Patriarchal Privilege: Will We Ever Stop Protecting Johns?

03/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Yesterday Manhattan federal judge Jed Rakoff ruled that prosecutors who investigated Emperors Club VIP -- Eliot Spitzer's source for prostitutes -- must make public all wiretap data.

Except the names of the club's other 66 rich male patrons.

Will I live to see the day when rich men are treated fairly by the criminal justice system. Why is it that when a prostitution ring is busted as was Emperors Club VIP, suggestive press stories are riddled with biographical details and photographs of obscure, poorly-educated, young women, defaced by cheap plastic surgery. But the women's clients-- the men who fuel the industry-- are protected and their identities kept secret.

In this case, we did get one name: Eliot Spitzer was caught with his pants down and high-profile scandal ensued. (I wonder if his shrink's telling Spitzer he was looking to get caught.)

Surely, journalists must realize that revealing bold-face names of men who patronized the Emperors Club VIP would really elevate their work to a muckraking level.

Judge Rakoff and a lawyer for some of the anonymous clients exchanged smugly false pieties. In his ruling, the judge said that there was a strong and obvious public interest in the disclosure of the documents, but not the names of clients. Richard Roth, lawyer for some of the men, said that he was glad his clients' names would not be made public. "While I don't condone their conduct, this should scare them enough to learn from their mistakes."

That's double-talk.

The fact that rich clients are protected from any publicity only confirms their privileged status--and shows them that they can keep doing what they do.