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When Horny Is Criminal
Ridiculous notions about prostitution in an op-ed column by Colbert I. King in The Washington Post. He writes:

The government should have a special interest in knowing who Palfrey's alleged clients are, if, as The Post reported, they include government officials and military officers. If these men are lawbreakers, shouldn't they be brought to justice, too? One expert has said that men "who buy sex acts don't respect women, nor do they want to respect women."

Come on, this is just silly. Who can make this assumption about a wide swath of men, simply because they visit prostitutes? All that is evidence of is that they wanted sex, and in my view, were moral enough to pay for it -- making a fair, free-market exchange -- instead of fooling some woman into putting out by making her think they wanted a relationship.

As for men who "don't respect women" -- why should that be a matter of law? That seems to be what King's advocating (or at least justifying) by linking that statement with the sentence before it, about bringing men who visit prostitutes "to justice." Excuse me, but why is it "justice" to prosecute sex acts between consenting adults?

Finally, who's this "one expert"? Why isn't this "expert" named? I e-mailed King to ask.

King continues -- about the men who pay for sex:

There's reason to believe that many of them would benefit from being arrested and diverted to the U.S. attorney's "John School" -- a one-day, eight-hour education and awareness program for the purchasers of prostitution.

Of the 550 johns arrested, all signed up for "John School"; only one did not successfully complete the program and only two have been rearrested.

At any rate, you can bet there are a lot of District residents waiting to see if the government will hunt down and expose the men who patronized the accused D.C. madam the same way it has pursued those who patronize drug dealers.

The problem isn't those who patronize drug dealers, but those who keep drugs illegal, making what others choose to experience entirely within their own bodies a crime.

Posted by aalkon at May 7, 2007 11:55 AM


"instead of fooling some woman into putting out by making her think they wanted a relationship"

This is yet another reason why I love hookers

Posted by: PurplePen at May 7, 2007 12:26 AM

I disagree, respectfully.

I agree with most of what you say, except for the part about the problem being with the lawmakers. The fact of the matter is that this is the law. I'm not saying it's a good law, but it's the law, and people who are in charge of upholding the law and legislating it should also take responsibility when they break the law, same as anyone else who breaks good or bad laws. It's the same thing as illegal immigrants, they know when they come here that they're illegal, so they shouldn't be bitching when the government raids factories. Maybe immigration laws that call for deportation aren't good, but until the law's changed, I want the government to try to find the people who break the law.

Posted by: Brenda at May 7, 2007 6:19 AM

"The law, sir(madam?), is a ass!"

Posted by: Machida at May 7, 2007 6:26 AM

The problem, Brenda, is that the law on this is like the drug laws. No politician will stand up to change it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 7, 2007 6:38 AM

Well, shucks.

Not only is the law written a particular way - that these people appear to disregard - but there is the obvious matter of industrial and governmental espionage.

Try to tell me that a person who thinks they don't have to obey this law will observe others when it comes to their job serving the public. Try to tell me that they won't tell some knockout what they're doing behind the scenes.

Posted by: Radwaste at May 7, 2007 6:52 AM

I agree with you about the politicians and ethics. I only put that part in because I had to for the next line to make sense in context.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 7, 2007 6:57 AM

Brenda, Radwaste in many states and provinces prostitution laws only apply when cash changes hands, had they men paid their hookers with jewlery or expensive items instead would that have made it more palatable for the two of you??

I've got a freind, his couin has hookers sign "movie contracts" and then he films the sex and claims he is hiring them as adult actresses rather than as prostitutes.

Technically by not paying in cash or by hiring them as an "actress" no laws are being broken. If people were to use leagl technicalities to skirt prostitution laws would that make the practce permisable in your opinion??

Posted by: lujlp at May 7, 2007 12:15 PM

Personally, I'm enjoying the fact that Randall Tobias, the Bush Administration's point person on abstinence only programs had to resign over his hiring of Palfrey's hookers for "massages." A person in charge of implementing an unrealistic policy goes down for his failure to adhere to that policy. I love it, because it illustrates a fundamental problem with the attempts to use policy to implement severe limitations in the ways that people get legitimate needs met (in this case, the need to fuck).

Posted by: justin case at May 7, 2007 12:28 PM

I don't find it more or less palatable either way. I do have a problem with people who make the laws breaking them and having that be okay, and I see no reason to get overly confrontational about it. That's my problem. It's not the action, it's that it is against the law, and we don't get to decide which laws we think should be followed. If you can find a way to make it legal, then I guess, yes, that does make it more "palatable." Mmm, mmm, good.

I'm also not sure that the likelihood of it being changed or overturned has anything to do with it. I'm just saying that when someone does something that they realize has consequences, they damn well better be ready to accept those consequences, no matter how "not fair" it is.

Posted by: Brenda at May 7, 2007 1:05 PM

"Brenda, Radwaste in many states and provinces prostitution laws only apply when cash changes hands, had they men paid their hookers with jewlery or expensive items instead would that have made it more palatable for the two of you??


I want their conduct to be above reproach. In that way, I can be more sure that their conduct towards the public is, also.

Some people have made the case that "private" conduct has nothing to do with public life. That's just plain false.

If a public figure tries to weasel around the law, pretty soon you have a problem with such things as the meaning of "is", and you have people hired to make sure everything else done "skirting" the law (pun intended) is hidden behind sexual peccadilloes.

Posted by: Radwaste at May 7, 2007 1:40 PM

Brenda, I must vehemently disagree with you. I don't for one minute think I have to obey a law "just because it is a law." Thomas Jefferson himself said that when a law is unjust, it is a citizen's duty to break it. What happens when cigarettes are made illegal, then booze, then fast food, then violent video games, then a gallon of milk? How much should we then bend over and take it up the ass before you would acknowledge that obeying these laws is the unjust thing?

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 7, 2007 1:51 PM

I quit my job to pursue a home biz. I don't make much money at it because I am online all day blogging. The running joke is that I pay my share of the mortgage on my back. My husband is the John.

Posted by: miche at May 7, 2007 1:56 PM

Jo, that's cool.

I'm not even against civil disobedience, but you know, when civil rights leaders and activists broke the laws, they were willing to accept those consequences, in the name of seeing change. And that's fine, the point is that they were (willingly and proudly) taking responsibility for their actions.

Whether this gets changed or not, I'm completely indifferent, but I'm with Rad, too, that people in power need to be above reproach and shouldn't be breaking the law. But it's not only a power thing, when you break the law, even if it's a bad law, then there's the recognition that you might be caught and might have to face consequences. In cases like Jefferson talks about or civil rights, then I might even commend you for breaking the law, but I'm not going to be in shock, either, when you get taken to the pokey. And you shouldn't, either.

Posted by: Brenda at May 7, 2007 2:07 PM

Brenda, we agree on this. When it comes to stupid laws, I think the people trying to cram them down everyone else's throats should at least obey them. And yes, I do accept the consequences. When I put window tint on my vehicle to keep out the hot sun, I knew there was a possibility I'd get nailed with a ticket when the fuzz came out to do one of their fundraisers.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 7, 2007 3:24 PM

I think y'all are being too smug about this again, but a writer we should pay attention to agrees with the group here:

Posted by: Crid at May 7, 2007 8:23 PM

I imagine Pirate Jo saying this with a crusty British accent:

"Brenda, I must vehemently disagree with you."

How totally fucking gay. I love it!

I must be getting really old, because I can't remember the last time I vehemently disagreed with anything. I much prefer to muse over Radwaste's "sexual peccadilloes." Just the sound of it makes me hungry. Would anyone like to go out for tapas?

Posted by: Lena at May 7, 2007 9:49 PM

Don't worry Lena, you're still the gayest one here.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 8, 2007 6:12 AM

Taca Bell has a new Salsa Peccadilloe that's just fabulous, but it's messy in the car if you get it drive-thru. Open all night...

Posted by: Crid at May 8, 2007 8:55 AM

King is of the same sponge that buds the morality police who also force me to receive training on prostitution, traffiking, and sexually transmitted diseases once a quarter. I have nothing against condoms (although most guys hate to wear the damn things) and there isn't much room on a submarine to hide a filipno whore picked up in Subic.

Our C.O. was a bible thumper and prohibited pornography anywhere on our boat except one's rack (bed, for all you civilians). This douchebag even had the nerve to put Maxim on unauthorized list. Before we pulled into Chinhae, Korea the C.O. made an appearance to remind us of the traffiking and prostitution training we had and reminded us that both are prosecutable under the UCMJ.

Since he wouldn't step foot in a bar to see what the civilian miscreants were up to he had a few of his cronies watch us. Talk about a witch hunt. No one was 'caught' and rest assured the US Navy did its part to assist the economy of Texas St. in Pusan. Enlisted are sneaky like that. Even the one idiot that caught the Black Clap, whose penis was so riddled with infection that it had to be smashed with a rubber mallet by our corpsman in order to break up the uglies inside for proper urination, escaped the wrath of our C.O. who wanted to take him to Captian's mast for unauthorized sex with a prostitute.

"But how could the C.O. possibly know that?", you ask. He couldn't- so he told the corspman to inform him when the young sailor couldn't stand watch becuase of his ailments, which is proper grounds for being written up on deriliction of duty.

Our corpsman pumped this guy so full of penicillin that he had mushrooms growing out of his asshole.

I am by no means advocating the stereotype of the drunken sailor, whore in one hand, beer in the other. But I find it insulting, to say the least, when someone like King makes a sweeping generalization about people who pay for sex and that person's attitude towards women, thier moral code, or anything else that doesn't fit their model of social behavior.

Brenda makes a good point, as do others, about the laws against prostitution. You break it, you pay. I have never paid for sex in the United States, having lived in Hawaii for the last 15 years it just doesn't make sense when there are so many tourists, and the mindset is different when we go overseas. Prositution is treated like a business and not shunned by the locals. In the U.S. prostitution is looked at differently by the majority of people as dirty, unnecessary, and sinful. It is these people that force their moral code into law for the betterment of society, if nothing more than to assuage thier guilt.

Damn, didn't mean for his sea story to drag on.

Posted by: Trickish Knave at May 10, 2007 11:15 AM

Here's yet another e-mail I just sent Colbert I. King (

Here's another e-mail I sent you through your paper's e-mail system:

I asked you, and the ombudsman at your paper in separate e-mails who the "one expert" was in your Palfrey story. You never replied and neither did she. Are you too big to answer readers? Or did I catch you in some journalistic laziness or intentional obfuscation?

And before you protest about how much e-mail you get; I'm a syndicated columnist in over 100 newspapers, and I respond to almost every piece of mail I get -- and I'm deluged with it. Sometimes, I might miss an e-mail, but I try to at least say something...recommend a book, thank the person for writing to me and reading my column.

It seems you think you're above that. Please answer my question.

-Amy Alkon,

P.S. My original e-mail to you was sent Monday, May 7, 2007.

Amy Alkon
The Advice Goddess
Syndicated Columnist
in over 100 newspapers
now blogging daily

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 9, 2007 5:08 AM

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 9, 2007 1:12 PM

Hi Amy-

Thanks for the link, and your comment on my post. You said it better than me - whether or not johns respect women is not only unknowable, it's not a proper object of legislation. Seeking to impose a law where no party has been aggrieved is madness, and the foundation of the war on drugs, as well as the doomed ban on prostitution.

The only question is, given the existence of these laws, how should we feel about prosecuting them? I still don't know the answer. I think prosecuting anyone is stupid, but I fear that selective prosecution will always favor those with higher standing in society.


Posted by: jon at June 29, 2007 6:50 PM

an amendment:

I think prosecuting anyone ==for a crime with no victim== is stupid, but I fear that selective prosecution will always favor those with higher standing in society.

Posted by: jon at June 29, 2007 6:59 PM

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