Fruits from the Garden

I read voraciously. Yet while I am always looking ahead to the next book I always finish the one I’m on with a hint of regret. It was hard to put the novel I was reading recently back on its shelf as I had grown to like the main protagonist and saying goodbye to her was hard. On the other hand I could not wait to finish the other book I have been reading recently. I read it in the bath, read it on the bus, read it on the exercise bike at the gym. This was not because I disliked it, quite the opposite. I was desperate to absorb it, enjoy its treasures and out it down to reflect on what it all meant. This is a book you may well be reading. It is The Garden of Desires by Emily Dubberley.

In fact it is a book written by every one of those (including me) who responded to the invitation to complete a questionnaire and shared their sexual fantasies. It is not a dry scientific study but a wonderful journey into worlds of sexual imagination I was hardly aware of.

The fantasies are grouped by the various types into which they could be categorised. Clearly some crossed boundaries but some kind of categorisation was needed and the one adopted seems reasonable. It was striking to me how many fantasies, across all categories, involved activities that are usually associated with kink or BDSM. A few hoary myths are nailed along the way too. Fantasy and reality overlap but not all women want to live out all their fantasies and no woman really wants to be raped.

I was amazed at the sheer variety of the fantasies and relieved too, that my fantasies did not seem out of place, and that I was not alone in feeling, or having felt shame. If reading the Garden of Desires has taught me anything it is that I am normal and  have nothing to be ashamed about. That is a very liberating feeling not least because one of the messages of the book is how much women’s sexuality has been constrained by societal norms, conditioning, shaming. It continues to be as we enter a neo-Puritan age where even some feminists are seeking to invoke the power of the state to control women and slut shaming is rife. I was shocked to read about the vile abuse that Emily experienced when the Cliterati website was launched in the not so Victorian era of 2001.

The final chapter is a call to arms to women to fight for their sexual freedom against the puritans. Whether you are straight, bi, lesbian, trans, sub, domme,  sex worker, or whatever, you must be free to express yourself sexually however you want. The only restraint should be the need for consent. The battle for sexual freedom is inherently political and part, but a necessary part, of a wider struggle for freedom and equality. It is a struggle that I rather think it might be fun to fight. .

Men, too, should read this book. Our freedom is also your freedom and in any case women’s sexuality is a store of delights that might be available to you too if you put your patriarchal prejudices aside and ask nicely!

Scenes from Village Life

Village halls are fine things even for those who don’t share John Major’s mystical warm beer and leather on willow visions of rural England. I have been to weddings, birthday parties and aerobics classes in village halls. They are a great community asset and , indeed, would help contribute to David Cameron’s vision of the Big Society if he had done anything about it rather than fracturing society further with his war on the poor.

But as was reported from Trumpington near Cambridge on Newsnight yesterday, any Big Society doesn’t include kinky people.  The village hall trustees there have cancelled a booking from a group teaching people about relationships. It came to light that participants were going to be given an introduction to some aspects of BDSM , such as instruction in spanking, the use of floggers and so on. This was too much for the trustees who accused the organisers of making a booking under false pretences.

But what were these false pretences? Are they suggesting that BDSM cannot form part of a relationship? In any event it all sounded very respectable. Tea and cakes were to be served after the session and, no doubt, spankers and spankees would have had a good natter about how their root veg was coming along. Kinky people are not a race apart. They live among us and with us. Why, some even belong to the WI!

As regards BDSM I am a sympathetic bystander. I write stories, often based loosely  on the real life experiences of other and I have come to see that it is a big store of erotic treasures. You do not need to embrace the lifestyle to enjoy some of these and elements of kink can surely add to any relationship.  And for those not afraid of the deeper water there are sensations and delights that, once tasted, can  never be foregone. My own sexual journey is leading me in this direction. Think of me as a nervous swimmer on the poolside waiting to dip a toe in the water.

Many of the activities can be dangerous when done by novices so training in how to flog someone, or how to tie them up seems a good thing and life enhancing for those involved. .Just not in Trumpington.

Village halls have form in this area. A couple of years ago a dominatrix from Derby called Mistress Tia used to hire a village hall in Shropshire for filming.  It had a great acoustic, especially when she strode the wooden floor in killer heels. She paid her dues, left the hall as clean and tidy as she found it and did her filming behind closed doors. Then the Trustees found out, cancelled the booking, and the local newspaper (the Sunday Mercury about which I have written before ) outed her.

This week we heard about Mariella Frostrup’s new programme in which participants will have sex in a box and then talk about it. This is, allegedly, supposed to provoke mature debate about sex. In the light of the continued stigmatisation of BDSM and kink she doesn’t need to bother. Too many people in this country still have too much growing up to do.

Long Ago in Czernowitz

Today it is called Chernivtsy and is in the Ukraine. One hundred years ago it was better known as Czernowitz, capital of the Crown Land of Bukovina in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Known as the Vienna of the East it had a thriving coffee house culture, public buildings in the familiar ochre known as ‘kaisergelb.’ It also had a large Jewish community, a large part of it German speaking, and it was here that the poet Paul Celan was born in 1920, by which time the Bukovina had been annexed by Rumania. The city I visited three years ago had a wonderfully restored centre despite the evident poverty elsewhere but, much as I enjoyed my visit, I felt I had come to the empty shell of faded glories. My Czernowitz is that of 1908, a Czernowitz in which I have set a crime novel I am currently working on, under yet another pseudonym. This is my passport to the past and the one with which I immerse myself in the world of its Jewish community at the time of the World Yiddish Congress.

The city I visit from my desk is superficially prosperous but close to the grinding rural poverty of Eastern Galicia.  Most people wanted to leave and many shipping companies had offices in the city.  The United States was the destination of choice for economic migrants. Indeed nearly a quarter of the population of the Austro-Hungarian Empire emigrated between 1870 and 1914. Many of them did so with the help of clandestine organisations willing to help the desperate and relieve them of much of their money.  One might describe these people as traffickers although the emigrants went willingly and were prepared to take significant risks in the hope of a better life.

Some of the traffickers were Jewish. Many were not. It was, however, to the Jews that the label stuck. Before long the tropes of sex trafficking and white slavery reared their ugly heads. It was alleged that young women, mostly from rural areas, were lured to Czernowitz with promises of exotic work in Constantinople, India and even further afield, and forced into prostitution. In 1892 there was a show trial of traffickers in Lemberg. The myth of the devious inbred Jewish trafficker spread throughout the Empire and fuelled anti-Semitism.

In fact the issue of trafficking was complex. Firstly, the trafficking of normal economic migrants is not easily disentangled from the issue of sex work. There is little in surviving records to tell us the motivations of the women involved but it seems that at least some travelled willingly, desperate to escape the poverty in which they lived, and that some knew what they were going to do. A number even went with the blessing of their families who were dependent on the money they sent home.  Indeed some of the young women who left Czernowitz didn’t go abroad at all but went to work in the legally tolerated brothels of Austria-Hungary.

In any event most of those involved in trafficking and arrested were not Jewish. This did not stop the development of a fully blown moral panic where cunning Jews tricked innocent Gentile girls into sexual slavery in exotic lands far away.

As in most moral panics a kernel of truth was blown up out of all proportion and a simple narrative woven from complex threads produced that, if nothing else, sold plenty of popular newspapers. As I said earlier this panic fuelled anti-Semitism. Indeed an internet search revealed that the popular myths of sex trafficking in Czernowitz and Galicia are still peddled today by far right organisations as part of the toxic narrative of the ‘eternal Jew’.  You can find them easily enough if you are interested. I will not be providing links to this poison.

The parallels with today are striking. These are: Some women sell sex to make money. There is an ideological position that maintains, despite the evidence, that no woman could possibly do this voluntarily. Therefore there must be networks of criminals trafficking and coercing women. These networks are of aliens, be it Jews, Albanians, Pakistanis or whatever. The popular press prints salacious stories and, then as now, there must be those who get off on the fantasies these stories generate. And what else is there in common? Two things I think , firstly that most women who sell sex do so to earn a living, no more, no less, and that there doubtless ARE women tricked and coerced into sex work. Sadly those behind the moral panics probably don’t care about them either.

I’m going back to Czernowitz tomorrow, at least in my imagination. It’s not always so hard – so long ago , so different, yet as the Bible says ‘there’s nothing new under the Sun,’ . There really isn’t!

Friday the Thirteenth Again

It is Friday 13th and I am reblogging this by the wonderful Maggie McNeill, a woman whose intellect and erudition leave me in awe. Readers of my blog already know that my partner and I have been clients of sex workers and that one of my friends is a professional dominatrix. I also have a number of online sex worker friends. My message is that I support you in your struggle. I may not be able to do much beyond ranting on my blog, I may be a cheerleader on the touchline rather than a player engaged in the thick of the battle but I am with you. Always.

The Honest Courtesan

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

red umbrella ballToday is the first Friday the 13th in fourteen months, and since I’ve picked up quite a few readers since July of 2012 a number of you are probably wondering what that has to do with anything.  Well, it’s just this:  from soon after the beginning of this blog, I’ve asked those of you who aren’t sex workers yourselves to speak up for our rights on this day.  The gay rights movement didn’t really take off until the friends and families of gay people got involved, and it’s the same for us; since only about 1% of Western women ever formally work as whores, we’re going to need a lot of help to make our voices heard.  We need all the sex workers (such…

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Notes on Violence

Food that was cooked last week and reheated several times tends to be unappetising and may be bad for you. So it is with each new article written in support of the so-called Nordic Model which criminalises the clients of sex workers, who are sometimes referred to on this side of the Atlantic as ‘punters’ and never as ‘johns’. The striking number of articles originating in the UK that use the word ‘johns’ suggests that quite a few unappetising dishes have been flown over from the US for further reheating.

The main justification for criminalisation is ostensibly to deal with trafficking. Now I do not deny that some women are trafficked into sex work but have to note that the legions of sex slaves alleged to exist by abolitionists remain as elusive as Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. The matter was brilliantly analysed by Maggie McNeillhere.

On the basis of what is now considerable reading on the issue I am prepared to put forward two propositions.

  1. Most women engaged in sex work are not trafficked.
  2. Most victims of trafficking are not trafficked into sex work.

So where are they trafficked? In London many women are trafficked into domestic service (where one may surmise they may be victims of sexual violence). There have been recent cases of trafficked men working as slaves in the construction industry and in a recent post I referred to the case of some Polish men trafficked to Italian tomato plantations.  As well as agriculture people have been trafficked into fishing and, notoriously, into cockle picking.

If you accept these propositions you must also accept that further legislation in the area of sex work is irrelevant, by definition, to the problem of human trafficking. I suggest too that it is irrelevant to the specific problem of trafficking into sex work. The United Kingdom already has effective and enforceable anti-trafficking laws which have been used recently to put some nasty individuals behind bars for a long time. So what point would criminalisation serve?

I’m increasingly inclined to think that the advocates of criminalisation don’t really believe what they say about trafficking but they need a pretext that will play with the public. The real reasons are that the evangelical Christian wing of the abolitionist movement think it’s a sin and that radical feminists object for reasons of ideology. They call it ‘violence against women.’ It is the radical feminist approach to violence that I want to discuss here.

At first glance the idea that ‘prostitution is violence against women’ seems unremarkable, if awkwardly formulated. It is clear that sex workers ARE at significant risk of violence, for example from clients forcing them to perform acts that were not part of the agreed service to be provided. The violence is not necessarily sexual either. A man might enter a parlour posing as a client but pull a knife and force the frightened women to hand over their takings. However this is not what the radical feminists mean. What they mean is that sex work takes place in a wider context of an oppressive patriarchal system in which women form a discrete and oppressed class with limited choices, and that engaging in sex work is a symptom of that oppression.   All sexual activity between a man and a woman based on the exchange of money is rape, that with the courteous regular client who brings a little gift and always says a sincere ‘Thank you’ at the end as much as sex with the man who decides he wants bareback and overpowers and rapes the woman.

There a couple of difficulties with this. Firstly it could be argued that if women are such an oppressed class is not their consent to unpaid sex similarly impaired, in other words, is not all sex rape? What, indeed, is unpaid sex? It could be argued that a woman who is financially dependent on her partner is, in effect, ‘prostituted’. There are actually radical feminists who argue this and see lesbianism as the only valid sexual option for women. Secondly, even if you accept this simplistic and questionable classification, it surely does not follow that EVERY man is stronger or more privileged than EVERY woman. Human beings engaging in sex, paid or otherwise, do so as specific individuals relating to another individual and not as ciphers for a class or gender. And what about the commercial sexual encounter? Advocates of criminalisation propagate a scenario where a helpless woman submits to the power and financial muscle of a man and makes her body available to him without restriction.

Now as anyone who has ever dealt with a sex worker (I have and talked about it here) knows, the encounter begins with negotiation, what services will be provided and for what price. Sex workers are good negotiators because they do a lot of it. They might do it six times a day whereas the ‘powerful’ man might do it six times a year. It is the sex worker who sets the terms of the encounter and not the man. She is not selling the right for a man to do what he wants and understanding that is fundamental. The radical feminist view of sex workers is both patronising and offensive.

There is a further difficulty with the idea of all sex work as violence against women. It erases women’s actual experience of violence. If you think that a woman is being raped six times a day anyway do you care about the woman who has had a client force himself on her without a condom and now has to cope with the worry of infection as well as the trauma of rape? Do you care about  the woman who was threatened with a knife and now has no money to show for her day’s work, no money to do the family shopping? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that behind the ideological caricature of the ‘prostituted woman’ real women and their problems disappear.

It seems that radical feminists are not interested in real women. Why else do they propose to use the law and order apparatus of a patriarchal capitalist state to regulate the lives of women in accordance with ideological postulates that are ungrounded in the lived reality of those women? I have some difficulty in seeing that as either radical or feminist.

They talk about violence yet ignore real violence, and not only in the case of sex workers. Where is the concern about the many victims of trafficking who are not engaged in sex work? When did radical feminists last speak up for the women, many from South Asian or Filipino backgrounds, trapped in domestic slavery in the wealthiest parts of London, with the UK Border Agency effectively acting as an accomplice in their captivity? Or women from impoverished Eastern European states trafficked into farm work? They too are victims of violence. The website of the Coalition against Trafficking in Women says nothing about trafficking other than that for sex purposes. I can only conclude that they are indifferent to the plight of the majority of trafficked women.

I will finish by referring to two issues of specific concern to women, issues that every woman, every true feminist should be campaigning on; female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

I have searched a number of radical feminist blogs and websites and cannot find a single article on either of these issues, not one. I find this astonishing. What more egregious example of patriarchally engendered violence against women could there be than FGM? It is illegal to carry it out in the United Kingdom and illegal too to arrange for it to be done to a UK citizen outside this country. However we know it goes on, we know too that many girls are in danger as soon as the schools break up for summer. In Britain there has not been one successful prosecution for FGM since criminalisation 26 years ago, unlike in other European countries. The Government was even unwilling to put up a minister to talk about the issue on television last week. This is a scandalous situation. It is a scandal about which the radical feminists with their mantras of ‘violence against women’ have nothing to say.

One could say the same about forced marriage. Again the silence is deafening. I am reminded of a letter written to The Guardian by the Southall Black Sisters Collective some years ago. They rightly commented that the white middle class liberals who were reluctant to pursue the issue for fear of offending cultural sensitivities were, in fact, the real racists as they were prepared to tolerate a situation where black women were denied rights enjoyed by white women.

Is this the reason for the radical feminist silence? That they will fight patriarchy to the death as long as it’s white patriarchy? That they are ultimately not radical, just white middle class liberals mindful of the cultural sensitivities, unprepared to fight the oppression of black women, unprepared to do anything about the violence that black women suffer? That they prefer fighting the violence of the theory book to getting their hands dirty helping real women?

Postcript: If, like me, you do care about real women and the violence they suffer, please support the nomination of Alex Bryce, National Co-ordinator of the National Ugly Mugs Scheme for the Suzy Lamplugh Trust Inspiring Individual Award. Details here.

Getting Even

I knew I was in trouble even before I knocked on Mistress’s front door. It was shortly after eleven o’clock that I received a text message from her, written in capitals so that there could be no doubt about her feelings.

YOU WILL ATTEND MY CHAMBERS AT TWO O’CLOCK TODAY WITHOUT FAIL. NO EXCUSES WILL BE ACCEPTED. MISTRESS

This was poor timing on Mistress’ part, if I may be so impertinent as to say such a thing, since at two o’clock I was due to chair a meeting of the Project Board for the large construction project my firm was working on.  However I knew that the command of my Mistress was a sacred law and must be obeyed. So I pretended I had a splitting headache and was feeling sick and left work at twelve to drive to the chambers.

I was dressed in my suit and feeling a little like a debt collector when, my heart thumping, I knocked on the door. It was the stroke of two o’clock when the door swung open. In the usual way Mistress was not to be seen. I walked nervously into the hallway. Before I could look round I had been pushed hard into the wall and as I turned to face Mistress I saw her dressed in a leather catsuit with stilettos , her hair scraped severely back and tied into a ponytail. She looked magnificent and furious.

She came up close and spat in my face saying

‘You worthless piece of shit! You piece of filth!’

I made to wipe away the spittle from my face but she grabbed my wrist and forced my arm back down by my side.

‘Don’t even think of wiping your face!’

With her face contorted by rage she spat at me again and  slapped me hard across the check. I had never seen her like this before and I was afraid.

‘Take your clothes off’ she ordered ‘and place them in a neat pile on that chair. Then kneel facing the wall with your hands on your head.’

Mistress walked into the lounge leaving me on my own. I hurried to comply with her order , anxious that she should not become even angrier. Naked, and feeling very vulnerable, I knelt and waited for Mistress to return.

She came back, shutting the lounge door firmly and decisively. She said nothing but walked backward and forward on the parquet floor, deliberately letting her heels click so as to increase the tension and my anxiety. I was very anxious, my bottom exposed, my penis hanging limply down, seeming to invite torture. I was going to suffer. Mistress surely had some implement or other in her hand to inflict pain. Just as the tension was becoming unbearable Mistress commanded me:

‘Turn round on your knees to face me. Do not look at me, keep your head bowed.’

I longed to raise my head and look Mistress in the face, she was a beautiful woman but I knew what punishment awaited me if I did. I focused instead on her Louboutin shoes and the space of floor between us where I was surely about to grovel.

‘Place both hands on the floor, palms down’ she commanded and I did as I was told.  Before I could react she came forward to stand on the hands before rocking forward onto the balls of her feet and rocking back so that the spiked heels dug into my hands with the full weight of Mistress’ body bearing down on them. I cried out in pain but Mistress laughed.

‘You’re a wimp. What are you?’

‘A wimp Mistress’ I whispered.

‘A  big girl’s blouse.’

‘I’m a big girl’s blouse Mistress’ I responded without waiting for the prompt.

Mistress Doom stepped off my hands and stood with the toes of the shoes just touching my outstretched fingers as I knelt before her.

‘Lean forward you worm and worship my shoes and as you do, look at them very carefully.’

I leant forward and even before I began to lick the right shoe, which Mistress had proffered,  I could see a scratch and a scuff mark on the leather.

‘What do you see?’ asked Mistress.

‘I see a scratch and scuff marks Mistress’ I said.

‘Yes you certainly do,’ continued Mistress, ‘and where do you think they came from?’

‘I don’t know Mistress’ I began to reply but Mistress placed the toe of one shoe under my chin and lifted my head up so that I looked her in the face.’

‘Yes you do. They come from your miserable attempts to clean them in your last session.’

She took my suit from the chair and threw it on the floor. She walked all over it digging in the heels and twisting them to make holes in the jacket.

‘Please Mistress, no!’

‘Shut up. You ruined my things. I’m ruining yours. That seems fair enough to me’

She walked across the hallway dragging my jacket underneath the heels. She dug the stilettos into the material and had soon separated the jacket into two halves. She did not let up and had soon torn my expensive jacket into four pieces.

She threw my shirt onto the floor and had soon shredded that too.

She picked up a piece of what had been my jacket and said

‘Wank all over that.’

I held it in my right hand and began to work the tip of my cock with my thumb.

‘Faster’ she shouted and pushed her shoe into my face. I could feel the small pieces of grit on the red soles and licked as she commanded me.

She thrust the heel into my mouth and commanded

‘Suck the heel like you would a cock.’

My fingers were sweaty, the precome that was dribbling out made my cock slippery and my thumb slid inside the foreskin making my wanking uncomfortable, I dried my thumb on my face and tried again.

‘I said wank. Do it properly. I’ve got another slave coming at three so you’d better hurry up. Wank I said!’

It was fear that made me knead the tip of my cock more and more vigorously. I wanted to take my punishment and go. This time I came quickly and held the cloth over my cock as the creamy come spurted out. I pulled the foreskin back and moved my hand back and forth, squeezing the come out as I did so. Then I let my hand drop. I was exhausted.

I held the cloth fragment up to Mistress and bowed my head.

‘Rub it round your face.’

I imagined washing myself with a flannel, and rubbed the come over my cheeks, my forehead around my chin and neck. I felt it become sticky, smelt its powerful aroma. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror where I was usually brought to see myself as a maid. Now I was a naked, broken man, sweaty, dirty and stinking of come.

‘Now get out of my sight.’

I made for the door, not daring to look back.

‘Your underpants.’

I looked at Mistress. She held them up, looked at them and commented with a smile

‘Skidmarks. A big boy like you can’t even wipe his bottom properly.’

I went red and pulled on the soiled underwear. She handed me my wallet and keys.

‘I won’t keep your car keys. What would I do with a cheap and nasty car like yours?’

It wasn’t a cold day, I was glad of that, even more glad that I had my  car close by. I made its safety without being seen and sat there in a daze trying to reconstruct this most unexpected afternoon. I put my hand down my underpants and masturbated to Mistress. As the come flowed out over my hand I smiled. I was so happy to be her slave and knew that the list of things I would not endure for her was getting shorter each time.