’t.

  31. #31 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #26 – The Swedish Model isn’t really decriminalization; Canadian prohibitionists are simply calling it that because many Canadian journalists are calling for decriminalization. True decrim is what they’ve got in New Zealand and New South Wales: the removal of all (or nearly all) laws that apply only to sex work, but not other forms of labor.

    #28 – I retired because I was 40 and escorting gets harder as one ages. Plus, I got married to a man who is willing to support me, so in a very real sense I haven’t retired at all, but rather entered into an exclusive contract. I’m grateful because it does allow me to spend my time writing rather than working for a “regular” job.

  32. #32 |  John Spragge | 

    OK, Dave, to repeat what I said earlier: It just doesn’t do to use weasel words here. “Trafficking exists and it can be tragic…,” no, not tragic, criminal.

    If you don’t get why I objected to the way your phrasing framed the crime of trafficking in your post, try plugging in a different issue. Say, twenty year sentences for marijuana possession exist and they can be tragic, or the shooting of dogs by police officers happens, and it can be tragic. The formula “can be tragic” acts as classic bureaucratic language. Notice the use of the passive; “trafficking exists”. Actually, trafficking does not passively exist. People actively commit it. People choose to enslave other people. People choose to forcibly uproot other people and and transport them to foreign countries. People choose to sell other people. Notice, also, the double denial: “can be tragic”, as though slavery sometimes has good results, and when slavery has “tragic” results, again, that just happens. The “tragic” results of slavery, which always accompany slavery, include loss of freedom, loss of friends and family, loss of income, loss of self respect, and they don’t just happen: some people intentionally inflict them on others.

    You can say all this, and acknowledge slavery as a grave crime and not just an unfortunate situation with a potential for tragedy, and still say, as I do, that prostitution between consenting adults does not equal slavery and the we should not make laws forbidding the consensual adult exchange of sex for money.

  33. #33 |  SamK | 

    Eh, I think tragic and criminal get to coexist. The “pressing need for effective measures” is precisely what Dave’s talking about though…the twisting of statistics, lies, and total uncertainty it brings to any debate makes it damned hard to agree that any measures at all are needed or appropriate. Sex is a hot-button topic all the time and it’s used to political ends that don’t necessarily have a damned thing to do with sex or slavery. I’ve spent a wee bit of time around the darkest side of humanity and I’ve never even heard a personal story of anything remotely like slavery. Coercion by itself isn’t slavery, it’s just criminal, and most of the women I knew that had been coerced were perfectly happy to get into the lifestyle, they just didn’t like their pimp taking their money and not letting them run off with a new boyfriend…the low end girls were almost always on drugs and usually didn’t have an issue being on drugs, whatever we might think of it. It may be a first-world-problem but I don’t believe that there’s any serious degree of slavery occurring in the US and not in any of the countries I visited in eastern or western Europe and certainly not an epidemic of underage sex slavery.

    Maybe I’m wrong and maybe we need to do something, but I’ve said “prove it” to more than one person and I’ve never seen a drop of verifiable data, only links to a website screaming a statistic it got from another website or otherwise without merit. Experience does count for something and mine tells me that if this is a real problem it damn sure isn’t everywhere and that makes the things we’re being told lies…and when they tell us lies it’s a bad idea to go along with “doing something”.

  34. #34 |  The Late Andy Rooney | 

    Dave Kreuger (#13):
    I don’t disagree with most of the points you’ve made here, but I take issue with your claim that “the world’s attitude toward prostitution has been relaxing over the years.” Perhaps in some parts of the world, but here in the U.S., the penalties seem to have been increased, including confiscation of automobiles for those who invited someone they thought was a streetwalker but was actually an undercover cop into their car, and posting names and faces of johns online, and keeping them there for years. I recently did an internship at an STD clinic, and our “mandated clients” (read: men who had been caught in prostitution stings) were required to pay double the usual STD test fee (which I’m sure was kicked back to the court), then attend an STD education workshop, after which members of the community were invited to tell these would-be johns what horrible people they were.

    It was always my impression that “back in the good old days,” by contrast, any decent-sized city had a brothel that everyone knew about; the mayor and police department got kickbacks, the brothel was isolated physically from schools, churches, and the like, but anyone who wanted to avail himself of the services of a working girl could pay for a good time and go home happy.

    If I’m wrong, I’m wrong (I may be relying a little too heavily on “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” for historical information). My observations are only my own, and I’ve never lived anywhere but the U.S.

  35. #35 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    “You can say all this, and acknowledge slavery as a grave crime…and still say, as I do, that prostitution between consenting adults does not equal slavery.”

    No, you can’t just say that and be done with it. People turn out to have very different definitions of terms like “consenting” and “adult”. There are plenty of people who would look at what a prostitute does and say: “Well, I wouldn’t do that, so it can’t possibly be consensual.” All they have to do next is invent some theory of feminine false-consciousness, and presto, it turns out consent doesn’t really mean consent. And if a working prostitute uses her proceeds to support an unemployed boyfriend, you can just declare him a pimp (excuse me, “slave master”) on that basis alone.

    Hell, forget about sex work. There are people on this board who think it is and should be a “crime” to hire someone for $7.24 an hour, regardless of what he or she has been hired to do. They have some theory about “unequal bargaining power” that allows them to ignore and subvert people’s voluntary choices.

    What are you going to do, just hide those people in a closet while the legality of prostitution is being debated in Congress? They are going to have their say in shaping the limits of the law.

    Insisting on words like “slavery” and “criminal” only adds emotion to the issue. It doesn’t solve the central problem of defining these terms in either a clear or socially agreed upon fashion.

    Because if you want to be really strict about definitions: “slavery” is a defunct system of agricultural labor that has nothing to do with this discussion, and “crime” is what prostitution is now.

  36. #36 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #34 The Late Andy Rooney

    Dave Kreuger (#13):
    I don’t disagree with most of the points you’ve made here, but I take issue with your claim that “the world’s attitude toward prostitution has been relaxing over the years.” Perhaps in some parts of the world, but here in the U.S….

    Yeah, after I posted that I realized that point was not not at all clear. You’re right that recently law enforcement has been using more aggressive methods against prostitutes (as Maggie made clear). Of course, they have been doing that with regard to many different types of crimes — everything from drugs to selling raw milk. I was thinking more in terms of general attitudes on the part of the public, sort of like attitudes about pot legalization are loosening up (even as enforcement gets more aggressive, I might add). I think the public is starting to question the idea that every vice has to be a crime.

    Of course, if you go back far enough, bordellos in many places were a fact of life and that was the case in a few places up until fairly recently. Harry Reed was practically booed out of town when he misread public opinion (probably due to the media hype about trafficking) and suggested closing down Nevada’s brothels (and freeing the women from the exploitation as well as their source of income).

    In any case, I believe that the anti-prostitution movement needed to find a more effective approach to demonizing prostitution and do it in a way that didn’t contradict their supposed advocacy of women’s rights. They seized on trafficking as the way to declare that all women were victims. Christ, you’d think that women would be sick of always being universally portrayed as mindless weaklings who have to be shielded from exposure to raw reality.

  37. #37 |  Ashlyn | 

    Maggie! Great to see you here. You’re in great company with Ken and Patrick from Popehat.

    Looks like Radley hangs out with all the cool kids.

  38. #38 |  Other Sean | 

    Dave,

    I actually agree with your statement as originally framed. The old consensus of religious morality that used to support anti-prostitution laws does indeed seem to be crumbling – I think quite dramatically, even in the U.S.

    But like filling into a decayed tooth, “they” will just replace the loss with some amalgam of paternalistic ideas. The story will be: “We’re not prudes! We would legalize prostitution except that it’s inimical to public health, it would have a racially disparate impact, we need to achieve gender equality before we change the law, and besides, studies show most sex work is really human trafficking anyway.”

    Remember all those prominent progressives and establishment lefties who turned against Prop 19 a couple years ago? When it came time to actually give people the freedom to make their own choices, they just couldn’t do it. Not even on one of the “social issues” that form the basis of their claim to superior hipness and sophistication.

    Expect the same if legalized prostitution ever shows up on a ballot somewhere. The anti-sex attitudes have changed alright, but mostly they’ve change among people whose impulse to statism is stronger than ever.

  39. #39 |  John Spragge | 

    @SamK:

    No, tragic and criminal don’t get to coexist. Tragedy, as a literary genre, describes events brought on by fate or supernatural forces. As Jean Anouilh pointed out, in tragedy, unlike melodrama, nobody really gets to choose. And when we speak of tragedy and crime today, we usually stay with the same either/or; fate or chance brings about tragedy, while crime, especially in libertarian terms, means bad behaviour that hurts other. In the end, I hold to my view that claiming slavery “can be tragic”, without specifically acknowledging the criminal nature of slavery, trivializes it.

    Your denial that human trafficking into the sex trade happens doesn’t really address the point, as Dave Kreuger already conceded that it does. For what it’s worth, the International organisation for migration agrees with him, although as in the case of any criminal activity, quantifying its presence or absence poses serious problems. In any case, if criminals engage in coercive human trafficking, or slavery, that poses a serious problem that urgently requires the enforcement of applicable laws, in order to secure all our freedom.

  40. #40 |  JSL | 

    #29: “slavery is a crime. Slavery, in fact, is one of the worst of crimes, right up there with homicide and rape.”

    Yes, John indeed it is. Yet, since it has it been upheld just last week that slavery is legal in the US, so long as its a tax or a penalty on healthcare, you’ll forgive me if I turn a jaundiced eye to the moralizers whinging about “trafficking” in the flesh trade. Often the same moralizers who expect me to pay for their birth control, wellness checks and bastard kids through welfare. This would be the same groups who have for years been demonizing men on the whole as “potential rapists” and molesters.

  41. #41 |  Peter | 

    “And because professional escorts never, EVER directly agree to the such-and-such sex act for such-and-such amount of money by which prostitution is defined”

    That is wrong and wrong for the vast majority of providers. I’m speaking from personal experience here as a twenty year regular punter/monger (at least once a week) around the US and world. I find that providers not willing to explicilty lay out expectations and costs aren’t worth it and usually overpriced bait-and-switchers predators scamming naive, drunk, young, and/or amateur men. I know this isn’t the blog for this but just want to fix your false statement.

  42. #42 |  John Spragge | 

    @Sean: according to dictionary.com, as well as the examples of both American and Roman history, slavery per se has nothing to do with agriculture. I think you may mean feudalism. To make the issue clear: by slavery, I mean what the United States constitution means: involuntary servitude enforced by violence. I most definitely do not mean free choices I or someone else disagrees with.

    In fact, I insist on clear thinking and clear speech on this issue precisely because of the proliferation of weasel words and equally slippery concepts on both sides of the issue. Some people claim that prostitution equals sex trafficking, and sex trafficking equals human trafficking, and therefore prostitution equals slavery. I strongly disagree, but I also disagree with any suggestion that we can answer that claim by denying the horror of real human trafficking. Rather, the answer resides in clarity: trafficking sex, i.e. the supply of sexual services from willing workers to willing buyers, does not mean the same as human trafficking.

    Likewise, in order to credibly denounce the questionable statistics on the age at which sex workers enter the sex trade, we also have to have clarity on the issues of underage workers. Unless you believe the State of Pennsylvania owes Jerry Sandusky an apology, one underage sex trade worker is too many. Just as willing buyers have the right to engage the services of a consenting adult sex trade worker, anyone who knowingly engages an underage worker (and likewise, anyone who promotes or facilitates the transaction) has committed a grave offence. And just for clarity, by under age, I mean under the age of majority, the age at which an individual can vote and enter into a binding contract.

    As you say, prohibitionists who want to muddy distinctions and deny the ability of sex trade workers to understand and make reasoned choices will not go away. I see no way to have an honest or effective discussion of the issue without clarity. We can disagree about the extent or even the occurrence of slavery, in the sex trade or elsewhere; but once the side that proclaims itself libertarian boxes itself into claiming that maybe slavery isn’t always all that bad, the prohibitionists have won a vital point, because the libertarians have sacrificed the ability to make clear distinctions, and to stand squarely for freedom and for the right of people to make our own choices.

  43. #43 |  Rick H. | 

    If the issue is slavery, sexual or otherwise, then there’s no reason to throw around a word like “trafficking” to muddy the moral waters. The term seems particularly stacked against innocent people who attempt to cross these imaginary lines called borders that nationalists are so goddamn fond of.

    Governments have no business meddling in consensual transactions, period.

    If you don’t get why I objected to the way your phrasing framed the crime of trafficking in your post, try plugging in a different issue. Say, twenty year sentences for marijuana possession exist and they can be tragic, or the shooting of dogs by police officers happens, and it can be tragic. The formula “can be tragic” acts as classic bureaucratic language. Notice the use of the passive; “trafficking exists”. Actually, trafficking does not passively exist. People actively commit it. People choose to enslave other people. People choose to forcibly uproot other people and and transport them to foreign countries. People choose to sell other people. Notice, also, the double denial: “can be tragic”, as though slavery sometimes has good results, and when slavery has “tragic” results, again, that just happens. The “tragic” results of slavery, which always accompany slavery, include loss of freedom, loss of friends and family, loss of income, loss of self respect, and they don’t just happen: some people intentionally inflict them on others.

    Wow. All that, from one throwaway phrase focused on an entirely different point. When I read it, I never realized Dave was contributing to the enslavement of sex workers with his injudicious phrasing. What a jerk that guy is!

    With your language parsing abilities, you must be a real blast at parties.

  44. #44 |  Other Sean | 

    Let me rephrase: Slavery is a word so heavily laced with emotional impact that it has long since ceased to matter what the dictionary has to say about it.

    Say the word “slavery” to an American, and here’s the deal: the next thing you describe better be as bad or worse than keeping a whole race of people in chattel bondage for 250 years.

    If it isn’t, you’re cheating. You’re cheating because you want to cash in on the intense emotions associated with the term slavery, while using that term to describe coercive arrangements of incomparably lesser degree. If you had really wanted to be clear in the dictionary sense, you could have just said “involuntary sex work” in the first place.

    And why not do that here? This is a community where people understand that most of our social interactions are involuntary to one extent or another. This is a place where you don’t need to waste the word slavery just to grab people’s attention.

    As a matter of philosophy, it’s perfectly true that a Hebrew in the Pharoah’s brick pits and an underage prostitute at a truck stop and a taxpaying suit salesman in Poughkeepsie are all alike in that they don’t enjoy true ownership of their own lives or their own labor. Yes, Robert Nozick is famous in this part of the web.

    But that is not something to be used for mere rhetorical purposes. We are not a rabble, and we don’t need by such methods to be roused.

  45. #45 |  Other Sean | 

    In case it wasn’t obvious, I forgot to type: @John Spragge.

  46. #46 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #42 John Spragge

    …but once the side that proclaims itself libertarian boxes itself into claiming that maybe slavery isn’t always all that bad, the prohibitionists have won a vital point, because the libertarians have sacrificed the ability to make clear distinctions, and to stand squarely for freedom and for the right of people to make our own choices.

    I ask you again: Where in the goddamn hell did anyone say that “slavery isn’t always all that bad”? This entire thread is about consensual exchange of sex for money, but you seem to insist on making it about slavery. What is it about the word consensual that you don’t understand?

    The best thing that could happen to women (adult as well as underage) in terms of preventing coerced prostitution is the complete repeal of all laws against consensual adult prostitution (both demand and supply), something that prohibitionists reject out of hand. It’s those laws that drive it underground making it inherently a dangerous and secretive business. That, my friend, is how you “stand squarely for freedom”. We don’t make criminals out of everyone who engages in an activity simply because we don’t have the “clarity” needed to absolutely identify, to everyone’s satisfaction, which ones are actually being coercive.

    On the other hand, I can only cave in to the emotional appeal of your comment that “one underage sex trade worker is too many”. Rationality can’t stand up to that kind of assault (which is why we see it invoked so often).

  47. #47 |  Other Sean | 

    Dave,

    “The best thing that could happen to women (adult as well as underage) in terms of preventing coerced prostitution is the complete repeal of all laws against consensual adult prostitution.”

    Good point. Legal prostitution would lead almost immediately to the formation of professional associations and lobbying groups. They would fight harder than anyone to prevent competition by involuntary sex workers.

    Who knows? They might even be able to manage it without the gallantry of you, me, and John Spragge.

  48. #48 |  John Spragge | 

    @Dave, Other Sean, Rick H.

    Just for fun, I googled ‘prostitution “human trafficking”‘ and got “About 3,280,000 results”. Then I googled ‘prostitution slavery’ and got “About 6,390,000 results”. Whether we like it or not, a huge number of people, going back a long long long way conflate prostitution with slavery. A multitude of credible reports and investigations, with enough credibility to get at least one US contractor in the Balkans into hot water, claim that after the fall of the USSR, human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, at least in Southern Europe, took on all the features of an actual slave trade, from violence and coercion to actually auctioning women like cattle. In a larger perspective, a number of sources estimate the number of people held in bondage by violence exceeds the number of slaves in the world at the height of American slavery. Despite the statistical manipulation at the heart of that claim, whether you accept or deny all or some reports of trafficking for prostitution, you must in principle deal with the problems they present.

    No law should prohibit or unduly restrict the sale and purchase of sexual services between consenting adults. You have all given valid reasons, and others exist: laws criminalizing prostitution feed an ugly and lethal stereotype, one that does particular harm to racialized women. Laws against the sex trade inevitably devalue the workers, which leads to a disregard for their lives. That disregard for the safety and lives of prostitutes has played a role in the success of past serial killers, and we have disturbing evidence that one or more serial killers continue to operate, protected by an unwillingness by the police to put effort into investigating the murder of women they consider prostitutes and therefore unworthy of protection. For the reasons you have given, to reduce the harm done by class and racial stereotypes, legislatures should eliminate the laws against transactions involving sex between consenting adults.

    Forcing unwilling participants into the sex trade, or selling or buying sexual services from minors, on the other hand: offences against the person do not get much graver, and these crimes really justify a harsh response. Legalizing the sex trade for consenting adult workers and customers will help workers look out for each other, and help victims of coercion come forward, but the law and police need to take active steps to deter, expose, and punish these crimes.

  49. #49 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    You said: “Forcing unwilling participants into the sex trade, or selling or buying sexual services from minors…these crimes really justify a harsh response…the law and police need to take active steps to deter, expose, and punish these crimes”

    1) To the (still debatable) extent such things exist, they are already against the law. As they have in every other case, special laws targeted at this particular moral panic can only lead to prosecutorial adventurism and excess.

    2) Whatever definition you have for minor, there will be millions who disagree. (E.g., who is in a better position to control her choices: an attractive 16 year old with an IQ of 120…or a 27 year old single mother who dropped out of high school and has a marginal labor product below the minimum wage?) Age limits are always arbitrary, and it’s always an outrage to let them be strictly enforced.

    3) When has anything ever worked out, that started with a call for the police to take “harsh”, “active steps”, to “deter” and “punish” a black market? When?

  50. #50 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #41 – I totally disagree. It’s one thing to name a specific price for one’s time, but every professional escort I know in the US (or any other criminalization regime) has to be scrupulous about avoiding answering the question “what do I get for my money?” because only cops and incredibly inexperienced clients ask it. In countries where prostitution itself isn’t illegal (those which attempt control via “bawdy house”, “soliciting” and “avails” laws, etc) it may be different, but here in the US “I will do x for x” only appears in police reports where professional escorts are concerned, though obviously I can’t speak for streetwalkers.

  51. #51 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #48 – It depends what you call a “long way”. Prostitution has been around since before we were fully human, but though some female slaves have been used as prostitutes since the beginning of slavery, it wasn’t until the Victorian Era that prostitution in general was first described as “slavery”, or that the myth of a vast traffic in whores (originally called the “white slave trade”) appeared. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t exactly call 150 years out of millions a “long way”.

  52. #52 |  Other Sean | 

    Maggie #51,

    “It wasn’t until the Victorian Era that prostitution in general was first described as ‘slavery’.” If memory serves from my limited reading on the subject, the argument went like this:

    A) No white Christian woman would sell her body for sex.
    B) Some white Christian woman are selling their bodies for sex.
    C) Ergo, nefarious villains must be forcing them to do it.

    And as I noted earlier, this same template can be easily modified for feminist use by starting: “No woman with authentic gender consciousness would sell her body for sex…” Mix in a bit of general leftist suspicion that “hiring labor = exploitation”, and you’ve got everything you need to crusade against organized sex work without appeals to religious morality.

  53. #53 |  Peter | 

    @Maggie #51: I’m sure we can trade horror stories all day sitting on opposites of this :)

    To everybody else, remember this isn’t a one way street. While not as common and definitely not as media sexy (nobody cries about “Johns”) plenty of “johns” are hurt by these laws also as it drives up cost (which is money that could be used elsewhere), puts their health at additional risk (and also that of their unknowing family if cases where they have one), and gives them little to no recourse against being robbed or defrauded (a very common situation).

    Also I can tell from many of the folk on here arguing over this that you have zero to no experience with the women in this field nor thought about secondary impacts in the some way shutting down sweatshops, for the most part, is worse for those being “exploited” than leaving it open. To quote one Moldovan provider I knew in Skopje who was bought for US$1000 (literally as in bought at a auction) “Better a whore in FYROM that a peasant’s wife in Moldavia. Either way I’m being fucked, drunk, and miserable. At least in FYROM I have regular electricity, can occasionally go out, get beat less, one day will pay off my debt/get too old/find some john to marry (and buy me out). Basically here I at least have hope. You Americans kill me, the rest of us live in reality”. I have also met US providers (over eighteen) who started an early age (12 in some case) and have heard many similar stories about “better this than getting raped by my father and his friends daily. At least my pimp hurt me less and I got paid”. The problem here is the old avenue for escape (go find an older man and marry him at thirteen basically agreeing to fuck for stability) is frowned upon socially today and often illegal. The movie Traffic isn’t real for the most part.

  54. #54 |  John Spragge | 

    @Maggie: I had in mind the special Roman slave dealers who supplied women for prostitution, who had a special name that has, according to one of my sources, through one of the romance languages as the word for “pimp”. In any case, your mileage may vary, and the history matters a fair bit less than the situation today: if six million documents on the web mention prostitution and slavery, I would suggest that a lot of people now conflate them.

    @Other Sean: Millions can disagree about the age of majority, but in legal terms, that would make them wrong. In almost all common law jurisdictions, a person over the age of majority (usually their eighteenth birthday) has the right to make binding contracts, vote, and do other adult functions. A person under that age does not. Insisting on a clear bright line avoids weaseling in either direction; a single standard serves to protect most people. Unless, as I said earlier, you really think the State of Pennsylvania has no complaint against Jerry Sandusky, the age of consent really matters because it really protects children.

    Which brings me to the other point: I don’t consider coercing unwilling individuals into prostitution or selling or buying the sexual services of children a “black market” offence in the sense of dealing in forbidden or rationed commodities. I view it as a crime against a person: specifically as a form of rape. And yes, I believe that effective sanctions against crimes of violence, specifically exposing the crime, denouncing the crime, making the offender unable to repeat the offence for a period of time, and deterring other people from making the same mistake; that works. Precisely what combination of denunciation (naming and shaming) and disabling (imprisonment) works best we can discuss, but that effective sanctions can reduce crimes against people: that I do believe.

    @Peter: I don’t actually care about what you call “secondary impacts”, because I include freedom as one of my core values. If I really thought that legalization would mean slave markets for sex workers, I would fully support the current situation, john schools and all. I could take your argument apart, but even if I believed every word of it, it would make no difference to me. A proponent of the war on drugs could probably argue that some drug users have a better, safer and more productive life in prison than they would have outside it, or that ending the war on drugs would produce significant unemployment. Based on the same value of personal freedom, I would expect such arguments to get short shrift on this blog.

    I would also observe that Peter and “Other Sean” have made as effective an argument against legalizing prostitution as I have ever seen. If an anti-prostitution Feminist organization finds your posts and distributes them, they can thank you for firing their supporters up with new energy and talking points.

  55. #55 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    “Insisting on a clear bright line avoids weaseling in either direction; a single standard serves to protect most people.”

    Dead wrong. Insisting on a “clear bright line” leads to people being prosecuted as child pornographers in federal court for taking cell phone pics of their 17-year old girlfriends. You can read about a bunch of cases like that right here.

    Also, a “single standard” doesn’t do anything to protect “most people”, it just ignores the fact that people have individual differences. The call for a single standard is what got us those lovely minimum sentencing laws, along with a whole host of other government programs that squeeze people into one size fits all arrangements. Mixing single standards with sexual consent is a recipe for tragedy – and not the colloquial kind either, the real Shakespearean sort of tragedy.
    _____________________________________________________________________________
    You also wrote: “In almost all common law jurisdictions, a person over the age of majority…”

    Look, we’re having a speculative conversation about what would happen if sex work were somehow legalized here in Puritanica. Since we’re just making the law up as we go, with no chance of anything we say here being implemented, I think we can happily dispense with the fiction that common law has anything to do with it.

    More generally, I recommend you dispense with the fiction that common law is anything other than a series of made-up traditions designed to guarantee the endless repetition mistakes, as if repetition itself was some sort of virtue.
    _____________________________________________________________________________
    Finally, everyone now knows you take a bold stand against slavery and rape. Your speechifying on that point has left no doubters in the house. In fact, you’re so dead set against these gruesome evils that you’re prepared to fight them even where they may not exist.

    What you have failed to show, is any reason why sexual slavery and rape would do anything but vanish even further into the margins of a post-prohibition sex market.

    That, after all, is the point at issue. And you haven’t spoken to that point. Your whole argument amounts to saying: “You know all those laws and cops and prosecutors who currently torment sex workers and fail utterly to protect them in any way? We’re going to need them more than ever if sex work ever becomes legal.”

  56. #56 |  John Spragge | 

    @Other Sean: would you mind actually reading the posts? Peter said flat out that sex slavery exists in conjunction with prostitution in the Balkans, and defended it. Even if Peter had not written what he did, numerous news reports claim that sex slavery goes on. Since Radley et. al. rely on the same kind of news reports for their evidence of government malfeasance, police excess, and puppycide, I find it odd that you bother reading this blog if you never believe what the news media report. Given the evidence sex slavery happens in connection with the sex trade, on what conceivable grounds do you oppose measures to prevent it from happening in connection with legalization?

  57. #57 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    Here is your argument in its simplest form:

    “1) We need be very careful about how we legalize prostitution, to limit the risks of rape and slavery among participants in the sex market.

    2) For proof of this, just look how bad things are for sex workers in the Balkans and the former USSR, two otherwise jacked-up places WHERE PROSTITUTION IS STILL ILLEGAL.

    3) Therefore, we need to make sure legalized prostitution is accompanied by a system of special laws with strict enforcement.

    4) In other words, we need to make sure the sex market isn’t actually set free.”

    Now, tell me: are you genuinely unable to spot the gap in that logic, or do you just hate backing down?

  58. #58 |  John Spragge | 

    @other Sean:

    1) We need to prevent crimes against persons, both in the context of legalizing prostitution and otherwise. If you don’t consider slavery, rape and murder anti-freedom, I don’t recognize your brand of “libertarianism”.

    2) Actually, if you’ll read what I wrote, I responded to people who tried to minimize or even defend the kind of abuses that happen in the Balkans, former USSR, and elsewhere. I don’t share the superstitious belief that magic words like deregulate, decriminalize and legalize instantly produce ethical behaviour. It doesn’t work that way. Legalizing prostitution will make it easier for prostitutes to speak out and organize against exploitation and violence, and I support it for that reason among others. But the rest of society, including the libertarians now calling for legalization, have an obligation to support them in that work.

    3) Nope. I never called for the enactment of any laws. I have called for the vigorous and vigilant enforcement of the laws we have now against crimes against people. Nothing more, nothing less.

    4) I’ve always said that setting the market free for consenting adult participants doesn’t require us to condone either slavery or the exploitation of children or adolescents. In fact, a free market by definition requires free participants, and it requires participants legally competent to enter into contracts, so I want a genuinely free market, one where We can repeal the laws against offering, facilitating, and performing sex work while keeping laws to protect children and laws against slavery, rape and murder in full force.

    My arguments have no contradictions. I support a free market with free participants. I haven’t condoned or minimized slavery in this discussion, others, most notably the person who posts as “Peter” have done that. If you want me to back down, you’ll have to actually find a flaw in my logic.

  59. #59 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    So you wrote all those comments just to remind everyone that you are against rape and slavery? More against it than they are? But who here ever said one word in defense of those things? And if that is really all you meant to say, who were you arguing against?
    _____________________________________________________________________________

    Try a little experiment with me. I’ve assembled a list of statements you made over the course of this thread. If you read them in order I think you’ll notice something.

    Way back in comment #29 you spoke of: “the pressing need for effective measures against real slavers and knowing collaborators.”

    In comment #42 you said: “one underage sex trade worker is too many.”

    In comment #48: “these crimes really justify a harsh response. Legalizing the sex trade for consenting adult workers and customers will help…but the law and police need to take active steps to deter, expose, and punish these crimes.”

    In comment #54: “Precisely what combination of denunciation (naming and shaming) and disabling (imprisonment) works best we can discuss”

    In comment #56: “Given the evidence sex slavery happens in connection with the sex trade, on what conceivable grounds do you oppose measures to prevent it from happening in connection with legalization?”

    In comment #58: “I don’t share the superstitious belief that magic words like deregulate, decriminalize and legalize instantly produce ethical behaviour.”

    Finally, in comment #58, you said this: “Nope. I never called for the enactment of any laws.”

    All antagonism aside, John…can you not see how a person of good will might read those words and conclude that you’re calling for new or specially enhanced legal instruments to regulate the sex trade, after prohibition?

    You say there is a “pressing need for effective measures” because one victim is “too many” and these crimes demand a “harsh response” with “active steps to deter, expose and enforce”, and although you are open to discuss “precisely what combination” should be used, you can’t understand why anyone would “oppose measure to prevent” sex slavery “in connection with legalization” because you certainly “don’t share the superstitious belief” that “deregulate, decriminalize and legalize” are “magic words”.

    Can you really not understand why someone reading those comments would get the idea that you intend to do something other the simply to “deregulate, decriminalize and legalize” the market in sex.

    What usually happens when the police say “one victim is too many”? What do we usually get when someone reminds us that “legalize” is not a magic word? How many people use the words “pressing need for effective measures” to indicate that they like the law just as it is?

    Just answer me that one question: can you read back your comments and still honestly claim that you have been clear and consistent throughout this thread, with no change in your position since the discussion began?

  60. #60 |  John Spragge | 

    @Other Sean: let me turn the question around. How exactly would you call for a free market in sexual services, given that a free market requires freedom from violence and coercion by private individuals as well as the government? How would you respond to a lukewarm response to, or outright advocacy of, actual slavery in a call for legalization of commerce in sexual services. And when it comes down to it, how can you not see the extreme danger this kind of irresponsibility poses to the project to eliminate social controls? How can you not see that the more free a society grows, the more responsibility all of its members have to show? How can you not see how utterly destructive to any notion of market freedom extreme private violence will prove?

    Do I believe enforcing the laws against murder, rape, enslavement, and aggravated assault? You bet. Do I believe in enforcing them vigorously and vigilantly? Absolutely. Do I believe that to maintain a free society, everyone has a responsibility to reject coercion and violence, to not accept even one instance of it as just the way things happen or even a better outcome for some victims? No question. If you don’t like the phrase “one is too many”, how many mulligans does the state get? How many people do corrupt police officers get to send to jail for “contempt of cop”? If using terms like vigorously and vigilantly to defend our freedom bothers you, what terms would you prefer?

  61. #61 |  Other Sean | 

    That was not an answer.

    That was a campaign commercial asking me to elect John Spragge to the status of holier than thou, but since you seem so comfortably self-appointed to that position, I’m not sure why you need my vote.

    No one here is soft on slavery. No one here is tolerant of rape. No one here has defended either of those things. You are grandly posturing against something that no one says or thinks, and you haven’t even tried to quote a passage that proves otherwise.

    The only questions you can answer are the ones you’ve posed rhetorically, to prompt your next round of speech making.

    For the most part, the result is merely silly. But there is one thing that rises to the level of offensive, and that is how you claim the right to perform hygienic services on behalf on the libertarian movement.

    You pretend to police this discussion so that it doesn’t drift toward advocacy of rape and slavery. It was never in danger of that. You pretend to know exactly how the libertarian movement should present itself, what it should say to put its best face forward, what it should not say for fear of alienating its enemies, and what it should loudly shout to calm the fears of potential converts.

    And in the name of protecting libertarianism against the false accusation that it turns a blind eye to rape and slavery, you have decided to do…what? To falsely accuse a few libertarians of advocating rape and slavery.

    That nonsense was no part of this discussion until you invented it.

  62. #62 |  John Spragge | 

    @Other Sean: I don’t always quote because I assume people will read the posts I respond to. I really suggest you try reading what people write. To quote from Peter’s comment of July 3 at 1:51:

    ‘To quote one Moldovan provider I knew in Skopje who was bought for US$1000 (literally as in bought at a auction) “Better a whore in FYROM that a peasant’s wife in Moldavia. Either way I’m being fucked, drunk, and miserable. At least in FYROM I have regular electricity, can occasionally go out, get beat less, one day will pay off my debt/get too old/find some john to marry (and buy me out). Basically here I at least have hope.’

    Defences of slavery don’t get any more explicit than that. Some people can only get into a better material situation if someone kidnaps them, brutalizes them, sells them off like an animal, dehumanizes them and exploits them. Plenty of people made exactly the same argument in the American South circa 1858. In fact, the Romans probably said much the same thing in 58 BCE. But those arguments contradict everything libertarians claim to believe.

    So let’s just recap. You seem to have abandoned any attempt to suggest my calls for vigorous enforcement of the basic criminal laws add up to some sinister “back hand” effort to impose some unspecified legal restrictions on legalized commercial sex. In fact, you’ll find nothing in what I wrote calling for any new restrictions on commercial sex (except in your own interpretation). As for my call for vigorous enforcement of the laws against crimes against people: basic criminal laws underpin any free and functional market-based society. You now want to make some vague claim about me putting myself up as “holier than thou”, as though every sane and decent person doesn’t oppose murder rape and slavery. A little reading would have shown your claim that nobody has defended slavery here as grossly optimistic. Do you want to walk your position back now? Or even ask yourself why you insisted on reading so much into my call for basic law enforcement? If some advocates of legalizing the sex trade won’t even recognize a defence of slavery when somebody makes one in so many words, shouldn’t that worry me? Shouldn’t it worry every libertarian?

  63. #63 |  John Spragge | 

    Oh, and one other thing: I reject utterly your questioning of my right to speak on libertarian issues. I have put myself on the line for people’s freedom and rights for years, sometimes in dangerous and difficult circumstances. Maybe you’ve done that as well. But in any case, and this also amounts to a core libertarian belief, if libertarians stand for anything at all: everyone has the right to stand up and speak on these matters.

  64. #64 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    How can Peter’s comment at #54 possibly explain the didactic crusade you began at comment #29?

    Also, I don’t think you know what “explicit” means. When Peter says that sex slavery may be a notch above the misery of life as a Moldovan peasant, that’s not a defense of sex slavery, it’s just a really vicious indictment of Moldovan country life. Explicit would be someone saying: ‘I am a defender of slavery’ or ‘slavery is good’ or ‘slavery is not bad’. Anything less than that would be what you call ‘implicit’.

    Peter’s comment merely said ‘sex slavery is a very bad thing, but for some of these girls, it’s evidently not even the worst thing going.’ That is NEITHER an explicit nor an implicit defense of sex slavery.

    But it still wouldn’t matter because he didn’t even say THAT until this thread was 54 comments old.

  65. #65 |  John Spragge | 

    Finally– Other Sean, just a note, if you box yourself into a situation where you have to say something absurd or concede the point, you don’t win by saying something absurd.

  66. #66 |  Other Sean | 

    John,

    By any chance, is that advice based on a recent encounter where you found yourself boxed into a bad argument and forced to say something absurd?

    If so, I’m glad you drained the experience of its most valuable lesson.

  67. #67 |  The Agitator « The Honest Courtesan | 

    [...] a book:  that new activity record I mentioned came on the day I published my introductory post, “Who is Maggie McNeill and What the Hell is She Doing Here?” (longtime readers may recognize a shocking similarity to the title and content of my first post [...]

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