Ashley Dupre: Slave?


Over at the L.A. Times, E. Benjamin Skinner tries to explain the difference between being a high priced American hooker and a slave. It's not very difficult.

One hot june day in 2006, I saw what slavery really meant. In a rundown mansion in a slum of Bucharest, Romania, a pimp offered to sell me a young woman he described as "a blond." She had bleached hair, hastily applied makeup, and she apparently suffered from Down syndrome. On her right arm were at least 10 angry, fresh slashes where, I can only assume, she had attempted suicide. The pimp claimed that he made 200 euros per night renting her out to local clients. He offered to sell her outright to me in exchange for a used car..

"It is a vicious myth that women and children who work as prostitutes have voluntarily chosen such a life for themselves," asserted a 2005 State Department fact sheet. Thus the victimization of Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the high-priced call girl frequented by Eliot Spitzer, who until Monday was New York's governor, is equated to the slavery of the young woman in the Bucharest brothel.

Over the objections of a few anti-slavery stalwarts in the Justice Department, the House of Representatives passed a bill in December that expands the current anti-trafficking legislation to cover most forms of prostitution, coerced or not. If approved in its current form by the Senate and signed by the president, the law will no longer address slavery exclusively and will instead become a federal mandate to fight prostitution on a broad scale.

Is it also a "vicious myth" that women offered $1 million for spreads in Hustler might accept voluntarily? Discuss.

In the current issue of reason, Joanne McNeil traces the "white slavery" panic back a century.