I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now…
11 Secret Service agents + 10 military men + 21 (20?) prostitutes = international incident.
In case you’ve been away from your radio/TV/computer/phone for the last week, here are the details:
An advance team of Secret Service and military personnel were sent to Cartagena, Colombia in preparation for President Obama’s attendance of the Summit of the Americas. Aside from the President’s security, they appeared to be quite concerned with having a good time. Reports a Christian Science Monitor article (among 11 million others on Google search if you need to catch up):
There are 11 agents involved. Twenty or 21 women foreign nationals were brought to the hotel, but allegedly Marines were involved with the rest,’ Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine–who was briefed by the director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan–said in an email to Reuters.
The Washington Post adds that the twenty men made the rounds of nightclubs and strip clubs before indulging themselves with sex-workers — apparently legal in Cartagena. All of this likely would have gone off smoothly and all of us be none the wiser if it hadn’t been for at least one of the Secret Service agents haggling with one young woman over her price. Yep, pure class.
So far it appears that no sensitive security information was leaked–the agents involved were apparently not high-ranking enough to have access to the President’s schedule in advance — nor that the women had any affiliations with drug cartels or any other group that may have interest in infiltrating the Secret Service.
Nothing was compromised. Nothing was illegal. So what’s the problem?
Obviously, the Secret Service and the United States Military aren’t pleased about having their name dragged through the mud. My biggest hesitation with this whole mess, however, is that it seems to be written off as normal male behavior. Take this excerpt from a Talk of The Nation interview with former Secret Service agent Jeffrey Robinson:
“When you get 11 guys together with a lot of testosterone, things happen,” he told host Neal Conan. “It happens in the Secret Service, it happens with the New York Yankees, it happens in fraternities. I suspect it would happen in the House of Representatives…I think it was simply boys being boys, and I’m afraid boys will be boys. I know, because I was one. I still am, I guess.”
Just boys being boys? Should we be OK with that?
I’m not sure we should be, given Robinson’s suggestion that this isn’t the first time men affiliated with the United States government have collectively engaged in this type of behavior (and we’ve all seen the news reports, TV dramas, and tabloid headlines to support his assertion). Obviously there is the argument that women have the right to do with their bodies as they please. If they want to sell their sexual services to make ends meet, it’s their business and no one else’s.
Trafficking a factor too
This basic concept may be true, but the issue of prostitution in general seems far too complicated to be dealt with in a vacuum. For one thing, not all prostitutes enter their profession consensually. Human trafficking is a growing concern in Latin America; in addition, many sex-workers suffer from physical, financial and/or substance abuse at the hands of gangsters and pimps. The Christian Science Monitor reports that 500,000 Latin American and Caribbean women are sexually exploited every year. A pretty alarming statistic. I sure don’t want anyone, especially men representing my government, pumping those numbers up any higher.
Another problem is that the more this “boys-being-testosterone-laden-boys” attitude persists, the more normal it will become for women to be just another good or service available for the amusement of men. Over-reaction? Maybe. But take a look at an advertisement for alcohol. Leaf through an issue of Vogue or Marie Claire, or any other top fashion magazine. I guarantee that you’ll find several prime examples of women being draped and displayed in ways that make them no less of an object than the perfume or fruity alcoholic beverage featured in the next page’s ad. Majorska Vodka doesn’t even bother to include women’s heads in their ads. Just breasts, bottoms, and booze are all that’s needed for a good time. No brains necessary.
Ultimately, if we dismiss incidents like the recent Secret Service debacle, we run the risk of perpetuating a tendency to subjugate and objectify women that has only recently started to change for the better. Of course both men and women will continue to have sexual needs. Perhaps they just need to go about fulfilling them in a responsible, non-expoitative, 100% consensual way.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Paul Evans