Notes and Comment Blog

A quintessentially female experience

Aug 16th, 2015 7:49 am | By

Lane Florsheim on What Happens When Trans Women Lose Their Male Privilege.

Two months after she transitioned to female, Deirdre McCloskey found herself having a quintessentially female experience. She was chatting with fellow economics professors at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, all of whom happened to be men. She was attempting to make an argument, but no one seemed to be listening. A few minutes later, a male professor articulated the same idea. “What a great point, George!” others exclaimed.

Welcome to the wonderful world of being female.

“A lot of trans women are aware that there is male privilege before we transition–that women are not treated with as much respect as men,” says Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. “But there’s a big difference between knowing privilege exists and the literal experience of losing it.”

And there’s a big difference between having privilege and losing it.

The transgender women we spoke with cited a litany of new challenges on the other side of their transition, which will be painfully familiar to the cisgender women reading it: getting talked down to, getting talked over, getting catcalled in the street, getting dismissed in the workplace, and so on.

Dear “and so on.” It covers so much.

With their unique perspective of gender relations, some in the trans community actually find themselves sympathizing with men. “I think there’s a lot of what I’d call female privilege, too,” Dr. Bowers adds. “A man is never trusted like a woman is trusted: by strangers, children. When men deal with each other, there’s a certain distance they keep. There’s a sisterhood and a safety among women, and it’s a very helpful feeling.”

I think that’s true. One thing I’ve gotten from puzzling about gender and how I experience it and whether I would have been or considered being trans if the option had been as visible when I was a child in the 19th century as it is now – one thing I’ve gotten from that is a sharper awareness that I wouldn’t want to be a man. I could put it “I wouldn’t want to be a man either” because I don’t exactly want to be a woman (either) – but anyway, it doesn’t appeal, and what Bowers says makes sense to me. The idea of choosing to be a man feels to me a bit like choosing to be Charles Windsor – like signing up to a whole lot of duty and responsibility you don’t particularly want. That thought has caused me to sympathize with men more, however odd that may sound.

It would seem that the key to all this lies in a less rigid gender binary. Being male doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of trust. Being female doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of speaking. “I’ve had people say to me, ‘You shouldn’t be reinforcing traditional gender roles that hold women back. Why are you encouraging a ‘feminine’ response to certain things?'” says Dr. Bowers. “But the point is that womanhood should be able to express itself in every possible way, not just the pre-defined ways. I think if there were more expressions of what it means to be a woman—in all its forms—the world would be a better place.”

And so should manhood. The whole thing should be much more various and less predictable, so that all the attempts at policing would just become meaningless. “Man up” would stop being a phrase, and “cunt” would stop being the ultimate pejorative. That would be good.

What we must necessarily give up

Aug 15th, 2015 5:43 pm | By
What we must necessarily give up

Do I agree that people who want to be allies of marginalized groups “must necessarily give up some of their cherished right to self-expression, recognizing that some thoughts, even valuable ones, may not be worth expressing in a particular way if that would needlessly cause pain to others”?

No, I don’t. Not put that way at least. But then it’s inconsistent – it’s “must necessarily” at the beginning but then “may not be worth expressing” at the end. It’s definite at the beginning but then has three hedges in a row at the end – may not, in a particular way, if that would. The “must necessarily” gets modified almost as soon as it appears. But hedged or not, I don’t agree with the claim.

Mind you, it isn’t simply a matter of “their cherished right to self-expression,” which is a rather sadly dismissive way of putting it for a writer. I’m pretty sure I’ve never once talked about my cherished right to self-expression, or my right to self-expression at all. That’s not what I’m after, it’s not what I’m interested in, it’s not what I do. Fuck self-expression, frankly. It’s on the same shelf with self-indulgent and self-admiring.

No, this isn’t about me “expressing” my precious self. Who gives a rat’s ass about my precious self? I don’t, so certainly no one else is going to. I think selves are overrated. (That’s not the same as saying I have no ego. Sure I do. But that’s a different thing.)

No, what I’m after is understanding, which tends to be aided by discussion. I want to understand the issues around trans activism, and what is meant by various slogans and claims. I want to write about my questions on my blog. Do I agree that I “must necessarily” give up some of that if I want to be an ally to trans people? No. No, I don’t agree that I must give up asking serious questions on a minor blog. I would agree that I shouldn’t say hateful shit about marginalized groups on my blog; I would agree that no one should do that, including me. But trying to figure out the discourse? I don’t think that should be off-limits – I don’t think it should be a third rail or a “mine field” or anything else we should be afraid to approach.

We’re talking about politics here. What good is a politics that you’re not allowed to discuss? What good is a politics that triggers epic freakouts over minor differences? What good is a politics that silences its own demographic?

Basic human needs

Aug 15th, 2015 4:24 pm | By

Another contradiction in the Amnesty / free market position on prostitution, besides the one between “sex should be enthusiastically consensual” and “sex work is a job like any other job” position, is that between intimacy and rape.

That is…Amnesty said in an early position paper that sex is a basic human need, and at least some fans of the “let the market in sex be free” position endorse that claim. Critics point out the need can be met without requiring the help of another human being, and proponents say no it can’t, because the need isn’t just for orgasm, it’s for intimacy.

But if the crucial aspect of sex is intimacy, how do you account for the pervasiveness of rape as an act of war? How do you account for the IS men who rape “infidels” in the form of Yazidi girls on the grounds that they are polytheists and thus unbelievers and thus fair game? How do you account for the way violence is so close to sex in much porn? Brain circuitry, people explained last time I asked that question, and it makes sense – in the brain sex and violence are tightly linked. Ok, but then where does intimacy come in? That is, where does it come in as an inherent part of the “basic human need”? Where does it come in in such a way that men have a basic human need to use women for sex?

Again reviewing

Aug 15th, 2015 11:03 am | By

Breaking news on Raif Badawi:

Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court is again reviewing the case of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, raising the possibility that his draconian sentence may be reduced, his family has told The Independent.

Mr Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar said she had been informed of the development by a senior source in the Saudi Ministry of Justice. The blogger’s family said they were hopeful that the move by the kingdom’s highest court is a “good signal” that his sentence is under reconsideration.

Ms Haidar added that the news was “clouded with secrecy and ambiguity” and that she was still extremely worried for her husband’s welfare. “I do hope that it will be a beginning to correct the course of Raif’s case – I repeat, I am hoping,” she said.

“I cannot say that this is good news, just that I hope it is a good sign. I expect that the flogging could still happen at any time, especially as the court could confirm the verdict then return for more deliberation, and all of this is done in complete secrecy. We do not know even on what basis the court is making its decisions.”

You know how they are. They could come back with a worse sentence, just to tell the pesky rest of the world how devout and sadistic they are. But we can hope they’re more keen to make the whole thing go away. (It won’t. We’ll move on to the next case.)


I don’t recognize the right of the committee to ask me these kinda questions

Aug 15th, 2015 10:35 am | By

Now here’s a movie I want to see. Judging by the trailer it’s all about the Hollywood Ten (specifically Dalton Trumbo) and HUAC and the blacklist. That’s a fascinating subject. If you want to read up on it, Eric Bentley has an excellent collection of extracts from HUAC hearings, Thirty Years of Treason.

One of Dalton Trumbo’s lines from the trailer:

Many questions can be answered ‘yes or no’ only by a moron or a slave.

Some background:

After the Second World War, as tensions began to simmer between both the United States and Soviet Union and the Hollywood studios and unions like the Screen Writers Guild, the House Committee on Un-American Activities turned its eyes towards the entertainment industry, suspecting communist infiltration and propaganda. In October 1947, HUAC opened hearings on the matter, interviewing writers, directors, actors, executives and others in order to find evidence of communist subversion. Most famous among these individuals were ten who refused to confirm their involvement in the Communist Party. The Hollywood Ten, as they became known, were cited for contempt of Congress and served prison time. Others suspected of communist sympathies were denied work by the studios, forcing them to work under fronts or pseudonyms. Others, whether for political reasons or out of reluctance to lose their jobs, cooperated, naming more individuals for HUAC to question.

One of those was Elia Kazan. On the Waterfront – one of the great movies of all time – can be read as an allegory defending Kazan’s naming names for HUAC.

One of the ten was Herbert Biberman, who later made the unabashedly leftist movie Salt of the Earth, which is both a joy and a joke, full of clunky agitprop lines. John Sayles jokes about it in his first movie, Return of the Secaucus Seven. (Are we at enough levels of meta yet?) An article by Steve Boisson  originally published in the February 2002 issue of American History Magazine gives lashings of background.

When director Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront opened in 1954, critics and audiences hailed the gritty movie about Hoboken dockworkers and applauded Marlon Brando’s performance as the ex-boxer who ‘coulda been a contender.’ At the next Academy Awards ceremony, On the Waterfront won Oscars for best film, best director, best actor, and best supporting actress.

Another movie about beleaguered workers opened to quite a different reception that same year. Like Kazan’s film, Salt of the Earth was based on an actual situation, in this case a mining strike in New Mexico. Both movies were shot on location with the participation of those who had lived the real stories. And both movies shared a history in the Hollywood blacklist. There the similarities ended. Kazan and his writer, Budd Schulberg, had both named names — identified movie people they said were Communists — when questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Some saw their movie, in which Brando’s character testifies against the racketeers who run the docks, as an allegory in support of informing. The people behind Salt, in contrast, were unrepentant blacklistees whose leftist political affiliations derailed their careers during the Red scares of the 1950s. On the Waterfront was a hit and is remembered as a classic film. The makers of Salt of the Earth struggled to find theater owners willing to show their incendiary movie.

One more level of meta – Woody Allen starred in a 1976 movie about the blacklist, The Front.

Because of the blacklist, a number of artists, writers, directors and others were rendered unemployable, having been accused of subversive political activities in support of Communism or of being Communists themselves.

Several people involved in the making of the film – screenwriter Bernstein, director Ritt, and actors Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, and Lloyd Gough – had themselves been blacklisted. (The name of each in the closing credits is followed by “Blacklisted 19–” and the relevant year.) Bernstein was listed after being named in the Red Channels journal that identified alleged Communists andCommunist sympathizers.

I haven’t seen it since it came out but I remember it as pretty good.

Here’s the last minute of the movie:

Discussions of enthusiastic consent are about the sex that young, middle-class white people have

Aug 15th, 2015 9:41 am | By

Is the claim that sex should always be consensual compatible with the claim that sex work is just a job like any other job? A blogger asks.

One could write a book on the contradictions inherent in the pro-prostitution stance – Janice Raymond did just that – but there may be no single greater inconsistency than the dual love liberals have for both paid sex and the notion of “enthusiastic consent.”

Most jobs don’t build in claims about the need for consent, because that’s the nature of jobs. Jobs are about being paid to do something someone else wants done.

Sexual encounters should be given the go-ahead with more than just a nod of agreement or shrug of the shoulders, and given that women so often provide even less than that, only to be fucked regardless, the responsibility to ensure equal interest and excitement falls specifically with the men who have traditionally ignored it.

How odd it is, then, to see this admirable focus on coercion-free, desire-driven sexual interaction so often championed by those who defend in the same breath a view of prostitution as free and consensual. Websites like Feministing, Jezebel, and others are strong proponents of both, as were the men and women of the queer community in which I spent my late teenage years. I would wager that most advocates of the “sex work is work” perspective would, if asked, praise the model of enthusiastic consent – even though, of course, the two positions are completely incompatible.

I’m not sure they’re completely incompatible. It’s possible at least in theory for someone to love sex work so much that consent just isn’t an issue, no matter how abusive the other party or parties, no matter how many hours the work is extended (remember that “all you can fuck” offer in the Berlin “Airport Pussy”). But they are in tension, at least.

The explanation for this wild divergence rests, like most contradictions, with the blindness of privilege. Discussions of affirmative, enthusiastic consent revolve around the sex that young, middle-class white people have, and the gulf between intimacy and violence is reserved for them and them alone. Other women – like, say, the millions who languish in prostitution without the luck of whiteness, wealth, or youth – aren’t so lucky.

For consent to have any meaning whatsoever, it must be enthusiastic. That such a tautology is needed at all reflects the low value masculine eroticism places on female comfort and safety, much less pleasure. But certainly the “enthusiasm” we aim for should come from anticipation, affection, and a sense of security and warmth – not simply the promise of relief from hunger and homelessness, purchased at the price of the body.

Or you could just shrug and say it’s no worse than working in a copper mine or a slaughterhouse. But I don’t think that’s a standard the left should be aiming for.

I am a woman, not a test mouse

Aug 15th, 2015 9:10 am | By

Courtesy of Josh Spokes, Saunders and French read an interview that a Hungarian newspaper did with Madonna, which involved multiple levels of translation. Have paper towels at your side.

Don’t you have any where you look like a girl?

Aug 15th, 2015 8:52 am | By

I want to draw attention to something Pieter B said in a comment, because the situation he describes is so…frustrating, pervasive, infuriating…

I used to have a photo studio, and since I’m in Los Angeles I did a lot of shoots with actors and models. One day a stuntwoman who was trying to move into acting came to me with her portfolio, and said an agent who’d been interested in representing her had looked at her photos and asked “Don’t you have any where you look like a girl?”

She was a trained athlete, and in all her photos she was tall and proud and looked physically capable. Personally, I find that quite attractive, but then I’m not a typical guy. So we did a lot of shots and I had to keep reminding her to “relax the shoulders, relax the shoulders.” I made her “look like a girl,” but I’d much rather have celebrated the fact that she was a woman who could kick ass and take names.

I suppose we can take an optimistic view and say that she was broadening her potential range, as opposed to narrowing it. Maybe the agent wanted girly photos in addition to athlete ones rather than instead of. Maybe. But I doubt that men get told to include photos of themselves looking smaller and weaker. It would be nice  if “like a girl” were not equated with “less athletic and powerful.”


There is also class

Aug 14th, 2015 4:15 pm | By

I’ve been thinking about identity politics, aka privilege, aka intersectionality. Not really aka but they’re all talking about much the same thing – kinds of people who are treated badly in some way because they belong to that “kind”…aka because they have that identity.

I have mixed thoughts about it, as I do on so many things. (This isn’t allowed, I can’t help noticing. You’re not allowed to see what The Enemy is getting at, you have to spit at it and stamp on it, instead. The ensuing conversation tends to be rather thin and drab for my taste.) I get why identity politics can get tedious, and indeed grating. But – the fact remains that people are treated badly because they have particular disfavored identities.

It’s odd though that identity politics tends to neglect class. Why is that? Because it’s too close to Marxism, and thus too old school?

Or is it because class is something that can eventually change and thus disappear? Individuals can change their class (given the right circumstances) in a way they can’t change their identities, and markers of class origin can fade away if the individual chooses.

Some don’t choose. Barney Frank has hung on to his New Jersey accent all his life, when he could easily have switched it if he’d wanted to. That’s interesting to me, because his accent doesn’t have the faintly posh overtones of some New England accents.

The fact that class can fade away means that some people have less privilege than they seem to. The sleek prosperous pale male with the golden hair and the silver voice may have started out in poverty of every kind.

A healthy baby girl

Aug 14th, 2015 11:47 am | By

A not very blesséd event.

An 11-year-old girl, who according to authorities was raped by her stepfather, gave birth to a healthy baby girl Thursday morning in Asunción, Paraguay.

That’s because Paraguay prevented her from having an abortion. Paraguay forced her to carry a baby to term at age 11 and to have major abdominal surgery to deliver it.

If that baby has the bad luck to be raped in ten years and to get pregnant via the rape…she too will be forced to carry the child to term, unless Paraguay changes the law.

The pregnancy was discovered in late April when the mother took her daughter to the hospital after the girl complained of abdominal pain.

The mother wanted the girl to have an abortion. Human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, supported her position.

“The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture,” Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International said then. “The Paraguayan authorities cannot sit idly by while this young rape survivor is forced to endure more agony and torment.”

But Paraguayan authorities refused. Health minister Antonio Barrios said that, even in this case, an abortion would be a violation of Paraguayan law.

“We’re totally against interrupting the pregnancy,” Barrios said in May. “The girl is getting assistance permanently in a shelter and the pregnancy is progressing normally without a problem.”

She is eleven. She was raped, she was made pregnant without consent, and she was forced to bear the infant she didn’t consent to conceiving. At age eleven.

Paraguay has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It bans abortions except in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life. In the case of the 11-year-old, doctors ruled that, in spite of her age, the pregnancy did not endanger her life. Violation of the law carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

According to a 2013 United Nations report, 2 million girls under age 14 give birth in developing countries every year, many of whom suffer resulting long-term or fatal health problems. It estimated that 70,000 adolescents die each year from complications from pregnancy or childbirth.

In Paraguay, 684 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth last year. Most of the minors had been victims of sexual abuse, according to government figures.

Well that’s enough to make you throw up.


Aug 14th, 2015 9:46 am | By

Ever noticed these?

Usually when I notice them I notice the stupid skirt, and I grumble stupidly that that’s not me so why yadda yadda…

…but if I’m stuck wherever it is for a longer than usual time, I move on to the shoulders.

Look at the shoulders.

Consider the message.

Popular items for restrooms on Etsy

Will you only use earplugs if they’re the “girl” earplugs?

Aug 14th, 2015 9:06 am | By

I’ve found a great new source of hilarity – the visitor posts on Target’s Facebook page.

Like this response to the frenzied protesters:

Alright opposition, let’s get one thing straight. Removing gendered labeling does not mean those things are now only for people who do not conform to the traditional gender binary. Most things in Target stores are not gendered. Do you only buy a television if it’s a “girl” television? Will you only use earplugs if they’re the “girl” earplugs (although these are actually a thing)? Are you constantly suffering from headaches because the Advil is ungendered (OH THE HUMANITY!)? And if you can’t sort out for yourself what the “girl” and “boy” toys are without the labels and colored backgrounds, then clearly you don’t have a strong enough concept of what that means to you anyway. Maybe you should let your kid loose on the aisles and see what THEY choose. If your girl chooses a truck, then that truck is a “girl” toy. Your boy wants My Little Pony, it’s a “boy” toy (and you may have a future Brony on your hands). If you won’t let Target teach you how to be open-minded, let your very own kids show you how it’s done.

“Do you only buy a television if it’s a “girl” television?” Hahahahahaha

And immediately below it, a good “traditional” shopper expresses her rage:

If you go to gender neutral throughout your store myself and my family will no longer shop at Target!!
When I go into buy a boy toy or boy clothes, I want to be able to go straight to the BOY section and get what I want/need!!!
Same applies to girl toys and clothes!!!

She NEVER wants to just go to the toy section and browse on the basis of what would be a FUN TOY because that way gender anarchy lies.

One guy is upset about the new difficulty in locating adult underwear:

So why just eliminate the children’s gender labels? why not the adults too? I would like to buy my boxers in the same aisle as Kathy buying her bra and thongs. I DEMAND MY ADULT GENDER EQUALITY AS WELL!

No wonder a jokey guy pretended to be Target to respond to some of the nice upholders of Traditional Gender Segregation of Toys.

Mike Melgaard pretended to be Target on Facebook and teased people who are threatening to boycott Target for removing gender labeling from toy aisles (e.g., separate labeling for “Building Sets” and “Girls Building Sets”). The boycotters were nonplussed.

Oh those horrible liberals, suggesting that children should be able to choose whatever toys they want to play with as opposed to being shunted into cisnormative choices by the retail industry.

Over the strenuous objections of scientists

Aug 14th, 2015 7:43 am | By

Chris Clarke reports a fairly striking bit of mission-reversal at the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

A federal judge has spiked a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to issue 30-year-long permits to industry that would allow companies to kill bald and golden eagles.

Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court in San Jose ruled Monday that USFWS acted illegally when it approved the permits without analyzing the policy’s likely environmental impact as required by federal law. Koh ordered the agency to conduct a full environmental assessment of the policy. The permits, which would have allowed accidental “take” of bald and golden eagles at wind power sites and other industrial facilities, were created after wind power companies objected that a previously proposed system of five-year permits wouldn’t allow them to obtain business loans.

Um. Wow. I would have thought it was the priority at USFWS to protect the wildlife, not the wind power companies and other industrial sites.

According to this week’s court ruling USFWS Director Dan Ashe implemented the 30-year take permits over the strenuous objections of USFWS scientists and other staff, who said the 30-year rule was scientifically unjustifiable and legally flawed. Now, Judge Koh has backed up those Fish and Wildlife staffers.

So of course one wonders why the director ignored the strenuous objections of the skilled staff. “Fuck the science, we need more wind power?” Sustainable energy is a hugely important goal, of course, but the staff must know that, so…maybe their strenuous objections had merit.

In September 2009, USFWS established the first-ever procedure by which it would issue take permits for eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). That law prohibits a wide range of harm to both bald and golden eagles, ranging from intentional killing to harassment, capture, disturbance, and trapping. The take permits would provide a means for companies to avoid prosecution for violating BGEPA if their otherwise legal activities ended up injuring or killing eagles.

Wind turbines are lethal to birds, that’s a fact.

But wind power development started growing dramatically after September 2009, and wind companies — which pose an increasing threat to eagles and other raptors as they spread across the landscape — complained that five-year permits would make them financially unstable. Lenders would be less likely to write loans longer than five years for wind companies whose ability to operate might change if they killed too many eagles and didn’t have their permits renewed.

Which is exactly why the permits should not be for more than five years. (I know that because Chris goes on to explain it. I’m anticipating him. I just like the subtle way he tells us there that the companies want the 30 year permits so that they can go ahead and kill more eagles with impunity.)

USFWS established the 30-year eagle take permits in 2013, outraging environmental groups.

USFWS made that final rule without conducting an environmental assessment of the 30-year permit extension, despite USFWS staff urging the agency consider drafting an Environmental Impact Statement on the policy. Plaintiffs argued that USFWS was legally obligated to review the policy under the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal law that mandates Environmental Impact Statements for potentially destructive projects and policies.

And defendants argued…what? That they just didn’t want to? That the National Environmental Policy Act isn’t the boss of them? That just because they’re a federal agency that doesn’t mean they have to obey federal law?

Judge Koh’s ruling confirmed suspicions voiced by many outside observers that USFWS staff hadn’t changed their minds when agency policy shifted. The shift from 5-year to 30-year eagle take permits didn’t reflect new thinking on the part of the federal scientists charged with safeguarding our nation’s wildlife: it came as Director Ashe sought to address industry concerns about access to loans.

The Feds are always under pressure to do what industry wants. It’s hard not to wonder darkly about Director Ashe’s relationships with lobbyists.

USFWS staff met with Ashe in October 2012, according to the ruling, to urge him to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement analysis of the effects of longer take permits. Dismissing the chances that anyone would challenge the legality of the rule in court, Ashe ordered his staff to prepare the 30-year permit rule.

Three years later, a federal judge has echoed those USFWS staff, except that her recommendation can’t be blithely disregarded, as it has the force of law. Lesson for Dan Ashe: listen to your staff. You just wasted three years.

Can we send him a bill for those three years?

For courage in journalism

Aug 13th, 2015 4:04 pm | By

Asif Mohiuddin has won the Anna Politkovskaya Award for Journalism.

The 30-year-old Bangladeshi blogger, who left the country following militant attack and imprisonment for his writing, will be handed over the award at an International Festival in Ferrara, Italy in October this year.

German newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung and Italian newspaper Ferrara Italia reported on his latest achievement.

The report in Ferrara quoted Asif as saying: “I did not expect to win the award, is a recognition that makes me proud and makes me do my job more and more professional.”

Richly deserved.


She was not allowed to say no to anything

Aug 13th, 2015 10:55 am | By

Der Spiegel reports that decriminalization hasn’t made everything great for sex workers.

Alina ran away from poverty and abuse in Romania when she was 22.

Through a friend’s new boyfriend, she heard about the possibilities available in Germany. She learned that a prostitute could easily earn €900 ($1,170) a month there.

Alina began thinking about the idea. Anything seemed better than Sânandrei. “I thought I’d have my own room, a bathroom and not too many customers,” she says.

So she went to Berlin, to a brothel near the airport elegantly called Airport Muschis (“Airport Pussies”).

The brothel specialized in flat-rate sex. For €100 ($129), a customer could have sex for as long and as often as he wanted.

It all went very quickly, says Alina. There were other Romanians there who knew the man who had brought them there. She was told to hand over her clothes and was given revealing lingerie to wear instead. Only a few hours after her arrival, she was expected to greet her first customers. She says that when she wasn’t nice enough to the clients, the Romanians reduced her wages.

The Berlin customers paid their fee at the entrance. Many took drugs to improve sexual performance and could last all night. A line often formed outside Alina’s room. She says that she eventually stopped counting how many men got into her bed. “I blocked it out,” she says. “There were so many, every day.”

Alina says that she and the other women were required to pay the pimps €800 a week. She shared a bed in a sleeping room with three other women. There was no other furniture. All she saw of Germany was the Esso gas station around the corner, where she was allowed to go to buy cigarettes and snacks, but only in the company of a guard. The rest of the time, says Alina, she was kept locked up in the club.

Prosecutors learned that the women in the club had to offer vaginal, oral and anal sex, and serve several men at the same time in so-called gangbang sessions. The men didn’t always use condoms. “I was not allowed to say no to anything,” says Alina. During menstruation, she would insert sponges into her vagina so that the customers wouldn’t notice.

The pimps didn’t beat her, they simply threatened her family. That was enough.

Alina’s situation is not unusual.

Aid organizations and experts estimate that there are up to 200,000 working prostitutes in the country. According to various studies, including one by the European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers (TAMPEP), 65 to 80 percent of the girls and women come from abroad. Most are from Romania and Bulgaria.

The police can do little for women like Alina. The pimps were prepared for raids, says Alina, and they used to boast that they knew police officers. “They knew when a raid was about to happen,” says Alina, which is why she never dared to confide in a police officer.

The pimps told the girls exactly what to tell the police. They should say that they were surfing the web back home in Bulgaria or Romania and discovered that it was possible to make good money by working in a German brothel. Then, they had simply bought themselves a bus ticket and turned up at the club one day, entirely on their own.

They “chose” to do it, see? And they’re fabulously happy with it having “chosen” it.

Uh huh.


Really glad to hear that

Aug 13th, 2015 10:29 am | By

Last week Jesus and Mo talked to the barmaid about freedom of speech.


That kind of reminds me of what was going on last week at the blog network I used to belong to. I’m sure it’s totally a coincidence though. Totally.

The J&M Patreon.

Based on your sexual orientation or gender identity

Aug 13th, 2015 9:34 am | By

I have an email from the Human Rights Campaign. They tell a story about a gay man in Nebraska who was passive-aggressively fired from his part-time job at a wine store after his boyfriend came to visit. They want more stories to share.

Stories like Luke’s remind me why we cannot stop fighting.

They are the backbone of HRC’s mission. They are the reason that we are relentlessly advocating to pass comprehensive non-discrimination legislation. And they are also how we change hearts and minds, and inspire others to become advocates for equality.

If you have faced discrimination based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, or if you know someone who has, we want to know about it. Please take a minute to share your story with HRC. We promise to do everything in our power to support you and ensure that it NEVER happens again.

I’m wondering what they mean by “gender identity” there. I’m guessing it refers to trans people? The orientation part is for lesbians and gays, and the gender identity part is for trans people?

But then, does that mean that only trans people have gender identity? What is gender identity, exactly?

The terminology seems to be changing quite fast, and the penalty for getting it wrong can be ferocious. This can make things tricky.

She’s not a little girl. She’s a slave.

Aug 13th, 2015 9:12 am | By

Callimachi’s Times article goes on to describe the way IS has developed a whole theology around its enslavement and marketing of Yazidi women and girls.

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A thriving slave trade, selling enslaved girls and women for permanent rape.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

Yay! Run off to the fascist theocracy so that you can fuck like a weasel and murder people wholesale. Win win!

“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s…

“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from Islamic scripture meaning worship.

“He said that raping me is his prayer to God. I said to him, ‘What you’re doing to me is wrong, and it will not bring you closer to God.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s allowed. It’s halal,’ ” said the teenager, who escaped in April with the help of smugglers after being enslaved for nearly nine months.

It’s halal, and that’s all that counts – it’s “allowed” by the long-dead human man and the non-existent god.

In much the same way as specific Bible passages were used centuries later to support the slave trade in the United States, the Islamic State cites specific verses or stories in the Quran or else in the Sunna, the traditions based on the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, to justify their human trafficking, experts say.

Scholars of Islamic theology disagree, however, on the proper interpretation of these verses, and on the divisive question of whether Islam actually sanctions slavery.

Many argue that slavery figures in Islamic scripture in much the same way that it figures in the Bible — as a reflection of the period in antiquity in which the religion was born.

So then the Bible is just a book like any other book, with moral views common to its time, and so is the Quran. There’s nothing special about them.

The use of sex slavery by the Islamic State initially surprised even the group’s most ardent supporters, many of whom sparred with journalists online after the first reports of systematic rape.

The Islamic State’s leadership has repeatedly sought to justify the practice to its internal audience.

After the initial article in Dabiq in October, the issue came up in the publication again this year, in an editorial in May that expressed the writer’s hurt and dismay at the fact that some of the group’s own sympathizers had questioned the institution of slavery.

Aw, that must have stung. Allies can be so disappointing.

“What really alarmed me was that some of the Islamic State’s supporters started denying the matter as if the soldiers of the Khilafah had committed a mistake or evil,” the author wrote. “I write this while the letters drip of pride,’’ he said. “We have indeed raided and captured the kafirahwomen and drove them like sheep by the edge of the sword.”

Yeah, that’s goddy morality for you.

Just about the only prohibition is having sex with a pregnant slave, and the manual describes how an owner must wait for a female captive to have her menstruating cycle, in order to “make sure there is nothing in her womb,” before having intercourse with her. Of the 21 women and girls interviewed for this article, among the only ones who had not been raped were the women who were already pregnant at the moment of their capture, as well as those who were past menopause.

Beyond that, there appears to be no bounds to what is sexually permissible. Child rape is explicitly condoned: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute of a pamphlet published on Twitter last December.

“Fit for intercourse” meaning…her hole is big enough? But some men will rape infants, so size doesn’t seem to matter. Theology can be difficult.

One 34-year-old Yazidi woman, who was bought and repeatedly raped by a Saudi fighter in the Syrian city of Shadadi, described how she fared better than the second slave in the household — a 12-year-old girl who was raped for days on end despite heavy bleeding.

“He destroyed her body. She was badly infected. The fighter kept coming and asking me, ‘Why does she smell so bad?’ And I said, she has an infection on the inside, you need to take care of her,” the woman said.

Unmoved, he ignored the girl’s agony, continuing the ritual of praying before and after raping the child.

“I said to him, ‘She’s just a little girl,’ ” the older woman recalled. “And he answered: ‘No. She’s not a little girl. She’s a slave. And she knows exactly how to have sex.’ ’’

“And having sex with her pleases God,” he said.

Again…what a loathsome dreadful god.

What he was about to do was not a sin

Aug 13th, 2015 8:28 am | By

Prepare for extreme disgust as you begin to read this article by Rukmini Callimachi in the NY Times.

QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

He “explained” to the child that the appalling harm he was about to do to her – physically, emotionally, psychologically – that it was not a “sin” – that is, not a bad thing to do to Allah.

But that’s not the issue. Allah can take care of Allah. (Also Allah doesn’t exist. But I digress.) Allah is beside the point. Raping a child is harm to the child raped, before it’s a harm to anyone else. It’s also a harm to everyone who cares about the child, but it’s a harm to those people because it’s a harm to her. What others are hurt by is the terrible harm done to the child; it harms them because they care about her and have empathy for her. The core harm is the harm to the child. “Sin” is entirely beside the point, unless it’s used in a purely secular sense, which obviously is not the case with Mr Pious here.

It compounds the harm and disgustingness that he told her she had it coming, because she wasn’t a member of his religion. (And what a disgusting religion to be a member of – one that smiles on child-rape of infidels.)

He told her it wasn’t a “sin” and that the Quran is cool with it, and then he bound and gagged her…I suppose he must have realized that despite being told it wasn’t a sin, she would probably struggle and cry and scream, and he wanted her to hold still and shut up so that he could fuck her without distractions.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

What a filthy evil malevolent god he prostrates himself to.

Our minds are exquisitely attuned to the social environment

Aug 12th, 2015 6:00 pm | By

From an interview with Cordelia Fine by Anna Lena Phillips in American Scientist around 2010.

What first motivated me to write the book was an experience I had as a parent, rather than as an academic. I read a book which claimed that hardwired sex differences mean that boys and girls should be parented and taught differently. I found this really interesting—but when I looked at the actual studies being used as evidence, I was shocked by the extent to which the neuroscientific findings were being misrepresented. So my initial motivation was simply to alert people to the fact that old-fashioned stereotypes are being dressed up in neuroscientific finery, and to remind people not to be so enthralled with brain imaging that they forget the importance of social factors.

But when I started to look more closely at the scientific literature itself, I was surprised to discover just how little really concrete evidence there is for the idea that there’s such a thing as a “male” brain hardwired to be good at understanding the world, and a “female” brain hardwired to understand people. Instead what I found was a great deal of evidence that our minds are exquisitely attuned to the social environment, and surprisingly sensitive to gender stereotypes. The problem then becomes that these very confident popular claims about “male” brains and “female” brains reinforce gender stereotypes in ways that have self-fulfilling effects on the way we think and behave. And so at that point my aim for the book became to explain this much more complex, and actually much more interesting, picture of the state of the science in a way that would be accessible to everyone. I hope it will help to dispel the belief, encouraged by many popular commentators, that science has shown that hardwired sex differences mean that it’s pointless to hope or strive for greater sex equality.

Now to get more people to pay attention.