Some thoughts on communication

Eliot Spitzer

This man has a problem. Actually, he has several problems — he’s just resigned from the office of the governor of New York, he’s facing an FBI probe, and his wife is well and truly pissed off at him. But really, those aren’t his problems; they’re merely the consequence of his real problem.

As you’re no doubt aware unless you live under a rock or in Kansas City, this man is in a lot of trouble. He’s in a lot of trouble for a very simple reason: he had sex with this woman.

Now, I already know what you’re thinking. “How can the person that someone has sex with possibly have any bearing on his ability to govern the state? What, did she break into his office and steal government funds? Was she engaged in industrial espionage for a shadowy group of French business executives? What difference can it possibly make?”

And I agree with you. I won’t pretend to understand our cultural obsession with the penises of elected government officials; it’s a little weird, and a little unhealthy, and a little stupid.

That’s not the problem, though.

The woman into which Governor Spitzer inserted his member is, or rather was, a very high-priced call girl, which is the euphemism we use for prostitutes who make more than a certain amount of money. The term “prostitute” carries to our sexually repressed, Puritanical ears certain…unsavory connotations, but fortunately, as with all things American, a sufficient application of money is often effective at removing the stain. Hence, a person who charges $100 for sex is a prostitute, whereas a person who charges $4,500 an hour for sex, as Ms. Dupre is alleged to have done, is a “call girl.”

Now, I don’t know about you, Gentle Reader, but when I hear of folks making $4,500 an hour for having sex, all I can think is that I’m in the wrong goddamn business. And hey, if Ms. Dupre can make that kind of money without even getting out of bed, more power to her, says I. I frankly have no interest in the adventures of a politician’s penis, nor in the amount of money those adventures cost. Some people spend their mad money on skiing, some folks buy $1,200 titanium golf clubs…hell, if I were to trade money for recreation, and those were my choices, you could bet I wouldn’t be buying the golf clubs. Stupid goddamn sport anyway…but I digress.

Now, it appears that Mr. Spitzer may have spent official State of New York funds on doing the horizontal mambo with Ms. Dupre, and engaged in some complicated financial handwaving to conceal that. Which is a problem; in fact, I believe there are even words for that sort of behavior. “Fraud,” for one. And “corruption,” that’s a good word. “Embezzlement,” too.

That’s still not the problem, though.

As news of this whole penis-related affair broke, the predicable wailing in the media began. How can this happen?” some people asked. (Well, it’s really quite simple. You take some money, you give it to a person-I’m told it’s customary to leave it on the dresser–and in return, that person engages in sexual intercourse with you.) “Who would think that a powerful political figure would do such a thing?” other people–presumably, people who are not students of history–asked.

Magazines ran articles about how Men Are Like That, and Our Biology Makes Men Cheat And Women Fidelitous…because there’s nothing we like more than pop junk science that affirms cultural norms. Religious leaders wailed about The Death of Public Morality (from the smell of the corpse, I think it’s probably been dead for about as long as we’ve walked upright on three legs…but again, I digress).

Some folks wondered Why A Powerful And Successful Man Would Need a Prostitute, which betrays a profound lack of insight into the nature of power. A man in Mr. Spitzer’s position doesn’t pay for sex because he can’t get his dick wet any other way; he pays for sex because his money is an extension of his power. By exchanging money for sex, the way he wants it, on his terms, when he wants it, with the implied understanding that the person to whom he is giving this money is going to go away when it’s over, he is exerting power over the world around him; he can call up sex, and dictate its terms, at any time he pleases.

Now, far be it from me to cast any negative words on the notion of mixing power and sex; far from it. I’m a big fan of the idea of sex as an expression of power, and indeed spent about two hours last night expressing sexual power with dayo, a process that involved two vibrators, sixteen feet of rubber tubing, and a great deal of screaming. (Okay, so I lied about the rubber tubing, and once again, I digress.)

I personally don’t project power by means of money, largely because…err, I haven’t got enough money to make a very compelling statement. “Drop your pants and I’ll give you a dollar” doesn’t really do it, you know? Also, though, because I really dont like that particular expression of power; the business of sex tends to commodify the folks involved, and my partners are not interchangeable. I’m not keen on the implicit “go away without a fuss after we’re done” part of the equation.

That’s not the problem either.

The problem is basic. In the transcripts that came out on the news after the state of Mr. Spitzer’s penis was uncovered, it was claimed that he had a fondness for asking those people with whom he exchanged sex for money to do unusual things, or even “dangerous” things. Now, I have no idea what that means, and the folks who do know aren’t telling. I’ve probably got a wildly miscalibrated scale for evaluating unusual and dangerous things in bed; when I think “unusual and dangerous,” things like fire, knives, and trying to tell one of my sweeties how to live her life spring to mind. For other folk, maybe it’s more a question of letting her be on top without a condom, I dunno.

But anyway, that’s getting close to the problem. Forget issues of projecting power through money; forget issues of the thrill of getting some on the sly. If it’s “unusual and dangerous” our boy Eliot wanted, one might reasonably surmise he wasn’t getting it at home.

Which probably means he wasn’t asking for it at home. In fact, it would surprise me not one whit to learn that if his wife ever discovered the whatever-it-is that Mr. Spitzer is into, she’d be startled, shocked, stunned, surprised, and other words beginning with the letter “s”. My hunch? Eliot’s been kinked for quite some time, and his wife of twenty years now (anyone want to take any bets on the two of them hitting twenty-one?) doesn’t know a goddamn thing about him.

So when faced with an urge for the unusual and dangerous, he hired a stand-in.

It’s hard to know where to start with this. Actually, no, I take that back. It’s easy to know where to start with this. Let’s start with how goddamn fucking ridiculous it is to spend two decades, or more than one-quarter of one’s normal life expectancy, with a person that you don’t even talk to about yourself. Seriously. What do these two talk about, the weather? Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick, this isn’t rocket science. You want to get down and get jiggy with the trapeze and the Day-Glow Silly String, say so! Partnerships are built on communication and trust, you know?

I have conversations–my God, do I have conversations–with folks all over the place about this. I get emails from my Web site, I see folks posting in net forums and on mailing lists: “I know communication is important, but…”

There’s no “but.” The correct way to punctuate the phrase “I know communication is important” is with a period at the end. That’s it. No fucking “but.” The “but” that inevidably follows always ends up boiling down to “but it feels awkward to expose myself to my partner and I’m scared of feeling awkward” or “but what if my partner says no” or “but what if rabid shapeshifting werewolf-aliens from the planet Zolog-9 come and carry us away for unspeakable experiments aboard the mothership” or some other real-seeming but ultimately kind of silly thing that’s a damn stupid reason to undermine and corrode the very foundation of a romantic relationship.

There’s also the little niggling subtext: “Of course I wouldn’t want to tell my partner about it, becausewhat if she thinks poorly of me? But it’s cool to tell a prostit–err, call girl, ’cause, y’know, it doesn’t matter what they think.” And that’s a little creepy, but kinda beside the point.

Now, there’s a universal rule of life that I always tell folks: You can’t reasonably expect to get what you want if you don’t ask for what you want. Clearly, I’m wrong; you can’t reasonably expect to get what you want if you don’t ask for what you want or you don’t have a pile of money you can use to buy what you want from someone whose opinion on the subject doesn’t matter to you, more like. But that’s beside the point, too. The truth is, that’s the real issue at work here. Mr. Spitzer went elsewhere–with the taxpayers’ money, Eliot, you naughty boy–quite likely because he couldn’t find the guts to ask for what he wanted from the one person who had pledged her love and commitment to him.

And that’s pretty damn stupid, if you ask me. Which, I realize, nobody has, but still.

At least we can trust American pop culture to get it right. In all the media circus surrounding this whole sad tale of a powerful political figure’s penis, only VH-1’s coverage has got it right: