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In wake of Weiner/Spitzer revivals, former call girl wonders: Where is my forgiveness?


According to recent polls, voters in New York City seem to have forgiven Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer for their extramarital activities. Despite their questionable morals, their back on the ballot.

Meanwhile, society still judges people like Melissa Petro, a former call girl-turned-teacher who wonders, "What gives?"

Now I'm not suggesting society should just forgive and forget immoral behavior, but it is a curious question: Why does society seem more willing to forgive immoral men than women?

Five years ago, Eliot Spitzer got caught paying women like me. And now he is stumping, smiling for photographers, and topping the political polls for New York’s next comptroller.

Meanwhile, here I am, working on building a living as a former sex worker, with no full-time job since I lost mine as a schoolteacher three years ago... I would be fine with Spitzer’s return to politics if sex workers were allowed the same dignity of returning to normalcy. But apologizing and getting my career back wasn't exactly an option our society supports.

[...] In fall of 2010, after I published an op-ed on the Huffington Post under my real name arguing that not all sex workers were victims of trafficking or under the control of a pimp (I certainly wasn’t), I was abruptly sent to the "rubber room," an administrative office turned holding cell for New York City’s unwanted educators.  Four years after transitioning out of prostitution, winning a coveted position as a New York City Teaching Fellow, earning my master's degree in education, and giving lessons on art and creative writing at a struggling elementary school in the South Bronx, I sat in that drab room until the City could find a way to fire me.  [...]

Since their scandals, I suppose Spitzer and Weiner have been in rubber rooms of their own, self-imposed sabbaticals from serious public service. Now they’re back, just like Tiger — another man who apologized, stepped down, shut up, lost his sponsorships, and is obviously past that, now covered in Nike swooshes. Men have a way of coming back that I’ve always admired and aspired to replicate. As Anna Holmes wrote in an op-ed for the Times, we are more entertained than outraged by wealthy men’s bad behavior. Men who abuse women and behave outside the sexual norm are the norm. Eventually, they’re allowed to slowly leave that rubber room, to recede back into their former existences, while us bad girls are branded for life.

Like I said, I'm not about to suggest that we should start being more accepting of prostitution.  Weiner and Spitzer's upcoming elections are about much more than giving two disgraced politicians a second chance; it will undoubtedly also send a message about what is now acceptable in society.  If society so quickly forgives elected leaders' moral shortfalls, how is it not also declaring such behavior "appropriate"?

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