The Kennebunk 'Client List' and What This Is Doing to Women in My Community

I am a resident of Kennebunk, Maine -- epicenter of the prostitution scandal that has captivated people's attention. I feel compelled to address what I see as an assault on the women in my community. How is it that the question of whether or not to release the names of 150-plus johns has morphed into a subtle but clear attack on women?

Beginning with questions about the release of the "client list," it's important to remember that this is a simple matter of fairness. It is standard police practice for the names of any local persons charged with a crime to be released. Everyone who has their name released is "presumed innocent," and I have no doubt it is always embarrassing to be revealed in that public way. Nevertheless, it is standard practice and there should never have been a discussion about whether or not release the names of the johns who have been charged. While the names are now being made public, in batches, the hype around the release of names has triggered a range of gendered responses which seem to further victimize the women of Kennebunk.

First, Alexis Wright, the Zumba instructor accused of prostitution, has had her name and image splashed all over the media. She, too, is presumed innocent and yet there has been no effort to protect her identity. Her identity should not be protected, pursuant with the law. Why has there even been a discussion about the johns? This is a case that allegedly involves more than 150 people, all of whom are male, with one exception. Think about it.

Second, when people get married, they expect sexual fidelity (unless they have made some other mutually agreed-upon arrangement). Therefore, married people are unlikely to engage in safe-sex practices, like systematic condom use. There are women in my community who may have unknowingly been put at risk for HIV or other STDs. When we look worldwide at rates of HIV transmission, it is alarming how many new cases are reported among married heterosexual women. Obviously there are women in my community whose husbands have not been forthright with them. I suggest there is an ethical, moral imperative for releasing those names as expeditiously as possible so women can find out if they have been put at risk. This could be a public health crisis.

Third, it is truly outrageous that some of the johns have said the release of their names will destroy their families. Au contraire. Engaging with a prostitute is what has caused damage to your family. Some of the johns have cited "I have kids" as a reason not to release their names. Well, perhaps they should have thought about their kids before. What I really wonder is what they are afraid of their daughters learning: What they think of and do to women?

Fourth, some say releasing the names is causing humiliation to the wives of the johns. These women have no cause to feel shame; they are not accused of anything. I find it remarkable that in cases where married men have possibly engaged a prostitute that so much of the discourse is focused on women. For example, there are many online comments suggesting these married men must not be "getting any good sex" from their wives, or further assaulting the wives by suggesting they are less attractive than the Zumba instructor. Turning the story this way, in order to de-sexualize the wives, is deplorable and aims to misplace the shame on the women in my community. Unfortunately blaming women for their husbands' sexual indiscretions is nothing new -- and that's part of the problem. When we engage in this kind of discourse we are all placing the shame and humiliation on the wrong party. We are the ones causing additional humiliation and embarrassment on the women who have done nothing to deserve it in the first place.