Matt Gaetz Story Shifts From Child Sex Trafficking to Consorting With Sugar Babies
In short order, the scandal surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) has gone from alleged child sex trafficking!!! to maybe he took MDMA and paid some adult women for sex. We still don’t know all the details, and Gaetz may well turn out to have broken federal law. But it’s telling that the focus of the story is already turning from sex trafficking of a minor to what looks, based on the details so far, like consensual activity among adults.
The New York Times originally broke the story of a possible Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into Gaetz by labeling it a “sex trafficking” investigation involving a 17-year-old girl whom the congressman allegedly had sex with and paid to travel with him. The Tuesday report quickly stirred up a journalism and social media frenzy in which Gaetz was roundly condemned as a sick sexual predator.
That may still be the case…but the latest report takes the story in a different direction. In a Thursday Times article on the DOJ probe, Gaetz’s alleged relationship with a teen—a charge he denies—has been reduced to a much more minor and speculative role. Like the initial Times story, the new report is filtered through anonymous “people close to the investigation” without official statements or documents.
Whereas the first Times story made allegations involving a 17-year-old seem like the emphasis of the DOJ inquiry, the paper now says that officials are merely looking into the possibility of such a relationship existing, as part of prosecuting another Florida politician, ex-GOP official Joel Greenberg, for multiple crimes including alleged misconduct with the girl.
The bulk of the Times‘ new allegations against Gaetz involve sexual activity with consenting adults—activity that the paper now suggests is the real focus of the DOJ inquiry. Prosecutors are “focusing on [Gaetz and Greenberg’s] involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments,” the Times says. At the heart of this new narrative is a claim that Gaetz and Greenberg partied with women they met on sugar baby websites.
“Sugar” relationships—often involving wealthier men giving gifts to and/or subsidizing the lifestyles of pretty younger women in exchange for no-strings-attached relationships—and the websites that facilitate these arrangements are not strictly illegal. Like many escort businesses (and informal arrangements for time immemorial), they tend to be framed as “spoiling” and “support” in exchange for “companionship.” In reality, sugar relationships tend to run the gamut, from deep connections that span realms to much more transactional exchanges of cash (or luxury items, or travel costs, etc.) in exchange for sexual trysts.
There’s a long-standing debate over whether sugar babies are sex workers, and whether such relationships count as prostitution. But the only reason the distinction seems to matter is that it makes some parties involved feel better about themselves to pretend like there’s a big difference and—more importantly—can mean the difference between the relationships being criminal or not. (The whole thing really showcases the silly and arbitrary nature of U.S. laws criminalizing sex work…)
In any event, Gaetz—who has denied ever paying for sex—is now accused by the Times of giving money to women with whom he may have done drugs and/or had sex.
The Times has reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.
One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.
Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.
The identities of the people feeding the Times these stories seem like a pretty crucial factor in judging their veracity. If others in this story were caught possessing or selling drugs or engaging in prostitution
Article from Latest – Reason.com