Article, LA Times Sunday- High Tech Hooking

LA Times Sunday- High Tech Hooking. I forgot to post this last month. There were 6 drive by shootings of non gang members in LA in the last 3 weeks and this is how the City utilizes it’s funds and limited resources.

LA Times, Sunday March 16,2008
L.A.’s streets move online
Modern call girls now turn their tricks on Craigslist.
Steve Lopez

March 16, 2008

Midafternoon on a workday, and what am I doing? 
Surfing the Internet for hookers.

But it’s not what it sounds like, I swear. The Eliot Spitzer scandal back East made me wonder how a lonely politician might get into trouble here in the land of milk and honey. So I’m with the vice squad at a downtown Los Angeles police station, tracking suspicious ads on Craigslist and other websites.

Yes, Craigslist, which offers much more these days than used sofas and 1997 Subarus.

“College Girl Available for Naughty Fun All Day And Night,” says one ad.

“Independent Hottie,” says another, one of hundreds in Los Angeles offering something for every conceivable gender and sexual preference.

“This is the new age of streetwalking,” says Officer Manuel Ramirez, who answers the ads and sets up sting operations with his colleagues. “It’s not as conspicuous as standing on a corner.”

Jody “Babydol” Gibson, the Hollywood supermadam who served 22 months when her Hollywood operation was busted, told me the job she and Heidi Fleiss used to perform has been made obsolete. Her new book, “Sex on the Internet,” is a guide to the websites the cops now peruse.

“There’s no need for a madam or a brothel today,” Gibson said.

Some of the ads on those sites are fairly discreet, while others let it all hang out, so to speak, complete with photos no mother or child should ever see.

“Hung Hot Guy” shows the proof, for instance.

“I want to give you some early morning satisfaction,” says Jessica, who posed without her britches. She lists the price of a good time at $80 for 15 minutes, $120 for 30 minutes or $180 for an hour.

Some of the ads are a little more legally savvy and the prices can soar into Gov. Spitzer’s high-roller territory. Take Alysha, for instance, who advertises on another popular website that she takes “donations” ranging from $500 for an hour to $3,000 for a “naughty night.”

Some of the most expensive hookers in Southern California have been known to work the hotels near LAX, said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith, where they might sidle up to traveling businessmen at a bar.

But there’s no doubt, the vice cops tell me, that the bulk of sex industry business is now conducted on the Internet.

“I kind of think of Craigslist as the pimp,” Capt. Jody Wakefield said when she walked into the vice room and saw her officers at work.

That’s one way to look at it. On the other hand, Craigslist and other sites are providing thousands of good leads to cops, and maybe helping to expose sociopaths.

Craig himself, last name Newmark, e-mailed me to say that he has cooperated fully with police in Los Angeles and elsewhere, helping with “forensics” to “pursue Internet crime.”

Even so, I thought it was only fair to ask why the vice squad is working the Internet on the trail of what is often referred to as a victimless crime, and a misdemeanor at that.

Legalize prostitution, some argue, and redeploy the cops to go after car thieves, burglars and gang-bangers.

Smith had an answer. Prostitution investigations aren’t just about selling sex. They often lead cops to crimes involving drugs, child exploitation and assault.

The working girls and boys are “sometimes on drugs, they’re beaten up, they get their teeth kicked out and get into a huge downward spiral,” said Smith. Some who work the ritzy downtown L.A. hotels have ended up addicted and desperate on skid row, he added, where assaults and even the murder of prostitutes is not uncommon.

The vice team of Sgt. Dan Gonzalez and Officers Ramirez and Jose Contreras has been hitting expensive downtown hotels of late. Typically, the officers said, a prostitute will check into a hotel room for a few hundred dollars a night and immediately post an ad on Craigslist, saying she’s available.

“I’ll pamper you and take care of you head to toe!” claims an ad by a blond named Porsche. “Come visit me in my hotel room . . . I’m waiting.”

The pros don’t name a specific hotel, but list a phone number or an e-mail address. The vice squad recently answered one for a 19-year-old woman, set up a rendezvous, and knocked on a hotel door to find a 14-year-old who was booked for prostitution and taken to juvenile hall.

It’s common, the cops said, to find someone other than the girl in the photo when answering an ad. The 14-year-old was no exception.

“She looked like she was closer to 12,” said Officer Ramirez. A pregnant older companion had apparently rented the room earlier that day, and the 14-year-old claimed to have already earned $1,000 from clients paying about $200 apiece.

The officers tried to talk some sense into her, but the angry young prostitute told them to mind their own business.

“She said, ‘The money’s too good,’ ” and boasted of $2,000 days, said Ramirez.

The same vice unit also arrested a 15-year-old female hooker and a 15-year-old boy recently. In the latter case, hotel security called police to say there was loud screaming coming from a room. Police found the 15-year-old boy and a man in his 40s in bed, and the 15-year-old, who was drunk, told them he had advertised his services on Craigslist.

While I watched the officers work the phones, Gonzalez scanned Cityvibe and Craigslist, printing out ads for his officers to check out. There’s no fetish that can’t be serviced, and there was no shortage of pregnant women ready for action, including a brunet who called herself “showing and glowing.”

“Sweet, sexy and worth every penny,” said an ad by Carmen, who listed a 310 phone number.

Contreras dialed and got an answering machine.

“Hey, Carmen, this is Alex,” he said. “I just saw your picture on Craigslist. You look delicious. Give me a call.”

He left a message for Jenny too, who offered a massage at $200 an hour. Contreras said he was in town for the Pac-10 basketball tournament, and had some free time before watching his alma mater, Arizona State, play USC.

Less than a minute later, Jenny called back.

“Yeah, hi, this is Alex,” he said.

The trick is to get the suspect to agree to a sex act for a dollar amount. But experienced marks avoid such details over the phone, and Jenny cut Contreras off when he broached those subjects.

“I’ve gone to these places before and it’s a totally different girl,” he told her.

“Well, I’m the girl in the picture,” I could hear her say as Contreras held the receiver close to my ear. “I’m not fat,” she went on. “It’s not like I’m a model.”

Jenny told him to call back later and she’d tell him where to meet her in South Pasadena. He said he would, but that’s beyond the LAPD’s jurisdiction.

So the police went back to working the darkest alleys and corners of the Web galaxy, where the oldest profession is using all the newest tricks.

Related Link: Link to


LAGent4TS has attached this image

From the AP: Deborah Jean Palfrey commits suicide.

My heart goes out to her, those close to her, and any sex worker who has been touched by suicide. Stigma kills.

May 1, 2008

‘D.C. Madam’ Kills Herself, Police Say

Filed at 2:00 p.m. ET

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) — A woman police believe to be convicted Washington escort service operator Deborah Jeane Palfrey committed suicide, officials said Thursday.

Police said the body was found in a shed near Palfrey’s mother’s home Thursday morning. There was a suicide note, but police did not disclose its contents or how she killed herself.

Police said they were trying to confirm the woman’s identity, but did not immediately have additional comment when reached by telephone. Palfrey’s attorney, Preston Burton, did not return a telephone call and e-mail message.

The District of Columbia U.S. attorney’s office, which spent years investigating and prosecuting Palfrey, was aware of the media reports and was awaiting confirmation from law enforcement, said spokeswoman Channing Phillips.

Police did not immediately have additional comment when reached by telephone. Palfrey’s attorney, Preston Burton, did not return a telephone call and e-mail message.

Palfrey was convicted April 15 by a federal jury of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington’s political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

She had denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.

She was convicted of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering. Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

Prosecutors said Palfrey operated the prostitution service for 13 years.

Her trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses, but did not take the stand.

Vitter, a first-term senator who is married and has four children, has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey’s escort service and has apologized for what he called a ”very serious sin.” But he avoided commenting further.

One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.

Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: ”I guess I’m made of something that Brandy Britton wasn’t made of.”

Article, Prostitution looks chic, but truth is ugly — chicagotribune

4/28/08 10:49 AM 

Prostitution looks chic, but truth is ugly 

Real face of sex trade is pain, not profit 

By Anne K. Ream and R. Clifton Spargo 

April 27, 2008 

The problem with much of the coverage of the Eliot Spitzer scandal was not just the pulp fiction-worthy headlines (“Bad Gal!” “The Love Gov!”) or the endless loop of commentary about why married men cheat. It was that the media delivered a basic untruth. This was not a love (or even a lust) story: The now-former New York governor wasn’t stepping out on his wife with a consenting “other woman.” His was an illegal and dehumanizing business transaction, one in which a man of great privilege purchased the sexual services of a woman of far more limited means. 

But instead of treating Ashley Alexandra Dupre—who has said she was abused and once homeless—as a victim, the media have turned her into a vixen. Why address the oppression that is prostitution when we can serve it up as a form of sexual self-expression (or as a savvy career move) instead? 

It’s tempting to blame it all on “Pretty Woman,” the wildly successful 1990 film that launched Julia Roberts’ 

career, and the myth of prostitution as a way to get the guy (and the designer wardrobe). 

But that film’s wrongheaded celebration of the redeeming possibilities of sexual servitude seems almost quaint in comparison with the “Prostitution Chic” of today. “Pimp and Ho” nights have become a staple at downtown clubs and uptown benefit parties. “Turning Tricks” pole-dancing classes are offered at Crunch Gyms. 

Hit shows such as HBO’s “Entourage” and “Cathouse”—where a Nevada pimp and his “girls” are portrayed as one big, happy, sexually uninhibited family—are an ode to the joys of being sexually serviced by women. The Top 40 success of the Pussycat Dolls—part predictable pop music, all bump and grind—hasbrought the burlesque back to the mainstream. 

And here in the Windy City, the Discovery Center’s Sex Tour brochure promises to take tourists to the “freaky and little-known locations of Chicago’s sex industry.” 

The new vogue of voyeurism substitutes prostitution for the carnival freak shows of old. The trend is not unprecedented; respectable Victorians also took prostitution tours. But it reinforces the modern-day, market- 

driven perception that those working in prostitution are merely indulging their own bent for 

entrepreneurialism and sexual self-expression. Make no mistake: Our cultural fascination with and glamorization of pimping and prostitution do not make for a kinder and gentler sex trade. 

“Every reliable study of women working in prostitution finds that more than 90 percent have been victims of childhood sexual assault,” said DePaul University College of Law researcher Jody Raphael. “Most entered the sex trade in their teens, after fleeing abuse and having no other way to support themselves. Many are alcohol and drug dependent. 

“People talk about this as sex between two consenting adults, but it is hard to talk about this as a ‘choice’ when we are talking about women who entered into prostitution when they were so young,” Raphael said. 

The painful conditions that drive girls and women into the sex trade often pale in comparison with the dangers they face once they become part of what people far too blithely refer to as the “world’s oldest profession.” 

A comprehensive 2004 mortality study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows that workplace homicide rates for women working in prostitution are 51 times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women (which is working in a liquor store). The average age of death of the women studied was 34. 

Some have argued that those working for “high end” escort services, as Dupre was, cannot be compared to the “average” woman working in prostitution. But the $1,000-an-hour escort of today will often become the woman on the street of tomorrow, as age, alcohol and sexually transmitted diseases take their toll. 

Much has been made about the “benefits” Dupre may enjoy as a result of her newfound celebrity. But her short-term economic gains merely distract us from the reality of the institution of prostitution, making us less critical of the grave damage it does to millions of women and girls. Yet the glamorization of prostitution continues, unabated by the facts. Nowhere was this more clear than on a recent edition of “Larry King Live.” During an interview with Natalie McLennan, the woman who allegedly trained Dupre at the escort agency New York Confidential, King asked, “Do any hookers ever marry their johns?” “They do!” she exclaimed, telling King the tale of a fellow “girl” who “went on a date with a client and then we never saw her again. It turns out that they met and they fell in love and she never returned. It’s a real sort of Cinderella, ‘Pretty Woman’ story, you know. Which is I think . . . just a fantastic story—every girl’s dream.”

For the vast majority of women working in prostitution, however, the reality is less fairy tale, more grim fable. But who wants to let that get in the way of a good story? 

SWOP-NYC: Correction in the NY TIMES

Sex workers own stories are horribly manipulated in the media. Even a paper like the New York Times will twist stories and misrepresent. We give a shout out to our NYC chapter of SWOP, who armed themselves with lawyers when nothing else worked. You go ladies!

Editors’ Note: March 30, 2008
An article on March 16 profiling three sex workers in the wake of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s resignation after revelations that he patronized prostitutes misconstrued how two of the women, identified by the pseudonyms Faith O’Donnell and Sally Anderson, said they earned a living. The resulting misrepresentation of the two women’s work included a headline that referred to them as “high-priced call girls” and a paragraph that said they practiced “the 21st-century version of the oldest profession.”
The reporter who interviewed them, one of two who worked on the article, never explicitly asked the women whether they traded sex for money or were prostitutes, call girls or escorts; he used the term “sex workers,” a term they used themselves that describes strippers and lap dancers as well as prostitutes. Though Ms. Anderson advertises herself as a “dominatrix with a holistic approach,” he did not ask her whether that meant she also performed sex acts for money, nor did he ask Ms. O’Donnell what her work actually was before characterizing it. He and the editors should have explored whether he had determined these things precisely.
After the article was published, both women contacted The Times and said they do not perform sex for money; Ms. O’Donnell refused to be specific about what she does.Because of an editing error, the article misstated the political work of the New York chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, a group in which Ms. Anderson is active; it advocates the decriminalization of prostitution, not its legalization, arguing that sex work should be regulated through labor law like other jobs but not subject to additional restrictions. Another editing error changed the meaning of Ms. Anderson’s observation that “no one” had come to an event she had helped plan to highlight difficulties faced by prostitutes; Ms. Anderson meant that no journalists had attended.

Notes on a Scandal

 The Nation | posted March 17, 2008 (web only)

JoAnn Wypijewski

1. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Having exhausted the news out of the Spitzers’ troubles but impelled to sustain the morning talk-talk, television producers turned their attention to the lessons the sex scandal might hold for the prols. Fidelity experts, infidelity experts, relationship experts, psychologists, all trooped into the studios to coach women at home in their bedroom slippers on how to keep their man. “Work,” they say. Work at your makeup (and for God’s sake, close the bathroom door!), your cooking, your clothes, your sexual performance. Work to avoid “getting too comfortable.” Work to have “a new mental experience.” A high-end call girl on the Today show tells wives to “put more effort into having a good relationship.” The notion that one might play at a relationship, at intimacy, sex, conversation, is nowhere broached. Play, or at least its illusion, has been relinquished to the realm of the actual working girl, the prostitute, while the wife–whose only claim to uniqueness lies in marriage’s relative freedom from commerce, from the exchange value of worker to boss, servant to client–is urged to labor at love. She is given no useful tips on, say, skull fucking (relax that throat and just keep telling yourself, “I am not going to die”), an effort that might chip into the call girl’s business. Rather, the most detailed advice nudges her toward police work. An expert in body language suggests that a wife gauge her spouse’s “base-line behavior” early on: what is his normal blink rate? his sweat rate? how often in conversation does he shift from foot to foot? Armed with those innocent numbers and comparative measurements, she later will be able to discern–as he tells some preposterous story while standing there a blinking, sweaty, fidgety heap–when he is lying, when he is cheating. “Is it OK to wiretap?” the host of a local New York Fox TV show jocularly asks the panel of experts assembled for a quick lesson in “Relationship 101.” Certainly check the e-mails, scan the phone records, monitor the credit card bills, check where he’s going on the Internet. “You can’t wait for something to turn up,” one of them warns. See something, say something. No longer shelter from the storm, marriage equips itself for surveillance.

2. The bed is bugged. For a country awash in sex scandals, it is rare that anyone admits the scandal is actually about sex. “It’s not the sex, it’s the lying,” people would say in explaining what upset them so about Bill Clinton’s romp with Monica. It’s always something else: the cover-up or the hypocrisy or the outrage upon the taxpayer. Because Eliot Spitzer had run stings on prostitution outfits when he was New York’s Attorney General, the hypocrisy claim had more heft than it had when Pastor Ted Haggard was discovered to have been a friend, no a Samaritan, no a drug buyer, no a massage client, no a regular john to a male prostitute. His preachments against homosexuality notwithstanding, Haggard’s dalliances were so richly detailed, his church so bedecked in homoerotic art, his Christianity so engorged with brotherhood and temptation and every man’s battle against lustfulness that it was absurd not to regard his life story, much less his fall, within the thick weave of sex. In different colorations the same was true for Clinton. But Spitzer was caught in an entrapment scandal, and the twist was that within twenty-four hours virtually everyone was crying, “It’s the sex!” as the initial details of wiretaps and search warrants; bank monitoring and wire transfers; 5,000-plus intercepted phone calls and text messages; 6,000-plus seized e-mails; travel records; hotel records; $4,300; the undercover officer; the confidential informant; the IRS, FBI, US Attorney; and an opportune disclosure–that is, the full fetish bag of the public dick–gave way to more primitive obsessions. Whereas on Monday, March 10, we knew only vaguely of a transaction with “Kristen” in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel, by week’s end we knew Kristen’s face, her breasts, her tattoos; we knew her name, Ashley Alexandra Dupre, her singing voice and ghetto pose (“Whatever doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger”), the competing narratives of tough stuff and cozy privilege between which the truth of her life probably falls; we knew that her Client No. 9 would have had other numbers on different occasions with her and other women for whose services he had paid a total of $80,000. After five days, FBI agent Kenneth Hosey was less well-known than he had been when his leaked affidavit formed the basis of the scandal. Newspaper columns and letters to the editor now flick at expectations of privacy with a sneer: Spitzer should have known better, and so should the rest of us low-rollers. How quaint to assume that one’s life isn’t in some respects a peep show for the state.

3. Forbede us thing, and that desiren we. No one was a victim on Friday, March 7. Not Silda Wall Spitzer. Not her daughters. Not Ashley Dupre. That’s the day Eliot Spitzer learned the whip would be coming down on Monday. He told his family on Sunday. The next day the women were instant victims, humiliated in varying degrees, degraded, ashamed, pitied, scorned. What was more titillating in those initial hours of the scandal: the frisson imagining the apparatus of surveillance, or the spectacle of a public shaming? Those who took to the airwaves or the keyboard justified gorging on the pain or anxiety of the women by fabricating histories of exploitation for them. Silda had been a victim all along, the many testimonies to her bubbly relationship with Eliot aside, because her marriage was “a lie.” By one remove, the daughters had also been victims without knowing it, imprisoned in a girlish love that their Daddy betrayed with every furtive text message. Ashley was a victim, naturally, because every woman in the sex business is. Her spectacular wage scale, substantial negotiating power and fast track to a seven-diamond pussy were all incidental to the cut-out of likely drug-user, abuse survivor, low-self-esteem sex slave into which the various experts sought to press the then-unknown Kristen. We are meant to believe that nonstop mortification by media chatter is good for all these women. The truth shall set them free–and make a nice little egg for the therapists that the Spitzer girls are predicted to have to see for years. That the Spitzers might truly have had the happy marriage they displayed to the world, and that Kristen and her co-workers at Emperors Club might have had something to do with that, is unthinkable. “He had a double life”; he had secrets. We seem incapable of accommodating a practical upside to secrets. Maybe he actually needed something sexually and emotionally, something he didn’t want to ask of his wife, a fantasy achievable only with a stranger, a release valve that would stabilize the rest of his intimate life and be safer, simpler, less threatening than a girlfriend. That he himself had scant generosity toward others who are drawn to the forbidden need not compel us all to be prosecutors.

4. Gotcha! The lie detector, the interrogation, a figure sweating in the glare of lights, the suffering spouse, all have become common fare in the public square. Silda Spitzer’s tensed stand by her man at his news conferences, compared to waterboarding by a writer in the New York Post, is distant competition to The Moment of Truth for putting married life in the stocks. Fox TV’s game show, in which ordinary people submit to a polygraph test and then take the hot seat to answer a series of increasingly aggressive questions, proceeds from the premise that people have secrets, little lies they tell or truths concealed for the sake of harmony, which, however, they will freely give up on national television, exposing their loved ones and themselves, for cash. “The only thing that might temper your jealousy,” the host tells a reeling husband, “is that she’s three questions away from $100,000.” He nods, remembering their debts, the fresh start all agree the money represents, and gives a clown’s smile. “Question 14: Do you have any secrets that you believe could end your marriage?” The wife could have stopped the interrogation at $25,000. Only what in old days was called “larceny in the blood” keeps it going. The answer from her earlier polygraph test hangs like a sword of judgment to be delivered as soon as she gives her public response. “Yes,” she finally says, and an echoing robovoice takes its time pronouncing, “That answer is true.” Her husband curls into himself, but she is still in the game, and he insists he doesn’t want to know that secret. The host steps in as the voice of responsibility before posing the final question. “You have to weigh the money against those things which quite honestly are the value of your marriage,” he says. “You’re free to quit…but you’ve gone this far.” They press on. “Question 15, for $100,000: Do you believe you will be married to Darren for the rest of your life?” Darren now appears a broken man, his pain stretched into luxurious agony by a commercial break. Less than a week later there is not a newspaper or TV “analyst” who is not cluck-clucking because Eliot Spitzer, Silda at his side, has called his dealings with Kristen “a private matter.”

5. Now don’t you ask yourself who they are. The wives may work, and work it; the paid professionals require rescue, therapy, a hand up from the dungeon of their trauma or false consciousness. But, first, one last self-exposure. Audacia Ray received a phone call from MSNBC’s Dan Abrams show after the scandal broke. “Have you been a whore?” the pre-interviewer asked. Ray corrected him; she has worked in the sex industry, which her questioner knew because she contributes to a blog for sex workers called Bound, Not Gagged and is the executive editor of $pread magazine. “They were casting for someone to talk about how to find a client, what happens in a session,” personal stories with the nitty gritty of sex for hire and the presumed tragic arc of degradation, says Ray. She wanted to talk about working conditions, harm reduction, variable rates of pay, danger, legality and choice in the work. Sex as labor; “trafficking” as, most commonly, an element in the larger story of poverty and migration or, in the case of Kristen, the professional travel of a consenting adult. Ray was not what the show was looking for. The next day, March 11, her site carried a joint press release by herself and representatives from Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK), Sex Workers Outreach Project NYC (SWOP-NYC), Prostitutes of New York (PONY) and the Desiree Alliance. They pointed out the discrepancy of Spitzer’s standing up “for workers’ rights in certain capacities” but not others, enhancing penalties for clients like himself, and otherwise applying additional legal veneers to “the deeply-rooted corruption that is associated with the prohibition of prostitution.” Their notion of prostitution, lap dancing, pole dancing, porn acting and myriad other erotic services exchanged for cash as jobs–not the worst jobs in the economy, not always the most risky or exploitative jobs, certainly not the lowest skilled–evokes a dignity-of-work argument as old as Adam and as familiar as the latest union campaign. Its obvious rationality largely eludes the nation, right to left, for which shame is the game.

The hypocrites’ club



The hypocrites’ club

Mar 13th 2008From The Economist print edition

Now with a new diamond-level member



ELIOT SPITZER is a hard man to defend. He was the most self-righteous politician in America—which is saying something—and an arrogant bully with it. If anybody deserves the opprobrium that is being poured on his head this week, following theNew York Times‘s revelation that he has a taste for expensive prostitutes, then it is Mr Spitzer.

As New York’s attorney-general, he perfected the art of threatening Wall Street types with criminal prosecution unless they paid huge settlements; as New York’s governor, he tried to drive a steamroller over anybody who got in his way, and consequently proved a big disappointment after taking office last year following a landslide victory. Even before his spectacular fall this week, his governorship seemed badly damaged. His promises to clean up Albany politics had borne no fruit and his proposal to give illegal immigrants driving licences had exploded in his face. He leaves plans for congestion charging in New York City up in the air, along with the state budget. A man who liked nothing more than braying about “betrayals of the public trust” and “shocking” and “criminal” behaviour has admitted to the former and may be charged with the latter.

Mr Spitzer had no interest in the distinction between “public” and “private”. He prosecuted “prostitution rings” as vehemently as he fought other forms of crime. His aides circulated unfounded allegations that Richard Grasso, who was the head of the New York Stock Exchange and one of Mr Spitzer’s many bugbears, was sleeping with his secretary.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the country is enjoying a fit ofSpitzenfreude—and that Wall Street’s trading floors are decorated with photoshopped pictures of him cavorting with bodacious babes in various states of undress. Some people have even attributed the markets’ mid-week bounce to glee over Mr Spitzer, rather than to the $200 billion shovelled their way by the Fed.

But distaste for Mr Spitzer—or keen pleasure in seeing a hypocrite hoist with his own petard—should blind no one to the fact that the whole affair is a crock of nonsense. What business is it of the federal government what Mr Spitzer got up to in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC?

Defenders of America’s tough laws on prostitution argue that it goes hand-in-glove with many other forms of crime (sex-trafficking, drug-trafficking, gangsterism). But surely this is an argument for focusing on those heinous crimes rather than trying to prevent an activity that is as old as human society. Besides, if prostitution were not criminalised, the victims of such abuses would feel much less wary of going to the police about them.

America, of course, is not the only country that produces spectacles like the one enjoyed this week. The British tabloids like nothing more than catching a politician with his trousers down (though British headline-writers would be sacked for such feeble offerings as “New York’s Naked Emperor”, from the New York Post). But America manages to be more unbalanced than other countries. This is partly because its legal system is out of control—an unstoppable clanking machine that has lost any ability to “draw the line” or respect “common sense” (to echo the titles of two books by Philip Howard, a New York lawyer).

The government, which began with a straightforward investigation of Mr Spitzer’s finances (the authorities initially suspected him of corruption), ended up devoting considerable resources to his favoured “prostitution ring”, the Emperor’s ClubVIP—resources that might have been spent on something more urgent, such as looking for terrorists. It went to the trouble of obtaining a federal wire-tap and examining thousands of e-mails. All sorts of draconian punishments are now possible for Mr Spitzer. He could get a year in prison for violating a 1910 federal statute, the Mann act, which prohibits crossing state lines for “immoral purposes”. (Mr Spitzer bought “Kristen” a train ticket to travel from New York to Washington,DC.) He could get five years for arranging his finances to conceal his payments to the agency.

Revisiting Salem

American history is littered with examples of puritanism deranging the law, from the Salem witch trials onwards. Anthony Comstock, a 19th-century anti-porn campaigner, used his position as a postal inspector to seize 50 tons of books and 4m pictures. He boasted that he was responsible for 4,000 arrests during his career and 15 suicides. Under Prohibition people could be imprisoned for life for consuming alcohol.

Puritanism continues to stalk the country in new guises. The most dramatic example is America’s new version of Prohibition—a “war on drugs” that helps explain why one in 100 American adults are in prison. But there are plenty of humbler examples. Schools impose zero-tolerance rules that result in expulsion for minor offences. The citizens of Texas may not buy dildos. Americans are banned from drinking until they are 21.

The combination of legalism and puritanism invariably produces the same dismal results. It creates expensive government bureaucracies that seize on any excuse—rules relating to inter-state commerce are a particular favourite—to extend their powers to boss people about or spy on them. It throws up swivel-eyed zealots who pursue their manias with little sense of proportion or decency (remember Kenneth Starr). And it ends by devouring its children. Mr Spitzer is only the latest in an endless line of self-righteous crusaders impaled on their own swords.

He certainly had no choice but to resign (as he did on March 12th) if, as it seems, he broke the law. But that still leaves the bigger question of whether the law is an ass. George Bernard Shaw once defined “Comstockery” as “the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States”; but it is hardly a joke for the people who are caught in its tentacles. There are enough real problems for America’s law-enforcement officials to worry about.

Link to this article (From The Economist print edition);


Prostitute says rate here is $700 to $800

Prostitute says rate here is $700 to $800

HIGH-END CALL GIRL | Call girl: ‘I offer an authentic experience’

March 16, 2008

It’s not easy trying to get a little alone time with a high-end call girl.

“I can give you 15 minutes in 10 minutes,” a high-priced Chicago escort told a reporter after five or six attempts at a cell phone chat.

Then, with a giggle, she said it would actually be in an hour, explaining, “I’m still doing this little thing.”

She meant, she explained, that she was checking out real estate on the East Coast.

A little later, the woman — who spoke on the condition she would not be named — was eager to talk about now-former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s trysts with a prostitute and about Chicago’s elite hooker scene.

Chicago’s hourly rates for women of her caliber, she said, are appallingly low — “way less than what they should be.”

“It’s about time the rates for high-class escorts are broadcast,” she said.

Not that she would say exactly what she charges, other than that it’s “not much higher” than what she described as Chicago’s going rate of $700 to $800 an hour for top prostitutes.

At the Emperors Club VIP in New York, where Spitzer dabbled, fees start at $1,000 and rise to $5,500.

“I offer an authentic experience,” the Chicago escort said. “I only like to see people who are at the top of their game, like CEOs.”

Here, high-end hookers for every imaginable — and unimaginable — taste are available on the Internet. The teasing language on these Web sites is usually written in transparent code. Customers are “hobbyists,” and prostitutes are “providers.”

The encounters take place in pricey condos on Lake Shore Drive and ritzy hotels, as well as at spots near O’Hare Airport, according to someone who knows — a Chicago Police vice cop.

Like many big American cities, Chicago has a storied history of prostitution.

There was, for instance, the campaign back in the 1850s by Mayor Long John Wentworth, who made his name by leading an army of police officers through the city’s first vice district, tearing down the hookers’ shanties.

In this decade, Rose Laws — known as the madam of the Gold Coast — ran a nationwide prostitution ring in which call girls hopped from Chicago to New York to Miami, then on to Los Angeles. In 2003, Laws was sentenced to 22 months in prison for her part in the ring. Former Chicago insurance magnate and political power Michael Segal blew some of his company’s money on one of Laws’ $400-an-hour hookers.

The Chicago call girl said her clients have included “a couple of basketball players and a baseball player.” She wasn’t naming names.

She feels genuinely sorry for Spitzer. “Why should he resign?” she said. “It’s [his] private life. It didn’t affect the public trust.”

She makes a distinction between extramarital affairs — which she’s against — and hooking up with a prostitute. With the latter, she said, “There is no ongoing attachment.

“Sex is a visceral, carnal need, and it’s a healthy urge,” she said.

She wouldn’t say how old she is — “I look awesome. I have the body of an 18-year-old.”

She said she always makes it clear to her clients who is in charge.

“I’m not there to service” the client, she said. “I’m there to enjoy myself.”

She said she won’t see a client until she’s researched his family, his profession and his income. And don’t try to get away with a freebie: “I have called many a wife when someone doesn’t honor their agreement,” she said, adding, “I warn [the clients] many times before I make that contact.”

She also said she’s made enough money in the business to retire but enjoys her work.

“I’m very happy in life,” she said.

Contributing: Frank Main

“The Other Prostitution Scandal”

By Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune

March 13, 2008

Politicians take people’s money with a promise to fulfill desires that supposedly can’t be attained any other way. Prostitutes do the same, though by reputation, they are more reliable in delivering. It’s not surprising for people in the same line of work to gravitate toward one another, as Eliot Spitzer and a woman named Kristen reportedly did in a Washington hotel room.

I understand why Spitzer’s alleged hiring of a call girl was stupid, selfish, reckless, immoral and a betrayal of his family. What I don’t understand is why it was illegal.

It’s not as though sex is otherwise divorced from money. If it were, hot young women would be found on the arms of poor older men as often as they are seen with rich ones. Had the New York governor wanted to buy a $4,300 bauble to seduce someone of Kristen’s age and pulchritude, only his wife and his financial adviser would have objected.

It was Spitzer’s effort to hide this pastime that attracted law enforcement attention. Prosecutors investigated him not because he had lipstick on his collar, but because he took steps to conceal his patronage of Emperors Club VIP. By transferring cash to accounts controlled by fake companies, he roused suspicions of political corruption. By now, he probably wishes he had only taken a gratuity to grease a contract.

It’s hard to feel excessive sympathy when a colossal hypocrite is exposed. Recently, Spitzer signed a measure increasing penalties for men caught paying for sex, who can now go to jail for as long as a year. But schadenfreude is a weak justification for laws that intrude into the bedroom.

As with laws against illicit drugs and unsanctioned gambling, this policy tries to suppress powerful human appetites and consistently fails. What one New Orleans mayor said applies to a segment of every human society: “You can make prostitution illegal in Louisiana, but you can’t make it unpopular.”

Alternative newspapers, telephone directories and online sites are replete with ads for massage parlors, escort services and women “eager to meet you!” — proof that when individuals yearn to find each other for mutually gratifying transactions, they are bound to find a way.

Even the prospect of arrest and public humiliation doesn’t deter a lot of people on either side of the business. What should be obvious is that they are willing to spend far more effort achieving these encounters than the rest of us are to spend preventing them.

Outlawing this commerce serves mainly to make things worse, not better. It assures income to criminal organizations with long experience evading the law. It makes prostitutes vulnerable to abuse. It prevents measures to protect the health of providers and patrons.

It exempts an industry from the taxes and fees that legitimate businesses have to pay. It squanders police resources that could be used to fight real crime, while clogging jails and courts with offenders who will soon be back plying their trade.

Supporters of the status quo say the sex industry is filled with victims of human trafficking — foreigners forced to work in servitude. Whether such modern-day slaves amount to more than a tiny fraction of hookers, however, has never been proved.

Similar claims have been made about migrant farm laborers and domestic workers — which is not taken as grounds to ban fruit picking or home cleaning.

Someone whose job is illegal, in fact, is an ideal candidate for such exploitation, since she is unlikely to go to the cops.

But all this is secondary to the priority of human freedom. We no longer believe the government has a right to prevent homosexuals or heterosexuals from engaging in sexual practices. In 2003, the Supreme Court had the wisdom to strike down a Texas sodomy prosecution against two homosexuals caught in the act.

“The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives,” asserted the court. “The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government.”

Some brilliant lawyer ought to ask the courts why the state may ban one type of sex between consenting adults but not another. Maybe Eliot Spitzer would like to take it on.


Steve Chapman is a member of the Tribune’s editorial board. E-mail:

Spitzer’s true folly

A governor who pays for sex should know to mould social policies on reality, not morality
by Elizabeth Pisani

The Guardain, Thursday March 13 2008

Last November, a new law came into force in New York state. The toughest anti-prostitution statute in the United States, it brings the law crashing down on the heads of men who buy sex. Its champion, New York state governor Eliot Spitzer, has become one of its first victims.

Spitzer, known to the FBI as Client 9, resigned yesterday after forking out money – lots of money – for sex. This has led to much rejoicing on the part of Spitzer’s enemies, who resented his holier-than-thou assaults on big business in his years as New York’s attorney general. People who believe his assault on prostitution was counterproductive have been feeling pretty smug, too. But the collective gloating obscures an important truth: policies based on morality, not reality, don’t work.

Though Spitzer is a Democrat, he has fallen for a view of prostitution that has gripped the Republican administration, a view that conflates sex work with human trafficking and seeks to abolish the oldest profession in the world. Indeed, Spitzer himself has referred to sex work as “modern-day slavery”. But here’s the difference: no one chose to be a slave, to work extremely long hours in appalling conditions for zero pay. Plenty of women (and men and transgendered people) choose to sell sex, working relatively flexible hours in varying conditions for quite decent pay. Sometimes very decent pay – the women Spitzer has been busy enslaving are charging $1,000 an hour, plus tips.

The sex trade is definitely pear-shaped – it is a lot heavier at the bottom than at the top. But even at the bottom end, a lot of workers are earning much more than they would in a garment factory or a fast-food joint. My own research in a number of countries in Asia shows that, on average, female sex workers’ take-home pay is between four and seven times higher in any given week than unskilled factory workers’. If you look at pay per hour worked, selling sex is up to 30 times more lucrative. The job is also a lot more autonomous than many of the alternatives. So we have willing seller and willing buyer, exchanging a commodity that gives one person pleasure and the other person cash. And the downside is …?

The downside is that not all sellers are willing. It is true people are trafficked, it is true children are exploited, it is true sex workers get beaten up, it is true people on both sides of the equation are exposed to unpleasant and sometimes fatal diseases. But most sex workers would argue that these things are best dealt with by legalising the industry and regulating it. This makes it easier to provide health services, and easier for sex workers to report mistreatment. It also enlists the power of legitimate workers in the fight against the truly exploitative parts of the business, the shadowy corners where traffickers and those selling children lurk.

If Spitzer wanted to dedicate some of his apparently endless stock of moral outrage to prostitution, he would have done better to crusade for health and safety regulations in the sex trade than for abolition. He, of all people, knows that the industry can work perfectly well for people on both the provider and the consumer side. So why didn’t he?

For many years now, social policy in the US has been moulded by morality. (Interestingly, commercial policy hasn’t. It’s illegal for one adult to pay another for sex, but perfectly legal for two adults to be paid to have sex with one another by a third person, who will film the encounter and then sell it as pornography to other adults.)

Morality, which is hard to define let alone to measure, is not a good basis for public policy. Science is a good basis for public policy. Economics, even. But not morality. Look at sex education in the US. The Bush administration promotes abstinence. No information about condoms, nothing about safe sex. The result of this cross-your-legs-and-think-of-God approach, according to official figures released this week, is that a quarter of teenage girls in the US have a sexually transmitted infection. How moral is that?

Though morality demonstrably collapses in the face of reality, the US is committed to exporting this approach. Its taxpayers have been asked to part with an astonishing $65bn to pay for HIV prevention and care in the developing world. To get a penny of that money, organisations have to pledge that they will oppose prostitution. The pledge was brought in by former Aids tsar Randall Tobias, handpicked by George Bush. “Former” because he resigned from public life last April, after his phone number was found on the client list of a Washington escort service. Spitzer is in good company. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008