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November 09, 2005

O Rose, Thou Art Sick

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
~ William Blake, "The Sick Rose"

The phone sex industry is in an uproar over the whole Red Rose thing and I guess it’s time to talk about it here.

Up to now I haven’t addressed the closing of Red Rose Stories. Something didn’t seem right about it. The original statement posted on the front page of the site when it was brought to my attention has been altered at least once and it struck me as strange that there was no official statement of charges, etc. It reads much calmer now, but at the time was so defensive and passive-aggressive that it reeked of trying to hide something. If I felt righteous indignation regarding my treatment by a federal agency I would be providing as much legal information regarding my case as possible to encourage public outrage. I wrote to the site admin, but as of right now, none of my emails have been returned. I was on the fence. Obviously, I am concerned about the implications of a story site being closed down by a federal agency, but, it just seemed like there had to be more to it than what we were getting.

Info began circulating at places like YNot, XBiz, and even Boing Boing expressing concern over the closing, assuming it was part of an initiative that followed on the heels of the Max World Entertainment obscenity raid. But there still wasn’t enough information available for me to research on my own and form an opinion.

I still have a lot of questions.

The important thing here -- for me -- is to get all the facts before jumping to a conclusion. "How dare the government do X" is my instinct like everyone else in the industry these days, but there's still enough of ole devil’s advocate me left to want to know exactly what was involved.

Daze Reader and Darker Pleasures (article 1, article 2) have both started finding out more compelling information and asking some harder questions. Through Google cache and a few other information sources, it’s become clear that Red Rose Stories wasn’t targeted because of stories about group sex, or mainstream taboo issues (scat, edge-play, water-sports, etc). It’s pretty clear to me that this is about the fact that many of their stories included instances of sex with children. Not Lolita "hot teen girl" stuff that walks the line in mainstream America and fuels socially acceptable movies like American Beauty.

Nope. It's not going to be that easy, friends and neighbors.

Red Rose's Lolita section apparently had headers and categories for stories that included infants and toddlers having sex with adults. At least three of the stories from what I can discern appear to include toddler snuff. So the holier-than-thou blather once posted on the home page following the FBI’s raid was more than just a tad misleading. “Rosie’s” statement that “The ONLY legal sex stories are those that involve a man and a woman, consenting to MISSIONARY POSITION SEX, in a dark room” is hardly true and does a lot more to make her look like an ass than a victim of political harassment. I’m sure that’s why it no longer appears on the page.

Still, I think we need more to go on before taboo phone sex workers start to panic. But there is reason for concern.

Phone sex is a form of storytelling. All role-play activities are. The implications of stories being able to be categorized as criminal would be a gigantic step backwards for us as a society and would cripple the industry as it stands. Going after a story site would appear to go against the April 2002 Supreme Court ruling on Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition where it was decided that "virtual" child porn was not criminal because no actual children or criminal acts are involved.

There are at least three cases that I can think of that would be valid for the FBI to investigate this issue and possibly confiscate the site equipment. First, one of the contributing authors may have actually committed a crime against a minor and the story may be gathered for evidence of that or additional crimes. Second, one of the stories may depict similarities to a case currently under investigation to the point where its parallels requires investigation of a possible suspect. Finally, one or more of the stories may have been presented as a confession, whether for dramatic effect or not. In most of these cases it would also explain why the FBI isn’t saying anything about the case. Although it would be nice to have an official statement from them to go on.

I question whether the site has actually been closed down by the FBI. They may have taken the servers and back-ups and made it impossible for the site admin to recover the site's contents, but she obviously still has control enough to post a statement. It's entirely possible that if she had a back-up the site would still be functional. These are answers we don't have. We do know that there are instances in the past where the FBI has actually killed / taken over the domain itself. That obviously hasn't happened here. The effect is the same, but there is a difference in the actions.

This is one of those cases that make us ask ourselves the hard questions and decide if we have the courage of our convictions. That’s one reason the site would have been targeted if this is just an obscenity fishing expedition.

And that would be a problem. Not just for taboo erotica sites and taboo phone sex workers, but for free speech rights in a virtual age. And we’ve got to stick to our guns on the harder cases, or else we give them the inch that leads to the mile.

At the risk of losing half my reader base, I’ll state here and now that I have no problem with most underage fantasies. They make perfect sense to me from a social and biological perspective. We become sexually aware as children. We first start to masturbate and experience sexual pleasure as children. In ancient times children were married at or just prior to puberty and let's face it, it's only been a few decades since young teens (and in some cases pre-teens) married regularly in certain places of the US. It seems reasonable to me that our basic fantasies would include fantasies of virtual children wether as ourselves or as partners. It is a way of escaping the complications of our adult relationships. What is simpler to most adults than the memory of childhood? Our mating instinct often begins before puberty and our adult minds retain that. As we get older and discover the complexities of sexuality and the emotional rewards of consenting partners, we move away from those first primitive instincts, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t echoes deep in the chambers of the subconscious. And if someone wants to explore those thoughts and feelings in the form of a roleplay session with a phone sex girl then I believe that’s perfectly reasonable.

It’s one thing to fantasize about screwing around with a teenaged Lolita. It’s another thing entirely to act on the instinct. Sure, she looks hot in that skirt, and she’s probably a lot less complex than the wife back at home, but she also listens to the Backstreet Boys and can you really imagine wanting to have sex with anyone of any age who listens to modern boy bands?

Okay. I know. It’s not a joking matter. But, it’s a real example of how our fantasies aren’t reality and cannot be made criminal no matter how revolting they may seem to others. The lesson of Lester Burnham was that sure, a guy might jerk off thinking about the cheerleader next-door, but when faced with the reality of an immature girl right in front of him, he recognized the false-front of the fantasy. That moment is the difference between a sex criminal and the average person. The choice to physically act or not; the ability of the mind to recognize the jump from fantasy to reality is monumentally important.

And those of you aching to shake your fingers at the Bush administration for this should realize right now that it’s the liberals who have given the religious right this opening. The liberals are just as often on the wrong side of this issue. Ashcroft v. ACLU started out as
ACLU v. Reno. Don’t make this liberal v. conservative in your mind. It isn’t. The previous and next administrations will likely go after this just as aggressively.

I have taken my share of underage calls as a phone sex operator, although I never had one of those phone-sex urban legend instances where supposedly the PSO believes the caller is actually molesting someone while speaking with her. Had I ever really felt that was happening I would have notified authorities. That’s basic. But then I wouldn’t have rushed to that conclusion instantly and I would have had a serious discussion with the client.

Yes, it’s true you hear about cases as a PSO, but they’re always so unlikely. Can it have happened? Maybe, but it’s such an improbable scenario. It goes against all pathology of most child molesters that we know of -- a criminal base that not only encourages but actually thrives on utter secrecy. It's far more likely that an inexperienced phone sex entertainer got spooked and began playing "whatif" over and over in her mind and worked herself into a guilt fit. It happens. Some of these guys can really freak you out, and some of them love playing mind games and seeing if they can push your buttons. It happened to me with a psycho caller who wanted to talk about murdering people and sexually assaulting children with the body parts of his victims. Never spoke with the guy again and I'm not sure how I made it though the call. But when I talked later to other girls who had handled the same caller, they said his method was to simply find whatever a girl's limits were and push against them. He'd never been that extreme with any of the other girls he spoke with – mostly he’d been into graphic scat and rape with them. Apparently I wasn't shocked enough by his regular stuff and he had to get creative. Lucky me.

Still. As much as I could never take a call like that again, I don't think it should be illegal for anyone to do so. People say "wouldn't you feel different if you found out the guy was a serial killer?" And my answer is still no. I've talked to a lot of guys on the phone about sex. It's possible (if improbable) that I've spoken with a serial killer. If that highly unlikely event took place, it's possible I talked with him about an act he may or may not have committed upon a victim. If so, then he was a psycho before he called and it’s even more unlikely that I either contributed to his actions, or could have deterred them. Anyone who has ever had any real interaction with mentally disturbed individuals knows how ridiculous it is to think reality influences them. We like to think there are reasons, explanations, and/or contributing factors. Sometimes we can find links that appear to have some influence, but they never give us the whole story. The truth is we do not know. The science isn't there yet.

There is no empirical evidence that proves people act on their taboo fantasies. Yes, there is evidence to suggest that child molesters fantasize about sex with children, but, unless we can understand how many non-molesting individuals have these same types of fantasies we can’t know how unusual that is. Police find porn at most homes where domestic crimes are committed, but that's because an estimated 80% of American homes have some kind of porn in them. Does that mean porn incites domestic violence? If 80% of American homes had toasters, would the toasters be the cause of domestic violence? Legislators continue to submarine any funding for sexuality studies so we can only wonder.

I personally have now and likely will always fantasies about being underage in my *personal* fantasy life. Generally I am between 12 and 16 in such fantasies, but occasionally I dip younger. For people who were sexually aware at younger ages, I can understand those numbers going lower. True, toddler and infant stories make me inwardly flinch, but I'm sure the idea that I fantasize about being a pre-teen makes others flinch. Complicate this with the fact that snuff makes me extremely uncomfortable (personally) and, well, we're talking about the kind of porn that is going to be the most difficult for me to defend, and I still want all the facts before taking any kind of stand on Rose Red Story’s behalf.

Daze points out that there are two schools of thought: fantasies and stories contribute to action and/or fantasies and stories appease the appetite and prevent action. I think there are other schools of thought, but the truth is that no one knows and it doesn't matter. The virtual creation cannot be counted as a crime. You cannot police the mind. You cannot make a fictional story or a work of art into a crime. That's my bottom line. Nothing else matters to me. If we start to go in that direction it will be a day ten times more frightening to me than 9/11 ever could have been. Because then it isn’t an outside force coming after us, it’s a cancer inwardly eating our rights out of our own minds.

For the record, my personal beliefs are as follows:

1. I believe in the five -year rule. A twenty-one year old having consensual sex with a sixteen year old is not statutory rape (if it's rape-rape, that's a different issue). Anyone who is more than five years older than an underage partner and having consensual sex with them should face moderate legal reprimand depending on the circumstance. Again, non-consensual instances should have different (and more severe) punishments.

2. Statutory rape is not child molestation or pedophilia. There is a reason we have separate terms for things. A thirty year old guy who is sleeping with a sixteen year old girl is not the same as a thirty year old guy committing sexual acts upon a toddler and the punishments for these crimes should be vastly different. We need to stop labeling every sex act with an underage person as “child molesting” the same way we have to stop labeling all acts of violence as terrorism. Using blanket statements is good for sensationalizing mediocre crimes, but it builds up public skepticism toward facing the real problems.

3. Child molesting and/or child exploitation is a serious crime of the worst imaginable type, but it is limited to the actual physical act. People who buy/acquire real child pornography aren't people I want to buddy up with, but they have not physically committed any act upon a child. They should be compelled to hand over whatever physical evidence they have in their possession and to aid in whatever way they can to help trace it back to the people who did commit the actual crime. We're never going to catch the people actually doing harm if we allow police to spend time, money, and effort on going after the low-hanging fruit. It will always be easier to catch consumers, the goal is to catch the producers. Making it illegal to own also makes it more unlikely that discoveries will be reported. If a person stumbles upon child porn by accident in our current atmosphere they are far more likely to get rid of it than they are to hand it over to the authorities. This makes finding the bad guys harder.

4. Those people who actually commit crimes against children should face the gravest punishments we have available via our legal system. They may not have taken lives, but they have gambled on the health, safety, and mental well-being of a helpless person. They haven’t committed murder, but they’ve committed pretty much the next most vile thing to it. There isn't a room dark enough to keep these people in. This is why we have to actually catch them and protect children from them instead of passing laws that make no sense. We also need to talk to them, study them, and try to find out what makes them do the things they do so we can help prevent it if possible (although I suspect it is going to end up being something more like a chemical imbalance than it is a social influence once sciences gets to the point where we can uncover answers like these).

Every year it seems our government is trying to criminalize a new segment of our society in the name of protecting children. Anti-smoking laws, no-tolerance drug policy, zero-tolerance school policies, and, of course, anti-gay and anti-porn crusades. We are to the point where nearly everyone has, at one time or another, engaged in a criminal activity. It’s the democratic equal of original sin. This isn't the way a free society is supposed to work and I do not agree that it is the right way to protect our children. You don’t protect children from STDs by providing abstinence-only information; You don't protect children from drugs by busting the pothead down the street and you don't protect children by teaching them that one way to love is better than another and you don't protect children by busting people for crimes of the mind instead of going after the people actually physically committing acts against children. Because children know bullshit when they see it. Maybe they don’t consciously process that step, but they know when things seem wrong and they’ll experiment for themselves until they find their own answers even if it makes them feel guilty or wrong.

Shutting down a story site, even one as over the lines as Red Rose is like busting a guy for arson because he wrote a story about burning down a house. Sure, some people say "you have to be sick to even think of having sex with a child" but I don't think that's true. Is it anymore sick to write a story about a cannibal serial killer? You have to be sick to actually HAVE sex with a child, but to think about it? Do we really want to go there?

The implications this has for the phone sex industry are obvious. If it's illegal to write about underage sex, then it's not that big a step to making it illegal to talk about underage sex. And once underage sex and age-play virtual depictions are criminalized, then what's the next item on the list?

I think Rose Red Stories was stupid. Not “damn I forgot my keys” stupid, but “someone slap that fucking idiot” stupid. To be hosting stories that involve underage characters having sex in our current political atmosphere means you had better be ready for the legal battle to come. And when it comes you better come out swinging with more than the bullshit whimpering statement that was posted after they were shut down.

But stupidity isn't criminal. I don't have enough information about the case to know yet if there is or isn't a legitimate criminal complaint here, but it seems to me that regardless this is more than just a simple test of obscenity.

If it does turn out that it’s a battle about criminalizing stories, then the FBI did pick a site that it's going to be hard to defend and Red Rose pretty much custom picked themselves for the spotlight. There aren't a lot of lawyers jockeying to stand up and say that toddler snuff story porn deserves its day. But if it turns out that’s all there is to this case, then someone has to. Because if we don't stop those trying to criminalize the human mind, we're never going to be able to focus on stopping those who actually commit physical crimes.

But it isn’t going to be pretty. And with two wild card Supreme Court justices in the mix, I think some concern is warranted. I just find it hard to feel sanctimonious about defending toddler snuff stories and I really hate the fact that I might feel compelled to donate to a defense of it once all the facts of the case are made clear.

Naughty Bits | Phone Sex | Poli-Sci by Doxy at 04:30 AM | permalink | talkback (1)


>The virtual creation cannot be counted as a crime.
> You cannot police the mind.

Exactly. We're veering frighteningly close to orwell here - Thought-Crime. The notion that one's fantasies are criminal is more insane than the Thought-Crime fantasies they're trying to police.

And for what it's worth, I'm in complete agreement on your four 'personal beliefs' points.

I've been following this red rose story, and you're right, it smells wrong, but still puts The Fear in me.

Posted by: Karl Elvis at November 9, 2005 10:06 AM

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