When Sin Pays: How We’re Making a Mistress a Star

Eliot Spitzer is getting eclipsed by his mistress. I find the media’s treatment the entire sex scandal to be contradictory and strange.

On the one hand there is apparent, and I say only apparent, outrage over Spitzer’s escapades with a high-priced prostitute. And on the other hand there is a bit of hand-rubbing glee that he’s been caught breaking the very laws that famously propelled him to legal superstar as New York’s top enforcer. Many are glad he’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar that he rigidly patrolled.

There is a degree of gloating over him being caught in his crimes. Maybe it’s fueled by the dislike he seemed to spawn in the hearts of his opponents. He has a reputation for being quite arrogant, and there’s something delicious about seeing an arrogant man having to eat the dirt he dished out to others. It appears as if this is the sentiment that is pulsating in the public response to Spitzer, even more than apparent outrage over his sexual infidelity.

Yet for Ashley Dupre, no such outrage seems to exist. Instead of being appalled at this girl for engaging in not only illegal, but immoral acts with a married man, there is actually a level of curious interest in her life that has propelled her into a celebrity. Have we forgotten that she is no fair maiden, but a prostitute?

The larger percentage of the news about this scandal keeps showing photos of her in candid and posed settings, reporting about the number of music downloads and the accompanying money she’s made since the firestorm ensued, interviewing friends and co-workers to get more of an inside scoop on who she is and what she’s like. Why is all of this so interesting?

Well, media coverage as a whole seems strangely ambivalent about her. We are reminded that she’s was involved in the “sex scandal” with the governor, but what used to be shameful for being a prostitute is now soon overpassed for eager interest into the real life of an aspiring singer, who, mind you, if not for her sexual involvement with a public figure, would be of no interest whatsoever otherwise. No one would know about her if she hadn’t slept with the governor.

But that’s just it. She has become the main focus of interest in this story. People can’t get enough of her videos, songs, news stories showing her pictures and giving the latest tidbit of discovery about her. It’s as if there is an eager hope that we’ll catch a glimpse of something forbidden. We know we shouldn’t be so interested in the behind-the-scenes life of a prostitute, but we are.

It’s like the ambivilence people have toward a fatal car accident. Passers by don’t want to look for fear of the sight of blood or dead bodies, but who can resist looking after all? We want to look, but know we really shouldn’t.

Spitzer deserves worse than he’s gotten so far, but so does Dupre. Our society should not let getting paid to sleep with someone be a fast track to becoming a star. We shouldn’t be so interested. We should feel shame for her. I keep wondering if she does.

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