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Published: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:32:17 -0500


4 Incredibly Dumb Ways the Government Is Spending Your Money to Punish People for Having Sex

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 10:28:00 -0500

In our government's ever-escalating war on prostitution, U.S. cops continue sinking to new lows in executing sting-ops and other ploys designed to punish people willing to pay or be paid for sex. With too many recent examples to cover individually, I've decided to round up a few that have stuck out over the past month. So behold: here are a few of the foolish, counterproductive, and outright cruel ways in which U.S. authorities are spending public-safety resources to further a futile crusade against consensual commercial sex between adults. Making Women Agree to Fetish Requests Before Arresting Them One disturbing new trend I've noticed of late is undercover cops posing not just as vanilla sex-buyers or women looking to get cash for sex but as prostitution clients with unusual kinks or women demanding payment in things like cheeseburgers. Then, after a sex worker or would-be client is arrested by undercover officers, the police—and the media segments that parrot them—are sure to highlight the more "weird" (read: mockable and attention-grabbing) elements of the bust. For instance, in one November prostitution sting in Ohio, a woman asked an undercover cop she thought was a potential customer to bring some nachos to the appointment. She also requested a cash payment along with the snack. Guess what the police, and headlines above her photo (which is now plastered all over the internet), emphasized? Woman has sex for nachos, of course. What makes this latest example especially egregious is that police didn't just publicize a true, albeit inconsequential and potentially embarrassing, detail that did at least originate in the real request. In this case, they set up a sting wherein sex workers advertising online were asked to oblige an undercover cop's fetish request, which involved gummy worms in some way. But the gummy-worm fetish part has no bearing on whether the elements of the crime of prostitution are satisfied, so it's hard to see why officers would include it but for their own amusement or to ensure that the sting would be irresistible to the press afterward (or both). After one woman, whom the police-report classifies as "a known prostitute in the area," agreed to indulge the request and told the "client" to bring the gummy worms with him, she was arrested for prostitution as well as "possessing criminal tools"—her cellphone, since she used it to arrange her date with the undercover officer. The woman spent the night in the Mahoning County (Ohio) jail and has a court date set for January. Local news headlines about the bust made it seem as if she had requested the gummy worms as payment for sex. Arresting Teens for Interfering With Pre-Crime Three Michigan teenagers have filed a lawsuit against Detroit police officers, after they were arrested in August for distracting a relative who was meeting a woman—an undercover police officer he thought was a sex worker—in a CVS parking lot to pay for sexual activity. Police said the teens, who had been parked outside a fast-food restaurant across the street where one of them worked, interfered in an official investigation when they flagged down the older man with shouts and arm gestures, prompting him to head over their way. The cops contended that the teens had been yelling "don't do it," and "appeared to be discouraging the older Arabic male from talking with the decoy," according to the police report. The young men, 17-year-olds Hassan Abdallah and Ibrahim Bazzi and 18-year-old Ali Chami, claim they had simply seen Abdallah's relative and reacted like anyone might to get his attention. But even if the teens had somehow known that by pulling into a CVS parking-lot, the older man was intending to meet a sex worker, "so what?" asked defense attorney Amir Makled. "The objective of any law-enforcement official is to deter crime." And if the young men "were helping deter crime... what's going on? What's the problem?" Makled and fellow attorney Nick Hadous suggested at a press conference that maybe the cops were "offended" that the teens had inadvertently thwarted their [...]

Ask Elizabeth Nolan Brown Your Burning Questions About Sex Policy

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0500

From her award-winning Reason cover story "The War on Sex Trafficking Is the New War on Drugs" to her hardboiled quantitative reporting on modern vice squads, Elizabeth Nolan Brown is your gal for smart, readable journalism about sex policy and politics. Her work was cited throughout an amicus brief in the First Amendment case that later got called out favorably by Judge Richard Posner in his decision siding with Backpage. Also, sex columnist Dan Savage quotes her.

Basically, she knows her sex policy stuff. And a beat like Brown's is pretty much only possible at Reason, where we understand and love sex and commerce in equal measure.

So ask her anything over at her Twitter account using the #askalibertarian hastag. And then donate!

Read the whole exchange below.

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Listening to Sex Offenders

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 15:00:00 -0500

Sex Offenders, Stigma, and Social Control, by Diana Rickard, Rutgers University Press, 216 pp., $44.95 Last year, Lenore Skenazy hosted a brunch at her home in New York City. The "free range kids" advocate invited journalists, fed them quiche, and introduced them to two guest speakers. Both were young men who had served time for sex crimes against minors. As videotape rolled, one man told the audience about entering puberty with great sexual confusion. He said he'd been raised in a fundamentalist Christian family, homeschooled, and kept isolated from other kids, including girls. He talked about sexually touching his little sister, and he talked about being incarcerated for this offense while he himself was still a child. The other man described a statutory crime. He is gay, and as a very young adult, he said, he began a relationship—including sex—with a gay teen younger than the legal age of consent. The young man served his time in prison, but then an effort began to "civilly commit" him to a locked mental hospital for sex offenders, probably for the rest of his life. That effort was irrational and vicious, he said; he certainly was not a continuing danger to children. The reporters scribbled notes. They looked spellbound. I was at the brunch. It was a terrific event, one whose time had come. (Reason ran video from it online, and Skenazy wrote about it in the July 2015 issue.) Skenazy has spent the past several years writing and speaking about what she feels is a modern-day panic about imagined danger to children. She talks about parents reluctant to let their kids roam the neighborhood, about children not allowed even to play on their lawns for fear of being kidnapped or molested. One big trigger for that panic, Skenazy believes, is erroneous attitudes about sex offenders. Research by the U.S. Department of Justice shows that the vast majority of sex offenders pose no further threat to children after they do their time. Nevertheless, they get put on public sex offender registries, and residence restrictions banish them from parts of cities and even entire cities. They can't get work. They fear vigilantes visiting their addresses, which are publicized on the registry. Thus do irrationality and paranoia quarantine a group from society. That was the message of Skenazy's brunch, with its Sunday-morning quiche, its ex-cons, and the favorable press that followed. But the event's success was marred months later, when the gay man who had spoken there was re-arrested. He'd been caught texting with a teenaged boy. He was jailed again, amid a new round of publicity. For the fledgling movement for sex offenders' civil and human rights, the incident was disheartening. The movement's nascent efforts remain swamped by cultural noise about sex offenders, noise that is often wrong. Take the claim that sex offenders are incorrigible even after being punished—that most can't or won't control themselves, and they inevitably re-offend. Sometimes they do. But a raft of research, including studies by both the U.S. and Canadian governments, have shown that adjudicated sex offenders have a very low recidivism rate. The U.S. study found that rates for first-time offenders are as low as five percent during the first three years after release. That's the lowest rate for any violent crime except murder. Nor is it true that people who sexually assault kids tend to be strangers to their victims. That's the idea that fuels sex offender registries and residency restrictions, but the vast majority of offenders are family members or friends of victims. Every time you see sex-crime law christened with the first name of a dead child who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered by a stranger, remember that these scenarios are about as rare as death by lightning. But child sex abuse is common. Trusted stepfathers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, teachers, family friends, religious leaders—these are typical offenders. Police, prosecutors, and court-mandated psychotherapists characterize the[...]

Porn-Regulating Prop 60 Faces Final Showdown Tonight in California

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:30:00 -0500

Today Californians vote on Proposition 60, a ballot measure sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) that would require condom usage in adult films; empower a full-time state porn czar to monitor said films for violations (and impose steep fines); establish a licensing scheme for porn-production companies; and allow California residents to bring civil suits against porn producers or anyone with financial interests in a sex scene sans prophylactics (which could, in turn, expose porn performers real names and addresses to the public). AHF President Michael Weinstein, the main driver behind Prop 60—and the man who would be the state's first porn czar—has also repeatedly petitioned the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to make condoms in porn a requirement of state workplace-safety regulations; Cal/OSHA voted against such a rule again last February. And he's the genesis of a 2012 Los Angeles County law requiring condoms in porn filmed in Los Angeles County. "He wants to be the sheriff of porn town," said Karen Fuller Tynan, a California lawyer who specializes in adult-industry case, at an AVN panel in Las Vegas in January. "He really wants to get rid of us, and wants to rule us." Weinstein, however, maintains that he's interested in stopping the spread of HIV. The porn industry, including the performers Prop 60 is ostensibly meant to protect, has been vocally opposed to the measure, as have HIV/AIDS organizations and the state Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties. A partial list of opponents includes adult-industry trade association the Free Speech Coalition, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the St. James Infirmary, Equality California, all seven of California's largest newspapers (the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Orange County Register, the East Bay Times, the Sacramento Bee, and the San Diego Union Tribune) and dozens of other papers. My cali peeps are tellin me #Prop60 & #Prop61 are wolves in sheep clothing (coming in one name but meaning another) and y'all should vote NO — Questlove Gomez (@questlove) November 8, 2016 According to Prop 60 opponents, the measure presents too much of a risk to performer privacy, giving California residents "the ability to out porn performers and get paid for it," as Violet Blue put it at Engadget. ("You're incentivizing the viewer to sue us," adult actor Tommy Gunn told the Hollywood Reporter.) They also worry the law could end up ensnaring individuals who do private webcam shows from their own homes (a rising part of the porn industry) or make amateur adult-films involving real-life a lover, spouse, or friend; California couples with an exhibitionist streak could find themselves facing tens of thousands in fines. But most importantly, it's completely unnecessary—the adult-film industry is self-policing, performers are tested every 14 days, and there hasn't been a single case of on-set HIV transmission in porn since 2004, they say. Vice News Tonight reporter (and Reason alum) Michael Moynihan talked to Yes On 60 campaign manager Rick Taylor on the show's season debut Monday and asked him about his group's claims that the porn industry lies about HIV transmissions. Taylor defended the claim by saying that "none of us know, truthfully, and they don't know and I'm not gonna tell you I know. What I do know is that STDs on a daily basis gets transmitted." Here's a bit more of the exchange: Moynihan: STDs? But if this is the concern, why do the ads you guys run have three people that stated they have contracted HIV on an adult set? They're saying that in the ad. They're saying 'we contracted this on a set,' but you're saying you don't know? Taylor: I'm saying that I believe they did. I'm saying I believe they did. Porn performer Chanel Preston explained to Moynihan later in the segment how condoms could actually increase performers' risk of contractin[...]

Chicago Cop Arrested for Sex Trafficking and Child Porn, Accused of Paying Teens—Including Braces-Wearing 14-Year-Old—for Sex

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 11:35:00 -0400

(image) Another day, another U.S. cop accused of abetting the prostitution of teenagers. Chicago police officer William Whitley, a 26-year veteran of the department, was arrested Tuesday for sex trafficking of a minor and production of child pornography, amid an ongoing investigation into claims that Whitley, 60, paid girls as young as 14-years-old for sex at parties, at his apartment, and even in his car with his partner present. Whitley was also found to have taken graphic photos of the girls and have their phone numbers stored in his phone, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday.

Whitley has been on paid desk duty since a federal investigation into him was launched in September 2015. It started after the 14-year-old was arrested on outstanding warrants after being picked up in an FBI-orchestrated prostitution sting.

At the time, Whitley denied knowing a 16-year-old girl who said he had paid her for sexual activity; he admitted to having sex once with the 14-year-old—a runaway with a full set of metal braces on her teeth—but claimed that he did not know she was underage.

Whitley's case serves as a great example of the culture of corruption and lack of accountability present at so many police stations throughout the country. His file reveals at least 28 complaints against him, going back as far as 1991, including several incidents in which a temporary suspension was ordered. In the past six years alone, Whitley has been sued twice for wrongful arrest, though one case was dismissed before trial and a jury found in his favor in the other.

According to the Chicago Tribune, another Chicago police officer may also have paid underage girls for sex and is still under investigation.

A recent Associated Press analysis of police sexual misconduct found that approximately three U.S. officers per week had their licenses revoked over sexual offenses from 2009 through 2014.

Brickbat: Squirelly

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The state of Colorado has shut down the Squirrel Creek Wildlife Rescue and charged owner Kendall Seifert with 21 criminal counts including keeping rescued animals for too long and putting them on display. But Seifert says the state is really coming at him because he operates a swinger's club adjacent to the rescue facility, a business he says funds his wildlife rescue efforts.

Man Found Not-Guilty of Rape Charges by Two Juries Still Required to Report All New Sex Partners to Police

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:00:00 -0400

A British man has been banned from entering bars after 9 p.m. and must alert police every time he intends to have sexual contact with someone new after being found innocent of sexual assault and rape charges in two jury trials. Think you must have read the above sentence wrong? Probably not. Despite being deemed innocent by his peers—twice—Nicholas Crawshaw, 23, is now subject to a civil "Sex Risk Order" after local cops weren't content to let the trials-by-jury stand. Initially, Crawshaw stood accused of sexually assaulting eight women between 2010 and 2015. In March 2016, a jury found him not guilty of several of the counts but couldn't decide on others, spawning a retrial. In that trial, which concluded October 18, Crawshaw was found not guilty of the remaining eight offenses. After spending 16 months in prison—and being cleared of all six counts of rape, three counts of sexual assault, and two counts of assault by penetration that had been facing him—Crawshaw was allowed to go free. Following the second trial, local prosecutor Alison Mutch said, "We respect the decision of the jury." But that respect was apparently short-lived. On October 21, just three days after Crawshaw was cleared of all charges against him, Cheshire Police initiated civil proceedings to impose an interim "Sex Risk Order" on Crawshaw. Speaking for Cheshire Police, Elizabeth Heavy told the court that Crawshaw was a "sexual predator" who had "admitted sexual contact" with several of the women who had accused him. Crawshaw "admitted in the course of criminal proceedings that he had sex with one complainant in a toilet in a nightclub," Heavy pointed out, and he said he met "many" complainants in nightclubs or bars. "It is for [these] reasons that the application has been drafted," she said. It's true that Crawshaw admitted to sexual contact with some of his accusers. It's also, on its own, irrelevant to whether he's a "sexual predator." The sexual contact Crawshaw admitted to was, he claims, consensual. The accusers claimed it was not. The jury found Crawshaw more credible. But West Cheshire magistrates agreed, at least temporarily, with the local cops' logic in this case. On Monday, they issued a temporary Sex Risk Order against Crawshaw which prohibits him from going into places that serve alcohol after 9 p.m. and requires him to inform local police beforehand every time he intends to have "sexual contact" with someone new. In November, magistrates will hold a full hearing to determine how long the order will stay in place. According to Sky News, more than 50 Sex Risk Orders have been issued by British authorities, although only one prior order requires its subject to notify the government of every new sex partner. That order, issued in 2015 against John O'Neill, was subsequently deemed "unpoliceable" by a York Magistrates' Court. However, the only adjustment York magistrates made to O'Neill's order was that he needn't inform cops 24 hours before starting a new sexual relationship but merely "as soon as is reasonably practicable."[...]

Operation Cross Country X: Everything You Need to Know About the FBI's Annual 'Underage Human Trafficking' Sting In One Chart

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 07:40:00 -0400

The results have been pouring in from Operation Cross Country X, the FBI's tenth annual, nationwide sex sting targeting what the agency describes as "underage human trafficking." Each year, FBI agents across America team up with police officers, sheriff's deputies, state attorneys, Homeland Security investigators, and others for a few days of posing as people buying or selling sex. This year, "hundreds of law enforcement officials took part in sting operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, and other areas frequented by pimps, prostitutes, and their customers," the FBI reported. Seventy-four FBI-led "Child Exploitation Task Forces" orchestrated operations in 103 U.S. cities, with more than 400 different law-enforcement agencies participating in the October 13-16 efforts. And the payoff? According to the FBI, "82 sexually exploited juveniles" were recovered and "239 pimps and other individuals" arrested. The average age of the minors was just under 16-years-old. "This is a depressing day in law enforcement," said FBI Director James Comey, announcing Operation Cross Country 10 (OCCX) results at an International Association of Chiefs of Police gathering last week. Comey's right—it is a depressing day in law enforcement. But not for the reasons he would have us believe. What's depressing is watching authorities congratulate themselves—and the media follow suit—on fighting child sexual-exploitation in America when the bulk of OCCX efforts involved cops contacting adult female sex workers while posing as customers and then arresting them, if not also seizing the women's money and throwing them in jail. Take a look at just who got caught up in OCCX, by the numbers: The chart above does not reflect all minors identified or arrests made in OCCX. But of the "more than 400" U.S. law-enforcement agencies that participated, the sample I'm pulling from includes, at my best estimation, 367 of them, including divisions of 12 federal agencies (such as the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration). I compiled it over the past week using information from law-enforcement and media reports. It includes 79 of the FBI's stated 82 juveniles identified, ecompasses sting efforts in 30 states, and includes many metropolitan areas that are portrayed by police as hubs of human trafficking, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Within this sample, nearly three-quarters of all arrests were for simple solicitation or prostitution—that is, men and women trying to participate in consensual commercial sex. Some of the "criminals" the FBI helped take down in this operation included a homeless Wyoming woman who was allegedly selling sex and carrying marijuana and a 61-year-old woman offering sex from an upstate New York hotel room. In El Paso, "about 20 agents and officers with the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, El Paso Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety took part" in a bust that led to the arrest of one 18-year-old woman on charges of fraud, theft, and tampering with government records and one 18-year-old woman for prostitution. Had the 18-year-old El Paso sex-worker been just slightly younger, the FBI could have added her to its "rescued minors" roster: Anyone under age 18 found to be offering sexual-services for pay is considered a sex-trafficking victim under federal law. It needn't require the minor to have been abducted, held captive, or coerced into the sex trade; to have a pimp; or to be working with anyone else at all. In most cases, FBI efforts to "rescue" girls starts the same as the process for busting adult women: make contact via online ad and, once a girl or woman meets in person at a hotel and offers sex, detain them. Those neither underage nor claiming t[...]

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[...]

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 [...]

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 stat[...]

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[...]

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 coachi[...]