Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Scandal

I find the whole Spitzer mess dispiriting. In America, there is really only one principle when it comes to sexuality: don't get caught. People talk about his hypocrisy as a married man or as a former prosecutor. They talk about how he's an elected official and ought to have known better, but the subtext is always, "He was dumb enough to get caught, so he deserves what's coming to him."

Except, you know, he doesn't. I'm all in favor of recognizing the facts on the ground, and as a politician and former prosecutor, Eliot Spitzer both should have known that getting caught employing a prostitute would end his political career. But can we please not lose sight of the fact that "don't get caught" as a guiding principle celebrates the very hypocrisy that so many people say they hate about politics?

And can we also not lose sight of the fact that not all laws are created equal? Our current laws and mores regarding prostitution and other sexual behaviors are ridiculous. For a lot of people, their opinion about prostitution comes down to:

Q: Why is prostitution bad?
A: Because it's illegal!
Q: Why is it illegal?
A: Because it's bad!

And, yes, I realize there are other arguments, but there is nothing about prostitution that is made better by having it be illegal, and there are many things about it that are made worse.

I'm not interested in arguing the right and wrong of a married man visiting a prostitute. As far as I'm concerned, that's between him and his wife. What I'm arguing for is some fundamental right to privacy. The law and the public have no business getting involved in someone else's consensual sexual relations. For all we know, the Spitzers had a difficult discussion at some point in the past and agreed upon certain sexual ground rules that allowed Mr. Spitzer to have sex with prostitutes. But can you imagine the public outcry if Mrs. Spitzer came out and said that? And that same perceived public reaction is why they likely never had such a conversation in the first place.

The idea that every couple will always be perfectly sexually compatible is patent nonsense. Maybe if you're very, very lucky, you find someone else who has the exact same level of horndoginess that you have and that always wants things that complement what you want. And you never want anyone but that person, who, in turn, never wants anyone but you. And I am Marie of Rumania.

So while we're all busy lamenting the fact that Governor Spitzer didn't take a discreet mistress instead, can we also begin to suggest to our legislators that we don't want to know what they do behind closed doors and that we'd appreciate it if they'd return the favor. And write it into the law.

As a side note, I'll say that I've seen a lot of people online who would normally feel the same way as I feel on this issue spouting all sorts of outrage about how Spitzer didn't follow the law. They're doing this because they think Spitzer's problems are bad news for Senator Clinton and good news for Senator Obama. If you're willing to so quickly change your principles and beliefs for what you perceive to be some small political advantage, then you're clearly more worthy of contempt than either Governor Spitzer or Senator Clinton. Seriously, what is it about politics and the Internet that turns normal, decent people into douchebags?

9 comments:

Silly Billy said...

As the former Manhattan District Attorney and then New York State Attorney General, Mr. Spitzer aggressively prosecuted those who committed the very acts that he was recently found doing.

As an elected official, did he not realize the backlash this would cause if he were to be found out? For me it has nothing to due with the fact he was cheating (possibly) on his wife or the fact he used a prostitute (I for one, think the criminalization of prostitution is ridiculous), but for him to prosecute those who committed the very acts he committed himself is hypocritical and not tolerable for the Governor of New York.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

You make a compelling argument, Billy. There's certainly a live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword aspect to this whole affair.

I do feel some limited sympathy for Spitzer, just because I know how easy it is for men (especially those poor breeders) to get carried away by sex. But my larger concern is the damage that our laws and our obsessive, peeping-tom morality do to all of us. Somehow, I don't think that Spitzer's downfall is going to make current and future prosecutors any less likely to go after prostitution. Alas.

Bart said...

You're both right. Neighbor, that's a great post. Why aren't you a talking head on CNN or somplace like that? You make more sense and have something interesting and different to say, as opposed to the predictable cliches of those who are on there now. Thank you.

Lexx said...

Brilliant post.
Great comment.
Thought provoking response.

Thanks for trying to cut through the crap guys.

Will said...

I have no sympathy for Spitzer for the same reason I have none for Ted Haggard and Larry Craig and all those who condemn others while indulging in the very activities they publicly decry: Hypocrisy!

Like you, I feel this should all be a private matter between husband and wife or between partners, but when the one falling from grace is also the one who set himself up as worthy to judge the behavior of others, I stand back and offer no support and no sympathy--he'll get what he deserves.

Jason said...

Actually, being a prosecutor was Spitzer's way to politics; if he "meant" to condemn those he put on trial, he would still be in that career route. However, he didn't stay in that. A prosecutor is a civil servant, so that is, he was suing those on behalf of "us," the people of state of blah blah blah. So get that straightened out.

I sympathize with him. I don't care to pardon him from the likelihood of his own trials, as he is subject to the same legal system created "for" us.

Remember, by condemning Spitzer one feels the false hope of being exonerated (better) and alleviation of self hatred (of oneself's own imperfection and hypocrisy). TED, your reaction and observation of this vindictive wrath and deep-set hatred in people is well appreciated. Lamentably, it's in the discussion realm of theology.

Tork said...

I agree with you too Ted. Prostitution should be legalized and controlled (at least for health and tax reasons.). Lets get rid of politicians who sell their votes and let them fuck whoever they want.

Paul said...

For all we know, the Spitzers had a difficult discussion at some point in the past where Mrs. Spitzer said that she no longer enjoyed sex, and that she no longer wanted to participate in it. (It's not unlikely. It wouldn't be the first time that I've heard that story.)

Or maybe they never actually had the coversation, but Mrs. Spitzer just cut Mr. Spitzer off. (It's not unlikely. It wouldn't be the first time that I've heard that story.)

Can you imagine the public outcry if Mrs. Spitzer came out and said that?

Lewis said...

In spite of the prostitution argument, I find it just one more of the many stories surrounding politicians or leaders who point fingers at others and say "No, no!" while they are doing it themselves. Makes me want to spit up a little.