Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

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

Defending academic freedom from the sexual Puritans

Reviewing the past academic year in terms of finding academics who became stars in opposing arbitrary and capricious repression of sexually related matters on campus, there are very few who attained star status.  The dankprofessor has given recognition to Deputy Provost Richard Holder of the University of New Mexico who was resolute in opposing campus faculty who wished to impose sanctions on English Professor Lisa Chavez for her after academic hours work as a phone sex worker and sm posing model.  However, I do not think that this matter has reached a final resolution and there may be more tests for the Deputy Provost as to how resolute he is in defending civil liberties in academe.

Unquestionably there was one shining academic star this past year- William & Mary president Gene Nichol.  Of course, I should refer to him as past president of William & Mary.  In part because of his opposition to the termination of the Sex Workers’ Art Show, he was relieved of his duties as president of William & Mary.

The Hook, a weekly newspaper out of Charlottesville, Va., has published an article which reviewed a number of recent cases in Virginia relating to sexual repression.  Following is their summary of what happened at William & Mary.

According to its website, the Sex Workers’ Art Show features performers who were once strippers, porn stars, and prostitutes who “offer a wide range of perspectives on sex work, from celebration of prostitutes’ rights and sex-positivity, to views from the darker sides of the industry.”

When Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-Williamsburg) first heard such a show would take place in her district, she dashed off an open letter to then-William & Mary president Gene Nichol, demanding that he step in to cancel the performance.

“Not only has this controversy brought considerable embarrassment to our community,” she wrote, “but in my estimation this will inflict damage to the dignity and decorum that the college enjoys.”

Nichol did ban any photography from the event, even by members of the media, but refused to drop the curtain on the performance. On the night of Monday, February 4, with William & Mary police waiting in the wings to arrest anyone violating the obscenity statute, the Sex Workers’ Art Show put on a censored version of their show, as per a contract negotiated by representatives of state Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

Still, the cries of outrage only seemed to grow. On Thursday, February 7, four potential appointees to the William & Mary board awaiting the General Assembly’s approval were brought before the House of Delegates’ Privileges and Elections Committee. They got an earful, according to media accounts.

“Quite frankly, members of this committee– and many more in the House– are not sure what to make of all these events,” said Del. Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania), the committee’s chair, “and how they advance the teaching, research, and public service mission of William & Mary.”

Five days later, Nichol offered his abrupt resignation, and issued this parting shot in a farewell e-mail to the William & Mary community:

“A committed, relentless, frequently untruthful, and vicious campaign– on the Internet and in the press– has been waged against me, my wife, and my daughters,” he wrote. “It has been joined, occasionally, by members of the Virginia House of Delegates– including last week’s steps by the Privileges and Elections Committee to effectively threaten Board appointees if I were not fired over decisions concerning the Wren Cross [which Nichol had decided to remove to make the College's oldest building more nondenominational] and the Sex Workers’ Art Show. That campaign has now been rendered successful. And those same voices will no doubt claim victory today.”

The rector of William & Mary’s board, and ultimately Nichol’s boss, is Michael Powell, a 1985 alum of the College and the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commissions, who famously levied a $550,000 fine– the largest in the agency’s history– against CBS for airing Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004.

In a statement on the day of Nichol’s resignation, Powell wrote, “the Board believed there were a number of problems that were keeping the College from reaching its full potential and concluded that those issues could not be effectively remedied without a change of leadership,” adding that, “It is critical to explain that this decision was not in any way based on ideology or any single public controversy. To suggest such a motivation for the Board is flatly wrong.”

Weeks after his resignation from the College’s presidency, Nichol left his faculty post at William & Mary’s law school for a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Law School, where he was once dean.

For his part, Whitehead believes it’s an indicator that William & Mary is out of step with the times.

“The university wants to exist in this ivy-covered world outside of reality,” he says. “This guy just seems like he’s stirred the pot, and that sex show was the death of him.”

With William & Mary being a state university, the controversy has not gone unnoticed by Governor Tim Kaine (D). While he did not act in any official capacity in the Nichol matter, he did tell the Hook in a Charlottesville visit last month that he’s skeptical of the reasons why the Board axed its president so soon.

“I don’t think the majority of people in Virginia feel the way that the Board felt with the issues that came up in the Nichol firing,” Kaine says. “But some people do, and it’s a matter of finding the right balance.”

The dankprofessor professes a lack of modesty in giving his kudos to Gene Nichol for his resolute defense of academic values and freedom.  He would not allow the sexual politics of Virginia and William & Mary to trump academic freedom for sexual Puritanism.    

—–
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 dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

 

 

 

May 5, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, art, ethics, higher education, sex, sex workers, sexual politics, University of New Mexico, William & Mary College | Leave a comment

Professor Lisa Chavez and higher hypocrisy education

The Albuquerque Journal reported today on the controversy surrounding University of New Mexico Professor of English Lisa Chavez.  On the whole, the Journal piece was primarily a rehashing of prior reports on the the controversy, but there was some unreported items and the major contribution of the Journal story was to provide their readers with additional insights into some of the leading players in this imbroglio.
 
As for a new item, the Journal reported that the identity of Professor Chavez online was Mistress Jade.  The fact that it took several months for any newsgathering source to discover this moniker provides further evidence to the dankprofessor that Chavez had made a concerted attempt to separate her professorial id from her sm performance id.  And an ad for the sm website “characterizes Mistress Jade as “a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students.”” Of course, such is a  frequent sm fantasy.  But as far as punishment goes, it is clear that several persons at UNM would like to punish Chavez in the real world for her acting out punishment scenarios in a fantasy world.
 
The prime would be real world punisher as previously reported is just resigned Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner.  For Warner the fact that UNM refuses to punish Chavez for “moolinghting as a phone sex worker” is beyond the pale.  She had expected UNM to take “swift action to protect the UNM learning environment”.  The only reason she could fathom for UNM not doing this, as is reported in the Journal, is that “UNM instead caved in to threats of litigation”.
 
As for the UNM administration response, they reject the idea that they had caved into anything; they simply see no evidence that that Chavez threatened the integrity of the learning process at UNM.
 
And Deputy Provost Richard Holder who has represented the UNM administration throughout the Chavez controversy is not exactly a laissez faire advocate when it comes to student professor relationships.
 
The one constant principle, Holder said, is that faculty shouldn’t be romantically involved with students enrolled in their classes. “And if such a relationship begins, we try to get the student out of the class and into another class if we know about it,” he said. He said the power inequity between faculty and their students creates too great a potential problem. 
 “If things are going well in the relationship, you could say that the faculty member is more likely to give a very good grade,” Holder said. “But the opposite occurs as often when people are breaking up. They might get an F in the class and not deserve it. It works both ways, and it’s just better not to have that sort of relationship.” 
Holder said in Chávez’s case, there was not a romantic relationship with the student. 
   
Of course Holder’s views are utter poppycock when it comes to student professor romantic relationships.  He cannot present a scintilla of evidence that professors grade the romantically involved in any way differently then they grade the non-romantically involved.  What he believes without any evidence for said belief should not be considered a justification for taking a student out of class and forcing her/his transfer to another class.  Such represents what Holder characterizes as a power inequity, but here it is the university administrator with the power over both student and professor.
 
Holder goes on to state that in the present Chavez case and the student who preformed with her, both the student and professor were adults and their behavior “didn’t seem to impinge on the classroom.”  Yes, Holder apparently got it right in this case, but he doesn’t seem to be aware that this rationale would be the same rationale for not intervening in student professor romantic relationships unless the evidence showed that said relationship impinged on the classroom.
Yes, act based on the evidence which was applied in the Chavez case but then do not turn around and act on what one believes to have happened, and hold as Holder holds in student professor romantic relationships that one can and should act without an investigation of the facts of the case.
 
But for Professor Warner it becomes irrelevant what Deputy Provost Holder’s investigation found since she believes that “faculty members must maintain their objectivity, whatever it takes.” No need for Deputy Holder to investigate since Warner knows that their could not be objectivity in Chavez’s class.
 
However, the Journal went on to report that many of the UNM English faculty who are critical of Professor Chavez do socialize with students. As reported by one faculty member, “colleagues invite graduate students to their homes for end-of-semester parties and other gatherings. “But the faculty member said “faculty members should respect appropriate boundaries””. 
 
Now in the dankprofessor’s opinion this ‘I socialize with students’ smacks of that now dreaded word “elitism”.  Yes, I will drink with students at the appropriate time and place; reminds me of Hillary guzzling beers at the appropriate time and place which supposedly functioned to shed her elitist performance face.
 
And then last but not least the Journal cites another Chavez colleague, Diane Thiel, who indicated what disturbed her the most “was that the student who posed with Chávez was enrolled in her pedagogy class at the time”.  “The point of the class is to cover such things as teaching ethics,” she said.
 
Bless the ethics teaching professors since they know in some ultimate sense what is ethical versus unethical.  And the student who does not internalize ethics from above has ethically strayed.  So much for independent critical thinking. So much for objectivity in the classroom; you believe in what I believe and you are a good student. Hypocrisy is existent throughout our society but it utterly knows no bounds in the land of higher hypocrisy education.
—–
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 dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008
 
  

April 20, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, student professor dating, University of New Mexico | 1 Comment

Sexual crusade likely at the University of New Mexico

Once again Elizabeth Wood of sexinthepublicsquare.com has performed a great service in facilitating student Liz Derrington writing about her relationship with Professor Lisa Chavez.  

As Liz indicates in her essay, which is excerpted below and can be read in its entirely by clicking here, she never had any kind of sexual relationship with Professor Chavez; they had a  relationship first as co-workers and then as friends.  As for the pictures of herself and Lisa Chavez, Liz indicates that the

the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it’s not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it’s a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division.

Whatever the relationship that Liz and Lisa had, it was not a sexual relationship, and that their relationship in no way impacted on Professor Chavez’s fitness to teach.  In what I consider to be a key passage in her essay, Liz states-

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Such is key to understanding the utter hypocrisy of persons attacking Professor Chavez, particularly Creative Writing Director Sharon Warner. Warner, et. al., have cloaked themselves in a garb of being committed to protecting students.  But as we see here such a cloaking is quite transparent.  Professors of this genre simply use students to promulgate their agenda aimed at stigmatizing and punishing professors they consider to be deviant.  The reality is that the student becomes an invisible, non-person.  Students only become visible when they are robotic in the sense of affirming everything the sexually crusading professors have said.

Complicating matters in this case is that both Lisa Chavez and Liz Derrington have become for too many effectively sexually objectified.  No matter what they say or do, they will be interpreted in sexual terms.  Or to put it in other terms, people who are sex workers, people who are phone sex workers,  are seen by the man in the street or by unthinking professors as being totally defined by the sex in sex worker.  Professor Chavez’s status as a professor is trumped for them by her sex worker status.  She and student Liz are mediated thru sexually tinged lenses. They become “prisoners” of the labels put upon them. For persons adhering to this framework, the idea of a person being a professor and a sex worker is an impossibility.  For them, the fact that the UNM VP welcomes Lisa Chavez back to the university is simply intolerable.

Persons such as Professor Warner feel morally violated and they will deal with the pain of their violation by embarking on a sexual crusade.  And if enough people are recruited to becoming part of this campaign, no one will be safe, not VP Holder, not the Chair of the Department of English, not any faculty member who publicly supports Professor Chavez and certainly not Liz Derrington, unless she disavows her friendship with Professor Chavez.

I am not engaging in any hysterical thinking here; I am basing this on what I have seen occur on university campuses and beyond over and over again.  I can’t definitively say what will be the outcome at the University of New Mexico since I do not have enough familiarity with the political and “moral” climate at the university and its environs.  I will be surprised if we do not see in the near future New Mexico state legislators involved in this imbroglio with threats of financial retribution being directed toward the university. 

My advice to persons at UNM who are concerned with civil liberties and academic freedom at UNM is too hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  And don’t engage in pipedreams about good and decent academics who will not do nasty things; engage in knowing ones enemy and fighting for values that would be unthinkable to abandon, such abandonment could put university life in the hands of moral absolutists.  Most immediately publicly support the UNM administration.

As indicated, here are the excerpts from the Derrington essay-

I am the graduate student referred to in the Sex in the Public Square post from April 4, entitled “Lisa Chavez speaks out.” I wanted to take some time to do some speaking out myself, as I have not done so before now aside from during the official investigation.

I began working for PEP in February 2007. Lisa Chávez and I began taking calls at the same time, but that was entirely a coincidence. I was taking a class with her that semester; it was an elective for me that I opted to take partly because I thought I would learn a lot and it would look good on my CV, but also because I had a great deal of respect for Professor Chávez as a writer and had heard good things about her as a teacher. As was the case with many of my professors in graduate school, I was able to be friends with Professor Chávez outside the classroom while still respecting her authority in the classroom. We never discussed our phone sex work in class, nor did we discuss class during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in. As Elizabeth has pointed out, the pictures we took during the two or three photo shoots we engaged in were entirely staged. Professor Chávez and I were playing characters, essentially: we worked under pseudonyms, along with assumed personas. As Professor Chávez has said in the past, it’s not like our photos bore captions with our real names and explanations of our connection to UNM, so I think it’s a stretch to say our work for PEP could be construed as damaging to the reputation of UNM, the English department, or the Creative Writing division…

As Lisa said, though, in July an “anonymous” letter arrived in the English department, “outing” Professor Chávez as a PSO. My understanding — Professor Chávez is the only one who has both seen the letter and talked to me about it — is that the letter contained photos from the website, some of which included me. Or it might be that the letter referred to the website, and upon viewing the website, other professors recognized me as well as Professor Chávez. At any rate, it came out that the two of us, along with a student who’d graduated in May 2006, were working for this company. At first it seemed like UNM’s lawyers didn’t see anything wrong with Professor Chávez participating in PEP activities with an adult graduate student, but by the fall an official investigation was underway.

People were ostensibly concerned for me. They wanted to make sure I hadn’t been coerced into working for PEP, hadn’t been recruited via the University, that my grades hadn’t been contingent on my work for PEP, that I didn’t feel like I’d been harassed or made uncomfortable, etc. Honestly, though, at this point I have a hard time believing that they want Professor Chávez to be punished, or at least for further investigations or reviews to be made, because they’re concerned for students. One reason for my skepticism is that the official investigation was thorough. As the Daily Lobo article points out, the Deputy Provost found that “the graduate students involved ‘reported their activities were consensual, and all disclaimed any recruitment, solicitation or coercion.'” And yet the anti-Professor Chávez contingent continues to call for her head.

Another, more pointed (for me) reason for my skepticism is the fact that once word of my involvement with PEP (not to mention the photos) began to spread, many of the professors in the department began to shun me. Most notably, my dissertation advisor at the time refused to work with me anymore, meaning I had to switch advisors less than three months before my dissertation defense. That same professor also told more than one other person that she felt she ought to contact the university where I now work — I had the job lined up last semester — to tell them that I’m not morally fit to teach. I hadn’t intended to continue doing phone sex work once I started teaching anyway (largely because I found it mentally and emotionally draining), but I ended up having to quit several months sooner than I’d planned because I began to have panic attacks anytime the phone rang — I was afraid it was someone from the English department calling to check up on me, to accuse me further of engaging in immorality. My credit card balances still show the damage that quitting before I had another job available did to my finances. I sank into depression, not because of anything Professor Chávez did — indeed, she has never been anything but supportive of me, professionally and personally — but because I felt betrayed and abandoned by a number of other people in the department whom I had trusted and respected.

Again, many of those people are the ones claiming that their objection to Professor Chávez being called fit to teach comes from a concern for students, but none of them ever asked me what happened; they simply stopped speaking to me.

Furthermore, word reached me at one point that I was being blatantly slandered within the department, that people were being told that Professor Chávez and I were engaging in a sexual relationship, and that we were also engaging in prostitution. PEP does offer in-person domination sessions, and while I appreciate that such sessions tread a very fine legal line as they are sexual in nature without involving actual sex, the fact of the matter is that Professor Chávez and I never participated in such sessions; the work we did was strictly over the phone. I hired an attorney once the official investigation was underway, because I feared being slandered further, and I felt that the English department was doing a poor job of representing my interests. In the end, the only evidence I had of the slander was hearsay, and so I didn’t take legal action, but I felt a great deal of hostility directed at me within the department, particularly on the part of many of the same people who would like to see Professor Chávez punished further, if not fired…

I graduated in December, and am now working as an adjunct instructor. I want to focus now on my teaching and writing, on trying to establish my career, but this scandal continues to occupy my thoughts, and not just because I consider Professor Chávez a good friend and it upsets me to see her being treated the way she’s being treated. I still have concerns about my professional future: I know that there are a number of faculty members at the University of New Mexico who would give me a strong recommendation if asked. However, I also fear that there are faculty members who, if asked about me, would give me a negative evaluation based not on the work I actually did at UNM, but on their disapproval of my work as a phone sex operator. I dislike feeling like I have to keep looking over my shoulder, so to speak, every time I put UNM down as a former employer. I’m not foolish enough to put the professors who have clear objections to my behavior down as references, but my fear is that if another department were to take it upon themselves to do an exceptionally thorough background check on me, the aforementioned professors would be all too willing to bring up subjects that would be inappropriate in that context. My hope is that by speaking out, I will, if nothing else, be able to control the narrative being told about me, at least to a certain extent.

—–
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 dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

 

 

April 6, 2008 Posted by | academic freedom, consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, lisa chavez, sadomasochism, sex, sex work, sex workers, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of New Mexico | 3 Comments

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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