Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I have become Death

I'm fully aware that the world sucks.

But I'm going through a journal here with a story about a pretty 15 year old girl with terminal cancer, both her and her solo mother facing it as bravely as they can.

And I take that article and reduce it to a single dry sentence, and put a very simple reference to her in a database. That's likely to be the only obituary ever officially recorded - the life of someone who should have so much to look forward to reduced to two words in a cross reference file.

Maturity is coming to grips with mortality, grasping that the world is screamingly indifferent and unfair, that you and everyone you love will die, and there is nothing ever that you can do to stop that. I know this.

But it hurts to consider yourself part of that unfairness, even if that's irrational.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Regarding prostitution in New Zealand

Of relevance to debates elsewhere, I managed to track down an article on the reality of a brothel under New Zealand's new legal regime. Some relevant extracts (emphasis added by me):

Ford is one of a new breed of brothel keeper. When the Government legalised prostitution - estimated to be an $800-million-a-year industry - in mid-2003, it legitimised a trade which until then had been regulated by ambiguity.

Before 2003, running a brothel was neither fully illegal, nor fully legal. With the legal issues resolved, prostitution could now be treated like any other lawful business.

For supporters of the reforms, the hope was the Prostitution Law Reform Act would eliminate rogue operators and take sex out of the side streets into the safer, more regulated brothel environment.

Despite the fears and false promises, the only real change has been the fact that prostitution is now more visible.

Certainly there is no evidence to suggest a rise in the number of brothels or working girls since 2003. In Auckland City there are currently 25 licensed brothels, just a handful more than in 2003. North Shore and Manukau have two each, the same number as four years ago.

Nationwide, it is estimated around 6000 girls are making a living from prostitution, a number that has also remained steady since 2003.

Money - or the need for it - is still the number one reason women choose a career in the sex industry. For many, though, the rewards come at a huge emotional cost.


Initially, Ford's biggest challenge was finding "quality" girls.

Although working girls tend to be a transient breed, most flock to the busy parlours where they can be guaranteed five or six jobs a night. At $100 a time that means they can get by working only two or three nights a week.

On opening night, Ford had 14 girls on his books, well below what he required. "You can have a parlour in the Taj Mahal, but you're not going to make a go of it if you don't have decent girls," Ford said. "The parlour is all about your girls. They are your gold, they are your business." That said, they could also be a curse.

Many were unreliable and "lived close to the edge", Ford said. All the girls on his roster were employed as subcontractors, which meant they could come and go basically as they pleased.

"That's where the problem lies. Some days they just don't turn up and there's nothing you can do about it."


Former working girl Lacey remembers those dark days.

After two years on the game she has now moved into management, but says in those early days she also had doubts whether the club would survive.

Girls left because they couldn't afford to sit around for hours on end waiting for a client, she says. Yes, there was the potential to make $100 an hour but the reality was often quite different. While on a good night some girls might get up to 12 jobs, during a quiet shift they might not land one client.

And many of the girls paid a high price. Lacey says her stint virtually turned her into an alcoholic. The booze was the only way of masking having sex with someone who repulsed her, she says.

Clients ranged from 18 to 80 and came from a mix of backgrounds. Many were married, or in long-term relationships.

"It's men looking for a bit of variety. In some cases we help spark up relationships which have gone a little stale. It's not our place to judge whether the guys are married or not," Lacey said.

"That said, there's definitely some sick puppies out there who request all sorts of bizarre things. You wouldn't believe some of the things I've seen, or been asked to do."

It was always left up to each girl to decide which of the clients they had sex with, she said. "It is always the prerogative of the girl. Some girls won't have sex with certain types of men. That is their choice and there's no pressure from the club owner at all."

If a girl did not want to have sex with a particular client, but had agreed to take the job, she would use stalling techniques on them once in the room to use up the hour.

Most people would be surprised to learn that with 75 per cent of jobs, the girl never ended up having sex with the client. Some clients just wanted to talk, while others were content with a massage or spa.

"It's not always about the sex. There are other ways men like to be satisfied," Lacey said.

Some people also had the view that working girls catered for only the desperate and dateless, Lacey said. That couldn't be further from the truth.

During the day, the club catered mostly for retirees and businessmen looking for "a physical release" after a long boozy lunch. During the evening the club attracted a wide range of age groups, from young partygoers to labourers and executives.

But Lacey admitted it was a job that took its toll.

"It's a job that has a life span. But then I know girls who have been saying for the past seven years they were going to quit and are still doing it. The money keeps bringing them back. But the cost physically and emotionally is huge."

For a self-confessed parlour rat like Tony, who uses prostitutes about six times a week, it is about coming to a place where the women "treat you like the centre of the universe".

He enjoys the variety and the "no-strings-attached" nature of the sex.

"I don't have a steady girlfriend. I see nothing wrong with what I'm doing. I have built a relationship with many of these girls and that's what keeps me coming back," he said.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Really not much to be said here...

From MonkeyFluids:

The Person Formerly Known As The Problem Aucklander But Now Known As Spike (*) makes the following comment:

"It's never too early to encourage ... assertiveness."

This woman worries me.

(*) In the PTerry sense...

On abortion, vice and the real world

Multichoice test:

i, Assume we agree that drug-taking is undesirable. What, in the real world, is the best way to reduce drug-taking and the harm it does:
a) Make buying drugs illegal, and persecute drug buyers.
b) Make selling drugs illegal, and persecute drug sellers.
c) Both a and b.
d, Neither a or b. Treat drugs as a social or medical problem, and look at ways to mitigate the harm caused by legalised drugs, say by allowing experimentation under controlled conditions, regulating drug quality, and ensuring that a black market supporting violence doesn't arise.

ii, Assume we agree that abortions are undesirable. What, in the real world, is the best way to reduce the number of abortions taking place:
a) Make seeking an abortion illegal, and persecute pregnant abortion-seekers.
b) Make giving abortions illegal, and persecute abortion doctors.
c) Both a and b.
d, Neither a or b. Treat abortion as a social or educational problem, and look at ways to reduce the need for legalised abortions, say by teaching and encouraging effective contraceptive use, and the easy availability of emergency contraception. Mitigate some of the harm of abortion by ensuring it is provided under medical conditions.

iii, Assume we agree that prostitution is undesirable. What, in the real world, is the best way to reduce the amount of prostitution taking place:
a) Make seeking a prostitute illegal, and persecute johns.
b) Make providing prostitution illegal, and persecute prostitutes.
c) Both a and b.
d, Neither a or b. Treat prostitution as a social or economic problem, and look at ways to reduce the demand for prostitution, say by encouraging a sane and adult approach to sexuality, and providing real economic alternatives at the lower end of society to avoid driving people to prostitution. Mitigate some of the harm of prostitution by attempting to regulate it to avoid exploitation and to prevent sexual diseases.

iv, Which is a more ethical liberal stance:
a) Self-righteous bleating about vice in the pursuit of ideological purity, regardless of the actual effect.
b) Pragmatically dealing with vice as it shows up in the real world.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Cats and dogs - a cautionary tale

Once upon a time, a bunch of cats and dogs (but mostly cats) were sitting around talking. As it often does, the conversation turned to the inequity of the world and the cruelty of dogs, as so often seen in their habit of chasing cats.

"I believe," said one cat, "that I have an answer. Dogs must simply learn to listen to us and act as cats do. We know precisely why dogs chase cats; they do it in order to terrify us into giving them the comfortable spot in front of the fireplace."

A dog cocked its head quizzically. "I don't think that's entirely true. Dogs don't -"

"SHUT UP!!!" came the screech of a dozen cats. "This is a cat-friendly space, and we simply will not allow you to take over and dominate as you do on the streets and parks all over the world!" And with this, they leapt on the dog, driving it away bleeding with many a scratch to the nose.

"As I was saying," said the cat, "dogs are fundamentally unsound. Why, I have seen a dog purring and purring, and then it bit a human who reached out to pet it! Is this not psychotic behaviour? Purring is a sign of happiness!"

"Well," ventured another dog, "what you call purring we call growling and -"

"QUIET!" hissed the cat. "I am a very smart cat, and extremely wise, as all the other cats around here will tell you. I have thought long and hard, and I know better than *you* what dog behaviour means! You simply have nothing to say which is relevant whatsoever!". And with that, the cat advanced on the dog with back arched and fur bristling, until the dog decided discretion was the better part of valour, and fled.

Seeing this, some of the other dogs around the circle also took the opportunity to quietly leave.

"AS I was saying," continued the cat, "dogs are also harmed by the dogiarchy, and rendered unable to understand their own emotions. How many times have we cats seen dogs waving their tails in anger, only to fawn on a human when it offers some sign of affection? This is so very very sad - if only dogs could express their anger as shown by the waving tail, as we cats do!"

"Hey, that doesn't seem right at all," barked one dog (who was obviously a slow learner). "Wagging a tail -"

At this point, the cats didn't even bother yelling the dog down. They simply swarmed over it, ripped its tongue to shreds, and banished it forever from the circle.

By now most of the dogs had left. Some had gone to sniff trees, some had gone to find a more convivial circle of cats and dogs, and some had even gone off to chase cats in disgust. The few left were desperately trying to appear as feline as possible.

"So we are agreed then - the sorry state of interspecies relations is due entirely to dogs, and the dogs will simply have to change!"

All the cats meowed in agreement. The few remaining dogs pitifully meowed too, although they were criticised by their cat neighbours if they didn't hit the right pitch.

"And one thing which is worst of all," cried the cat, "the dogs simply won't listen to us! Is this not a sure sign that they are wallowing in their unearned privilege?"

Again, a general hiss of agreement. One of the remaining dogs eyed another, wondering - but decided not to say anything.

Sunday, 9 March 2008


Mum is recovering from a cerebral aneurysm. The operation went well, but she's confused and in pain. My brother and aunt are over in Brisbane; I'm slated to go over Easter - 22nd March through to the 30th. I'm not looking forward to it - she's starting to remind me a great deal of my grandmother, who declined sadly in her final years. Mum's too young for this shit.