Most American news outlets worked themselves into a froth this weekend over the allegations that 11 secret service agents were relieved of duty because they (or at least some of them, but not all) hired sex workers while in Colombia. The situation’s elements do indeed seem pretty juicy, particularly since they allow journalists to combine the words “Obama” and “prostitutes” in the same sentence.
It’s cute how predictably civilians salivate over any mention of sex for sale. (Keep it classy, Business Insider!) But I’ve yet to speak with anyone who actually cares about this so-called scandal. Ultimately, it seems like a transparent non-story intended to distract people from our worthless Congress, with its generous 9 percent approval rating, our national addiction to drone strikes, and the dearth of viral videos since KONY 2012 spun out in a masturbatory blaze of glory.
However, since Tits and Sass is dedicated to dissecting all things sex work, we’ll take a stab at breaking down the legitimate and not-so-legitimate angles of this news item, because it looks like it’s going to be shoved in our faces for at least a few more days. (If not weeks, thanks to Representative Darrell Issa, that reprehensible troll of legend.) And to be clear, no one has yet been fired, only put on administrative leave. So other government-employed gents, please don’t be scared off of visiting your regular sensual masseuse/dominatrix/call girl or boy!
Prostitution is legal in Colombia. Word on the street (aka Wikipedia) is that prostitution is legal in certain parts of Colombia, but only within designated “tolerance zones.” It’s not been publicly established yet whether or not the agents were within such a zone, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter if they were. Because—speaking of tolerance—the Secret Service has “zero” for personal misconduct, and letting locals catch you drinking excessively with a prostitute certainly violates that policy, regardless of how legal the actions themselves might be. Verdict: Irrelevant.
Most of the agents were married. Oh, for crying out loud. This matters to the extent any stranger’s handling of his or her intimate relationship matters to you or me as random citizens: it’s absolutely none of our business, even if the stranger in question is a government employee. (Which, by the way, is not the same as being an elected official who ran on a platform of integrity that encompassed his or her private conduct.) If these were married insurance salesmen taking a trip on their own dime, this wouldn’t be in the news. Verdict: Irrelevant.
Some of the men are military, not (only) Secret Service. Look, I get it. We’re the United States. It’s integral to our nation’s character that we act shocked and outraged about completely mundane, routine shit that goes on all the time. There’s far too much history regarding the military’s involvement with, facilitation of, and simultaneous demonization of sex work to go into it here. (Entire books exist on the subject.) Suffice it to say that if every guy who’d ever patronized a sex worker were kicked out of the service, we’d have one of the measliest militaries on the planet. But the Internet tells me that the military leaves itself the option of discharging members who bring shame upon their uniformed family by getting caught with a prostitute. And because news outlets keep gobbling up details on this story, it’s a pretty high profile fuck-up. Soooo… Verdict: Relevant.
It compromised our national security. Officials maintain no security breach occurred and the men involved were not directly responsible for President Obama’s protection. Be that as it may, for a soon-to-be-on-duty Secret Serviceman to allow a stranger near his person and then around the personal effects kept in his hotel room, is wildly irresponsible. It also opens him to being blackmailed, a concern of the government’s with regard to all of its employees, but particularly with regards to those who have higher level security clearances. (Being married makes one more vulnerable to blackmail, but hiring a prostitute is taboo for single guys, too.) The breach didn’t occur but these guys still exercised abysmal judgment. Verdict: The primary relevancy.
The Colombian sex workers were third-world sex slaves; therefore, the agents should be publicly named, shamed, and fired to serve as an example to sex tourists everywhere. Leave it to a commenter on Jezebel to divine that the truth of this story is that the men in question were vile brutes who conscripted these women into a life of satisfying sex tourists. Almost no details have been released about the events of that night, so I suppose it’s not surprising that hysterics would capitalize on that vacuum to start hammering the sex trafficking drum.
Here’s the (reported) deal: hotel staff confronted the agent about having a woman in his room while they were enforcing the weird rule about hotel guests’ guests not staying past 7 am. The agent at first refused to pay the sex worker, who demanded money from him in front of the staff as the condition of her leaving. Then he gave in. This could indicate a variety of things. Maybe the agent was trying to pass her off as a random hookup because he didn’t want to incriminate himself in front of hotel employees. Or maybe he fully intended to rip her off from the get go, in which case, scorch his balls with a cattle brand. Maybe the agent was drunk, or simply stupid, and truly thought she was into him and his hot body and his sexy job, and didn’t realize she was working. Or maybe he’d already paid her, and when the staff showed up she saw an opportunity to get a tip. Anything’s possible—we don’t know! But so far it seems clear that the woman a) wasn’t abused by the client or police, b) got paid, and c) wasn’t arrested. Jezebel commenters, take note: that counts as a pretty fucking successful trick for most of us. Verdict: Irrelevant, profoundly so.