Over the weekend of April 13, a dozen Secret Service members, 23 federal security personnel and 11 members of the U.S. armed forces found themselves in hot water after being identified as involved with the prostitution debacle in Cartagena, Colombia.
Sent ahead of President Obama’s arrival in Colombia to establish a security detail, the officials hosted quite a soirée at a downtown hotel, involving beautiful escorts, according to news reports. In the wake of the scandal, a dozen Secret Service members were sent home on administrative leave, six of them have been dismissed, retired or resigned.
The most troubling issue at hand, according to officials, is the abandonment of duty which provided opportunities for lapses in safety for the commander in chief. Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, told viewers on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” that the agents were “not acting like Secret Service agents. They were acting like a bunch of college students away on a spring student weekend.”
At the heart of the scandal should be the threat of national security through the men’s distraction with other “business”. However, one could argue that the scandal has become even more outrageous because the agents (and others) were cavorting with a bunch of known prostitutes. A hotel waiter reported the men had been drinking heavily the entire week they had been there, and it was also reported that what helped to break the story was the scene created by one agent’s refusal to pay the prostitute her agreed-upon $800 fee.
The fact that the men were associating with escorts seems to be the most outrageous factor of this incident. If the men had simply been partying with local women who gave sex away for free, the likelihood of the story getting so much attention is significantly lower. However, when escorts or prostitutes are added to the story, the details get much juicier, and the men are accused of acting with conduct unbecoming.
Why is their conduct unbecoming because they associated with known escorts, when others who hook up with random women (who don’t happen to be working girls) on assignments are not accused of similar duty infringements? Because the women were known prostitutes, the agents are incurring punishment that otherwise wouldn’t be given to them for their actions.
An argument can be made that the issue is quite hypocritical and relies only on titles and the illegal status of the escort’s profession.
The legalization of prostitution would clear away these gray areas and force officials to examine incidents like this one based on the true issue at hand (national security), rather than trying to rein in men who have a “boys will be boys” attitude. Faced with maintaining a good front with stateside politicians and constituents, alike, the Secret Service officials and military ranking officers are forced with administering penalties to these men for conduct that was, simply, embarrassing to the United States. Trying to maintain an image of being virtuous and above the hiring of “women of the night,” the Secret Service leaders have admonished the men involved in the scandal and declared their disappointment. However, most reports never specify whether their disappointment is over the fact that the men were so distracted from their jobs or if it’s about their involvement with prostitutes.
Women who work as high-end escorts face not only the challenge of legalization for their chosen profession, but also the stigma often associated with their roles in society. Prostitution brings to mind gritty, unclean sex in dark alleys; however, high-end escorts provide intimacy, companionship, friendship and affection to their clients. In reality, there is very little difference between a couple who is together for the “right” reasons (money, convenience, family, power, etc.) and a client and an escort who have a regular relationship.
Escorts face the scorn of society daily for attempting to provide to a client things that are missing in his everyday life.
While it’s understandable that these Secret Service officials (and other officials caught amidst the scandal) should be reprimanded for their inattention to duty and abandonment of their job at hand, their virtue shouldn’t come into question based on whether they were associating with escorts or anyone else. The issue should be one of national security and not one that hands out moral judgments.