Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sex, lies, and Jack Kerouac


Sorry about waxing so political yesterday. Well, not really. Suffice to say I want readers to know that I didn't go there in order to cause more division where there is already so much. But sometimes things are on my mind and I want to write about them. Writing my thoughts out helps me not only organize them but also think more deeply about them as I try to find the right words to express them.

And, of course, as I have said many times, this is my blog and I'll write about what I want and say what I want. As long as I promise to connect what I say to Kerouac -- even if tangentially -- I am on course provided I'm being compassionate.

Which brings me to today's topic: compassion. What is it? And what does it have to do with Kerouac?

Well, it happens that I've written about compassion a few times in the past here on The Daily Beat. Two pieces I still think are on point are available here and here. Those two pieces pretty much answer the two above questions. In summary, compassion is concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others, and Jack was devoted to the principle (whether he acted on the principle in all cases is not the point here, and besides, no one does).

So why is it on my mind today? The Robert Kraft story. If you haven't been following the news, Kraft -- the 77-year-old famous owner of the New England Patriots -- was just charged with soliciting prostitution in a sex trafficking sting at a Florida massage parlor. Folks are in an uproar over it, and there's not a peep among the talking heads that hints at giving Kraft the benefit of the doubt here (i.e., extending some compassion to him). Who knows all the variables that go into his decision to pay for sex? First of all, he's a widow. But, he has a girlfriend. Is it okay with her that he paid for sex with someone else? Who knows? Maybe they have an agreement? Did he know the women at the massage parlor were being mistreated and coerced by the owner -- in other words, sex trafficked? Who knows?

Certainly we should feel compassion for the women being forced into selling sex. Sex trafficking is not okay, and no one should think it is. But what about some compassion for Robert Kraft? It's way too easy to just dismiss the guy as an uncaring rich pervert who took advantage of powerless women. It's much more difficult to see him as a human being trying to meet needs. Do we have to agree with his strategy for meeting those needs (we all have them -- needs are universal)? No. We do not.

Kraft broke the law and he will likely suffer some consequences. He could be sanctioned in some way by the NFL, which could be significant. And his reputation had now been sullied by the press, perhaps permanently.

I am not excusing Kraft, but at the same time I have to go on record as saying I don't generally have a problem with the idea of paying for sex. Maybe if it were legal, we could regulate it and reduce sex trafficking. Jack Kerouac paid for sex on occasion, both in the U.S. and in Mexico. In the latter case with girls we would consider minors! Not okay, in my opinion.

Because paying for sex is illegal in most states, it makes it difficult to assess whether the person (I won't be gender-specific here because either gender can sell their services in this regard) is making a choice or is being forced into the act of selling sex. I am sure that some might say that no prostitute engages in the act freely, that there is always coercion afoot in some manner. I disagree. I can envision a mature women -- or man -- of legal age with many options in life who freely chooses prostitution as a way to earn money. Maybe this is rare. I don't know. Can't you imagine someone who loves the sex and the risk and novelty and the money?

I just can't get my brain around the notion that prostitution is always wrong and so is soliciting it. It's legal in certain areas of Nevada. I wonder how that fact has impacted related crimes, abuse, HIV rates, etc. I suppose that data is out there. For an interesting take on data from a retired call girl, see this Washington Post article.

Just like with the recent Jussie Smollett case, people are jumping on Kraft before they even have the full story. It may be that he should have suspected the women he was soliciting were being trafficked, in which case he was in the wrong. It does surprise me that a billionaire would resort to patronizing a massage parlor when he could easily afford a high-end escort. But maybe he was doing it behind his girlfriend's back, which is not okay either.

Maybe Robert Kraft is a bad guy. I don't know. I rather think it's a bad idea to solicit sex in a massage parlor, especially one in a state where prostitution is illegal, but I'm not going to pile on without more information. Like my linked post above says, compassion doesn't discriminate. There may be suffering on both sides of the equation -- if you care to look for it.

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