Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Being married to a philandering politician must really suck

Image stolen from here.

Upon reflecting on this and other recent male-politician-caught-in-embarrassing-sex-scandal incidents, I had the same thought as Michelle Cottle: do all these guys convince their wives to stand by them at these post-scandal news conferences?
(HT: Ross Douthat) I mean, it's humiliating enough that your husband has cheated on you and the whole damn world knows it. But then to have to stand there, next to the cad, while he goes through the hackneyed ritual confession is just too much. If these political husbands had a shred of decency and compassion, they'd let their wives deal with the anger, shame, and humiliation in private.

Dana Goldstein on TAPPED has a similar opinion:
When politicians are caught cheating, I wish they'd leave their wives in the green room while they address the press. You're in the dog house, and it should look that way. Those "stand by your man" visuals are tired and demeaning.
(via Ann on Feministing)

I hearby swear that if I'm ever immoral enough to participate in and stupid enough to get caught in some such scandal, I will not have the gall to ask my wife to stand there when circumstances require me to go on TV and blather about what a bad boy I've been.

On a separate but related note:

Just once, after one of these scandals broke, I'd like the politician involved to be able to say: "Yeah, I fucked that multi-thousand dollar prostitute, and she was worth every penny. It's a matter of public record that I favor the legalization and regulation of the sex industry, so you can take your calls for resignation and shove them up your tight, voyeuristic, puritanical asses. Yes, my wife might kick my ass or even divorce me, but that's none of your damn business."

But of course no politician can say that, because they don't have the courage to attempt to reform the way sex for money happens in our culture. [OK, I should amend that because there probably are a few politicians who do at least give the issue some thought. But it's still outside the mainstream political discourse.]


Anonymous Miguel said...

I believe Governor Spitzer prosecuted this type of business as AG, so he can't do the "there's nothing wrong with it" schtick, sadly.

I have a hard time envisioning a husband standing by a female politician if she was having a press conference to discuss how she's broken the law and her family commitments by paying for sex with strange men.

8:42 AM, March 12, 2008  
OpenID jdm314 said...

You know, that exact shot is getting a lot of dissemination. My opinion of the man aside (I'm pretty sure I would feel this way even if he were a republican), it really bothers me when the press deliberately propagate a shot of someone making a funny face, or otherwise not looking their best. I mean, I know this is the New York Post, but it's hardly the only alleged news outlet I've seen to use the picture. "Gotcha" indeed!

10:33 PM, March 13, 2008  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Yes, the press can make you look really bad if they want to just by picking an awful picture. That is a sinister power. I'm not sure how one should deal with this problem. Every photo decision is fraught with possibilities for expressing bias. As a blogger, I feel little need to bow to the altar of "journalistic objectivity": if I want someone to look silly, I will make them look silly. But I suppose papers with pretensions to respectability should tread carefully in this area.

8:01 AM, March 14, 2008  
OpenID jdm314 said...

I completely agree. I tried to say that in my last comment but couldn't get the phrasing right and just deleted it ;)

9:17 AM, March 14, 2008  
OpenID r0ckc4ndy said...

Politicians who pay for sex aren't interesting in making the sex industry legal because it would interfere with some of the reasons they currently pay for sex; The secrecy, the feeling that they are powerful enough to get away with anything...Since paying for sex is rarely about 'sex' legalization just doesn't fit in.

7:50 PM, March 14, 2008  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

I agree r0ckc4ndy, that for those who enjoy the thrill of getting away with something illegal, legalizing prostitution won't keep them out of trouble. They'll find some other illegal way to get their kicks. But I think there are probably some folks for whom the "getting away with it" aspect is not the primary motivation. For such folks, some form of legalization might save them from legal scandal.

But the reasons I favor legalization or some other different strategy dealing with prostitution is not so that the number of political scandals will be reduced. That would just be a side effect (or a potential side effect: as you said, if the illegality of it is the primary motivation is to break the law, they'll find other ways to do it).

The reason I favor rethinking our "throw those whores in jail" strategy is so that prostitutes will be less stigmatized and persecuted by the law. This stigmatization and persecution leaves them more vulnerable to all manner of abuse and exploitation. (Although there's some data from the Netherlands that suggests some forms of legalization lead to a big expansion of the sex industry, which can lead to more trafficking/exploitation. So this must be done carefully with an eye on the consequences.)

I also think some form of legalization would be an important step in reforming societies ideas about sexuality in general. Criminalizing prostitution and focusing enforcement on prostitution reinforces the "sex is evil and dirty and wrong" meme and particularly the "women who are sexual are evil and ought to be punished meme".

Certainly sex is risky, and I don't think society or our laws should favor irresponsible and unsafe promiscuity, or family and trust destroying infidelity. But taking a fundamentally adversarial and unrealistic attitude towards a basic human drive just propagates all the negative aspects of sexuality. And I think our current way of dealing with prostitution is part of that adversarial stance.

8:22 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Rachel said...

I'm familiar with the arguments for legalizing prostitution, and I understand the point(but don't completely agree).
However, I was responding to your hope that a politician who is married and paying an astronomical amount for 'call girls' would want to legalize prostitution. I firmly believe that they are not doing it for the sex. Seriously, people with 'power' have free sex available pretty much when they want it. It was the context of the hope, rather than the hope itself, which I was finding highly unlikely.

Also: I like when pictures make people look silly!

12:08 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger Miguel said...

Some New Yorkers I know hoped Spitzer would just say "so what" and continue as Governor. (I think that would be irresponsible since he would likely be highly inefective in that scenario.)

However, his successor, Governor Patterson is actively and seemingly successfully making the case that his own marital infidelity shouldn't disqualify him from the position - he's making an "it happened, who cares about my family business" argument.

I think people with that much power in general need to refrain from behavior which they can be blackmailed over, so legalizing prostitution probably wouldn't even matter in this case (in fact there is a very good chance that Spitzer will never be charged with any crime and that making his behavior public was the real punishment and possibly the whole reason for the investigation).

On a side note, I'm prety sure Governor Spitzer's specific interest was to pay cash for unprotected sex with a stranger. I have a very difficult time believing that the legal system could ever accept that behavior and I'm sure Rachel's right that in his role as Attorney General or Governor, Spitzer himself would never want to regulate that.

Also, I have to say that that cover is The Post at it's best.

7:51 PM, March 20, 2008  

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