Porn star, prostitute, or escort?

In October of 2010, Charlie Sheen went into a coke and booze rage and terrified a woman in the Plaza hotel suite he was partying with. Some papers allege that he caused $7,000 worth of damage, others $20,000 and a ban from the Plaza for life. But those are just numbers. A more serious discrepancy was the occupation placed on the woman with Sheen that night.

In many periodicals, she has been called a hooker, an escort and a porn star. In a New York Post article released on October 26th, they labeled her an escort in one sentence, and then followed directly with “the hooker called the front desk…” [1]. The next day, the Post revealed that she was identified as Christina Walsh, a 22 year-old porn star that works under the name of Alexis Capri and insists that she’s not a “working girl”. The Post made no attempt to apologize for the terms they had used only a day before.

They further went on to insinuate that she was, indeed, “working” that night. She met Sheen at the hotel bar, evidently alone, and when he went into a drugged up rage she called a friend who was “working” elsewhere in the hotel. The Post even questioned her sexuality. In case you were wondering, Walsh is interested in women.

If a Hollywood actor, or politician, or school-teacher, or lawyer were called a hooker in print, in The New York Post, you can bet there’d be a stink about it. Prostitution is illegal. Call someone a “hooker” in print, that’s libel.

So why no fuss for Christina?

Admittedly, it is because the lines between the three professions can be blurry when those in the trades walk too fine a line. And the law doesn’t give much room for gray.

On escort websites, you’ll see a disclaimer, something along the lines of “by utilizing our service you are buying time with one of our professionals. Any sexual act is by consent of two adults and unrelated to our service”. Yes, escorts are hired to spend time with clients. Sometimes this is in public for an event or simply to have a beautiful person to talk to at dinner. Sometimes it’s in private, with the hope that it will turn into something more. Sometimes that something more is implied, up until the moment it becomes a consensual surety.

Let’s look at some definitions of these words.

Escort:
1. A person or group of persons accompanying another to give protection or as a courtesy. 2. The man who goes on a date with a woman. [2]
Prostitute:
A person who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse especially for money. [3]
Porn Star:
A person who appears in pornographic films. Most actors appear nude in films (usually filmed in explicit sexual genres). [4]

These definitions are very clear and unbiased. But general public opinion can be much harsher and more judgmental, as shown with the Post’s definitions of Christina or as seen at the Urban Dictionary, where anyone can weigh in on definitions of contemporary slang. Look up “porn star” there, and many entries boil down to “a whore with a camera” [5].

Another angle to look at these words from: legality.

Escort: The act of escorting itself is legal, but the business is unregulated. In most states the trade is not recognized as a legal profession, and no laws are set to define and protect an escort from being mistaken for a prostitute.

Prostitute: If two people exchange anything of value for sex, or if someone is caught soliciting sex while offering something of value, they will be legally charged in all 50 states, to varying degrees of fines and jail time.

Porn star: While the media and political focus is generally on internet pornography (which is hard to regulate and can get into the hands of minors) and child-pornography (which is illegal and also hard to track online), there are some states in which it is illegal. And some politicians want to go further with that law federally. But porn films are considered protected speech under the 1st amendment, and as those who purchase the films are paying to watch people have sex and don’t get anything in return, it is not considered a form of prostitution [6]. Though the stars of those films, are, essentially, getting paid to have sex.

So back to Christina. She had gotten paid to have sex in pornographic films. She was “working” the Plaza. She was having (or about to have) sex with Charlie Sheen before he flipped out. But we have no understanding of if money was exchanged, if it was intended to be, or what it would have been for.

Did the New York Post know the answer? Doubtable.


Notes:

  1. http://goo.gl/1IL58
  2. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/escort
  3. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prostitute
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porn_star
  5. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=porn%20star
  6. http://goo.gl/MSJ32