Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And Just to Further Lower Expectations of Labourites, Liberals and Leftists in General ...

Check this out and see how much ground we've lost on that end of the political spectrum:

LONDON (AP) — The British government wants to make it illegal to pay for sex and is considering a plan to "name and shame" men who visit prostitutes — a move critics say would turn back the clock to Victorian times.

The sex trade is already heavily restricted in Britain, unlike in many of its European neighbors where prostitution and solicitation are tolerated in some form. Denmark has even decriminalized the business.

But Britain wants to go its own way, marking yet another foray into human foibles by a government many people call overly moralistic.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the son of a Presbyterian minister, has already backed a series of sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, called for tougher drug laws and scrapped plans for Britain's first Las Vegas-style casino.

Officials say there is also a need for a crackdown on prostitution.

"Basically, if it means fewer people are able to go out and pay for sex I think that would be a good thing," Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told The Guardian newspaper over the weekend, ahead of the government's announcement of the plan's details Wednesday.

Any changes will have to be approved by Parliament, where Brown's Labour Party has a 63-seat majority. Debate is expected next month.

The proposal would make paying for sex illegal and carry additional penalties for men who have sex with women forced into prostitution, the Home Office said. But it declined to give details on fines and other penalties before the formal announcement.

Men who frequent prostitutes could also be identified publicly, as they are in the London borough of Lambeth, where police send warning letters to the homes of drivers whose license plate numbers are caught on closed-circuit television picking up street walkers.

In addition, the plan would make it a criminal offense to pay for sex with a prostitute "controlled for another person's gain" and could bring rape charges against men who knowingly paid for sex with a woman forced to work as a prostitute.

Under current laws in England and Wales, it is illegal to loiter and sell sex on the streets or elsewhere in public. Keeping a brothel is unlawful, but a lone woman selling sex inside is not. Similarly, paying for sex is legal. But solicitation in public — commonly known as "curb crawling" — is not.

Some 80,000 prostitutes are estimated to be working in Britain, the same as during the Victorian Age — an era when a raft of laws were enacted in a vain effort to curb the flourishing sex trade. These days, cards advertising purported escort services and erotic sites on the Web are plastered inside the country's iconic red telephone booths.

Sex workers criticized the government's proposal. They said they might be put at greater risk if they had to ply their trade in remote neighborhoods or to work alone.

"The plan is puritanical," said Cari Mitchell, spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes.

"If they make solicitation illegal and start outing clients, men are going to be more nervous and women will be forced to make hasty decisions to survive economically. As Britain and the rest of the world face dire economic circumstances, the government should try to help women rather than make things harder."

Britain made global headlines in 2006 when a man murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich, about 70 miles northeast of London. Recent headlines, however, have focused on police raids on brothels where women from eastern Europe, Asia and Africa have been forced into the sex trade.

There is growing debate on whether a crackdown would lessen violence or cut down on human trafficking.

Scottish cities such as Edinburgh used to have "tolerance zones" where prostitutes were allowed to work freely.

But when the zones were scrapped in several cities years ago and curb crawling was made illegal, reported attacks on sex workers increased because prostitutes were forced to work in more isolated areas, according to the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project, which represents workers in the sex industry.

In the Pacific nation of New Zealand, where prostitution was decriminalized in 2003, sex workers said the change has given women greater legal protection.

"I do think it's extraordinary that the U.K. is considering such a dreadful turn," Catherine Healy, national coordinator for New Zealand's Prostitutes' Collective, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We know from a lot of research ... that sex workers in this country are feeling much safer, better protected."

The Home Office said the government's plan was put together after top officials visited Sweden, where selling sex is legal but paying for it is not. Norway plans to introduce similar legislation.

Prostitution also is illegal in Britain's closest neighbor, France, but it is largely tolerated in Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece.

The sex trade is legal in many parts of Germany. In Cologne, the first German city to introduce a prostitution tax, the government collected more than $1 million in revenue in 2006.

In London, sex workers expressed opposition to the government plan.

"We all support measures to protect prostitutes, but this isn't the way," said a 36-year-old prostitute in London who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the risk of prosecution.

In the United States, where prostitution is illegal except at a few brothels in Nevada, authorities have recently taken aim at cracking down on prostitution arranged over the Internet.

As part of Craigslist's agreement with attorneys general around the U.S., anyone who posts an "erotic services" ad will be required to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card, which would make it easier for authorities to track them down.


  1. Caroline mentioned some of the happenings in the UK. I knew Gordon Brown was a bit stiff from reading several articles on him in The Economist. Didn't know he was SO conservative.

  2. england really is doing a backwards time warp.

  3. Prostitution is legal everywhere in Germany, though apparently local authorities can deny licenses in certain cases, like apartment buildings with families or the like. I don't know the details unfortunately, I really should look it up.

  4. Real "Leftists" support decriminalization. In San Francisco, many leftist and truly progressive organizers worked for the passage of Prop k and many leftist and prgressive organizations endorsed and supported Prop K.

    As for liberals, well they seem to be working actively for criminlaization of sex workers, raising the banner of "liberation through incarceration." All the so-called rescue missions are led by liberals, who have no problem with sending ICE in, deporting immigrant workers (the rescue) and filling the jails with more poor women and women of color.

    Consider this a polite correction.

  5. And I might add that the the Labour Party in Great Britain has more than bent the definition of "leftist" during the Blair/Brown years; no surprise that they would move further to the Right and adopt the Fairley "Swedish Model on steriods" position.

    It appears that sexual expression has become the new means for liberals and "progressives" to reconcile themselves with the Right; to gain favor with the conservative elite and gain legitimacy with the right-leaning media.

    To Lisa: Though I'm more inclined to believe that "real leftists" do tend to be more favorable to sexual expression, in the case of Great Britain, I'm not so sure. George Galloway, who at one time was touted as one of the main leaders of an independent Left effort to outflank Labour from the Left (the RESPECT movement), is pretty damn conservative himself; he has openly stated his anti-abortion views, and he has been legendary for defending the socially conservative -- if not outright reactionary -- positions of fundamentalist Muslims (all in the name of "resisting American capitalist imperialism"). And there are plenty of putative Leftists (see the popular blogger LENIN"S TOMB for an example) who have openly stated their opposition to porn and prostitution based on both antipornfeminist and "working class protectionist" grounds.

    Maybe we as sex pozzies should go with the Eros Foundation in Australia's example and form a party of our own??


  6. Lisa,

    Much as I can appreciate a polite correction, I find the use of the term "real leftist" problematic. As Anthony, who is one, points out, there are plenty of bona fide leftists who support the rad-fem position on sex work and pornography. The left, here and abroad, has a long history of social prudery going back to Lenin's day. Check out the history regarding Emma Goldman, who was both a sex radical and communist revolutionary, and the roots of that prudery show pretty unattractively.

    As for liberals tacking to the right on these issues, I'm pretty sure you've got the direction wrong, which is not to defend them. They're often swayed by wrong-headed arguments from either side.

    But on sex work and porn the influence is coming from the Farley bunch, which is pretty evident from the sweaty embrace of liberal commentators like Bob Herbert and Don Hazen, who have bought into the rad-fem line pretty much completely. They're big admirers of Farley, Dines and Jensen and they represent what passes for mainstream liberal thinking on these issues.

    Now, if you're prepared to assert that rad-fems aren't really leftists at all, but rather as one of the challengers at the L.A. screening of TPoP described them, "neo-con feminists," then I think you've pretty much got it right. It's the leadership of that movement that has, while vociferously denying it, made common cause with the right, including in Farley's case, accepting "research" funding from the Bush administration.

    But in your haste to blame liberals for everything wrong here, I think you need to stop and look at those around you in the leftist community. Your immediate circle may have supported Prop. K, but the orthodoxy dictated by Farley and Co. undoubtedly prevailed among the majority of Bay Area leftists, who did not get behind the measure, as you must certainly know from your own experience with them. That's part of the reason the measure failed.

    Not all of the reason, but certainly part of it.

    However faddish rad-fem anti-sex-work views may have become among liberals, the plain truth is that until recently, liberals supported decrim and protection for sexually explicit speech. The change came about largely as a result of the guilt-mongering of rad-fems, not traditional conservatives. Social guilt is always a huge factor among liberals.

    If the left desires to regain lost supporters like myself and a few million others, including those who might have formed an effective anti-war movement under the outgoing administration, there will have to be an outright purge of rad-fems from leadership positions in leftist organizations and a repudiation of their retrogressive thinking by credible leftist intellectuals.

    Noting, however, that Noam Chomsky is one of the talking heads supporting the rad-fem position in TPoP, I don't feature any of that happening.

    Instead, I think liberals, led by what passes for current thinking on the left, will continue to support things like the so-called "Swedish Solution" and other anti-sex-work positions that clearly have their origins among a small by well-organized and relentless splinter faction of the left.

    Much as I like you personally and admire your work to counter this kind of thinking, for me it's the elephant in the room that keeps me, and millions like me, from regarding anything from that end of the political spectrum as suspect.

    Until the organized left rejects these alien ideologies and returns to supporting individual liberty, it will continue to exert a negative influence on progressive liberals of a certain stripe while alienating potential supporters like me.

    I've already abandoned the leftist beliefs of my younger years over this basic issue, and if liberalism trends the same way, I'll kick it to the curb next.

    Look for me to become as annoyed with the Obamites over this as I have been the Bush regime. From our perspective, it remains to be seen if there will be any change for the good.

    That said, let me offer a word or two in defense of Holding. He has resolutely opposed Bush on other civil liberties issues, including torture, illegal detention and other abuses under The Patriot Attack.

    It's just too bad that he and his kind pander to anti-sex-work extremists of both the right and the left, who I find largely indistinguishable.

    I hope you too will consider this a polite correction.

    Thanks for recognizing that elephant in the room and who put it there. Maybe you all can get together and herd it out, now that you have at least some opening through which to widen your base. Given the hard economic times brought on by unleashed capitalist greed, you may have your best shot since The Great Depression to become an important presence in the wider debate over what is to be done about a society unraveling as a consequence of that greed.

    That could happen in a failing economy under a new administration that at least tolerates some degree of political dissent.

    But it won't happen for as long as the visible faces of leftist feminism are Bob Jensen and Gail Dines. I'm not marching with people who call me a pimp, a trafficker, an abuser of women in sinister league with Larry Flynt and a paid agent of the patriarchy.

    It's them or me, and I represent very large numbers of people who really are looking for political alternatives. But those alternatives either respect our individual liberties or they won't really be alternatives, just more of the same under new banners.

    I hope this long-winded post clarifies the situation, but I don't expect any of the various dug-in combatants will change their positions over much of anything no matter who says what.

    Much is being made in the media over the battle for the "soul" of the Republican Party (as if it had one). Not much is yet being said about a similar battle going on for the hearts and minds of all elements of the tiny, shaky progressive coalition that's basically on life-support in this country. They're marginalized now, but they'll be more visible in the coming few years, and the line they take on porn and sex work will be of great concern to those here, even if those are regarded as tangential concerns of that coalition overall.

    They are not tangential concerns at all. They lie very close to the core of what it means to support individual freedom in many other matters, including reproductive choice, same-sex marriage and a host of other intersections of the personal and the political.

  7. I noticed in an article about this that the police estimate that 70% of the prostitutes in the UK are slaves, forced into it by traffickers.

    That seems shockingly high if true. While I'd agree that driving it further underground will just make things worse, I can understand the reasoning behind targeting the demand which drives that trafficking.

  8. It's not going to be that high. If it was then the gov wouldn't need to resort to the measures they do; cops would be tripping over trafficked women if that were the case. But they're not because the numbers are low and the women who have been trafficked get shafted when the police waste their time bothering consensual sex workers.

  9. Are you both scolding me? Hey,I am on your side!

    Just to be clear, Farley is neither a "leftist" or a "progressive." Neither is Jenson or Dines. Imagine my extreme discomfort and agitation, when you refered to them as part of my "leftist community." Not my community! And I used the term "real leftist" because Ernest, again you lumped us together when you used the term, "leftists in general." That is like saying "pornograghers in general", sort of but you get my drift.

    It is pretty simple, no leftist or progressive could take the position of law enforcement and the criminal justice system as the solution to the issues of prostitution and immigration. I mean, the way Fraley talks, you would think the police and ICE were fucking outreach workers.

    Farley, Jenson and Dines and D.A. Kamala Harris (I must add) are able to profit off the ignorance most folks have regarding the sex industry. Let's face it, despite how many cosumers we have, folks are still baffled by how it operates, really.

    By the way, Stalin overturned the law very unfortunately, but it was the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin (you brought up Lenin, Ernest) that decriminalized homosexuality following the revolution , for the very first time in human history.

    Emma Goldman was an anarchist and not a communist.

    Don't either of you scold me any more. I am too sensitive these days.

  10. The UK's Police figures of 70% are of women who are "controlled for another person's gain", such as pimps. Not of women who are trafficked.


  11. Jacqui Smith the Home Sec article.

    She has ruled out a universal ban on paid sex because some women argued they did it out of choice 'and it's not my job to criminalize the demand for that'she said.


  12. Lisa...I can't speak for Ernest, but I don't think that I was attempting to scold you at all; just offering a disclaimer.

    Ernest can tell you about the spirited exchanges we have had through the years over at Nina's old forum over the state of the Left and sexual expression.

    I would say that most folk who do call themselves "Leftist" do tend to support decriminalization and support free and consensual adult sexual expression and media on its own right, mostly because they have been the main victims of both right-wing and (on occasion) even "liberal" oriented censorship. On the other hand, though, there are certainly a majority of liberals who share the same view on matters of free speech and free expression; so let's not both jump to any conclusions concerning what really constitutes "liberal" or "Left" positions.

    On the other hand, though, it can't be denied that there are many self-identified liberals and Leftists who are taken with the antiporn/antiprostitution position for whatever reason (wanting to associate themselves with right-leaning culturally conservative working class elements; their own economic privilege; their own activism with the "Puritan Left"; et cetera, ad nauseum). It may be simply individual personalities such as Noam Chomsky or institutional media forces such as Don Hazen of AlterNet or the folks at Pacifica Radio playing to radicalfeminist mantras, but it would be impossible to deny that such a trend toward leftist Puritanism doesn't exist. It would be quite easy to deny them and blow them off as faux leftists (and I do that all the time myself), but unfortunately, I've personally felt too much of their their influence amongst left and liberal intelligensia to simply be blind to them.

    This is the very audience that agitprop that The Price of Pleasure is attempting to mine in both liberal AND leftist circies....and the fact that folk like Jensen and Dines do get a lot of attention and even some faint praise from that arena should cause alarm for those of us who are both Leftist and sexual liberationists/libertarians. We just can't assume anymore that merely calling one's self a "leftist" or a "progressive" will assure progressive outcomes; any more than we can assume that every Black or Brown persoon should be assumed by acclamation to be a fighting liberal who will simply support any and all initiatives. (See Proposition (H)8 or the defeat of Prop K in Frisco for what results from taking things too much for granted.)

    By the same token, however, it is just as wrong to conclude that just because the illusions of total support have been so broken, that means that we shouldn't do any work in trying to convince people of our legitimacy in the world as sex positive Leftists. Just because Black and Brown evangelicals did manage to cast a decisive vote to allow Prop. (H)8 to pass does NOT translate into demonizing every Black person or Brown person as a ruthless homophobe (any more than it would justify condemning every gay man or lesbian as a evil Klan-supporting racist due to the backlash and anger). And just because some proponents of restrictive and reactionary legislation happen to call themselves "liberals" and "leftists" does not mean that ALL Leftists (or even liberals) should be renounced and rejected as irrevokably anti-porn or sex-negative.

    Rather than just lash out in anger and hurt, it's better to take a step back, find out what the hell happened to cause what did happen, and then take the necessary steps in outreach to these communities to rebuild basic political support links that will rebridge the frayed ties.

    No scolding at all, Lisa...just some basic facts.


  13. Ernest says,"If the left desires to regain lost supporters like myself and a few million others, including those who might have formed an effective anti-war movement under the outgoing administration, there will have to be an outright purge of rad-fems from leadership positions in leftist organizations and a repudiation of their retrogressive thinking by credible leftist intellectuals."


    I belong to the most organized anti-war organization. In fact, the largest demostrations against the war and occupation have been where I have spent most of my last six years. Many of the activists of this anti-war organization, in fact, the engine behind it, the people who do most and all the hardest work, the activists who dedicate their entire lives, I say again, their entire lives, to end this war, to end racism, homophobia, the war on the poor oppressed and immigrant people. So I can say, with absolute confidence and authority, there are no rad-fems in my organization, no "arm chair" intellectuals, such as Chomsky and you would be safe, I assure you, just as I have been safe.

    Ernest, you admit you have been out of the movement for decades. Anthony, I don't know quite your story but jesus, you both have my email, you want to go to a"real leftist" meeting? Email me and I will hook you both up.

  14. Anthony,

    I agree with everything you have said and frankly, you really say what I wish I could say, if I was better at writing.

    Yes, yes and yes.

    We have so much work to do, on that we all agree.

    Thanks for getting back to me.


  15. Lisa,

    I'm truly sorry if I took a scolding tone with you of all people. You are on our side and you've proved it. And I'm on yours where your greater goals are concerned.

    I know that, despite everything, freedom-loving leftists still exist in this country. I find myself saddened that so few speak out as you do against beliefs you don't hold false-flagged with your banner.

    I don' t want to drift o/t to far on this, but there's a certain inter-generational tension among what are now three surviving generations of leftists. There are, as you say, many different kinds of leftists just as there are many different kinds of pornographers. Generalizations, including this one, are always suspect.

    I'm not sure I even know what authentic leftism looks like anymore, so you rightly call me out operating from, at best, second-hand information. I tend to read about the things that concern me directly and when those things overlap with things I read about American leftism, a lot of what I hear is not encouraging.

    This has nothing to do with you or your efforts on behalf of the exact opposite positions from the ones that trouble me. We know which side you're on and ask nothing more than what you've already given.

    It's the question of who may be on whose side at what Mr. Obama would call "a whole other pay grade" that worries me. I'd feel better about that if Nina could get on Fox News like Dines or on the NYT op-ed page like Farley.

    As you say, we all have a lot of work to do, and this will all have to take a number in the long line of repairs that will need making in the face of an unprecedented political catastrophe.

    And you're quite right about Emma Goldman. She was an anarchist. This is all family history for me and it's like forgetting whose great aunt was the sister of which great uncle.

    She did, however, have a hard time with the Bolsheviks, who may have momentarily legalized homosexuality, but were not generally known for their advocacy of free love.

    So, it's always useful to be reminded of what we have in common as well as what divides us. One of the great frustrations of the hour of watching TPoP, as Gram Ponante noted, was the awareness that we were all going out to vote for the same guy.

    Certainly not all of us did. The guy behind me is a for-real Libertarian and that's how he votes. But most of us probably figured something had to be done to prevent a continuation of the status quo and did what we could.

    I hope it worked, but I'm still very skeptical.

  16. Several months ago, when trying to get an endorsement for Prop K from one of the more progressive labor organizations, I was shocked that following our presentation, one of the woman organizers started regurgitating all the Farley propaganda. I almost climbed over the conference table and stangled her. We were invited there by an ally, a man who used to be my teacher in a labor studies program, who had the benifit of learning a lot about prostitution, simply because I was his student and wouldn't stop talking about it. Following the endorsement meeting we had coffee and he challenged my approach with the woman. He claimed I came after her like a bull and should have been "nicer", not winning her over with my anger. I responded that there was no "winning her over" and nothing makes me more angry than a person claiming to be progressive and than turning around and advocating for the arrest of prostitutes. He wanted me to meet with her and have a conversation with her again, outside of an organized meeting. I refused. There was no point I claimed. There is no talking to someone who takes the side of law enforcement, the criminal justice system and makes womens lives, especially women of color and immigrant women, more dangerous. As it turns out, this woman ended up endorsing the No on Prop K campaign and she was going to endorse the No on Prop K, wether I met with her or not. Shame on her. But she was only one person sitting at that table, the rest mostly voted eventually to endorse decriminalzation and following the meeting came up to us and appreciated the information. They knew absolutely nothing about the industry and they had never had the oppurtunity to meet an actual worker and former worker (which may or may not be true, if you know what I mean). Intervention by actual sex industry workers into this progressive organization proved to be successful overall. Otherwise, all they have to base their conclusions on is what the Farleys, Dines etc. have to say about us.

    A few months ago, following a meeting I was hanging out talking with some gay men, who had gone out to a gay night club the night before, where there were naked men dancing. Their position on gay men dancing for other gay men was different than their position of woman dancing for straight men because gay men dancing for eachother was a part of gay liberation. I am sort of simplifying the conversation but my reaction was swift, that what they were saying was, in part, sexist. Why could not woman dance out of sexual liberation also? I told them that I accept that many woman, including myself, did not do sex work out of liberation but out of economic survival, but that there are plenty of woman who do the work because that is their preference and whether they do it because they love it or do it because they have to pay their rent, does not mean that they should be held to any of the beliefs of the "anti's," that we are victims, that we are not capable of making our own choices, that men who seek out prostitutes, lap dances or watch pornograghy are all one thing, that we should be arrested to be protected, or censored to be protected etc, etc.

    In the end we all concluded that there is more that we don't know about our sexuality than we do and that many of our influences so far on how we feel about our sexuality have been mostly influenced by say, religion, whether we like to admit it or not or by bougeois family values.

    I have to admit that outside of my firm position on decriminalization and firm position against what I call "bougeois censorship" I also accept that many of my feelings toward the sex industry have a lot to do with my feelings for the men and women inside the industry itself, making it impossible for me to accept ANY of the Farley, Dines, Jenson conclusions and the knowing the dangers their work brings to my former co-workers/friends.

    I have rambled long enough. I guess my conclusion would be that we have to go outside and endure the bad weather and intervene with sunshine.

  17. One last comment in regards to Prop K. The reason Prop K failed may have had more to do with the wording of Prop K, specifically the reference to the SAGE Project, Inc. and the FOPP (First Offenders Prostitution Program). In my opinion, it should have been left out of the proposition because it opened the door for the No on Prop K to lie and say Prop K would cut all funding to programs for "prostituted women and girls." If Prop K had been written as straight decrim, the FOPP would have been cut any way, since it gets it's funding through the arrest of workers and clients. It just became too confusing for many voters but that is just my opinion.

    Also, contrary to No on Prop K's claim that the Yes on Prop K campaign was being funded by "pimps, traffickers and bosses in the adult entertainment industry" The No on Prop K campaign had spent four times as much money on campaigning than Yes on Prop K. The precincts where Yes On Prop K, was able to actually campaign, well, those precincts voted in the majority for decrim.

    It was close and it should be looked on as a victory, comsidering how many voters did get past all the "pimp" teen age girls and "trafficking" scare tactics.

    "Pimps" "Sex Slaves" "Women and Girls" (as if women and girls are the same thing) "Sex Traffick Victims" and my personal favorite "Pretty Woman" well, I am happy to not hear any of the above until come next election time.

    We will be back.

    Anthony and Ernest, have a good day!