The real secret service scandal: NOT paying for sex

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.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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