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Published: Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

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Donald Trump Accused of Kissing Porn Star Jessica Drake Without Her Consent, Offering to Pay Her $10,000 for Sex

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 18:47:00 -0400

(image) Adult-film star and sex educator Jessica Drake is the latest woman to accuse Donald Trump of moving on her sexually without consent. At a live Los Angeles press-conference Saturday with lawyer Gloria Allred, Drake accused the Republican presidential nominee of "uncontrollable misogyny, entitlement, and being a sexual assault apologist," and claimed he kissed her and two other women without their consent upon meeting them in 2006. Drake also said Trump offered to pay her for sex.

According to Drake, she and the other women were invited by Trump back to his Lake Tahoe hotel suite after meeting him at a golf tournament. Once there, Trump allegedly grabbed each of them tightly and kissed them. Later, a Trump representative called and invited Drake back to the suite alone, she said, but she declined—after which Trump personally called to extend the invitation. "What do you want? How much?" Trump allegedly said before offering her $10,000, which she rejected.

Drake's accusations add to the growing chorus of women from Trump's past now accusing him of kissing, grabbing, and groping them against their will. What's novel here is the allegation that Trump solicited sex for cash.

Libertarians don't think that last part should be illegal, and I guess it's not surprising that Trump doesn't, either—Trump's (handlebar-mustachioed) immigrant grandfather first made his money in America by running a Seattle brothel, after all. But Trump hasn't shown much willingness lately to buck with GOP tradition when it comes to freaking out about sex, signing a recent pledge to get tough on internet porn and repeatedly denouncing Anthony Weiner as a "pervert" for sexting.

At the press conference, Allred stressed that Drake's profession as a porn actress and director was irrelevant here. In her work, Drake consents to certain sexual activities, said Allred, while she did not agree to Trump's advances.

Former Heads Say Pimping Charges Motivated by Politics, Not Facts

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 12:52:00 -0400 Chief Executive Carl Ferrer and the classified-ad company's former owners are seeking a dismissal of the pimping and conspiracy charges filed against them in California, which they describe as unconstitutional, unjustified by facts, and a violation of federal communications law, as well as a blatant ploy for publicity from California Attorney General (AG) Kamala Harris. The state "cannot pursue the charges asserted and, in fact, is expressly precluded from doing so under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act," their attorney, James Grant, wrote in a letter to Harris, who is currently running for U.S. Congress. She can't claim ignorance: three years ago, Harris was one of several state attorneys general who pleaded with Congress to change the law so that they could prosecute Backpage, specifically admitting that, as is, Section 230 "prevents state and local law enforcement" from doing so. Congress said no. "It is troubling that the State is now pursuing a prosecution you admitted you have no authority to bring," Grant wrote. Ferrer and his co-defendants, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, were booked for pimping, pimping a minor, attempted pimping of a minor, and conspiracy, based on the state's contention that they know some of the tens of millions of user-generated posts on are veiled ads for prostitution, sometimes involving teenagers. As evidence of this, the state pointed out that Backpage blocks ads explicitly offering prostitution, states clearly that ads in the "adult" section can only be posted by adults, and promptly removes posts that are reported to advertise sex or underage women. In the topsy-turvy logic of the criminal complaint, the fact that Backpage policies are designed to prevent commercial-sex advertising and the prostitution of minors shows that execs actually condone these things, because said policies encourage posters of illicit sex ads to conceal their true intentions. "The AG's Complaint and theory of prosecution are frankly outrageous," state the defendants in a formal objection to the changes, filed October 19. "The basis for the AG's charges is that third-party users posted ads on, and the AG's office determined by responding to the ads that the users were offering prostitution." In total the complaint mentions nine ads, for which Backpage received $79.60. It does not allege that Ferrer, Lacey, or Larkin knew the ad-posters were discreetly offering sex for cash, knew the ad posters personally at all, had ever seen the ads in question, or had any direct knowledge of these ads. In his letter to the AG, the Backpage attorney notes that a recent federal court ruling against the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, "reject[ed] much the same theories that [California] asserts here," and that the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that "states cannot punish parties that publish or distribute speech without proving they had knowledge of illegality." In addition, "Section 230 expressly preempts all inconsistent civil and criminal state laws," he notes. "Literally hundreds of cases have applied and underscored the broad immunity that Section 230 provides and that Congress intended so as to avoid government interference— especially by state authorities—that would chill free speech on the Internet." Backpage itself has fought for these rights many times, winning cases in federal courts in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Washington, Tennessee, Illinois, and Missouri. But knowing the law is on their side "was of modest comfort," said Lacey and Larkin, "as we were being booked into the Sacramento County jail and paraded in front of the press in orange jump suits last week on a charge Ms. Harris knew she had no legal authority to bring when she brought it." The former Backpage owners suggested that California's AG knows she won't prevail here but doesn't care because conviction isn't the point. Their arrest in early October generated massive publicity for Harris just before the election, almost universally portraying her actions in a pos[...]

Electoral Politics Is a Horrible Context In Which to Talk About Sexual Consent

Sat, 15 Oct 2016 18:38:00 -0400

With less than a month left until the 2016 presidential election, the focus has shifted from immigration, foreign affairs, free trade, and other (nominal) questions of policy to whether the Republican nominee is a sexual predator and how much room his opponent has to criticize him for it, given her own husband's history with women. In the wake of the release of Trump's now-infamous 2005 boasts about grabbing women "by the pussy" and kissing them "without waiting," questions surrounding sexual consent are dominating the news, with Donald Trump's defenders expected to answer for not just the candidate's own treatment of women but the lifetimes of unwanted advances many modern women have faced. At first the spectacle felt at least a little novel, and not just because of the political stakes. Most instances in which these issues penetrate the public consciousness are pre-packaged for picking a side. A woman—or multiple women, as in recent high-profile cases such as the one with Bill Cosby—comes out with a story of sexual harassment, assault, or rape; her alleged assailant denies it; and everyone falls in line to either insist we "believe women" about these things no matter what or that ladies be batshit insane attention-seekers who lie about rape all the time. But with Trump's taped comments, the same old script didn't work. For one, there was no accusatory woman to center the counter-attack on. For another, there was direct and indisputable evidence of the bad behavior in question; reasonable people can argue over how literally to take Trump's assertions, but there's no denying he said what he said. So here we all were, having a more meta conversation about consent, crossing boundaries, why women might not report things like unwanted groping to the police but still don't want (and shouldn't have) to put up with it, and what responsibility men have to call out other men for bad behavior. Here we were with prominent Republicans who heretofore been at least nominally OK with Trump now calling for his head. And here were conservative women, too, coming forward with their own tales of being manhandled, sexually harassed, or raped, and disbelieved or told it was no big deal. For a minute, many conservative women were speaking in unison with left-leaning counterparts about these issues (a phenomenon also seen, if briefly, after Trump went after Megyn Kelly and when Gretchen Carlson and other women came out against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes). People across the political spectrum could be found expressing both contempt for the fact that this was what the presidential race had come to and cautious optimism that it would, somehow, be a force for good. But that didn't last long. Within eight (long) days of the Trump pussy-grabbing comments coming out, Trump and his surrogates were trotting out women who've accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, a bevy of new allegations against Trump were aired, and before long it was back to business as usual. Republicans, including those with no love for Trump, demand that people assign more weight to the allegations against Bill, and liberals shrug. Women accuse Trump of molesting them, his detractors demand these claims be taken seriously, and conservatives shrug. Both assume the other side is simply trying to score political points, and of course both are. The women, whatever they have or have not suffered at the hands of either Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, have quickly been reduced to mere props in this familiar partisan (and ratings/clicks driven) play. The Trump campaign's decision to defend their man by deflecting blame to Bill is understandable—after all, Trump was initially being pilloried mostly for things he said (and what they implied), but Bill stood accused of actually doing despicable things toward women. But this, along with Trump's outright denial that he ever treated women badly in real life, inspired a quicky new cottage industry of claims from women who say they were victimized by Trump. An organic response f[...]

Is Donald Trump Trying to Prove Feminists Right About Rape Culture?

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:01:00 -0400

Since the script writers for the lowbrow comedy-drama called "2016" are fond of bizarre twists and turns, no one knows for sure whether Donald Trump's quest for the White House will be undone for good by the 11-year-old candid audio in which he brags about his sexual advances toward women. Nonetheless, it is clear that the so-called "pussy tape"—in which Trump tells then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush that his star status allows him to "do anything" to pretty women, including "grab them by the pussy"—has dealt a serious blow to Teflon Donald, until then largely unscathed by unsavory incidents. Is this a sign of changing attitudes toward sexual misconduct—specifically, feminist-driven refusal to tolerate behavior once brushed off as "boys will be boys" but now unequivocally seen as assaultive and misogynistic? The response to Trump's repulsive comments has been undoubtedly affected by the prominence of gender issues in this election and the fact that it follows a resurgence of feminist activism intensely focused on sexual violence. But as the experience of earlier generations shows, the cultural winds can shift in unpredictable ways. Pussygate (who could have imagined the ways in which Trump would enrich our political vocabulary?) has inevitably elicited comparisons to the scandals surrounding Bill Clinton in the 1990s. That Hillary Clinton is now Trump's Democratic rival for the presidency just makes the parallels all the more relevant. Bill Clinton survived the scandals—both the revelation of the affair with Gennifer Flowers during his 1992 campaign and the later claims of sexual harassment and assault as well as the disclosure of the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Whether this attests to the benighted sexual politics of the 1990s, frequently portrayed these days as a pre-feminist Dark Ages, is another matter. It's easy to forget that the early 1990s were another major feminist moment. That was when Anita Hill's testimony at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings turned into a "national teach-in" on sexual harassment, the 1992 elections became the "Year of the Woman," moderate Republican Bob Packwood was undone as a serial harasser, and the trials of William Kennedy Smith, Mike Tyson, and O.J. Simpson generated intense discussions of acquaintance rape and domestic violence. Even the modern-day conversation about campus rape is large a replay of a 1990s debate that landed on the cover of Time magazine. Clinton weathered the storm for several reasons. For one, his only proven improprieties involved consensual adultery. But no less importantly, feminists—including First Lady Hillary Clinton—stood by him. Women's movement veteran Gloria Steinem even claimed that an unwanted advance, however lewd and aggressive, was not sexual harassment if its initiator took "no" for an answer. (This was dubbed the "one free grope" defense, likely not available to Trump.) At the time, I wrote that feminist hypocrisy on the Clinton scandals was helping undo the excesses of ideological zeal which had sought to purge the workplace of all sexuality and treat accusations of sexual wrongdoing as proof of guilt. Fast-forward to the Trump candidacy and Pussygate. Like Clinton, Trump has faced several allegations of sexual assault, none proven, and has a known history of adultery; unlike Clinton, he has also talked publicly about bedding married women. The "pussy tape" contains what can be read as a confession to sexual assault—though, in my view, it sounds more like sexual trash talk. (Trump's actual behavior to soap actress Arianne Zucker on the same tape is quite different from the aggressive moves he brags about). Even so, it's a fairly vile kind of trash talk. Had Clinton been caught on tape bragging that his status as a politician allows him to grope women with impunity, it would very likely have turned public opinion against him—and killed his chances if released pre-election. Yet it also makes a difference that no feminists[...]

Brickbat: Home-Based Business

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) A German court will decide whether the room in her home webcam girl Natalie Hot performs in counts as a home office. Hot lives in an area that isn't zoned for commercial activities, and some of her neighbors have complained about her business as well as the noise she makes. But residents of the neighborhood are allowed to maintain an office in their homes, and she says her webcam business really is more like working from home that a commercial business.

Pussy Whipped Trump

Sat, 08 Oct 2016 14:56:00 -0400

It is too early to tell if the "pussy" tape revelations will finally be the unraveling of Donald Trump. But they have already gotten Trump to do something he never does: apologize. It might have been a half-hearted apology, but it is more than what he's ever offered. This is not because he is truly remorseful, of course. The man is incapable of that. It is because he knows that without it, there is no redemption, no way forward. Speaker Paul Ryan has already disinvited him from a Wisconsin rally, saying he was "sickened" by the comments. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus has denounced his comments as "indefensible." Sens. Mike Lee, Mike Crapo, and Jeff Flake, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah have disendorsed him. Rep. Barbara Comstock is demanding that he withdraw from the race and the list of similar calls from elected Republicans is growing. Amazingly, this was not even the first story in the past week about Trump's demeaning treatment of women. The AP reported on October 3 that he habitually talked to the male contestants on the Apprentice of "fucking" their female counterparts, often in the presence of the women in question. The New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff is reminding people of allegations made by a female contractor in 1997 that Trump tried to assault in his daughter's Mar-a-Lago bedroom. Why is the audio tape different? Those stories were based on hearsay, he-said-she-said, anonymous sources. In this case it was Trump being Trump caught on tape, bragging about groping and semi-molesting women. This is all terrible stuff. And so is Trump's response to the "Central Park Five"—the men who had, as teen-age boys, been wrongly convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger rape case. In fact the response by Trump and the non-response by his fellow Republicans to his statements about that case demonstrate something rotten in today's GOP, if not the country at large. As Scott Shackford wrote yesterday, at the time, Trump ran full-page ads in the Daily News demanding the death penalty for these kids. But after they were finally exonerated, what was Trump's reaction? Contrition that he had demanded the execution of innocent kids? Shock that the system had convicted the wrong guys? Relief that justice was finally done? Trump evinced none of that. He stubbornly insisted that the men were still guilty because they had "confessed." Never mind that the confessions were coerced after hours and hours of interrogation that conducted in the absence of their parents and legal representation, and that DNA evidence decisively linked another man to the rape. Last week, years after New York offered to pay them restitution—$1 million for each year that they collectively spent in prison, for a total of $40 million—Trump actually said that the settlement was outrageous and "a disgrace." Previously, he'd taken to the airwaves and declared that the payment was "the heist of the century." And what did Ryan, Lee, Priebus, Chaffetz, Comstock, and the rest of the Republican establishment do after these monstrous statements? Nothing. They maintained a stoic silence. Why? Because sexual politics is far a bigger force in this country than racial politics. Women, after all, constitute half of the population, and blacks, the most perennially disadvantaged minority in America, come to merely 12 percent. This obviously affects the electoral calculation of the major parties. But it affects more than that. All the Republicans condemning Trump over the "pussy" tape have noted that turning the other way would have made it hard for them to look their sisters, wives, moms, and daughters in the eye. If they have no similar compunctions about Trump's terrifying Central Park Five comments, it's because blacks are simply not a big part of their daily existence or their constituencies (in 2012, Mitt Romney earned just 5 percent of black votes). They don't have strong friendships or relationships with bla[...]

Rape, Nude Catfighting, Prostitution... Your Fall Guide to Officer-Involved Sex Crimes in America

Mon, 03 Oct 2016 17:05:00 -0400

Throughout the summer, police officers from Oakland and nearby California cities continued to come under fire for misconduct connected to teenager Jasmine A., better known by her sex-work pseudonym "Celeste Guap." The scandal started to unfold after the suicide of Oakland officer Brendan O'Brien in September 2015 and has since led to suspensions, firings, and criminal charges for cops from several different Bay-Area agencies. But lest one think that situation is unique, let's take a peek at some other sexual-misconduct controversies brewing at U.S. law-enforcement agencies. Consider this a handy guide to officer-involved prostitution, coerced sex, and sexual assault at the start of autumn 2016. Horry County: Officers Accused of Sexual Assault, Coercing CatfightsFour former Horry County, South Carolina, cops face criminal charges, including several related to sexual assault and inappropriate sexual conduct with female inmates, crime victims, and confidential informants. Allen Large, a 27-year veteran of the Horry County Sheriff's Office, was recently indicted by a grand jury on five counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, along with six counts of "misconduct in office" for allegedly failing to investigate cases. "The indictments allege that Large knowingly used coercion to engage in sexual battery with multiple victims and knowingly engaged in inappropriate relationships with victims of cases he was investigating," according to a statement from the state Attorney General's Office. Large, who was fired by the county in July 2015, is also the subject of multiple civil lawsuits accusing him of activity such as sexual assaulting a woman who came to him to report a sexual assault, sexual harassment, and threatening to interfere with a woman's child-visitation rights if she wouldn't participate in nude "catfight" videos. One woman alleges that the "Horry County Police Department had actual knowledge of Detective Large's inappropriate actions and/or propensity to harm female victims of crime, as other victims of sexual assault had reported his conduct prior to May of 2015," but did not act. Large denies most of the allegations, but admitted to suggesting the nude fighting videos and filming some such videos at his home. Horry County officer Luke Green was indicted for inappropriate sexual contact with a suspect during a prostitution arrest and the same with a confidential police informant. Both he and Large will be arraigned October 4, along with colleagues Daryl Williams and Todd Cox, who are accused of official misconduct for failing to investigate crime reports. Another Horry County cop, Chris Peterson, was not arrested but was fired last summer for alleged texting and "inappropriate conduct" with a woman who filed a police report. Newly sworn-in Horry County Police Chief Joe Hill said last week that "the four indictments that came down are the only indictments that are coming down — that investigation is wrapping up, it's done." Meanwhile... another South Carolina police head, Winnsboro Department of Public Safety Cheif Freddie Lorick Sr., was arrested over the weekend in an undercover prostitution sting conducted by Columbia Police. During the arrest, Lorick suffered unspecified medical issues and was taken to a hospital for treatment. Trenton, New Jersey: Woman Alleges Sex at K-9 Facility With Officer Who Shot HimselfOn September 21, New Jersey police officer Ed Leopardi was found shot to death in what would later be pronounced a suicide. A longtime veteran of the Trenton Police Department, Leopardi was also a Franklin Township Committee-member, the town's former mayor, and a married father of three who spent his spare time coaching Little League and serving as a volunteer firefighter. After his death, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office would reveal that Leopardi was under investigation for activity with a sex worker at a Trenton police K-9 t[...]

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Creating National Database of Sex Buyers

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:05:00 -0400

Cook County's Tom Dart, the prostitution-obsessed sheriff who launched a national month of police playing sex workers to arrest "johns" and unconstitutionally threatened Visa and Mastercard for doing business with the ad-site Backpage, has found a new way to threaten people's privacy, screw over sex workers, and grow the police state. The latest Dart-led initiative involves creating a national database of prostitution customers, using solicitation-arrest data submitted by cops through a phone app. Demand Abolition—a Massachusetts-based advocacy group that recently gave Boston Police $30,000 to look into new strategies to target prostitution customers—reported on Sheriff Dart's new plot in a late-August post crowing that "1,300 sex buyers—a record—were arrested across 18 states in just one month" of Dart's National John Suppression Initiative. Now, the sheriff is using data from that sting to start a national database of people arrested for soliciting prostitution. You know, for research purposes. "We are well on our way to developing a stronger, more nuanced understanding of who buyers are—information that can be used to find new ways to change their behavior," Demand Abolition chirps. This year's sex stings led to an "unprecedented level of buyer data collected, and shared, by this year's arresting officers," notes Demand Abolition. This is thanks to a new app that streamlines the logging of prostitution arrest information. The app was developed at a January "social justice hackathon", in which a hundred or so techies were presided over by a team of anti-prostitution zealots from across the country—including Dart, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Seattle-area prosecutor Val Richey (for more on Richey's work, see my recent series of stories on Seattle prostitution busts). The presumably well-intentioned developers and data scientists were told their work would help put an end to human trafficking, but the tools they developed are designed for police to target and track adults engaging in consensual prostitution. The January hackathon, funded by Thomson Reuters' Data Innovation Lab, gave birth to what Demand Abolition is calling an "arrest app," which "allows officers to easily log arrest info into a national database, which Dart's team can then use to identify trends in buyer demographics." During the last John Suppression Initiative, cops logged info from 80 percent of all arrests into the database. Keeping the personal info of people arrested for prostitution-related charges in one handy national database might help with whatever new Vice-Squad-on-Steroids agenda that Dart is designing. But it's obviously worrisome from a privacy perspective. Keeping all that sensitive information in one place would seem to make it a ripe target for hackers, but nowhere do Demand Abolition or Dart even mention cybersecurity. It's also important to note that the people being logged in the database have merely been arrested for, not convicted of, any crimes. Yet the arrest app isn't concerned with case outcomes. If police arrest someone and the charges are later dropped or beat, that person will still be counted in Dart's database as having been picked up in a sex sting. I reached out to the Cook County Sheriff's Office to get more details about the app and database—what security measures are in place, whether the info collected is subject to public-records requests, etc.—and will update if I hear back. Update: Cook County Sheriff's Office Press Secretary Sophia Ansari said no individual names or case numbers will be entered into the database. "Demographic information entered includes age range, race, marital status and education level–but that information is never connected to an individual or a number that could be connected to an individual," Ansari said in an email. Nor does the database reflect what ultimately happens with cases.[...]

Lewd Acts and Prostitution Among Charges for California Cops—If Alleged Victim Gets Out of Florida Jail

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 06:45:00 -0400

Seven California police officers will be charged in conjunction with a wide-reaching sexual-misconduct investigation, at the center of which sits Celeste Guap. The 19-year-old claims to have slept with 32 Bay-Area officers, beginning when she was 17 years old, in exchange for cash, protection from prostitution stings, or running police background checks on people she knew. Last Wednesday, the city of Oakland announced that four of its officers had been fired and seven put on unpaid leave related to their relationships with Guap or their role in covering up colleagues' relationships. On Friday, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley reported that seven area officers would face criminal charges, including five (current and former) Oakland cops, a former Livermore police officer, and a former Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputy. The Sheriff's deputy, Ricardo Perez, will be charged with one count of felony oral copulation with a minor and two counts of committed a lewd act in public, said O'Malley at a press conference. The Livermore police officer, Dan Black, will be charged wit two counts of engaging in an act of prostitution and two counts of committing a lewd act in public. Oakland Officer Brian Bunton will be charged with one count of engaging in an act of prostitution and one count of felony obstruction of justice. His colleagues, Giovani LoVerde and Sgt. Leroy Johnson, will be charged with felony oral copulation with a minor and failure to report sexual misconduct against a minor, respectively. Oakland officer Warit Uttapa will be charged with one count of searching a criminal justice system database without authorized purpose, and Terryl Smith with four counts of the same. O'Malley said Smith also engaged in sexual activity with Guap but it happened outside the county's jurisdiction. "I am grateful to District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office for agreeing to conduct a parallel and independent criminal investigation in this matter," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff in a statement. "The results of both the administrative and criminal investigations make it clear that misconduct will not be tolerated." That sentiment might be more convincing, however, if Guap hadn't been flown to Florida for drug-addiction treatment on the state's dime and then, while there, booked in county jail for aggravated battery with bail set at $300,000. According to the Martin County Sheriff's Office, Guap was brought in after biting a security guard at the treatment facility. Contra Costa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Doug MacMaster said it was "ludicrous" to think the Richmond Police Department—which helped Guap apply for money from the state's Victim Compensation Fund, and also includes several deputies implicated by Guap—had intentionally tried "to squirrel her out of state." But as long as Guap remains out of state, Alameda County can't proceed with the prosecutions of Black, Bunton, Johnson, LoVerde, Perez, Smith, and Uttapa. So far none of the men have been arrested and no charges have been filed. "If we don't have a witness," said O'Malley at a press conference Friday, "we can't prosecute these cases."[...]

The Truth About the Biggest U.S. Sex Trafficking Story of the Year

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:00 -0400

Part 1: 'This Is What Human Trafficking Looks Like' Part 2: How Washington Police Turned Talking About Prostitution into a Felony Offense Part 3: From 'Prostituted Woman' to Human Trafficker Coda: A Lifetime of Stigma PART ONE: 'This Is What Human Trafficking Looks Like' With the death of his mother last summer, Sigurds Zitars, a retired accountant, was the only family member left in University Place, Washington. Since 2006 "Sig" had been the clan's caregiver, after his mother developed dementia and his father and sister both took ill. In January, Zitars was fixing up the family home for sale when police broke down its door, arresting the 62-year-old at gunpoint. According to the state, Zitars was one of at least a dozen bad guys associated with an elite league of sexual predators and a multi-state sex-trafficking ring. News of the bust played perfectly into the growing narrative from both activists and officials that sex trafficking—the use of force, fraud, or coercion to trap people in prostitution—is rampant in America, a pernicious form of what Barack Obama described in 2012 as "modern slavery." According to political lore, both girls-next-door and women smuggled across U.S. borders are at risk, their exploitation aided by online tools and the indifference of lusty patrons. On January 7, Washington officials unveiled a perfect storm of such horrors: Women lured from South Korea under false pretenses and "held against their will" at local brothels. A website where deviant men promoted and reviewed these enslaved women. "Because they had money," said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg at a televised press conference, these men "gained access to sexually abuse these vulnerable young women, then put their energies toward a campaign to encourage many more men to do the same." "The systematic importation of vulnerable young women for sexual abuse, exploitation, and criminal profiteering has been going on for years and it came to a stop this week," Satterberg added. "This is what human trafficking looks like." But as more information about the case has become available, Satterberg's narrative starts to break down. The reality—as evidenced by police reports, court documents, online records, and statements from those involved—is far less lurid and depraved. Instead of a story of stark abuse and exploitation, it's a story of immigration, economics, the pull of companionship and connection, the structures and dynamism that drive black markets, and a criminal-justice system all too eager to declare women victims of the choices they make. The story is presented here in three parts. The first offers a glimpse at how this sexual economy actually operated, the motivations of its main actors, and how police came to "infiltrate" the scene. Part two explores how the government's war on prostitution—rebranded as a war on sex trafficking—brands innocent men as sexual predators and sets dangerous new standards of disrespect for free speech and free association rights. And part three looks at how policies designed to get tough on pimps and traffickers wind up threatening the very women they're supposed to save. 'Shipped From City to City' The first wave of arrests came just after New Year's. On January 6, working with the FBI and the Bellevue Police Department (BPD), officers from the King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) raided 12 upscale apartments in Bellevue, a large and affluent suburb of Seattle that's become a hub of tech industry. At a press conference the next day, they announced that 12 female victims from South Korea had been rescued, 12 "brothels" closed, and a major human-trafficking ring shut down. The team also seized three websites: The Review Board (TRB), a web forum where Seattle sex workers and clients communicated;, a directory of Korean sex-wor[...]

11 Oakland Cops Disciplined Over Prostitution Scandal Involving Exploited Teen

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 14:18:00 -0400

While Celeste Guap sits in a Florida prison on aggravated battery charges, most of the California cops who allegedly exploited her get to carry on with their lives like nothing happened. But in Oakland, where the whole sordid ordeal started, some sort of justice may finally being served. On Wednesday, Mayor Libby Schaaf held a press conference to announce that four Oakland officers had been fired in conjunction with Guap's allegations and an additional seven officers had been suspended without pay. The firings and suspensions should send "a loud and clear message that we hold our officers to nothing but the highest standards of professionalism and integrity," said Schaaf. Better late than never, I guess? The Oakland Police Department (OPD) has been plagued with abuse and corruption going back at least two decades. This latest round started last autumn, when Guap texted the OPD chief claiming to have hooked up with several Oakland cops—starting with Officer Brendan O'Brien—in exchange for either money or protection from prostitution stings. Guap sent a screenshot of the text to O'Brien, who committed suicide a few hours later. O'Brien apparently met Guap—then just 17-years-old—when she was fleeing an abusive pimp. O'Brien "saved me," Guap told CNN. "Instead of taking me to jail, we just kind of started something there, you know." At the time, Guap would have been defined under federal law as a victim of sex trafficking even if no violence or coercion was involved, because she was selling sex while under age 18. But Guap's case wasn't simply statutory sex-trafficking; she claims to have been exploited and abused by a violent individual, too. Yet none of this mattered—Guap (like so many others in her situation) still faced arrest for prostitution, because that's how our "criminal justice" system works. And because she faced arrest for prostitution, she also became vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse by police. Ultimately, Guap claimed that she slept with more than 30 police officers spanning five departments: Oakland, San Francisco, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and Richmond. Many of these areas, including Oakland, have been extremely active at prosecuting prostitution, shaming "johns," and claiming to crack down on teen sex-trafficking. Regarding Guap's allegations, internal investigations at most of the departments yielded nothing. But activists and civil-rights attorneys have been questioning the impartiality and legitimacy of such intra-agency investigations. They're calling on the state to intervene by consolidating and investigating Guap's claims. For now, only Oakland officers face dicipline—a start, at least. Oakland City Administrator Sabrena Landreth said that each of the four fired officers "was found to have committed one or more of the following offenses: attempted sexual assault, engaging in lewd conduct in public assisting in the crime of prostitution, assisting in the evading of arrest for the crime of prostitution, accessing law enforcement databases for personal gain, being untruthful to investigators, failing to report a violation of law or rules by not reporting allegations of a minor having sexual contact with Oakland police officers, and bringing and disrepute to the Oakland Police Department." The seven suspended officers were found to have accessed law enforcement databases for personal gain, been untruthful to investigators, failed to report a violation of law, and brought disrepute to the department. Criminal charges may be forthcoming. Schaff said District Attorney Nancy O'Malley was still conducting a criminal investigation, but "we have reason to believe she will be making determinations relatively soon." In June, the OPD Police Chief whom Guap had first texted resigned. He was replaced with an inter[...]

Friday A/V Club: A Vintage Anti-Hippie Film Strip

Fri, 02 Sep 2016 11:30:00 -0400

(image) "Has man's dream of his children's future ended in a nightmare?" So asks Ken Granger in The Hippies, a lurid film strip from 1967. Granger was a member of the John Birch Society, and he blames the rise of the counterculture on the forces you'd probably expect a '60s conservative to invoke: progressive education, permissive parenting, World Communism. What makes his film interesting on more than a camp level is that he also blames big business, condemning consumerism and conformity in terms a hippie could love.

In the wake of World War II, the film strip declares, Madison Avenue started turning to psychologists for help selling products. The resulting research developed "techniques that could be used to create new desires in people, to change the philosophies of security and saving to the philosophy of spending." Young people in particular were easily manipulated, as a series of music- and fashion-focused youth cultures proved: "The technique of combining music with mass merchandising brought near total control of the purchasing habits of a whole generation."

All it then took (Granger continues) was for Communists to start using the same techniques to sell ideas instead of music. Presto: sex, drugs, and New Left subversion!

Marketers do not, in fact, have such perfect powers of persuasion, and the hippies were not a mesmerized mass of—in Granger's words—"zombie-like vegetables." But it's certainly true that the '60s "counter" culture owed a lot to the mass culture its members were allegedly rejecting. In his kooky way, Granger was noting a truth that many hippie hagiographers prefer to ignore. It's just that he filtered that truth through a paranoid worldview that owed almost as much to John Kenneth Galbraith as it did to Robert Welch.

Needless to say, you can enjoy this on a camp level too. Granger's frightened imagination leads him to all sorts of strange places (inevitably, there are wild sex parties), and he makes several basic errors: mispronouncing everything from "Phil Ochs" to "scabies" and scrambling the names of songs and of at least one organization. There's a pretty good soundtrack too, courtesy of a garage rock band called the Undecided. The credits call it "original music," which makes me wonder if the band's members knew—or cared—that they were recording something for an anti-rock film:

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For a newspaper dispatch from Granger's lecture tour with the film strip, go here. For another paranoid fever dream from the era, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.

Pamela Anderson Warns That 'The Crack Babies of Porn' Are Nigh

Thu, 01 Sep 2016 10:30:00 -0400

It's weird enough trying to shoehorn Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal into a parable about online pornography. But what makes this Wall Street Journal op-ed truly bizarre is its co-author: icon of '80s fantasy Pamela Anderson. "If anyone still had doubts about the addictive dangers of pornography, Anthony Weiner should have put paid to them with his repeated, self-sabotaging sexting," the ex-Baywatch actress and Playboy model writes. "And if anyone still doubted the devastation that porn addiction wreaks on those closest to the addict, behold the now-shattered marriage of Mr. Weiner and Huma Abedin." Now, "porn addiction" is usually a proxy for other problems, so I would be skeptical of Anderson and her co-writer Schmuley Boteach's conclusions even if they were broadly applicable in Weiner and Abedin's case. But the fact is that there's no evidence Weiner's problems were related to online pornography, or that he even consumed it regularly. The (now myriad) sexual improprieties Weiner is accused of are all of the sexting and dick-pic sending variety. As The Washington Post notes, "sexting between consenting adults is considered by many to be a safe form of sexual expression." But like anything that brings pleasure or fills some psychological need, this form of " electronic foreplay" can also become compulsive. Compulsive behavior is generally rooted in the same sorts of underlying psychological issues, whether it's gambling or checking social-media or food-restriction or sexting. But Americans have a soft-spot for holding media responsible—Photoshop begets anorexia, Grand Theft Auto causes anti-social behavior, etc. And this holds especially true when it comes to sexual activity. So while people have cheated on their spouses, sent ill-advised erotic communications, and gotten-off on exhibitionism for centuries, folks for some reason want to believe that online porn is the culprit for Weiner and his kinky contemporaries. Sample one more overwrought paragraph from the Anderson/Boteach article: Put another way, we are a guinea-pig generation for an experiment in mass debasement that few of us would have ever consented to, and whose full nefarious impact may not be known for years. How many families will suffer? How many marriages will implode? How many talented men will scrap their most important relationships and careers for a brief onanistic thrill? How many children will propel, warp-speed, into the dark side of adult sexuality by forced exposure to their fathers' profanations? The duo also warns that "the incidence of porn addiction will only spiral as the children now being raised in an environment of wall-to-wall, digitized sexual images become adults inured to intimacy and in need of even greater graphic stimulation. They are the crack babies of porn." The crack babies of porn! (So... a media-hyped panic that turned out to be way overblown?) Anyway, for a chaser, check out Judith Levine in the Fall issue of n+1. Levine's essay, which explores children of the 1960s and '70s (including her own) exposure to erotica and pornography and traces the roots of the anti-porn hysteria, is the perfect antidote to fact-lite, melodrama-heavy fearmongering over online porn today. She points out that while courts in the '70s and '80s wavered on the free-speech protections owed pornography, the basic premise that viewing porn caused harm to kids and teens was always just presented and taken as a given, despite there being little evidence to back it up. Today, these untested "truths" about porn and young people have become conventional wisdom. And crusaders are using the same playbook now when it comes to adults. The science never seems to back up what they want to find, but if every infidelity, sexual compuls[...]

Beyond Gay and Straight: New Paper Says Sexual Orientation Is Much More Complicated

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:35:00 -0400

Have you ever looked at "MILF" photos? Lusted after someone with "dad bod?" Congratulations, you might be a mesophiliac! "Mesophilia"—a sexual attraction to middle-aged adults—is one of dozens of potential sexual-orientations explored in a new paper from forensic psychologist Michael Seto, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and director of forensic rehabilitation research at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group. Seto's research has long focused on sexuality, especially the psychology of sex offenders and of pedophiles. In his latest paper, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Seto returns to and expands upon "the idea that pedophilia, a sexual interest in prepubescent children, can be considered a sexual orientation for age, in conjunction with the much more widely acknowledged and discussed sexual orientation for gender." The gendered direction of attraction is usually what we mean when we talk about sexual orientation: are you gay? straight? bisexual? But a burgeoning idea among sex researchers and psychologists is that this defines things too narrowly. As Jesse Singal explains at New York mag, "given the current scientific understanding of what sexual orientation is — that it is a deep-seated attraction toward certain sorts of people that first manifests itself around puberty, tends to be stable across the lifespan, and can't be altered by any intentional means — there's compelling reason to think gender is just one piece of a bigger, more complex puzzle." Even the gender dimension is more complex than most realize, writes Seto, with some people "attracted to gynandromorphs, that is... individuals with physical features of both sexes ... other individuals who are attracted specifically to transgender people, and those who would describe themselves as more pansexual with regard to gender, for example, being attracted to both cis- and trans-gender women or men." According to Seto—who defines sexual orientation as "essential aspects of one's sexuality that organize sexual attention, sexual response, and sexual behavior"—all of us have "multiple sexual orientations, rather than a single sexual orientation, across a variety of different dimensions." In his paper, Seto looks at seven chronophilias—orientations where sexual attraction hinges on age—and various paraphilias, the term given to sexual desires such as sadism, masochism, and exhibitionism. After gender, the second most-studied dimension for sexual attraction has been age. The vast majority of people are teleiophilic—that is, preferring sexually mature but pre-middle-age adults. For men, data indicates that around one percent are pedophilic (attracted to prepubescent children), notes Seto, while nepiophilia (attraction to infants and toddlers) is much more rare and hebephilia (attraction to children around ages 11-14) and ephebophilia (attraction to adolescents) both more common. Good estimates are hard to come by, however, as "little is known about noncriminal variations in age interests" and most of the research that does exist is exclusive to men. Sexual orientations are thought to be innate—i.e., a person can't choose to stop getting turned-on by feet or dominance or dad-bod anymore than they can choose to stop sexually reacting as they do to the opposite or same sex. This tends to alarm folks who think that calling something natural is to condone anything it inspires. But psychopathy and sociopathy are innate, or natural, too. The born-this-way element of sexual orientation doesn't mean that acting on an orientation is OK when it conflicts with other moral or social norms we've nurtured. Likewise, sexual orientations are psychologically neutral, notes Seto—that is, [...]

Watching Porn Predicts Divorce? A Few Reasons To Be Skeptical

Mon, 22 Aug 2016 16:45:00 -0400

For married folks, watching pornography can nearly double the divorce risk—or at least that's how a new study on the topic is being spun. Behind the dire headlines, however, lies a much less alarming scenario. Let's start with what the study, "Till Porn Do Us Part? Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorce," actually measured: using longitudinal data from America's General Social Survey, researchers honed in on married respondents who initially reported that they didn't consume pornography but started watching it at some point before they were next surveyed (a group that comprised about 7 percent of all respondents). This group was compared to married respondents who never reported watching any pornography. Led by Samuel Perry, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma, the researchers discovered that beginning to watch porn between survey waves was associated with an increased likelihood of getting divorced by the next survey period, compared to couples who said they never watched porn. Overall, "beginning pornography use between survey waves nearly doubled one's likelihood of being divorced by the next survey period, from 6 percent to 11 percent, and nearly tripled it for women, from 6 percent to 16 percent," said Perry. There are several plausible explanations for this finding that don't posit porn causing divorces. Perhaps for those who don't watch porn when they first get married, taking up the habit signals something going wrong in the relationship—a lack of sexual satisfaction, more time being spent alone, etc. In this scenario, viewing porn and divorce are both symptoms of marital unhappiness. Or perhaps people prone to watching porn are, in general, somewhat more likely than those who don't to struggle with monogamy, value sexual variety, eschew strict religious rules on sex and marriage, or possess some other trait that could cause a higher likelihood to divorce; put the reverse way, those who have never watched porn might be more beholden to cultural or religious mores against both adult entertainment and divorce. In this scenario, viewing porn and getting divorced (or doing neither) are both rooted in some third factor related to values or personality. Perry and his team did entertain some of these possibilities, examining how things such as age, length of time married, religious beliefs, and marital happiness affected the link between porn and divorce. And indeed, these things did have a moderating influence, leading Perry to conclude that "viewing pornography, under certain social conditions, may have negative effects on marital stability" (emphasis mine). What we wind up with isn't Watching Porn Doubles Your (i.e., everyone's) Likelihood of Divorce! but that for some couples—those who abstain from porn at the beginning of their marriage and are likely to be younger, married for a shorter time period, and less religious—starting to watch porn is linked to likelihood of divorce in some indeterminate way. Because Perry's paper was just presented at the 2016 American Sociological Association conference Saturday and has not yet been published (or peer-reviewed), there are also large gaps in what we know about the data in question. I would be interested to learn how the group compare to couples where one or both spouses said from the beginning that they sometimes watched porn. Vocativ talked to neuroscientist Nicole Prause, who has done a lot of her own research on pornography's effects, about the study, and she pointed out several problems. "Since masturbation almost always occurs with sex film viewing, [not controlling for masturbation] s a gross oversight,," Prause said. She also faulted Perry[...]