The Politics of Prostitution

        Prostitution is a crime for women but a “personal matter” for men.  That’s the lesson of the latest Washington sex scandal involving ultra conservative Louisiana Senator David Vitter and alleged D.C. madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey.  Palfrey, charged with running a prostitution ring, faces federal racketeering charges.  Vitter, exposed as one of Palfrey’s clients, enjoys the support of his right wing Republican Senate colleagues, who have accepted his apology for committing a “serious sin,” which they characterize as personal.  We should forgive, not condemn, Vitter’s conduct, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn suggests: “Have you ever done anything wrong?” he asked reporters for The Hill.  “So have I.”  Vitter’s conduct is simply a "personal issue,” law and order presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani agrees.  (Vitter is southern regional chair of Giuliani’s campaign.)
        Feminists have long protested the gross inequities of prosecuting women for selling sex while forgiving or ignoring men for buying it.  (Ruth Marcus points out the problem with personalizing Vitter's conduct in the Washington Post.) Personally, (unlike Marcus,) I favor legalizing or de-criminalizing prostitution, but neither Vitter nor any of his conservative supporters share my libertarian views.  As far as I know, none of them have advocated treating prostitution as a private matter, or refraining from prosecuting women for their sexual “sins.”  Indeed, Vitter is a particularly self-righteous proponent of right wing “family values” -- except when he’s caught violating them.  Apologizing for his conduct, Vitter said, "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling.  Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them.”  
        Out of respect for equal justice, prosecutors and journalists should ignore Vitter’s plea. If Deborah Jeane Palfrey committed a crime, then so did he. 

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