Yesterday, Columbus police arrested a guy who’d been an active member of an Internet discussion board for johns, where he reviewed prostitutes and issued advice on not getting busted. The Columbus Dispatch reports he posted under such charming screen names as “God O Thunder.” Among the allegations is that he promoted online the prostitution services of a 17-year-old.
The real name of this Thor wannabe: Robert Eric McFadden.
Previous government position: director of Ohio’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Before that, he was field director for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
Current employer: Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
So (assuming the charges are true), he’s managed to come pretty close to maxing out the hypocrisy angle, and he’s making good headway on the irony angle, too. Does his current job mean he might be able to oversee his own prison sentence?
It gets even more sordid (again from The Dispatch):
Police said they have seized a computer and two vehicles. One was his wife’s car, which detectives said was the setting for photos of the 17-year-old girl that McFadden then posted online.
Eeeew. This man sounds like he’s got some serious boundary issues. Not that I think it’d be perfectly kosher if he’d used his own car. Still, using his wife’s vehicle speaks to a level of hubris and/or passive aggressiveness that too-neatly matches his pseudo-Norse-god alias.
There’s also a nice irony in his being busted through one of these john forums. I’m pretty grossed out even at the idea of such forums. The little I’ve seen of them looks to me like they’re more about reviewing a product than a service. They confirm my sense that too many johns view women’s bodies as commodities. They underscore my suspicion that for too many of them, paying for sex is both an exercise in and confirmation of masculine sexual entitlement.
Professional escort Peridot Ash, who obviously knows a heck of a lot more about sex work than I do, seems to concur. She recently had a smart post on the demeaning terms johns use in these “reviews.” She concludes that their disparagement of prostitutes’ bodies is just an extension of contempt in which they hold all women’s “saggy, fat, and ugly” bodies. She writes:
This list says to me: women are THINGS. And we only like certain kinds of these things. And the consumer has a right to prefer these things. Because in business, the market decides. Female bodies are consumable and the market has decided that fat, black, old, or flat-chested ones are not as economically valuable as nubile, white, young, big-boobied ones. BUYER BEWARE.
And that’s why – even though I’m sorry for McFadden’s wife and others who’ll have to deal with the fallout, and even though I’m convinced that criminalizing prostitution only multiplies its ills – I can’t feel sorry that this particular God O Thunder is apparently hoist on his own lightning bolt.