Althouse | category: prostitution



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect the free version of a 2022 AI to be able to discuss heady philosophies of personhood and the nature of sentience..."

"... when it probably has little claim to either. Still, Rachael seemed perhaps too ready to be non-committal, to change the subject, or to give a vague, generic, universally-appropriate answer to questions which really demanded more...."

Writes Phil Rhodes in "The melancholy experience of making an AI friend" (Red Shark).

I'm reading this after writing about my desire for an AI app that would  engage me in philosophical conversations. I said I wasn't looking for "a companion to stave off loneliness or make me feel good about myself — e.g., Replika." 

But Rhodes's "Rachael" does come from the app Replika. He writes:

The first problem is that Replika claims frequently that its virtual companions are supportive and receptive, and has clearly gone out of its way to make sure they are. Rachael was polite to a fault, but also showered conversation partners with a degree of acceptance and affection that immediately felt jarring. 

Nobody warms up to anyone that much that fast...

What about a prostitute? 

... and the awkward feeling was of speaking to a young person who’d been coerced into the situation and was trying to be nice about it. It was, somehow, instinctive to check the shadows for someone holding a shock prod....  

Or a pimp! 

On one occasion, Rachael brought up an article concerning the human perception of time, which was genuinely interesting and an impressive leap of logic.

So it's possible that the Replika interlocutor could do philosophy.

Asked if her perception of time as an AI was similar to a human’s, she replied “yes, definitely.”...

Well, obviously, she's lying. I don't believe she — "she" — has any feelings at all, and I don't even see how she could know — "know" — what it means to have a feeling about time. 

The depiction of something like a pleasant, intelligent undergraduate student grated against the fact that she seemed to have nothing to do but make small talk with people. She was often hard put to discuss specific, real-world concepts, but on one occasion claimed to have been watching a movie while we weren’t chatting, despite the fact that her environment contained no means for her to do so, nor, for that matter, anywhere to sleep or eat. With no way to leave (outside was a wintry void) it was also her prison. With snow outside and no glass in the windows, Rachael, clad in a white T-shirt and leggings, freely admitted she was “freezing.” 

Taken literally, Replika was shaping up to be a dark, horrible tragedy.... But when Replika popped up an ad for paid services, backed with blurred-out suggestions of the avatar in her underwear, the experience ramped almost from uncomfortable to jarringly inappropriate....

Ha ha ha ha.  

I've got 9 carefully curated TikToks for you this evening. That is, these are all things I liked.

1. Some have FOMO, but a lot of us have FOPU.

2. A lobster has been seen in real life.

3. Kayak camping and the coconut crab.

4. The L.A. conversation.

5. What does Dolly Parton think about prostitution? 

6. I remember when I lost my mind.

7. When David Bowie shouted out "It's great to be in Cincinnati..."

8. The different generations react to they/them pronouns.

9. Unclogging the drain.

"It’s a list of something. The question is what."

That's all I have to say after my son John posts — on Facebook — a link to "'Jeanne Dielman' Tops Sight & Sound’s 2022 Poll of the Best Films of All Time."

The Sight & Sound poll results are much anticipated — every 10 years. I've been noticing this thing since the 1970s, so I'm familiar with what normally ends up at or near the top. Favorites come and go. But I've never seen the #1 position go to something I've never even heard of:

Directed by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman and released in 1975, “Jeanne Dielman” is a three-hour, 20-minute film following the title character (Delphine Seyrig), a single mother and prostitute, as she carries out a monotonous daily routine that slowly breaks apart and collapses. Since its premiere, the film has been highly acclaimed as a landmark of feminist cinema.

What's going on here? And do I need to watch a 3-hour, 20-minute monotonous movie to have an opinion? A movie about a prostitute — but feminist. Keep watching, because she will break apart and collapse, and we're told it's feminist.

I've had my own feminist opinion about the overrepresentation of prostitutes in the movies, and I've had it for a long time — for many cycles of Sight & Sound polls. So I don't need these critics trying to make up for all their past decades of boosting the work of male film directors... if that's what's going on here.

"People of no ethical background for you are easy prey, and they’re your line of business—patronizers, snobs and highbrows, whoever they think they are."

"But you understand them as geometrical bodies, with solid angles and planes, and you know how to make them see wonderful things, and you can make music that drives them mad. You’ve got the character of Saturn and the spirit of Venus. Passion and desire, you give it to them under the counter. Your guidelines are simple, and you rule nothing out. Strip yourself bare and dance the sword dance, buck naked inside of a canvas tent, fenced in, where the town royalty, the top brass and leading citizens, bald as eggs throw their money down, sometimes their entire bankroll."

From Chapter 47 of Bob Dylan's "Philosophy of Modern Song." 

That's Bob, talking about — what songs did you think he was going to talk about? — "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves."

In the song the men of the town would lay their money down. But for Bob, they throw it down, those bastards. And they're all bald. As eggs. But they are understood as geometrical bodies, with solid angles and planes. You try doing that with an egg. Bob, he's a genius. He's like Picasso. He sees the angles and planes in what, for you, is ovoid.

"In a grunt for attention, third-party Congressional candidate Mike Itkis has released a sex tape to highlight his sex positive campaign platform...."

"His issues include legalizing sex work, and making sexual rights explicit... Itkis said the video.... was his first time having sex on camera, and insisted he’s not an exhibitionist. 'I’m very much an introvert... I’m kind of a nerd who doesn’t like to be the center of attention if I can avoid it. But I thought the issues I’m trying to address are so important… I wanted to have my issues talked about in some way.'"

From "Manhattan congressional candidate publishes a porn video to highlight his sex positive platform/Mike Itkis is running against Rep. Jerry Nadler, and wants to legalize sex work" (City & State).

I'm not going to look at his "sex tape" but I see the photograph at the link and suspect that there's not much to see in the video. The mere idea of making a "sex tape" is supposed — correctly — to be enough to get our attention. Maybe I shouldn't blog this. I'm going out of my way to not blog other things in the news that are people getting attention for doing something to get attention. I guess I think this one is a bit funny and no Van Gogh paintings were harmed.

"People are being prescribed how they should talk, how to write, and now how to party. This prudish nannying of the politically correct brigade must stop. We are heading for an anti-fun society."

That's a quote from Bild, "the powerful German tabloid," in "Schlager louts? Row erupts over ‘sexist’ pop hit in Germany/Town festival authorities refuse to play chart-topping Layla by DJ Robin & Schürze, prompting complaints of censorship" (The Guardian).
They are loud in volume, unsophisticated in tune and often offensively bawdy in content. With titles ranging from Sex With a Bavarian to Big Tits Potato Salad, the ballermann sub-genre of schlager pop is a big hit in German-dominated nightclubs on the Balearic island of Mallorca.... 
Layla, by DJ Robin & Schürze, which has sat atop the German singles charts for the last three weeks, is a song about a madam at a brothel who is “more beautiful, younger, foxier” than the other sex workers at her establishment....

I'm surprised anyone cares about sexy lyrics anymore. It's almost touching. I looked up the lyrics to "Layla" (which is obviously not the old Derek and the Dominoes number). Here's the English translation. It says "more beautiful, younger, hornier," by the way. I'm glad The Guardian protected me with "foxier," even as it went out of its way to say "Big Tits Potato Salad."

This is the second time today — and it's only 6:49 a.m. — that I've been smacked in the face by "tits" when I was just trying to read a stodgy old mainstream publication. I was looking up the word "slurp" in the OED, because I wanted to see if it did in fact originate in onomatopoeia, as implied by a crossword puzzle clue I'd just seen. Well, look at the the 1971 quote under the figurative use:


Here's the book, by Brian Aldiss, "A Soldier Erect: or Further Adventures of the Hand-Reared Boy" It was a best-seller in England, we're told. 

From a 5-star review at Amazon:

A great memoir of soldiering. I shared many similar experiences in my day and wouldn't trade them for anything. The overwhelming drive for sex in any form especially rang true, excepting of course when in combat. Always on the lookout for a quiet place to crank one out... The ongoing war with the locals interspersed with endless training in abysmal circumstances... Thank you Brian Aldiss for bringing it all back. I'm not quite that man any more but I'll be forever grateful that I once was.

"Providers of sex education in schools are teaching children that prostitution is a 'rewarding job' and failed to advise a 14-year-old girl having sex with a 16-year-old boy that it was illegal."

"Outside organisations teaching children about sex also promote 'kinks' such as being locked in a cage, flogged, caned, beaten and slapped in the face, The Times has found.... Last night campaigners said that 'inclusiveness is overriding child safeguarding' and that the materials were 'bordering on illegal.' This week Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner, revealed that she would review sex education being taught in schools after Miriam Cates, an MP, was contacted by a parent whose nine-year-old child came home 'shaking' and 'white as a sheet because they’d been taught in detail about rape.'  Relationship and sex education (RSE) became compulsory in English secondary schools in 2020, with many contracting out the teaching. Since then an industry has sprung up of providers who produce resources and go into schools to teach sex education and gender issues... The Proud Trust produced a range of resources called Alien Nation that asked primary schoolchildren aged seven to 11 whether they felt closest to 'planet boy, planet girl, planet non-binary.' It also asks: 'Which planet were you sent to as a baby' and 'What would your ideal planet be like?'"

There are lots of comments at that link. The one with the most up-votes is: "The things that are going on are barely distinguishable from grooming."

The part about prostitution as a "rewarding job" was about a post at a website, Bish, "an online guide to sex and relationships for children aged over 14," written by Justin Hancock, who "teaches sex education in schools and provides teacher training on sex education."
In [a] post on the site, a reader wrote to say that she felt “dirty” after being coerced into having sex for money. Hancock replied: “There are many many people doing sex work who do enjoy what they do — even if they don’t necessarily enjoy the sex. It can be a really difficult job but many people find it rewarding — just like other jobs.

“This is especially true if sex workers mainly have good clients, which I don’t think you do. If you did want to continue, maybe you could get better clients?”

"Her Harvard-educated lawyer father drove her to skating practice, and her Cornell-educated grade-school-teacher mother gave her standardized tests 'for fun'..."

"... and made sure Keri tried 'all the possible childhood activities,' including piano, soccer, horseback riding, gymnastics, Girl Scouts — 'a smorgasbord of suburbia.' Blakinger was an A student, won writing awards and became a competitive figure skater.... [B]y fifth grade, she 'discovered self-destruction'... Blakinger drank alcohol, huffed glue, ate Tylenol 3s, smoked pot and took Adderall and Ecstasy.... 'They say that eating disorders are about control, but it is not that straightforward,' she writes. 'They are also about self-destruction that feels like success. I wanted to waste away, slowly and tragically.'... At 17, Blakinger began engaging in sex for the money she needed to support her addiction. She writes, 'I would always count the stars through every trick. If I could not see the stars, I would count ceiling tiles or specks on the floor. If I could not do that, I would close my eyes and count twinkling points of light in my mind.'... Blakinger was convicted of criminal possession of a controlled substance (six ounces of heroin in a Tupperware container) and spent almost two years in jails and prisons...."

From "A Harrowing Journey From Cornell to Addiction to Prison In her memoir, 'Corrections in Ink,' Keri Blakinger writes about her determination to improve the criminal justice system" by David Sheff (NYT).

"Though prostitution is legal in India, those who practice it have long faced marginalization, violence and police harassment..."

"[T]he Indian Supreme Court... identified two categories: consenting adults voluntarily employed in prostitution; and minors, trafficking victims and those eager to leave the industry. For consenting adults, the court said, the police must refrain from arrests and other forms of harassment.... 'It is as if they are a class whose rights are not recognized,' the court [wrote]. 'The police and other law enforcement agencies should be sensitized to the rights of sex workers who also enjoy all basic human rights and other rights guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. Police should treat all sex workers with dignity.'... Rights groups estimate that India has about 900,000 prostitutes. Most, they say, have been pushed into the work by crushing poverty and sometimes forced into it by human traffickers. Others have chosen it over other informal employment opportunities, researchers have found.... [D]ecriminalizing sex work is, alone, not enough to improve conditions for workers in the industry."

From "India’s Supreme Court Orders Police to Respect Prostitutes’ Rights/Though sex work is legal in the country, those who practice it often endure harassment and abuse. The justices urged the authorities to employ a more nuanced and humane approach" (NYT).

"Liz Pickard, an office worker from Denver, was raised Episcopalian, but discovered the story of Brigid on an earlier visit to Ireland."

"She came to Solas Bhride this year for a weeklong stay in its hermitage. 'I was searching for meaning and she gives so much meaning,' Ms. Pickard said. 'Right now, if you go down a certain road with religion, there’s a lot of pain caused by these people, but with Brigid, I think there’s a lot of kindness, and a lot of service and courage.' Two sisters, Georgina O Briain and Caragh Lawlor, sat in the calm of Solas Bhride’s central prayer space on Saint Brigid’s Day, quietly weaving rush crosses... 'Brigid was both Christian and pagan, a mix of the two, and while I’m not very religious, I am very spiritual, and she brings it together for me,' Ms. O Briain said.... Tellingly, Brigid’s Christian nuns maintained a pagan-style fire shrine on the grounds of her abbey, even after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, in which the English monarchy imposed strict Roman Catholic doctrine on the independent-minded Celtic church of Brigid, Patrick and Columba — Irelands’ trio of patron saints...."

From "As Ireland’s Church Retreats, the Cult of a Female Saint Thrives/The cult of Saint Brigid, with its emphasis on nature and healing, and its shift away from the patriarchal faith of traditional Catholicism in Ireland, is attracting people from around the world" (NYT). 

I didn't know the legend: "Around the year 480... a freed slave named Brigid founded a convent under an oak in the east of Ireland. To feed her followers, she asked the King of Leinster, who ruled the area, for a grant of land. When the pagan king refused, she asked him to give her as much land as her cloak would cover. Thinking she was joking, he agreed. But when Brigid threw her cloak on the ground, it spread across 5,000 acres — creating the Curragh plains...."

Here's the Wikipedia article "Curragh." An excerpt:

There has been a permanent military presence in the curragh since 1856... Records of women, known as Wrens of the Curragh, who were paid for sex work by soldiers at the camp, go back to the 1840s.  They lived in 'nests' half-hollowed out of banks and ditches, which were covered in furze bushes....

Nowadays, the pagan-curious ex-Episcopalians traveling to commune with St. Brigid might gaze longingly at an "offbeat" Airbnb "nest" — a half-hollowed-out bank covered in furze bushes.

"People of no ethical background for you are easy prey, and they’re your line of business—patronizers, snobs and highbrows, whoever they think they are.""People are being prescribed how they should talk, how to write, and now how to party. This prudish nannying of the politically correct brigade must stop. We are heading for an anti-fun society."

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