1) Zumba, 2) Prostitution, 3) Profit!

October 17, 2012

A Zumba instructor in Kennebunk, Maine took the exercise / art form to its logical next level and apparently offered sex for money as part of the deal. (source) The Zumba instructor pleaded not guilty to 106 counts of prostitution.

What makes the story really interesting is the public access to records issue. The police initially released 21 names out of a presumed 150 name customer list, and intend to release more names as summonses are issued. This release reportedly “created havoc for some innocent men who shared names with the accused.”

Addresses, ages and other identifying information of the alleged clients were withheld after a judge ruled that state law required them to be kept confidential because the alleged videotapes of the sexual encounters may make the men potential victims of privacy invasion.

But Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren reversed course on Tuesday, ruling in favor of a request from The Portland Press Herald newspaper which argued that releasing only partial information was unfair to people not on the list.

“The fact is that by releasing names only, you’re getting a lot of false positives. You’re implicating people who may be completely innocent and simply share the same or similar names with people charged, and that’s a real harm,” Press Herald attorney Sigmund Schutz told The Associated Press. (source)

For most of human history, prostitution has been an accepted way of life. I find it disturbing that police resources are used, anywhere, to crack down on consensual prostitution. If this woman was a willing participant, and her customers were willing participants, what the hell do the rest of us care?

Eternity was in our Lips and Eyes**

April 26, 2012

A bit frigid

Egypt’s women urge MPs not to pass early marriage, sex-after-death laws: report.

Apparently, some guys in Egypt hope to have one last romantic moment with their wives once they die.  For up to six hours post-mortem.  At least they are putting in a time-bar; else, Cleopatra and Nefertiti had better start chastity belt shopping.

**Antony & Cleopatra, Act I, scene iii

Update:  Story was fake. Sorry folks. 

Are Topless Photos Worth $50,000,000?

April 18, 2012

The lawyer for Sheriff’s Deputy Krystal Rice seems to think so.  Click here and here to see for yourself.

Nutshell version:  while a cadet, a superior officer convinces her to let him take risque photos, which he promises will only be used for official business in investigating sexual predators.  While she should have been tipped off when he claimed he was storing them on a 3 1/2″ floppy disk in 2004, not 1994, she nevertheless consented.  Lo, and behold! He shared the photos and hit on her.  She claims defamation of character, IIED, and some nebulous respondeat superior breach of duty claim.  Umm, who blew the Title VII sexual harassment deadline?  Or, heck, how about a 1983 claim? I see no immunity defense, so that should have been pleaded.

Maybe the attorney came on late and wants to stay in state court, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not buying the $50m damages.

Sometimes, I think the courts should create a new defense of “Really? You really thought that? Really?”  Yes, he took advantage of her and acted inappropriately, but she should have seen this coming.

Your morning after screw

December 9, 2011

By Tatiana von Tauber

And if Obama had two boys?

I’m deeply disappointed by the recent decision to eliminate easier access to the so called morning after pill by girls 17 and under. I fully get where Obama gets his mindset from. I’m a parent of 2 girls, one 13 and very pretty.

Obama’s decision to side with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who overruled scientists at the Food and Drug Administration was a poor one. While he’s coming from a good place, may be a good father and honorable in doing what he thinks most parents would want, he just missed to boat of doing what’s actually in the best interest of young girls rather than what’s in the best interest of a parents’ wish for young girls.  As far as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, may you have bad traffic and no easy access parking the entire holiday season!  And I mean that.

Nothing, and I mean, nothing is more important to me as a female than ensuring other females have rightful ownership of their reproductive system no matter what their age.  Without our womb, society can’t get very far. It’s the most powerful tool women have and thus, the rest is repeat history. 

State of the female union

The majority of young girls – exampled as 11 and 12 year olds for the poor reasoning labeled “common sense”  which aided the elimination of this pill over the counter,  aren’t that young often enough to discredit the good of the pill to older girls. It blatantly discriminates.  

While it would statistically occur perhaps, the numbers would be small to have  little girls, basically,  just head over to the supermarket by the condoms isle and buy a $50 pill.  This is so ludicrous that you have to be an idiot to side with it if not for political reasons. AND, if young girls did do that, then bravo for them taking pro-active measure to fix their screw up. 

Who to trust when adults don’t give you all the facts?

I have never seen an influx of pro-lifers opting to fund, house or care for the millions of unplanned children of the world.  embryos are great in utero.  They’re fresh potential to mold.  Religion needs followers and governments need taxes.  Someone has to produce human beings at all costs.

“The FDA did not have the data to support a decision of this magnitude,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. “The secretary pointed out obvious deficiencies in the research and acted in the interest of young girls.”

Really?  Of this magnitude?  This pill has been used for decades in Europe and the issue of great magnitude is the subtle and sly attempt to strip females of what has always been rightfully theirs. 

How to Fix this?

Here’s a suggestion then which truly does act in the interest of young girls:

How about yearly comprehensive sex education for boys and girls in the pubic school system mandated by federal and secular standards, not state.  In GA my daughter met several young girls who actually believed they could get pregnant from kissing!  This is sick in a country which claims such global superpower. 

What about introducing reasonably easy access to free or reduced priced condoms or birth control to under aged girls  instead of empty promises of abstinence whilst a nice hard cock stands to seduce.  Perhaps if we reframe the way we view sex and morality the morning after pill can be marketed as an “Oops! Did you miss your birth control pill last night? We understand the heavy responsibilities a vagina and womb bring, so we’re here to help. Plan B.  Here for you when Plan A bombs.” However, because it’s also used and known as an abortion pill, everything changes. 

If God was so intelligent, why didn’t he make it so menses began at 18?  If God can allow pre-teen girls to get a period, the intent is quite frankly, for them to reproduce.  The morality stick should be poking God himself, not our young females. It’s sickening that taxpayers fund government salaries and research to pay for morality treatments as we hush science, logic and individual freedom.

Why filming porn in Las Vegas should make sense (or: unsolicited response to Bobbi Starr)

July 18, 2011

In Nevada, prostitution – defined in NRS 201.295 – operates in a manner very similar to the California statute at issue in Freeman.  Overburdened though Nevada’s courts are, the state lacks an intermediate appeals court and could settle the question of porn production’s legality fairly quickly, with a fairly libertarian Nevada Supreme Court to render the final decision.  Then again, why tempt fate a second before it’s necessary?

In many counties, Nevada has legalized – albeit fairly stringently regulated – prostitution.  The status of prostitution within the state is practically a precursor for porn.  If anything, porn production is the next logical step.  And though the regulations concerning prostitution may be wielded like an axe at porn, they are easily distinguishable, as discussed further on.

Escape from L.A. – and AHF, and CalOSHA.

First Amendment concerns are not the only threat facing the porn industry.  The Scylla and Charibdis of porn for the last many years have been CalOSHA and AHF, the latter organization being capable of hectoring producers nationwide.  As Starr notes:

Here’s the thing — the AHF plans to continue its unwanted crusade across the country. They’ve already made noises in Miami and if the industry moves to Vegas, I don’t see why they wouldn’t show up there as well. If you’re going to make a stand, LA is the place to do it.

As Starr observes in her post, stating that “the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is looking to grandstand and make points with their donors,” the inescapable conclusion is that this controversy boils down to money.  Specifically, AHF needs to do something to justify getting more of it from its backers.  In my opinion, it would be a rational proposition to pit AHF against a bigger, badder entity that needs and wants money even more than AHF does: The city of Las Vegas and state of Nevada.  Is it even a “fight” if only one side shows up to do battle?  The city of Las Vegas isn’t going to care what some outsiders think of it – the area’s reputation for no-tell, debauched vacations is well established.  It’s not as if AHF is going to lower the city’s esteem as… what, a place to raise a family? A clean-livin’ town?  If anything, the chance to catch a glimpse of a favorite star is probably one more reason for a guy to visit Vegas.

At base, Las Vegas and Nevada need money, and now more than ever.  AHF will never win the hearts of minds of locals by trying to keep out reasonably lucrative businesses that need use of the services hardest hit in Las Vegas since the downturn.  Speaking of Las Vegas “locals,” the metro area is so transient that it’s not dissimilar from a 500,000 person city in its character, despite its population being around 2 million.  In some ways, Las Vegas might as well be Milwaukee.  And, yet, many locals rarely venture to the strip, or downtown; instead, they predominantly stay within their master-planned communities.  While some may call this a myopic and provincial way of living, this kind of bedroom community mindset is exactly what will lower any resistance people may have, even in the abstract, to porn companies coming to town.  If it’s not happening in their actual backyard, and they don’t see it, why would they care – assuming, in the first place, that they ever found out the porn industry was in town.

Because Nevada is Nevada and California is California, CalOSHA’s risks are mitigated.  If CalOSHA tries to regulate porn shoots occurring within Nevada because the companies they’re done for are based in California, the ensuing legal battle between Nevada and California will resemble a religious crusade.  Despite Californians having a huge presence in Las Vegas as transplants, tourists or otherwise, Nevada’s state character is steeped in making sure everyone knows that it is not California. (This was an overarching theme in BarBri when I studied for the Nevada bar exam.)  Nevada will not respond well to California encroaching its jurisdiction, especially if CalOSHA agents show up within Nevada’s physical territory.

Assuming CalOSHA won’t overstep its jurisdictional mandate, that leaves the porn industry to contend with Nevada OSHA (“NVOSHA”).  To get a sense of the disparity of resources at play here, compare the CalOSHA website with NVOSHA’s.  NVOSHA couldn’t keep six people from dying, most of them brutally, during the completion of America’s largest privately financed construction project.  Between that kind of feeble oversight, Nevada’s far more dangerous industries – such as mining – and the general lack of resources Nevada has relative to California, it’s reasonable to believe that NVOSHA has bigger concerns than whether two consenting, regularly tested adults are wrapping it up when making commercial motion pictures.

A potential slippery slope exists with respect to Nevada’s prostitution regulations, which have numerous onerous requirements, from monthly and weekly testing (depending on the disease) to mandatory condom use.  Prostitution, though, is a service open to the general public, while porn is a closed circle where those on camera are regularly tested and (theoretically) limiting their contact with unknown, untested interlopers.  Because of the inherent differences between porn companies and brothels, and the reduced public health concerns at play, the condom restrictions should not transfer over – but that will be left to the legislature.  If they’re getting all of this new growth because the porn industry wanted to escape the tyranny of condoms, will legislators foist them upon their newest constituents?  It’s possible, but seems unlikely.  Even if those provisions are put into effect, NVOSHA has to actually enforce them – something it may be ill-equipped to do.

Las Vegas Loves Porn… and Anything With Money, Really.

Another point raised by Starr is the suspicion that people don’t really love porn, despite the money it could bring to their local economy.  To some extent, I agree with this.  Some ultra-lib location like Manhattan would look down its collective nose at middle America for feeling uncomfortable about porn — but if production ever showed up below 125th Street with any substantial volume, it would quickly be zoned out as “harmful to property values,” and opposed under the color of PC rhetoric, such as how it’s “degrading” to women and normalizes male violence.  On the other hand, Las Vegas has a robust industry of escorts (despite prostitution being illegal within Clark County) and strip clubs that everyone accepts as part of the landscape.  Without making it sound like Detroit, as I am pretty fond of Las Vegas, I think people will embrace whatever revives the area.  Downtown Las Vegas, despite having a few cool bars and art studios I’m fond of, is underdeveloped for an urban core and fairly low-density.  Thus, it’s practically giving land away for development through tax credits.  They city doesn’t condition the credits on how the land will be used – as long as something’s being done, and people are being employed, Las Vegas is happy.

To those who claim that the tide will turn against porn when the economy improves, I have some good/bad news: Economically, things are never going to get better.  We’re at the dying, spasming end of American-style capitalism.  I hope you own a gun.  Consequently, capital holders can put a collar around places like Las Vegas, making governments and citizens alike do whatever the investors want.  Capitalists have the money, and capacity to bring more, that everyone else needs.  Those who can muster up $1M in liquid assets, and probably down to about $250,000, can basically write their deal’s terms.  The global economy’s collapse isn’t really any one person’s fault, anyway, so it shouldn’t impede making smart business moves in the here and now.  After all, if everyone lived in fear of the world ending tomorrow, nothing would get done, now would it?

A Sidebar About Miami.

Starr also notes the recent arrest of Kimberly Kupps on numerous obscenity counts as a reason to avoid Florida. (You can donate to Kupps’ defense fund here.)  This is a reasonable concern, but one that insiders within Florida’s adult community can dismiss with fairly strong assurances.  In addition to geographic distance, Miami and Polk County Florida are culturally very distant and distinct.  Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd, has made it his life’s work to punish any kind of sexual expression occurring in his jurisdiction, and is a retrograde bully unmatched by any in Florida.  Miami doesn’t have the absolute safe harbor protection that Los Angeles does due to Freeman, but its resident businesses have done very well for themselves, mostly free from significant legal interference.  With that said, a Judd-like epidemic of arrests is unlikely to sweep Miami-Dade county.

Is “Going Underground” Still a Thing?

In this internet age, where everyone competes for Google rankings and traffic, and search engine optimization is a lucrative industry, rather than some annoying B-school buzzword, is it even possible to go underground?  Setting aside competition for internet traffic, since that’s where most of the money is now, going underground carries many possible tax consequences that can consume more than a company’s worth, or makes.  Back-owed interest and penalties are not your friends.

I’m ambivalent in the desirability of porn being mainstream v. underground debate.  There are pros and cons to each side, and I think the best approach depends on the company and its content.  Culturally, though, “porn” qua concept is mainstream, even if certain subsets and niches of it are less known.

One of the concerns raised by Starr is that “legitimate businessmen” would co-opt the industry if it were to go underground, and make it even more volatile than it currently is with CalOSHA and AHF breathing down its neck.  This, too, is a valid concern.  Any city with appreciable population, say over 200,000 people, has competing networks of organized crime.  Though the appearance has changed, from “families” with members wearing pointy-toed shoes and double breasted suits to gentlemen with baggy jeans and neck tattoos, these organizations still exist.  For the most part, their influence seems to have been confined to drug and prostitution trades.

I’m sure that there are intersections between organized crime and legitimate businesses throughout the country — assuming otherwise would be naive.  But, given Las Vegas’ modern origins as a gangster playground, the city and state are concerned about making sure that scenario never happens again.  Because of the efforts of people ranging from Howard Hughes to Steve Wynn, Las Vegas has come totally above ground and is very much a corporate town – all of the casinos on the strip and off are owned by a small handful of companies.  This isn’t to say there aren’t seedy elements of Las Vegas.  Seedy sells, after all.  But Las Vegas now is law-abiding in a way that it wasn’t at its 20th-century inception.

Because of this somewhat nefarious history, Las Vegas and Nevada are particularly sensitive to the presence of organized crime and its intersection with what appear to be legitimate businesses.  MS-13 will always be smuggling in drugs from Central America, no matter what local, state and federal authorities do.  To the extent organized racketeers can be prevented from co-opting businesses and disenfranchising their customers, though, Nevada and Clark County appear to take that threat much more seriously.  Theoretically, a mob takeover of business can happen anywhere.  In my observations, however, it’s less likely to occur in Las Vegas than other places.

Conclusion (a/k/a tl;dr, Summary)

Though Las Vegas is not a perfect location for relocation of the porn industry, it’s a good one – better than many alternatives.  While Miami is an option, it is a more expensive place to be than Las Vegas by most every metric.  Unlike Nevada, Florida still has a pesky capital gains tax.  Las Vegas is much closer to the San Fernando Valley, too, making it easier to get a critical mass of people to make the necessary jump across state lines.

Relocation may be easier and more profitable than digging one’s heels in the dirt and fighting a war nobody particularly wants to have, especially against deep-pocketed adversaries such as CalOSHA and AHF.  Las Vegas is as tolerant as it is willfully blind to the sex industry already here, and it is likely to welcome economic activity in any manner it can obtain it.

As in any business, there are risks involved in relocating – especially to Las Vegas.  But are they any costlier than the slow death of remaining so heavily in Los Angeles, where the thousand cuts of taxation, CalOSHA, AHF and other challenges bleed dry the remaining brick-and-mortar porn companies?  At this point, it hardly seems like it.

The Magic Underwear State vs. Sexytime

May 23, 2011

Utah, apparently a hotbed of prostitution, appears to have had some trouble enforcing its anti-solictitation laws. Under Utah law, “solicitation” is defined as follows:

76-10-1313. Sexual solicitation
(1) A person is guilty of sexual solicitation when:
(a) he offers or agrees to commit any sexual activity with another person for a fee; or
(b) he pays or offers or agrees to pay another person to commit any sexual activity for a fee. (source)

That wasn’t good enough for the Utah legislature.

A new law that went into effect this month broadened the definition to include any person who indicates through lewd acts, such as exposing or touching themselves, that they intend to exchange sex for money. (source)

Think about that. If someone “indicates” that they “intend” to exchange sex for money… so much for any productive strippers. For that matter, so much for any first dates.

Of course, lets look at the rationale for the law…

Utah House Minority Whip Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the bill during the 2011 legislative session, said she worked with many different groups, including defense attorneys, to iron out legal issues with the law.

The intent is to target prostitutes, especially underage ones who are forced into the sex trade and trained to evade arrest, Seelig said. The arrest would be the first step in helping them get off the streets, she said. (source)

Ah yes, the underage sex slave myth. Every time you see a restriction on civil liberties pushed by someone with a religious or feminist agenda, you’ll find this bullshit at the bottom of the glass of Kool Aid they just asked you to drink.

Fortunately, my First Amendment Lawyer’s Association brother, Andrew McCullough, is fighting the law.

Andrew McCullough, an attorney representing the escort services in the lawsuit filed May 9, said the law is so broad that it could allow police to arrest licensed employees of sexually oriented businesses, such as escort services or strip club dancers, for doing their job.

The expanded law includes language that makes a person exposing their genitals or touching themselves sexually an indication that they are offering sex. Those acts are legal in Utah for private strippers.

“Most girls who touch their breasts are not telling you they’re open for sex,” the attorney said. (source)

New Yorker violates cardinal rule of Las Vegas

January 24, 2011

By J. DeVoy

Las Vegas has but one maxim: What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas — a boon if you live there.  Hubert Blackman contacted Las Vegas Exclusive Personals when visiting the Las Vegas Strip from New York to have a dancer come to his hotel room.  Blackman claims that in addition to the dance, he paid an additional $120 for a sex act.  Blackman sought a refund for the next day, arguing that the dancer did not stay for the full hour he paid for, and that he was too drunk to form an enforceable contract. (source.)

When Las Vegas Exclusive Personals refused to give Blackman a refund, our confused consumer called the Las Vegas Metro Police.  The Police advised Blackman that he could be arrested for his actions, and advised him to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  Apparently avoiding arrest, arraignment or any criminal charges, Blackman refused to accept he got lucky.  Instead, he filed suit in a Federal court in New York City, seeking more than $1.8 million in damages.  Under his theory of the case, Las Vegas Exclusive Personal’s dancer’s alleged prostitution – which Blackman paid for – almost got him arrested and subjected him to great emotional trauma.  Good luck with that one, buddy. (source; H/T: Luke Lirot.)

The article mentions that prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas and Clark County.  While this is a no-brainer in almost every other state, what’s not said within the article says volumes.  When I first got my Nevada law license, one of my first priorities was to learn all about prostitution in the state.  And, in all seriousness, it was purely for pedagogical reasons.

Prostitution in Nevada is confined to brothels, which are made lawful on a county-by-county basis under NRS 244.345.  In counties with a population greater than 400,000 people as of the last census, no brothels can be licensed for operation.  In counties where the population is less than 400,000 people as of the last census, the county may grant licenses through an application process and committee as it sees fit.  Some counties, such as Lincoln County – adjacent to Clark County, where Las Vegas is located – have elected to outlaw brothels entirely.  As a result, Nye County, the only other county to border Clark County, has received a number of other brothels within a 1-hour drive of Las Vegas.

The 400,000-person threshold for brothel legality creates certain economic incentives for brothels and the communities around them.  Other businesses and groups, such as school boards, may want to increase population so as to expand the tax base and preclude brothels from operating in the county.  Brothels, on the other hand, are given strong financial reasons to keep people out or operate in relatively secluded but easily accessible areas.  While some counties allow any brothel that satisfies its licensing requirements to operate, other counties have a fixed limit as to how many brothel licenses it may have outstanding at any time, allowing greater control over brothel operations within the county.

Unlike, say, Houston, there are zoning restrictions locally and at the state level ensuring that brothels don’t spring up in the middle of high-traffic areas.  Brothels cannot operate within 400 yards of a school or schoolroom, or within 400 yards of any “church, edifice, building or structure erected for and used for devotional services or religious worship” in Nevada. NRS 201.380.

There are also considerable restrictions on brothel advertising. NRS 201.430-40 place significant burdens on the advertising of prostitution and houses of prostitution, which may have a broader reach than the legislature may have ever initially intended.  Despite the First Amendment concerns such restrictions raise, the Ninth Circuit upheld these statutory provisions as constitutional within the past year.

These are far from the only limitations on brothel advertising and promotion, though.  Nevada’s regulations prohibit the number and size of signs a brothel may have, how far from the road they (and the brothel itself) must be, and even the number and wattage of red lights a brothel can use.  Individual county provisions go into even greater detail, setting forth what showering and cleanliness items must be present within a brothel, as well as how service providers must acquire and renew their health licenses from that county’s sheriff.

Finally on the topic of regulations and sex workers, Nevada has a testing regime  comparable to the porn industry’s.  To obtain employment as a sex worker, a candidate must submit to blood testing for HIV and syphilis, and a cervical or urethral specimen for gonorrhea and chlamydia testing.  Individual brothel policies governing the availability of anal sex may also affect whether rectal testing is mandatory for sex workers.  Condoms must be used in all intercourse between patrons and sex workers.  In the interest of health maintenance, sex workers must have monthly blood tests for HIV and syphilis, with weekly cervical/urethral samples for gonorrhea and chlamydia testing.

Despite such a pro-brothel regime, Nevada’s laws do not encourage unregulated street prostitution.  NRS 201.295-420 provide strong protections for sex workers.  In general, these laws outlaw pimping and receiving proceeds from prostitution without consideration, outlaw pandering, prohibit forcing a spouse, minor or other unwilling party into a brothel or other form of prostitution, and even penalize the keeping of a “disorderly” house of prostitution.  Additional protections may be available at the county level, depending on what is required to renew and keep one’s brothel license.

This is a very rudimentary overview of brothel operation in Nevada; the laws and regulations affecting the industry obviously are political footballs, and economic ones as well given the present unemployment situation in Nevada.  When people say that prostitution is legal in Nevada, they’re not wrong — but they’re not completely right, either.  After acquiring this baseline knowledge, answering specific questions and keeping abreast of changes about brothel operation is much easier, translating into  more efficient legal analysis of novel questions.

As Goes Iowa…

January 5, 2011

By Chad Belville, Guest Satyriconista

Iowa, a square state in the Heartland, is one of the few states in the US that allows any two adults of legal age to marry, regardless of gender. Unlike every other state where Supreme Courts found that government should legally recognize the unions of two same-sex adults, the Iowa decision was unanimous and shot down all arguments against limiting legal recognition, including those of tradition, religious bias, and the red herring argument that removing the gender restriction of two adults to enter into a bi-lateral contract will lead to allowing persons to enter into contracts with plants, animals, or upend the entire bi-lateral nature of the marriage license and allow polygamous marriages. The decision was well-written and should be a foundation for all other states to follow.

Immediately following the decision, the usual right-wing activists vowed to reverse it and take those rights away with an amendment to the Iowa Constitution. This requires approval by both House and Senate in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature followed by a popular vote. Democrats in control of both chambers refused to bring the issue to the floor, thus maintaining the equal rights of all adult citizens.
This past November, Republicans took control of the Iowa House of Representatives, who vowed to pass a bill that could eventually send the issue to the voters. The Iowa Senate remained in control of the Democrats and the Leader of the Senate, Mike Gronstal, has vowed not to bring this discriminatory amendment for a vote. Senator Gronstal can effectively keep such an insidious vote at bay for this legislative term but what happens beyond 2012 remains a mystery. His position is that civil rights of minorities should never be subject to approval by a popular vote, and he is absolutely correct.

As more time passes, more people realize gay people are not imported from far-away lands to indoctrinate kindergarteners but instead are their friends, neighbors, and relatives. Attitudes change and the urgency to take away the legal right to not testify against a same-sex spouse fades. These right-wing wackos know that time is not on their side; they know that if they do not pass constitutional amendments right now their battles will be lost as public opinion turns against them. Massachusetts has a similar system of amendment; after passing once and failing the second time through both Houses the issue died off. The fanatics moved on to take away or prevent establishment of rights for gay couples in other states where their shrieking could be effective.

In the State of Iowa, one man really stands in their way. Senator Gronstal’s position on equality and civil rights has painted a target on his back for the social conservatives who wish to turn back time. The National Organization for Marriage will expend millions of dollars to unseat him as punishment for opposing their bigoted beliefs, regardless of whether or not they can ever succeed in passing an amendment through both Houses in consecutive sessions. They led a successful campaign to remove 3 of the 7 Justices from the bench of the Iowa Supreme Court so their threats must be taken seriously.

Over the next two years, tremendous pressure will be put on Senator Gronstal to allow a vote on the floor of the Iowa Senate. Groups that are friendly only to Ozzie and Harriet-style families but not any others will pour money into anti-gay campaigns in an attempt to roll back the rights of a very small minority for the sake of their religious purity. Iowa is a small state, and the money from outside organizations will have a serious effect on the outcome. For now, equality in marriage is the law of the land in Iowa, but it is extremely vulnerable. The old saying is that “So goes Iowa, so goes the country” which used to apply to Presidential primaries but applies here and now to the issue of equal rights in the eyes of government. I have donated directly to Senator Gronstal’s campaign and to OneIowa, the umbrella civil rights organization that is countering NOM’s campaign of bigotry. I will continue to donate all of my equal rights contributions to Iowa organizations because the battle there is so acute and my donation dollars can do the most good. While I support things like the Employment Non Discrimination Act, the outcome of national equal rights activism is not on such a tiny fulcrum as in Iowa. I am asking anyone that will listen to join me in donating to the campaign of Senator Gronstal and OneIowa where small donations WILL make a difference.



WTF Wisconsin?

December 31, 2010

by Jason Fischer

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled this week that committing a sex crime is not necessarily a prerequisite for ordering a convict to register as a sex offender (source). I tried reading the opinion to figure this nonsense out, but my head nearly exploded when I read the excerpted sentence below, and I had to stop.

In the present case, the parties agree that a fundamental right is not implicated . . . . (source)

Shock study: Increased availability of child porn results in lower rates of child abuse

December 20, 2010

By J. DeVoy

A new study from the Czech Republic claims that the availability of child pornography has led to lower rates of child abuse.  This result allegedly is consistent with similar observations in Denmark, Germany, Finland, Sweden and the USA.  Here’s the research’s crux:

The findings support the theory that potential sexual offenders use child pornography as a substitute for sex crimes against children. While the authors do not approve of the use of real children in the production or distribution of child pornography, they say that artificially produced materials might serve a purpose.

The inference to be drawn from this research is that legalizing and further increasing child pornography’s availability would decrease the incidence of child abuse.  The problem with these studies, and from which this one does not seem to be immune, is that there is no control for alternate or outside variables.  This research shows a correlation between availability of child porn – despite its illegality in most nations – and the decrease in child abuse, but ignores other explanations and ultimately cannot establish a causal relationship.

This leads the critical reader to a disturbing place: What content competes with child pornography?  For one, there’s the entire genre of “barely legal” porn – just do a search for “teen” and the market’s representation is readily apparent.  We don’t care or pass judgment on any kind of porn, so long as its made by consenting adults, but it seems far-fetched to think that its producers aren’t at least cognizant of the child porn market when they specialize in cheerleader themes, models in braces, and pigtails.  To their credit, they are providing a legal alternative and monetizing a market segment that can otherwise ruin lives if handled irresponsibly.

There is also the existence of virtual child pornography.  In 2002, the Free Speech Coalition won a decisive victory for expression over the DOJ in Free Speech Coalition v. Ashcroft, 535 U.S. 234 (2002).  In that case, the Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. §§ 2256(8)(B) and (D) were unconstitutionally overbroad, as their prohibitions on virtual child pornography and production or distribution of material pandered as child pornography – even if it is not – captured speech that was not unprotected within the scope of its earlier decisions in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) (defining the test for obscenity) or New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982) (allowing states to ban child pornography sales, as it was not protected speech).  While undoubtedly a small market – and one I have no interest in personally investigating – this allowance for computer-generated images and other “virtual” child pornography displaces the demand for actual child pornography, yet may contribute to the overall decline in child abuse crimes.

Other possible reasons for the decreased incidence of child abuse despite increased child pornography availability may be more related to features of criminal law rather than the adult marketplace or First Amendment doctrines.  First, state and federal laws may have become stricter against child offenses, inhibiting child abuse despite the availability of child pornography.  20 years ago, implementing a ubiquitous data repository for every sex offender to be mapped out like many states have done under their respective Megan’s Law provisions, as the internet was not available.  But today, those databases are active and seemingly everywhere, ruining lives while providing dubious benefits to public safety.  Depending on the relevant state’s laws, viewing child pornography may carry a lesser prison sentence than actually touching a child, and be the economically efficient choice on that basis.  Because fulfilling one’s desire is going to result in penalties and sex offender registration either way, a rational pedophile is going to choose the path that costs him the least amount of his life behind bars.  Furthermore, downloading child porn is more likely to put him into a federal prison upon conviction or reaching a plea deal – a depressing place, but far preferable to many state prisons.  Another reason for this perceived decline in child abuse is simply that reporting it has gone down.  With families more broken than ever in recent history, do parents care, and do their children even tell them if they were molested?

Ignoring these covariants and assuming the relationship between child porn availability and child abuse is causative, everyone from social scientists and policy-makers to parents is left with significant moral questions: Is it preferable to end child pornography so that the actors are not abused if it comes at the expense of the broader child population?  Or is it preferable that the actors suffer so fewer random children are victimized?  Ultimately this is a moral and ethical question that could be resolved with further research, but cannot be conclusively “answered” with any empirical truth.  Ultimately, society does not tolerate child abuse.  While the age of consent is an arbitrary line, the asymmetries of power and knowledge between adults and minors, wherever the line is drawn, makes preying on the young, the weak, the naive and inexperienced, so abhorrent.  Even if a 16-year-old is capable of forming subjective consent, the line is drawn at 18 (for production purposes) because, well, the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Should a causative or at least highly correlative relationship between child pornography and child abuse in fact exist, it would not be the first time such a finding was made.  In a study tracking rape data from 1980 to 2000, there was a .95 r^2 correlation between internet access and per capita incidence of rape; in the four states where internet access was highest, rapes per capita fell 27%; the four states with the least internet availability saw the per capita incidence of rape increase 53%.  Granted, this study as well was subject to the covariants I mentioned above, as the states with highest internet access (New York and California, among others) tend to be the most liberal and presumably disinclined to rape, but a .95 r^2 is damn high.  If not causative, it at least suggests that pornography was a meaningful substitute for sex among potential rapists.  Where pornography was not available, the incidence of rape increased, and porn’s inaccessibility very likely was a factor.  At the very least, it controverts the feminist claptrap that sex is about power — wrong, sugar: It’s about sex.  This consideration is orthogonal to the Czech Republic study, though, as it does not address child pornography and the important social, legal and political issues it entails.  Virtually nobody objects to consenting adults filming their sex acts; nobody can ignore the problems presented when children are involved with sexual content.

Bob Guccione belated RIP

November 1, 2010

by Charles Platt

I’m slightly stunned to learn that Bob Guccione died ten days ago. Why would I care? Because he was an idiot-savant of the sexual revolution who also launched Omni magazine, a bastard mix of science fiction and science. It spawned a slew of imitators, including Discover, which I think is the sole survivor.

I used to write for Omni, and thus was invited to a party at Guccione’s brownstone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the early 1980s. Sinister Sicilians in dark blue suits stood guarding million-dollar oil paintings that were hung casually, as if they were mere reproductions. A swimming pool occupied the entire basement. Strange-looking women with big mouths and revealing dresses were tottering around on high heels, and I wondered who they were, until Isaac Asimov remarked to me, “It’s quite an experience to see real glamor models in person.” Belatedly, I realized that the women were Penthouse Pets.

Guccione was not a very civilized character, but he played a role in securing the sexual freedoms which we now take for granted. Hefner, at Playboy, had brought naked pictures to the masses by wrapping them in intellectual pretensions (Norman Mailer used to be published in Playboy). Guccione made Hefner look old-school with a more in-your-face attitude and, of course, photographs showing pubic hair. Larry Flynt, in turn, made Guccione look staid by revealing the inner folds of female genitalia, and then the World-Wide Web superceded Flynt by showing pictures of absolutely everything else, from bestiality to fisting. On this tawdry basis we affirmed serious intellectual liberties to write anything and depict anything with impunity, so long as it doesn’t involve children. Generally, I think this is a good thing.

When porn first appeared on the Web, I felt sure that federal legislators would find a way to shut it down. But the Communications Decency Act was deemed unconstitutional, and crusaders for clean living never figured out a way to get around that. So here we are now, in a world where acts of unspeaking depravity are a mere mouse-click away. Like most print publishers, Guccione never adapted to it, and he had to sell his mansion and his art long before he died.

Because who cares if it’s your kid?

November 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Troubling news from Britain, America’s canary in the coalmine and a target of immense reverence from college students who lived there – in a nice part of town, with other Americans – while studying abroad.  From a Spectator article arguing for the complete end of DNA paternity testing:

At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away, the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers. DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes that we’ve hardly come to terms with. And that holds true even though many women have the economic potential to provide for their children themselves. (source.)

First and foremost, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: Aren’t feminists constantly calling for tort consequences against men who make minor verbal misrepresentations to get laid?  Certain women seek to denude men of their tools for getting what they want while keeping their own.  Also, it seems imbalanced for feminists to deride men for using verbal and physical tactics to make themselves more appealing  – “game,” writ large – while 1) they do the same thing with makeup and dating guides like The Rules, and 2) the “one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers” has consequences much farther reaching than waking up one morning, rolling over and realizing you were – by your own consent – pwned by some dude with a weak chin and guyliner.

The way McDonagh describes her venomous opposition to paternity testing in the article reveals much about those who would take it away: It’s not about equality, or even fairness, but about power. (I want to note now that this is not the majority or even a sizable number of women, but a vocal segment nonetheless; this is addressed at the end of the post.)  Through science, men have empowered themselves to determine whether they are the parents of the children borne by their lovers, spouses, or complete strangers alleging paternity.  A particularly shrill segment of society wants to end that for no reason than consolidating power for themselves – ultimately in the form of child support expropriated from men by the state – and by using shame to do so.

The next Bridget Jones movie may turn this under-discussed issue into a talking point. For those who didn’t follow the columns that took our heroine into the next stage of female angst — about being childless rather than single — the gist is that BJ becomes pregnant, but she is not entirely sure by whom, having been seeing the nice Colin Firth boyfriend, and the bad Hugh Grant one, in pretty short order. The matter could have been fruitfully ambiguous, with Bridget having a choice of fathers, but it was resolved in sordid contemporary fashion, one of the candidates being wrestled to the ground by Bridget’s girlfriends, so as to swab his inside cheek for a DNA sample. And so she found out the paternity of the baby and the most ancient game of humankind, Guess the Daddy, wasn’t played any more.

Bridget Jones never quite caught on like Sex and the City did, but the movies have always had a following.  With this third movie, the die is cast and a seed is planted in the public psyche; people who never would have considered the implications of paternity fraud will have the opportunity to question whether it’s right for them, like some service touted on Oprah, and if they shouldn’t settle for less than the father they feel their child deserves.  Paying the bill for this, of course, will be men, as detailed in a lengthy New York Times exposé from November 2009.

Now I can see that some men might rather welcome an end to the old-fashioned scenario whereby they find themselves held to account for the paternity of children born to girls with whom they just happen to have had sex.

You don’t say.

The actor Jude Law recently found himself in just this position, and unhesitatingly and ungallantly demanded a DNA test.

Reframed: Jude Law saw millions of dollars potentially flying out of his pocket to a child that possibly wasn’t his.  True to the Reagan maxim, he verified what he had been told by the mother.  He saved himself a life of financial hardship to support someone else’s offspring, as any rational person would do.  Is the reasonableness of this decision noted?  Is the fact that this is what any mother or father would counsel their son to do recognized?  No, the reason Jude Law shouldn’t have tethered himself to a child that wasn’t his is shame.  It was ungallant for Law to demand a paternity test.  Surely he should have “manned up” and paid someone vast sums of money for being cunning enough to accuse him of being the father.  Similarly, I have my own characterization for this argument: bullshit.

By contrast, the old situation, in which women presented men with a child, and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it, allowed women a certain leeway. The courtesan in Balzac who, on becoming pregnant, unhesitatingly sought, and got, maintenance from two of her men friends, can’t have been the only one. Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them.

Finally, and with refreshing honesty, the article reaches why certain women fear DNA paternity testing.  DNA testing requires mothers to go with the dads they have, rather than the ones they want.  Admittedly, this doesn’t address step parents or adoptive parents who stand in to raise someone else’s children, but McDonagh’s article similarly does not address this point — as they are fully aware of the family situation they enter, rather than being deceived into raising a child as their own, step parents and adoptive parents seem outside the scope of this situation.  When it comes to cuckoldry, though, there is no better asset in the resource-gathering war than ambiguity.

Banning DNA testing essentially would reduce paternity disputes to the dark ages.  It does not seem unreasonable for a woman to want the most honorable and successful man to raise her child.  He would be the most likely to accept, too, fearing the social repercussions of being accused of not taking responsibility for his child.

Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?

Yes.  Only in this sick, broken world, sliding into a new dark age with hollow politically correct platitudes serving as truth, could the author ask this question deadpan.  Many parents lovingly adopt or raise children who are not their own, but this ignores McDonagh’s broader question of “does [paternity] matter?”  Legally, and for the cuckold who believes the child is his, and raises it under those circumstances – rather than as an adoptive parent or step parent – it absolutely matters.

If DNA testing ever was to be banned in the United States, it would raise an interesting constitutional question.  Matters of birth and abortion are generally covered by a broadly defined right of privacy that governs martial relationships and reproduction.  First established in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), then expanded to cover abortion by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and sex in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).  Under Roe‘s progeny, a woman has broad rights over her pregnancy and ability to take it to term, but states may require DNA tests after birth to confirm or deny paternity.  If this practice is banned, it may create a question of whether child support payments would constitute an unconstitutional taking of property.  When paying judgments or taxes, the government takes steps to ensure that the right person is paying the judgment.  Even now, the government has stepped in to halt a foreclosure process that cannot produce the notes of delinquent mortgage holders — despite many of them rightly being subject to foreclosure.  Whether the government can take property from a putative father based on a woman’s say-so, and without using testing that was previously available, would be an important but dangerously uncertain question.

There is an essential caveat to this position.  This post does not apply to all women, or seek to imply it addresses all of them.  In fact, the segment of society seeking to end DNA paternity testing is small and on the fringe of political activism.  Similarly, these changes would affect only a small portion of the population. Historically, however, it is the squeaky wheel that receives the grease.

Among my age group, the ideas of marriage and children are met with a blend of derision and fear.  Men, women and children didn’t change; the legal and social atmosphere did — and neither gender seems particularly happy about it.  A couple’s higher earning spouse lives in fear of divorce, particularly in no-fault divorce states.  The costs associated with divorce and child support contribute to men being unwilling to marry.  Based on the concern over men’s hesitation to marry, it seems that women don’t envy the prospect of endlessly dating and potentially missing out on the brass ring of marriage, either.

Removing the protection of DNA paternity testing will only agitate existing tension and mistrust between the genders, which neither of them seems to have particularly wanted.  Nobody wants to be divorced, or live constantly on guard to the prospect of his or her partner being constantly solicited – or soliciting others – in pursuit of the elusive “something better” that we’ve been told is waiting for us.  Few men or women will ever need DNA paternity testing, but eliminating its existence likely will create paranoia and distrust between men and women that otherwise would not have existed.  It will only serve to make degrading gender relations worse and, in the end, hurt everyone.

The safest sex ever

October 5, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Ultra-safe sex in 27 short steps.

Guatemala has regrettable, sloppy hookup with United States

October 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

And all it got to show for it was Syphilis and Gonorrhea!

No, this isn’t some tribute to Larry Flynt and Hustler’s famous ad about Jerry Falwell; we actually did this.  Consistent with the CIA’s penchant for involuntary testing of chemicals – such as LSD on Americans and the French, and extreme plutocratic capitalism throughout Central America – this time an unnamed branch of researchers infected hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge. (source.)

Naturally, Hillary Clinton and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fell over themselves to over-apologize.

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” according to the joint statement from Clinton and Sebelius. “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

This is an unfortunate development, even if its roots are more than a generation old.  But, as with most failed social service programs, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

The researchers were trying to determine whether the antibiotic penicillin could prevent syphilis infection, not just cure it, Reverby writes. After the subjects were infected with the syphilis bacteria — through visits with prostitutes who had the disease and direct inoculations — it is unclear whether they were later cured or given proper treatment, Reverby notes.

Many of the test subjects were prisoners and patients in Guatemala’s National Mental Health Hospital.  Even if they wanted to refuse the study, they could not.  The United States isn’t solely to blame in this situation, though, as it had the Guatemalan government’s cooperation.

The STD experiments were conducted with the cooperation of the Guatemalan government. During that time, the U.S. — which had a long association with the Guatemalan military — exerted a powerful influence in the Latin American country, largely in order to protect the interests of the American-based United Fruit Company. In 1954 the U.S. CIA helped overthrow Guatemala’s democratically elected president because of land reforms that opposed the multinational corporation.

Many countries have had bad hookups with the United States, including Iraq and Afghanistan (and those were in the 1980s, before shaving and waxing came into vogue – yikes!).  This is one of the first times, though, that regrettable diplomatic relations have carried the same consequences of similarly ill-planned sexual experiences.

Craigslist: Now the Inevitable Congressional Committee

September 10, 2010

by Charles Platt

Nice piece at cnet by Declan McCullagh summarizes the worsening situation re Craigslist. The repercussions have only just begun, and the usual maddening mantra, “Protect the Children,” is being used to justify the usual demands for censorship.

I guess it really doesn’t matter which party has control of Congress or the White House.