News for November 2009

New Study Shows ‘Drug Users Know Their Stuff’

Brilliant study at University College of London (UCL) published this week confirms what ex-government advisor David Nutt was saying before he got fired by the UK government for saying it. The classification of a drug as illegal has no correlation to it’s harmfulness, especially when compared to legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco. On top of it all, the study found that drug users’ ratings of the relative safety of different legal and illegal substances had a high correlation to the harm ratings made by scientific experts. In other words, the scientists know it and the drug users know it. Isn’t it time the government caught on?

Maybe we need to start questioning exactly whose interest it is in to have substances like alcohol and cigarettes legal while prosecuting the use of cannabis and other psychedelic drugs.

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Posted: November 30th, 2009
Categories: Drugs, Politics
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In Summary: The Best of the Belle de Jour Buzz

As you may have noticed, there’s been a hell of a lot of writing about prostitution in the last week following Belle de Jour’s coming out on the cover of the Sunday Times. Here is the Daily Transmission’s pick of some of the more interesting articles and commentary from this past week:

Belle Lays Bare The Myth That Every Hooker is a Victim

Belle De Jour’s Mother Proud of ‘Brilliant’ Daughter Brooke Magnanti (Heart-warming!)

Brooke Magnanti’s Surprisingly Logical Call Girl Confession: That’s DR. Belle De Jour To You

How Belle de Jour’s Secret Ally Googlewhacked The Press

There is No Shame in Admitting if You’re a ‘Happy Hooker’

More Myths About Students Going On The Game

Enough Hand-wringing On Prostitution

Belle de Jour and the Myth of the Happy Hooker

Brooke Magnanti Says She MIsses Parts of Old Belle de Jour Life

Of course, there will always be some who manage to call themselves feminists and yet deny the validity of a woman’s account if she dares to claim an experience that doesn’t suit some feminists’ political agenda. Here’s a classic example:

Belle de Jour: I Don’t Believe Brooke Magnanti Was a Happy Hooker

All too predictable. Belle de Jour may have made a brave first step in opening a new dialogue on prostitution, but it seems we still have a long way to go.

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Salvia Divinorum and the Not-So-Sage American Legislature

Reason magazine has a fantastic article called The Salvia Ban Wagon about the ridiculous panic-driven rush to make salvia divinorum illegal in the US. Highly recommended reading.

Salvia divinorum (literally “diviner’s sage”) is a psychoactive herb traditionally used in divination and healing, which was legal in the US until recent media attention triggered dozens of states to implement bans on its sale and use.

One of the fundamental obstacles we face is a society that cannot come to terms with the idea that experiencing other states of consciousness through the use of substances is a time-honoured, ancient, and important component of human existence.

It’s ironic considering we all accept certain substances, such as alcohol, as serving a purpose socially. We know alcohol is a tool that can be used to have a good time or be abused to have a bad one. But we can’t seem to carry that logic through to other currently illegal drugs.

More than just having a good time, ‘hallucinogenic’ or ‘psychedelic’ drugs allow one to enter states of consciousness that are not unnatural, but rather inaccessible to most of us in our modern society. Spend some time in a sensory deprivation tank, meditate alone in a cave for a month, and you’ll probably have a trippy experience more intense than any schedule I or class A drug. Some plant-based drugs provide a shortcut to that experience.

It’s funny because in America we have drugstores on every corner. So in terms of these mind-expanding or consciousness-expanding drugs, it must be the mind-expansion, not the drugs, that we’re afraid of!

Salvia has a long history of medicinal and spiritual use by the Mazatec shamans and the banning of this drug based on fear drummed up by the media and a few immature You Tube videos is a terrible shame. Let’s not repeat the mistake we made in the 1960s and rush to ban a drug that’s hurting no one. Instead let’s see this as an opportunity to re-examine our drug policies and attitudes towards altered states of consciousness in a society that so desperately needs a good shaking up.

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Posted: November 20th, 2009
Categories: Consciousness, Drugs, Politics
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Dear Tanya Gold: Dr. Brooke Magnanti is a Model Prostitute

Yesterday, Guardian columnist Tanya Gold wrote “Dr Brooke Magnanti says she enjoyed life as Belle de Jour. Please don’t let this distort the grim reality of prostitution.” Why does a liberal newspaper like the Guardian consistently publish such reactionary commentary when it comes to sex and prostitution?

Tanya Gold is confounding the issue and confusing her readers by assuming that the sale of sex necessitates exploitation and coercion. Gold asks “can we ever untangle those two soul mates: violence and prostitution?” What a preposterous notion! We might as well ask whether it is possible to untangle exploitation from the textile industry. The obvious answer is yes. It is a matter of regulation and unionization, just like any other service industry.

The disfunction that occurs in the sex industry is a byproduct of its underground status. It is the constant stigmatization of prostitutes that allows some people to see them as less than human – seemingly giving license to a small percentage of clients to behave violently.

Otherwise, a sexual service provider should be no different from any other service provider. You hire a nanny to care for your child, a masseuse to give you a massage. In a perfect world there would be a full time mother taking care of the kid and your husband would be able to relieve the tension in your back but we accept that life’s not always like that. We pay for service providers.

Prostitution is just another service industry, providing intimacy, therapy, and the relief of sexual tension. It is an ancient, and I think noble, occupation. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of cleaning up to do. We need to address conditions in ‘working class prostitution’. We need to look at trafficking, under-age workers, and other forms of exploitation.

Dr. Brooke Magnanti could be seen as a middle class prostitute. And that is why she is so important. She can be a model for what the world of prostitution could and should look like. So no, Tanya Gold, violence and prostitution are not soul mates. I’ve interviewed enough sex workers in my own research to know that violence is a rare occurrence for most. But of course all violence in the world of prostitution should be eradicated. On that I think we can agree. So how to move forward?

De-stigmatisation, legalisation, and unionisation. Got it?

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Posted: November 18th, 2009
Categories: Sex Work
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Belle de Jour Escorts Us To Her Coming Out Party

Yesterday the Sunday Times cover story was “Belle de Jour reveals her biggest secret: she’s a research scientist”. Yes, the anonymous call-girl blogger turned writer whose books became the TV series Belle de Jour played by Billie Piper has revealed her identity. And about time too.

Time for the estimated 90% of prostitutes who work indoors to start coming out and speaking up about their experiences. Time to realize that most of our common knowledge about prostitution comes from street workers – primarily through police records – hardly representative of a massive industry that operates entirely underground. Time to find out just how big a minority women like Dr. Brooke Magnanti are in the sex industry.

Yes, that’s right. Dr. Brooke Magnanti, an educated research scientist who worked as a call girl while writing her PhD. Her experiences were in such contradiction to our cultural folklore about prostitution that many decided she must be making it up, that it was male fantasy, a complete fiction. But no, there are thousands of women like Dr. Magnanti who have these experiences in their past. Who don’t speak up because of the stigma. But its time to start talking, because whoever has got the mic has got the power. And right now it seems everyone’s had their chance at the podium except working girls themselves.

The Daily Transmission is proud of Dr. Magnanti. Maybe it’s time for a coming out party?

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Posted: November 16th, 2009
Categories: Sex Work
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Defend Our Right to Explore the Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind

A shout out today to the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE), I found the following posted on their website particularly inspiring:

The CCLE’s focus is on protecting the unlimited potential of the human mind, and we maintain that criminal drug prohibition infringes on the inalienable right to freedom of thought. We maintain that the war on drugs is not a war on pills, powders, and plants, anymore than the earlier governmental efforts to ban books or to censor publications was a war on paper and ink. These are wars against thinking certain ways, and for this reason we maintain that criminal drug prohibition is unconstitutional cognitive censorship, and inconsistent with the basic values and freedoms upon with the United States was founded. So long as a person does not endanger others, the CCLE maintains that the government lacks the constitutional authority to punish the person simply for self-determining his or her own cognitive processes.

The CCLE strives to protect the fundamental right to freedom of thought — a right that Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo has called “the matrix, the indispensable condition for nearly every other form of freedom.” Because our enumerated rights date back to a time in which the drafters could not have conceived of modern methods of mental enhancement, or mental surveillance and control, the CCLE is committed to gaining legal recognition of cognitive liberty and to expanding legal protection for our rights of mind.

Sounds about right!

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Posted: November 14th, 2009
Categories: Consciousness, Drugs
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Quantum Physics: A Point Where Science and Spirituality Can Finally Meet?

Following up on “Reality As You Know It Does Not Exist”, it’s time to look at the world through a new lens.  It seems to me that our great instruments, which we had built to confirm our concept of the world as a machine built out of predictable and understandable parts, have now shown us that the universe is an ethereal, drifting mirage!  Nothing is really solid, just slow moving energy.  The universe is a seething field of potential.

What is even more astonishing is the realisation that this potential only becomes a ‘reality’ when it is observed by a conscious mind.  Quantum physicists found that “the state of all possibilities of any quantum particle collapsed into a set entity as soon as it was observed or a measurement taken.”

When you put this together with the idea that everything (including us) in the universe is part of a dynamic web of interconnected and inseparable energy patterns, that the universe is only a series of relationships, you can see how it makes sense to say that we are all one.

So then the spiritual idea of God ‘creating the world’ would be equivalent to the scientific idea of our individual and collective consciousness actively shaping the world we live in, as it is doing this very moment. Prayer, meditation, and belief are ways of focusing consciousness, and work because we are all part of ‘God’ (rather than praying to some exterior force).

This unity (God, Brahman, Tao, Spirit, Energy, Light, Vibration) is central to all major religions, thus their common moral foundation of “Do unto others as to thyself” – because the other is no different from the self.

Food for thought, eh?

For More:

Space and Motion

Into The Quantum Realm

Star Stuffs

Quantum Life Changes

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Mankind Is No Island: A Film To Remind Us That We Are One

Winner of the 2008 New York short film festival Tropfest, The Daily Transmission is delighted to share with you this inspirational little movie.  Produced on a budget of $57 and shot entirely on a mobile phone, Mankind is No Island is an inspirational reminder to all of us that we are one.

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Posted: November 7th, 2009
Categories: Consciousness, Inspiration
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Bill Hicks: The Outlaw Comic Who Tried To Save The World

Sometimes comedy can be a catalyst for change.  Never a stranger to controversy, Bill Hicks knew how to use the truth to provoke.  He had his finger on the pulse of everything that was wrong in our society.  His routines could be uncomfortable at times, but always worth it in the end.

I consider Bill Hicks to be one of the best comedians of our era.  Ironically I came three thousand miles to discover him here in London, as he is under-appreciated in his (and my) native America.  He has been described as a philosopher, social satirist and even preacher, but he was ultimately a comic who believed that he could save his audience by confronting them with the truth.  Bill Hicks might have died in 1994, but his spirit lives on stronger than ever.  American: The Bill Hicks Story is coming out in 2010.

Until then I leave you with this:

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Posted: November 5th, 2009
Categories: Consciousness, Drugs
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News Flash: Reality As You Know It Does Not Exist

The broth has been simmering for quite a while now, but I think we’re finally ready to taste it.

All signs point in one direction. The very system we built to understand solid reality has pulled the carpet out from underneath our feet. Quantum physics now shows the universe to be a seething field of energy and potential.

The most important aspect of this realization is that the state of all possibilities of any quantum particle collapses into a single set entity only when it is observed or measured. Hence, there is no one “reality” without an observer. No objective reality, only subjective reality. We create our own universe.

I’m no quantum physicist but the implications are mind-blowing.

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Fired For Telling The Truth: Enough To Drive You Nutts

Someone had to say it, and someone finally did.  That someone was David Nutt, the British government’s chief drug advisor, and he got fired for it.  Yes, ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol.  Yes, our entire classification of some substances as illegal, some as prescription only, and some as completely acceptable social lubricants is absolutely nonsensical.  More people die falling off of horses every year than from taking ecstasy.  Oh whoops, you’re not supposed to say that either.  For full discussion, see Allison Kilkenny’s article on the Huffington Post

At least Nutt’s not going quietly
. Maybe this will finally trigger the public discussion on substances and prohibition that is so desperately overdue?

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Posted: November 2nd, 2009
Categories: Drugs, Politics
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Bumping and Grinding: High School Lessons in Giving it Away For Free

I first felt a man’s erection at the tender age of fourteen.  On my daily commute to school on the subway in New York City, a crowded train provided cover for unsolicited dry-humps from strangers behind me.  I suppose this was my sexual awakening.  Not particularly romantic.

This first experience was not shocking in the context of teenage pop culture.  I was already dressed for the part, in my mini-skirt and high heels.  I just needed to learn the moves. Watching MTV, the instructions came in loud and clear.  Even at my uber-nerdy school of math and science geeks, the point needed no clarification.  Nelly told us to ‘take off all our clothes’, Xtina got ‘Dirrty’, and even not-so-innocent Britney showed us how to make high school hallways and school uniforms more palatable.  From music videos and movies to school discos and prom, sexier was always better.  In this period I had a moment, an awakening which occurs in many young women’s lives, that maybe I should start wearing more skirts, putting on the lip gloss, and learning to flirt.

Becoming ‘sexy-conscious’ I unknowingly entered a world of delicate balancing and complicated hypocrisy.  Looking back, I’m sure I’m not the only one who cringes at memories of too much makeup, skirts that were too short, and heels that were too high.  I quickly became attuned to the effects of dressing provocatively.  Cat calls from builders, comments on the street and special treatment in shops became regular occurrences – which, in a funny way, I soon found myself reliant upon for constant reassurance that I was, indeed, attractive to men.

Even then I remember feeling confused as to the point of it all.  I knew I didn’t want to follow through with all the attention I was attracting, but I was also secretly pleased I was getting it.  It meant I was sexy – in the world of high school, a ‘hot chick’.  Then there were times when I’d manage to get my way with a male teacher, and I had no illusions as to why it was happening.  It seemed to me that flaunting my assets finally had a payoff.  But there was disapproval.  These tsk-tsks were the early precursors to the all too common ‘she-slept-her-way-to-the-top’ syndrome – where both men and women belittle or disregard a woman’s accomplishments if it turns out she was once a glamour model or slept with her boss.

One has to wonder why don’t we look down on the men in these situations for thinking with their ‘second brains’?  It seemed to me they were making fools of themselves, leaving themselves easy targets to be manipulated by a wink of an eye or a hint of cleavage.  But feminism tells us that I was the one ‘cheapening’ and ‘objectifying’ myself by actually using the sexuality we’d all earnestly aspired to flaunt (after much social instruction).  Had I been completely mistaken in feeling empowered?

This, it would seem, is the confounding legacy of the feminist revolution.  We’ve whittled down the principles and ideals of our foremothers – burning bras has long been out of fashion.  Sexy is the new black, it never goes out of style.  But we still look down our noses at those women who choose to capitalise on that sexual power – or at least when done with purpose or agenda.

Maybe it’s time we stopped to ask ourselves, who does this benefit?  I think back to school discos at ex-strip clubs (podiums, cages and all), where we bumped and grinded our way up the social ladder to the captain of the football team.  We dressed to tease and please, and were in awe of those girls who had mastered the arts of seduction and fellatio – not those who had learnt to give themselves an orgasm.  We competed by out-doing each other on the ‘hotness’ scale, looking for crucial signs of approval from guys, our own self-esteem hanging in the balance.  But we also waited like sharks in the water for the first girl to follow through with the tease, who could then be publicly humiliated for being a slag.

This trend continued on from high school into the ‘real world’.  I became aware that those women whose careers were reliant on their sexuality (lap dancers, strippers, prostitutes and so on) are widely looked down upon.  It’s as if that fact undermines any other qualities they may have – or indeed, that the career choice itself reflects a lack of other options, brains, or talent.  Women in more ‘serious’ careers who are seen to use or even express their sexuality risk losing their colleagues’ respect altogether.  But those who don’t often find themselves being labeled as ‘ball-breakers’ or ridiculed by men for lacking feminine appeal.  A bit of a catch twenty-two.

We’re expected to hone our sexual power but not to use it.  Whether we should be using it or not is another question, but surely our current raunch culture has nothing to do with female liberation.  Personally, I’d have felt more emancipated if I’d at least been saving up a college fund, charging men for all the free bumping and grinding I did in the subways and at the school prom.  I laugh when I hear people refer to pole dancers and topless models as ‘cheap’.  Because in the end, what’s cheaper than giving it away for free?

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Posted: November 1st, 2009
Categories: Sex Work, Sexuality
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Ignorance Kills: Why Screenwriters Should Get Their Drug Doses Right

With so much going on in the world, and so many sources of news and entertainment, it’s increasingly difficult to get any clear picture of our society as a whole.  So it’s a rare coincidence when one notices side by side events that seem to coherently point in the same direction.

Lazing away on a Sunday evening, I caught a catch-up episode of E4’s “Skins”.  Not something I do very often, mind.  There are many things you come to expect from a show if it’s genre – shocking and scandalous teenage behavior being a key component.  But the portrayal of drug use on the second episode of Season 3 I found particularly worrying

No, I’m not worried about kids thinking drugs are cool, or emulating their favorite characters, or even that they might start to think that there are ‘normal’ people who do drugs for fun without being affected in the rest of their lives.  What I’m talking about is showing kids emptying entire baggies of a dodgy white powder mix of amphetamines and opiates into their mouths, twice in the same episode.  And then not seeing either of them so much as be sick.

In a prohibitionist society, teenagers have limited access to open information about illicit substances.  You ‘learn’ how drugs are done mostly through television and movies.  I only understood how heroin was taken, for example, after watching Heath Ledger in “Candy”.  You don’t exactly get how-to instruction videos from your local dealer.

This is why, if nothing else, drug use shown on television cannot afford to be wildly imaginative.  I cannot think that there is a single illegal drug whose effects in that kind of quantity wouldn’t be highly dangerous and possibly fatal – never mind hugely noticeable.  Yet the kids are only mad at the first girl who empties the baggie because now there’s none left for them.  They laugh and call her stupid for not knowing she’s meant to snort it.  (Oh, did I mention this is the girls first time taking drugs, to top it all off?)

Then the more ‘hardcore’ Cook does the same thing later on – only to immediately then jump on stage and sing a song about the girl he wants to shag that evening.  I imagine the only sounds coming from anyone who took even half that much would be slightly less musical retching, echoing around the bathroom walls.

But back to where fantasy meets reality.  Scanning through the headlines this morning, I see “Girl died after taking ecstasy at ‘take a load of drugs’ festival”.  After reading the article, one learns that the ecstasy she took was fatal – because she took three times the amount needed to cause “toxic effects.”

Could it be more clear?  Deaths from a drug like ecstasy are limited to those who become exceedingly dehydrated or those with certain extreme and rare conditions or overdosed.  Total deaths blamed on ecstasy are limited to around 20 a year.

But here, a twenty year-old girl attending a music festival dies from an overdose.  Once again we’ll hear tut-tuts here and there about drug-taking youths.  We’ll make our drug laws stricter, our security tighter, our parental figures less likely to be the sort kids can sit down with and ask open questions about drug use.  Their only ideas about recreational drug-taking will come from what they see on TV.

I think we all know by now that no matter how hard we try to stop them, teenagers will still experiment with drugs – because thats what kids do.

And as we see time and time again, ignorance kills.

When will we learn that prohibition doesn’t work – and that the best and only way we really have to deal with these issues is to supply open and truthful (not vague, sensationalist and or fear-mongering) information so that people are able to make educated decisions?

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Posted: November 1st, 2009
Categories: Drugs
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Terminate This: Why Harriet Harman’s Attitude Towards Sex Workers Hurts, Not Helps

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I have no doubt that in Harriet Harman’s mind, she’s working fervently to fight for women’s rights.  But when it comes to her attitude towards prostitution or ‘sex work’, she would do well to spend a little time speaking to some working girls herself.  The Labour deputy leader urged California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to “terminate” the “sinister” website PunterNet, an online community she claims “fuels the demand for prostitutes” and puts women at risk.

What Ms. Harman doesn’t mention is the fact that PunterNet and other online communities are some of the few tools that working girls currently have at their disposal to keep each other safe.  One only has to enter the PunterNet UK Community Forum to see the “Dangerous Punter Warnings” board where working girls alert each other to such dangers as “another ripping condoms idiot in suffolk”, “Oxford Warning – Theft”, and “abusive caller: gt yarmouth,norfolk”.  There aren’t many such places where sex workers can congregate anonymously (as they must do considering the social stigma inherent to their work) to give each other crucial warnings.

Never mind the fact that apart from protecting each other from abusive clients, these websites can provide a rare opportunity for sex workers to express themselves, share their experiences with people who can relate and won’t judge.  I’ve spoken to quite a few independent escorts who mention social isolation as one of the most ‘damaging’ aspects of their work.

It all stems from a crucial misunderstanding that Ms. Harman has of the sex industry.  Not only will it always exist, but there is no reason it shouldn’t do.  That is not to deny abuses that take place – but it doesn’t help those working in the industry to constantly conflate the issues of sex work and trafficking or underage workers, for example.  Indeed, navigate to the “UK & Ireland General Discussion” board on PunterNet and one of the very first posts (a permanent “sticky” thread at the top of the page) is called “What to do if you suspect an underage or trafficked girl.”

There are many women working as prostitutes, escorts, or call girls (whichever name you prefer) who are doing so out of choice and with agency.  They are making informed decisions, selling an intimate service that combines the physical labour of a professional masseuse with the emotional labour of both a therapist and actor.  It is by no means an ‘easy’ job – but then most are well compensated.  It is these women who we should be talking to in order to ensure a sex industry that does not thrive upon coercion and abuse.

If Ms. Harman really wants to help protect women’s rights, she should be in constant dialogue with such organizations as the English Collective of Prostitutes and the International Union of Sex Workers.  Some deny the existence of non-victim sex workers but it is through these organizations, as well as on the very websites that Ms. Harman would have shut down, that one is able to have a small glimpse into a world usually hidden from society’s eyes.  For indeed, if a sex worker is not suffering physical abuse, involved with drugs, or being trafficked into the country, law enforcement will not be aware of their existence.  And most statistics we have on sex workers are based solely on police records (imagine how ridiculous it would be to draw conclusions about any other entire industry based only on those workers within it who attracted the attention of law enforcement.)

Considering the general public conception of sex workers, there’s little incentive for satisfied sex workers to come forward and speak up about their experiences.  So I’ll leave you with some of the words of working girls themselves, as written on the PunterNet thread about Ms. Harman’s call for its “termination”:

“Harman then goes on to complain, “…In a stinging attack on the financial sector where, Miss Harman said, women are paid on average 44 per cent less than male employees, the minister set out proposals for compulsory pay audits, which will force firms to reveal salary scales for staff of both sexes.”

In her post, Inna says: “Well I am working in a sector where women earn a lot more than men, and Punternet is part of ensuring that benefit

I think Punternet is one of the best ways of protecting yourself as a WG, and it certainly keeps many of us away from harm by helping those who want to organise their lives as independents rather than having to work through agencies or parlours or whatever.

Her comments are so cheap and show no respect for working women, especially sex working women.

“I hold strongly different views to her on freedom to choose, democracy in general and prostitution in particular. IMO the day prostitution is illegal and forced underground, the consequences for the girls, punters and society in general will be to make it very much worse. She has no understanding of the misery that banning prostitution will cause…”

And in another post, ‘6upxxx’ says: “It would simply be beyond her intelligence to grasp the fact, that a woman of 20 now, might choose prostitution, enjoy the financial benefits and socialising/sex with men even men much older than themselves. That this same woman might later in life be a doctor, teacher or yes even a politician and she has not harmed society but given a lot of pleasure and comfort, by her actions along the way.  The labour party should stop wasting time and resources pursuing us and instead concentrate on the true criminals and focus on improving society. Is that so much to ask?”

Others were more appreciative of Ms. Harman’s comments saying:

“ooher thanks HH means the site will be very busy today as peeps google it to see what she is going on about” – BethofKettering

All’s well that ends well.

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Posted: November 1st, 2009
Categories: Politics, Sex Work
Tags: ,
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