The Eliot Spitzer affair and the business of sex MAR 13 2008
One of the side effects of the Eliot Spitzer situation is the discussion of prostitution happening in various places online by those with experience in or knowledge of that profession. Here are a few I've run across.
On the Freakonomics blog, an interview with a "high-end call girl" named Allie about the Spitzer affair.
Almost all of my clients are married. I would say easily over 90 percent. I'm not trying to justify this business, but these are men looking for companionship. They are generally not men that couldn't have an affair [if they wanted to], but men who want this tryst with no stings attached. They're men who want to keep their lives at home intact.
But one high-end call girl I spoke to about the Spitzer affair said there are lots of reasons a man in such a prominent position might seek high-stakes sex with a prostitute. Why not just have an affair, which probably wouldn't have destroyed his career? She said that Spitzer, if he did use prostitutes, was probably one of those men for whom the payoff was the excitement of doing something really taboo. "What could be more taboo than going to an agency when you're a crusader for all that is moral and good?" she theorized. "It's only natural," this call girl asserted, "that they'd hire a girl to get off." She speculates that there was probably a "midlife crisis element" there too.
Look, it's going to go on. You're never going to stop prostitution. The way to do it is to regulate it. Clean it up a bit. Make it fair-fair for the girls, fair for the clients. At the end the government gets money out of it.
I'm a former sex worker. I still have many sex worker friends that are dear to me. Ones who both face all the risks of being a sex worker, but also fight for sex worker rights in public. They are at risk from the very policies of men like Spitzer. Eliot could have done something groundbreaking. He could have been a governor that dared to advocate for sex worker human rights. But he didn't. Eliot persecuted sex workers. He made it easier for sex workers to be exploited, to be violated, to be stigmatized, to face discrimination, to face rape, assault and other crimes.
Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh has done research on high-end sex workers in NYC and elsewhere. He explains how it works in this Slate article.
What high-end clients pay for may surprise you. For example, according to my ongoing interviews of several hundred sex workers, approximately 40 percent of trades in New York's sex economy fail to include a physical act beyond light petting or kissing. No intercourse, no oral stimulation, etc. That's one helluva conversation. But it's what many clients want. Flush with cash, these elite men routinely turn their prostitute into a second partner or spouse. Over the course of a year, they will sometimes persuade the woman to take on a new identity, replete with a fake name, a fake job, a fake life history, and so on. They may want to have sex or they may simply want to be treated like King for a Day.
If you run across any similar links, send them along.