What should the Secret Service scandal in Colombia teach us about prostitution?
I woke up to my TV blaring a news report recounting the details of the Secret Service scandal with Colombian prostitutes, detailing how some were fired, others were allowed to resign, and eight remain under investigation.
After pounding my fist into the pillow a few times, I ran to turn it off. My TV is programmed to turn on automatically at 7:30 a.m., and sometimes I think it shouldn't be. I don't want to wake up to news about prostitutes when I'm cozy. I don't want to hear about sex scandals first thing in the morning. At least let me have my coffee first.
The scandal became public after one of the Secret Service members, in town to prepare for President Obama's visit to Colombia, had an altercation with a prostitute on the morning after they had sex. He underpaid her: She originally asked for $800 and he only gave her $30, then shut her out of the room, claiming he was drunk when they made the deal. Thankfully some police officers from the beach town where this took place, Cartagena, came to her defense, and she ended up walking away with $225 — the bare minimum of what she owed her pimp. Now the woman, who won't give her name, is scared for her life, afraid the man she slept with may retaliate, and is planning to leave Cartagena. "This is the government of the United States. I have nervous attacks. I cry all the time," she told the New York Times.
Can you imagine making, say, a $2,000 paycheck every two weeks, and then checking your bank account one day to only see $65? Is there a better argument for criminalizing the patronizing of prostitutes around the world than the fact that these women are mistreated and "stiffed" regularly, and that they have to give a good portion of their money to a guy who basically owns them?
You can argue that governments can restructure and "regularize" the sex trade, offering regular STD tests and penalizing johns who don't pay the agreed-upon amount. It seems like there are at least some regulations in place in Colombia, which has legal prostitution zones. But the fact remains, this is an inherently sexist "profession," and study after study has shown how vulnerable and prone to abuse the women are. And no matter how many STD tests the prostitutes are required to undergo — the article says in Cartagena they get weekly HIV tests — you're not fooling anyone here; having sex with strange men is still extremely risky, even with a condom. Read more...
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Prostitution is an economic problem as much as it is a social one. Many women go into it because they're poor and have few other choices. That's why gradual criminalization of the patronage — not the profession — coupled with social programs aimed at getting these women into normal jobs, is what should be happening around the world.
Ideally what should also be happening is "douchebag re-education," and I'm only half-joking about this. I'm extremely tired of hearing stories in the media about people not keeping it in their pants. Just humor me once: Give me a big news story about a guy who's faithful to his wife and has sex with her every night. Actually, that would make a great Onion article.
What do you think about the Secret Service prostitution scandal?