11 March 2008

Spitzer and the Prostitutes.

(Title links to Ephron's piece)
New York's Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer has gotten himself into a bit of a jam, or gotten into trouble over an illicit bit of jamming of others that were not his wife. He was paying big bucks to his jammees too. It seems that the governer who ran on a reformer style ticket enjoyed visiting a high end prostitution ring called The Emporer's Club. The prices involved make the name seem like an understatement. His hourly billing seems to at least have been in the hundreds of dollars. Perhaps thousands. As some one who enjoys sex no small amount, I cannot envisioning dropping a thousand dollars for an hour of it. According to the cell phone texting transcripts The governor's tastes ran toward something un-safe. The article doesn't specify what. Maybe just being a politition with a taste for other women and a willingess to pay for sex with them was the un-safe thing. This tendency, especially in one so obviously hypocritical was certainly unsafe for his, now non-existent, career.

No doubt for some this will be further evidence that democrats are not good in areas of cost effiency as the governor could easily have had something "un-safe" for twenty dollars on various street corners all around New York. But maybe others will see a commitment to quality in the spending. I imagine a thousand bucks an hour buys a client a fair bit of piece of mind. Over at Arianna Huffington's website (www.huffingtonpost.com) you can find articles that say the scandal helps Obama and hurts Clinton, or articles that say the converse. No doubt the Democratic party is hurt by the scandals as a whole because we allowed ourselves to play the same tried and true Republican tune. Namely one of our guys acted the self-righteous moron (he gleefully prosecuted prostitution rings and was quite adament about the evils of such endeavors) while partaking of the very evil he railed against. It seems likely that Spitzer will resign. Nobody likes a hypocrit. Not even a little bit. Had he been a smarter candidate he might have looked at his self-righteous stance on prostitution a bit more critically given his own proclivities. Had he been, he might now sail through the scandal. Worse than this is the fact the only lesson that will be drawn from it is the political one. People will ask the same boring and as it happens stupid questions. "Why did he do it?" "What was he thinking?" "Does he feel like a hypocrit?" "How does Mrs. Spitzer feel?" None us of us need an IQ other than that of average to offer likely answers to the first and second, offer a shoulder shrug on the third and posit a definate answer on the fourth. No doubt the non importance of those questions, and in general of this whole story, will not dawn on the 24 hour newscyle anytime soon. Yes Democrats can be just as hypocritical as Republicans, and that indeed might be worth commenting on. But just as worth commenting on, no more worth commenting on is the whole strange dishonest way our culture behaves in when it comes to that most human of past-times: sex.

I think lurking in this non-story (Man Pays for Sex with beautiful Women) is a deeper issue and one worth talking about. It is strange that at the Huffpo only one columnist, Nora Ephron-a writer/director of formulaic romantic comedies-has had the insight to see it. But perhaps not. While she has made many a formulaic piece, in her defence she did craft the formula. Even as insightful as her piece is, it doesn't go as far as it ought.

Prostitution like blasephemy is a victimless crime. Or at least it should be. There are currently any number of horrible things occuring to prostitutes in states that make the practive illeagal. That isn't the fault of women and men who decide to use their bodies to make money. That is the fault of prohibition of prostitution. It seems strange that we cannot learn the lesson of the prohibition era and is failed war on alcohol. When you make an item many people want a black market item you creat a lot of negative black market accompaniments, like crime, poor product control, and oodles of violence to control markets. So when you prohibit something that most adults think they are quite old enough to decide to use or not use on their own some one-usually disreputable-will try to fill that need. And since black markets have no recourse to the law, or arbitration violence is often the method of choice in settling disputes.

Prostitution could and should be decriminalized in the US as a whole. Remove the black market effects and give the power to the sex worker and much of the abuse that we see in places that are not Nevada and Rhode Island. Nevada has prohibitions against street solicitation and laws concerning condom use and constant sex worker clinical examination. Legalized prostitution is good for women who engage in the act. Since 1986, when mandatory testing began, not a single brothel prostitute has ever tested positive for HIV. The mandatory condom law was passed in 1988. A study conducted in 1995 in two brothels found that condom use in the brothels was consistent and sexually transmitted diseases were accordingly absent. The study also found that few of the prostitutes used condoms in their private lives.(^ A E Albert, D L Warner and R A Hatcher (1998), "Facilitating condom use with clients during commercial sex in Nevada's legal brothels.", American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 88, Issue 4 643-646) Think of the situtaion in other states. Clearly not as good. Not even remotely close. Women have to go underground where prostitution is illeagal and thus have to resort to, or be exposed to all the negatives that come with such work. Pimps, dangerous clients, less power and autonomy and no regulation and oversite.
It is strange that no such underage sex worker scandals have occured in the Nevada brothel system. Also it is unique that not a single Nevada prostitute has contracted HIV since the legalization of prostitution. And yet the connection between legalization and decriminalization is not made.

People make fortunes on their bodies now. Models, actors and athletes all sell their bodies in some way. Why is it wrong for prostitutes to do the same? Isn't what they sell just different by degree from models and actors and atheletes? Perhaps the oldest profession would seem a little safer if it were legal. Almost instantly that removes the majority of the criminal element, and empowers the actual bodies doing the selling. States could have licenses, and make various suitable regulations, inspections etc. Hell it provides new tax revenue and reduces hypocrisy in politicians. And while it does that legalizing the oldest profession might just provided safer conditions for the workers, and the clients are not going to go away.
(WARNING! WARNING! DID I MENTION WARNING: What follows is a Penn and Teller program that is in NO WAY APPROPRIATE for younger viewers GET YOUR KIDS OUT OF THE ROOM BEFORE YOU WATCH THIS. CONTAINS NUDITY, LANGUAGE AND MORE LANGUAGE)
Part I

Part II

Part III

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