Friday, March 21, 2008

What's The Worse Job? Paid Sex Worker or Janitor?

Author Annalee Newitz of Alternet.org has a great column this week in which she points out that Spitzer Did Nothing Wrong by hiring an escort for sex. And it is hard to see what all the fuss is about when there are so many more pressing concerns in the world (war, homelessness, child abuse, domestic violence). You should read her column in full, but the key point she makes and with which I agree, is that this is a case of simple economics and our capitalist system . . .That and a sad case of ever rising puritanical sensibilities in this country.

Newitz notes that: "The reasons given are always the same: sex work is abusive to women (male prostitutes don't exist?), and being paid for sex is inherently degrading.
"Let's look inside one of those heavy economics books that I just beat you with and examine these assumptions for a minute, OK? Every possible kind of human act has been commodified and turned into a job under capitalism. That means people are legally paid to clean up one another's poop, paid to wash one another's naked bodies, paid to fry food all day, paid to work in toxic mines, paid to clean toilets, paid to wash and dress dead naked bodies, and paid to clean the brains off walls in crime scenes. My point is, you can earn money doing every possible degrading or disgusting thing on earth.
"And yet, most people don't think it's immoral to wipe somebody else's bum or to fry food all day, even though both jobs could truthfully be described as inherently degrading. They say, "Gee that's a tough job." And then they pay the people who do those jobs minimum wage.
The sex worker Spitzer visited, on the other hand, was paid handsomely for her tough job. The New York Times, in its mission to invade this woman's privacy (though in what one must suppose is a nonexploitative way), reported that she was a midrange worker at her agency who pulled in between $1000-$2000 per job. She wasn't working for minimum wage; she wasn't forced to inhale toxic fumes that would destroy her chances of having a nonmutant baby. She was being paid a middle-class salary to have sex. Sure, it might be an icky job, in the same way cleaning up barf in a hospital can be icky. But was she being economically exploited? Probably a hell of a lot less than the janitor in the hospital mopping up vomit and cleaning up after you.
"Sure, there are hookers who are exploited and who have miserable lives. There are people who are exploited and miserable in a lot of jobs. But the misery is circumstantial: not all hookers are exploited, just as not all hospital workers are exploited. It's basic labor economics, people.
"Audacia Ray, former sex worker and editor of the sex worker magazine $pread, has pointed out that the public doesn't even seem to understand what exploitation really means. The woman who did sex work for Spitzer has had her picture and personal history splattered all over the media in an incredibly insulting way. Nobody seems to realize she's being degraded far more now than she ever was when Spitzer was her client. And she's not getting any retirement savings out of it, either."

If you ask me, the real sin here is that more of our politicians ought to be having better (even if they have to pay for it) sex. If they were at least getting laid regularly maybe we all could be making love not war!

Famous Courtesans of History: Lalage of Rome

Homer mentioned her in an ode, saying:
"That smile so sweet, that voice so sweet,
Shall still enchant me."

Kipling dedicated an entire poem to her power over men:
It’s twenty-five marches to Narbo,
It’s forty-five more up the Rhone,
And the end may be death in the heather
Or life on an Emperor’s throne.
But whether the Eagles obey us,
Or we go to the Ravens—alone,
I’d sooner be Lalage’s lover
Than sit on an Emperor’s throne!

But who was she? Legend has it that Lalage was a courtesan of ancient Rome, a woman of beauty, wit, charm, and power in a patriarchal society. But if truth be told, no one really knows if there was a woman such as Kipling's Lalage. We do know that the ancient Greeks had a class of courtesans called hetairae, women who were not just prostitutes or ordinary paid sex workers, but rather educated and highly intellectual, and invariably foreign, women. We also know that the hetaira of Greece and Syria eventually became the meretrices of Rome. What were these women and why were they better than ordinary prostitutes?

In his Dialogues of the Courtesans, Lucian (second century AD) relates an exchange between two friends about a successful courtesan: "In the first place, she dresses attractively and looks neat; she's gay with all the men, without being so ready to cackle as you are, but smiles in a sweet bewitching way; later on, she's very clever when they're together, never cheats a visitor or an escort, and never throws herself at the men. If ever she takes a fee for going out to dinner, she doesn't drink too much--that's ridiculous, and men hate women who do--she doesn't gorge herself--that's ill-bred, my dear--but picks up the food with her finger-tips, eating quietly and not stuffing both cheeks full, and, when she drinks, she doesn't gulp, but sips slowly from time to time. . . . Also, she doesn't talk too much or make fun of any of the company, and has eyes only for her customer. These are the things that make her popular with the men. Again, when it's time for bed, she'll never do anything coarse or slovenly, but her only aim is to attract the man and make him love her; these are the things they all praise in her."

Rome made a fine art of licensed prostitution all the way up through the Renaissance. Influenced by the hetairea brought back to the city from wars, class divisions arose among the various women engaged in prostitution. According to Marcellus, "This is the difference between a meretrix [courtesan] and a prostibula [ a common streetwalker]: a meretrix is of a more honorable station and calling; for meretrices are so named a merendo (from earning wages) because they plied their calling only by night; prostibulu because they stand before the stabulum (stall) for gain both by day and night."


The courtesans of ancient Rome were real and many. Roman men turned to their slave women for basic sexual gratification, to wives to provide them with children, but it was to the courtesans, the foreign hetairea to whom they turned for comfort, companionship and, indeed, for romance. These women may have held more power through their patrons than even the matrons of Rome. And whether or not one of them named Lalage was a vision in the heart of the ordinary Roman soldier as Kipling's beautiful poem claims, there is no doubt that her trade was a thriving one with over 40 different terms for the registration of prostitution in Rome alone.

The name Lalage literally means to talk, and likely--if there was a real Lalage--it was for her mind and her conversation she was beloved, not just for her body. That, gentlemen, is all the difference between a courtesan and a prostitute.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Adam Ramona's Seventeen Unsung Songs

Second life is primarily a visual treat, and so art in SL tends toward the fantastic, the improbable and the impossible. On the island of East of Odyssey, however, Adam Ramona--known in real life as Adam Nash, a 3D artist, performer, composer and programmer who uses online space (and sound) as a realtime performance medium--has taken the visual and integrated it organically with the aural and even the emotional in a sim-wide installation he calls Seventeen Unsung Songs.

Nash's installations use a combination of color, prim transparency, and scripting to make interactive art such as this complex piece: " Unsung Song #4: Mitosis." The central piece is an plant with a central shaft that responds to touch. Touch it enough and it ejaculates pollen which, if it falls into the cupped petals below, may turn into red eggs. The eggs hatch pink larvae which turn into blue bugs. Touch a blue bug and it falls to the ground as a blue transparent prim which begins to grow into a music tree, each square blue branch sounding a different chime when touched.




Another of Nash's complex pieces is "Unsung Song #16: Blue Sound Ground" a roadway made up of transparent blue prims, each of which sounds a different note when walked on by an avatar.

The notes range from percussive sounds to voices to melodious chimes. Multiple avatars walking on this road thus literally make a unique song of surprisingly harmonious tones.


The most amazing and perhaps disturbing of Nash's pieces is "Unsong Song #7: The Moaning Columns of Longing." Dr. Lisa Dethridge (Lisa Dapto) says in her paper on Nash's work:

The artist leaves less room for us to negotiate space around his highly interactive work, the Moaning Columns of Longing. This is perhaps the most mysterious and emotive of the works. Here artist toys deliberately with the “hot buttons” of love and pain that drive us all, especially those enmeshed in virtual affairs . . . In response to an avatar’s touch, tall, white columns spawn instantly with a phallic upward thrust. These gently swaying prims define themselves as artificial life forms that exist only in relation to a single, specific Avatar. They are exclusive and faithful to a fault.
The columns sway and ooze particles for joy or shrink and pine desperately when rejected. They communicate directly, challenging each owner/lover/user to prove their love and loyalty. In this giggly theatre of cruelty, the Avatar may choose to support and “love”, to ignore or even to abuse the artificial life form that is now virtually “theirs.” Like real life lovers however, the Moaning Columns make heavy demands on the avatar, challenging us to differentiate between real love and merely dizzy infatuation. Thus we earn what Nash wryly calls “an endless amount of chances to practice emotional responsibility.”


I have to admit that after three days of my "Column" moaning at me I couldn't stand it anymore and I let it die--if nothing else, Nash has reminded me in a very concrete object lesson about the dangers of emotional entanglement in SL. A lesson many of us need to learn. The Unsung Songs of Adam Ramona/Adam Nash are not your typical artistic builds, they are a multimedia treat and a closer look at in our own mirrors, and at our own obsessions, all rolled into one. Go visit East of Odessey and see for yourself.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Courtesan's Sex Tip of the Month: Getting it Wet

Nothing makes the end of the day more special than the thought of a hot bubble bath come the evening. And what better than a bath with your man? "Taking a bath à deux can be incredibly seductive," says Cosmo Magazine. "Just lathering up each other with bare hands is sensual and exciting. . . . So next time you're having a sexy suds-fest with your man, have him lie back, resting his head on the edge of the tub. Facing him, kneel over one of his legs (his thigh should be sandwiched between your thighs), and lower yourself onto him. When he's inside you, wrap your ankles around his calf so you're fully entwined. Then lean forward and hold on to the edge of the tub behind his head to support yourself as you glide back and forth over his body, rather than up and down. The zero gravity of the water gives you a wider range of motion than you'd usually have and lets you experience new sensations every time you alter your movements.

'This position creates a slower buildup, which can ultimately lead to an exciting climax,' says Susan Crain Bakos, author of
The Sex Bible: The Complete Guide to Sexual Love. Don't worry about taking too long; you'll have plenty of time to enjoy it. 'Your man is getting less friction than he's used to, so it can delay his orgasm,' she adds."

Translating those moves into your second life is not as difficult as you might think. I know what you will say--a good sex-bathtub is hard to find. You can find sex-animated hot tubs in several shops in SL, and sex animations for showers are everywhere (though the best are still at Strokerz). The problem is that animated bathtubs seem to be a rarer animal. I found one at Neptune's Kiss which took a bit of negotiating. The pose balls slip underwater and you find yourself sitting on the edge of the tub rather than the balls. That is corrected by sliding your camera under the water to "see" and sit on the balls rather than on the edge of the tub, as I found myself doing over and over until I got the hang of it.

But remember, the best part of SL is the dialogue. Pick up any sex or even just a cuddle animation and slip it into your basic tub. Then you and your partner talk through the action. Describe your soapy hands sliding over his skin. Tell him in graphic detail what you want him to do to you, what you want to do to him, and how it feels. Let your imagination run wild, since the best part of sex in SL is that there is no discomfort! (No banging your knees on the side of the tub, no worrying about fitting into cramped tiny spaces, no face full of water when you "go down" on him. . . . ) As in all SL sex, the key is that the more specific and descriptive you make your language of lovemaking, the better the visualization becomes and the more intense the orgasm will be. So get out there, girls, and get wet! And then don't forget to take those Cosmo tips home to your RL lovers, too!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Song for Hawk: "Hold on My Heart" by Genesis



Hold on my heart
Just hold on to that feeling
We both know we've been here before
We both know what can happen