Written by Kevin Dunne.
Zumba is a popular form of exercise offered in many fitness studios that combines dance and aerobics. In Kennebunk, Maine, an owner of one such studio was charged with operating a prostitution ring out of the business. Alexis Wright has been held up in court the past few days on “109 counts of prostitution, violation of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly providing sex for money at her Kennebunk fitness studio and office”, reports Daily News. Wright made approximately $150,000 over an 18-month period.
Over the 18-month time span, around 150 men were identified on Wright’s client list. A great amount of controversy has arisen in regards to releasing the names of individuals on the list. Names have slowly been released and shockingly enough, several key members of the Kennebunk community, including a former mayor and a high school coach, were some of the suspected johns (clients). Only 21 names have been released, but many more are to be released over the weekend. While tensions are mounting in the town of about 10,000 (figures from 2000 census) from the controversy, the incident has generated much more hullabaloo nationwide.
The initial release of the johns landed Kennebunk in a database that targets men who hire prostitutes. Many of these databases exist nationwide, and in various cities, like Operation Reveal in Fresno, make an effort to shame men who have purchased sex in order to end prostitution. Women, the organizations believe, have already been victimized, so they should shame the men involved in the act through exposure and prosecution. In an article, Tiffany Owens said that “In 2008, Michael Shively conducted a three-year study funded by the National Institute of Justice, interviewing officers at 200 police departments nationwide. He found most consider targeting customers the best way to curb prostitution, because they fear publicity about the charges more than fines or even jail time.” In the article, Shivley said, “Despite its apparent effectiveness, the shaming technique faces criticism because of the high level of collateral damage it extends to families. Imagine the embarrassment for a 13-year-old girl who has to go to school the day after her father’s name appears in the paper.”
This technique of shaming the men seems to be a bit of a catch-22 for some. Families, especially young children, could potentially receive some of the guilt and shame intended towards the men. Such is the case in Kennebunk, where school officials have been given names of students who might be subject to bullying when more names are released.
Many of these groups target women who are forced into prostitution, but no accounts have surfaced thus far indicating that Wright did this against her will. In fact, she allegedly conspired with business partner Mark Strong Sr. during her endeavor. Both Wright and Strong pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to the combined 165 charges. In the meantime, many citizens of Kennebunk are in fear of receiving a Scarlet Letter (or Easy A if you want to be more up-to-date on your pop-culture). Many moral questions have been raised in light of the Zumba scandal, and many arguments have been made on both sides in regards to exposing the men involved.