The John Who Was Publicly Shamed

And the women who came to his defense

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Recently, my hometown newspaper did something weird: They posted the booking photo of a man who got busted trying to solicit sex from a grown woman. I say it was “weird,” because I can’t remember the last time our paper printed the face of a john busted for soliciting sex. They’ll post photos of rapists and pedophiles who are charged with a crime, and that seems fair to me.

But this guy hadn’t been trying to solicit a minor. He’d actually spent time trying to work out a sort of monthly “sex contract” with what he believed to be a sex worker — except it turned out to be the local cops running a sting.

His booking photos — which I refuse to post here — are haunting. The man looks sad. And tired. And defeated. And it made me mad. Here was a man who wasn’t trying to molest a minor. He was just trying to get some sex into his life, and he was willing to negotiate and pay for it. According to the accompanying news story, he was willing to pay well: two thousand dollars a month. (Seriously.)

I consider myself a pretty hardcore feminist. And I was angry for this man. I was angry because instead of doing something truly horrible like rape someone, he went searching for sex responsibly, and now he’s being publicly punished for it. The more I thought about it, the more furious I got.

His booking photos — which I refuse to post here — are haunting. The man looks sad. And tired. And defeated. And it made me mad.

So, on their Facebook feed, I left a comment under the story, letting them know I thought it was gross the way they were outing this man, who, morally, hadn’t done anything wrong. Above my comment, another woman had already weighed in, also defending the man. As the afternoon went by, more and more women left comments expressing their disgust that our local newspaper would humiliate one of our own citizens this way. A few men expressed their support for the man as well, but the vast majority of comments came from women:

So you’re reporting on this and dragging this dude through the mud because he was willing to pay for sexual relations from another consenting adult? And why was an officer working for the Drug Unit posing as a sex worker? Then you mention his business and a quote that he is a people and family person, like that couldn’t possibly be true because he wanted to have an nsa arrangement? Why go after this guy specifically? I have so many questions lol What a waste of time and taxpayer money, y’all need to be going after the PEDOPHILES that run rampant in this town. This article reads like a gossip column.

This is SO GROSS. Leave this man ALONE. He wasn’t soliciting a minor!

For real this should be taken down. Your community is telling you they don’t want this kind of scarlet letter-esque reporting from their newspaper, you should listen.

bitch let this man go and give him my number

Thank the goddess that last comment made me laugh so hard, because the article was so depressing.

Feminists don’t hate sex. Quite the opposite. We just want the act to be fair and consensual.

Why were women, particularly feminists, willing to stand up for a john? Why wouldn’t we want to shame a man who was soliciting a woman for sex? Because the deal the man and the sex worker had come to was not only helpful in making the sex worker a living, it was respectful to women in general, and women appreciate that shit. We appreciate it so much we’re willing to stand up for a sad, unfairly outed and shamed man in our community whom we don’t even know.

Feminists don’t hate sex. Quite the opposite. We just want the act to be fair and consensual. A few women in the comment thread stood up for sex workers, too, pointing out that this kind of old-fashioned “policing” simply makes life more difficult for sex workers. And that got me to thinking about why evangelicals hate prostitution and strip clubs so much: Because women can make a good living at it. And women who make a good living are independent women. No more marrying the cow and getting the milk for free. Nope. In a world where women have agency, hetero men might have to pay for sex.

The horror!

It’s long past time for sex work to be decriminalized. Rather, it should be legal, but regulated for health and safety reasons. And we certainly don’t need to be publicly shaming decent, good men.

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Writer, Kansan, wife, mom, essayist, journalist, reproductive rights activist, Jayhawk, dork. amberfraley. com @AmberFraley123 @KSAbortionFund

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