“Eliot Spitzer – Tied to Prostitution? The Boys Versus The Girls”

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According to the Associated Press, New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer is reported to be or have been a client of a”high-end prostitution ring called Emperors Club VIP.” This morning, Governor Spitzer publicly apologized to his family and the public,”but did not not elaborate on a bombshell report that he has been involved in a prostitution ring.”

The story is still breaking, but it forces me to wonder if Governor Spitzer will be prosecuted for patronizing a prostitute, if it turns out that is what he did. As we all know, both parties involved in prostitution are breaking the law.

More to the point, as the DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, is prosecuted in federal court for running a prostitution ring, it will be interesting to see how things develop with Governor Spitzer. One of the DC Madam’s big gripes is that, though the government has the names and identities of plenty of her customers and *ahem* female contractors, only she – Deborah Jeane Palfrey – is being prosecuted.

Back when I was in law school at Columbia, I did research for the late Professor Curt Berger, who was a property expert. Professor Berger once asked me to research how many women versus how many men were arrested for prostitution (in New York state, as I recall). By far, the women outnumbered the men. Lovely…. Will the Eliot Spitzer situation, when juxtaposed with the DC Madam prosecution, prove the point further?

Stay tuned.

– Elizabeth Nowicki, cross-posted from Truth On The Market.

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0 Responses to “Eliot Spitzer – Tied to Prostitution? The Boys Versus The Girls”

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    Note: I’ve prevented several comments from posting, because they did not address the issue that Elizabeth Nowicki raised. This post is not a referendum on Spitzer’s political activities. There are other blogs where that can be productively discussed. The focus here is on gender issues.

  2. Today I’ve read several articles in the category “why do they do it?”–the question being why to smart (?) powerful men keep making this mistake. The New York Times has rather an extensive list, reaching back to Wilbur Mills and including both gay and straight men. But the thing no one seems to comment on in these articles is that they are all men. I cannot off-hand recall a woman in politics embroiled in a similar sex scandal. Surely there’s a gender point there?

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    Many of the Supposedly Liberal Dood blogs are using this as a launching place for proposing that prostitution become legalized, because legality seems to be their primary concern. They keep describing this as a consensual act for which the woman received thousands of dollars. I’d like to actually hear from the woman that everything that happened was consensual, and I wonder how much of that money she actually got to keep. And I have another concern: When a man pays $5,000 for an hour of sex, does anyone really believe he will be required to wear a condom if he doesn’t want to?

  4. yf says:

    The practice of prosecuting the prostitute more harshly and more frequently than the customer isn’t necessarily due to sexism. In the illicit drug market, vendors are subject to much harsher penalties (and I suspect prosecuted more aggressively) than the customers contracting for the drugs. Certainly the merits of supply side prosecution can be debated; but it is certainly not caused by sexism in the drug context, and isn’t necessarily motivated by sexism when applied to prostitution.

    I would also note that while consent in the context of prostitution can certainly be debated generally; some of the comments caught on federal wiretap between the prostitute and her (for lack of a better word) pimp lead me to suspect that “Kristen” was a fully consenting party. I cannot find the link now, but there are quotes in the complaint to the affect of “this is what I’m paid for,” “I’m here for a purpose,” and that “client # 9” had presented no unusual difficulties.

    Or is it your argument that commercial sex contracts are never consensually entered into by the vendor?

  5. Ann Bartow says:

    If “Kristen” believes her work as a prostitute will be e.g. revealed to her family if she does not do whatever the agency says, I wouldn’t consider her work consensual even if she gets to keep some portion of the money. I have no idea whether her work is consensual, but it’s clear a large cohort of people wants to believe that without asking her. Incidentally, a document posted at the Smoking Gun suggests she may only get to keep $500 of the $5,500 the agency charged.

  6. What I find a bit chilling is a line in the NYT that seems to have gotten relatively little play. It’s the paragraph that follows the comment YF quotes above–that the client had posed no difficulty. I’ll paste the quote:

    “The booker responds that he, in an apparent reference to Client 9, sometimes asks the women”to do things that, like, you might not think were safe.””

  7. Ann Bartow says:

    Other media sources have reported that he refused to wear a condom, though for what act(s) has not been specified.

  8. jenniferbard says:

    The comment that he did things Kristen might think were not safe jumped out at me too. This is more than a man falling victim to his inner demons. If indeed he did not wear condoms, it is an act of violence against the women he put at risk. Essentially, he paid this woman to play Russian Roulette with any number of STIs (including of course HIV). Also, we assume Kristen is a US Citizen and therefore “free” to leave any time. The reality is many sex workers in the United States are at best not citizens–and in many cases prisoners of the people who lured them here. Moreover, prosititution is almost never a business transaction between equals–a very high percentage of women currently in prison are drug addicts who became linked with a pimp and were drawn further into a life of crime and violence. The analogy between a drug dealer and a drug user is appropriate only if you see the male client in a position of power equal to that of a drug dealer and the prostitute herself as the drug user she usually is.
    Finally, by not wearing a condom he exposed Kristen to unwanted pregnancy–a very common risk for prostitutes who lack the money or structure to be regular users of birth control pills.
    Without commenting on the politics of the situation, it is interesting that Gov. Spitzer himself has made all of the above arguments in support of his prosecution of prostitution.
    Have any of the men advocating the legalization of prostitution met these women either in prison or afterwards as they try to put their lives back together? There is absolutely no glamor to it.

  9. yf says:

    I would point out that the NY Times has just administered the same form of “coercion” that you were contemplating. I won’t post the link, but pimps certainly aren’t the only ones exploiting this woman right now.