IN THIS HOOKER STORY, IS THE TRICK ON US?

We crucify the man who paid for sex.

The woman who charged him, we turn into a star.

Go figure. In America, it seems, we like our characters prepackaged. And the prepackaged version of the Eliot Spitzer saga is this: Powerful Man, undone by hubris; Vulnerable Girl, caught up in something bigger than her.

So he’s gotta go.

She can get rich and famous.

Sorry. I don’t buy it. If paying for sex is a crime, then it’s a two-party crime, same as buying and using drugs. There is no reason that Spitzer, the now-former governor of New York, should be in shambles, facing possible criminal charges, but the prostitute he hired, Ashley Alexandra Dupre, is a star on the rise, reportedly being offered immunity while fielding big-money offers for everything from photo shoots to having her rear end used by a Vodka company.

Yes, that’s right. Georgi Vodka last week was negotiating with the hooker (sorry, but that’s her job title, not “victim”) to paste the image of her rear end on buses all over New York for around $100,000, according to AdAge.com. Georgi even considered naming a vodka “No. 9,” the FBI’s code name for Spitzer.

He’s out on his butt.

She’s selling hers.

You good with that? It’s a world gone wild

You shouldn’t be. It’s amazing how selective we can be with our outrage. When Spitzer was caught in this prostitution ring, there was no end to the moralizing over what a terrible thing he’d done. Around the country, millions of citizens called for his head.

At the same time, millions of citizens were clicking on Dupre’s MySpace page, enlarging her pictures, downloading her music. We vilified Spitzer for having interest in this woman, but it’s OK to check her out on our computers?

Don’t we see our hypocrisy in this? Sure, he went over the proverbial line, he did the deed, while all we did was leer. But making this woman some kind of tragic celebrity reduces our moral outrage to childish yelling.

Why should Dupre suddenly be endorsement-worthy? Why should she command interest from book publishers? Why should people want to buy magazines with photos of her naked body inside? She was a prostitute before that night. She was a prostitute after it. Why is she entitled to a payoff for behavior that was an equal half of an illegal act?

Perhaps because, in the American narrative, someone must be to blame and someone must be a victim. So when this scandal broke, Spitzer was the arrogant, egotistical bully.

Meanwhile, Dupre was cast as a sympathetic runaway, a product of abuse, a wannabe singer who somehow fell into this tragic line of work. Most of this info came from Dupre’s own Web page. That’s an objective source, huh?

Not surprisingly, we haven’t heard as much “tragic-victim” stuff after last week’s revelations that poor little Dupre did a “Girls Gone Wild” video when she was 17 years old, spending a week on a bus and dancing around peeling her clothes off in front of a camera.

Those videos surfaced, and suddenly she looked less like the prey of a bad, bully governor and more like another party kid using sex for celebrity. The price of a little skin

Larry Flynt, the Hustler publisher, who sadly may know more about American culture than many highbrowed sociologists, offered Dupre $1 million to appear nude in his magazine – the same amount the “Girls Gone Wild” people offered her before realizing she already had stripped for them years ago (for a lot less).

Think about that. A million bucks. You could be set for years. How many waitresses or cleaning women would have their worlds changed with a check like that? How many legitimate, hardworking women will never see that much money in their lives?

Yet a woman involved in an illegal activity could avoid charges, get this money and be saluted for her sudden empowerment. And why? Because we will buy the magazine. We will watch the videos. We will book her on the TV talk shows. We will willingly participate in making her a star.

Spitzer was dumb enough to pay this woman for sex. But if we pay to make her famous, you wonder who’s the more pathetic customer.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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