year a lot of high-profile businessmen in Kennebunk, Maine, got their knickers in a twist. Seems
that police found their names and phone numbers in a fitness instructor's
little black book.
We're not talking pushup, folks, we're talking about paying for sex.
Not with Heidi, the Hollywood Madam, not with Deborah, the DC
Madam. With a 29-year-old woman who allegedly swapped money for sex in her
dance studio in Kennebunk.
Kennebunk, population 5,000, isn't exactly a hotbed of cultural activity. Maine
winters are tough. It snows a lot, so there's not much to do but shovel. Or
work off your frustrations at a fitness center.
In the summer, the population
of the sleepy little town swells.
It's on the Maine
coast so it attracts plenty of summer tourists. It's only a stone's throw from Kennebunkport, an even swankier tourist haven.
Former President George
H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara live there.
To Name, or Not to Name
That's the question, folks. As you may have noticed, I have not named the fitness instructor, nor have I posted her picture. I'm for equality. If you post photos of the woman who's paid for sex, why not post pictures of the men who paid her? And name them. According to one source, the client list in her little black book includes lawyers, accountants, a local TV celebrity and the former mayor of another city in Maine.
The Zumba Studio
In September 2011, Kennebunk police got a tip about illicit activity at a Zumba studio. After an investigation, police executed search warrants in February 2012. Police say the fitness instructor allegedly had sex with dozens of men, and even videotaped some of the encounters. Police also arrested her business partner, a 57-year-old insurance salesman and former private investigator.
When the case went public, some johns panicked and hired lawyers. Soliciting a prostitute is a misdemeanor, but those charged must appear in court. And there's the, uh, rub. Kennebunk Police routinely name those charged with crimes, and the nature of the crimes, on their website.
The Little Black Book
public pressure not to, the York County Star signaled its intention to
publish the names. How humiliating! I don't know if the men regretting paying for sex, but they sure were sorry they got caught. Lawyers for some of them tried to prevent their names
from becoming public.
Folks in Kennebunk were divided on the issue. A local radio show host said half his listeners thought the men's names should be made public. The other half thought they shouldn't, due to the pain this would case their spouses and children.
September 2013, the fitness instructor and her business partner pleaded not
guilty to prostitution-related charges: 106 counts against the woman, 59 counts
against her partner.
In October 2013, a Maine judge ruled against impounding the names of the woman's alleged customers, and Kennebunk police began releasing the names in batches of 21.
The case for legalized prostitution
is the only state in the US where prostitution is legal. In a rural area
outside Las Vegas, 500 women work as legal sex workers in 30 brothels.
In a recent survey, 84 percent of them reported they felt safe, because police, employers and co-workers were there to protect them. They work there for a variety of reasons. Some want to supplement income from low-paid service jobs or erotic dancing jobs. Others want to escape the danger of illegal sex work. One wanted to escape an abusive pimp.
Martha Nussbaum, distinguished professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, believes the most urgent issue is poor job opportunities for women. Except for the independently wealthy and the unemployed, all workers use their bodies to make money, one way or another. Stigmatization of prostitutes is often based on class prejudice or stereotypes of race or gender. Nussbaum believes that as long as it does not involve coercion or the use of children, prostitution should be legal. Criminalizing prostitution does not eradicate it, it just drives it underground.
The arguments against legalization
The human body is not a commodity, and prostitutes are just sex machines for men. Even the word "prostitute" is a stigma, and brings dishonor to the sex-worker's family. Legalization may increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and other criminal acts, like drug dealing and gun running. Most religions consider prostitution immoral. Some say legalization would encourage pre-marital, and in some cases, extra-marital sex practices.
Sex trafficking is a huge concern.
Many women and children are brought from poor regions to economically stronger areas against their will to serve as prostitutes.
1999, Sweden enacted laws that make it legal to sell sex, but illegal to buy
it. Only johns and traffickers are prosecuted. Sweden treats prostitution
as a social evil, but views prostitutes as victims of sexual exploitation who
should not be victimized again and made into criminals. Men who use women are
"sexual predators" and should be treated as such.
According to the
Women's Justice Center, Sweden's laws are a success.
In the capital city of Stockholm, the number of women selling sex on the street has dropped by 66 percent, the number of johns by 80 percent.
Two sociologists recently studied data collected by the Chicago Police Department. Women street workers made less than $20,000 per year. The risks were serious, including "a surprisingly high prevalence of police officers demanding sex from prostitutes in return for avoiding arrest." Something they wouldn't have to worry about if prostitution were legal.
New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer came down hard on "sophisticated prostitution rings" but, in a well-publicized scandal in 2008, he had no trouble using one.
What happened to Heidi and Deborah
and the Zumba fitness instructor?
Heidi, the Hollywood Madam,
served 20 months in jail for tax evasion in 1993, but now, twenty years later, she's back in the sex
business. In 2013, she bought Dennis Hof's Love Ranch, in Crystal, Nevada.
DC Madam was far less fortunate, perhaps because her client list included powerful male politicians. In April 2008, Deborah was found guilty of
federal racketeering charges in connection with her prostitution business.
weeks later, she was found dead, an apparent suicide by hanging. One of her
former clients is doing okay though. In 2007, Senator David Vitter, a
"family values" Republican from Louisiana, apologized after his name
surfaced on the DC Madam list, calling it "a very serious sin."
Vitter still serves in the US Senate.
May 2013, the Kennebunk fitness instructor was sentenced to 10 months in
jail and ordered to pay $57,000 in restitution and fines. Her male business
partner played nice with authorities and only served 20 days in jail.
I'll let you decide if that was fair or not.
So there you have it, folks. Please leave a comment. I'm dying to know. Should prostitution be legalized or not? And why do you think so? NOPD homicide detective Frank Renzi signing off.
Sources: Kennebunk prostitute