A great deal has already been written about the death, perhaps suicide, of Deborah Jane Palfrey, aka the DC Madam. Ms. Palfrey was convicted two weeks ago of running a prostitution ring that met the needs and desires of honchos in Washington. A couple of the honchos involved lost their jobs as a result of buying services from Ms Palfrey’s staff, but none lost their lives, or even livelihoods. One of them was Randy Tobias; he once controlled US$ 15 billion in spending to fight HIV and AIDS, and he wouldn’t give a penny of it to any organisation that did not actively pledge to oppose prostitution. Randy has to quit as head of USAID, but he’s now got a nice, cushy job as an airport manager.
Tobias typifies the hypocrisy about prostitution which riddles the United States. He says he only paid Palfrey’s staff for massages, not for sex. And Palfrey says that to her knowledge her staff only provided massages. She said it in court. He didn’t have to. She was convicted of a number of crimes. He wasn’t. She is dead.
Tobias presided over a programme that aimed to end prostitution in the world. (I am not making that up. Check it out in the Box headed “Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS”: “The Emergency Plan will also support interventions to eradicate prostitution”.) For a round-up of what people whose livelihoods is to be eradicated think of that, see the links to posts about Palfrey’s death on Bound, Not Gagged. The supporters of this policy argue that the willing buyer, willing seller principle which drives most of American life does not apply in the area of sex. They argue that prostitution is not a victimless crime.
This self-serving moralising, this craven hypocrisy about the trading of sex, is the real crime. It has just claimed it latest victim, in the form of Deborah Jeane Palfrey. May she now find peace.