Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

From hooker to teacher to

I usually do not blog on matters relating to K thru 12 but I will make an exception this time.

Turns out that a NYC teacher had at one time been a NYC hooker but had successfully transcended from hooker to teacher.  Now she has gone public as to her past via the internet.  Some want her fired because they hold she is not a good role model for children.  From what I know about her she could be viewed as a “good” role model since she made the transition to conventional straight life.

Click here for the FOX video on this.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | hooker, prostitution, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Prostitution, violence and

So a Canadian study has found that “people who buy sex are no more violent than the general population, and any legislation about prostitution should not be based on the incorrect belief that all johns are abusive”, says a Simon Fraser University sociologist researching the subject.

Chris Atchison surveyed more than 1,000 johns between June 2008 and April 2009 for his controversial study, entitled Johns’ Voice.

Based on about 1,000 anonymous online responses and 24 in-depth interviews, Atchison concluded that johns do not appear to be any more aggressive than the rest of the population and should therefore not be painted as uniformly evil.

He said 1.9 per cent reported having hit, pushed or physically attacked a prostitute, one per cent reported having raped or sexually assaulted a prostitute and 1.7 per cent reported having robbed a prostitute.

“The question becomes, ‘How different are sex buyers from any other member of the population?’” said Atchison.

OK, the dankprofessor must have been pretty naïve- I didn’t know that people believed that men who patronized sex workers were more violent than men who did not.  I guess this is on the same level of the idea that pornography causes male viewers to go out and rape. Of course, everyone knows that pornography overwhelmingly causes men to stay home and masturbate.  But then again masturbation is a form of self-abuse.  So I guess one just can’t get away from the idea that sex is harmful to self and if not to self then to others.

But there is more as reported in the Vancouver Sun

The study drew strong criticism from some quarters.

“It’s an outrageous study and it really works towards normalizing sexual assault,” said Aurea Flynn of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.

“I’m really angry about the emphasis on the compassion for johns that the study provides and I’m very concerned about its impact on the continued normalization of prostitution in Canada because I believe prostitution is violence against women.”

Flynn was particularly angered by what she called the demonizing of a marginalized population that is often forced into the sex trade due to a lack of options.

Atchison said 79.9 per cent of johns surveyed wanted prostitution legalized for “altruistic reasons,” such as to protect prostitutes with health and safety regulations.

But Flynn said: “I believe that is the johns wanting to protect themselves from contracting diseases, which they are very afraid of.

“If they really wanted to help women, they’d be fighting for better welfare rates, universal child care, universal education and job skills training.”

She believes the legalization of prostitution would increase human trafficking and the exploitation of women.

The Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter — which defines prostitution itself as an act of violence — actively campaigns for its abolition.

And so it goes- prostitution is violence even though it be consensual sex. But what the dankprofessor has learned in this short blog posting is that money is the ultimate arbiter.  Consensual sex turns into violence if you add a financial component. The money does the talking. So the dankprofessor’s advice to men who want to play it safe- empty your pockets before engaging in any kind of sexual fraternization.

OK, one more note- Aurea Flynn of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter says she is really angry regarding the results of the study. She fears that people may become more empathetic toward johns.  As for my empathy, I can feel Ms. Flynn’s anger. I suggest she take her anger home and in the privacy of her home, she relax and try to get some relief.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | consensual relationships, masturbation, prostitution, rape, sex, sex work, sexual politics | 3 Comments

The Jewish Journal and the Jewish Belle de Jour

The Jewish Journal reports on the University of Bristol  prostitute Belle de Jour who has revealed her identity as a UK cancer researcher, Brooke Magnanti. But why should such be reported in the Jewish Journal?  Well, it turns out that Magnanti is Jewish.

The Jewish Journal found the following quote from Magnanti from the Daily Mail as being particularly tasteless-

‘My mother’s family are Jewish; there’s this hoarding thing, saving, being prepared – if you’re in debt, somebody could come and knock on your door and take it all away tomorrow.’

That explanation sent columnists in a stammering outrage.  Where to take umbrage first: at the ethnic stereotype?  At the leap from debt to paid sex? At the idea of a smart woman taking life-threatening risks?

Leaving the stereotypical reference to Jewish people aside, it is outrageous by implication to liken herself – an educated woman waiting to get her PhD – to the kind of pitifully poverty-stricken and powerless female who, the world over, becomes a prostitute because of need.

The Jewish Journal then reports:

Dr Magnanti, who studied anthropology and math in Florida, was completing a PhD at Sheffield University’s department of forensic pathology when she became a call girl. Realising she had no objection to having sex for money, she contacted an agency and worked as a prostitute from 2003 to late 2004, which she said was ‘so much more enjoyable’ than her shifts in another job as a computer programmer.

The Belle du Jour blog became a hot media property, spurring speculation about the true author, a lucrative book deal.  The book was serialized on UK prime time television in 2007’s “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” starring actress of Billie Piper, and eventually played on pay cable in the US…

The blog made no secret of Belle du Jour’s Jewish background.  But in a recent post, though, Magnanti provided a slightly different explanation of why she turned to a life of $600 hour sex rather than the workaday grind:
Once upon a (very long) time ago, after being a student and before moving to London, I had a year of working several jobs at the same time. They were, in case you wondered, at an art gallery, a bookshop, a map/travel store, and an internship for the professional employment I later returned to. I put two thirds of my earnings into savings… savings that didn’t last half as long as I needed them to, or thought they would, and were long gone by the time I moved to London.

It was a busy time of my life. So busy, in fact, there were days I literally had to choose between having time enough to eat and getting enough sleep. I lost weight to the point at which my father, all ten stone of him, was concerned for my health. And once out the other side I promised – no, I swore – I would never do that again.
Which is not, incidentally, the reason I became a call girl a couple of years later – though certainly it was an experience informing that decision.

So was it boredom, or a “Jewish” aversion to debt that led Magnanti into her secret life as a hooker with a heart of…Goldstein?  Her father, a plumber who lives in Holiday, Florida, told the Daily Mail it’s all his fault: after his divorce from Magnanti’s mother, he visited as many as 150 prostitutes, and introduced his daughter to many of them. 
‘Of those, four or five were deep emotional relationships, and Brooke met those women. She saw that prostitutes were human. They were women.
‘Brooke did not approve of me seeing the prostitutes, not because they were selling their bodies for sex but because of their drug use.
‘We had a very big falling out. Brooke said some harsh things that she hoped would help me – but which had the opposite effect.’

But the former plumber said he was proud of his daughter, saying: ‘She has not done anything wrong. Brooke is a very independent woman, and I support whatever she has done.’
He added: ‘I am glad that she is no longer a prostitute. In my experience prostitution is wrong and corrupts people. I know that from my own experience.

So what does Judaism teach about prostitution?  Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, jewishjournal.com’s resident expert on sex and Jewish law, put it this way:
“Don’t believe any balderdash that says Jews can visit prostitutes. Judaism demands that all men and women experience sex the best way. And that is, where they can have really uninhibited sex because they are devoted to each other. They are not ashamed to be around one another because they are totally committed. They are not afraid of exposing their soft underbelly. Many people today have sex with full body armor, with all their inhibitions intact, with their defenses up.”

Judaism condemns prostitution.  Then again, it has some pretty harsh things to say about eating shrimp, and plenty of Jews enjoy that too. So are we shocked, shocked that a bright Jewish woman would turn to tricks to make a living?  No—just that she’d somehow ascribe “a pathological aversion to being in debt”  as a Jewish trait.  Way to shatter one stereotype and spread another.

The dankprofessor feels that the Jewish Journal goes beyond the fringe when it asserts that somehow Magnanti shatters one stereotype and spreads another. I did not even know that there was a stereotype of a Jewish prostitute or of Jews suffering a pathological aversion to being in debt.

In any case, if people are so prone to engage in stereotypical thinking as reported by the Jewish Journal, maybe people will start stereotyping sex workers as cancer researchers. OK, not as cancer researchers but as British cancer researchers.  This sort of thing simply can’t happen in the United States.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Jewish Journal, prostitution, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual politics, University of Bristol | Leave a comment

Identity revealed of Belle de Jour blogger

The identity of the Belle de Jour blogger has been revealed.  She is Brooks Magnanti a child health researcher at the University of Bristol.

Belle de Jour portrayed the life of Dr. Magnanti as a call girl and her stories were eventually turned into three books and a TV series, “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” .  She told the Sunday Times that she got into sex work to support her finishing her Ph.D. 

On her Belle de Jour blog,  Magnanti stated:

Anonymity had a purpose then – it will always have a reason to exist, for writers whose work is too damaging or too controversial to put their names on. But for me, it became important to acknowledge that aspect of my life and my personality to the world at large.

I am a woman. I lived in London. I was a call girl.

The people, the places, the actions and feelings are as true now as they were then, and I stand behind every word with pride. Thank you for reading and following my adventures.

Magnanti also reported that her university colleagues have been “amazingly kind and supportive”.  And the University of Bristol said her past was of no relevance to her university position.

Wow! Supportive colleagues and a supportive university administration.  Such would be a pipedream in the United States.

November 15, 2009 Posted by | prostitution, sex, sexual politics, University of Bristol | Leave a comment

UM prostitution case becomes fodder for anti-Semites

As more becomes known about the University of Michigan consensual prostitution case between UM Professor Yaron Z. Eliav and an anonymous UM law student, the uglier the case becomes.  And the ugliness has nothing to do with prostitution per se but how this situation is being employed by those wishing to promulgate an anti-Semitic agenda.

It turns out that Professor Eliav is a Jean and Samuel Frankel Associate Professor of Rabbinic Literature & Jewish History of Late Antiquity in the UM Department of Near Eastern Studies. 

And along with the fact that Eliav is from or has spent some time in Israel is enough for some anti-Semites (specifically the zionistout blog) to view the Eliav alleged attack on the anonymous sex worker as being reflective of Jewish Israeli attitudes toward Gentile women.

The zionistout blog appears to assume that Professor Eliav is an Orthodox Jew and they hold that Orthodox Jews are major promulgators of prostitution both in Israel and in various western countries.  For them Israel has become a major venue of international sex trafficking and sexual slavery of non-Jewsih women and consequently has withheld support for more stringent measures against international sex trafficking.

So now Professor Eliav has become a possible pawn in another attempt to employ a conspiracy of the genre of the Protocols of Elders of Zion to delegitimate the State Of Israel.

Of course caught in the middle of a fiasco that should have never happened is the University of Michigan.  The dankprofessor cannot speculate as to UM future actions other than that they will state that they can’t comment on personnel matters.  Of course, if prostitution was not illegal,
and it should not be illegal, then the Eliav case would be just another routine case of domestic violence, certainly not a case which would get national and international attention

And it also should be noted that the the zionistout blog assumes that the student sex worker is not Jewish.  How do they know that such is the case?  Of course, if she was Jewish their whole scenario about Jews in Israeli recruiting Gentile women into sexual slavery becomes an irrelevancy.

December 14, 2008 Posted by | anti-semitism, coercing women, consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Israel, prostitution, sex, sex offenders, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, University of Michigan | | Leave a comment

UM professor and student consensual prostitution

The Ann Arbor News reports that a University of Michigan Professor of Near Eastern Studies and a UM law student have both plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of using a computer to commit a crime.
 
Now the University of Michigan is investigating tenured Professor Yaron Eliev to determine if the professor paid the law student for sexual acts after meeting her online.
 
Both the professor and student were originally “charged with prostitution/accosting and solicitation, misdemeanors punishable by up to 93 days in jail.”
 
The encounter between the professor and the student came to the attention of the police when the student went to the police and reported she was assaulted by the professor after they met in a hotel room.

The student told police she was advertising sex acts online via Craigslist to help pay tuition costs. For an in-state student, U-M Law School tuition is $41,500 a year; out-of-state students pay $44,500.

The student told police she reluctantly agreed to allow Eliav to strike her buttocks with a belt, but got upset when he slapped her in the face twice, reports said. She said she suffered vision problems afterward, but did not have any lasting injuries.

The rarity of how the case began – with a law student showing up at the police department’s front desk to report she was assaulted while committing a crime herself – was not lost on investigators.

“Perhaps she should have cracked a legal textbook before coming in to the police station to talk about this,” Ann Arbor Detective Sgt. Richard Kinsey said.

Both she and Eliav told police they didn’t have intercourse, but engaged in other sex acts, and he paid her $300, according to police reports.

When he was interviewed by police, Eliav said he responded to the online ad because he was interested in experimenting sexually. He said he complied when she told him to stop certain activities and admitted to slapping her face, but said it was “like a game,” reports said.

Eliav also called the woman a willing participant and said they hugged at the end of the encounter, reports said.

It appears Eliav knew the woman was a law school student, but it not clear from the police reports whether he knew that going into the encounter. He told investigators the money he paid the woman was simply “a token,” and called her “a bored college student.”

The law school is also reviewing the matter, said UM spokesperson Kelly Cunningham, adding that student confidentiality rules prevent her from saying more.
Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steven Hiller said prosecutors didn’t charge Eliav with assault because they didn’t feel they could prove that crime.

“In order to prove a case of assault and battery, you have to prove (nonconsensual) physical contact beyond a reasonable doubt, and based on the circumstances, we did not feel we could prove that,” Hiller said.

Police reports also indicate the student admitted to arranging money-for-sex deals with about eight or nine men in April and May, saying she needed the money for tuition.

The student said she advertised online and got to her appointments using hourly rental cars available on campus through Zipcar, according to police reports.

This is a bizarre case but in part reflects the dominant university perspective that the privacy of a female student must always be protected in a sexually related case.  And the Ann Arbor News as well does not provide the identity of the student-prostitute.  Part of the bizarreness is that in cases involving prostitution the identity  of the prostitute becomes public but not that of the so-called john.  So it is fair to ask, why the Ann Arbor news protects the identity of the student-prostitute but not the john professor?

In any case, a key question is whether this case should fall under the purview of the University of Michigan.  The dankprofessor believes that such should not be the case if both parties did not use their university positions to facilitate the encounter.  However, the university can make their case for an investigation since the activities of the professor and student were criminal even though criminal charges are seldom brought against those involved in prostitution.  Note in the case of Eliot Spitzer, the call girl never faced a criminal charge.

So the university is operating in a rather gray area.  I do not think the university should be operating at all in this area since I do not think prostitution should be treated as a crime.  And, of course, if the university would find it very difficult to take any actions against this professor since he is tenured.  As to their taking actions against the student, the public will probably never know what the university does since she is shielded from being identified.

And the university cannot apply a consensual relationships policy to take actions against the professor since UM policy covers only situations where there is a supervisory relationship.

And regular dankprofessor blog readers should note that the University of New Mexico Linda Chavez case is of another genre since the off campus sex work of Professor Chavez was not illegal.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, prostitution, sex, sex work, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of Michigan | Leave a comment

Sex Week at Yale: What’s missing?

(The dankprofessor got his dates wrong. Actually, the Yale Sex Week this post deals with was held last February.  I guess I should read my google alerts more closely.  In any case, irrespective of my being dated, my criticisms are still valid.)

Sex Week at Yale starts on February 10 and there will be some excellent speakers and sessions.  Of course, there are sessions dealing with pornography since the Yale Sex Week is partially sponsored by the largest porn producer in the world vivid.com, but there is also a partial Christian sponsorship by xxxchurch.com  And, as to be expected the so-called Christian participation is minimal with participation only occurring on February 15 in the context of the debate on porn.

The director of the Sex Week at Yale Joseph Citarrella states:

There is no ideology behind Sex Week. Its mission is simple: present students with a range of perspectives about sexuality to get them talking, so that they can begin to reconcile serious issues of love, sex, and relationships in their lives. Let the discussion begin.

But the dankprofessor has some difficulty with the assertion of no ideology.  If there is no ideology, why are there no sessions and no speakers on gays and lesbians as well as bisexuals and the transgendered?  If ideology was not relevant to the exclusion or omission, then one might conclude that similar to Iran there are no gays at Yale.  And certainly the creators of this Yale Sex Week could have concluded that some Yale students might have an interest in gay marriage.  Possibly some of the sessions include matters relating to homosexuality, but such is not explicitly stated.  However, looking at the sessions on porn, it is quite clear that there is nothing on gay porn. 

Matters relating to homosexuality and gender reflected the most major exclusion, but there are other major exclusions- S & M completely omitted, nothing on prostitution and no mention of the the most prevalent sexual behavior at Yale- masturbation.  Certainly, pornography generally ends up being about masturbation, but the dreaded M word is infrequently mentioned.  Masturbation  appears to be cloaked at the Sex Week at Yale under the rubric of “pure romance”.

On the positive side for the dankprofessor, there is no required sexual harassment training component, and nothing about how consensual student professor relationship “always” harming the student and the university.  In fact, there is absolutely nothing about consent in the whole program; such does not represent a positive since the mixing of sex and alcohol I trust is commonplace at Yale.  And without any mention of consent there is, of course, nothing on rape.

The entire schedule for Sex Week at Yale can be seen by clicking here.

November 30, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, gay marriage, higher education, homosexual, masturbation, prostitution, rape, sadomasochism, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized, Yale University | Leave a comment

Eradication of prostitutes and prostitution predicted to occur within 20 years

David Levy, futurist and world renown for his work on artificial intelligence and robots sees a future without prostitution and human sex workers of any kind. Levy is predicting “that prostitution has only about another 20 years before robots take over.”Levy’s robotic vision is one where robots will have human appearing bodies, will be able to fully articulate in a compassionate and passionate manner and will be quite lovable. In order to get a more fully informed vision of Levy’s world, one must read his new book LOVE AND SEX WITH ROBOTS. I have not read it, but I have read about it and it is now on the top of the list of the dankprofessor’s must read books. My interest was peaked by the review which appeared in the Washington Post by Joe Achenback and posted on amazon.com.

Unquestionably Levy does suffer from grandiosity, the whole idea of bringing sex to artificial life seems to be a bit grandiose. Levy emphasizes that humans long for affection and tend to be affectionate toward those who offer it. And in this vision, robots can be programmed to love and facilitate being loved.

And as for sex, it will not be “…cold, mechanical sex that barely incites a feeble meep-meep-meep from your robot lover: No, we’re talking about real elbow-pads-and-helmets sex. Electrifying sex! (And afterward the robot will take a drag on a cigarette and say, “That really recharged my batteries.”) “Love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans,” Levy writes, “while the number of sexual acts and lovemaking positions commonly practiced between humans will be extended, as robots teach us more than is in all of the world’s published sex manuals combined.”

What was once a world populated by prostitutes, will in the future be a world of “”sexbots,” which would offer people a chance to practice their technique before entering a human relationship. “With a robot prostitute,” he writes, “the control of disease is implicit — simply remove the active parts and put them in the disinfecting machine.”

Quoting from the Washington Post review-

At this point you are likely holding up both hands with palms outward in the internationally recognized gesture meaning “Stop.” This sounds crazy. Clearly robots are not going to become plausible objects of sexual relationships, much less actual romance and genuine love, until they have a serious makeover. Human love isn’t so shallow that we’ll fall for the first machine with a nice pair of antennae.

But Levy’s thesis isn’t as silly as you might initially think. We are living in a period of revolutionary advances in computer software and processing speeds. The Japanese already have a multi-billion-dollar robot industry, including robots used to keep an eye on — and even bathe — the elderly. Sony has invented a robotic dog named AIBO. Honda has created an android that can climb stairs. Carnegie-Mellon University invented a robot, Grace, that managed to register by itself (herself?) for an academic conference. Meanwhile, researchers are experimenting with flexible polymers that can be used as artificial skin, an essential leap for the creation of robots you might actually want to cuddle. Most important, robots will have to learn to act like humans; one researcher, Levy reports, has designed robots that can exhibit 77 human behavior patterns.

The key is that these technological advances will someday be complemented by cultural changes, and cavorting with robots just won’t seem weird anymore. “It would not surprise me if a significant proportion of readers deride these ideas until my predictions have been proved correct,” Levy writes…”

Of course, much of contemporary life where sex is integrated into technology would have seemed utterly unreal, beyond comprehension as little as 200 years ago. How could one explain to someone one growing up in 1808 that one can “bring” a man and woman into ones house and could be seen having sex in ones house while they are actually in Europe or China and are beamed off an object in outer space into ones living room? I think you get my point. Such would be seen as representing some kind of lunacy, as being beyond creative imagination.

And technology, artificial as it is, is being used more and more throughout the world for sexual gratification, from vibrators, to adult dvds, to interactive sex on the computer, to sex in virtual life. And robot sex as predicted by Levy would helped to avoid an ultimate dread in the future, the dread of sex leading to reproduction. For in this futuristic world, one generation will not be replaced by another generation, but we will have the generation that will be considered the final generation, a generation with a taken for granted view that there can be life without death and aging with continuing health and beauty.

So in the dankprofessor’s opinion such does not represent other worldly thinking. However, it might very well take some mind boggling mental gymnastics to seriously engage Levy’s futuristic vision. Whatever kind of world we end up creating, it will most likely not be a world where people complain about being sex objects, or sexually objectifying others. Here “we” create “real” sex objects, both an object of desire and a desiring object.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 26, 2008 Posted by | futurist, prostitution, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexbots | Leave a comment

U of Chicago law and ethics prof Martha Nussbaum speaks out on prostitution and the Spitzer case

University of Chicago Law Professor Martha Nussbaum has published an interesting essay on societal attitudes toward prostitution and the Spitzer case. A succinct version of the essay appears below. The dankprofessor’s only quibble with Nussbaum is that she fails to recognize that many people, including myself, feel that the Spitzer resignation was appropriate since Spitzer was a zealous advocate of law reform in which the client or john is penalized for partaking in acts of prostitution. I call this dishonest, hypocritical and unethical. This is almost equivalent to “our” president Bush pre-election commitment to not taking part in overseas nation building. Of course, the dankprofessor would like to welcome Bush’s resignation, but would not look forward to welcoming Cheney as the “new” president.

Trading on America’s puritanical streak  Prostitution laws mean-spirited, penalize women

By Martha Nussbaum

Eliot Spitzer, one of the nation’s most gifted and dedicated
politicians, was hounded into resignation by a Puritanism and
mean-spiritedness that are quintessentially American.

My European colleagues (I write from an academic conference in
Belgium) have a hard time understanding what happened, but they know
that it is one of those things that could only happen in America,
where the topic of sex drives otherwise reasonable people insane. In
Germany and the Netherlands, prostitution is legal and regulated by
public health authorities. A man who did what Spitzer did would have a
lot to discuss with his wife and family, but he would have broken no
laws, and it would be laughable to accuse him of a betrayal of the
public trust. This is as it should be. If Spitzer broke any laws, they
were bad laws, laws that should never have existed.

Why are there laws against prostitution? All of us, with the exception
of the independently wealthy and the unemployed, take money for the
use of our body. Professors, factory workers, opera singers, sex
workers, doctors, legislators – all do things with parts of their
bodies for which others offer them a fee. Some people get good wages
and some do not; some have a relatively high degree of control over
their working conditions and some have little control; some have many
employment options and some have very few. And some are socially
stigmatized and some are not. However, the difference between the sex
worker and the professor – who takes money for the use of a
particularly intimate part of her body, namely her mind – is not the
difference between a “good woman” and a “bad woman.” It is, usually,
the difference between a prosperous well-educated woman and a poor
woman with few employment options.

The sliding stigma scale

Many types of bodily wage labor used to be socially stigmatized. In
the Middle Ages it was widely thought base to take money for the use
of one’s scholarly services. Adam Smith, in “The Wealth of Nations,”
tells us there are “some very agreeable and beautiful talents” that
are admirable so long as no pay is taken for them, “but of which the
exercise for the sake of gain is considered, whether from reason or
prejudice, as a sort of publick prostitution.” For this reason, he
continues, opera singers, actors and dancers must be paid an
“exorbitant” wage, to compensate them for the stigma involved in using
their talents “as the means of subsistence.” His discussion is
revealing for what it shows us about stigma. Today few professions are
more honored than that of opera singer; and yet only 200 years ago,
that public use of one’s body for pay was taken to be a kind of
prostitution.

Some of the stigma attached to opera singers was a general stigma
about wage labor. Wealthy elites have always preferred genteel
amateurism. But the fact that passion was being expressed publicly
with the body – particularly the female body – made singers, dancers
and actors nonrespectable in polite society until very recently. Now
they are respectable, but women who take money for sexual services are
still thought to be doing something that is not only nonrespectable
but so bad that it should remain illegal.

What should really trouble us about sex work? That it is sex that
these women do, with many customers, should not in and of itself
trouble us, from the point of view of legality, even if we personally
don’t share the woman’s values. Nonetheless, it is this one fact that
still-Puritan America finds utterly intolerable. (Note, however, that
we no longer allow a woman’s sexual history to be used in a rape trial
because we know that the fact that a woman may have had sex with many
men does not mean that she has become a debased character who cannot
be raped.)

Exploitation the sordid part

What should trouble us are things like this: The working conditions
for most women in sex work are extremely unhealthy. They are exploited
by pimps, and they enjoy little control over which clients they will
accept. Police harass them and extort sexual favors from them. Some of
these bad features (unhealthiness, little control) sex work shares
with other job options for low-income women, such as factory work of
many kinds. Other bad features (police extortion) are the natural
result of illegality itself.

In general we should be worried about poverty and lack of education.
We should be worried that women have too few decent employment options
and too little health and safety regulation in those that they do
have. And we should be worried if men force women to do things
sexually that they do not want to do. All these things are worth
worrying about, and it is these things that sensible nations do worry
about. But the idea that we ought to penalize women with few choices
by removing one of the ones they do have is grotesque, the
unmistakable fruit of the all-too-American thought that women who
choose to have sex with many men are tainted, vile things who must be
punished.

Spitzer’s offense was an offense against his family. It was not an
offense against the public. If he broke any laws, these are laws that
never should have existed and that have been repudiated by sensible
nations. The hue and cry that has ruined one of the nation’s most
committed political careers shows our country to itself in a very ugly
light.

• Martha Nussbaum is a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 19, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, prostitution, sex, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights | Leave a comment

Eliot Spitzer as anti-sex work crusader and as sex worker client

Eliot Spitzer has a track record of breaking up prostitution rings, and now his behavior has led to the breaking up of the prostitution ring in which he had an involvement. Some might very well argue that the anti-prostitution crusader ended up having a psychological meltdown with the consequence of not only punishing himself for behavior that he significantly helped to criminalize, but to punish as well those women who accompanied him on his crusade.

In 2004 Eliot Spitzer as the New York State Attorney General was involved in the attempt to break up an international sex tourism organization based in Queens. According to the New York Times, he began to listen “to the entreaties of women’s advocates long frustrated by state laws that fell short of dealing with a sex trade expanding rapidly across borders.” And it was at this point that he embraced the idea that in order to effectively combat prostitution one had to “go after the men who seek out prostitutes”. However, in order to engage in such combat in New York, there had to be significant changes in the law. Such proposed legal changes met with defeat.

“We had tremendous difficulty trying to get this law passed, year after year,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of Equality Now. “Our only hope was for Eliot Spitzer to be elected governor.”

“He understood,” she added. “He got it, unlike hundreds of other politicians and law enforcement officials that we talked to.”

She and Ms. Leidholdt said the governor put his muscle behind the legislation, detailing top aides to work with sponsors of piecemeal bills that had languished, to consult with a coalition of human rights and women’s groups, and to lobby labor unions whose support was won through provisions addressing the trafficking and exploitation of workers.

This legislation went into effect on November 1, 2007. According to Spitzer’s former aide, Ken Franzblau, Spitzer wholeheartedly supported the bill and in Franzblau’s terms, the reason that the bill was so important was that

“In fact, the demand is really the lower-hanging fruit,” he added. “The johns are really afraid of being caught. The idea is that if we get some real penalties, and get D.A.’s to insist on them, we really could create a deterrent to this.”

As for Taina Bien-Aimé present feelings about Eliot Spitzer, “He was our hero”.

Of course, it is hard to fathom the psychological dynamics of Eliot Spitzer. Was Spitzer a cynical political manipulator zealously campaigning against prostitution while in his private behavior supporting sex work and sex workers? Or did he start out as a crusading true believer and then possibly as a result of his involvement in anti-sex work prosecutions become converted to that of a sex work client?

If in some sense he was converted, the dankprofessor does not hold this to be surprising. Many persons engaging in various forms of the regulating of criminal behavior end up adopting the behaviors of those they are attempting to regulate. Bribery and various forms of theft is an occupational hazard of police work. Vice officers regulating prostitution often do not share the disdain held by the public toward prostitutes, and, in fact, it is not a rarity for police to engage in sex with prostitutes. Such can occur for what many would regard as more serious violations, such as in police becoming informants for hire or assassins for hire by the mob. And there have been notorious cases in the area of arson in which arson investigators end up engaging in investigations of the results of their own arsonous and often lethal behavior.

Whatever the Spitzer dynamic may have been, the result has been betrayal and pain for all too many persons- the anti-prostitution advocates he politically supported; the sex worker who he hired; his wife and family, and a myriad of others.

And the dankprofessor wishes to make it clear that he supports the rights of sex workers to do their sex work; the dankprofessor regards prostitution as a form of commercial consensual sex that the government should not have the right to prohibit. Sex worker groups have spoken out on the Spitzer matter and sex worker advocates based in New York have issued the following statement-

Desiree Alliance, http://www.desireealliance.org/-

WHAT ABOUT KRISTEN? New York Sex Worker Organizations Respond to Spitzer Scandal

…As sex worker advocates, we are concerned about the representation and fate of “Kristen” and sex workers who are being thrust into the spotlight because of the investigation into the Governor. We also share the widespread concern for Governor Spitzer’s family.

Sex worker organizations urge the press and the public to focus on the violation of sex workers rights and the need to change these laws and policies, rather than simply on the story of one individual who has purchased sexual services.

“Nobody is talking about the impact of this story on ‘Kristen’ and other women, men and trans people who are currently working in the sex industry,” Shakti Ziller of SWANK in NYC added, “Prostitutes disproportionately face punitive action after arrest as compared to clients. Whether or not she will face prison time, “Kristen” has been dragged into the spotlight and will be subjected to public humiliation. Shouldn’t the police emphasis be on catching perpetrators of violent crime and protecting sex workers – not exposing adults who are consenting to a transaction? All she did was try to make a living.”

Governor Spitzer took a lead role in developing the NY State Anti-Trafficking Law. Over the objections of advocates who worked directly with victims of human trafficking and with sex workers, Governor Spitzer pushed through penalty enhancements against clients of all sex workers. Sex worker advocates fought against such provisions because these policies drive people who need help further underground.

The press has picked up on the relationship that inter-state trafficking laws (under the Mann Act) have to this case. This connection illustrates a point that sex worker advocates have been making for a long time: Laws against inter-state transportation for the purposes of commercial sex are too often used for punishing people working as sex workers and those who work with and patronize them.

“The criminalization of prostitution breeds …hypocrisy and makes our politicians (and other public figures) vulnerable,” says Carol Leigh of Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA. “This vulnerability exists until our society recognizes that consensual sexual behavior is private and these private acts should no longer be criminalized.”

“Many of our clients are politicians, judges, lawyers and even police,” Monica S., 26 of Brooklyn said. “It’s odd that they spend so much effort putting us into jail, but then turn around and give us their money in exchange for sex. Why do they think they won’t get caught breaking the laws that they make?”

The commentary on Dealbreaker.com, a Wall-Street news site, says about Wall-street’s anti-Spitzer reaction to the ‘Client 9′ story: “‘There is a God’ was the first thought on Wall Street. The next thought is, ‘Please don’t let it be revealed that I’m Lucky Number 7.”

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 13, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, prostitution, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual politics | Leave a comment

Undergrad female students as sex workers

The Australian publication, THE SUNDAY AGE reports that “HUNDREDS of university students in Victoria have turned to prostitution to pay their way through higher education…Up to 40% of the female sex workers in Melbourne’s brothels are attending the city’s eight universities and other colleges.

Monetary issues appear to be the main motivation for Australian coeds to become sex workers. One 22 year old coed who has been working as a prostitute for 18 months stated- “In an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this work but it’s well paid and there’s no way I could afford to complete university and live out of home if I had any other part-time job.”

THE SUNDAY AGE contacted the managers of all Australian brothels; and nearly all of the managers estimated that 40 to 50% of their sex workers were full-time students.

Glen Barnes, general manager at Melbourne’s largest brothel, the Daily Planet, said that university students often made the best workers. He explained: “We’ve got nearly 200 girls on our books and I’d say at least 35% are students, and they’re nearly always a pleasure to deal with.

“Typically they’re very career-oriented and know exactly what they want to get out of the job. Going to uni is obviously getting more and more expensive, and for many who haven’t got wealthy parents, this is the best way to make ends meet. Most of the girls say it’s the rising costs of fees and being a student in an expensive city like Melbourne that is making them consider the sex industry.

“We’re happy to have them and try to provide an environment which supports them. That means that if it’s quiet and they’re not with a client we allow them to get out their laptops and study in a spare room.”

A spokeswoman for Top of the Town, another large brothel in the CBD, with about 90 girls on its books, said that girls from all backgrounds were involved.

“You really can’t generalise about the type of girl that will become a sex worker,” she said.

“We’ve got workers who went to the most prestigious schools in Melbourne and come from very affluent families. In their cases I think they’ve made the decision that they’d want to earn their own money rather than accepting handouts from their parents.

“We’ve also got girls who come from more disadvantaged situations, who can’t live at home while they study, or perhaps they don’t want to be a burden on their parents.

“By working in the sex industry they can earn a lot of money in a relatively short period of time.

“The shift work also means that it’s fairly easy for them to combine it with their studies.

“Brothels in Melbourne are very well run and offer a safe, clean environment and, after all, these ladies aren’t doing anything that’s illegal. Some people may object to it, but it really is very professional.”

The Top of the Town spokeswoman said one former sex worker had paid her way through a law degree by working one or two nights a week and, once qualified, had returned to the brothel to give legal advice to some of the girls.

“A lot of the time with students, the girls are very clear that they’ll only work while they’re studying,” the spokeswoman said. “Once they’ve got their degree or qualification that’s it, they’ll walk away.

“It’s not necessarily a choice for the rest of your life, just a way of paying your way until you get to where you want to go.”

In terms of the financial needs of university students living in Melbourne, “Statistics from the University of Melbourne show that rent and living expenses for those students who live in the city totals about $25,000 if living in university or shared accommodation in the city. This does not include tuition fees, which are deferred until after graduation. For a student living in a one-bedroom flat or studio, this cost can rise to more than $30,000.”

Apparently, universities are aware of this situation-

A spokeswoman for Monash University said: “Obviously these ladies are adults and are free to make their own choices about what work they want to enter into. However, we do have extensive services for those who are suffering money problems. Any student can visit our financial counsellors, who are available on all campuses.

“We also offer a wide range of grants, scholarships and bursaries, to those from financially challenged backgrounds.”

The dankprofessor notes that the article reported only on students employed as prostitutes in brothels. Other avenues for prostitution may have been via self-employment, advertising on the internet, employment as escorts as well as employment as escorts for the entertainment of clients of large corporations. Of course, female students may also be employed in other areas of sex work, such as strippers and as actors in pornography.

The article does fail to give any attention to male students who are employed in some capacity as sex workers.

So to date, the dankprofessor blog has reported on students employed as sex workers in France and Australia. Blog readers references to articles dealing with other countries, particularly the USA, will be most appreciated.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

March 4, 2008 Posted by | higher education, prostitution, sex, sex workers | 1 Comment

Undergrad students prostitute themselves to pay college fees

The British Guardian reported yesterday that a large number of French undergraduates have been engaging in prostitution to pay for their university fees and books.

 As reported in the Guardian:”A memoir by a 19-year-old language student and a book of interviews with undergraduate sex workers has shocked France, lifting the lid on a practice which appears to be increasingly common. A new study showed a large online market for student prostitutes, describing how male clients, who are often rich, married executives, advertise online for young, undergraduate “escorts” whom they prefer to street prostitutes. These clients pay on average €400 (£300) for a two hour meeting with a student, including sex and “time to talk”.

One student union estimated that 40,000 students are working as prostitutes. Others dispute that number, but the minister for higher education, Valérie Pécresse, acknowledged that the “phenomenon” was hard to quantify because of the taboo surrounding it. She said the government had not done enough to “concentrate efforts” on helping poor students juggle conventional part-time jobs.

Laura D, a 19-year-old student of Spanish and Italian, details in her memoir, Mes Chères Etudes, how she began working as a prostitute aged 18 when she could not afford her rent, books, or food, despite a part-time telesales job. Her parents – a nurse and a labourer earning just above the minimum wage – could not support her, but their jobs meant she did not qualify for aid.

Once, she asked a client for a laptop computer as payment. He brought one to their hotel meeting, but subjected her to violent sadism without her consent.

Eva Clouet, author of the book of interviews with student sex workers and clients, said those who had spoken out wanted a review of student aid, an increase in purpose-built student housing and the ability to combine normal part-time jobs with a university workload.”

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

January 22, 2008 Posted by | higher education, prostitution, sex, sex work, sex workers, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

   

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