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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Links - 1st November 2014

What secularism really means - "Focus on the Family Singapore did not advocate religious views in its relationship workshop. Though it took a socially conservative position, its teaching materials were secular in nature. Imposing one's religion on another and holding a perspective that is religiously influenced should not be conflated. Religiously influenced values and perspectives are legitimate in a secular democracy. In fact, Article 15 of our Constitution states that "every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it". Convictions that are shaped by religious beliefs should not be deemed any less valid than non-religious beliefs. Convictions that are liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious, are all legitimate values that shape the contours of public discourse... To deny any form of religious influence in public life is to trivialise religion and be intolerant towards socially conservative beliefs. Both secular and religious beliefs are not morally neutral; these beliefs generally produce different moral stances towards issues. The role of the State is to be a neutral arbiter of these religious and non-religious beliefs in its formulation of policies that promote the common good. Secularism means no more than the equal treatment of these diverse views; it does not mean silencing a religiously influenced perspective."

Foreigners taking all the best housing? Sounds familiar - "It is quite expensive, being rich. The stated agenda of the piece was to make one of those self-consciously “unpopular but true” points about inequality: banker-bashing is misguided, because bankers aren’t that rich anymore. Not compared to their Russian neighbours, with their overpaid nannies. But really, it was a story about immigration: with all the anguish and anxiety of the “typical voter”, the one Farage is banking on and Miliband is so afraid of. “These foreigners are edging us out. But we were here first.” You’d be surprised how often you hear this from high net-worth individuals. Under conditions of anonymity, they will complain about living next door to Lebanese arms dealers, their children edged out of the public schools that they thought of as their birthright. “Walking in to those examination halls,” one frustrated mother told me when her son didn’t get into St Paul’s independent school, “it looked like fucking Beijing.” The fundamental question is, does it mean anything, to be born here? Does it bestow anything, any priority or special care? That’s why accusations of racism won’t quite stick to Ukip, even though some of them clearly are racist: it’s why you’ll find foreign-born members of the English Defence League, and a German person willing to marry Nigel Farage. The fundamental question isn’t about a preference for one race over another. It’s a question of what a nation is: is it a family, or is it a business? Does it see its citizens as its children, or its customers? If the first, then we are precious and irreplaceable; if the second, then we can be readily swapped over when someone comes along who is richer or less demanding."

'Game of Thrones is more brutally realistic than most historical novels' - "If Baelish sounds more than a little like Thomas Cromwell, then perhaps that is not entirely a coincidence. He may inhabit a world, Westeros, which features dragons, walking corpses and a 700ft wall of ice – yet it is far from wholly fantastical. George RR Martin, whose series of novels inspired the HBO drama, has woven a tapestry of extraordinary size and richness; and most of the threads he has used derive from the history of our own world... Game of Thrones is fantasy's equivalent of a perfect cocktail. Elements drawn from the hundred years war and the Italian Renaissance, from Chrétien de Troyes and Icelandic epic, fuse to seamless effect. The measure of how credible – on its own terms – people find Martin's alternative history is precisely the phenomenal scale of its popularity. The appeal of Westeros is less that it is fantastical than that it seems so richly, so vividly, so brutally real. The supernatural has no starring role: it is merely as present in the lives of its characters as a trust in the reality of angels, or a dread of demons, would have been in the minds of medieval men and women. People take their pleasures and endure their sufferings with a plausibility that puts to shame a good deal of self-proclaimed literary fiction."

Boob Jam: Games to depict 'unsexy reality' of breasts - ""It" is Boob Jam, a weekend-long event during which game developers will go without sleep to create games that offer players a more truthful and accurate depiction of breasts and what it means to have them. While other game jams take place in a hotel, conference centre or the offices of game developer, Boob Jam will be a virtual event with people gathering in cyberspace... The games it will aim to produce will portray breasts as anything but sexual. Hence the suggestion for a game about the frustrating search for a bra that fits or the fear that travels with every woman that goes for a mammogram."

Identity Crisis - "Meyer began his own study of GIC patients that sought to measure “objectively” the benefits of surgery in the long term. Eight years after that, on Aug. 10, 1979, he announced his results, which were far different than Money’s a decade before. “To say that this type of surgery cures psychiatric disturbance is incorrect. We now have objective evidence that there is no real difference in the transsexual’s adjustment to life in terms of jobs, educational attainment, marital adjustment and social stability,” he said. He later told The New York Times, “My personal feeling is that surgery is not a proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me that these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.” Meyer’s conclusion codified the concerns some psychiatric members of the committee had voiced from the start and flew directly in the face of Money and Edgerton’s core philosophy. Transsexualism, Meyer was saying, was a mental illness. Thus doctors ought to work with the patients to change their unhappiness, not change their bodies... “Prior to the surgery, these patients were at least male or female, but after the surgery the males converted to females weren’t really females and the females converted to males weren’t really males,” he says. “You’ve created a new breed. You’ve created something you don’t know what to do with.” He adds: “I never saw a successful patient. For the most part they remained misfits.” Other GIC doctors acknowledge that the social-transformation-through-sex-change-surgery theory didn’t work. “I remember one was a petty thief and after the surgery, we ended up having a female petty thief,” says Jones. “If they were prostitutes to start with,” says Migeon, who continues to work as a pediatric endocrinologist at Hopkins, “they were afterward.” (Actually, Money reported in an early article that one patient, following surgery, “was able to be a more effective prostitute”)... When he came to Hopkins in 1975 to become head of the psychiatry department, McHugh intended, as he wrote in a 1992 issue of American Scholar, to help end sex change surgeries, a procedure he described “as the most radical therapy ever encouraged by 20th-century psychiatrists”— with perhaps the exception of lobotomies. But what seemed radical in 1960 and 1970— remaking men with female genitalia; remaking women with male genitalia— can, in a different light, seem almost conservative, because it continues to anchor definitions of “man” and “woman” to anatomy""

The real reason French women have stopped sunbathing topless - ""The ones who do it all look the same – slim and small breasts, which contributes to keeping a social order and aesthetic norm in place." But both agree that the issue is not one of self-consciousness. "[French women] feel comfortable doing it!" says Pfeiffer. The real reason French women cover up, says Costa-Kostritsky, is because "it makes uncovering them for a lover more interesting"."

George Will responds to senators on his sexual assault columnt - "I think I take sexual assault much more seriously than you do. Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it. And why I think sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes"

Downside of dating a beauty: If a woman's more attractive than her man, the relationship may be doomed - "The analysis revealed having an attractive husband or boyfriend was no barrier to a relationship succeeding. But, if it was the woman who was the one blessed with good looks, the relationships tended to last only a matter of months, the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reports. Researcher Rob Burriss said: ‘This would indicate it is the woman who is in control of whether the relationship continues. Beautiful women may realise they can afford to pick and choose, he suggests. They may also have the confidence to leave behind relationships that have run their course. ‘Attractive women might generally prefer short-term relationships. They’re better placed to move on.’ It is also possible the relationships end due to jealous behaviour from the woman’s less photogenic partner. Conversely, the less attractive women ‘may have to make do with what they have, hence the longer relationships’, he said. "
Marry a woman uglier than you

Antifluoridation Bad Science « Science-Based Medicine - "The implication being implied by anti-fluoride groups is that the fluoridation program in the US and elsewhere is putting children’s IQs at risk. This data, however, cannot be used to support that conclusion. First it should be noted that almost all of the studies reviewed were conducted in China (one was conducted in Iran) – not in the US. China had a limited fluoridation program for a time, and has had no fluoridation of drinking water since 2002. So why, then, are most of the studies from China? There are many rural areas of China that have naturally high levels of fluoride in the well water. The studies were largely looking at this exposure. Two studies looked at fluoride exposure from inhaling smoke from coal burning. So the question is – how do these levels of exposure relate to the amount of fluoride being added to water in the US (because toxicity is always all about dose)? There was a lot of variability across the studies, but generally the high fluoride groups were in the 2-10 mg/L range, while the reference low fluoride groups were in the 0.5-1.0 mg/L range (not including the coal burning studies, which had much higher fluoride levels). The recommended fluoride level for fluoridated drinking water is 0.5-1.0 mg/L (similar in most countries – Australia, for example, uses 0.6-1.1 mg/L). The EPA set the upper safe limit at 4.0, with a secondary (voluntary) recommendation of 2.0. Areas with high natural fluoride actually have some of the fluoride removed from the drinking water. In other words – fluoridated water in the US has the same level of fluoride as the control or low fluoride groups in the China studies reviewed in the recent article, and the negative association with IQ was only found where fluoride levels were much higher – generally above EPA limits. Also – these studies were mostly epidemiological or ecological – they were not experimental studies (like the Grand Rapids study) in which variables were controlled in any way. It is possible, and even likely, that the high levels of fluoride exposure from natural or industrial sources (not deliberate fluoridation) also correlate with exposure to other contaminants, such as arsenic."

Maarten Raaijmakers's answer to What do you think Western women living in Western countries generally find attractive in men in the current times and culture? - Quora - "attraction is not connection. Attraction is temporary, attraction is a moment of joy and giving yourself fully in that moment. Connection is what makes relationships last. A one night stand might be attraction. But a relationship is a connection full of moments fueled by attraction."

Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? - "Despite the overwhelming evidence that vegans without a reliable source of vitamin B12 are likely harming their health, some vegan advocates still believe that "plant foods provide all the nutrients necessary for optimal health," and do not address vitamin B12 when promoting the vegan diet. Other advocates acknowledge the need for B12, but only as an afterthought. And still others emphasize that humans need only small amounts of B12 and that it can be stored in the body for years. While true that, at the time they become vegan, some people have enough B12 stored in their liver to prevent overt B12 deficiency for many years, people often misinterpret this to mean that you only need to consume a tiny amount once every few years. Actually, to build up such stores, it takes years of consuming B12 beyond one's daily needs (unless you are using supplements which can build up stores more quickly). Some people do not have large enough stores of B12 to be relied upon for optimal health even for short periods."

Prostitution: Facts and Fictions

Prostitution: Facts and Fictions by Ronald Weitzer

"The most popular monolithic perspective is that prostitution is an unqualified evil. According to this oppression model, exploitation, abuse, and misery are intrinsic to the sex trade. In this view, most prostitutes were physically or sexually abused as children, which helps to explain their entry into prostitution; most enter the trade as adolescents, around 13–14 years of age; most are tricked or forced into the trade by pimps or sex traffickers; drug addiction is rampant; customer violence against workers is routine and pervasive; working conditions are abysmal; and legalization would only worsen the situation.

Some writers go further, characterizing the “essential” nature of prostitution. Because prostitution is defined as an institution of extreme male domination over women, these writers say that violence and exploitation are inherent and omnipresent—transcending historical time period, national context, and type of prostitution. As Sheila Jeffreys writes, “Prostitution constitutes sexual violence against women in and of itself”; and according to Melissa Farley, prostitution is a “vicious institution” that is “intrinsically traumatizing to the person being prostituted.” Many writers who subscribe to the oppression model use dramatic language (“sexual slavery,” “paid rape,” “survivors,” and so on) and describe only the most disturbing cases, which they present as typical— rhetorical tricks designed to fuel public indignation.

The oppression model’s images of victimhood erase workers’ autonomy and agency, and preclude any possibility of organizing sex work in order to minimize harm and empower workers. This model holds that prostitution should be eradicated, not ameliorated. But much research challenges the oppression model as well as some other popular fictions.

Street prostitution differs sharply from indoor prostitution. Many of the problems associated with “prostitution” are actually concentrated in street prostitution and much less evident in the indoor sector...

Some [street prostitutes] work independently, without pimps (a Miami study found that only 7 percent had pimps, but the percentage varies greatly by city). Regarding age of entry, the oppression model’s claim of 13–14 years is clearly not the norm. A recent British study by Marianne Hester and Nicole Westmarland found that 20 percent of their sample had begun to sell sex before age 16 while almost half (48 percent) had begun after age 19. Childhood abuse (neglect, violence, incest) is indeed part of the biography of some prostitutes, but studies that compare matched samples of street prostitutes and nonprostitutes show mixed results; some find a statistically significant difference in experience of family abuse, while others find no difference. HIV infection rates are highest among street prostitutes who inject drugs and less common among others...

A study by Stephanie Church and colleagues found that 27 percent of a sample of street prostitutes had been assaulted, 37 percent robbed, and 22 percent raped. Criminologists John Lowman and Laura Fraser reported similar results: 39 percent assaulted, 37 percent robbed, and 37 percent sexually assaulted. Since random sampling of this population is impossible, we must approach all victimization figures cautiously, but victimization is apparently not nearly as prevalent, even among street prostitutes, as the oppression model asserts.

Unfortunately, much popular discourse and some academic writing extrapolate from (a caricature of) street prostitution to prostitution in general. What gets less attention is the hidden world of indoor prostitution in venues such as bars, brothels, massage parlors, tanning salons, or in services provided by escort agencies or independent call girls. An estimated 20 percent of all prostitutes work on the streets in the United States. Although this number is hard to substantiate at the national level, some city-level studies support it. Regardless of the exact numbers, indoor sex work clearly accounts for a large share of the market.

Less research has been conducted on indoor prostitution, but available studies indicate that, compared to streetwalkers, indoor workers have lower rates of childhood abuse, enter prostitution at an older age, and have more education. They are less drug-dependent and more likely to use softer drugs (marijuana instead of crack or heroin). Moreover, they use drugs for different reasons. Street workers consume drugs or alcohol to help them cope with the adversities of the job, whereas indoor workers use them both for coping and as part of their socializing with customers. Sexually transmitted diseases are fairly rare among call girls, escorts, and women who work in brothels where condom use is mandatory. Indoor workers tend to earn more money, are at lower risk of arrest, and are safer at work. They are in a better position to screen out dangerous customers (through a referral system for call girls and vetting by gatekeepers in brothels and massage parlors), and they have a higher proportion of low-risk, regular clients.

Studies conducted in a variety of countries have found that indoor sex workers are less likely to experience violence from customers than those who work on the streets. For example, Church found that few call girls and sauna workers had experienced violence (only 1 percent had ever been beaten, 2 percent raped, and 10 percent robbed). This and other studies support Lilly Plumridge and Gillian Abel’s conclusion that “street workers are significantly more at risk of more violence and more serious violence than indoor workers.” (Obviously, this does not apply to persons recruited by force or fraud and trafficked into brothels, who are at high risk for subsequent exploitation and abuse.)

Research finds that many indoor workers made conscious decisions to enter the trade; they do not see themselves as oppressed victims and do not feel that their work is degrading. Consequently, they express greater job satisfaction than their street-level counterparts. And they may differ little from nonprostitutes: A study by psychologist Sarah Romans and colleagues comparing indoor workers and an age-matched sample of nonprostitute women found no differences between the two groups in physical health, self-esteem, mental health, or the quality of their social networks.

Some prostitutes feel validated and empowered by their work. In some studies, a large percentage of indoor workers report an increase in self-esteem after they began working in prostitution, state that they are very satisfied with their work, or feel that their lives improved after entering prostitution. Escorts interviewed by sociologist Tanice Foltz took pride in their work and viewed themselves as morally superior to others: “They consider women who are not ‘in the life’ to be throwing away woman’s major source of power and control, while they as prostitutes are using it to their own advantage as well as for the benefit of society.” A study by the Australian government reported that half of the 82 call girls and 101 brothel workers interviewed felt their work was a “major source of satisfaction” in their lives; two-thirds of the brothel workers and seven out of ten call girls said they would “definitely choose this work” if they had it to do over again; and 86 percent in the brothels and 79 percent of call girls said that “my daily work is always varied and interesting.” Ann Lucas’s interviews with escorts and call girls revealed that these women had the “financial, social, and emotional wherewithal to structure their work largely in ways that suited them and provided ... the ability to maintain healthy self-images.” Other studies indicate that such control over working conditions greatly enhances overall job satisfaction among these workers.

Indoor and street prostitutes also differ in whether they engage in “emotion work” (providing intimacy, emotional support) in addition to sexual services. Emotion work is rare among streetwalkers, whose encounters are limited to quick, mechanical sex. But call girls and escorts (and, to a lesser degree, brothel and massage parlor workers) are often expected to support and counsel clients, and their encounters may resemble dating experiences, including conversation, gifts, hugging, massage, and kissing. Janet Lever and Deanne Dolnick’s comparative study of a large number of street and indoor workers in Los Angeles found striking differences between the two groups in the quantity and quality of their sexual and emotional interactions with clients. Emotion work is not necessarily easy; workers who feign intimacy or emotional support over an extended period of time may find the work quite draining.

Many customers are looking for more than sex from indoor workers. Reviews of several websites where customers discuss their preferences and experiences indicate that many seek women who are friendly, conversational, generous with time, and who engage in cuddling and foreplay. This has come to be known as a “girlfriend experience” (GFE), with elements of romance and intimacy in addition to sex. One client writing in the popular Punternet websites said that he had “a gentle GFE that was more lovemaking than sex,” and another stated, “There was intimacy and sweat and grinding and laughter, and those moments that are sexy and funny and warm and leave you with a grin on your face the next day. Girlfriend sex.” Escorts and call girls also contribute to these websites, and their comments make it clear that many do not believe the oppression model applies to them...

It’s time to replace the oppression model with a polymorphous model—a perspective that recognizes multiple structural and experiential realities.

According to the oppression model, legalization would only institutionalize exploitation and abuse. Antiprostitution groups insist that legalization is a recipe for misery and has a “corrosive effect on society as a whole,” according to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. It is difficult to measure something as vague as a “corrosive effect,” but it is possible to evaluate some other dimensions of legalization, including the effects on workers themselves. To address this question, we need to examine cases where prostitution is legal and regulated by the government. Brothels are legal in a number of places, including Nevada, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand...

Research suggests that, under the right conditions, legal prostitution can be organized in a way that increases workers’ health, safety, and job satisfaction...

A fair number of men have bought sex. According to the 2000 General Social Survey, 17 percent of American men have paid for sex at some time in their lives, and 3 percent have done so in the past year. Recent surveys indicate that 9 percent of British men and 16 percent of Australian men report paying for sex. The actual numbers are likely higher, given the stigma involved.

Despite the significant support for legalization and sizeable customer base, there has been almost no serious debate among American policymakers on alternatives to prohibition. As a 1999 task force in Buffalo, New York, reasoned, “Since it is unlikely that city or state officials could ever be convinced to decriminalize or legalize prostitution in Buffalo, there is nothing to be gained by debating the merits of either.” This logic seems to put the cart before the horse, but on those rare occasions when policy alternatives have been floated in other cities, they have met with the same status-quo outcome. When a San Francisco task force boldly recommended decriminalization in 1996, the city’s political leaders promptly rejected the idea. And in 2004 a Berkeley, California, ballot measure that called on police to refrain from enforcing prostitution laws was defeated: 64 percent voted against it. Opposition was likely due to the measure’s laissez-faire approach; people are more inclined to support some kind of regulation, just as they are with regard to some other vices. Still, despite the substantial minority of Americans who support legalization in principle, outside of Nevada the idea has attracted little public attention.

Although the issue of legalization is dormant in the contemporary United States, prostitution policy has recently become a hot issue. An antiprostitution coalition has gathered steam, composed of the religious right and abolitionist feminists. Judging by their publications and pronouncements, the coalition not only accepts the myths I have described but actively perpetuates them...

What began (in the 1990s) as a campaign focused on international trafficking has morphed into a frontal assault on the domestic sex industry in America...

Activists have been pressing the government to criminalize the commercial sex trade as a whole, contending that the oppression model applies to all forms of sex work. For example, in a 2005 report funded by the State Department, scholar-activist Donna Hughes condemned both stripping and pornography. She claimed that women and girls are trafficked to perform at strip clubs (though she found only six cases of this in the United States during 1998–2005) and that the producers of pornography “often rely on trafficked victims,” a charge made with no supporting evidence. Some government officials have echoed these claims."

See also:

The mental and physical health of female sex workers: a comparative study

"No evidence was found that sex work and increased adult psychiatric morbidity are inevitably associated, although there may be subgroups of workers with particular problems. The illegal and stigmatized nature of sex work are likely to make usual public health strategies more difficult to apply, considerations which should give concern from a preventive health standpoint"

Friday, October 31, 2014

Links - 31st October 2014

Joy Behar sees racism in “Black Friday.” Can “White Christmas” be far behind? - "We’re not sure what’s worse about this video clip. Was it Joy Behar questioning the hidden racist meaning in the term “Black Friday” or Whoppi Goldberg revealing that she was “going commando”?"

Homebuilders scrap 'master bedroom' because of racist, gender-biased connotations

Idioms need not apply - "In discussing Jeremy Lin’s playing vulnerabilities, an on-air ESPN announcer used the phrase “chink in armor” and it was repeated in an ESPN web headline early the next morning. The announcer has been suspended and the headline writer fired because the idiom was deemed offensive... 'He said he has used the phrase “at least 100 times” in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story'"
Comment: "I’m still working on Santa Claus’ brazenly racist AND sexist catch phrase “Ho ho ho!”."

Saturday Night Card Game (Mitt Romney Gives Race Card Players The Rope With Which To Hang Him) - "The latest example is the nontroversy over Mitt Romney’s play of the common phrase to “hang an albatross around his neck.” That metaphor was used frequently during the 2008 campaign as commenters throughout the left-blogosphere wanted Democrats to hang George W. Bush around John McCain’s neck. Romney used this metaphor yesterday in New Hampshire when referring to our economic misery index, which he substituted for the word albatross, and then applied it to Barack Obama. You can guess the rest, media buzz and cries of racism because in the games of the race card players, hanging the misery index around Obama’s neck or hanging Obama with it, just like it was hung around Carter’s neck, is exactly the same thing as saying “let’s lynch the black guy.”"

The Death of David Reimer - "Money had been a leading exponent of the theory that children were born psychosexually neutral and could be assigned to either gender in the first years of their life... Money's meetings with Brenda were a darkly comic study in how a scientist could refuse to see the evidence he didn't want to see, and how a subject can gradually learn to respond to his cues... For much of his career, Money's admirers saw him as a bold pioneer fighting puritanical reactionaries. This was his self-image as well. He touted himself as a defender of sexual liberation: for the rights of gays and other sexual minorities, for legalized pornography, for breaking down social taboos. But this seemingly libertarian attitude obscured an authoritarian core. When the truth about the Reimer case was exposed, the sexologist suddenly seemed much more repressive than the conservatives he hated. Not that he acknowledged this. He told Colapinto that the press's embrace of Diamond's exposé was a product of right-wing media bias and "the antifeminist movement," insisting that "they say masculinity and femininity are built into the genes so women should get back to the mattress and the kitchen." By this time, though, his critics were emerging not just from the right but from the community of open intersexuals—people born with mixed or indeterminate gender. It turned out they don't like to be coerced by social engineers any more than they like to be coerced by the party of rigid sex roles."
Science (and reality) is misogynistic and anti-feminist!

Where Online Social Liberalism Lost The Script « The Dish - "social liberalism was once an alternative that enabled people to pursue whatever types of consensual personal behavior they wanted, and thus was a movement that increased individual freedom and happiness... the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can’t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing, or if someone decides to misrepresent what you said as saying the wrong thing. There are so many ways to step on a landmine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks... I cannot tell you how common it is for me to talk to 19, 20, 21 year old students, who seem like good people, who discuss liberal and left-wing beliefs as positive ideas, but who shrink from identifying with liberalism and feminism instinctively... The culture is one of attack, rather than of education. And the claims, typically, are existential: not “this thing you said is problematic from the standpoint of race,” but rather “you’re a racist.” Not “I think there’s some gender issues going here that you should think about,” but “you’re a misogynist”... Everything that you like is problematic. Every musician you like is misogynist. Every movie you like is secretly racist. Every cherished public figure has some deeply disqualifying characteristics. All of your victories are the product of privilege. Everyone you know and love who does not yet speak with the specialized vocabulary of today’s social justice movement is a bad, bad person. That is no way to build a broader coalition, which we desperately need if we’re going to win"

Engaging The T - "Kevin Williamson notes how Laverne Cox, appearing as a trans person on the cover of Time, nonetheless refused to answer a question about whether she had had her genitals reassigned as too “invasive.” Sorry, Laverne. But if you’re out there explaining yourself, you’ve gotta explain all of it. And the elaborate and neurotic fixation on language – will writing “transgender” rather than “transgendered” reveal my inner bigot? – is now so neurotic even RuPaul has been cast aside as politically incorrect... politics has eclipsed the English language here and that language itself has become enmeshed in a rigid ideology:
'The obsession with policing language on the theory that language mystically shapes reality is itself ancient — see the Old Testament — and sympathetic magic proceeds along similar lines, using imitation and related techniques as a means of controlling reality'...
the insistence of many transgendered people on the need to permanently reconcile their physical bodies with their mental states is in some ways a rather conservative impulse. There’s a reason that Iran’s theocrats allow for sex-change operations but not gay relationships. The transgender desire not to be trans-gender but to be one gender physically and mentally is actually quite an affront to queer theorists for whom all gender and sex are social constructions. Many of these people want testosterone and estrogen and surgery to end their divided selves. And it doesn’t get more crudely biological and not-social than that. Which means that there are also divisions within the trans world between those who might be able to pass completely as another gender, after reassignment surgery, and those whose visual ambiguity or androgyny will remain"

Is “tranny” a slur or an identity? Who decides? - "Tranny, the highest-profile of these words, is both a slur and a term of endearment, a brand that can sting and a badge that can be worn with pride. And when some people cherish a word that others despise, who can be said to own it, to possess the authority to declare it fair or foul? It’s a vexing question, but one that we must consider, because the answer will go a long way in determining what the LGBTQ liberation movement—and liberation is the key word—looks like after gay marriage... RuPaul’s comments have joined impassioned missives from trans artist Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, trans author and artist Kate Bornstein, and drag performer Lady Bunny, all of whom in their own ways echoed RuPaul’s view that “banning” tranny was an example of a conservative minority speaking on behalf of—and doing a certain kind of violence to—those for whom the term is, in the words of Bornstein, a “valid, vibrant, and vital identity”... you will see self-identified trannies accusing their critics of PC tyranny, while the other side accuses them of internalized transphobia... it does not seem inaccurate to me to interpret some transgender people’s insistence on transitioning seamlessly from one gender to the other—to reinforce the gender binary, in effect, by eschewing the conceptual friction that third-way terms like tranny and even she-male engender—as a conservative impulse... I am troubled by how, in our zeal to create a so-called “safe space” for ourselves, safe can so easily become code for ideologically pure. As history has borne out time and again, that’s not a space that’s safe for anyone"

Sydney's Best Banh Mi Pork Rolls - "An authentic banh mi has no less than 10 ingredients, each playing a part in balancing sweet, savoury, sour and spicy flavours... For Ngo, gourmet banh mi, for which some places are charging more than $8, is against everything banh mi stands for." [Banh mi] is for the everyman. It's street food, it's cross-culture. It's not about separating people by class, by taste or by gourmet knowledge," Ngo says. "That's why I'm against banh mi for $8.50 … It's about egalitarianism and accessibility.""

Blasts from the past: The Soviet ape-man scandal - "IT WAS the story with everything: secret papers, an evil Soviet dictator and a zealous zoologist hell-bent on breeding a creature that was half man, half ape. When details of Ilia Ivanov's attempts to create an ape-human hybrid emerged in the 1990s from the newly opened Russian archives, they prompted a rash of lurid headlines. Ivanov became the "Red Frankenstein". His proposed liaisons were invariably dangerous. There was even the suggestion that he had been ordered to breed super-strong hairy warriors for what The Sun in London dubbed "Stalin's mutant ape army"... Ivanov headed home with 20 chimps to stock a new ape nursery in the subtropical Soviet republic of Abkhazia. He knew now that his best chance of creating his hybrid was to find Soviet women willing to carry half-ape babies in the interests of science. In the event, only four chimps made it to Abkhazia and so while the nursery set about acquiring more apes, Ivanov looked for volunteers. At least five women volunteered... When Ivanov put his proposal to the Academy of Sciences he painted it as the experiment that would prove men had evolved from apes. "If he crossed an ape and a human and produced viable offspring then that would mean Darwin was right about how closely related we are," says Etkind. When Ivanov approached the government, he stressed how proving Darwin right would strike a blow against religion, which the Bolsheviks were struggling to stamp out. Success would not only bolster the reputation of Soviet science but provide useful anti-religious propaganda to boot... There is a third possible motive - that Ivanov's research was part of an ambitious plan to transform society. The high-ranking Bolsheviks who backed Ivanov were intellectuals who saw science as a means of realising their dream of a socialist utopia. "Politicians could change the political system, nationalise industries and turn farms into vast collectives - but the task of transforming people was entrusted to scientists," says Etkind. "The aim was to match people to the socialist design of Soviet society.""

GamerGate: A Closer Look At The Controversy Sweeping Video Games - "What it boils down to is many people feeling upset that the video game space has been so heavily politicized with a left-leaning, feminist-driven slant. I’ve heard from many readers claiming they have no problem with more women and gay people represented in games; they simply don’t want every game to be critiqued based on these factors... [there's] a strong reader backlash because many readers don’t want to be told what’s good or bad about a game’s social politics, they just want to hear about the game itself... we have a glimpse at just how much each side of the equation loathes the other, how each side has labeled the other in order to dehumanize them. Whatever truth belongs to each label, simply utilizing these sorts of terms in any debate is more about propaganda than it is about digging for answers... Whether or not some people are capitalizing on a culture of victimhood is a matter largely of opinion, and not something that can simply be stated as fact any more than alleged, unverified death threats against anyone ought to be reported as fact. So much of this is mired in speculation and partisanship at this point that it’s almost impossible to see the forest for the trees. Anyone selling you simple answers is likely ripping you off."

Gender Stereotypes That Don't Get Protested

The crowd and furore accompanying some cases of "gender stereotyping" (which among other things conflates descriptive and prescriptive statements and takes everything too seriously) is, strangely, absent in some cases.

For example, take this Singapore Police Force ad I saw at the bus stop opposite Park Mall on Wednesday:

"I don't chase after profits and bottom lines.


When your bottom line is to bring protection and relief to those in need, you know it's more than just a job. In the Singapore Police Force, you will be a figure of leadership and empathy for those facing adversity. Every day is filled with opportunities to do work that makes a difference.

Join us for a challenging and rewarding career at MoreThanJustAJob.spf.sg"

A "critical" look at this poster might problematise it so, using gender as a lens:

- The presumed abuser is male (Men make up more than 40% of domestic violence victims in the UK, and in Singapore making some assumptions from a New Paper poll with no context the figure seems to be 41%)
- The presumed victim is female
- The police officer tending to the victim is female, which perpetuates stereotypes of women being more caring and sympathetic to (female) victims of domestic violence

Of course, those who jump at trivial infractions such as Scoot's ad campaigns and Focus on the Family Singapore's Sex Education are not going to say anything, since Gender Stereotypes are only bad when they 'hurt' women (I actually did a search for anyone talking about this and came up blank, much less finding anything from the usual suspects).

That said, perhaps this does indeed have something to offer feminists, since according to this poster, women join the Police Force to protect the Defenceless and the Needy

One could compare this to the general stance of the "More Than Just A Job" advertising campaign in general. For example:


A career that transcends the daily grind. That's not about endless hours in a cubicle, but about the security of Singapore. Where real lives are at stake, and threats are real and constant. No other job is quite as exciting and rewarding."

This general ad (evidently not positioned particularly at women) emphasises not care for others or protecting the needy, but excitement, National Security, saving lives and fending off unspecified threats.

If one were so inclined, one could also critique women being showcased in 'softer' and/or subordinate roles in other ads in the campaign.

So perhaps they might say something about it after all.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Does Competition Eliminate Discrimination? Evidence from the Commercial Sex Market in Singapore (2/2)


"Empirical findings suggest that the sex workers’ discriminative behavior is largely profit-driven and also reflects a high degree of taste preference. The discussion on the nature of price discrimination in my case study is twofold. First, I investigate the sex workers' treatment of the Caucasians and the Bangladeshis, in which I argue that there is a strong presence of statistical discrimination. Second, I argue that the sex workers practice taste-based discrimination against Indians...

Sex workers are 17 percent more likely to approach Caucasian clients compared to Chinese clients, and impose an 18 percent premium on the initial price for Caucasians. The bargaining process with Caucasians is slightly less likely to fail than the bargaining process with the Chinese. However, the difference in failure rates is not statistically significant...

The small difference in the bargaining outcomes between the two ethnicities could be due to a violation of these assumptions. Firstly, Chinese men are more familiar with the local market. Knowing this, sex workers are more likely to suggest an initial price that is closer to the men’s true willingness to pay. This results in higher bargaining success rates with the Chinese clients even though they are only willing to pay lower prices. Secondly, Chinese clients are more accustomed to and are more capable at bargaining, or at least this is what the sex workers have reported. The sex workers cherry-pick Caucasian men because they are more likely to seal the deal with Caucasian clients at a higher rent rate with an equal amount of bargaining effort. Hence, heterogeneity in the bargaining behavior of the clients could potentially contract the gap in the bargaining outcome between the two groups. Therefore, I conclude that sex workers exercise statistical discrimination against Caucasian clients.

Recall that the more attractive sex workers are popular among both Chinese and Caucasian clients, especially for the latter. Over 90 percent of Caucasians are attached to beautiful sex workers. Hence, the observed results are mainly driven by the behavior of these more attractive sex workers. Attractiveness grants sex workers more market power. The more attractive sex workers are able to demand a 22 percent premium on the initial price proposed to Caucasians, which is 4 percent higher than what the less attractive workers ask for. Assuming both types of sex workers are providing the same service, this 4 percent margin can be considered as a form of beauty premium.

The more attractive sex workers rate Chinese high at 4.13, which is half a point more than the rating for Caucasians, even though they expect a higher transaction profit from Caucasians. I believe that this higher rating is based on their intrinsic preference for Chinese clients, because they believe Chinese men are more likely to be repeat customers.

Recognizing that the matching between Caucasians and less attractive sex worker is low, I briefly comment on these sex workers’ behavior here. Although the less attractive sex workers cannot compete with more attractive sex workers in appearance, they make up for it by being more proactive in approaching potential clients. They are 28 percent more likely to approach the Caucasians than the Chinese.

It is worth mentioning that the enumerators hired for the survey are Asians, and presumably, they rank the sex workers’ beauty by Asian standards. There is a level of subjectivity involved, as some sex workers who appear to be less attractive to the Asian enumerator (or clients) may be considered attractive to Caucasians. If the less attractive sex workers are aware of this subjectivity, then it is not surprising to find that they approach Caucasians more proactively. In short, this is also a full and precise demonstration that the sex workers’ discriminative actions are deliberate. They discriminate statistically based on wealth indicators (the client’s ethnicity) and their asset endowment (beauty)...

Both attractive and less attractive sex workers propose lower initial prices to Bangladeshi clients with a discount of 24 percent and 20 percent, respectively. This is somewhat expected because the majority of Bangladeshis in Singapore are hard laborers and earn only 20 Singapore Dollars (17 USD) a day. Thus, the fact that Bangladeshi clients have the lowest willingness to pay is not private information in this market, and is likely to have contributed to the lower initial prices. Moreover, both the attractive and less attractive sex workers experience a higher likelihood of bargaining failure when dealing with Bangladeshis, which is 30 percent and 19 percent, respectively...

The fact that over 90 percent of the transactions with Bangladeshis are conducted by the less attractive sex workers sheds some light on this seemingly puzzling finding. Active engagement with Bangladeshi clients implies less attractive sex workers face gloomy market prospects and are forced to take the less profitable and less favored share of the pie to survive. In order to secure less desirable but much-needed clients, they approach Bangladeshis as often as they approach the Chinese even though Bangladeshis are not able to match the prices that the Chinese are able to pay. Thus, it is clear that less attractive sex workers positively discriminate against Bangladeshis.

Lastly, I assess the possibility of taste discrimination. As mentioned, the sex workers find clients with dark skin tones distasteful. Both Bangladeshi and Indian men are usually regarded to have darker skin. However, intriguingly, every pimp and sex worker interviewed insisted that they can distinguish between Indian and Bangladeshi men, and claim that Bangladeshis are fairer than Indians. We are not able to confirm whether their judgment is accurate. But, what we can conclude is that they have a way to identify Bangladeshis and they do not have any distaste towards the characteristics that the identified Bangladeshi men possess...

We do recognize that the sex workers have a sense of the expected service duration for each ethnic group, and may set prices that incorporate this expectation. In my sample, the average service duration with the Caucasian men is about twice as long as that with the Chinese men and Indian men, and three times longer than that with the Bangladeshis and Malays. This suggests that service duration could be a key determinant of the initial price differential observed between the Chinese and Caucasians, as well as between the Chinese and Bangladeshi.

Different sexual acts are sold as a combo in most of the transactions. On average, 2 types of sexual acts are sold in each transaction. Only 18 percent of transactions involve solely vaginal penetration and only 1 percent involves solely oral sex.* Sex workers may require a higher compensation for the client group they deem to be more demanding during the transaction.

* - Among all transactions, 77 percent involves vaginal penetration, 35 percent involves anal sex, 50 percent involves oral sex and 1 percent involves only a handjob...

Sex workers’ price discrimination against Caucasians (relative to Chinese) is primarily due to their demand for longer service duration. Such price discrimination is neither associated with intensity of sexual acts performed during the transactions nor where and when the transactions occurred...

After sexual acts are taken into account, discrimination is more pronounced with a 20 percent (see column(4) in Table 10) higher price for Caucasians which indicates that Chinese clients could be more demanding compared to Caucasians. When all the service characteristics are controlled in column (5), the price disparity between the Caucasians and Chinese disappears. Nevertheless, my argument about the sex workers’ statistical discrimination against the Caucasians remains intact, because the sex workers use the potential client’s ethnicity as an indicator of the expected service time. They know that Caucasians are more likely to buy longer services. Thus, they are willing to approach Caucasians more frequently. Because competition among the sex workers is severe and waiting is costly, it is not surprising to observe that sex workers prefer selling their services to Caucasians. They are able to make a higher profit from transactions with Caucasians than with the Chinese through a slightly inflated price and longer service duration.

For Bangladeshis, the argument of statistical price discrimination stands firm, except the price discount for Bangladeshi drops from 18 percent to 13 percent (see column(5) in Table 10). This consistently reflects the shorter service duration and lower labor intensity for transactions with Bangladeshi...

The sex workers’ behavioral responses towards Indian men forms an interesting case of taste-based discrimination. Recall the reasoning behind sex workers' distaste towards Indian men: body odor, dark skin tone, less wealthy, more demanding/rough and bargain a lot. While the accusation regarding the body odor and dark skin tone can be clearly viewed as sex workers’ pure taste preferences, the other reasons could arguably be interpreted as either labor cost boosters or taste preference determinants...

Facing high demand, beautiful sex workers are less constrained to achieve max profit and have the luxury of avoiding disliked clients. They minimize contacts with Indians, which is shown by their significantly lower tendency to approach Indian men (24 percent less likely as compared to their rate of approach to Chinese men). They demand a high premium of 16 percent on the initial price from potential Indian clients to compensate for the expected utility loss from the transaction (if they decided to sell), as well as to discourage the Indians from further negotiation (if they do not intend to sell)...

The situation holds even with the less attractive sex workers, except that they do not impose inflated initial prices on Indians. Similar to the argument I presented in the case of Bangladeshi men, the equal pricing is due to the fact that the less attractive sex workers are less desired and possess less market power...

Median bargaining time with Indians is as long as that with Chinese, and it is longer than that with Bangladeshis. In comparison with Bangladeshis, the price inflation placed on Indians dropped from 20 percent to 17 percent after taking differences in bargaining time. This implies 3 percent of price disparity could be explained by the longer expected bargaining time with Indians. It is weak evidence supporting the fact that sex workers demand higher compensation from Indians for the prolonged bargaining...

That Indians are more demanding or rougher is a clear indication of high expected transaction cost with Indians...

Data confirms 14* percent of all transactions involving anal sex are associated with Indians, whereas only 8 percent are associated with Bangladeshis. Among all transactions Indians clients have, 49 percent of them involve anal sex, which is close to the 53 percent rate of anal sex with Chinese clients, but is much higher than the 13 percent rate with Bangladeshis.

* - 56 percent of all transactions with Chinese involve anal sex, the largest proportion among all ethnic client groups...

Sex workers are 15 percent (see column (2) in Table 14) less likely to approach Indian men on weekdays (Monday-Thursday) and this likelihood is further reduced by an additional 23 percent (p-value=0.06) over the weekend. It is very clear that sex workers are inclined to avoid Indians, but they implement this preference strategically. They aim to strike a balance between minimizing work disutility and maximizing monetary returns. Therefore, they approach Indian men less often over the weekend when they have more demand...

While the preference against dark skin tone is a clear taste preference, one may argue that serving a smelly client is like working at a dirty job, therefore it increases the cost of service and is not entirely a taste preference. This is a debatable assertion, just like some researchers believe people should not even call statistical discrimination as discrimination. What I want to point out is that if even there is some marginal effect of such cost, it is not expected to be large enough to absorb such large price dispersion...

There is no price discrimination found between the Chinese and Malays. Bargaining with Malays is 22 percent more likely to fail. They are less likely to be approached, but this difference is not statistically significant. It seems that the Malay clients are less favored because the sex workers are not able to extract as much profit from them as from the Chinese. However, there is no convincing evidence to support either statistical discrimination or taste-based discrimination...

Survey feedback shows that the client’s outfit is the third most important indicator that sex workers use to decide whether or not to approach the client and in setting the initial price. I did not find that the client’s outfit has any influence in motivating street walkers to make the first move, but I do find that better dressed men received a 9 percent (see column (4) in Table 8) higher initial price compared to the less well-dressed men. It may be because the outfit of the client is a noisier and hence less reliable signal compared to ethnicity. It makes perfect sense for the situation in the street market where most of clients are less well-off compared to the men in the high-end market and who mostly dress casually*.

* - 76 percent of the clients have a dress rating of below 4; 68 percent of the Bangladeshi clients have a rating of 1...

The sex workers’ taste-preference for the client’s appearance matters only to the extent that attractive-looking men spur more proactive action from street walkers. An above average looking man is 19 percent more likely to be approached by the sex workers. The street walkers’ preference for looks maintains a monotonic impact across all client ethnicities. This tendency to approach does not vary by the client’s ethnicity. Given the distaste that the sex workers possess for the Indians, being an attractive Indian client can significantly improve the probability (see Column (3) in Table 14) of being approached by sex workers (in comparison to the Chinese). The more attractive clients do not receive any preferential asking price, nor do they have a better chance of closing the deal. Thus, sex workers also have a moderate preference for looks, but the preference has limited financial impact.

Leveraging the advantage of rich self-collected data from the commercial sex market in Singapore, I successfully show that discrimination can prevail in a highly competitive market. The finding supports Diamond’s prediction that an infinitesimal amount of search cost of client can grant sellers the monopoly power which results in equilibrium price discrimination...

Statistical discrimination allows sex workers to maximize profit, while taste discrimination allows them to minimize the disutility from working with disliked clients by cutting the contact with them. The findings are consistent with the sex workers’ self-reported preferences and beliefs."

From a newer version (which appears to have a bit more data):

"They earn an average of somewhat more than S$3,200/month from sex, substantially more than they earn at home. About one-third of the sex workers report income from sources other than sex."

"Except for Indians and Bangladeshis who comprise the vast majority of the clients of the Indian sex workers, there is surprisingly little matching between the ethnicity of clients and sex workers (see table 2 ). In particular, Chinese clients are no more likely to frequent Chinese sex workers than are other clients"

"On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is dress very badly and 5 is dress very well, sex workers tend to think that their clients dress rather poorly (mean equals 2.4) and on a similar scale find their customers unattractive (mean equals 2.0)"

"sex workers make the first move almost three-quarters of the time. However, they are almost always the first mover with whites... while bargaining almost never fails with whites and rarely fails with Chinese potential clients, there are significant failure rates with both Bangladeshis (24 percent) and Indians (26 percent)."

"Sex workers view whites as willing to pay high prices. They therefore are more likely to approach them, ask for a higher price and are more likely to reach a deal, while the opposite is true of Bangladeshis. The results for Indians compared with Bangladeshis are consistent with our findings of animosity towards Indians. On the other hand, Indians are charged lower prices than are Chinese customers, suggesting that sex workers also believe they have a lower willingness to pay than Chinese or white customers.With respect to the claim by some sex workers that their dislike of Indian clients is objective rather than subjective, we see that contrary to claims that some of them make, Indians do not have high service duration, do not get an unusually large price reduction from the initial offer (suggesting that they do not bargain harder) and do not have an unusually high rate of demand for anal sex, our only proxy for roughness... it is skin tone rather than objective factors that drives many sex workers’ dislike of Indians"

"Chinese and white clients are most likely to have oral sex. This is somewhat less common among Indians and much less common among Bangladeshis. On the other hand, anal sex is most common with Whites and less common with other ethnicities."

"It is not clear whether it should be advantageous to engage in “sweet talk.” On the one hand, sex workers may prefer clients who tell them they are beautiful. On the other, such cheap talk may be perceived as an indication of higher willingness to pay. The mean of this categorical variable (from 1 to 5) is highest for whites and lowest for Bangladeshis."

Observation: no sex workers had a 1/5 rating for Beauty

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Links - 30th October 2014

Talking white: Black people’s disdain for proper English and academic achievement is a myth. - "Racialized stigma against high achievement exists. But it requires specific circumstances, namely, predominantly white schools where few blacks attend advanced classes. There, black and white students hold racialized perceptions of educational achievement, and black students are often isolated by stigma from both groups... By contrast, “acting white” accusations were least common at the most segregated schools, a finding echoed by a 2006 study from Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who found “no evidence at all that getting good grades adversely affects students’ popularity” in predominantly black schools."
Increased integration isn't always a good thing

Social media schadenfreude is real, say researchers. - "when people aren’t feeling their best, they tend to be more interested in social media profiles of those they consider less attractive, successful, or just generally well-off."

Why the rise of cosplay is a bad sign for the U.S. economy - "When you're disillusioned with the reality of your early adult life, dressing up like Doctor Who starts looking better and better. It's not to say that all or even most cosplay aficionados are struggling to find work. It's only to say that any rise in people fleeing reality for fantasy suggests problems with our reality."

You Should Probably Stop Using A Loofah In The Shower. Sorry. - "Every time the loofah gets wet and does not dry properly, the organisms grow and grow. "You spread the bacteria that you washed off your body the last time,"Dr. Michele Green, M.D., New York-based board-certified dermatologist, tells HuffPost. "The loofah is spreading yesterday's dirt back on your body." When you're sloshing that lavender-scented body wash all over yourself to get clean, you're really scrubbing with lavender-scented bacteria."

#NotYourShield Hashtag Shows Multi-Cultural Support For GamerGate - "#NotYourShield was a collective movement of minorities of all ages and types, stating that they were not oppressed by a straight, white male patriarchy; that they had their own voice and that they were not a shield to be silently used in order for gaming media – and those that gaming media represents – to push an agenda... those supporting the GamerGate movement within the gaming community are not all straight, nor are they white, and they aren't all male. However, all of us are gamers"

Today’s “No News” Item: Another supplement, glucosamine, bites the dust - "Our study found no evidence that drinking glucosamine supplement reduced knee cartilage damage, relieved pain or improved function in individuals with chronic knee pain"

Malala, survivor of Taliban, resented in Pakistan hometown - "She has won the European Union's prestigious human rights award and was one of the favorites to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, but in her native Swat valley, friends and neighbors reacted with a mixture of resentment, fear and jealousy... In a nation thriving on conspiracy theories, some have even doubted the sincerity of her campaign, claiming it is part of her family's ploy to move to Britain or that she is just an attention seeker. Social media sites are brimming with insulting messages. "We hate Malala Yousafzai, a CIA agent," says one Facebook page... "Malala is a talented girl, no doubt," said Zahid Khan, head of the Swat Peace Jirga, an anti-Taliban body who has survived three attempts on his life for his work. "I have been attacked. Shot. Almost killed. But no one is honoring me. The state hasn't given me a cent in compensation.""

AK-47s at Peace Hero’s House Show Why Malala Prefers U.K. - "A rally two days ago for Yousafzai, who shared the award with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, attracted only several dozen people... Yousafzai’s book was banned from being placed in school libraries by the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation in Lahore, which says it represents 152,000 schools nationwide. “The book is meant to damage the ideology of Pakistan and Malala was used as a tool,” Mirza Kashif Ali, the federation’s president, said by phone. “We’ve banned not only the book but also any activity related to Malala, and if any of the school’s administration tries to violate it, we can file a police report.”"

Does smoking increase sick leave? Evidence using register data on Swedish workers - "Smoking was found to increase the annual number of days of absence by 10.7 compared with never smoking. Controlling for risk factors at work, and thereby accounting for some of the selection of smokers into riskier jobs, reduced the effect to 9.7 days, corresponding to 38% of all annual absences due to sickness. Moreover, controlling for health status further reduced the effect of smoking to 7.7 days. The effect of smoking on sick leave was similar for men and women... The estimates should be viewed as upper bounds of the effect of smoking on sick leave, since smoking is potentially an endogenous variable."

When everyone shuts up, we will have reached the “safe space” - "The Petition is a thing to read. It focuses on the campus concept of “safe space,” which means control of speech so that others are not offended... I’m deeply offended by the attempt of those U. Chicago students to regulate speech to the extent that we can’t even mention the word we are analyzing and discussing. Because I know to a certainty it will not stop there. It never does. Think of all the words which are not on their face even slurs that we cannot say, like Black List, Baa Baa Black Sheep,Rejigger, Providence Plantations, Black Friday, Gobbledygook, Illegal Immigrant, Undocumented Immigrant, Master Bedroom, Chink in the Armor, and even the use of white copy paper. You better be careful how you pronounce “did you” and around whose neck you want to hang an Albatross... 'What happens wheen kids who demand to be 'safe' from scary words enter the work force? My prediction: Hilarity.'
I understand his point, but it’s optimistic. My prediction: Employers cowering under the threat of lawsuits, people accused of being insensitive losing jobs, and a reign of linguistic terror where every word is a potential career-ender. It will be the opposite of a safe space. Unless everyone shuts up."
I'm sure many fundamentalists are offended that they are called 'fundies'. This hate speech should be banned!

RuPaul: 'I Love the Word Tranny' - "RuPaul Charles has broken his silence regarding his current view on the use of the word "tranny." The world’s most famous drag queen defended his use and love of the word... “It’s not the transsexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we are dealing with. It’s not the trans community. ’Cause most people who are trans have been through hell and high water. And they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and go, ‘Oh, this is all a fucking joke.’ But some people haven’t and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation where, ‘No! You look at me! I want you to see me the way you’re supposed to see me!’” “If your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road”... don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can’t — say or do. It’s just words, like, ‘Yeah, words hurt me!’ [Whiny inflection] Bitch, you need to get stronger. If you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think.""

Sydney drag queens fight trans-gender warrior Indiana Kelly Edwards over right to use the word tranny - "“In Australia there are few negative connotations attached to the word ‘tranny’, unlike in America,” he says. “I think the campaign is being waged by people who are trying to involve American activists in an Australian debate. “We have events in the gay community called Poof Doof and Fag Tag. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Look, I was called ‘gay’ every single day at school and I’ll turn to the first person who yells it out to me in the street and say ‘I’m bloody gay and I’m proud of it’”... “We are transsexuals or transvestites and ‘tranny’ is our word to use if we choose to use it.” He claims the campaign is being led by a “small group of people who are making a lot of noise. But if you do the research there’s not a lot of support behind it”. He says the activists argue that when drag queens remove their costumes, they can easily blend into society. “Well, guess what, when we remove our wigs we become gay boys who have faced homophobia our whole lives,” insists Penny Tration. “It’s not a contest to see which group has been more picked on or put down.”"

Met Police ban the word 'blacklist' over claims it is racist - "Police chiefs have banned the word ‘blacklist’ over fears it is racist. They have also struck out its opposite – ‘whitelist’ – which is used by IT workers for a list of acceptable email contacts. Scotland Yard employees have been told to use ‘red’ and ‘green’ instead"

Congressman Mark Kirk comments, "jigger" secretly recorded, made public - "Lyle, a Democratic Committee member and an Alexi Giannoulias supporter, and others were offended by Kirk's use of the verb "jigger" when talking about regions heavily populated by black voters. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says "jigger" does mean "to alter, re-arrange, or manipulate" and has been used by many politicians to describe election fraud. "The problem I had is that it sounds so much like another word," Rev. Albert Tyson said. Kirk, who is in a tight race for the U.S. Senate with Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, says he is offended that anyone would think he would use a word that offends African-Americans. "I'm actually offended that they would say that. I think that every vote should be counted and that we need to make sure that it's a free and a election," Kirk said. "

Planting doubt about Rhode Island’s name - "Rhode Island may be tiny, but its official name is the longest in the country. However, an upcoming state referendum could strip away that quirky distinction. It’s been 30 years since scholars began excavating Rhode Island’s historical embroilment in the slave trade, and, since then, the term “Providence Plantations” has engendered controversy among some historians and African-Americans... “In the 17th century, the term ‘plantations’ was used to describe all of the colonies and settlements all over the place,” says Stan Lemons, a historian of Rhode Island and former professor of history at Rhode Island College. “So the term referred to, basically, towns. An agricultural town, by and large, but still referring to the town. It has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with slavery.”"

Meg Lanker-Simons, UW Student, Accused Of Threatening Herself With Rape In Facebook Hoax - "University of Wyoming student Meg Lanker-Simons was outraged earlier this month when an anonymous user on the Facebook page “UW Crushes,” described wanting to perform threatening sexual acts with her. Underneath the since-deleted post, she commented that the description was “disgusting, misogynistic, and apparently something the admins of this page think is a perfectly acceptable sentiment,” according to Buzzfeed. Now, police allege that she wrote the original post herself in a social media hoax. Lanker-Simons, 28, who is an award-winning liberal blogger, was issued a citation Monday for interference and is facing up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000... The post led to a campus protest against “rape culture” and an investigation by university police"
"In 2005, after Lanker-Simons was fired from a radio station in the fall, she returned and pulled a Glock 22 .40 caliber handgun from her purse. She waved the semi-automatic pistol around. She pointed it at the man who sacked her. He testified that he was “in fear for his life.”

Does Competition Eliminate Discrimination? Evidence from the Commercial Sex Market in Singapore (1/2)

Does Competition Eliminate Discrimination? Evidence from the Commercial Sex Market in Singapore

"The canonical discrimination model in economics, Becker (1957), predicts discrimination cannot survive in a competitive equilibrium. In contrast, Diamond (1971) implies the opposite: discrimination can prevail in a competitive equilibrium even when the search cost is small. In this paper, I test these two competing theories in the highly competitive sex market of Singapore and find that discrimination persists. Moreover, sex workers engage in both statistical and taste-based discrimination, with the former being the most dominant force. They discriminate based on the client’s willingness to pay by using ethnicity as an indicator. They also practice taste-based discrimination against ethnic groups with darker skin tones and odor.

Becker argues that discrimination cannot survive in a competitive equilibrium because competitive forces will drive prejudiced participants out of market. Applied to my setting, sex workers who discriminate would lose out to other sex workers who are willing to sell their services at a lower price...

I examine equilibrium discrimination in a unique real market setting: the commercial sex market in Singapore. It is an ideal setting due to the presence of a large number of nearly identical sex workers selling homogeneous services to clients who search at negligible cost, thus forming a highly competitive market...

This study also contributes by distinguishing the sources of discrimination. During the interviews, the sex workers revealed that they price services differently based on the client’s ethnicity, which they take as a signal of the client’s willingness to pay. They tend to actively approach Caucasians, Japanese, and Koreans, which are the ethnic groups whom they believe to be wealthier. Thus, the sex workers inflate the prices quoted to these clients. On the other hand, sex workers express animus towards ethnic client groups who have darker skin tones and who are perceived to be more sexually violent (such as Indians). They report that they avoid these clients or ask for higher prices to compensate for the disutility from working with them. The former hints at statistical discrimination (Arrow, 1971; Phelps, 1972) while the latter suggests tastebased discrimination...

The largest portion of the commercial sex industry consists of illegal brothels and illegal sex workers who come mainly from China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines (Agency France Press, 2008). The business follows a seasonal trend with peak months in June, September and December following Singapore’s tourism industry. Business is slowest during the Chinese New Year period when both supply and demand are low. This study presents several prominent features of the commercial sex industry in Singapore. First, the supply of sex workers is highly diversified in terms of country of origin, while domestic supply is low. Concurrently, the demand for prostitution is also diversified in the sense that clients are of different ethnic backgrounds. Second, the legal and illegal segments coexist within the flourishing underground market. Third, the illegal market consists of low-, middle-, and high-end market segments featuring sex workers of varying quality and targeting different segments of demand.

Singapore has one of the best educated populations in the world. 95 percent of its female population are literate and 63 percent of female residents have secondary or higher educational qualifications (Ministry of Statistics, Singapore, 2013). Therefore, there is less incentive for a local female to be a sex worker. Moreover, being a prostitute in the small conservative island is threatening to a woman’s reputation. Thus, the Singaporean sex industry is populated by sex workers from poor neighboring countries who travel to Singapore to sell their bodies after being attracted by the high returns. The high returns appear even more attractive due to the high income differential between Singapore and poorer neighboring countries. Furthermore, working as a sex worker away from home mitigates the risk of being judged by one’s own society. For these reasons, girls from poorer neighboring countries are willing to accept the high risks that come with being a sex worker, although it is also possible that they are not fully aware of the risks in the first place. However, it is worth noting that not all of these sex workers work permanently in Singapore. Most of them are on short-term visitor passes. They visit Singapore from time to time not only to seek lucrative earning opportunities but to pursue marriage opportunities with Singaporean men and Western males. The low domestic supply and high foreign supply is consistent with Edlund and Korn (2002) who predict that the number of the domestic sex workers will decrease as domestic income rises...

The demand for prostitution stems from both locals and expatriates of different ethnic backgrounds. Over the years, female undergraduates in Singapore have outperformed males in many professions. The existence of 300,000 white-collar male workers in Singapore who cannot find wives made headlines around 2005. Few women are willing to marry men below their education and economic status. At the same time, Singapore has a large population of expatriates... The majority of the non-PMET workers who are in the construction and manufacturing sectors are men. Bangladeshi construction workers in particular are frequent visitors to the Geylang red light district, representing a sizable demand for affordable sexual services. In addition, Singapore is a popular tourist hub. In 2011, it attracted 13.2 million tourists and generated S$22.3 billion in tourist receipts (Singapore Tourism Board, 2012). It is fairly common for tourists to visit an international destination in order to seek sexual services. According to the US ambassador Harry Thomas, 40 percent of male visits to the Philippines are for sex (Australia News Report, 2011). Thus, the influx of male tourists, to a certain extent, creates a stream of demand for prostitution in Singapore as well.

Besides the legal brothels in Geylang, there are three main segments in the illegal market. When defining the segments by the quality and price of the service, we can categorize the best-known red light areas Geylang (even-numbered lanes) as the low-end segment, the renowned Orchard Tower Bars as the mid-tier segment and the nightclubs as the high-end segment of the market. The sex workers in Geylang and Orchard Tower Bars are mostly freelancers operating with tourist passes. Many of the Geylang streetwalkers are associated with pimps who are backed by gangs. They are full-time sex workers with no other source of income. In contrast, many women working in the nightclubs are hired by the clubs as artistic performers (i.e dancers, singers and hostesses) under a legal work permit. They make money as sex workers on a part-time basis. Sex workers solicit only within their own segments. For example, a Chinese street sex worker in Geylang will not solicit in Orchard Towers. The Thai and Vietnamese girls who solicit in the bars inside of Orchard Towers will not go over to Geylang for business either. This is because they fall into the different segments based on their own characteristics and networks. Trespassing across the segments may risk their safety and earnings. Sexual services typically take place in venues like motels and hotels, as well as in cars or the client’s residence. A full-time sex worker will return to her original venue immediately after finishing with a client. Any costs, such as taxi fare and hotel room charges are usually borne by clients.

Other, more scattered forms of illegal prostitution typically operate as KTVs, massage parlors and social escort. KTVs are entertainment pubs where clients can book rooms to sing songs with friends and be entertained by friends or by the hostess. Prostitutes in the KTVs are managed by the KTV manager, and therefore have less freedom to decide work hours, prices and which customers to take. The owner of a KTV is subject to a jail sentence if he or she is caught running a prostitution business. Massage parlors are also popular places to seek sexual services. Massage girls offer massage service followed by sexual service for a “tip” Massage girls enjoy the benefit of an “earlywarning” system, where a warning will be given to the parties involved when the police are on their way, so that they can dress before the police arrive. There are hundreds of massage parlors throughout the city with entrance fees ranging from 28 to 80 dollars. Most of them are licensed business premises with a Public Entertainment license. Also, there are other social escorts who advertise their services on the Internet and on flyers. Some social escorts can be very expensive. Together, sex workers from these venues represent a relatively small portion of the total sex worker population in Singapore.

This paper focuses solely on the low-end market (Geylang). Geylang stands alone as the largest market in Singapore’s commercial sex industry, as its size and popularity make it a top destination for prostitution. The services found venues like Orchard Tower Bars and nightclubs are not perfect substitutes for those found in Geylang, because services offered in the higher-end venues are more diversified and target wealthy individuals. The Geylang market is highly competitive. Prostitution activities are concentrated in a small zone of 25 lanes. Within it, large numbers of nearly homogeneous prostitutes publicly solicit on the streets and sell similar services. Differences in sex workers’ characteristics may make one more desirable than the other. Nevertheless, they are nearly perfect substitutes in the clients’ eyes. On the other hand, clients bear a negligible search cost in the red light district. First, there is zero risk of being penalized for patronizing the prostitutes. Second, there is minimal social cost in terms of reputation loss by walking in the red light district, because Geylang is a popular tourist and dining destination. Most importantly, clients are able to easily locate a match within 2-5 minutes due to the high density of prostitutes on the street.

Chinese and Vietnamese sex workers dominate the scene and are patronized by mostly Singaporean men, Caucasian men and Bangladeshi construction workers. As a place for cheap sexual services, it is a favorite destination for construction workers and other less wealthy clients. The plentiful supply of Chinese women also makes Geylang the preferred choice for Chinese clients who desire a “girlfriend” kind of experience with the sex worker. It is also a particularly attractive venue for elderly single men who desire companionship. Sex workers in Geylang start work late in the afternoon or early evening and finish work in the morning. Because the initial engagement of the prostitutes and clients takes place on the public street, flirting and negotiation time are relatively short in this segment of the market, as both parties prefer to maintain minimum public exposure. All the sex workers solicit within the areas of even-numbered lorong (lanes) between lane 1 and lane 30. There is little differentiation in the services offered and the large number of the suppliers make this micro-market close to a perfectly competitive market. The service rate is set to float around S$30-S$200 with a median price of $60 and standard deviation of $35. Freelance street sex workers solicit independently but are collectively overseen by pimps, depending on the areas of their business. Each lorong (lane) is controlled by a pimp who oversees the business (protects the women from abnormal clients), provides the girls’ accommodation, and protects them from being arrested in the event of police raids. In return, they ask for a cut of the unit service price (normally about 30 -40 percent) as compensation and $10 a day for accommodation and transport services...

The enumerators had a higher chance of interviewing less attractive sex workers, as they have longer unemployment periods during each shift and are more tempted by the gift voucher we offer...

The sample consists of 177 street sex workers from Geylang with a total number of 805 transactions. The average number of transactions the sex workers reported is 4. There were 674 transactions where the sex workers initiated the price and 131 transactions where the clients initiated the price. The latter 131 transactions are used as a basis for checking the clients’ pricing behavior and consumption capability.

Singapore has a rich composition of sex workers in the illegal market. My sample includes street sex workers from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore (see Table 5). Sex workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka are less common but are also active and concentrated in the low-end market. As expected, the sex workers in my dataset have low educational attainment. 72 percent of the sample completed only primary education, and 21 percent of these women are illiterate. Less than 10 percent of the sample have been educated beyond high school. The average age of the sex workers is 20, with the youngest aged 18 and the oldest aged 39. The majority of the sex workers in the sample are single (82.5 percent) and 23 percent have at least one child. Over half the sample have at least 2 years’ experience as a sex worker prior to working in Singapore. The average sex worker works in Singapore for about 2 years.

Sex workers on Geylang Street are full-time sex workers. It is reported that they work 6-7 days a week (see Table 6). The average daily working hours are 9 hours on weekdays and 11 hours over the weekends. The average number of customers the sex workers have a day is about 4. Earnings from providing sexual services are a major source of the sex worker’s income. Other forms of income are tips or earnings from being booked by the clients for a whole day. The average unit price for sex is S$70 with lowest rate of $30 and highest rate of S$200. The average service duration is around 55 minutes when excluding overnight services...

The Chinese, Caucasians, Indians and Bangladeshis are the major consumers of adult services in Geylang (see Table 7). Together, the Chinese and the Caucasians represent 50 percent of our client sample. One out of five clients in our sample are regular customers, and about 30 percent of the total clients are tourists. Most of the transactions take place in either motels (70 percent) or hotels (22 percent). Only about 6 percent of the transactions occur in the client’s residence. There is very high awareness of contraception among both clients and sex workers in Singapore. Over 99 percent of the transactions in my sample involve the use of condoms.

Price differentials in adult services among racial groups were documented by Levitt and Dubner (2009) in Super FreakEconomics. They report that white people pay $9 extra per sexual service than black customers, while the Hispanic customers lie somewhere in between in Chicago’s prostitution market. A similar type of price discrepancy is observed in Geylang. Sex workers ask Caucasians for an extra S$17 per sexual service relative to the Chinese. Bangladeshi clients are asked for S$25 less than the Chinese. The final price that Caucasians will pay for sexual service is S$13 higher than what the Chinese pay, while the final price the Chinese pay is S$25 higher than what Bangladeshis pay (see Table 1)...

The sex workers reveal distinct attitudes towards clients of different ethnicities. They consistently favor Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Caucasian clients. On a scale of 1 (dislike) to 5 (like very much) with 3 being “like”, these three client groups earn an average rating of 4 (see Table 2). The sex workers collectively express their fondness towards these clients for the following reasons: (1) Chinese clients are more likely to be returning customers; and, (2) the Caucasian, Korean and Japanese clients are more willing to pay. This observation is uniform even across the more attractive and less attractive sex workers, as well as across sex worker’s country of origin (see Table 2). However, the less attractive sex workers rate Caucasian, Korean and Japanese more highly by a magnitude of one, as compared to the more attractive sex workers.

In contrast, the Malay and Indian clients earn low average ratings of 2.74 and 2.07, respectively. The rating disparity is more exaggerated among Indian and Bangladeshi clients. Bangladeshis receive a higher rating than both the Malays and the Indians at 3.10, despite having the lowest reservation price. It turns out their rating is inflated by the preference of the less attractive sex workers who give them a rating of 3.29. Attractive sex workers give the lowest rating of 1.77 to Indians.

To understand the motivation behind sex worker’s preference against Indians, we asked “Given the same price and equally attractive client, do you prefer ethnic X to ethnic Y and why?” and “What is the reason for a failed bargain?” in the survey. 24 subjects on Geylang Street responded to the former question with a combined total of 66 responses from all the venues (street, bars and nightclubs). Based on these responses and informal conversation with sex workers and pimps, we firmly believe Indian clients are less popular among sex workers mainly because of their body odor, dark skin tone, less expected wealth, and to a lesser extent, because they are more demanding/rough and bargain a lot. The characteristic of being demanding/rough could take the form of requesting a longer or more strenuous service or more adventurous activities during the service. Many sex workers make direct comparisons between seemingly similar groups like Bangladeshis and Indians, and voiced their preferences for the former over latter specifically because Indians take more service time and are often not able to match the price for it. Some interviewees justify their distaste towards Indians by claiming that Indian men have a higher probability of being sexually violent*.

* - According to Survey International Men and Gender Equitable Survey (IMAGES) by the Centre of Research on Women, US, 24% of Indian men have committed sexual violence at some point in their lives and 20% admitted to having forced their wives or partners to have sex. In contrast, only 2% of Brazilian men and 9% of men in Chile, Rwanda, Croatia and Mexico have committed sexual violence.

The sex workers’ distaste towards dark skin tones places the Malays, Indians and Bangladeshis at a disadvantage...

There are moderate degrees of matching between sex workers and the clients. Over 80 percent of transactions (see Table 3) involving the perceived wealthy client groups (Caucasian, Korean and Japanese) are associated with more attractive sex workers. Most of the less attractive sex workers are attached to less desired clients (Bangladeshis, Malays and Indians). In particular, 93 percent of all Caucasians are attached to more attractive sex workers and 93 percent of Bangladeshis are attached to less attractive sex workers. Singaporean Indian sex workers, the least favored group because of their dark tone, are mainly attached with either with Indian men or Bangladeshi men. Nevertheless, every sex worker has Chinese clients. Half of Chinese men in my sample deal with more attractive sex workers and the remaining half go with less attractive ones. No specific sex worker type is matched to a particular clients’ age group.

In addition, sex workers have a set of criteria that determine whether they will approach potential customers and how they set the initial price. The top three factors influencing such behavior are: “the money the client spends on them”, “Ethnicity of the client” and the “Looks of the client”. It is evident that sex workers rely on the client’s ethnicity as a critical signal to make business decisions...

The sex workers place an 18 percent premium on services with Caucasians and a 18 percent discount for Bangladeshis in comparison to the Chinese (see column (3)-(5) in Table 8). More attractive sex workers place 16 percent higher initial prices on Indians as compared to Chinese... On the other hand, no significant initial price disparity is observed between the Chinese and the Malays for any identical sex worker.

Price discrimination is often observed in markets where the customers have identifiable traits and services are not resalable. In my study, in addition to ethnicity, these traits include the client’s outfit and whether the client is a tourist. But, the most important factor is the client’s ethnicity. Ethnicity alone explains 46 percent within variability in price differentials... better-dressed customers are quoted prices that are 9 percent higher than those who are less well-dressed. Tourists also pay a 7 percent price premium compared to local customers."

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