The Universal Notebook: For love or money shouldn't matter

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Lately the media has been indulging in a feeding frenzy over the case of a Kennebunk Zumba instructor who allegedly provided a little extracurricular workout for some of her male clients.

The focus of all the prurient public interest has been “The List,” a roster of the woman’s alleged clients.

I say “allegedly” and “alleged” because no one has been convicted of anything, except in the court of public opinion.

Presumably, the woman and her male business partner kept a client list and videotaped some of her performances as insurance for when they inevitably got caught. Shame on them for that.

A couple of the alleged johns went to court in an attempt to keep the names on The List from being made public. Should the courts and the press have made the names public? Probably. Protecting the male clients while pillorying the female would be a double standard. But this whole sad side show could have been avoided in a more reasonable world.

Prostitution is a victimless crime, or it would be if it were legal. The greatest harm being done in the Kennebunk case is being done by the justice system.

All the heartbreak of fathers and husbands misbehaving didn’t need to happen. Yes, the men should have thought of that before they hooked up with a prostitute, but there is no compelling public interest in criminalizing her behavior or theirs. And what’s wrong with a single man paying for services rendered?

In a more just world, no one’s name would have been made public, because no one would have been indicted, arrested or charged. Adultery and infidelity may be sins, but they are not crimes. And having sex for money should not be either.

Back in the 1980s I spent an illuminating evening accompanying the Portland Police Department undercover prostitution unit as they went after johns. A female officer posed as a streetwalker while back-up units waited within eye sight. The fact that she was better looking than any real hooker in Portland should have been a tip-off, but it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

An unsuspecting schnook would pull over to the curb, the decoy would ask him what he wanted, a price was agreed upon, and then she’d direct the man to drive into a nearby alley where backups units would swoop down to ruin the guy’s evening, maybe his marriage, possibly even his life.

Let me spare the self-righteous Puritans out there the trouble of asking: no, I would not want anyone in my family engaging in prostitution, any more than I would want them using drugs. But that doesn’t mean I think prostitution should be a crime.

The Internet is awash in porn. There’s sex and violence like never before on television and in the media. The mainstream media sells sex in the form of endless stories about the Kennebunk Zumba prostitute, even though the alleged behavior only amounts to a bunch of misdemeanors. You’d think Bill Clinton had been caught with his pants down. Sex sells, but you can’t sell sex.

Yes, there are legitimate concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, supporting drug habits with prostitution, the exploitation of young women and men cruising for sex in residential neighborhoods. But in more civilized countries where prostitution is legal, it is regulated and sex workers are regularly screened for disease.

What I remember most about that night on Deering Street was how dirty and complicit I felt for taking part, for going along as the police arrested an elderly man for expressing a willingness to pay for a pleasure he was not going to get any other way.

Bottom line: It’s nobody’s business, especially not the government’s, what two consenting adults do in private, whether it’s for love or money. Shame on anyone who thinks it is.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.