Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yes, the DC Madam Trial IS Sexist

The DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey in 2007By now, probably everyone has heard about the DC madam trial currently underway in DC. When I first heard about it, it was on the morning news as my SO and I were getting ready for work and listening to traffic and weather reports. I didn't hear the segment about it, as I was blow drying my hair, but my boyfriend said he thought it was ridiculous that some people were calling the trial sexist for putting women on the stand who had worked as prostitutes. And originally I agreed. They broke the law and are now in court. That's what happens when you break the law, you usually suffer some consequences.

However, in further articles that I've seen about it, I learned that only the women who had worked as prostitutes were being made to testify, and grilled with unecessary and humiliating questions and having their names made publicwhile the male politicians who paid the women for sex were getting a free pass - only one has been subpoenaed to appear in court, their names are not being revealed (Vitter admitted he was a client of Palfrey's), and they aren't being charged with anything so far. THAT is the sexist part. In order to be fair, the rules and laws have to be applied and enforced equally for everyone - nobody gets a free pass, no matter what. The defense subpoenaed Louisiana Senator David Vitter to testify, and Vitter, through his lawyer, has said that he will not testify and that his testimony would be "totally inappropriate". Kind of like asking a woman how she did sex work while she had her period?

According to the Post article:
Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and other powerful men appear likely to get a pass. Less lucky: the 15 terrified women being hauled by prosecutors into court to recount in graphic detail their past work as prostitutes -- and more than 100 other former prostitutes whose names prosecutors are trying to make public.

Wednesday, prosecutors forced a 63-year-old retired PhD - her name, like those of other witnesses, now a matter of public record - to testify about inducing orgasms in her client; the government's lawyers had similar questions for a mother of three who worked briefly for the escort service nearly 15 years ago.

Prosecutor Catherine Connelly asked the following questions of the retired 63 year old PhD:
"Did you specifically discuss what happened when you went in the shower?" the prosecutor wanted to know.

The witness explained, "I was having sex."

"What would happen if you were menstruating?" Connelly asked.

Yes, clearly that's crucial to a trial about whether Palfrey ran a legal escort service or a prostitution ring. And there isn't even the excuse that the prosecution is concerned that this was a major money laundering operation - estimates put the businesses' earnings at $2 million over 13 years. That's nothing compared to the call girl ring that former New York governor David Spitzer patronized. It certainly doesn't explain why the male politicians who also broke the law are being protected, while the women are being publicly shamed and humiliated. Ironically, Vitter is a sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act of 2007. I'd like to ask him how paying women for sex protects his marriage?

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