Within hours of Governor Eliot Spitzer's announcement of his involvement in a high priced prostitution ring, professional Democratic apologist James Carville was on CNN saying basically what I depict him saying in panel 2. He called prostitution a "victimless crime" and a "misdemeanor" and argued, along with guest Alan Dershowitz (another prominent apologist for power elites), that Spitzer should stay and fight.
Tuesday night I saw Dershowitz on Charlie Rose's show, again making the case that Spitzer had been set up, he was the victim of a suspicious investigation (which may be true), and that he should fight against impeachment and calls for his resignation. All over the InterNetz, I have heard similar arguments, many of them recitations of the same excuses used to defend President Clinton ten years ago. It's like these people are stuck in a time warp.
But there have been a couple of prominent voices concerned with the woman whose body was traded among rich men like boys renting out a Camarro. Let's start with Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon.
Sure, Spitzer is the victim of a double standard here, one that doesn’t apply to Republicans, but that mainly shows that the problem is that Republicans are being held to a too-low standard. First of all, prostitution is illegal, and public officials who help enforce the law against the rest of us need to be held accountable to that law. Second of all, doubly so when it comes to prostitution, because prostitutes are citizens, too, and deserve our protection. But it seems that Spitzer needed so much damn money for his hobby because he enjoyed doing things that were quite likely dangerous to prostitutes, probably asking to go condomless. Do you think, if one of the prostitutes he visited were arrested, he would have come clamoring to her defense? Yeah, neither do I. After all, he helped make his career by busting prostitution rings.
Then in the NY Times, this excellent piece by Melissa Farley and Victor Malarek, The Myth of Victimless Crime:
Whose theory is it that prostitution is victimless? It’s the men who buy prostitutes who spew the myths that women choose prostitution, that they get rich, that it’s glamorous and that it turns women on.
But most women in prostitution, including those working for escort services, have been sexually abused as children, studies show. Incest sets young women up for prostitution — by letting them know what they’re worth and what’s expected of them. Other forces that channel women into escort prostitution are economic hardship and racism.
The Emperor’s Club presented itself as an elite escort service. But aside from charging more, it worked like any other prostitution business. The pimps took their 50 percent cut. The Emperor’s Club often required that the women provide sex twice an hour. One woman who was wiretapped indicated that she couldn’t handle that pressure.
And just to put this in economic perspective, Harold Meyerson at the Washington Post discusses — in a callous, yet illuminating way — What $5,500 an Hour Buys:
Positional goods are those commodities that are more valuable than their run-of-the-mill counterparts because a special status attaches to them, since only a select few can have them. Since the Web sites on which prostitutes advertise indicate that the average hourly rate is around $300, the Emperors Club maximum rate, which is roughly 18 times higher, could be justified by the particular appeals and skills of its hookers. I haven't conducted empirical research on this one, but let me just say: I doubt it.
I suspect that what makes a prostitute worth $5,500 an hour is that she costs $5,500 an hour. The value here doesn't dictate the price. The price, rather, dictates the value. These women are available only to the wealthy; the ability to hire them, like the ability to live on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, means that you've made it. And even if your hour turns out to be a bit disappointing, that's okay, because $5,500 doesn't really mean anything to you -- which just means you've really made it.
And there, I suppose, is the thrill. The power of being able to command the world's priciest hooker, like the power of owning the world's priciest real estate, could be a turn-on in itself. The power of dropping thousands and not even remembering what type of woman you've booked: Boy, are you ever something! Whether or not you're getting one terrific woman, the transaction alone confirms that you're one terrific dude.
I'm glad Spitzer resigned, because unlike many of his apologists, his resignation demonstrates a better understanding of the public trust his positions as both an Attorney General and as a Governor entailed. He's supposed to do the people's business, not use his position of privilege to sexually exploit women's bodies.