Things you don’t know about maths and sex work

My recent interest in mathematics lead me to this website: http://betterexplained.com and also to the mailing list that the owner Kalid Azad runs.

His most recent email titled The Simple Intuition Behind Counting, is a cracker. I won’t try to explain it, but take a moment, go to the site, have a look at the archive. It really is eye opening to have your fundamental ideas about the things that you “know” challenged.

To this end I want to mention another occasion where I had my beliefs altered by evidence. That was in the debate surrounding sex work. I used to believe that regulation (meaning licensing) of brothels was a good things, while private worker should be decriminalised fully (meaning no regulation, no licensing etc).

It was a naive view that came from a lack of education, even if I thought that it was reasonable. Continue reading

Double standards and #MasculinitySoFragile

I tend to avoid the parts of the Internet where men (and women) say dumb things like “oh she’s hot, but you wouldn’t want to marry someone who gives it away like that” alongside a photograph of a random sexy selfie.

Today however that part of the net popped into my life in a rather nice way in the form of this thread (below) on Twitter. It’s a great piece of social commentary on the way that women, expressing their sexuality, and enjoying and celebrating their bodies are shamed, while men who do the same thing are either ignored, or lauded for it.

It’s a pretty nasty double standard, and one that has been exposed to the cold hard light of day by Twitter user Hetero Meg. The thread is long with a range of photos and comments that mercilessly mock the very real misogyny that so many women experience from day to day.

hetro-megI am lucky to be living and working in a time where women are being given more freedom in society – enough freedom in fact that some, feeling the need for intimacy and pleasure in their lives that men can’t or wont give them will reach out and book a date with me or another sex worker.

Not that it’s easy for women mind you. When men visit brothels, strip clubs, or escorts it’s ignored, or even lauded. But most women coming to me are very, very keenly aware of the approbation that would rain down on them if friends or family knew. I am sure you can see the parallel here…

The response to this thread has been educational. Firstly, tears of laughter from the majority of the women in my Twitter feed, followed closely by the expected snarky comments, attacks on feminism, and general unpleasantness of a bunch of men who immediately respond to feeling threatened by what? Harassing the women who make them feel uncomfortable about their own behaviour. No wonder women are reluctant to tackle inequality, sexual harassment, and the host of other challenges that they face every day.

Anyone who thinks or says that feminism has achieved its goal and is no longer needed is wrong and I would suggest that they look a bit harder. Misogyny is all around us and it will only go away when the searing wit and voice of women like Hetero Meg calls it out and burns it down.

John.

Porn and same sex marriage

I don’t think that this will sway the “anti-porn” campaigners out there, but you never know. Those who also support same sex marriage are going to find themselves on the horns of a particularly uncomfortable dilemma.

A study, reported here has shown that men (especially with low levels of education) who watching porn regularly are more likely to support same sex marriage. That is undoubtedly a surprise to many people, but a welcome one.

The question of course is “why?”. There isn’t a good answer to it, but the authors surmise that men regularly exposed to porn are simply being given a broader education in sex and sexuality. Exposed to different kinds of sex (lesbian, gay, group, bi etc) these men appear to lose some of the prejudices that they might otherwise have held.

As I pointed out in my post titled Pawn Sacrifice last week, education is what lets us make better choices in our lives. Who would ever have guessed that mainstream porn would have fallen into that category of education? Certainly not me – I see most mainstream porn as boring though, not inherently bad.

So, hurrah for science, and discovering that a daily dose of porn is helping men accept the fact of same sex relationships!

John.

Pawn Sacrifice

I just watched the movie Pawn Sacrifice – a brief history of the life of chess grand master and world champion Bobby Fischer. It’s a lot less dry than one might think at first glance. Fischer was arguably the finest chess player ever, twice defeating the Russian grand master and world champion Boris Spassky. Fischer was also mentally unstable and increasingly paranoid. Something that would lead him to retire from public life and competitive chess at the age of 32.

It was strongly implied in the film that Fischer was used as a political tool by the US government against the Soviet Union in the middle of the cold war. The defeat of the best Russian chess players of the era by a boy from Brooklyn was a huge blow to Soviet pride I am sure.

Sadly for Fischer his mental health issues and antisemitism eventually bought him into conflict with his own government. His unofficial rematch with Spassky in 1992 lead to his US passport being canceled. Eventually Iceland offered Fischer asylum in 2005 and he died there in 2008.

The movie paints him as eccentric, irrational, paranoid, and truly a genius. It didn’t show the side of him that many people claim was kind and compassionate.

Earlier in the movie the comment is made that there are about 318 billion ways that the first four moves of any game can be played. That is a vast phase space to even try to consider, and it makes the game of chess effectively endlessly variable – to the average human mind like me anyway.

However, at the end of the movie, having beaten Spassky, Fischer makes the comment of chess:

“It’s almost all theory and memorisation. People think [that] there’s all these options, but there’s usually one right move. Of course in the end there’s no place to go”.

It’s unlikely that these are Fischer’s own words, but it’s a poignant moment and the artistic license seems fair. While there may be 318 billion options, most of them are to be ignored or dismissed outright, much reducing the phase space that a genius like Fischer would ever need to consider when playing.

At the end of the day, this is much life for the average person. We live in a world vastly more complex than an eight by eight board with 32 pieces on it. However the choices that we have available to us at any one time are always limited to a relatively small number of options. What our politicians and leaders do every day effects this range of options.

When a politician or a religious leader stands up in front of our nation and tells us that same sex marriage is unnatural and harmful (as they seem to be doing regularly in recent times), they reduce the possible phase space for a happy life for people who don’t identify as male or female and heterosexual. For many (especially young) people in the LGBTQI community they reduce it to nothing, leading to a life of bullying, harassment, exclusion, and for some, suicide.

Viewed from this (mathematical) perspective – an envelop of options or choices that can lead to happiness – “morality” as defined by our society and especially religion begins to look cruel and needlessly limiting.

Fischer perhaps saw a truth in the world. To defeat Spassky in the fourth game of the match in Iceland in 1972 (according to the movie), he took Spassky outside of the chess game phase space that his opponent expected him to play within (and had studied and knew). When he did that Spassky was lost and unable to respond effectively. And Fischer won.

When people tell us that enjoying our sexuality is wrong, or dirty, or bad they are limiting our opportunities for a happy life – limiting the phase space of our happiness and well being. When we fail to educate children properly about sex and sexuality and give them the chance to develop in a safe and non-judgmental environment, we are limiting their chances for a happy and fulfilling life.

I recently talked with someone who described how she has dealt with the subject of sex with her daughter who is almost a teenager. What I heard was the exact opposite of what most people seem to experience. That was a parent who never hid, or denied sex, who didn’t make a big deal out of it, but provided reliable information when her daughter was ready for and wanted to hear it. It was one of the best pieces of parenting I have ever come across.

In doing so I imagined the phase space representing the possible futures of that child opening up, blossoming, becoming richer with potential and pleasure and pruned of danger, of pain, of suffering – not entirely safe and secure of course, but she now has the tools and knowledge to avoid the worst pitfalls perhaps.

Nothing we do can keep children – or anyone – entirely from harm, but when we educate, when we put aside dogma and prejudice, we give people the opportunity to make better choices in their lives and allow them to avoid the bad ones.

John.

Pain and pleasure

Contrary to what the title might suggest, this isn’t a post about BDSM or Fifty Shades of Grey.

It’s about life and how we exist in the world as human beings, as social creatures. And how we experience a world where all too often the things that really matter are lost to the things that are expected of us.

I had an experience recently that was the catalyst for me writing this post. I have lived with “a bad back” since I was 15 years old and it’s been a problem that has gradually gotten worse over that time. Recently my GP recommended that I have a CT scan guided injection of cortisone in my lower back to help reduce inflammation and make me more mobile. I had never had such a thing and in spite of my innate mistrust of needles, I went to the radiology clinic and had the injection.

It was – to say the least – a profoundly traumatic experience. Very painful, downright scary really, but worst of all, it was an experience that was disconnected from the rest of humanity – and this compounded the unpleasantness significantly. The staff who performed the procedure were competent and perfectly nice, but the experience was exceptionally isolating physically and mentally. Laying on the bed of a CT scanner, unable to see anything, and not being told much of what was going on was hard. The accumulated effects of isolation and the very real pain of my back, the needle and the injection actually brought me to tears toward the end of the procedure.

The radiographer, seeing this (I assume), put her hand on my arm to comfort me. Until that point I didn’t really appreciate just how alone I felt. The simple action of a comforting hand on my arm was almost overwhelming. A visceral flood of emotion that nearly carried me away.

I believe that in that brief period I had an experience that is similar to that of many of the women who come to me. Deprived of touch, of human compassion, and living with emotional and sometimes physical isolation, it can be a profoundly moving experience to have someone do something as simple a be nice to you. It’s little wonder that like me, some people end up in tears when they come to see me – which is always, to my mind a sign of progress and a good thing, even if they may feel embarrassed.

Perhaps the first thing to note is that it is very, very difficult to understand another person’s pain, be it physical, or emotional. If you haven’t been there – and recently – you can only guess. We have evolved the ability to forget just how bad pain can be for good reason – remembering all of our pain vividly would be crippling.

But empathy combined with the shadow of our own experiences is a powerful social took. It allows us to value someone else’s suffering even if we can’t quantify it exactly ourselves. Unfortunately not everyone empathises well – witness much of modern politics.

Being on the receiving end of a lack of empathy, from wider society, friends and family, or a partner can be profoundly isolating and damaging. I see it too often in my work, but I do like the fact that I am in a position to give women a non-judgmental environment where they can be themselves without fear and start to take back their lives.

I’m likely to need more cortisone injections in the future, and I am most definitely profoundly grateful for what modern medicine can do for us. But I think that a little more attention paid to the human aspect of the treatment would have given a better result. Likewise, I would like to see our society spend less effort and time on the material and invest more of itself in the social and the compassionate.

John.

Harm reduction, not abolition – is the moral and humane thing to do

This article is a little different to my usual writing. I have been in an introspective and philosophical mood in recent times and when I heard the news that California had recently refused to implement new rules that would reduce adult films shot in that state to little more than this:naked-gun-safe-sex

I felt compelled to write about it. While it may not directly touch on what I do as a male escort, I hope that on reading it people will understand the broader point and how it relates to sex work – and in fact pretty much all of our lives.


The Californian Occupational Safety and Healthy Standards Board recently failed to pass new regulations that would force porn performers to use condoms, dental dams, and even goggles to protect them from the risk of sexually transmitted infections while making films and images about sex.

It was a win for that most elusive of beasts: common sense and incidentally for the concept of “harm reduction”. Even if only marginally (the board failed to achieve a four to one majority by just one vote).

The adult film industry in California already has a system for ensuring the health and safety of its performers. It is called PASS (Performer Availability Screening Service) and is administered by the Free Speech Coalition. It provides bi-weekly STI testing for performers, the results of which are held in a secure, private database, and allow producers and agents to see the availability of performers (but nothing detailed about their health information). It also provides performers with access to both testing, and – in the case of an infection being detected – support and treatment services.

It’s a good system. From what information I can find online, it works. Under that system there hasn’t been a case of HIV transmission on the set of an adult film in California in over 10 years (2004 was the last recorded time in California, which prompted the shift to bi-weekly testing with higher sensitivity testing methods).

There was an on-set transmission of HIV between to male performers in Nevada in 2014, however it appears that it happened under less stringent testing standards – which really just re-inforces the point. PASS works, less rigorous testing does not.

So what has all of this got to do with sex work and my blog? The short answer is: the PASS system is a good demonstration of sensible, tolerant attitudes toward dealing with a real risk (STI transmission between performers).

It accepts that there is a risk and that it needs to be taken seriously, and it sets out to minimise that risk without creating unintended adverse side effects. This is classic “harm reduction”. Continue reading

We need to talk about Ashley

In amongst the outrage, fear, and moral grandstanding over the Ashley Madison user database leak I came across this article:

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/ashley-madison-hack-what-if-you-find-out-your-colleagues-on-the-list-20150820-gj3i4y.html

It is about the most sensible and humane piece of journalism that I have ever read. In answer to the question: “should I look up the database to see if X is on it” the author just say “no, leave it alone”. There is wisdom here.

Women come to me for many reasons, some, because they cannot get the sexual satisfaction that they desire in their lives from their partners. Some do it with the partners knowledge and permission. Some do not.

But “cheating” isn’t the problem here. “Cheating”, with all of its derogatory overtones is what happens when we live in a society that is dysfunctional in how it handles sex and relationships. Why do people “cheat”? Some because they can. Some because they feel that they have no other option.

What we need to do as a society is collectively “grow up”. In an ideal world, there would be no need for a service like mine. But the truth is that there is no genuine attempt to teach children, teenagers, and young adults how to develop and maintain functional relationships, let alone give people space and acceptance as they work out what their sexuality is and what they need in their lives. We can’t even allow – in this country – that two people of the same sex can have a genuine functional relationship.

We are trapped in a social narrative that starts with fairy tales and “ends” with white weddings. Then we have to live the rest of our lives trying to live up to this impossibly high standard of happiness and reliance on one other person. In short, it’s impossible for most people. Just look at divorce rates. And just because people are still married doesn’t mean that they are happy and fulfilled, or wouldn’t like something more or different.

Which brings us full circle to Ashley Madison. It’s time that we left our moral outrage at the door. Recognised that people and relationships are complex, that judging others by our own morality is wrong and destructive, and that we need a new order in our lives that prioritises real human needs and wants, rather than religious dogma and social etiquette that is demonstratively harmful.

Recognising same sex marriage would be a good start, but a rethink of even the concept of marriage would be even better.

John.

Amnesty International votes to adopt policy to protect rights of sex workers

Following on from yesterday’s post about the NSW inquiry we (my industry) had a very exciting piece of news last night.  Amnesty International has voted YES to accept a policy that it has developed to protect the human rights of sex workers.  You can read about it here:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/08/global-movement-votes-to-adopt-policy-to-protect-human-rights-of-sex-workers/

This is a significant step forward for destigmatisation of our industry and the people who work in it.  It also paves the way for more sensible and informed conversations about the problems of our industry and how to fix them.

It is very timely given the inquiry happening here in NSW and will hopefully go some way to protecting the liberal, tolerant, and effective laws that we have in our state.

John

Being who you are can be very hard

I saw an article today in the local paper that caused me to want to write something. You can see the article here:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/how-one-man-thinks-he-can-change-the-samesex-marriage-debate-in-10-minutes-20150721-gigw8w.html

In summary, the gentleman who is the subject of the article is gay. He grew up in a small town, with (one can imagine) little or no support, and the horrible prospect of homophobic reprisals against him if he came out to friends and family. He survived though, and ultimately his story is helping others and even influencing politicians.

What resonated with me though in this article is the fear and pain that Lachlan felt because he was different. Different to his friends and family. Different to the social stereotypes that society and the media propagate. Different to what he thought he should be.

This last item is perhaps the most insidious. It’s one thing to defend yourself when you have confidence in who and what you are. It’s another thing entirely when you can’t even trust yourself. So this is my topic for this post: understanding and trusting ourselves.

As you know I work as a male escort for women. I came to this work for a number of reasons, but perhaps the key reason is that I love sex and (if I may say so), I am good at it. I like having lots of sex. And I like having sex with more than one person. As a male escort this benefits everyone. As a person in a “regular” job and a monogamous relationship (which was me for most of my adult life) it left me feeling a little like Lachlan. I didn’t fit in to that society. I didn’t fit in to that world. I was ashamed that I loved sex, because society told me that really loving sex wasn’t ok, oh and it probably meant that I was a pervert too.

The truth though was and is for me, for other men, and also for women that many, many of us love sex. We love it a lot. We want to have it. We are sick of being told that we can’t, or it’s not right, or it’s not normal, or it’s bad. These things are untrue. They are figments of the imagination of a demented society that tries to deform people’s minds and sexualities, be they gay, straight, lesbian, bi, queer, asexual etc.

You do not need to doubt yourself. You do not need to be ashamed that you like sex and want to have it – no matter how vanilla or chandelier swinging kinky. It is one of the great pleasures of my work to see a woman who comes to me knowing what she wants, but barely able to ask for it, blossom into a person who knows and trusts her body and her sexuality. One of my clients has gone on to become an award winning maker of feminist porn. Others have found relationships that fulfill their sexual needs. Some have overcome their personal fears and inhibitions to be able to enjoy sex in a way that they couldn’t in the past.

I don’t claim credit for these transformations. I am simply part of the journey that these women took to being able to own their sexuality, no matter what it’s form.  This is something that we should all be able to do and should be supported in doing.

John.

 

The mons pubis

Every year (or is that week?) there’s a new “fashion thing”, usually it’s just something superficial like g-string whale tails that at the end of the day don’t mean a thing, but occasionally it’s something like the “thigh gap”, or in this case:

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/were-doing-this-to-ourselves-ladies-20150222-13kfj3.html

… it’s having a flat mons pubis.  I think that the linked article pretty much says it all, but I want to go a little deeper on one point.  That is: the fat pad on top of a woman’s pubic bone that gives the mons pubis its shape is there for a reason.  It’s a bumper bar.  Seriously.

It’s job is to make sex more comfortable for you and your partner.  If your partner is a guy, then chances are that he doesn’t have the same level of padding on the front of his pelvis as you do.  So a shapely and well padded mons pubis is a real asset for both of you.

It could be compared to the fat pad in your heels.  They are an entirely brilliant piece of evolution that makes walking possible by cushioning the heel bone as your foot comes down with each step.  No-one would ever consider trying to make their heels skinny, so why would you want the same for your mons pubis?  It makes no sense, except to make women insecure about themselves and rush to the nearest plastic surgeon, diet, or gym.

I said this many years ago about labiaplasty (the practice of trimming a woman’s inner labia so that they don’t protrude beyond her outer labia): if you are worried about how your mons pubis looks (that it’s “too fat”, not flat enough etc) and want to change it through surgery or something, then come and see me first.  I will be happy to show you what real men (not the cruel judgmental types who don’t deserve to be in your life, let alone your bed) think of a beautiful curved mons pubis.  If you are still unhappy, then I will give you your money back.

Seriously, give me an hour of your time and I will change how your see your body and yourself.

John.