May 23 2010

Profiles in Patriarchy: “The Slain Masseuse”

Good lard! TV! I ask you. They should exhibit TV right next to the Old Testament in the Great Moments in Patriarchy-Replication Technology Museum.

I just watched half of a true-crime-umentary: “48 Hours | Mystery: Seven Days of Rage: The Craigslist Killer.” I would say that the subject of this true-crime-umentary was Craigslist killer Philip Markoff, except that it wasn’t. The real star of the show was Dead Hookers and Kinky Sex.

That’s right, almost the entire program was devoted to sensationalizing the killer’s victims, prostituted women described variously as “the Las Vegas escort,” “a stripper” and “the slain masseuse” who had placed “erotic services” ads on Craigslist. Here is how murder victim Julissa Brisman is portrayed:

“What we know about Julissa before this was that she was a party girl. She was living the high life in New York,” said Cramer. “She was a young, beautiful girl in New York City and she took full advantage of her youth and her beauty to, you know, live it up.”

Cut to a bunch of photographs of “aspiring model”/”slain masseuse” Brisman in various states of poutiness and undress. The pornulated photos were taken by a super-gross photographer dude who “was helping Julissa in her career.”

Let me tell you this one thing. Gross old dudes who photograph young women in lingerie to “help them in their career,” and then give the photos to “48 Hours” after the women are murdered in high-profile Beedy Ess Em cases can kiss my entire ass.

But I digress.

Just in case there were members of the viewing audience who didn’t get sufficiently off on photos of dead women in porn outfits, or who enjoy sexually-charged racist epithets, “48 Hours | Mystery” threw in Vanity Fair reporter Maureen Orth’s observations about Craigslist’s sex section:

“Craigslist has a huge number of categories – M for T, men for trannies; T for M, trannies for men; rice queens, white guys who only like Asians; burritos, white guys who only like Latinos. I mean, these are all up there, all the time.”

Nice. But shit, I digress again.

My hide is particularly chapped by an interview with victim #1, whom Markoff kidnaped, terrorized, and robbed at gunpoint. Right off the bat the focus is on her boobs, on her line of work and how “lucrative” it is, and on how she was askin’ for it by booking herself into a swanky hotel as a free agent hooker.

[TV sexploitation sexpert Joe] Moura said that by acting as her own boss, Tricia was increasing her risk.

“If there’s a street prostitute, she’s gonna have a pimp down the street or across the street on the corner who’s protecting her. Somebody using Craigslist getting a fancy hotel in Boston, she’s on her own.”

So ladies, remember; if you’re gonna work the classier hotels, you’d better get yourself a pimp to “protect” you. Otherwise you might come down with a terminal case of slain masseuse.


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  1. Zygar

    “If there’s a street prostitute, she’s gonna have a pimp down the street or across the street on the corner who’s protecting her. Somebody using Craigslist getting a fancy hotel in Boston, she’s on her own.”

    What would he have done? Come crashing in because his Pimpy-sense was tingling? What a ridiculous thing to say.

  2. Pantsuit Sally

    And of course, women are NEVER harmed by their pimps!

  3. Jill

    And of course, women are NEVER harmed by their pimps!

    I know! It’s unbelievable!

  4. Kiuku

    it’s 48 hours – pornography

    no mystery

  5. Teaspoon

    Because naturally, the most important thing about these women was that they had sex. Who needs to focus on little things like their names or the fact that they were brutally murdered?

  6. slade

    I want craig hog-tied. Just because.

  7. yttik

    The only anecdote to seeing all these pornographic celebrations of violence against women, is to review all the news you’ll never hear on TV, all the thousands of women who fought back and went on to live another day.

    I must admit, I am a sick puppy, because I love all these stories:

    “Police say the victim was able to fight off the man by kicking and hitting him several times in the face with the rock..”

    “A woman fought off a man who was attempting to rape her outside her Kissimmee home by kneeing him in the groin, according to police..”

    “Police said the suspect beat the woman with her own cane until she grabbed her gun from her purse and started firing..’

    “I had my keys in my hoodie pocket and I had them on a lanyard so I could swing them. And I swung them and I hit the left side of the head and I kneed him in the groin twice..

    “the victim fought with the assailant, who was armed with a knife, in her vehicle. She got a leg free and kicked him in the face a few times…”

  8. nails

    Jeez, when they describe the different kinds of prostituted women it almost takes on a crocodile hunter like feel. As if prostitutes are mysterious species instead of ordinary people. The ways that women become prostituted certainly isn’t mysterious, so the act is really half assed.

    The worst thing about the prostitute as a different species meme is that they never talk about the effing johns. That is who I am interested in. The johns are why these women are prostituted, and the dudes aren’t identified and dissected for their johnitude. They aren’t made different or mysterious for visiting prostitutes, as if paying for prostitution is somehow more natural and understandable than being prostituted. Seeing ex mayor Spitzer’s nasty grin on my TV post call girl gate was frickin repulsive, jokes about his visits to prostitutes are made in the open and he still gets to smile and show his face and not get blamed for it if someone kills him.

  9. Azundris

    OMG yttik, for a moment there I thought you’d made those up, as examples of “news we’d like to hear.” Then, I googled them.
    Is there a feed for that kind of thing somewhere that I’m unaware of? cos I could sure use some good news.

  10. Jodie

    yttik, please share your source! I would love that.

  11. Citizen Jane

    “The only anecdote to seeing all these pornographic celebrations of violence against women, is to review all the news you’ll never hear on TV, all the thousands of women who fought back and went on to live another day.”

    I’m a little antsy about hearing things like this because there are people who get into victim blaming and saying that victims would have been fine if they just fought back. Actually, the first woman in the video who was only robbed didn’t fight back, whereas the “slain masseuse” had indeed fought back. You never know if your attacker is going to kill you for fighting back or kill you for not fighting back.

  12. nails

    I agree, Citizen Jane. It also strikes me that every time I read a stranger-in-the-bushes style rape story in the news that there must be hundreds of women who knew their attackers and will never be mentioned because of that. It is where the self defense arguments about guns break down for me- most women are not prepared to fight off the people most likely to rape or attack them. We are at the mercy of the men we know and love most of all. Women who could not fight back don’t get mentioned either, because they get blamed and people don’t give a shit about victims who aren’t virginal or someone’s wife.

  13. Comrade Svilova

    I definitely agree that appreciating stories of women who successfully fought off their attackers runs the risk of victim-blaming or of ignoring the more common incidents of non-stranger attack. However, I did like those headlines as an antidote to news stories that constantly spin the message “if you are sexy, strange criminal men will give you what you deserve if you aren’t protected by another man.”

    Of course, it’s also necessary to point out the logical fallacies of the idea that a pimp = protection and that sexiness = asking for it.

    And yes, why does the media always act as if prostitution occurs within a vacuum?!? There are prostitutes but no johns because it’s no “natural” for men to desire the spread their seed constantly that the existence of johns can’t be dignified with a remark. Remember, men have a biological imperative to breed!! So of course they’ll frequent prostitutes and rape women and generally act on uncontrollable desire all the time!! Because that’s Just How Men Are!

    And feminists who believe that men can and should behave better are the “man-haters”? What a world.

  14. Comrade Svilova

    That should be “There are prostitutes but no johns because it’s SO ‘natural’ for men to desire the spread their seed …” Sorry!

  15. yttik

    Victim blaming is a state of being for women under the patriarchy. To suggest that women can somehow escape this fact by adjusting their behavior is, well, victim blaming.

    Would we tell a man not to take self defense classes, not to tell stories of men who fought back, because we are concerned that if he had such knowledge he might engage in self blame? Worse, would we suggest he not focus on defense because there are people who get into victim blaming out there?

    But I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I posted those news briefs. I was thinking that if the stories were focused on the men that got hurt from trying to attack women, the whole message would shift. If torturing women was not portrayed as erotic entertainment, but instead portrayed as a good way to get yourself seriously injured, we might see some change in this society. Call it behavior modification. Don’t show the crime scene photos over and over again, show the foot connecting to the groin in slow motion and instant replays after each commercial break.

  16. Jill

    “Actually, the first woman in the video who was only robbed didn’t fight back, whereas the “slain masseuse” had indeed fought back.

    Citizen Jane, you make an excellent point that I should have made in the original post. I effin hate that “she didn’t fight back hard enough” thing. This Craigslist Killer story nicely illustrates the resistance-is-futile aspect of misogynist violence.

    But neither must we hold women like Brisman responsible for their own murders (I’m not sayin’ anyone here has done this; I’m just sayin’, period). “She fought back and that’s what got her killed” is inaccurate. What got her killed was a psycho pornsick violent sociopath.

    A big hunk of a patriarchy blamer’s mad skillz is the ability to see the actions of the oppressor for what they are, despite ingrained cultural narratives that excuse, humorize, trivialize, or minimize’em, and that reassign responsibility to the oppressed.

  17. Sarah

    “A big hunk of a patriarchy blamer’s mad skillz is the ability to see the actions of the oppressor for what they are.”

    Ooh, we got mad skillz! Now if only we could figure out a way to impart them through osmosis to the general population.

  18. ew_nc

    It was a typical dull Sunday here, so I too watched this show. My favorite part was towards the end when some “expert” attempted to explain why Markoff became a murderer. I don’t really know what she said as I was shouting my explanation at the TV, “Because he’s a sick fuck, that’s why!”

    I must be a glutton for punishment, because later that evening I watched 60 Minutes. There was a story about a chemical in plastics called phthalates that some studies are suggesting cause “incomplete masculinization” in baby boys. I was almost amused at seeing how the patriarchal powers-that-be fluctuated between panic about the possibility of a generation of boys with little Johnsons, and terror about the millions of dollars that industry would lose if they had to eliminate this widespread chemical. It’s quite the conundrum for the menz – choosing between money and small junk.

  19. SargassoSea

    Got me a passle of XX-bdsm/pornsick-born-again-atheist types testing my mad skillz (and my humours) over in my other neck o’ the blamin’ woods.

    We need a BalmeTazer. Or a BlameCannon?

  20. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    SargassoSea, I’d happily settle for a pocket-size, battery-operated cattle prod. It could be used for many blaming applications.

  21. SelinaK

    What the pro-exploitation ‘feminists’ don’t seem to get is that the customers of sex workers thoroughly despise them and wish the worse kind of harm on them. They positively gloat over stories like this. How empowering is it for women when, if you’re killed in the line of duty, it’s brought up against you, not by feminists, but by ‘well-respected’ news organizations and the men who use your services.

    SargassoSea, born-again atheist dudes are such a lovely bunch, no? I’ve had enough of that scene, I don’t even bother because they DON’T want to know. The ‘religions are bad because they’re misogyinstic’ line threw me for a while, I admit. But they are very much for it as long as it’s secular. The poor Muslim woman they champion is far enough away from them and oppressed enough for them to know it’s safe to pretend outrage at their abuse because it will never threaten their privilege.

  22. nails

    “mad skillz”?? Omg, does this mean that blamerz have free reign to replace s with z???

  23. janicen

    I think Moura’s point, when he pointed out that those lucky street prostitutes have pimps to protect them, wasn’t just that the pimp would storm the room and charge to the rescue at the first inkling of trouble, but also that, whenever a woman engages in a business transaction with a man, she should never deal directly with the man. A woman must always have a man acting on her behalf whether it is to accept payment for prostitution, when buying a car or dealing with an auto mechanic, getting a mortgage or making an investment, or even signing a lease, lest she be subjected to a man’s natural inclination to cheat, rob, rape, or kill women. It’s a jungle out there, ladies, and men just want to protect us from it.

  24. mearl

    I just read “Lucky” by Alice Sebold, author of “The Lovely Bones.” I got really interested in her life after doing a uni project on her second novel and the movie, and wanted to read what she’d put in the memoir about her rape. It’s eye-opening to read, and I’m glad she published it.

    Sebold makes a point of discussing how she fought back until she understood that the guy was mentally and physically capable of killing her; she then complied with his orders and endured the rape just to stay alive. She describes the reactions of her college friends, professors, her family, the police, doctors, and nurses who took evidence and her statement. She describes the process of what she went through afterwards, how she spotted the rapist by chance, got him arrested, and the painful circus that was the process of the rape trial. The book covers her experiences to ten years after it happened, and her psychological journey – so very different from the detached and sensationalised portrayal of rape or sex killings that are churned out by the misogynist entertainment complex. It’s mind-blowing what society’s opinion and attitude is towards a rape survivor.

    This is all related to the lovely trend of having nothing but “sex killings” put on in a misrepresentational and eroticised manner on TV and in the news. One of the things that brings my feminist sensibilities to a boiling point is the disgusting, disturbing fact that men get off on violating, controlling, and killing women. The other thing that enrages me is that men who would not “do” these things themselves get off on reading about them and making it into a sexy fantasy scenario in their mind. When I read or hear details about yet another psychotic MAN who murdered a woman, sex worker or no, I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t find violence sexy AT ALL. It’s horrifying and sickening that not just a handful of men but thousands, probably millions find it arousing to think about. I have thought to myself almost continually from the age of 11 onwards, “What the fucking HELL is wrong with men that they find the idea of women in pain or dying to be sexy AT ALL, IN ANY WAY?”

    These days I ask myself,”What the fucking HELL is wrong with society that CSI and horror movies and docudramas and cop shows CATER to this sick inclination? Why is it all pornified rather than played down or portrayed realistically? Why doesn’t anyone point out the massive erroneousness of the systems and male mentalities that create this epidemic? What’s wrong with science that it spends its time justifying male violence against women with its ev-pysch horseshit? Why hasn’t anyone pointed out that there is something inherently WRONG with the male brain that it gets off on hurting anyone or anything physically weaker than its male host?” I know that plenty of PEOPLE, male and female, get off on power and control and causing pain to others. But I would fall down dead if any country in the WORLD reported a demographic of women who get sexually aroused by torturing and killing men, to the point that it’s normalised and part of entertainment culture.

    I’m also concerned about how this 24/7 erotic TV sex crime shite affects the real world. It’s a fact that people see what’s on TV and in movies, and they imitate it. Not all people, but there are mounds of evidence showing that plenty of people – pathologically sick or not – are influenced by what they read and see. It’s really just freedom of hate speech, and it perpetuates itself.

    yttik, thanks for posting some good news. I would also like to know if there is a source for items like that. My own saving graces, most recently, have been the books “The Natashas” and “The Johns” by Canadian journalist Victor Malarek. The guy is amazing, he’s dedicated, and he reveals firsthand how the ubiquity of the male presence in authority, government, police, UN and armed forces is what keeps anything from being done about it. He writes about several instances where men he knew who were working to STOP trafficking ended up getting arrested for using the child prostitutes they were supposed to be defending and helping.

    I have to give Malarek props for his investigative work: tons of women and a handful of men all over the world are fighting sex trafficking and sex killings, but because he’s a man, Malarek is privy to all those bits of information that men keep amongst themselves.

    I love that he is one of the few people mounting a campaign against johns, pimps, male porn users, and male authority figures who either dismiss the seriousness of violence against women or who participate in it with immunity while pretending to fight it.

    Jill hits the nail on the head: the problem is not the women or what they do for a living or what they were wearing: ultimately the problem is the psycho pornsick violent sociopaths, and all their lesser male counterparts who contribute in millions of ways to the entire system of misogyny. If there were no johns, there would not be an international, billion-dollar sex trade in the first place.

    Iceland banned strip clubs; Sweden admitted after 10 years that it was a mistake to legalise prostitution without doing anything else, and they’ve changed their laws so that selling sex is legal, but BUYING it is not, and they’ve put out public awareness campaigns about johns and sex work. For these things, I am happy. I just wish the rest of the world would follow suit.

  25. Keri

    Isn’t there a similarity between the joy of men who take special interest in the murder of a woman who happens to be a prostitute, and the joy of men who frequent prostitutes, and the culture that supports both?

    Women are murdered all the time by men. Wives, women on the streets, women in the house, women out at the gym, women at church. Where is the real mystery? Men.

  26. Emily H.

    There’s a book that was published some years back, “Her Wits About Her: Self Defense Success Stories By Women,” that is pretty much what the title sounds like. Women telling in their own words how they fought back against attackers and managed to survive (in some cases, kick the guy’s ass). It includes a diverse sampling of women, and different tactics they used to protect themselves — they’re not all super buff or self defense experts. The book is out of print, but it’s easy enough to find a used copy. I’d highly recommend it as an antidote to the “women are helpless against evil sex criminals” message.

  27. Jill

    “Omg, does this mean that blamerz have free reign to replace s with z???

    Hell fucking no it doesn’t.

    “It’s quite the conundrum for the menz – choosing between money and small junk.

    For some reason, despite the use of the ‘word’ menz — which I’m sure was accidental — I just laughed and laughed when I read this. Ha. I’m still laughin.

  28. nails

    I am so amused right now.

  29. shopstewardess

    Nails said in her earlier post “The worst thing about the prostitute as a different species meme is that they never talk about the effing johns.”

    This rule of silence applies in other areas where the Patriarchy would be discommoded by a logical look at the consequences of its actions. Countries supplying drugs (Columbia, Mexico, Afghanistan) get f***** over by the Patriarchy’s demands for drugs in the same way that women get f***** over by the Patriarchy’s demands for sex.

  30. shopstewardess

    Oh, and back to the theme of what we women do to increase risk, and how men protect us, how about this justification for mixed sex wards in a mental health hospital in Milwaukee –

    “Chianelli described the rationale for the county’s mixed-gender wards as a “trade-off” that avoided more fights common to all-male wards but increased the chance of sexual attacks in mixed-sex wards”


  31. Katherine

    There was a series of trailers for CSI over here in Blightly not that long ago that was literally all about the sexy bodies of the sexy dead women. They really honestly and truly didn’t pretend – it look like an ad for necrophiliac porn. It also didn’t last very long, so I’m hoping enough people complained about it that it got pulled.

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