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Abigail Jones Headshot

Despite Feminism, Women Remain a Form of Currency

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Now Eliot Spitzer -- a married man, a family guy, the Governor of New York -- PAID over $4,000 for Kristin, a petite brunette prostitute, SECRETLY met her at the Mayflower Hotel, LIED about his name, presumably had SEX (thus CHEATING on his wife), and then tried to HIDE it? Shocker.

Come on. Raise your jaws. The reality is that sex -- thinking about it, having it, bragging about it, even watching your friends have it -- is still the coveted pastime of many men, especially those in power, especially those in certain industries. Spitzer now joins an elite group of influential men, including President Bill Clinton, Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter, and Reverend Ted Haggard, who had their cake, ate it, and were then taken to the woodshed.

I am 27 years old and have been propositioned by powerful married men several times. No, I wasn't shocked, and no, I did not go looking for it. These men, with their wives and girlfriends and kids and promises, not only thought I was interested (I wasn't) but believed they could have me without consequences. The bottom line is that all of them had power -- over me; over most people, actually -- and they had nothing (and everything) to lose. The fact that people are still shocked about such sexual indiscretions only feeds the stereotype that Americans are notoriously puritanical about sex.

Let's take a step back. High school is the training ground for behavior like Spitzer's. Teenagers across the country are engaging in casual and extreme sexual behavior, trading oral sex like handshakes, using hookups as currency. Boys make comments like, "That's the kind of girl you use for a story" and "That's the kind of girl you hook up with and keep a secret." They have threesomes (two guys on one girl), engage in sex acts like Eiffel Towers and Dub Saws, and dream up impressive sexual stories, make them happen, and then brag at practice the next day. (I know all this because I spent hundreds of hours interviewing kids and then co-wrote a book on it.)

Still shocked about Spitzer? Come on. We've seen the TV shows and movies. Superbad and American Pie remind us that boys have "dirty" minds and know how to indulge them. And then there are moments when movies become reality. A couple of years ago at an elite New England prep school, a group of boys, all members of the boys' varsity hockey team (the high school equivalent of social power) received oral sex from a girl not once, not twice, but three times, first in a dorm room and twice in their team locker room. Such behavior is not unusual.

If stories are the folklore of aspiring masculinity in high school, they become the proof of sexual odysseys in adulthood. The details may change (the prom becomes a black tie benefit; girlfriends become wives), but the pursuit of sexual stories remains a benchmark in nearly every man's sex life. Adult men in power no longer need to cross their fingers that Sarah from the lacrosse team will indulge their latest great request; instead of taking their cues from pornography, they create their own fantasies -- or pay someone to do it for them. These men believe that sex is their right -- and so is not getting caught. Why are we so shocked that Spitzer would hire a prostitute and cheat on his wife? Partly because public figures aren't supposed to be sexual, partly because Spitzer was known as a crusading white knight, but mainly because Americans are largely out of touch with the reality of sex today.

The irony about Spitzer is obvious. Here is a man who, as attorney general, prosecuted two prostitution rings. But he's also a man of extreme power. So I repeat: even if Spitzer was the "Sheriff of Wall Street," I wasn't shocked by what he did.

What's more surprising than people's shock at his behavior? The fact that I just wrote over 700 words convincing them not to be. Married men's infidelities and sexual indiscretions should, hypothetically, be upsetting to all of us. My point is that our society is so consumed by sex that despite feminism, women remain a form of currency, commodities to be used, bought, and traded by men of power. That this is a given is most shocking of all.