The Advice Column and the Prostitute
First, thank you to LaPrincipessa for a great post on the gender double-standard in adultery. I say thank you both because LaPrincipessa makes good points, and because she alerted me to the news that Ashley Dupre, one of the prostitutes involved in the Eliot Spitzer scandal, now has her own dating advice column with the New York Post. I realize that the New York Post has the same owner as Fox News, and mostly offers the same grossly oversimplified right-wing propraganda and celebrity gossip, but there's an idea with serious potential. The first step toward empowering a stigmatized group - such as sex-workers - is allowing individuals to tell their own stories to a wide audience. Objectively, Ashley Dupre has a lot of experience with sex, and likely a different perspective from my own, and which makes me curious what she has to say. Also, for everyone protesting that Ashley Dupre is a shameful whore, cover pages like: continue to sell newspapers.
But then, the column itself disappoints me. Because Ashley Dupre has herself an attentive audience that she could enlighten on the realities of sex work and relationships, and so far all she's doing with it is repeating the same clichés we hear everywhere else. I don't find any of it explicitly offensive - which is more than I can say for more-mainstream Dear Abby or Ask Amy columns making the blogosphere rounds, or most of the New York Post. Ashley Dupre just prints (all heteronormative people's) meaninglessly broad questions (i.e. "Are there telltale signs a man isn't happy in his marriage?") and then answers with brief, cliché generalizations.
The one with which I personally would diverge is "Q: My boyfriend wants to know how many men I've slept with. Do I give an honest answer? A: You don't give him an answer at all. It's really none of his business (and vice versa)... Some things are better left unsaid." It's a perfectly ethical answer, but I'm curious why the advice-seeker's boyfriend wants to know. If he's prone to slut-shaming or uncontrollable jealousy, that should be relevant to whether the advice-seeker wants to date him. Personally, I don't care about anyone's tally, but hearing stories about my partners' exes helps me understand the person my partner is now. I don't demand 100% disclosure of everyone they ever touched before meeting me, because they deserve privacy and because some of those stories aren't as important or as interesting as others. But they're usually good stories.
I also understand that most people have higher sexual jealousy than I do, in which case Dupre's advice is respectable. But it irks me that she writes as if all advice-seekers and all of their significant others will reach the same conclusions. I suspect the culprit may be the New York Post, because Ashley Dupre does appear much more aware of human variation in her appearance on The View (which I also wouldn't normally cite for its affirmation of non-conformity). As she says in the clip below, " ...And then there's the guy that screws around just because he can screw around. Most of the time, these are the men that should not be married. Or they should be in a relationship with someone who shares the same moral beliefs as them and be swingers...."
It's refreshing to see someone on a mainstream network talk-show talking so openly and shamelessly about sex work, and "I refuse to let what I did define me." I'm just crossing my fingers that her individual perspective may eventually shine through somewhere in her advice column, instead of merely repeating the New York Post's trite lowest-common-denominator drivel.
(cross-posted to Annabelle's Manifesto, http://annabelleriver.blogspot.com)