Green Room

Would You Want A Former Hooker Teaching Your Children?

posted at 4:44 pm on September 28, 2010 by

Originally posted at David Horowitz’s Newsreal:


Melissa Petro, former hooker

Consider the following scenario. You’re browsing the internet, and you come across an essay from one of your children’s teachers talking about her background as a prostitute. Concerned, you do a little more digging, and you find a video of the teacher talking about her experiences as a stripper, including how she almost got into a lesbian love affair with another stripper. Yet another article written by the teacher talks about selling herself on Craigslist, and complaining that Craigslist took their “adult services” section off of the Web site. How would you react? How would you feel?

Would you want an out-and-proud former stripper and hooker teaching your children?

This is the story of Melissa Petro, an elementary school teacher at PS 70 in the Bronx. Petro has been writing article after article talking about her experiences as a stripper and a prostitute, using her real name and picture. She was allegedly asked by school administrators to stop using her name when writing about her past as a hooker, and to consider using a pseudonym instead. Petro refused, and has been assigned to administrative duties while under suspension as a teacher. Because Petro identifies herself as a feminist, of course this means that the feminazis are howling with outrage.

I found the story first at Feministing, where I was referred to an indignant Anna North at Jezebel, who equated Petro’s former career as a hooker to sexual orientation. Yes, really.

The idea that contact with a sex worker, current or former, might somehow contaminate children — or, the implication goes, turn them into sex workers some day — echoes certain homophobic arguments. How many times have we heard that gay people shouldn’t be around children because they will “recruit” them?

… It would be easy to criticize Petro for being reckless, for revealing information she probably knew could jeopardize her job. But a few years ago — and still, in some places — simply being open about your sexual orientation can get you fired. Most of us would agree that being able to live openly as a gay person is a fundamental right — why doesn’t living openly at the former sex worker deserve the same protection? Obviously, the two aren’t the same — except in so far as they reveal our culture’s deep anxieties about how other people ****. These anxieties could cost Petro her job — and no matter what you think about sex work’s complicated politics, this is unjust.

Bingo, Anna! Being put on suspension for openly admitting to committing a crime multiple times is exactly the same as being fired for being gay! But does she have a point? Is Petro’s suspension somehow unfair or unjust?

Let’s first examine Petro’s thoughts about prostitution. Is she repentant, speaking out to try to help other women from entering into prostitution? Does she talk about prostitution in a negative way? In an informal poll of my readers, most said they would be willing to give her a second chance, depending on what her essays said. Was she advocating for prostitution? Is she recounting her days as a prostitute as a warning for readers? It seemed like that would make all the difference. Most people said that they would have a problem with it if she was promoting prostitution.

With that said, let’s delve into Petro’s writings on prostitution. Here’s one blog post, written in June, acknowledging that her co-workers had begun to Google her.

I recently had the experience at my job of being warned by a colleague that other coworkers have begun Googling me. The concern is that I’m an elementary school teacher (teaching art/creative writing at a public school in the South Bronx) as well as a writer, and my writing– at least that which has been published and is therefore “Google-able”– is primarily about my experiences as a sex worker, which occurred some time prior to my becoming a teacher.

… When I first took a job as stripper, I had no sense that my decision to do so would have any real, far reaching effects on my life. To the contrary, I found in sex work a solution to very nearly all my problems at the time. No longer homesick or lonely, my new job not only remedied the un-belonging I’d experienced as a foreigner, but— as a product of a broken, working-class household, the first in her family to go to college, let alone study abroad– through sex work I discovered in myself a seemingly unending source of power and autonomy relating but not only having to do with my newfound ability to make money, and lots of it, anywhere in the world. And yet, my decision to strip naked for cash was consequential, less for my experiences in that dusty Mexican strip club— which were somewhat benign relative to what one might imagine— and more for “what some might imagine”— for, from that day forward, forever being seen and seeing myself through the lens of stigma attached to being a sex worker.

To sum up, being a hooker was great, except for the fact that there’s an icky reputation that comes with it!! Oh, and she later dismisses the dangers of prostitution as well … because, you know, it’s not dangerous at all! There’s not much chance of getting addicted to drugs, or contracting diseases, or falling victim to violence; dumb prudes just came up with that to make “sex workers” look bad. She also candidly admits to not being ashamed.

Not quite repentant, huh?

There’s also this blog post, where she talks about being a stripper and insinuates that she did far more than just strip for her clients in the private rooms. There’s this video, where she talks about being a stripper, and how she almost became the lesbian lover of a Mexican stripper. Then there was the Huffington Post article in which she criticizes Craigslist for removing the “adult services” section from the Web site. (Yeah, yeah, there’s some human trafficking and exploitation of women and children … who cares, hookers need Craigslist, dammit!!)

I think we can assume that Melissa Petro is not someone who is disowning her experiences as a prostitute. So she should be allowed to work now as a teacher? Is the school justified in suspending her, and perhaps even deciding to fire her?

Most people seem to agree that anyone should be given a second chance. The issue at hand here isn’t necessarily isn’t that she is a former hooker — it’s that the woman won’t shut up about it. She takes a self-righteous tone in her postings, acting like some kind of persecuted hooker-Joan-of-Arc, as if she’s performing some kind of massively important public service in talking about her experiences as a hooker. She makes herself out to be an activist for doing nothing more than yammering on about her experiences as a hooker. There’s no activism in that!

In reality, if she had simply listened to school administrators and used a pseudonym, or, I don’t know, stopped blabbing about it, her job wouldn’t be in jeopardy. She made a choice, and that choice has a consequence. It’s interesting that she brings up freedom of speech. Like most so-called liberals, the meaning of freedom of speech has been distorted. They think it means that they should be allowed to say or do whatever they want with no consequences whatsoever. Freedom of speech does ensure that you can say anything you want … but it doesn’t mean that there are no repercussions for your actions. And while it’s great that Petro has been able to move on and find a healthier lifestyle, it doesn’t change the fact that school administrators have to contend with the fact that one of their teachers is admittedly an unrepentant criminal. Whether prostitution should be legal or not is irrelevant — it’s currently a crime, and Melissa Petro has admitted to committing the crime of prostitution over and over and over again. It may be politically incorrect to admit the obvious, but prostitution is still a crime.

The other issue at play here is, how much say are parents allowed to have over who teaches their children in today’s education system? Several parents stated publicly that they didn’t want Petro teaching their children now. Colleagues were allegedly uncomfortable with her past as well. If parents and administrators at the school decided they weren’t comfortable with her background, shouldn’t that be the only thing that matters? One of the major problems in our education system today is that teachers are virtually un-fireable. It makes perfect sense that some people would expect a person who has hours of unsupervised contact with children to have a certain standard of behavior and morals. Someone who can’t stop talking about their background as an unrepentant hooker doesn’t exactly come across like someone who has a strong moral compass. Had Petro complied with the school’s request to use a pseudonym, or simply had the common sense to let her past go and not publicly and incessantly talk about it, then she wouldn’t be in this situation at all. It’s a bed of her own making, and there’s nothing unfair or unjust about it.

Follow Cassy on Twitter and read more of her work at CassyFiano.com and Hard Corps Wife.

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