Johns on Zumba prostitution ring

As alleged clients' names are released in the Kennebunk, Maine, scandal, "hobbyists" take to the Web to vent

Topics: Sex, Prostitution, Scandal,

An alleged prostitution ring run out of — where else? — a Zumba fitness studio is rocking Kennebunk, Maine. But the small-town community isn’t the only one rattled by the scandal — so is the larger nationwide network of johns, and they’re taking about it online.

Some dedicated buyers-of-sex, or “hobbyists,” as they call themselves, regularly take to specialized message boards for everything from reviewing escorts’ various talents to debating presidential politics. As the names of 21 alleged clients of Alexis Wright, the accused instructor, are circulated, the Zumba case has become a hot topic.

Unsurprisingly, hobbyists seem chiefly concerned with the issue of law enforcement naming and shaming johns, an increasingly popular approach. “I think the world needs to evolve a little,” says “flyboyfromca” on the Erotic Review, the so-called Yelp for prostitution. “As a member of the community, I support our right to spend time with the people we choose, and I support a woman’s choice to do what she wants with her time.”

“ericdravn242″ argues that the alleged johns named in this case and others like it aren’t bad guys. “99% of the people that would be outed and shamed aren’t the intended predators,” he says. “They’re fairly innocent guys looking for a brief escape from an unhappy relationship or just normal men looking to get laid, and they hire escorts of legal age that have joined the industry of their own free will.” ericdravn242 calls “this whole shaming process nothing more than self-serving bullshit.”

Some hobbyists speculated on how naming and shaming, particularly in this high-profile case, could change business. “Gals will have to settle for seeing men who refuse to divulge info on themselves thus making them unable to screen out psychos and cops,” writes “mrfisher.” “Clients will be seeing gals who they don’t know if they are discreet or not because screening will be at a minimum.” None of this will impact demand, he argues: “Poor tactic spawned by stupid laws.”

It isn’t all debate about criminalization, though: It wouldn’t be the Internet without some superiority and Schadenfreude. On myRedBook, the self-proclaimed “Premiere Adult Entertainment Community,” a user by the name “carpediem” takes delight in mocking the amateur mistakes of these alleged johns — or “square horndogs,” as he calls them. “It appears that the hobbying demographic of Kennebunkport are rather naive to have actually signed in using their real Christian names,” he writes. “You gotta just love honest, square, God fearing, caring, truthful Mainers.” He adds, “That’s why I only ever eat Mrs. Paul’s Fresh Maine Cod fish sticks because I can trust those NorEaster rock ribbed true blue Yankees of Puritan, Quaker and Pilgrim stock.” Might want to work on his delivery, but guy’s got jokes!

It isn’t all nasty sarcasm at the expense of the accused parties, though. A Redbook user had some congratulatory words for Wright: “A shining example of a successful small business,” he said. Maybe she’ll get a special all-American entrepreneurial shout-out at tonight’s presidential debate.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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