Two stories catch my attention today. The first is a local story, about the Ferndale assistant track coach who went missing last week and was found, shot dead, on Tuesday. The other is the sad tale of the “D.C. Madam”, who was found hanged in a shed on her mother’s property this morning.
I’ll touch on Deborah Palfrey’s story first. At the link provided above, some commenters speculate that she was killed by the CIA or..well, someone, anyway, in an effort to keep her from spilling the names of clients, who we all know were well-connected political personalities and would, based on timing and the makeup of DC, be overwhelmingly Republican. I think it’s sad that the behavior of people in our federal government the last few years has devolved to the point that I can’t dismiss this as nonsense out of hand (although I do think it most likely that she offed herself). Where’s the VRWC when you need them? They’d be dead-set certain that she was killed and would spend years and hundreds of millions of dollars spreading the rumors!
But what’s really sad about this is that, in a way, our nation’s prudish attitudes towards sex and sexuality are what most likely led to her demise. Because we’re taught from an early age in this country that sex is a dirty thing, something to be hidden and be ashamed of (unless it’s between the Catholic-approved one-man-one-woman(tm)!), we’ve made laws accordingly. Prostitution is pushed into the shadows and viewed with a moue of disgust, and all parties are viewed as dirty, cheap, deserving of whatever they get. Meanwhile, the prostitution industry flies along with millions of customers, including our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and often religious leaders. And who gets arrested? Yes, the police sometimes put together stings to arrest johns, and humiliate them with billboards and cable-access shows advertising the names and faces of those shameful horny men willing to pay for sex. (Don’t get me started on this. How many men, with a wife who doesn’t want sex but understands their urges and supports their visits to a prostitute, have to deal with an unnecessary shame? Some folks are pervs. But some are just people who are looking for something they can’t get elsewhere, and shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it)
But the people who really pay are the women. Deborah Palfrey paid with her life for this enforced shame. Her employee Brandy Britton, too, took her life rather than face the “shame” of being put on trial and going to jail for the sin of receiving money in exchange for a service.
In a statement yesterday, Flohr said that Britton’s death “underscores an important question: Was the public benefited at all by the resources spent on her arrest and prosecution? As we ponder the apparent senselessness of her passing, we must openly wonder about . . . a criminal justice system that seeks to punish a person rather than heal them.”
The article that quote is from describes her “selling herself as a call girl” in an idealized neighborhood with moms in minivans and kids on scooters – because the children must always be brought into it, as though a sex worker is going to burst out of their home at any moment and start corrupting the children. The article does not paint a flattering picture of her. She was a mess. But let’s be clear – prostitution didn’t make her a mess, it was how she paid her bills BECAUSE she was a mess. Women have a right to be messed up and choose dangerous professions – just as much as male messes who choose to go work, say, on a fishing boat have a right to earn money and continue living.
Why were these women prosecuted? How many married (or unmarried!) couples engage in sexual negotiations every day – ‘Okay, I’ll do it, but I get to go out with my friends tomorrow night’? How is that different? It’s treating the body as a commodity, and if one chooses to do so, why is this society’s problem? By shaming, ridiculing and outlawing prostitution, we’ve forced it into the dark alleys and hourly motels where the women practicing their trade have no safety, no protection, and by their very surroundings are assured that they have no worth in society. Those who become what the media loves to call “High-priced call girls” are the lucky ones; at least there is a formal business structure to provide some form of protection.
Of course, in the best of circumstances, even legalized prostitution will always bear the risk and certainty of women being used by men who respect them not at all – but at least, like any clerk in any store, they would have the benefit of being out in the open and assured of protection, rather than persecution, by the police.
Perhaps you think I’m naive. Men suffer when they’re caught with prostitutes – look at Eliot Spitzer! Women are the losers here because they’re being used! It’s not their choice to be there! Maybe. Some women do find themselves forced into the sex trade – no doubt human trafficking is a huge problem. But would it exist if sex laws didn’t create a black market for at-risk women?
And what of David Vitter? Two women are dead now. Two women, an employee and the CEO of the escort company he admits having used, are now dead. Eliot Spitzer’s career does indeed lie in tatters (although not because he visited a prostitute; no, his career is dead because he was a hypocritical zealot who fell into a trap of his own making). Yet David Vitter continues to proudly represent Louisiana in the Senate. Did David Vitter pay to fuck Brandy Britton? Did he write a check or hand his credit card to an employee of Deborah Palfrey? We’ll probably never know on the first count, and we know the answer to the second question is absolutely yes. Yet he remains a Senator, while those two women are now dead and gone, and would be in jail if they weren’t. So who suffered here? And why?
I don’t care who Congressmen fuck, nor how, nor why they do so. As long as they stay off the children (Mark Foley, you reading this?), they have as much right to a sex life, however kinky, as anyone else. But without the bizarro obsession/repulsion our society has with sex and laws designed to be used against women who do what wives around the world do every day, we’d never have heard of either Brandy Britton or Deborah Palfrey. And these women would both be alive today.
Now, on to the Ferndale coach, Jeremy Scully. Since his body was found, the media has been working overtime to get information from the police about the case, and what did they find? That he’s a member on an “adult swinger site“. Naturally, they’ve found themselves unable to pursue any other angle, because OMG!! HE HAS TEH SEX!! SEX MAY HAVE CAUSE HIS DETH!1! Since police are looking at people he may have met on this website, it must be talked about in every story about him. What we have not heard from the media (until today) is what ELSE the police is looking into. What do you bet he was also a member of a site where people discuss fantasy football? Or politics? Would the media suppose the killer may come from those sites? What if he’s a member of Meetup.com? I mean, adults go there to meet online prior to meeting in realspace, right?
The prudery of our society leads to this salacious idea that someone trying to meet other people to have sex is somehow a sign of dangerous tendencies. Well, what are we doing when we go to a bar? When we introduce ourselves to an attractive stranger in the produce section? It’s no different.
Some people are interested in anal sex. Some like to be tied up and spanked. Or asphyxiated. Or dressed up in a diaper. This person, apparently, enjoyed sex outside the confines of his relationship (and with his girlfriend’s blessing). Maybe group sex, too, who knows? Some people enjoy that. Why should this fact be splashed across the news after his death? Why should it lead to immediate assumptions that whatever bad person killed him must be connected to this part of his life and not some other?
Because our society is afraid of our “private parts”. As a society, we’ve taught ourselves that sex is dirty instead of natural. Despite the fact that we all have sex, we all have kinks (whether large or small), we think the only other people having sex, especially kinky sex, must be dirty and bad. This fear poisons our thinking, and leads to the unnecessary distractions and posthumous shaming of a murdered man, and the unnecessary shaming of prostitutes, gays, masturbators…anyone who allows themselves to be sexual. This fear leads to talk of “lifestyles”, the suggestion that any non-hetero non-secret non-vanilla sex is the only thing that defines a person’s life, as though Jeremy Scully was helplessly fucking his way through the day and gay kids in Snoqualmie are storming the halls of their high school blowing football players.
Those people who like anal sex, group sex, being dressed up as cats or babies…their “lifestyle” involves going to work. Eating out with friends. Enjoying sports, or opera. Reading the paper. Cleaning the house. Skiing. Just the same lifestyle as the heterosexual-secret-vanilla sex loving populace. Sex is a private matter, and everyone has their own twist that is only relevant during the actual sex act. It ceases being relevant when your pants go back on.
So. The bottom line is, I’m sad for Jeremy Scully and his family. I’m sad that his life was lost. I’m sad that this was known to the police and the media on Sunday:
Documents from the Skagit County District Court show Jeremy Scully was on his
way to do roofing work at her and her husband’s home when he went missing last
It was at their home Sunday that sheriff’s investigators executed a search warrant looking for clues in the murder of Jeremy Scully. Inside they recovered several weapons, ammunition, computers and some marijuana.
The day Scully was supposed to help, the man called his wife from Squires Lake trailhead asking her to come pick him up. That’s about a mile and a half down the road from where Scully’s car was later found abandoned.
When interviewed by police, the wife admitted she was having an affair with Jeremy Scully. As for her husband, during an interview he alluded to officers that Scully was dead.
I’m sad that the media knew this on Sunday, and on Tuesday elected to run with a story intended to titillate viewers, and designed to embarrass and shame his friends and family. Because you know what this sounds like? It sounds like he found someone who shared his desires, and that person’s husband objected. Sex is natural. So is hurt, and broken hearts, and anger. And sometimes those things lead to murder. That’s not a dirty sex thing – it’s a dishonesty thing.
Our society’s fear of sex has, unnecessarily, led to the death of two women and the shaming of a dead man. And for that, I am sad today.