You don’t know this world. You’re making judgments [based] on what you see on television. - Suzy Favor Hamilton
Sometimes my highly-organized format makes it difficult to write about breaking news stories; if the story is too involved for a short item in “That Was the Week That Was”, but the schedule is too tight to bump anything for a full-fledged column, I either have to postpone my coverage (possibly past the limit of freshness) or just ignore it. This was the case with the outing of Suzy Hamilton; appearing as it did on Yule Eve, there was simply no way to work it in before King Day and what I wanted to say wouldn’t fit into a TW3 blurb. This turned out to be a good thing, however; my thoughts about Hamilton, her choices and the judgmentalism and evil-mindedness of the public reaction would barely fill a paragraph, but my opinions of the yellow press coverage are a different matter. And because I’m going to say these things without raising my voice, perhaps they’ll get more attention now that the media noise has died down.
Regular readers of this blog understand that there is nothing “shocking”, weird or even terribly unusual about an educated, accomplished woman doing sex work; the extremely high income and self-esteem boost alone (Hamilton is known to have a history of depression) are more than enough reason, no matter what filthy-minded reporters and pundits have claimed. Furthermore, how she conducts her private life is no more anyone else’s business than how gay celebrities conduct theirs, and if anyone disagrees I suggest he insert his opinions (and the computer on which he types them) into the least comfortable orifice available. While I might question Hamilton’s wisdom in outing herself to some clients, and her morality in continuing to escort (supposedly) against the wishes of her husband, I do that as her sister harlot who knows what our world is actually like, and not as some holier-than-thou, hypocritical ignoramus who has appointed herself moral arbiter over another’s life. Had she asked me for advice I would have told her exactly what I just wrote, but out of concern for the damage her poor choices might inflict upon her, not for some imagined injury to “society” or “decency”.
Have you actually read any of the rubbish these pompous busybodies wrote about a woman who never did them any harm? The pearl-clutching in the original Smoking Gun article is practically audible; it reads like something written by a 70-year-old spinster Victorian schoolmarm rather than by an early-21st century journalist who evidently considers herself urbane:
…she inexplicably shared her true identity with several male clients, believing that her secret was somehow safe with strangers who paid for her company by leaving envelopes stuffed with cash…Hamilton expressed concern that her story would be “sensationalized” by a reporter. It is hard, though, to imagine how that could occur. The actual events of the ex-Olympian’s past year already seem like the fever dreams of a Lifetime producer who decided to adapt Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour for basic cable…it was…a credulous notion that client and escort were morally bound by some implicit pledge of omerta. Why would her secret be safe with guys about whom she knew nothing (except that many were paying for sex while their spouse was back home)? These johns slept with an attractive former Olympian, an All-American girl with a Wikipedia page and a Nike commercial on YouTube. How could they not boast about their costly Las Vegas escapades?…
The author also brandishes the word “illegal” as though it actually carried moral weight, which I submit makes her far more naïve than Hamilton could ever be. The Daily Beast was even more astonishingly ignorant, attempting to harass Las Vegas escort services by phone for information on competitor Haley Heston (the agency Hamilton worked for) and publishing Melissa Farley’s paranoid drivel as though it constituted something other than the diseased masturbatory fantasies of a dried-up, deeply frustrated misandrist:
Melissa Farley…says that…whoever is behind Haley Heston is most likely a pimp or group of pimps. “They are receiving money from prostitution and they have a great deal of control – both physical and mental – over the women that are in their employ”…
Obviously, Hamilton must have been suffering from “false consciousness” when she said, “I take full responsibility for my mistakes. I’m not the victim and I’m not going that route.”
The only exception to this parade of condemnation came from, interestingly enough, Fox News. Though their consultant, Dr. Keith Ablow, felt it necessary to include truly moronic statements such as “[prostitution] is extremely dangerous psychologically and medically,” to make some highly questionable associations and to add two rather creepy caveats to his conclusion, these do not ring true with the rest of his article and I suspect they were either demanded by editors or voluntarily inserted by Ablow to soften the blow of an article in which he subtly denies three prohibitionist myths and calls for legalization:
…there are likely women whose interest in being hired for sex is so strong that, for all intents and purposes, it is their “sexual orientation”…these women are not different…from other women (and men) who want to be hurt during sex…A woman wanting to sell herself because she thinks it is exciting is not much more dramatic than a man who wants to dress as a ballerina in order to feel excited…there are [also]…women (and men) in the business of prostitution for whom it carries no stigma and is lucrative. If we assume that Ms. Hamilton had ten clients a week…then she could have been making $300,000 a year in cash…If she had 20 clients a week (and some of the prostitutes I have treated as a psychiatrist have had 20 clients a week), then she would have made $600,000 a year – in cash…high-priced prostitution is…available in every city. Millions of American men with families and professions are customers. And not every prostitute is devastated psychologically by the experience. As one lawyer and prostitute put it to me…“I suppose that…[it’s] more complicated to have a boyfriend…but I don’t know if it’s more complicated than getting back home from working as a police officer or pediatric neurosurgeon or gynecologist. Lots of professions are incredibly complicated, emotionally”…I take no moral position on the matter…it is time to legalize prostitution, put in place safeguards to help protect those who participate in it, and, of course, tax it.
In case you’re counting, he denies the myths that sex work is inherently devastating, that hookers see dozens of clients per day and that only a small fraction of the male population are clients. And though he does seem to buy into the “damaged goods” myth and clearly has a skewed perception of the fraction of whores motivated by psychological drives rather than pragmatic concerns, it’s heartening that he nonetheless sees criminalization as an unproductive evil; furthermore, it’s very telling that a so-called “conservative” news source is actually promoting a more enlightened view of the subject than two other sources which do not share that political bent.