Meth-fueled prostitution in the Rockies

Via Mark Kleiman, this very readable six-part series about a wealthy businessman and pillar of the community, Dick Dasen, who over the years paid “hundreds” of women to have sex with him. At first, he met the women through abusing his position as a volunteer credit counselor. Later, he quit doing the credit counseling and instead paid women who were already taking money for sex from him “referral fees” for finding new recruits.

Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be an especially tempting deal for young, female meth addicts.

At some point in the last few years, the appointments had gotten out of hand. Huge sums of money… estimated between $1 and $5 million total … were flowing out. Dasen told police that he had paid some women as much as $100,000. The women involved referred to themselves as “Dasen girls,”? and they recruited among their friends, taking payments of as much as $2,000 just for bringing in anyone new who was young, thin, reasonably good-looking, and down on their luck. Since methamphetamine is perhaps the greatest luck-destroyer on earth, many of the girls came into the circle by way of using the drug. So much of the cash flowed directly back into the methamphetamine trade, law enforcement officials say, that Kalispell, population 15,000, experienced a big-city style epidemic of addiction and all that goes with it — crime, domestic abuse and violent conflicts over drug deals and money.

Dasen used the money to play power-trips with the women. And it doesn’t appear that the women were able to use the money to improve their lives much:

Another part of the power, Jenna and Summer said, was to stop payment on the checks that were written to the women for sex. “You’d go to cash the check, and the bank teller would say there was no money in that account, and then you’d go call Dick, and he’d be out of town,”? Summer says, “and it would be right when you needed the money the most.”? And then they would wait, as long as it took, for him to call them back and tell them the money had been deposited to cover the check. “That’s how I finally lost my trailer,”? Jenna said. “The money didn’t come through in time, and they foreclosed on it.”?

There is little doubt that the flow of money, when it did come — and it usually did, eventually — was not the lifesaver that everyone imagined it would be. It seemed like just another trick, kind of like the meth they all bought with it, that seemed like it would make everything alright, but actually it just disappeared, wrecking your life in the process.

“I don’t know of anybody who did anything positive with the money,”? Connie said. Thousands and thousands of dollars went into local keno and poker machines, hours and hours spent sitting, high on meth, staring at the blinking lights, smoking.

The end result? Some of the women who came forward have been arrested for prostitution, or for recruiting. Dasin himself is facing a trial, and it’s possible he’ll be able to wiggle out with a slap on the wrist – it’s a safe bet that he’ll have the best legal defense available. The most serious charges involves sexual encounters with underage girls. Maybe Dasin will spend a long time inside a prison – I think he deserves it.

But what if Dasin had been smart enough to avoid involvement with underage girls? Then he’d be facing virtually no serious charges. That disturbs me. The power dynamic between a broke meth addict and a sober millionaire is like a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Woody Allen; taking advantage of that power dynamic to negotiate for sex is despicable. I’m not sure that the resulting sex in that situation is rape, but I can’t call it fully consensual, either. We call sex between an adult and a 14-year-old statutory rape because a 14-year-old is not able to genuinely consent to sex, even if she thinks she wants to. By that standard, can a meth addict be said to genuinely consent to prostitution?

On the other hand, at least one of Dasen’s “victims” would be pissed off by my view:

You know, everybody’s talking about Dick, how he gave us all this money and made us victims, like we can’t take any responsibility for ourselves. I don’t buy that. I’m a grown woman and I’m responsible for what I do, and for what I did with the money. You ask if I’m pro-Dick Dasen, and yes, I am. Dick for Mayor! I notice nobody is asking if just maybe Dick is a victim of all of us. How come nobody’s asking that?

So what kind of punishment should men like Dasen get?

The legal penalties for sex crimes with underage girls are fairly clear, and severe. But what should be the sanction, legal or otherwise, for enabling addiction, for feeding the meth economy, for taking advantage of weak, desperate people for your own gratification, for abusing a position of trust?

My instinct is that men like Dasen deserve whatever punishment the law can make stick. But I’m skeptical about how “victimless” crimes are enforced in real life; there’s a lot of evidence that the people arrested for such crimes are disproportionately non-white and poor. (That’s one reason I don’t favor handgun bans). Dasen’s story is making the news because a rich, white man being charged with these crimes is a novelty.

Plus, is it really practical to make “enabling” a crime? In law, I think people should be responsible mainly for their own acts, not for acts by others.

I don’t have answers. But anyone who (like me) favors drug legalization or prostitution decriminalization should be willing to think hard about this story. As the reporter asks, “what’s the lesson of a case in which a long series of ‘victimless’ crimes somehow resulted in a lot of victims?”

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106 Responses to Meth-fueled prostitution in the Rockies

  1. 101
    mythago says:

    I am arguing that if there are innate differences between women and men, they’d most likely show in the area of sexuality

    There’s a big if, all righty. Especially since those ‘innate differences’ would have to be not only in sexuality, but in approaches to power, entitlement and abuse.

    I doubt there would any “innate, biological” check on women exercising sexual power abusively – men are not innately protected from STDs, and I don’t see that pregnancy would have weeded out women who went to male prostitutes. (Much less those who went to female prostitutes.)

    Women’s higher level of estrogen interacts with oxytocin to make them more touch sensitive and the like.

    I’ve never seen any peer-reviewed study that said this, but I’d be very interested to looka t one. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes birth contractions, isn’t it?

  2. 102
    shiloh says:

    mythago wrote:

    There’s a big if, all righty. Especially since those ‘innate differences’ would have to be not only in sexuality, but in approaches to power, entitlement and abuse.

    Looking back on my own pregnancies, I suspect that my chemistry has a greater influence on me that I wanted to believe going in. I didn’t have to deal with post partum depression or anything like that, but pregnancy changed me. Subtle chemistry changes did change my approach to things; certainly my approach to power and how to use it has changed considerably. Which I suppose is why I don’t consider chemical differences influencing attitudes as big an “if” as you do.

    mythago wrote:

    Oxytocin is the hormone that causes birth contractions, isn’t it?

    Correct. It’s also involved in lactation – it’s often called the “bonding chemical”. Since most of my reading on it goes back to when I was breastfeeding, I’m afraid I can’t help you in finding any studies on its interaction with estrogen. My breastfeeding books are long gone.

  3. 103
    Not Your Bitch says:

    These are reasons for not legalizing prostitution which is different from decriminalizing the women who are prostituted, but making sure that the men who buy women/girls ARE criminilized as they deserve
    to be.

    10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution

    The Legalisation of Prostitution : A failed social experiment

    Sex: From intimacy to “sexual labor” or Is it a human right to prostitute?

    Streets Apart

    Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part One)

    Legitimating Prostitution as Sex Work : UN Labour Organization (ILO) Calls for Recognition of the Sex Industry (Part Two)

    “Solution

    Decriminalize the women in prostitution. Criminalize the men who buy women and children and anyone who promotes sexual exploitation, particularly pimps, procurers and traffickers. ”

    Quoted from:
    Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

  4. 105
    Rock says:

    The emphasis seems to be on the prostitution end, however the meth aspect is despicable as well. I have done research and publicly supported needle exchange as part of an overall multifaceted rehabilitation program. I do not support Methadone programs, however acknowledge that it reduces criminal behavior and seems to reduce the accidental overdoses of those that stick to just it. (However it does not help the addicted to live without drugs.)

    Meth is another animal altogether. Opiate abusers can use the stuff for decades and there systems get used to it and still function. Meth operates on totally different areas and systems, quickly escalates and can tear a person down much faster. It also is much more toxic to the system and changes the brain structure much more rapidly. Legalizing meth is a terrible idea, and does not compare to opiates in any way.

    I believe anyone can get grace, however anyone abusing folks like this fellow did may be one of those rare people that are simply evil. Women on meth are far more likely to have severe diagnosed disorders such as Borderline personality, Narcissism, Depression etc. Because they are so vulnerable to men and a system that punishes and does not assist women, they rapidly devolve into the worst abusive situations imaginable. Men bottom much faster then women because when they run out they are on their own with little to support them. Women by virtue of the system that makes them powerless are taken for longer rides in turn for sex, and someone men can abuse and dominate. This does several things: It enables longer drug use for greater damage. It furthers the physical and sexual abuse that creates PTSD and a host of other Disorders. It exposes them to STD’s and others infections that return often after getting clean to shorten and destroy the life they have left. As many have children in a system that harshly treats single moms, they loose their parental rights, and find great guilt and difficulty in regaining them. The children suffer terribly, and are victims themselves if they are with their moms while she is using.

    Tempting an addict to perform for drugs is like offering candy to kids at school to be raped later. This is hardly a victimless crime. The fact that people are discussing the victim’s “responsibility” in this just shows how all of us have been programmed to believe that perpetrators like this are somehow less than 100% responsible. This man is the worst type of criminal and a very sick person. Severe sentences need to be brought to keep this type of predator from victimizing a group of people that are already dealing with a big monkey. If anything can almost bring one to militancy it is a man like this. I deal with 3 times as many men as women in addiction, and have buried equal numbers from STD and violence related deaths. (18 in two years.) What is wrong with our society that this hasn’t created outrage? As many that seek abusive relationships have been victimized before, it just feeds the cycle even more. (I have had parents and their adult children both go through our programs.)

    Legalization simply makes it look cleaner; it doesn’t stop the problem or the pain. Putting real effort into treatment, providing sanctuary for women in abuse, and putting away the causes of the abuse for severe sentences with treatment makes much more sense. Blessings.

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