When is it ethical to out someone?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com


Everyone’s feeling very proud of themselves today for being grossed out by a Gawker post containing the text and email exchanges between a male escort and a well-connected, married executive who was trying to procure said escort’s services. The issue at hand, according to everyone who’s outraged, is that this is the outing of a gay man who would otherwise have been living a closeted life with his wife and three kids, harming no one. Because he is not an elected official or public office holder whose work involves anti-gay politics, this outing seems cruel and unjustifiable.

I agree that nothing about the man’s behavior indicates he deserved the suffering this post inevitably caused in his life. Except for one thing: FULL SERVICE SEX WORK IS ILLEGAL, and he attempted to participate in this illegal activity. This basically makes the exchange “a story” regardless of who is on the other end of the transaction. It’s why local newspapers often publish police reports naming those arrested for soliciting, sometimes complete with mug shots. I’m not defending Gawker, because their decision to run this was capricious and cruel. But the reactions to this story make me even angrier than the original post.

There are a lot of threads to follow if you’re looking at all this from a place of concern for the safety/human rights of sex workers, but here’s the one I’m hung up on: the belief that this man deserved to hire someone for sex quietly, privately, and without consequence. That obtaining a thoughtful, ethical level of service was his right. And the attitude that, because two people participated, two people should be named (or outed) in spite of the fact that only one party (the sex worker, in case you’re confused) is likely to be at risk of public retaliation or arrest.