Category Archives: Sex

Who Should Control Women’s Sexual Desire?

Sprout Pharmaceutical is again asking for FDA approval for flibanserin, a pill that they say will help women experiencing low levels of sexual desire. In a New York Times op-ed, sex educator Emily Nagoski is skeptical:

But the biggest problem with the drug — and with the F.D.A.’s consideration of it — is that its backers are attempting to treat something that isn’t a disease.

No, no, no. This is an argument I really want to die. I don’t mean to pick on Ms. Nagoski, but there’s no need to get hung up on whether something is a disease when investigating drugs that change it. That’s an approach that will lead to pain, heartache, and possibly jail time.

Here’s the issue that has her concerned:

Flibanserin purportedly treats a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women. But H.S.D.D. was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013, and replaced with a new diagnosis called female sexual interest/arousal disorder, or F.S.I.A.D.

Why the change? Researchers have begun to understand that sexual response is not the linear mechanism they once thought it was. The previous model, originating in the late ’70s, described a lack of “sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.” It placed sexual desire first, as if it were a hunger, motivating an individual to pursue satisfaction. Desire was conceptualized as emerging more or less “spontaneously.” And some people do feel they experience desire that way. Desire first, then arousal.

But it turns out many people (perhaps especially women) often experience desire as responsive, emerging in response to, rather than in anticipation of, erotic stimulation. Arousal first, then desire.

Both desire styles are normal and healthy. Neither is associated with pain or any disorder of arousal or orgasm.

To my inexpert ear this seems like a plausible bit of psychology, and since Emily Nagoski is a credentialed expert on human sexuality, I’m sure she knows a lot more about female sexuality than I do. [Insert self-deprecating joke about not understanding women here.] And what she’s talking about should probably be a very important consideration for any woman thinking about taking a pill like this.

However, just because something is normal or natural doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change it. About 20 years ago, there was a major controversy over the safety of silicone breast implants, and the FDA was stepping in to regulate them. Virginia Postrel of Reason magazine wrote an editorial about that which has stuck with me over the years, and which seems relevant here:

Something different is going on with breast implants: They are frivolous, and they are biological. They are overt attempts to overthrow nature, to use the mind to reshape the body, to alter genetic destiny without giving a good reason. They are not “vital needs,” like fibers, key boards, or electricity.


Traditional medicine and its regulatory progeny disapprove of risks, except to restore what’s “normal.” When cosmetic surgeons tried to define flat-chestedness as a disease–the better to cram breast augmentation into the healer paradigm–they looked like manipulative fools. Their article became a smoking gun to feminists who saw implants as a patriarchal plot. But the very attempt shows what’s “wrong” with implants in the eyes of the law: They’re designed not to fix a disease but to improve what’s normal. Repair is OK; improvement isn’t.

This bias against changing things that are normal is complicated by the fact that we have a history of deciding or discovering that things previously considered normal are in fact subject to medical intervention. Humans have presumably had allergies forever, but we only really began to recognize them as such about 100 years ago, and we now have a lot of different treatments. It’s natural for our eyes to lose their ability to focus clearly as we get older, but nobody suggests that people getting Lasik eye surgery would be better off accepting their “different way of seeing.” We used to think that even severe dementia was just a normal part of getting old, until we identified Alzheimer’s disease. Now instead of just accepting the decline in mental function, we’re working on treatments.

Or what could be more normal than childbirth? And yet we spend millions of dollars on contraceptives to prevent it. Except for women experiencing the perfectly common problem of infertility — they spend millions of dollars on drugs, treatment, and IVF to get pregnant. We’ve also found ways to reduce the natural pain of childbirth. All of these improvements on nature were highly controversial when they were first introduced. But we got used to them.

Nagoski is concerned that women will feel pressure to take a pill they don’t need:

But I can’t count the number of women I’ve talked with who assume that because their desire is responsive, rather than spontaneous, they have “low desire”; that their ability to enjoy sex with their partner is meaningless if they don’t also feel a persistent urge for it; in short, that they are broken, because their desire isn’t what it’s “supposed” to be. What these women need is not medical treatment, but a thoughtful exploration of what creates desire between them and their partners.

There’s certainly a history of women being pressured into dubious ways to “improve” themselves, from high-heeled shoes to corsets to cosmetic surgery and unnecessary hysterectomies, so any women considering any kind of medical intervention should do her research. And I can understand the the need for the thoughtful exploration she describes (there’s more detail in her article and on her blog), but she goes too far when she argues against any medical treatment.

The efficacy of flibanserin is in question, and it may have some troublesome side effects, so I could understand why she’d recommend against that drug in particular, but Nagoski objects to the idea of using medicine to change how sexual desire works. This comes way too close to some of the “purity” arguments that have been used against psychoactive medications over the years.

Depression is another one of those treatable conditions that used to be considered normal. When depressed people weren’t being asked “Why can’t you just cheer up?” they were being told to live with it and things will get better. They were told that plenty of depressed people manage to live successful lives, and that they should learn to accept themselves as they are. Just keep soldiering on. Suck it up. None of this was really very helpful. In all fairness though, there weren’t any better alternatives.

That changed with the invention of antidepressants, especially with the modern drugs that affect neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. (Flibanserin acts on those neurotransmitters as well.) They’re not always effective, and they can have side effects, but when they work, they can greatly improve the lives of people suffering from depression.

And yet people taking antidepressants are still told by well-meaning friends and family (or even strangers) that they should try to fight depression in other ways — eat better, exercise more, meditate, find a hobby, get out and meet people, try to look on the bright side — rather than “depending on a drug to make you happy.” This often comes with a sizable dose of smugness: “Look at me, I’m happy, and I don’t take drugs.”

There’s also been a general backlash against the market success of antidepressants, with a lot of whining about the number of people on Prozac, the “over-medication” of American society, and the way big pharma is pushing their drugs on us by getting everything classified as a disease. I’m sure there’s been some of that, especially with captive populations like school children, where I’ve heard accusations that ADHD is over-diagnosed. On the other hand, if your child gets the drugs and the quality of his life improves, how much does it matter if he really had ADHD or was just fidgety?

Some of the reaction against pharmaceutical solutions seems to have its origin in the same anti-drug prejudice that fuels the War on Drugs — the attitude that using drugs for anything other than treating a disease is evil. This is why someone with a diagnosis of ADHD or narcolepsy can get Adderall from Walgreens, but college students trying to study harder have to order it from sketchy online pharmacies in Hong Kong. And when factory workers on long shifts use methamphetamine (essentially the same drug) we call them meth addicts and put them in jail.

Apparently we still haven’t learned our lesson about what happens when we pathologize normal sexual functioning.

In one extreme example, medical professionals once took seriously the idea that homosexuality was a disease in need of a cure.

[…] Now, of course, only a fringe minority of the medical community would suggest that sexual orientation is anything other than a normal aspect of human sexuality.

Let me respond by describing another human sexual aspect that is currently treated as a disorder: Gender dysphoria. Some men aren’t happy being men. They’d rather be women. We could tell them that being born a man is their fate and they better straighten up and act normal. Or we could tell them that lots of people have gender identity problems and learn to live with it. We could even tell them to settle for wearing wigs and makeup and women’s clothes.

But as it turns out, we have at least a partial “cure” for being male. We have hormones to change their fat distribution and enlarge their breasts. We have lasers and electrolysis to remove unwanted hair, and we have dermabrasion to smooth their skin. We have surgical procedures to reduce their adam’s apple, change their voice, enlarge their breasts, and change the shape of their face, hips, buttocks, and genitals. Half the people in the world are male, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But some of them don’t like it, and within the technological limits of our civilization, we offer them the ability to change.

This analogy between desire style and sexual orientation is imperfect: There is no reason to suspect that responsive or spontaneous desire is innate. In fact all desire is somewhat responsive, even when it feels spontaneous. But Dr. Heath and Sprout are both part of the long history of trying to call “diseased” what is simply different.

And Emily Nagoski is in danger of making herself part of the long history of telling people they should learn to live with things they don’t like.

When a woman experiencing responsive desire comes to understand how to make the most of her desire, she opens up the opportunity for greater satisfaction. Outdated science isn’t going to improve our sex lives. But embracing our differences — working with our sexuality, rather than against it — will.

I suspect that this is good advice. But there’s a difference between advice and policy. The FDA isn’t about giving advice, it’s about controlling what medications are available. There’s a difference between giving women the information they need to make an intelligent choice and giving the FDA the power to take that choice away.

Let me quote Virginia Postrel again:

The debate over breast implants is only incidentally about the venality of lawyers or the benefits of a C cup. It is about who we are and who we may become. It is about the future of what it means to be human.

The debates about flibanserin, like the debate about breast implants, is about whether or not women get to have control over what they want to be.

(Hat tip: Maggie McNeill.)

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Everything Seems Evil When You Add Sex To It

One of the lessons I’ve learned from reading Maggie McNeill’s Honest Courtesan blog for the last couple of years is that opponents of sex work will try to make even the most routine business practices sound evil. I just finished a three-part think piece about some aspects of that, and already Maggie has pointed me to another.

I remember years ago reading some feminist anti-sex-work exposé of strip clubs which revealed that many clubs don’t even pay their dancers. In fact, the clubs were so exploitative that they actually made the dancers pay them. Shocking! And also, as it turns out, unclear on the concept of how strip clubs work.

More recently, as the Wichita Eagle reports, the Kansas Department of Labor has decided to crack down on this supposed exploitation:

The Kansas Department of Labor won a victory for strippers when the state Supreme Court ruled that exotic dancers are employees of the club where they work, not independent entertainment contractors.

So now the club will be required to treat strippers as employees, withholding taxes and providing unemployment insurance.

Meanwhile, here are some of what the Eagle piece refers to as “conditions inside the club”:

Club owner John Samples bought the majority ownership in Club Orleans in 2002. Two years later, he stopped paying the dancers a nominal salary, leaving tips from customers as their only source of income, according to court records. The court decision doesn’t require the club to pay the dancers a salary, because tips can be considered as wages under Kansas law.

This is some sort of Bizarro-world labor law. All of the money paid to the dancers is coming from the gentlemen who patronize the club, yet under Kansas labor law those payments are now considered to have been wages paid by the club, even though the club never payed the dancers any money.

According to the Labor Department, dancers were required to pay non-negotiable “rent” for use of the stage and dressing rooms, as well as extra fees for the disc jockeys and bouncers.

The rent was higher during peak business hours and the women paid extra to use the more private “VIP” and “Champagne” rooms to entertain guests.

That really makes it sound exploitive, doesn’t it? Especially with the scare quotes around “rent.” Not only was the club not paying the dancers, but the dancers were being force to pay the club, and pay even more to use the special rooms.

One thing that’s notably missing from the Eagle article — and many other accounts of such supposed exploitation of women by strip clubs  — is any mention of the reason why dancers put up with such conditions. You can read all about how much the dancers are paying and what kinds of rules they have to follow without coming across any mention of the fact that exotic dancers can easily earn $1000 or more in tips every week. That’s for less than 40 hours of work on a job that has fairly flexible hours and no educational requirements.

On the other hand, I think the club’s defense that the dancers are independent contractors is nonsense that has no relation to economic reality. After all, if the dancers were independent contractors, the club would still be paying them for the work they’re doing, just not as employees. (In contracting jargon, they’d be getting paid on a 1099 instead of a W-2.) But the club isn’t paying them a dime.

So what does that make the dancers then? Well, as they said during Watergate, if you want to understand what’s really going on, you have to follow the money. And the money is flowing from the dancers to the club. You know what that makes them with respect to the club?


That’s what you call people who pay a business for services. The gentlemen patrons are customers because they pay the club a door fee for the right to come in and see the dancing girls, and the dancing girls are customers because they pay the club a house fee for the right to come in and sell dances to the gentlemen patrons. Both the men and the dancers are customers of the club.

That may sound crazy, but it’s not an uncommon business arrangement for vendors to pay for a venue in which to conduct business. Flea markets operate this way, for example. Chicago’s Randolph Street Market charges consumers $10 to come in and shop, and they charge vendors $75 to $300 for the right to operate a display space and sell stuff to the consumers. The strip club is doing something very similar.

But what about all those rules the dancers have to follow, as if (according to the Kansas Department of Labor) they were employees?

House rules governed what the dancers could do in their shows and the prices they had to charge for specific types of dances. Employees of the club would enforce the price structure on the dancers and the customers, court records said.

The women were required to sign in with the bouncer at the beginning of a shift and weren’t allowed to leave the premises until the end of the shift, according to the Labor Department.

Again, that’s no different from how a flea market operates. The Randolph Street Market has tons of rules for vendors as well. Some of them are there to protect consumers, other are designed to keep vendors from interfering with each other’s business, and some of them are for the benefit of the venue owner.

Note that some of the club rules exist for the benefit of the dancers. When the article says “employees enforce the price structure” it means that the club does not allow dancers to offer discounts. This benefits the dancers because they don’t have to compete against each other on price. Essentially, it’s a miniature price-fixing cartel. As with all cartels, cheating is a problem. Dancers have an incentive to draw customers away from other dancers by offering lower prices, which encourages the other dancers to cheat by lowering their prices as well. But when they all lower their prices, they all lose money. The club’s rules about the price structure prevent this. Essentially, the dancers are paying the club to provide enforcement of the cartel rules.

The Eagle article doesn’t mention it, but many strip clubs enforce is a “no-touching” rule, or at least a “no handjobs, no blowjobs, no sex” rule. Again, this is cartelization to reduce competition. If some of the dancers offered “extras,” then the other dancers would be faced with the choice of either losing customers to those dancers or offering extras themselves. However, the dancers can avoid the pressure to offer extras by agreeing collectively not to do so. Again, the dancers pay the club to prevent cheating that would hurt them all.

Even the rules setting work hours are part of the enforcement services provided by the club. If too many dancers show up at one time, there won’t be enough gentlemen patrons to go around, and the short-term average per-dancer income will be low for that night. On the other hand, if too few dancers show up for some shifts, the gentlemen patrons won’t be able to get dances and over the long term they’ll stop showing up, which will also reduce the dancers’ income.

The latter situation is a real concern with the flea markets’ big brother, the shopping mall. One of the reasons consumers like shopping malls is because they can hit several stores in a single trip. If some of those stores keep shorter hours, however, the malls will be less beneficial for consumers, which will naturally reduce the number of consumers coming to the mall, which will in turn reduce the sales volume of all the stores at the mall, not just the ones that are closed. For this reason, malls set standardized hours of operation and assess penalties against stores that don’t comply.

Something similar goes on with department store makeup counters and jewelry counters. Many of them are stocked and staffed not by the department store but by the manufacturers, who have to pay the store for the right to sell their product there. The contracts include detailed rules about hours of operation and staff training to ensure that store patrons receive the expected level of service.

I’m not saying strip club owners are saints who only want to help the poor dancing girls. They’re in it for themselves, trying to make some money by mediating the transactions between the dancers and their customers. Sometimes they do this in direct zero-sum opposition to the dancers’ interests — by charging house fees, for example — but to get dancers to pay those fees, they have to offer something of value — the venue, a DJ, a stage with a pole and flattering lighting, booze, bartenders, waitresses, snacks, parking, security, advertising, credit card processing, and enforcement of standards of conduct and pricing. They’re selling a service. Just like any other business.

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Speak Up For Sex Workers

Over on the Twitter, retired call-girl Maggie McNeill is urging some of us bloggers to join her campaign to make every Friday the Thirteenth a day to speak up for the rights sex workers. She think’s it’s especially important to get support from outside the sex work community:

A number of advocates are working to respond to the lies, propaganda and misinformation wherever we find them, but we can only do so much and we’re often outnumbered by the brainwashed zombie slaves of the “trafficking” witch-hunters.  Also, we’re often accused of distorting facts to make ourselves look good, and no matter how assiduously we work to present a balanced view this is a natural and credible accusation against anyone who advocates for some issue which directly concerns her. That’s why allies are so important; it’s much harder for the prohibitionists to shout down people who don’t have a dog in the fight, but merely support prostitutes’ rights on moral grounds.

That makes sense, and although I don’t have much time today, I have posted on the subject before, including a two-part series about how a deceptive Illinois law to protect prostitutes from exploitation will actually make things worse for them and how to really protect prostitutes. I also wrote a series about how the supposedly feminist idea of prosecuting the customers discriminates against men, confuses prostitution with slavery, and shows contempt for women’s choices.

The problem is that I’m a middle-aged male, so when I stand up for the right of attractive young women to perform sex acts for money, oppponents can dismiss my arguments as self-serving. I think it’s much more effective when sex workers speak up for themselves. To that end, I strongly recommend Maggie’s blog The Honest Courtesan. It’s straightforward and well-written, full of carefully researched arguments and (if you’re into that sort of thing) salacious details.

(Maggie McNeill is also an occasional contributor to Nobody’s Business.)



And Now For Some (Almost) Porn

It’s probably a sign that there’s something wrong with me, but somehow I find this video charming. It’s composed entirely of just-before-things-get-naughty scenes from porno movies. I guess that knowing what happens next produces a certain tension with the innocent music and images.

Warning: In and of itself, it’s safe for work, but technically these are scenes of porn stars in pornographic movies. Also, younger and more sensitive viewers may find the ’80’s hair styles disturbing.

(Hat tip: Radley Balko)

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Prosecuting Johns – Part 3: Respecting Women

This is the third and final post in a series of responses (starting here) to an opinion piece by Melissa Farley and Norma Ramos arguing that the customers of prostitutes are sexual predators and should be punished as such. The article made me angry, and I’m trying to explain why.

The equation of slavery and prostitution appears several places in the piece I’m responding to and in other writings by Melissa Farley and others at her website Prostitution Research and Education. For example, here’s a summary of an article by Janice Raymond:

This article discusses how prostitution is exempted from other kinds of violence and human rights violations, how prostitution is legitimized by distinctions between “forced” and “consenting” prostitution.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time among the libertarians, but reading that excerpt literally makes me sick and angry. I can feel my gut churning. With that one sentence, Farley is casually dismissing the most fundamental concept of libertarian philosophy: The distinction between choice and coercion.

This is the crux of why I hate Farley and Ramos’ article: They want us to believe there is no difference between letting someone do something and forcing them to do that same thing. It’s a disturbing bit of moral blindness that leads to public policy madness. If we blithely dismiss the difference between freedom and force, there’s no limit to the insane implications.

For example, since road construction is a dangerous job, and since many construction workers lack a college education, are we to conclude that construction work is immoral—“roads built on the blood of dead workers” and so on—and that making a distinction between “forced” and “consenting” construction work is a way of excusing reckless disregard for the welfare of men?

Or how about the men who serve in our army? That’s a very dangerous job, and it’s well known that soldiers are disproportionately minorities and poor people. Is it a lie then to say we have a “volunteer” army, since clearly no normal person would “volunteer” to be shot at?

Thinking about military service should remind us of one more evil consequence of confusing choice and coercion: We can make that mistake in reverse. That’s why fools like Congressman Charles Rangel argue in favor of military conscription on the grounds that letting minorities and poor people volunteer for the military in disproportionate numbers is somehow unfair. As if forcing people into the military could ever be more moral than letting them volunteer.

I don’t know how people think that way, because it seems so simple to me: Unless someone is mentally incompetent or a child, you can’t harm them by increasing their choices or help them by taking choices away.

By ignoring the difference between force and freedom, there’s no limit to what Farley and Ramos could define as a crime, simply because they don’t like other people’s life choices.

I assume they sincerely want to help women live better lives, and they believe they can do so by preventing women from choosing prostitution. However, by ignoring the difference between sex slavery and voluntary sex work, Farley and Ramos are disrespecting the choices these women made. They are showing utter contempt for the way some women choose to live their lives.

In this, Farley and Ramos have a lot of company.

Many people in the world want to “protect” women from their own choices. For years, women were not allowed to choose to be police officers or fire fighters…or doctors or lawyers. For years they were not allowed to choose to fight in our nation’s military forces. In Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to choose to drive cars, or leave home on their own, or show their faces to the world. 

Where do you draw the line? I doubt that Farley and Ramos want to go as far as the Saudis to protect feminine virtue, but what exactly do they want to stop women from doing? If they don’t want woman to trade sexual intercourse for money, then how do they feel about massage parlors where the women only give hand jobs? How about strip clubs? Are they bad too? Does it make a difference if it’s lap dancing or air dancing? If stripping is too much, how about dancers who wear bikinis? How about Hooters waitresses?

If it’s the money that matters, what about nude beaches? What if it’s a private nude beach that allows women in for free but charges men? I assume Farley and Ramos oppose pornography, but how about artistic photography of nude women? What if it’s not so artistic? Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler? Or is Hustler going too far? If I’m photographing a nude model just for fun, am I exploiting her? Or am I only exploiting her if I “buy” her by offering her money to pose?

That would be a strange definition of exploitation—you’re only exploiting someone if you pay them—but then I gather Farley and Ramos are okay with women having sex, just not getting paid for it. What if a man buys a woman a nice gift after sex? What if she insists on it? What if he leaves her money to buy her own gift?

I suspect Farley and Ramos would accuse me of posing all these questions not to get answers but just to muddy the waters and draw attention away from the more important issue of protecting women.

I guess there’s some truth to that, because I don’t really need to know how Farley and Ramos would answer all my questions. You see, I already have my own answers, which are far more respectful to woman than what Farley and Ramos have written. It’s easy to have all the answers, because it’s the same answer to every question: Let the woman decide.

Prosecuting Johns – Part 2: Strange Logic, Strange Language

Yesterday, I posted Part 1 of my response to an opinion piece by Melissa Farley and Norma Ramos arguing that Eliot Spitzer and other men who hire prostitutes should be punished as criminals. The article made me angry, and I’m trying to explain why.

To start with, although Farley and Ramos want leniency for prostitutes, they don’t want legalized prostitution. They regard the prostitutes’ customers as sexual predators, and they want them punished.

[T]he Justice Department has sent a clear message that it is acceptable to buy and sell women for sex; this in the face of growing evidence that prostitution is emotionally and physically harmful to those used in it, and that prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked–prostitution is the endpoint of all sex trafficking.

There are two logical errors in that paragraph. First, the assertion that “prostitution is the endpoint of all sex trafficking” is a tautology. It’s simply true by definition: If the trafficking didn’t end in prostitution, it wouldn’t be sex trafficking.

The second error is the implication that the converse is true, that all prostitution is sex trafficking. I know of no reason to believe this to be true.

Farley and Ramos would disagree, and it is here that they show not only their hatred for men, but also their disrespect for women.

Prostitution is not a victimless crime. The DOJ policy is out of step with volumes of evidence that prostitution arises out of adverse social conditions such as being sexually abused in childhood, poverty, racism, lack of educational and economic opportunities, disability, and a culture that increasingly commodifies girls.

This is a blatant rhetorical bait-and-switch. Farley and Ramos say that prostitutes are victims of prostitution, but everything they list—sexual abuse, poverty, racism, lack of opportunity, disability—is something that may lead women to prostitution, not something caused by it.

By way of example, consider another unpleasant job women do: Cleaning toilets on one of those late-night office cleaning crews. That’s not a job I’d want. Should we therefore make it a crime to hire women to clean toilets in an office building because many cleaning ladies are driven to it by poverty, lack of opportunity, or an inability to get better jobs? Or would that just deprive a poor woman of a job?

For many women, sex work isn’t their problem, it’s a solution to their problem, and the problem is almost always the same: Not enough money. Taking away their customers takes away their money.

Farley and Ramos want us to believe that punishing prostitutes’ customers is good for prostitutes, and to that end they cite a 1999 change in Swedish law that penalizes customers but not prostitutes. It has apparently reduced prostitution by 40 percent.

That sounds like a law that works, but I wonder how the prostitutes feel about a 40 percent loss of revenue. I wonder how they feel about a law that drives their work even further underground. Farley and Ramos don’t seem to care, as long as the men are punished.

Even when the pimps are alleged to be running a high-end, high-class call-girl service, they still sell women for sexual use and still take their cut. And those in it, like Ashley Dupré–a young woman whom Mr. Spitzer bought for sex–more often than not, have entered prostitution as a result of long-term abuse, neglect, and economic desperation; a situation that worsens disproportionately for women as the economy declines.

I’m struck by the choice of words that conflates prostitution with chattle slavery. Pimps “sell woman” and Ashley Dupré is “a young woman…Spitzer bought.” That’s nonsense. Spitzer didn’t buy Dupré, he paid her to perform a service. A messy, intimate service that might be phsiologically and emotionally hard on Dupre, to be sure, but it was still just something she did for him, and then she left.

(I realize that men can threaten women with violence to gain control over them and “own” them, but that’s not what happened here. That’s not how most prostitution works in this country.)

Ms. Dupré…met up with the pimps and johns at Emperor’s Club VIP in New York, a prostitution ring that sometimes moved women from the United States to Europe on what they called “travel dates” rather than human trafficking.

The twisting of language in this piece is apalling. In all the accounts I’ve read, Dupré approached the escort services looking for work. And when you read the phrase “human trafficking,” is the first image that comes to your mind one of adult women getting on airplanes in America and flying to Europe?

There is real slavery in the world, and some of those slaves are forced into prostitution. But that’s not what happened to Ashley Dupré, and it’s not what happens to most women in the business.

[Part 3 is up]

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Prosecuting Johns – Part 1: Gender Bias

In response to the news that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer would not be charged with any crimes crime for hiring prostitutes, Newsweek magazine published an opinion piece by Melissa Farley and Norma Ramos arguing that this was “a stunning betrayal of the public trust,” and coming out in favor of cracking down more heavily on men who hire prostitutes.

The DOJ also chose not to charge Mr. Spitzer for transporting a woman across state lines for the purpose of prostitution–a violation of the Mann Act. Congress might be interested to learn that its laws are being effectively nullified by DOJ policy.

Actually, I think of Congress might be very relieved to learn that the Mann Act is being ignored. I’m sure Spitzer wasn’t the first elected official ever to bring a prostitute to Washington, D.C. He probably wasn’t even the first one that week.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the downfall of that self-righteous jerk, I don’t think Spitzer deserved to go to jail for any of this. More than that, the artidle by Farley and Ramos made me angry—surprisingly angry—and it took a while to figure out why.

Part of the reason for my anger it is their willingness to bend all logic and reason to achieve their goal of villifying men who pay for sex. For example:

Prosecutorial discretion cannot be based on gender bias, nor can it eliminate whole classes of people that the law was designed to protect.

That’s exactly backward.

In every other form of vice, enforcement priorities are directed at the people most involved in perpetuating the crime. Police target drug dealers instead of drug users because one drug dealer can sell to 50 drug users. Similarly, police target bookies before gamblers and dogfight operators before dogfight spectators. The idea is to concentrate on the people who commit the crimes as a way of life, rather than the people who commit them once in a while.

(Actually, although police are after the bigger players in theory, and are usually willing to “trade up” to get them, as a practical matter it’s often easier to catch the little guys, especially when it comes to drugs. But that’s a different problem.)

When it comes to prostitution, Farley and Ramos want to turn these priorities on their head and charge the customers of prostitutes rather than the prostitutes, and the reason for it is because the prostitutes are women, and their customers are men. It is Farley and Ramos who advocate a gender bias.

Update: Permalink and Comments fixed…I hope.

[Part 2 is up.]

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