Few nations have had a more complex relationship with prostitution than the USA. Desire isn’t the issue. Prostitution enjoys plenty of demand in the United States, just as it does almost everywhere else. America’s puritan past, however, has helped to prevent prostitution from attaining much legal standing in the States, and a culture of intense shaming has also come to surround the act.
Recent events in Nassau County, NY have highlighted these realities:
The district attorney in upscale Nassau County, New York, has unleashed civil strife by posting the names and pictures of 104 men arrested in a prostitution sting over the last six weeks.
‘Operation Flush the Johns’ on Long Island nabbed young men and old men, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, college professors and students.
All of them set up dates to meet with prostitutes at local a hotel using the classified ads site backpage.com.
District Attorney Kathleen Rice said police started a sting operation in April after receiving numerous complaints about prostitution at hotels across the county.
The ringleader is this woman, Kathleen Rice, a 48 year old district attorney with no significant other and no children. I know — shocker.
This story reveals important realities that all men should be aware of when it comes to this topic. Firstly, it must be understood (and is made clear by this story) that America has no sympathy for “the John”. America’s puritan roots are still very powerful and they have now grown to merge with new feminist ideas portraying prostitution as a tool of oppression and/or the patriarchy. That is not a good mix.
Yes, the woman leading this public shaming charge is of precisely the breed we would expect: she’s intensely career focused, bullish, childless and on the wrong side of 40. She’s basically a real-life version of the cat-lady caricature that many of us refer to.
Her efforts, however, are only possible because she lives in a culture where prostitution is put in a particularly negative light.
Think about what is being done here: dozens of men who have merely been charged with a crime (and are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty) have been paraded out in public by the government in a bid to further shame them. The state is essentially putting on a show just to make an example of them.
Many criminals have their pictures released and put on the evening news or wherever, but how many have the state go out of their way to make a show and spectacle out of their predicament? Think of how many gang members and white collar criminals are caught having stolen, laundered, embezzled millions, or ended lives. How many men are arrested for these crimes as well as robbery, assault, or abuse?
The answer is plenty, many of them are caught in stings. But how many of them do you see paraded around in spectacles like this with catchy names like “Operation Flush The John”?
The answer is next to nil. So, why is it that these kinds of operations are receiving so much of the state’s money and attention in a land where violent crime is rampant and formerly unpardonable sins like abortion and gay marriage are finding increasingly wide acceptance?
1. Puritanism: America is a land founded by uptight religious zealots and largely shaped by their minds, their culture and their will. There are not a lot of western nations in which prostitution remains explicitly illegal. America remains one of the more prudish western societies in many ways because of its much closer ties to religious fundamentalism. Puritans had a very hard time coming to terms with their sexuality and/or finding much joy in it, and those who inhabit the society they built still harbor some of those traits.
2. The Feminine Imperative: Consciously or subconsciously, many women recognize the damage that legalized prostitution can do to the feminine imperative. Women are already concerned about “Where All The Good Men Have Gone” and the growing propensity for dudes to opt out of marriage in their 30’s/40’s when many women are hoping to opt in. It is likely that, were prostitution legal, a substantial number of those bachelors would avail themselves of said services and perhaps further close themselves off to the idea of a serious relationship. Dragging men out of bachelorhood could, in the aggregate, become more challenging with safe, regulated and legalized prostitution in the picture.
The man today who is not particularly relationship oriented but could be swayed by a persistent woman would be even harder to catch. Powerful men of the “Mr. Big” variety (the kind that most women spend their days dreaming of settling with) would be in a particularly strong position, one that would not be too appealing to a) the women they may already be dating/married to (stepping out for a quick paid fling would become less of a risk) and b) the women that hope to lock them down (these men will have even fewer reasons to find spaces in their usually full schedules for a relationship with the more efficient paid option available).
In short, prostitution would severely undercut the leverage that American women have over men in their relationships. Women are intelligent—they know this, and act accordingly. Their disproportionate political weight ensures that the state will give them what they want.
Any change in prostitution’s status in the USA would require a restriction of the feminine imperative and/or a softening of American Puritanism. Until that day comes (and it is a long way off), expect the Kathleen Rice’s of the world and their shaming to rule the day.
Read Next: Is Prostitution Good For Men?