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.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

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

  1. #1 |  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”.

  2. #2 |  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.

  3. #3 |  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.

  4. #4 |  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.

  5. #5 |  Other Sean | 


    “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.”

  6. #6 |  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?

  7. #7 |  Other Sean | 


    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?

  8. #8 |  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.

  9. #9 |  Other Sean | 


    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?

  10. #10 |  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?

  11. #11 |  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.

  12. #12 |  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?

  13. #13 |  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.

  14. #14 |  Other Sean | 


    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.

  15. #15 |  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.

  16. #16 |  Other Sean | 


    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.

  17. #17 |  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 […]