Ashley Alexandra Dupre: Spitzer's working girl is assured

her place in history. Should she be considered a criminal? …



Folha, Brazil

Spitzer's Fall and America's Archaic Laws About Sex


"In various nations including Brazil, the location a politician installs his annex is normally a topic that only concerns himself and those directly involved … The Americans, however, don't only insist on scrutinizing the private lives of their public men and women, but they also cultivate what is likely the most absurd sexual legislation in the West … be very careful what you do in a motel along the highway in Idaho."


By Hélio Schwartsman



Translated By Brandi Miller


March 20, 2008


Brazil - Folha - Original Article (Portuguese)

Spitzer's fall: A field day for the New York tabloids ...


HE SAID, SHE SAID TV: Prostitutes discuss Governor Eliot Spitzer, Mar. 12, 00:7:30RealVideo

Politics, hypocrisy, sex and power. In a broader sense, all of these words are synonymous. As ex-Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer well-knows, having been forced to resign after being caught up with luxury prostitution ring.


There are two interpretations for Spitzer’s fall. In the first, he succumbed because Americans are a puritanical people who take pleasure in punishing their leaders caught in humanity's "flagrante delicto [immoral acts]." In the second, his sin was to have been shown a hypocrite: secretly practicing what he condemned in public. The detail here is that the two interpretations are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they reinforce one another. Let's look at them in greater length.


If there is something that Americans can’t resist, it’s a sex scandal. The first U.S. politician to get caught up in one was Alexander Hamilton (1755 or 1757-1804), who after a complaint was filed against him in 1791, was compelled to admit to his relationship with Maria Reynolds. Both were married - and not to one another, just to be clear. Although he insisted on not having violated any of his public duties, Hamilton had suffered a fatal blow to his career. Shortly afterward, he had to abandon his post as Treasury Secretary. In life, he never again enjoyed the prestige he had before, but – and here comes the first ambiguity – this peccadillo didn't prevent him from assuming his historic place as a "founding father" of the North American Republic.


[EDITOR'S NOTE: It turned out the Hamilton had paid Maria Reynold's husband, James Reynolds, a total of $1000 over several years in order to continue bedding Maria unimpeded. Rather than challenging Hamilton to a duel - which was the custom, Reynolds decided to blackmail the well-heeled Hamilton instead. Eventually, Reynolds tried to implicate Hamilton in a scheme to bilk Revolutionary War veterans, and rather than get caught up in that, Hamilton spilled the beans of his affair to Congressional inquirers, one of which was future President, James Monroe . Ironically, Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr a number of years later]. 


Hamilton's was decidedly not an isolated case. The Web site has a list of the 53 biggest U.S. sex scandals. Bill Clinton, of course, occupies the number one position after his rumored “affair” with Monica Lewinsky - which almost cost him the presidency. That's not to mention Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, his alleged lovers while he was governor of Arkansas. But the list is much broader and touches on representatives of various States and all parties during all eras. It involves heterosexual cases, homosexuals, prostitutes, married women and minors. There's even a homicide.


A good number of these scandals would be “dispensed with” in other Western countries, which better-separate (or, at least with more clarity) the public sphere from the private sector. In several nations, including Brazil, where a politician installs his annex is normally a topic that only concerns himself and those directly involved. The issue only gains a public dimension if one of the parties complains about the behavior of “said party” (the politician - not the annex) or reveals a correlated fault. Otherwise, officials tend to be left in peace with their lovers, even by the press.


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The Americans, meanwhile, don't only insist on scrutinizing the private lives of their public men and women, but they also cultivate what is likely the most absurd sexual legislation in the West. Let' begin with prostitution, the pivot-point of Spitzer's doom. As has already been shown in a previous column, it is prohibited in 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Exceptions are tiny Rhode Island and certain counties in Nevada. The penalties can reach two years in prison for the user (Iowa) and five years for the prostitute (Pennsylvania, in the case of a second conviction). Pimping can get you 20 years (Idaho).


By way of comparison, in Brazil, soliciting or procuring the services of a prostitute is not a crime - but pimping is. For that you can get up to five years. But there are more civilized nations like The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand, where the activity is perfectly legal and is regulated. Prostitutes of both sexes and their intermediaries pay fees and taxes, are entitled to the social benefits offered all workers and can freely advertise their services.


And the Americans don’t stop with prostitution. Until 1962 in every American state, anal and oral sex were crimes under the "sodomy laws." In Idaho, an adventure like that could cost a person five years to life in prison - no, you didn’t read that wrong: imprisonment for using several orifices that the Creator didn't design for the purpose. Of course, some more-reasonable legislatures have overturned or abandoned these laws, but a good handful still maintained these laws until 2003, when a Supreme Court decision (Lawrence v. Texas ) made them unconstitutional.


As always occurs with the law, however, there remains controversy. It's not clear whether the decision of the Supreme Court covers only laws that discriminate against homosexuals - as was the case in Texas - or if it affects everyone. In this case, regulations that criminalize sodomy - even between couples of the opposite sex - may still be in force. If so, be very careful what you do in a motel along the highway in Idaho. These laws may still hold, even if the “criminals” are married to one another.


However, let us set aside the eccentricities of North American law. I am suspicious that such a desire to control is part of the Protestant heritage. “Virtue” is predestination directly inspired by God, which is manifested as moral behavior and even outward signs of material prosperity. Thus, prying into the lives of others in search of signs of weakness is nothing more than reading signs of the divine will in the “book of the world” (I know this is a narrow theological reading, but I don’t believe that America's state legislatures go much beyond that).


Except that Spitzer wasn't the governor of Idaho, but in New York, a somewhat more cosmopolitan state. I think most New Yorkers must have been annoyed to see their hard-earned tax money used to investigate and punish simple brothel frequenters. Even so, Spitzer didn’t manage to find a political loophole to help him remain in office.


The reason here is biographical. The governor, who previously held the position of attorney general (a kind of prosecutor-general elected directly by the people), had throughout his career built an image of an incorruptible man and an implacable prosecutor of Wall Street figures who violated the law and committed the gamut of ethical wrongs. He himself had prosecuted prostitution networks. His profile in the Democratic Party was rising.


The greater the height, the greater the fall. There are levels of hypocrisy that even the most tolerant New York liberals can't swallow. Spitzer certainly outdid himself by repeatedly and premeditatedly using the escort services of the Emperor’s Club VIP. To avoid running the risk of being accused a hypocrisy, the new Chief Executive of New York, David Paterson, has already announced to one and all that he has had lovers. And not only that - his wife has had some as well.



There's no doubt that the former governor’s hypocrisy is politically punishable. It's also possible that he violated the terms of his office. That would be the case if, in the course of the investigation, it is shown that he paid a prostitute with public money or with campaign funds. But Spitzer’s well-deserved fall mustn't by used to justify a further blurring of lines between public and private, which seems to be the tendency in the age of the Internet and in the wake of the tremendous success for certain kinds of "reality shows." 


Since the world is the world, politicians will always be politicians and sleep with more women, and the people they serve will comment on their lives and, above all, their slip-ups. Still, we must maintain a space for intimacy and privacy - even for politicians. What two adults do consensually within four walls is not a matter that legislators can, without being invited, inject themselves into. More than an orgiastic license, this sphere of inviolability is necessary for a democratic state. Only in this way are we free to do as we like without having to answer to the authorities of Idaho or any other place, who feel that it's their duty to define right and wrong.



Hélio Schwartsman, 42, is editor of the Folha de São Paulo. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and published "Aquilae Titicans - O Segredo de Avicena - Uma Aventura no Afeganistão" in 2001. He writes for the Folha Online on Thursdays.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US March 23, 12:54pm]