If the scandal that forced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to resign has taught us anything, it’s this: You can be the most dedicated, ruthless and effective public servant at combating crime, but if you pay for the sexual services of a competent, adult woman, then you’re a depraved, immoral person and a disgrace to your office.
The priorities of the American people have once again demonstrated that of all the possible moral offenses elected officials can and do commit while in power, anything involving sex is the lowest of the low and deserves nothing less than immediate calls for resignation, public humiliation of their families and criminal prosecution. Embezzlement, obstruction of justice and corruption? Kiddy stuff barely worth a slap on the wrist. But do something the slightest bit unorthodox sexually (and apparently, there are those for whom even oral sex is unorthodox) and you’ll have outraged moralizers and “pro-family” advocates calling for your head.
This is not to condone the rank hypocrisy of Spitzer, who built a tough reputation as governor by going after prostitution rings not unlike the one he patronized. A public official who publicly and frequently prosecutes a certain kind of crime only to be found engaging in it is indeed shameful and hypocritical and does not deserve the protection of his office. Nor is it to argue that Spitzer should be immune from the very laws he used to successfully prosecute so many criminals; if Spitzer indeed broke a law, he should be treated no differently than any other citizen found to have broken the same law.
But amidst the frenzy of 24/7 talking heads discussing the salacious details of Spitzer and Ashley Dupré, his $4,000 escort, what they did, where they did it, how long it’s been going on (all in an outraged, disgusted tone, of course), nowhere to be found is a rational discussion of the purpose and usefulness of anti-prostitution statutes or the reasons that drive women to enter the profession and men to seek them out. It has largely been taken for granted by the media that the activities of Spitzer and Dupré are the public’s business and warrant immediate condemnation for no other reason than that they are against the law.
Never mind that the federal statute in question is the 1911 Mann Act, which was specifically designed to target human trafficking across state lines (although a later Supreme Court decision interpreted the law to outlaw all extramarital sex