jeudi 13 mars 2008


With regards to current events, it seems that a certain governor (that I voted for, no less) had a press conference recently, you may have heard a thing or two about it? This kind of juicy scandal has even made the news here.

Today some of us were discussing at lunch whether this kind of event would be either newsworthy or would be enough to bring down politicians in European countries. Elisabeth, who is French, felt that it would be a scandal in France as well. A mistress? no. No one cares. But a prostitute? He did, ultimately break the law, and she felt the French wouldn't stand for it either. Ann, who is Swedish, felt that many of the relationships that wealthy older men have are on par with prostitution anyway, so what is the difference? She felt that plenty of people go to prostitutes, so what is the big deal. I don't feel that laissez-faire about it, although maybe I'm just irked because I voted for the guy.

Which has been leading me to wonder: there are 3 possibilities of what is going on here.
  1. Is there something innate about the type of personality that runs for public office, insofar that the kind of drive, the kind of egotism that it must require, perhaps also goes hand in hand with certain recklessness/risk taking or certain flaws? Or,
  2. Is it just that power corrupts? Or,
  3. Are Spitzer's problems just a variation (writ large) of the kind of things that any man would do, given the financial resources and the opportunity? If you took a cross section of men in his social class, how common is hiring prostitutes, anyway?
The other side of this is the degree to which prostitution itself is a social or moral ill. My friend Pardis, who is a medical anthropologist who studies sex, has interviewed sex workers, and Pardis feels very strongly that these women have agency. She feels that the common attitudes that people have, that it is abusive, or coerced, is simplistic; women choose to be in this profession, and the idea that they need to be saved from it is a patronizing one. I thought about this today when i read the Times piece about the woman at the center of the story, "Kristen," who the article points out came from a broken home, was a rebellious teen, has drifted around and lived in several states, and has in the past used drugs-- all 4 of these characteristics could describe a number of people that I know. I wondered to what degree the author of the article perceived Kristen to be an unwilling or hopeless pawn in the story (when in fact she was in on the sting, as she was a confidential informant, which she did undoubtedly to avoid prosecution herself). Because it certainly didnt seem like the author perceived her as a woman who made her own choices.

This is not to say that I adhere to Pardis's point of view that prostitution is always free of coercion. But, I get her point.

Another interesting discussion is available on this blog, which goes over the reasons for both legalizing and keeping it illegal, with regards to what would be at the best interest of the women and of the society as a whole.

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