Today, we’re going to write a little about Elliot Spitzer. I’m going to be honest and say that this is a recap of an e-mail that I sent to a friend a while back, but it’s been fleshed out a little. I’m still frantically recycling material because I’m under the gun on production and at work.
First let me say I don’t care much about Spitzer much one way or the other. A part of me says he was keeping the Corps a little honest, a part of me says he was a power-hungry personal image developer who screwed other people who were just doing what everybody does in order to forward his political career.
So first a little about prostitution. I know something about it. I’ll admit to a certain fascination with it, and when I’m fascinated by something I find out about it. My “hands on” knowledge is mostly pretty rusty, but I’ve kept up with the concept in a more than casual way. We’ll investigate the fetish value of it at another time. For now suffice it to say I had a broad and misspent youth. I’m familiar with the various systems that were around at the time – escort services, advertising papers and cards, adult massage parlors, outright brothels (not so common anymore) and street action. Nowadays advertising in papers and cards has been replaced by CL and other more modern services, but the principle is still the same.
When I talk about going to prostitutes with friends (and honestly what the fuck is the point of a misspent youth if you aren’t going to brag about it) I usually refer to it as “whoring.” No disresepct to the trade is intended. Prostitution is a trade and in my opinion an honorable one. Whoring is s calling as old as the world…recent studies show that other species whore…and as my wife would remind me, the “Whore of Babylon” is a deific being, worshipped under various names in several of the cultures that gave birth to modern faiths and philosophy.
Let me also add, it’s not a job I’d recommend, and in fact I’ve very recently had occasion to suggest to a friend that they give a very hard think about whether or not it was something they wanted to get into. My reasons aren’t ethical or moral. It’s the same reason I don’t recommend that anyone take up cab driving (which I’ve done) or join the U.S. Army, or teach public school. I respect the people who do all those things, but if you are asking me what field to go into, I am going to tell you that the amount of remuneration for the amount of risk and even emotional risk may be a tough trade-off. On the other hand we need all those professions. Society wouldn’t move forward without them. It’s a calling and one I respect. Everything I’ve read or learned makes me think it’s safer today than it was back when I was seeing girls regularly, more like it was in Canada and Britain back then.
So now that I’ve spun my creds to talk about whoring, let’s talk about Spitzer.
I never met the man. The only person I ever met who worked with him was one of our fucking short-timers. Made a big deal he’d worked in Spitzer’s office, name dropped that constantly. Was the most insufferable prick we ever had around. Let me be clear. I’m used to Washington and I don’t call people pricks very much. I don’t feel that way about most of my co-workers…the other short timers ranged from irritating to cool. One Coast Guard guy I liked a lot. But this guy was just a complete hyper-motivated ass. He was going places and wanted you to march. I’m a liberal, in some ways an extreme liberal, but…I also favor a certain degree of moderating, getting along and chilling, and this guy was on the warpath all the time. And really he was on the warpath for him. He’d make occasional noises about cause, etc. but it was mostly “I am sticking up for the Chief and running roughshod over you to advance my career.”
If anybody was expecting me to defend the man, I can’t. I try not to be a hypocrite, and it’s the behavior I find most shameful in myself. If I violate the rules, you can find me saying a dozen places I never promised to obey them. If I violate the subset of rules I have said I value, that makes me a failure in my eyes. Spitzer was a man whose rules were “the law books as they stand, the word, not the spirit of the law.” He prosecuted people who were just doing what other people did every day, who thought it was “the system” if not the law. So…when a man like that breaks the letter of the law there’s little I can say for him directly. We all make our beds. Eventually the hangman may go to the gallows, and little sympathy from the outlaw.
There are some things that are interesting to me about this case, though. I admit I haven’t had time to obsessively follow it, so maybe some of these things are well known.
My first reaction is “why the fuck does the Governor of New York have to pay $4000 for a $200 trick?” When I was active a good many years ago Street in Baltimore was $15-35, depending on service. In DC it was never much less than $50. Massage parlours ran about $100 to 150. Escort Services started out at about $200. Based on what I’m seeing today, you’d be $150-200 an hour, maybe a little more depending on the girl. Jessica Cutler (Washingtonienne) was getting dropped about $400 for an afternoon date, but that was presumably more than a quick in out fuck in an hour, unless that’s just exactly what they wanted (which in her case it may have been). Also I don’t trust Cutler not to be inflating the figures a little…some of the sums she throws around sound pretty unlikely coming from guys who by my calculation are at my pay grade. Course they were single and probably didn’t have much else to do.
So…$4000. One of the things I always think is funny is when you talk to women who are “straight,” about prostitution. I find two things are usually the case. One is that they are invariably fascinated. It’s supposed to be a turn off, but every woman I’ve ever mentioned it to has been very curious. I’ve said before that guys go to prostitutes for one of two reasons, and I guess people can figure out which one is mine. Anyway, the other thing is that they tend to overvalue how much they’d be worth, sometimes dramatically. Usually its innocuous (though not always). It’s a world they know nothing about. People with some kink-aware background, and younger internet savvy girls know more and guess better.
So my first thought was “Jesus fucking Christ, dude….what gives…” And to think that if you’re the Governor of New York, maybe you have to pay high to find a service that you can trust. That basically you’re just paying out the nose for what would come cheap to anybody else.
But I don’t know. I mean honestly for overnight with a girl who is in the echelon of commanding $400, I suppose if you went ten hours, that would work out. Still seems high to me.
So there is an editorial by Brendan Polmer, in the GW Hatchet (for non-local folks that’s the George Washington University Newspaper). I don’t normally out people by name here, but this is printed in a public newspaper. In addition to managing to sound like a complete prig who was writing the piece to suck up to his girlfriend because he’d never do anything like that, he comes out with…
“The report goes on to say that in a wiretapped phone conversation between the Emperor’s Club booker and the prostitute that services Spitzer, the booker states that Spitzer had a history of asking the women “to do things that like, you might not think were safe.” Polmer maturely comments “Eeewwwwww. I don’t know about you but that certainly puts a few unsettling images in my head.” He does not add “which I will whack off to tonight.” How many www’s do Strunk and White give to “eeewwwwwww” anyway? Oh well, what’s a little onomatopoetia between friends.
It gives me a little more respect for Spitzer. I still don’t know what the fuck it means. If it were me on the phone I would have come back with “do you mean he wants to screw without a condom or that he’s into aggressive breath control play…for God’s sakes man, be specific.” But at least maybe he was doing something that was worth putting four grand on the nightstand. And honestly you know, you have to charge high if you are going to do that sort of work. Letting out your body to a stranger to take risks with isn’t a trival thing.
I don’t mean to sound like a callous anus about the money. It’s like when you hear that some Politician got a haircut that cost $1000, and you think “look Hair Cuttery is $18 and I know really good stylists who don’t charge more than $150, and for that I get an Aveda sample.” It’s knowing something about the game. There are people I’ve had sex with who I don’t think you could put a price on the emotional experience, but honestly when you start talking about $4000 I have to think about what that could mean in terms of travel, events, toys, nice things for all my partners, and I cringe a little. It’s just a little over the top to me.
But that’s not really my point…
My question is the basic public commonweal behind the modern sex scandal.
Since the time of John Profumo and Christine Keeler, the press and society has gotten much better at invading privacy. To this day nobody knows exactly for certain whether or not JFK fucked Marilyn. It sure looks that way, but nobody is able to exhume fabric and take samples. Now the tools and, increasingly, legal avenues, exist to track these things.
You could say that Spitzer is an exception because he may have committed financial crime. But on the other hand one tends to think the inaccessibility of this service to him drove him to expenses and desperation that he might well not have undertaken for a boat or a car. Sexual desire is a very powerful drive. It makes us do things whether we want to or not. I’m not excusing him. Your house, your rules. He chose his own rules, and I’m for seeing him hang by them.
During the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal a noted jurist…and I’ve tried to find the quote and can’t…it was in an NPR radio interview and I have never been able to track it…said something that stuck with me. To paraphrase, “I think there are a lot of people who would lie about that one thing…about sex…who would not lie about anything else.”
So I wonder if we do ourselves any service with sex scandals, or the climate that creates them. Is it possible that we are in fact depriving ourselves of good leadership because technology has outpaced privacy.
Back when it was “lip service” and Kennedy could still fuck anybody he wanted to as long as he didn’t do it in public, it didn’t matter. But sex has always been one of the things that drove powerful men to excel. Because it won them the right to have any sex partner they wanted, because women will throw themselves at powerful men.
Let’s take the converse as well. It is very nearly the case that to be considered politically electable, a woman has to be old enough, and modify her looks to enough severity, that she is not seen in a sexual light. Very few people fantasized about Margaret Thatcher, and while I can read masturbatory fantasies about Obama on the internet, I am not reading many about Hillary Clinton. Is that the counter-price. That if men must pretend to have no sexuality, women are held at arms length until their sexuality is deemed “safe.” I have doubt that a woman with much hint of sexual charisma could stand for a major office, though of course some have and do on the state or local level, where deviation from the presumed norm can be compensated with personal charisma and direct dealing.
I understand the concept that we don’t want to be led by people who can be led around by their cocks. But powerful people always have been, and I am not sure we want to be led by people who lack natural human urges, or in fact the chutzpah to act on them. A guy who is too cowardly to take a risk to have sex? Is that really the guy I want going to the table to arm wrestle with foreign policy. Insane risks no. But I am not sure I want my country led by the shy kid who can’t get the nerve up to ask a girl on a date.
So here, in the “post privacy” era, we’re at the point where it’s not just “lip service.” Powerful men are reduced to insane steps just to fuck somebody they aren’t legally married to.
I’m not sure that’s healthy. Do we want to limit government to just eunuchs…people too frustrated, cowardly, or uptight to fuck around? Is that going to give us better leaders?
Even one of my very conservative friends, reading about Clinton and Lewinsky in the private kitchen said something to the effect of “it makes you realize just how little privacy the man in that office actually has…limited to just that tiny space where he can be alone and in private.”
Like all social questions this one has no answer other than time. The answer is that variant sexual behavior is already more acceptable in Europe than here, and that as the “other America” is slowly permeated by the America of urban culture, these things will change. Clinton withstood his impeachment challenge. Spitzer was forced down on financial corruption and breaking the law not on sleeping around.
Over time, mores and morals will shift. And every little media source that promotes sanity, reason, and hedonism will help…
Perhaps even one this small…