March 11, 2008
I like what Samhita of Feministing had to say about the discovery that the governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, used the services of a prostitute. Here’s an excerpt:
The over-reliance in the US political system for our politicians to be heterosexual and vanilla in the bedroom is like a recurring nightmare of puritanical ethics that continually allows for anti-sex, anti-gay, and anti-kink legislation to continue. If anything what these “outing” episodes should teach us is that everyone should be allowed to have the kind of sex they want and have the proper education about it, so we should stop pretending we are all “Republicans” in the bedroom. This story in particular, along with, the DC Madam drama, for me is an opportunity for us to talk about the rights and conditions of sex workers. Spitzer may get a slap on the wrist and be asked to step down, but sex workers nation-wide will continue to be subjected to harsh criminal proceedings, high incarceration rates, drug use, violence, lack of health-care and no protection from violent, retaliatory pimps.
I was also interested in Cara’s open letter to Governor Spitzer:
I believe in decriminalization and regulation of prostitution. But that is to help keep sex workers safe — not because I believe that men have a right to buy sex. As a woman and a feminist, I’m offended that you would speak about women’s rights out of one side of your mouth and then use the other side to buy sex from women including “things . . . you might not think were safe.” This holds true particularly because I’ve never heard you speak out in any way about how prostitution should be legalized and sex worker rights granted. In fact, as Attorney General, didn’t you bust a prostitution ring, yourself? Oh wait, it was two.
And if you’re curious as to sex workers’ reactions to the situation, Radical Vixen’s got you covered. Here’s some of what she had to say:
But on the other hand, I’m tired of prostitutes being a scandal. Prostitutes fulfill a need and there work is vital to society. In his press conference Spitzer said the situation was a “private matter”. I agree. His meeting with prostitutes should concern only one person-his wife. If he feels shame it should be shame in dragging his wife through this mess, not in seeing a sex worker.
As these scandals pile on top of each other I find I’m tired of the rhetoric. The shamed person drags himself through the media circus. Sometimes a resignation happens and sometimes not. Remember, despite his gay scandal Larry Craig is finishing his term.
What I’d like to see come out of these scandals is progress. Prostitutes are not going to go away no matter how many politicians are caught with one. Why not talk about the need for legal prostitution? Why not talk about the difficulties prostitutes face because their work is illegal? Why not talk about the benefits to both prostitutes and their clients if prostitution were decriminalized?
Incidentally, Sex in the Public Square recently held a forum to discuss sex work, trafficking, and human rights, and the summary statement contains a number of points that I think are apropos to the Spitzer situation, such as the following:
Politicians and media personalities scapegoat sex workers and their clients in such a way as to direct attention away from larger social and economic problems like poverty, consumer culture, racism, sexism, and the growing gap between the wealthy and everybody else.
Quite. It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out.