The Secret Service debacle has been politicized, sensationalized and commodified. Spirit Airlines has launched a “more bang for your buck” ad, with an “upfront payment is required” warning. The Republicans have made it an Obama issue, the president is angry and the press has covered it as a salacious scandal. Meanwhile, neither the politicians nor the press have covered the real transgression. This was not about U.S. government workers paying for sex; this was about refusing to pay for it. In Colombia’s “tolerance zones,” the sex trade is legal. And yet, a U.S. citizen and government worker thought it was all right to break the law by giving a sex worker $30, less than a twentieth of the $800 fee agreed upon the night before. After the woman raised a justifiable ruckus, she was paid $225, not enough to cover the $250 fee she pays to the man who “helps find her customers.”
This is hardly surprising. It’s one more instance of an American (or, more accurately, Estadosunidense) going into another country, ignoring its customs and laws, exploiting its people, and expecting impunity. Interestingly, the only reason we even know about this scandal is because one sex worker felt safe enough to tell a police officer that she had been underpaid, something that would never happen where prostitution is criminalized. Food for thought.