Sep 25 2006

Patriarchy, 1; Teenage Girls, 0

As a new day dawns over the Twisty Bungalow, I ingest this cheery report* on an apparent upswing in the ratio of sex slaves to non-sex slaves within the Alameda County, California population of teenage girls.

Yup, the sheriff’s department Sexual Offenders Tracking Unit, as part of the dominant culture’s ongoing effort to buttress one of its all-time fave cultural narratives (Virgin vs. Whore), has been “putting the heat on prostitutes.” While discharging these patriarchal ass-kissing duties, they’ve noticed that, although the “trend” is “nothing new,” they feel like they’re arresting more teenage girls than ever before.

Whether or not this anecdotal evidence is indicative of an actual teen prostitute riot (the Sexual Offenders Tracking Unit to which I allude above is basing its theory of this “sudden trend” on their having arrested four girls in the last couple of weeks) is only marginally of interest. Two aspects of this “news” item that particularly chap the Twisty hide are (a) the dogged persistence with which proponents of the status quo engage in the wholly asinine activity of jamming up hookers of any age, and (b) the collaborateurism of news media in reporting these bogus teen hooker roundups.

Why is arresting prostitutes asinine? Any moron can tell you that the sex industry exists to service pervy porn-sick male violence. That same moron, if he is not a complete tool, can also tell you that arresting prostitutes doesn’t do jack to mitigate that pervy porn-sick violence. All it does is perpetuate the myth that slutty fallen women are to blame for male sexual aggression**. The community can look itself in the mirror if it believes that its henchmen are tough on crimes that threaten ‘family values’ while blissfully ignoring the fact that the johns who buy sex are their own menfolk.

Why is the concomitant reportage asinine? It almost universally misrepresents girls and women, rather than pimps and johns, as the ‘problem’, and it does so with titillating details about “sudden trends” and “thirteen-year-olds having sex!” In the Tri-Valley Herald piece, for example, we learn all about the teen sex slaves (“Most are runaways who are being taken advantage of by older men”; “The pimps convince the girls that they love them”; “The young girls are physically and sexually assaulted by the men before being forced into prostitution”; “These guys just prey on young girls.”), but not until the last two sentences is there even a half-assed mention of the pimps (“detectives do what they can to have the men prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”), and no word whatsoever on the slimebags who pay to rape these girls.

The Alameda County sheriff’s department, therefore, shows remarkable forbearance when it dares to wonder whether justice is really served by “tossing” these exploited 13-year-olds into juvy when they could maybe get them into support programs instead. That the Tri-Valley Herald reporter calls this a “delicate dilemma,” when in fact it merely describes a systemic reluctance to extend basic human rights to teenage girls, just shows to go ya.

*The Tri-Valley Herald places punctuation low on its list of journalistic priorities — just a heads-up for those who haven’t had coffee yet.

** Before protesting that not all men who use prostitutes are aggressive, please recall that prostitution represents the pinnacle of human civilization’s endemic misogyny, and that any act involving the exercise of dominance by a member of a privileged class over a member of an oppressed class qualifies as aggression.


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  1. Thanks for the heads-up on the punctuation problem — perhaps the paper’s server simply strips all apostrophes and quotation marks as a matter of course? Or maybe this is an attempt to be “down with the kids” by imitating IM style? Whatever it may be, it’s certainly annoying, especially on this, the day after “national punctuation day”: http://www.nationalpunctuationday.com

    I note that the banner ads below the article include a link to some medication that’s supposed to lower your blood pressure. Perhaps the best way to lower blood pressure would be a prostitution policy that addresses the problem (a culture that treats girls and women as commodities), rather than just the symptoms and byproducts of that problem (the commodified girls and women).

  2. If I ever see anyone wearing one of these t-shirts, I’ll figure they too must blame the patriarchy:

    Happy (Day After) National Punctuation Day, CafeSiren.

  3. wendyhome.com

    I’m soooooo angry. This line implies that it’s happening because these girls have no self-respect:
    “they just have less respect for themselves and less of a problem putting themselves into risky situations”
    This line gives the ‘problem’ ownership clearly to the girls:
    “direct them toward programs that will help them deal with the personal problems that have caused them turn to prostitution?”

    That’s just so MADDENING
    giulty of a crime that is uncommitable without a male committing a crime too, guilty of owning the ‘problem’ that caused the crime and lacking self-respect. I’mm off to drink copious cups of Tea in the hope it will calm me down.

    Thanks Twisty. It needed to be said/typed.

  4. Wendy’s comments on respect for women (for how can they be expected to respect themselves if no one else does) got me thinking about a news story I heard yesterday on young American Latina women converting to Islam.

    I found it an interesting story, in part because I’m interested in the dynamics of religious conversion in the context of family and cultural expectations — and in that respect, it was very good. But there was a bit where they interviewed a young woman who said that one of the benefits of conversion was the gendered expectation of female modesty. In short, she felt relieved that she could conduct her (veiled) life without being treated as a sexual object; that people she interacted with (job interviewers, for example) would focus on her intelligence and qualifications, rather than her appearance.

    Now, I don’t want to get into the politics of veiling, but what upset me about this portion of the interview was the analysis: that these young women were making a calculated choice (and one that ran counter to general American gender politics) to trade freedom for respect. Never was it suggested that a woman, like a man, might reasonably demand both.

  5. …but not until the last two sentences is there even a half-assed mention of the pimps

    Well, we all know how hard it is out there for a pimp. No need to compound his hardship by scrutinizing his trafficking.

    Seriously, though, if these girls had flown under the radar long enough to turn 18, their situation wouldn’t even warrant the paltry consideration it’s been given. After all, most of-age prostitutes were at one time coerced, underaged runaways themselves. These people don’t give a damn about the personal histories of prostitutes, though; they only care about these girls while they’re still teenagers. But what, really, is a downtrodden, forced hooker supposed to do on her 18th birthday? Wean herself off the drugs and flee her pimp captor to accept a scholarship to MIT? Use her savings account and excellent credit to start her own sequined sweatshirt business?

  6. Re CafeSiren:

    “these young women were making a calculated choice (and one that ran counter to general American gender politics) to trade freedom for respect.”

    That’s pretty much the argument Andrea Dworkin made, convincingly I think, in “Right Wing Women.” When a male-dominated “left” offers women only the “liberation” of being sexually available to men in general rather than sexually monopolized by one man–who has, at least on paper, some enforceable duty to support the kids–the Right starts to look like the safer alternative. It sounds to me as though the young women profiled in the article are attracted to Islam for the same reason. If the choices are hijab or a thong, hijab wins as a matter of self-respect; the problem is a society in which those are, or are seen to be, the choices.

  7. madsheilamusings.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this, Twisty.

  8. When I was a girl, my town had some assinine “take back the night” march organized by middle-class white women and scheduled to march everywhere except our core neighbourhoods (because it was too unsavory and unsafe). My blamer aunt wanted to go march with a sign saying, “Clean up the streets! Keep your husbands at home!”

    Now I need to go find out if she did.

  9. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    it all ties in with the disturbing trend toward “pimp” fashionizing. I blame Britney Spears’ mantoy, and the patriarchy. Young women are being conditioned to think that being a “pimp” is a fashion statement or a musical choice, not a criminal activity.

  10. Yes. Exploiting sweatshop workers bad, exploiting the chemical dependence of smokers bad, exploiting the natural environment for profit bad; exploiting women in the sex business glamorous and even sympathetic. Why am I certain there won’t be an Oscar-nominated song called “It’s Hard Out Here for a Union Carbide Executive”?

  11. blog.3bulls.net

    Sadly, I think the official score is 1 zillion to zero. These things are really infuriating.

  12. Beautifully written as always, Twisty.

    I particularly agree with Buttercup’s observation of Pimp=fashion statement.

    Here’s the link to the report “Prostitution is sexual violence”.

    As in Murdoch’s dirty old man media, young women are being conditioned to think that only by being raped or used as porn-fodder can they make a “respectable” living. “Page three” girls in the UK apparently earn 100k a year. Link that to a recent report on how women are descriminated against in science, and we begin to wonder how far we’ve come at all since the dark ages.

    When do we get some autonomy over our bodies and identities?

  13. “When do we get some autonomy over our bodies and identies?”

    A lot of women think they will post menopause. I have not found that to be true. By the way the Farley article you’ve linked is behind registration. I would post it if I could but it’s a pdf without link.

    And while I’m whining about what I don’t got; where’s the Morsel Institute?

  14. This morning, I woke up late with a headache (reading this hasn’t helped) and as I was brushing my teeth I was thinking about those PETA ads that show women’s! naked! udders!

    Bear with me here…

    And at exactly five minutes after I woke up I was trying to think about why, exactly, there AREN’T women, or a breed of women, being raised specifically to be human milk cows. I was having visions of rows of women chained to milking machines, violently artificially inseminated, etc. because human milk would be, in this vision, a truly fine delicacy and imagine the cheese!

    Stunnningly, at exactly six minutes after I woke up and had this stomach turning imaginative scenario run through my head I came to the conclusion that the absolute ONLY REASON it hadn’t happened had NOTHING to do with human dignity, respect, or even fetishization of motherhood but because human breast milk production wouldn’t be economically viable on a large scale production. Too expensive to keep the cattle, but not enough return.

    And let me just say, I really creeped myself out. And then I get to work and read Twisty and I can say, well, my pre-coffee visions are not so very different from reality after all. ‘Cause I’ll be goddamned if prostituting women isn’t real damn economically viable.

  15. Teenage girls, 0; probably the best reason prostitution should be decriminalized for the prostitute only. Johns and pimps should be busted and busted big. Sweden (I think) is the only country that has done this. It’s a start.

    It disgusts me that countries, such as Germany, are legalizing prostitution. Good grief.

  16. faultline.org/place/toad

    langsuyar: Piers Anthony, “In the Barn,” in Again, Dangerous Visions, 1972.

    Interestingly, the narrator rescues an infant boy in the story. Because we all know who stories are really about.

  17. I’m sure that by the time they figure out how to make stem cells cure wrinkles and cellulite, there will be a mass industry in harvesting women’s eggs.

  18. This http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/slaves/ documentary on Eastern European slave prostitutes (I find the term sex slave too titillating) is heartbreaking. But for all its compassion, it too left johns out of the equation. We can all agree that the pimps are evil bastards. But why do the customers, the engine that drives the whole operation, get off (oh, ho ho) so lightly? Ok, rhetorical question, I know why and what to blame. Fucking depressing it is too.

    My commute takes me along Seattle’s most notorious prostitution street. I didn’t see them, for a long time. Not that they weren’t there, but I didn’t recognize them. Now I do; nearly every day I see a very young woman in uncomfortable shoes walking alone. They always look so very young and so very alone. Sorry to get sentimental, but I’m not one of those fun feminists who can say “but maybe this is their choice” when I know damn well it isn’t.

  19. Hi Pony,
    Is that any better?

    “Prostitution has much in common with other kinds of violence against women. What incest is to the family, prostitution is to the community. Prostitution is widely socially tolerated and its consumers (commercial sex customers who are called johns or tricks by women in prostitution) are socially invisible.”

    “Prolonged and repeated trauma precedes entry into prostitution, with most women beginning prostitution as sexually abused adolescents (Bagley and Young, 1987; Belton, 1992; Dworkin, 1997; Farley and Barkan, 1998; Silbert and Pines, 1983b, 1981; Simons and Whitbeck, 1991) (Table 1). Homelessness is frequently a precipitating event to prostitution. Women in prostitution are frequently raped and physically assaulted (Farley et al., 2003; Hunter, 1994; Miller, 1995; Parriott, 1994; Silbert and Pines, 1983a).”

    And the nail in the coffin:
    “Certainly there is an urgent need to address the mental health needs of women during prostitution and after escape. However, it is equally important to address men’s demand for prostitution. Acceptance of prostitution is one of a cluster of harmful attitudes that encourage and justify violence against women. Violent behaviors against women have been associated with attitudes that promote men’s beliefs that they are entitled to sexual access to women, that they are superior to women and that they are licensed as sexual aggressors (White and Koss, 1993). Customers of prostitutes strongly endorse these attitudes toward women.”

    I agree with Mar Iguana. Pimps and Johns should be put in stocks in the town square.

  20. I went to high school with a guy who is an LAPD vice cop. He is one of the few who will arrest under-aged prostitutes. The other cops won’t because they don’t want to deal with all the hours of extra paperwork it entails. Neat, huh?

    He says he has never, that’s NEVER, encountered one of these girls without a history of rape, incest, molestation, abuse.

  21. Patriarchy IS prostitution. Everyone is pimped, whored or johned.

    It’s the unholy trinity of phallic, father worship: The Pimp, the john and the holy ho. Provider, chump, and the invisible ghost.

    Omitted from the trinity is, of course, mother, enemy of father worship. Mother Mary, and all the rest of the creators of life, that one silly little thing women can do but men cannot, are only as good as their silent, suffering martyrdom.

    It’s the Church of the Sacred Motherfuckers.

    By the way and OT, brace yourselves women. The good doctors have decided to review the “opinion” that hysteria is an antiquated, misogynist and unscientific concept.

  22. What is called “hysteria” is often the only recourse of a person who is trapped in hell and refuses to cooperate. I think people who are immune to hysteria are prone to Stockholm syndrome. That’s just my theory.

    But back to the topic.

    Melissa Farley’s article is brilliant. It makes the connection between acceptance of prostitution and acceptance of violence against women. Once a you open your eyes to violence against women, you see it all over the place, especially television. It is invisible to people who accept prostitution, the way air is invisible.

  23. Per the NYTimes:

    “Hysteria seemed to be a vanished 19th-century extravagance useful for literary analysis but surely out of place in the serious reaches of contemporary science.”

    file:///c:/Documents and Settings/jrkainz/Desktop/NY Times/Hysteria Makes A Comeback.htm

    Or, to summarize, we’re all just on the rag.

  24. Mar Iguana: Sacred Motherfuckers! ROTFLMFAO! That’s great. And appropriate.

    saltyC: I agree, once you are aware of the degree of violence against women you can begin to feel a little like the only one who can see the Emperor’s bare arse. Especially when so many other people will tell you you’re imagining it or taking things too seriously etc. etc. ad infinitum. When I read Marilyn French’s “the war against women” I was seething for months.

    And they wonder /why/ we’re always on the rag!!!

    Is NY Times a Murdoch rag, by the way? Murdoch seems to be the Great Satan of feminists. Well, possibly the Great Satan of all things civilised really.

  25. I know this is already in the archives, but I was just recently referred to this blog. I’m a law student, and my experience at the public defender’s office alerted me to the disgusting sexism inherent in prostitution as a criminal offense. Out of the dozens of clients we interns had, only 5-10% of them were women. And nearly all of them were facing jail for 3rd-offense prostitution, a misdemeanor (on the 3rd strike, it becomes a felony). Women are busted all the time for prostitution. Police forces throughout the country waste resources on prostitution stings to arrest women, but men (johns) are rarely prosecuted for soliciting sex, and they certainly are not incarcerated nearly as much as women for prostitution. I believe prostitution should not be a criminal offense because of this imbalance in prosecution. Decriminalizing it saves women from prison, which doesn’t improve their situations. (Nearly all of our women clients had children and were drug addicts.)

  26. Twisty

    Thanks, blueclare. It’s always comforting to hear from lawyerly types who get it.

  27. I believe the pimps and the johns should be criminally punished big time. Prostition should absolutely be a criminal offense. Just not for the prostitute.

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