Gaining Favour with Sex Worker Bribes

If sex workers are effectively used to manipulate economic decision-makers then, just like other forms of corruption, this will lead to poor economic outcomes.

Gaining Favour with Sex Worker Bribes

One of my favourite quotes of all time takes place a deleted scene from the movie "The Producers" called “The King of Broadway," in which Max Bialystock (played by Nathan Lane ) shares the advice given to him by his mentor the great Boris Tomaschevski on his death bed. He said:

“...when you're down and out, and everybody thinks you're finished, that's the time to stand up on your two feet and shout, 'Who do you have to FUCK to get a break in this stinking town?!'"

Sage words indeed.

Bialystock funds his Broadway disaster by titillating old ladies into parting with their money. Prostitution?  Maybe. I would call it bribery, but in the real world, where sexual bribes often come in the form of paid sex workers, there isn’t much need to make that distinction. 

A new paper by the feminist scholar and political activist Sheila Jeffreys argues that the decriminalization prostitution in some countries has led to an increase in the use of paid sex workers as a form of bribery to union leaders, politicians and potential business partners. She gives a particularly extreme example of the German company Volkswagen using sex bribes to union representatives in order to grease the wheels of workforce relations. In one instance, the company flew a Brazilian sex worker to Paris to spend time with their head of personnel, and former government advisor, who was there attending a board meeting.

It isn’t difficult to see why this form of bribery might be popular as it is easier to fly under the radar of the anti-bribery laws with sex than it is with other forms of manipulation.

Most countries have very strict anti-bribery laws that set out the expectation of conduct in domestic and international transactions. These laws, like the one adopted in 2009 by the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), prohibit either direct payment or providing of something of value in exchange for retaining business or gaining an unfair advantage.  Penalties for violating these laws can be high and, in fact, in some countries bribery is considered a capital offense. 

Volkswagen, as it turns out, didn’t get away with using sex bribes to manipulate workforce relations, but in general it is much more difficult to trace the provision of sex services than it is with cash or other goods. So, using sex services as a bribe can be a means to getting what you want without, necessarily, putting your neck on the line. This is particularly true if buying sex on the market is not a criminal act.

One of the purposes of anti-bribery laws, from an economic perspective, is to see that resources are allocated to their most productive uses. If sex workers are effectively used to manipulate economic decision makers then, just like other forms of corruption, this will lead to poor economic outcomes. It is surprising then that conventions, like the one adopted by the OECD, don’t explicitly mention the offering of sex services.

Dollars and Sex readers will be surprised to discover someone tried to bribe me when I was very young with a male prostitute named Patrick. True story. The briber was trying to convince me to move into an apartment that he owned and thought that this young man might sweeten the deal. He was wrong, obviously, and I declined both Patrick and the apartment. But there are probably women, like the grannies in The Producer, who are swayed by bribes of sex. In fact, I would bet money on it.

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This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.


"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.


If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."