Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Prostitute's Comeuppance

It is hard to sympathize with a man who advertised himself as a campaigner for truth, justice, and a moral crusader against corruption. A man who himself oversaw, as Attorney General, prosecution of prostitution rings, to then himself get caught up in a prostitution scandal. The most pathetic part of Eliot Spitzer is not Eliot Spitzer, but what this man's choice has subsequently caused for his family. That a man who is the father of three teenage daughters, living at home, along with his wife, would consider it acceptable to spend on upwards of $80,000 for sex.

Of course, there will be those who will claim this is nothing exceptional. Alan Dershowitz, famed trial attorney and Spitzer's old friend, went to the airwaves to defend prostitution as a "victimless" crime. He further claimed that the soon-to-be-ex-Governor of New York is the true victim, of a "witch hunt" by Republican-dominated federal law enforcement, out to target a popular liberal reformer.

Dershowitz may be right, to the extent that it is extremely rare for a john to be prosecuted, and he may even be correct about the government targeting Spitzer, but none of that matters. If Spitzer is prosecuted, it is unlikely to be for prostitution, but for money laundering, because of the large amounts of money he withdrew from accounts to subsidize his sexual habits (which he knew to be against the law). Moreover, even if he was targeted, Governor Spitzer was not forced, coerced, or entrapped. He made his own choice, initiated the contact with the house of ill repute, requested his rendezvous meeting places, and paid money out of his own pocket for behavior he knew to be illegal at the time he partook in it. One cannot blame James Dobson for any of this. The blame rests solely with Eliot Spitzer.

The oddity in all this is that Spitzer may be prosecuted under the same kinds of laws he employed as a prosecuting attorney. The same man who once recoiled in horror at the perverse nature of prostitutes when busting a prostitution ring four years ago is shown to be the ultimate hypocrite, probably the most unforgivable failing in any politician.

The other aspect of the argument, that prostitution is a “victimless” crime, is at best questionable. Just because someone is taking part in a money transaction does not make an act victimless. If one looks at the world of legalized prostitution in Europe, sexual slavery of young women has become so rampant that the governments are having a difficult time keeping up with the techniques used by pimps in legal brothels to control and destroy these women.

In addition, prostitution is not an industry designed for women. It is an industry designed for men. It is a rare case that any man who uses the services of a prostitute to hold such a person in high regard, in spite of the fact the john’s demand in the supply chain is what drives the business. To this day, if you look at those on the social class scale of respectability, prostitutes (even the so-called “high class” ones) are down near drug addicts and common criminals. This is why so many serial killers target prostitutes, knowing they will not be missed and remain ignored by law enforcement (most of whom view prostitutes as likable as the average john). As the Green River killer once said to the police, “You never miss a whore. A whore is just a throw-away.”

Most insidious is the sexual exploitation factor. It is easy to look at Number 9 and say she knew what she was doing, took advantage of the situation, as much as Governor Spitzer did when meeting with her. However, for those who pay attention to the issue will know that most prostitutes, including the individual in this case, are runaways. These women typically are escaping abusive homes (usually, sexually abusive homes), and get into prostitution for a lack of funds, education, and a job. This is hardly victimless. There is an uneven characteristic to this that almost always weighs against the prostitute. That is for a reason. They are by definition, to the pimps, johns, and society at large, social and sexual inferiors. If one listened to Alan Dershowitz, you would notice in his tone that of a man who views such women no better than one of the characters on The Sopranos. It is victimless only to the john. What the john is doing, what the pimp or “agents” are doing, what the fathers and male family members do to these young women when they are little girls, which causes most of them to runaway, pick up a drug addiction, and then prostitution, is the true crime in all of this.

What one would perceive as independence, or even assertiveness in someone claiming that they “know how to handle” a budding john like Eliot Spitzer, is not a consent of equals. It is sexualized commerce for those who use and degrade the prostitute as something less than a full human--and the prostitutes, like society, internalize that degradation and normalize it in their language and behavior. It is undetectable to them because they are simply doing it for the money. They are just a whore, a throw-away. That is the crime of prostitution, more than the money laundering, the moral hypocrisy of john-politician, and more than Alan Dershowitz.

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