Saturday, November 08, 2008

I have gotten so many emails about Craiglist's supposed "crackdown" on prostitution that I thought I'd give you all a quick answer about it. And that answer is: Good, it'll keep out the riff-raff.

That may surprise you. But there's two parts to this, so let's break it down.

The first is the "Craigslist charging for ads that used to be free" aspect. To that I say: hey, that's capitalism in action, my friends. People who are selling sex - which many people would also prefer to get for free - should not get pissy that they'll no longer get to place free ads to do that. That's just the cost of doing business.

Then there's the law enforcement angle. The story says the Craigslist will supply LE with advertiser's billing information if they are subpoenaed. Well, yeah. I'm guessing any business that sells ads - The Stranger, The Weekly, Eros Guide - would have to do that. Regardless of what certain Republicans seem to think, when you get a subpoena, that means you have to comply. That being said, I am not aware of any of those places actually being subpoenaed.

Why not? Because if you want to arrest prostitutes - especially the type of prostitute who advertises on Craigslist - it ain't all that difficult. You call them up and you get in the room with them and when the time is right, you whip out the badge and take them downtown. I'm not saying I like it, I'm just saying that most of the time, getting a judge to give you a subpoena is unnecessary. Simple prostitution - one woman, working for herself - is a misdemeanor. Statistically, the majority of women who work for themselves do not get arrested, because unless there's a lot of complaints about her, LE has bigger fish to fry.

What subpoenas are about is busting the people who run large-group operations. And if you're running a whole bunch of women on Craigslist, then chances are, you're a pimp. And I don't mean the honest and fair owner of an escort service, I mean a pimp. That's what I see on Craigslist. I don't like pimps, in case that wasn't clear. To me a pimp = a bad person who exploits and coerces women into sex work, or even flat-out forces them. I would not be a bit sorry to see someone like that get arrested.

I believe that there are probably a few honest escort-service owners who use Craigslist. To them I say: You are dealing in felony territory here, so I hope you have a lawyer on retainer, and I hope you understand the risks inherent in the business that you're running. It's my opinion that on the list of ways you might get busted, Craigslist giving up your data is probably the least-likely scenario. But I'd get off there anyway, it's not doing your business image any good.

I think this decision by Craigslist will also help keep under-18 people off the site, and that's also good. Whether they want to be sex-workers when they grow up, they should not be doing it underage.

I think it will also calm down the citizen's complaints, because Craigslist is the place where people who are not looking for sex workers are most likely to stumble across them, and be all outraged about it. It's the online equivalent of soliciting in front of a neighborhood flea market, with families coming in and out. That's just not what you should be doing. It gets people all upset and draws down the heat. Would it be nice if prostitution wasn't illegal so we didn't have to worry about this? Yeah, that would be great. But that's not the reality.

The people who really have my support in sex work are the independent businesswomen like myself, and people who run honest and professional businesses arranging dates between adult contractors and clients. I think those people are unlikely to be strongly affected by the Craigslist's decision.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So I feel like I should write about something other than politics, just because that's all we've been talking and thinking about for days now. But I can't. Because I actually walked around yesterday being sort of emotional and a little teary and feeling like, "Oh my god, the world is a better place than I thought it was, and there's still a lot of problems, but it's going to get even better." I felt really proud and happy to be an American.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've always been pleased that I was American, in a calm and rational way. But it was a passive sort of feeling. I don't recall ever feeling quite so actively happy about it.

I would not say I was a cynical person. But I do tend to be, shall we say, skeptical and analytical. I'm suspicious of anything that looks like a cult of personality, and I am not prone to going along with the crowd just for the sake of it.

But he's really gotten to me, Mr Obama, because I feel hopeful, in a way I haven't felt for a while. And while a tiny, stubborn part of me still says "Don't get your hopes up, don't drink the Kool-Aid, that way you won't be disappointed if it fails..." the rest of me says "No, I'm going to trust this feeling." So I am.

It's interesting to me, too, that I don't recall feeling this way when Bill Clinton got elected. And you know how much I like Bill. I like him a lot. Bill is on the very short list of men who could booty-call me, and I'd go. He wouldn't have to buy me dinner or anything. I think Bill is that hot.

(Who else is on the list? Christopher Walken, John Stewart, and Jason Statham. If any of those guys ever call me, I'm there, no questions asked, boom. I have already cleared this with Monk. Just in case.)

Obama does not turn me on sexually, although I suppose you could say he excites me intellectually. Frankly, in spite of the fact that I once made up some stuff about what he would be like in bed, I do not get a sexy vibe from him at all. Maybe it's different in person. Then too, I'm guessing he has not been feeling all that sexy the last little while here, on account of being under just a teensy bit of stress.

But Obama is an iconic figure in a way that Clinton, for all his skill and charm and accomplishments, is not. I suppose as we get used to an Obama presidency, and his inevitable flaws and shortcomings begin to show, that may wear off some. But until then, I doubt I'm going to be able to think of him sexually. To me, it's the little flaws that make someone feel three-dimensional and thus, human. Icons aren't sexual to me because they're one-dimensional.

However, I'm guessing Mr. President-Elect can get along just fine without me being sexually attracted to him. And if he's just as good a president as we need him to be, I'm fine with that too. I hope he will be.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wow. Wow. What an amazing and historic night. Monk and I sat watching the returns, shrieking and clutching each other and saying "Omigod, omigod, he's really going to do it!"

What a big change is coming - really coming - in our world. I'm not someone who thinks Barack Obama walks on water, heals the sick and raises the dead. He's just a man. But he's a good man, and he's a smart man, and I think he's honest and has integrity, and I think he really wants to lead us well, and make the country a better place than it currently is. I haven't felt that way about my president for eight years, so it makes me very happy that I now do.

Amazing to live through history being made.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I'm voting today! No, I didn't do mail-in like most people, I get a weird pleasure out of going to the actual polling place. We're going to all-mail voting in Washington soon, so this may be the last time I ever do this. And I've never had to wait in line more than a few minutes, possibly because I go in the middle of the day. But I will, if I have to.

So off I go, to happily vote for Obama, and somewhat resignedly for Gregoire. She's not that great of a governor, but at least she's better than the anti-choice, Christian-fundy Dino Rossi.

The Death With Dignity measure? I'm voting for it, we should have the right to die when we're terminally ill.

And then I'll be watching the returns tonight, although... it seems like curtains for McCain. It's not over, of course. But Nate Silver assures me that a McCain win is quite unlikely.

I've been highly amused by this site - I bet they have something fun in store for the finale!

Now I'm just wondering what should I do with the very large chunk of time and brainpower I have been devoting to reading and processing tons of political information. (And ranting about it.) Wait, never mind, I seem to have a very dusty "To-Do" list here. I think I wrote it six months ago. Perhaps I'll get started on it!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Today, a book recommendation. If you haven’t read this already, you should. It used to be shocking - now it’s a classic book of American sexual history: Thy Neighbor's Wife, a non-fiction book by Gay Talese, originally published in 1981. It's out of print now, but you can buy it used for practically nothing.

It’s hard to describe what kind of book Thy Neighbors Wife is. “Narrative nonfiction” is the best way to say it, I think. It’s an exploration of the emergence of certain kinds of sexual outlaws in America from about the 1940’s to the 1970’s, with a few dips further back in history. Much of it is about a time we’ll never live again – after the Pill, but before AIDS.

Talese doesn’t cover much gay culture, and there’s not a lot about BDSM, either. This is mainly interweaving stories about straight nudist/swinger culture, some sex work history – massage parlors and porn modeling - and very personal biographies of influential people in the alternative sex culture like Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, and a number of others. If you’re an American swinger, or a polyamorous person, or a sex worker, or a sex writer/publisher, this is a piece of your history. The people in this book have all had – and in some cases, continue to have - a strong influence the alternative sexual culture we have now.

It’s a thick book, and it’s complex and absorbing reading, but Talese keeps you engaged. The wealth of detail he provides gives one a sense of really knowing these people.

Talese also tells a lot of stories about government’s very active censorship of sexually oriented materials in that period. People now take for granted their access to educational sexual materials, erotic literature, and unabashed pornorgraphy, but it wasn’t that long ago that many, many people couldn’t get those things. Some of the details of the Supreme Court cases aren’t super-sexy reading, but I think it’s important to know where your rights came from. People – actual live people – got arrested, stood trial, lost their livelihoods and their freedom, and fought back, so that you could read and look at whatever you liked. Pay them a bit of homage by reading and knowing about them.


Note on the subject of books and reading: several nice people have invited me to join Goodreads. Thank you for thinking of me, and it’s a cool idea, but I simply cannot handle contributing to even one more social website. It’s the same reason I haven’t signed up for FetLife, which I am also regularly told I should do. So I fear I must decline…