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Monday, March 17, 2008

Slut-Shaming’s In the P-I

posted by on March 17 at 11:59 AM

All weekend, the top post on the P-I’s Big Blog has been a post by Monica Guzman on Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the prostitute at the center of the Eliot Spitzer scandal. It’s… well, there’s just so much wrong with it, I’m going to re-post most of it here and let you read for yourself.

Let’s start wth the headline:

Ashley Alexandre Dupre: His fall is her rise

Um, Monica? Getting two million people to listen to your crappy song online is not a “rise” of the same magnitude as Spitzer’s “fall.” Realistically, she’ll write a tell-all, go on the talk shows, pose for Penthouse, and disappear from history. End of story.

But sure, whatever, go with it.

It’s been very amusing, watching the talking heads discuss Ashley Alexandra Dupre’s future. Barely restraining an eyeroll, they said with disgust the last couple nights what seems shameful to accept: The prostitute who brought New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer down is most likely on her way up.

Shameful? No, what’s shameful is that sentence. What’s shameful is talking about a prostitute as if she’s less than human, as if her profession is somehow inherently… well, take it away, Monica:

Just two days after the New York Times revealed her identity, several Facebook groups have sprouted from Dupre’s sudden infamy.

You might think most of them would point out the shame in her profession…


or call her out for her part, however unwitting, in destroying a popular politician. But you’d be wrong.

What I love about this particular framing device—and Guzman is hardly the only writer who’s latched onto it, by any means—is that it completely reverses the usual prostitute-as-faceless-victim narrative. (See, for example, any story ever about crimes committed against prostitutes—the women in those stories never have agency or the ability to take actions on their own; they’re “prostituted” victims of forces beyond their control.) “Destroy” a politician, however, and you’re suddenly the most powerful woman in the world. And the former governor of New York? Why, he has no agency whatsoever.

But oh, does it get better from here.

There are obvious parallels here with Amanda Knox. The instant online reaction to that Seattle student’s alleged involvement in a racy Italian murder last year was voracious, viral and cruel. She was a good girl gone bad. The thrill was in her downfall. Dupre, on the other hand, is a high-priced prostitute. She’s bad already. For the people following her drama, the thrill will be in her rise.

Read that again and you’ll see that—apart from being aggressively moronic—it almost literally makes no sense. Prostitute who gets entwined in a federal investigation=alleged murderer and accomplice to rape. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Apparently, Dupre knows it — and she’s OK with it. Knox took down her Facebook profile and made her MySpace page private in the days after her story broke. But yesterday — yes, yesterday — Dupre created her own Facebook fan page to promote her music (note: As of 1 p.m., the page could no longer be reached on Facebook). Today at 12:30 p.m., Dupre’s page had well over 600 fans.

That dirty slut! Doesn’t she know that what she’s supposed to do is issue an apologetic statement, then go hide under a rock somewhere until everybody forgets about how she single-handedly brought down the governor? For SHAME!

Maybe Dupre will break out of obscurity. Maybe she will get a recording contract, or a book deal, because she was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the right man — and the right audience. Maybe we’ll make her not just infamous, but famous. The real question is, what does that say about us?

Well, nothing very profound: People get famous for dumb reasons all the time. But thanks for playing.

RSS icon Comments


Classy. Nice work. You've never been wrong about something you've written and then kept championing your point, even when proven wrong, time and time again. Right?

But hey, as long as your slinging shit then you are doing your job as resident troll.

Stay classy.

Posted by Bicycle Jihad | March 17, 2008 12:06 PM

ECB's just upset cause she gets paid more.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 17, 2008 12:08 PM

Please go back to quoting Dinosaur Jr. lyrics. You, not surprisingly, overreach/overreact with this post.

Posted by JMascis | March 17, 2008 12:14 PM

Good post Erica; there really is a deep hypocrisy here when they condescend on Spitz's supposed crime of lust, and then rush to post pics of the hottie so that you, the reader, can Understand.

With your wang.

Posted by nbc | March 17, 2008 12:15 PM

Everyone please disregard #2.

But let's ask this: why is prostitution so stigmatized? Is it inherently bad to the degree that it's made out to be - always degrading, always exploitative of women, always promoting human trafficking, etc.? Would this be the case even if it were legal and regulated?

Posted by Greg | March 17, 2008 12:19 PM

Shorter Guzman: How dare Dupre not be ashamed!

Posted by Gabriel | March 17, 2008 12:30 PM


Look, you may not agree with it, but prostitution is illegal, and therefore carries a non-zero amount of shame with it. Also, reasonable people can disagree as to how much shame is associated with prostitution, it's a matter of morality, not a matter of intelligence. If you actually made a cogent argument, more people might agree with you.

Posted by F | March 17, 2008 12:30 PM

I don't get all the disgust with her using this to further her music career. Didn't "It's hard out here for a pimp" win an Academy freakin' Award? Why is it cool to celebrate pimps but not hos?

I got no problem with Ashley Dupre using her fifteen minutes to further the career she actually wanted, rather than the career she settled for. Good on her.

Posted by flamingbanjo | March 17, 2008 12:31 PM
Also, reasonable people can disagree as to how much shame is associated with prostitution

Some of them find about as much in committing murder and rape, apparently.

Posted by tsm | March 17, 2008 12:34 PM

@8: Because in America, we always celebrate the exploiters, never the exploited.

Posted by Greg | March 17, 2008 12:34 PM

This is why I like Erica.

Posted by Aislinn | March 17, 2008 12:39 PM

@7 I think people are expected to be ashamed of the harm caused by their crimes. Shame is a human emotion, and it's not something that happens automatically upon the act of proscription.

By the same logic you use, I could argue that until Loving v. Virginia, interracial couples should have felt shame. I could argue that until Garner v. Texas, Texas homosexuals should be shameful.

The shame associated with prostitution derives from cultural attitudes towards sex in general, and suppressive attitudes towards women's sexuality in particular. The law derives from the shame, and not the other way around.

Posted by nbc | March 17, 2008 12:40 PM

Women are not equal to men.

Posted by Mr. Poe | March 17, 2008 12:43 PM

And yes, that was a very, very, very bad post. (Guzman's, that is.)

Posted by tsm | March 17, 2008 12:44 PM

The only reason the scandal has gotten this much attention is that for once the woman involved is hot. A governor got a better piece of strange than our president did ten years ago. I see this as progress.

Posted by Jason Josephes | March 17, 2008 12:44 PM

I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I read the article, thought "yeah, she'll make a few bucks off of this, welcome to America" and moved on. How does this get twisted into something that anyone gives any more of a shit about than a story about Britney Spears or Heather Mills?

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 17, 2008 12:44 PM

Equating Heather Mills and Ashley Dupre -- say, by calculating how much an hour they both made -- would be truly shameful.

Posted by unPC | March 17, 2008 12:48 PM

Guess what--news flash: many people think prostitution is shameful. How dare they?!! How dare anyone be the least bit critical of others gleaning celebrity/profits from (alleged) criminal activity. And really, no one called this Ashley person less than human or the most powerful woman in the world...except hyperbolic you. Ask Dominic to pass the bong and take it down about a thousand...seriously.

Posted by Mittens Schrodinger | March 17, 2008 12:50 PM

@16, the fuss is that almost every single MSM story published about Dupre refers to her as "the temptress that brought down the lawman", or some goofy variant. Except, you know, Spitzer wasn't brought down by this woman's vagina. She didn't go to the feds and say, "Hey, guys, I'm getting filled by the governor of NY! Let's make a deal!" Spitzer brought HIMSELF down. By all accounts he's been boning escorts for about a decade, right? And he got snagged by the feds because the payment method he used was suspicious looking. For the media to paint this as a family man brought down by a temptress... well, it reeks of misogyny to me, and sadly, it's not surprising at all.

Posted by haunted leg | March 17, 2008 12:52 PM

unPC, if anyone worked out the math, I'll bet Anna Nicole Smith would win easily.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 17, 2008 12:53 PM

Well, 19, you're certainly right that Spitzer brought himself down. No argument there.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 17, 2008 12:58 PM

Seeing as Elliot Spitzer cost me, personally, several thousand of dollars, I would much rather applaud the slutiness of the woman who brought him down than condemn it. I hope Dupre can cash in on this somehow. 1 hour of sex: $1000. Exposing Spitzer as a hypocritical perv: priceless. You go girl...

Posted by Buddy | March 17, 2008 12:59 PM

Seeing as Elliot Spitzer cost me, personally, several thousand of dollars, I would much rather applaud the slutiness of the woman who brought him down than condemn it. I hope Dupre can cash in on this somehow. 1 hour of sex: $1000. Exposing Spitzer as a hypocritical perv: priceless. You go girl...

Posted by Buddy | March 17, 2008 1:01 PM

@23: Yeah, God forbid anyone go after Wall Street corruption; it might put a dent in my stock price.

Posted by Greg | March 17, 2008 1:15 PM

I may not like ECBs support of Hils, but this was dead on.

Posted by AMB | March 17, 2008 1:32 PM

Buddy: Some perspective: The corrupt Wall Street goons Spitzer was going after just Friday walked off with a quarter trillion dollars in federal funds in the form of a bailout for their usurious banking practices. This cost you much more (by several orders of magnitude) than Spitzer's hooker bills. In fact, if he paid with his own money, that cost you nothing. If you aren't a resident of New York State, it wasn't your tax money anyway.

According to Greg Palast, his public shaming was a political hit, meant to shut him up and make an example of him. I personally care far less who he's fucking than who's fucking me, and in this case it's the financial firms he was going after. And they ain't using lube and there won't be no reach-around.

Posted by flamingbanjo | March 17, 2008 1:33 PM

It's one thing to go after Wall Street corruption by fixing misaligned incentives or demanding greater transparency. It's quite another to grand stand by ruthlessly attacking individual corporations rather than fixing the systems in which they operate. Doing the latter needlessly destroys shareholder value and ensures that thousands of innocent employees, the vast majority of whom merely have the misfortune of working for an unrelated department or business line of a large company that has incurred Spitzer's wrath, will lose their jobs. But at least it makes you seem like the Sheriff of Wallstreet to the laypeople, who will flock to the polls to elect an apparent no nonsense moralistic politician in corrupt times such as these. Comeuppance!

Posted by Buddy | March 17, 2008 1:38 PM

Poor Monica. She thinks the world of the Slog. She's going to be crushed.

Posted by sirlearnsalot | March 17, 2008 1:58 PM

all of the focus on ashley has to do with the public and the media and this culture we live in where everything has to be exposed and exploited.

the real story as always is being buried in the tidal wave of moral authority and judgement - ashley dupre may be a whore, but elliot spitzer is a married man and was a public servant and the only person responsible for bring down elliot spitzer is the man himself. his dumbass choices and his hubris brought him down.

it'd be so refreshing if women in the media would stop bashing his wife and the prostitute and each other and maybe write something provocative about the culture of hypocrisy and thinking they're above the law of the public servants we have running our government. elliot spitzer's dumbass decision to repeatedly pay lots of money for sex is really the least of our worries, i expect.

Posted by xina | March 17, 2008 2:00 PM

@26 wins. And we all lose. I still say she sings better and is about as messed up as most of the Disney Kid Farm alumnae.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 17, 2008 2:25 PM

The general lunatic response to the timeless situation of every woman who has ever been paid for sex and every man who has ever paid her is one of the kookiest narratives going. Erica Jong injected some badly-needed sanity into all this yesterday on CNN, pointing out Ms. Dupree's sadness and humanity and the normality of Spitzer's (minus the out-of-bed hypocrisy) more-or-less standard male tendencies.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | March 17, 2008 3:06 PM

Erica you are my new hero.

Posted by Some guy in LA | March 17, 2008 4:27 PM

this sort of reads like post-feminists are up, while old school feminist theory is down... kinda what the feminists had in mind, what with their uppity notions of personal agency and all.

and in the meanwhile, the MSM is a tool of the patriarchy, same as it ever was.

Posted by point x point synopsis | March 17, 2008 4:59 PM

Thanks for this. Good post!

Posted by Erin J. | March 17, 2008 5:52 PM

Excellent post.

Posted by Irena | March 17, 2008 6:05 PM

Erica, I agree with all your points, but your tone doesn't seem like it'll help anyone who didn't already agree be receptive.

Posted by poltroon | March 17, 2008 6:44 PM

amidst all of your gawd awful defense of the h. clinton, this redeems. you are right to decry this kind of "curse-the-stinking-twat-of evil that is woman" that sometimes passes for morality. it's truly backwards, the kind of thing we criticize islam for, and when an american media figure engages in it, he should be righteously called onto the carpet for it. good for you, erica.

Posted by ellarosa | March 17, 2008 8:49 PM

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