Thursday, September 13, 2007

Prostitution: Should It Be Legal?

"Fucking's legal. Selling's legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal?"
--George Carlin

Yesterday, I read an interesting article on Alternet, Craigslist Is the Newest Target in the War on Prostitution. The article was about law enforcement cracking down on prostitutes who use Craigslist to advertise their services. After reading it, I ended up writing a novel of a comment, which I am posting here. Also included are replies to my comment and my rebuttals.

My original comment:

Prostitution has been around for thousands of years. And it will be around for as long as humans occupy the planet. Sex is a basic human drive, and those who aren't getting sex, who are away from their regular sex partners, who aren't getting the type of sex, the frequency of sex, and the variety of sex they want, will go about meeting this need in any way they can. If a person can't get it for free or can't/won't take the time to engage in the mating ritual to acquire a willing free partner, they will seek out a prostitute.

Prostitution meets a need and provides a service. And as long as this is true, it will exist.

It's time society accepted that reality and made provision for legal prostitution. The benefits of legalizing prostitution are many. The government would tax it, thus providing a new source of revenue. The government would also regulate it; mandating that all sex workers get regular screening for STDs, along with other regulations designed to protect the health and safety of prostitutes and clients. With prostitution aboveboard and out in the open, it would be easier to protect sex workers from abuse, clients from scamming, and to ensure that those engaging in sex work are doing it entirely of their own free will.

Some commenters above have made the point that prostitution exploits women. Well, no, it does not inherently exploit women. It presently being illegal and clandestine in most parts of the world is what allows exploitation and abuses to occur. And we have to remember that not all prostitutes are women.

Laws against prostitution are essentially Nanny laws, based upon the notion that sex should only occur in the confines of a legal marriage or committed relationship. That is a view that should remain a personal opinion and not be mandated as law. Consenting adults should be free to get sex however they wish and are able to obtain it.

A reply from someone who disagreed:

Prostitution has not been around for as long as humans have been on the planet. Two to five thousand years to be more precise. So it has been around as long as there has been Patriarchy. Humans have been living in communities with culture, art, spirituality etc. for over 50, 000 years.

Sex between equals who respect each other is Sex.

Prostitution is about dominance, violence, and exploitation. You are in the dark about the realities of prostitution but apparently are content.

My rebuttal:

Your comment: "Sex between equals who respect each other is Sex" is a personal opinion that is a good one to live by, but it shouldn't be mandated as to limit the liberty of others. Sex occurs in a wide variety of venues for a variety of reasons, yet it is all still sex. What you are describing is "Making Love", not sex, per se. You are stating what you believe sex should be, not all what it is. And who says that a prostitute must necessarily be disrespected for providing a service?

Prostitution is selling a commodity like any other commodity. It is not inherently dominating, violent, or exploitative, any more than going to a restaurant and buying your supper is compared to having a home-cooked meal. Nor is exchanging sex for money an inherently unequal transaction. Is the car salesman exploited because he sells you a car, rather than giving it to you because he loves you? I think not.

Her second reply:

Sex between a dominant and subordinate is violence in every way.
Do you know that prostituted women call it paid rape?
Do you know that, when someone bothers to ask, they say they despise their so called "clients" and usually fantasize about killing them?

A man paying to ejaculate is not sex and it is not equality. It's a function. Like having a bowel movement.
The demand belong in jail. [sic]

My second rebuttal:

You are arguing from emotion and not logic.

Not all prostitutes are streetwalkers controlled by drug addicted pimps. Some are high priced call girls living in luxurious surroundings who only work for a few years, then retire then live off their earnings.

Money changing hands for sex doesn't inherently have to involve dominance and submission.

You have not interviewed every prostitute on the planet, so you could not possibly know what every single one of them feels about it. And I'm quite certain that all prostitutes do not have identical feelings and opinions.

You are arguing from a worst case scenario. You take the worst examples and present that as representative of all prostitutes.

You do not recognize that it is precisely the illegality and clandestine nature that allows the worst of abuses to occur because unwilling prostitutes are afraid to go to the police for help because they are afraid of being arrested themselves.

History teaches us that when a wanted service is prohibited, organized crime steps in to fill the need, bringing along the abuses and exploitation that goes along with that. Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s allowed the Mafia to solidify their position in this country and should be a lesson for us all. Unfortunately, many of us cannot remember history, nor learn the lessons it teaches.

You fail to recognize that there are laws already in place to help those who are exploited that do not necessitate prostitution being illegal across the board: laws pertaining to rape, kidnapping, assault, and the like. The emphasis should be on enforcing these kinds of laws to protect the unwilling sex worker, and not on those who engage in it, eyes wide open.

Women are not children, thus they are capable of making choices for themselves and taking responsibility for those choices. To say that women must be "protected" from engaging in prostitution, even if they choose willingly to do so, is to reduce them to the status of children, and is inherently sexist. Indeed, I've not seen comments on this article lamenting the "plight" of male prostitutes, as it's assumed than men can look out for themselves.

And those who visit adult prostitutes and have a non-violent encounter do not belong in jail because it is a consensual exchange. It is not your place, nor that of the government to define what sex is and is not between consenting adults.

Your thoughts?


reader Wil said...

History teaches us that when a wanted service is prohibited, organized crime steps in to fill the need, bringing along the abuses and exploitation that goes along with that. Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s allowed the Mafia to solidify their position in this country and should be a lesson for us all. Unfortunately, many of us cannot remember history, nor learn the lessons it teaches.
This says it all: Prostitution should be legal and the prostitutes should be protected and have regular medical check ups. Pimps should stick to rules made by the law.

grimfairy said...

It looks like someone's been watching too much HBO!!! Clearly, the notion of all prostitutes being abused servants is quite wrong. Many are strong and independent. If they freely choose to live this life, then who are we to judge them?

Lizzie said...

i ditto reader wil and grimfairy.

LauriesAsylum said...

Who cares if they want to use their bodies this way? It's their body. I believe if it were made legal, they wouldn't be slumming on dark street corners, could get rid of their pimps and build up a business for themselves and maybe some self esteem at the same time. Me personally, If my husband were to go to one, I would rather he go to one that has regular doctor checkups, a place to bath and do the deed, not some dirty alley or parking lot.

MothMan said...

While I don't have a particularly strong opinion one way or another about legalizing prostitution, one thing I wanted to comment on is the argument that prostitution has been around for scores of generations, and will continue to be around for scores more, despite any attempt at preventing it, ... that it is simply an expression of a basic human drive... therefore, make it legal, regulate it, tax it, etc.

I've never subscribed to that view, and can't imagine I ever will.

There are a lot of horrible acts that have occurred for scores of generations, and will continue to for scores more, despite any attempt at preventing them.... acts that are simply an expression of basic human drives (anger, greed, etc)... that's no reason to throw in the towel and legalize it.

There may be valid arguments for legalizing prostitution, but the "we haven't been able to stop it" argument isn't one of them.

LMC said...

I think it should be legal. I think it would reduce crime. If it where legalized you wouldn't hear about senators soliciting sex in the bathrooms of airports. It could also eliminate rape. Men who want to be dominating to a female in that way could find a prostitute that "specializes" in those kind of fantasies. It might even get rid of sex crimes against children. Again there could be a prostitute that could fulfill that fantasy.
Unemployment would go down. Prostitution would create a lot of jobs. I don't believe there are a lot of girls that got into prostitution because they "Had to" I think their are more that choose to, then decided it wasn't for them. Unfortunately once into it it is hard to get out of. Legalizing it would eliminate that problem too. If it were legalized and regulated, most of the negatives to prostitution would be gone as well.

I knew a few in the old days. They made good money but always had to look over their shoulder for the police. Some of them said they didn't like ALL their customers, but for some they had a few customers that they were very close too. The ones they didn't like... they just didn't service them again.

Jerome said...

I read in this ebook that sex was a way to deepen a relationship - or to establish one. It's true that people are usually alone, and since sex is easily one of the strongest drives of human beings, love sometimes gets the boot, but I think it's the mutual need for love (companionship for the prostitute seeker, monetary compensation for the prostitute) that drives people to look for paid love / sex. You hit a point where you stated that it served a purpose. And I think no matter how short the encounter, sex still creates a relationship between two people that can still have an impact on them.

AntiBarbie said...

I used to hang out with a call girl back in the day who loved her job. She didn't have a pimp, made her own hours, had regulars and enjoyed a steady, large stream of income.

Not all prostitutes are selling themselves against their better judgment because they are poor, being exploited or desperate. There would also be a lot of less exploited women if prostitution was legalized and regulated.

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