By Suki Falconberg
As an ex-prostitute, I read with dismay the initial coverage of the Governor Spitzer sex scandal. “Romp with a high-priced call girl” was the racy way the press stated it. All the focus was on family values, betrayal of middle-class morality, apologies from him for not living up to his own high standards.
The focus should have been on the prostitute herself rather than all the narrow, prudish marriage-and-family garbage and the puritanical rhetoric attached to it. Maybe what was wrong was that he bought another human being.
Having opened my body to men I don’t know, I am aware it is difficult, this intimacy with strangers–no matter if the sheets are silk, and the girl is fucking in a luxury suite at the Ritz. I wondered why no one asked about the welfare of the prostitute–instead of extending misplaced sympathy to the woeful, betrayed wife. Is this prostitute exploited by the ring that rents her out? Is she keeping the money or are they taking a hefty chunk? Who are these people? How do they recruit the girls? How do they treat them?
What do we know about “Kristen,” the call girl he bought? In titillating terms she was initially described as a “petite brunette.” That first description was about as relevant to what led her to selling herself as what she ate for breakfast.
What ran through my head were the usual questions I ask about a prostituted being: Did she come from the typical scenario that leads so many kids into the trade, one that ought to be familiar by now to anyone with a half a brain and half a heart. I quote from a U.S. News & World Report article (“Young Lives for Sale,” 24 Oct. 2005) detailing the background of one young American whore: “She was raped repeatedly by her stepbrothers when she was 6 and 7, and she fell in with a pimp who convinced her to start prostituting herself when she was 13.”
Runaways, very young, who fall into whoring as a way of finding love, acceptance, and survival, are the norm, not the exception in America. You don’t have to go to Bangkok or Cambodia to find girls exploited by the sex industry. A thriving child prostitution business in Atlanta, Georgia sells ones as young as 11 and 12 and these girls (mostly black) report being raped up to 30 times a night.
It is often a grim picture, prostitution. Admittedly, not all prostituted girls have horrifying backgrounds but there seems to be a fair amount of previous abuse in many cases. A severe gang rape precipitated my entry into the business.
The image of the “high-priced call girl” as a pampered being can be misleading: we need to investigate the lives of these women in the Emperor’s Club VIP (the ring that sells Kristen) and see what led them into prostitution. Now, from what I have read of Kristen’s life, she seems to be somewhat in control. When told that Client 9 (the number id attached to the governor) would ask her to do some things that were unsafe, she said she could handle it. No one seems to have forced her into this-insofar as we can tell. What happens underground in the sex trade is a whole other picture. (There is the bigger issue of whether prostitution can ever be considered ‘voluntary’ in a culture that promotes the woman as bought sex object and the man, with power, as the dominant purchaser.)
I am fine with Governor Spitzer (or ex-Governor, as the case may be) buying a girl if he treats her well, as he seems to have done. Kristen says she liked him. And I am fine with this if the girl is not exploited in any way. This latter point is hard to determine since so much prostitution does just that. Many times girls profit little from the use of their bodies-it all goes to third parties: procurers, pimps, owners.
I am also fine with Spitzer buying a non-exploited girl if he finds this an acceptable way for his own daughters to make a living.
“There is no sliding scale in the exploitation of women,” says Tania Byname, executive director of Equality Now, an organization that has fought against a sex tourism business in Queens, New York called Big Apple Oriental Tours. Actually, there is, Ms. Byname. A huge sliding scale. When I whored, I was not pimp-controlled and no one forced me, but the whole business of selling sex left me damaged in ways so numerous-physically and mentally-that I am still dealing with the repercussion thirty years later.Despite my own difficulties, I would not even compare my life in prostitution, or that of Kristen, to the raped child whore in Atlanta. My relative freedom was the way I survived and made it out. No choice as to clients and a pimp beating and raping me if I failed to fulfill my own daily rape quota-this would have been unendurable for even one night. I would not be alive today. So there is a distinct ‘sliding scale.’
Kristen is on top of things. She is not being serially raped in a brothel every night. She lives in a posh Manhattan apartment. She has choices if a client proposes unsafe sex. She is, hopefully, not being hit with the violence that brothel and street prostitution often bring. (We have no way of knowing.) Presumably, she is making money with her vagina-if Emperor’s Club is not taking an unfair cut. $4000 for a
sexual encounter would be about right-we women are worth it. She is 22, not 12. If this is how she wants to make a living, that is fine. Instead of prosecuting her for this, let us create an environment where it is safe for women like her (note, I say, women, not girls), and me, to prostitute ourselves. I am not proposing any inane notion of legalizing prostitution-this just makes it easier for someone else to sell the girls. No, we should both decriminalize and de-stigmatize the profession of selling the body for the women involved. No scorn attached to a lovely lady who wants to sell her sexual beauty. Just enormous respect and admiration for her. And protection from all sexual violence. And complete choice as to customers. And heavy prosecution and long, long jail sentences for any pimp, procurer, trafficker, owner-and for any client who hurts a prostitute. Only when the woman makes all the profits from her body, and can sell herself under completely safe and protected circumstances, will prostitution be acceptable to me.
I wonder why the federal government concentrates its efforts only on a glamorous prostitution ring like the Emperor’s Club. I do think we need to find out if its girls are exploited and offer them ways to exit prostitution, if that is what they want to do. But, first, let’s focus on that ‘sliding scale’ of prostitution. Let’s remove all those 11-year-old whores in Atlanta from their rape beds and give them protective services and long-term therapy and care. And let’s raid the truck stops in California and Arizona where 13-year-olds are pimped to grown men. Then we can tackle girls held in sex slavery for migrant farm workers. And all the pathetic street whores on drugs. And then we can concentrate on the sex trafficking of Asians and girls from other countries into massage-parlour brothels in New York and other big American cities.
Another sex scandal reported from the narrow puritanical prudish American viewpoint. Reporting that will never help the truly exploited escape prostitution.
Suki Falconberg, © 2008
Suki Falconberg, Ph.D., a contributing writer to Cyrano’s Journal, is an ex-prostitute. Her novels Tender Bodies and Whore Stories and Comfort the Comfort Women-satires on military prostitution–are available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.?