Sunday, December 14, 2008

Let's Not Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

Most people who oppose prostitution say they are against it because they believe that prostitution inherently exploits women.

Setting aside the facts that not all prostitutes are women and the existence of high-dollar freelance call girls, it is true that most prostitutes are women and quite a good many of them are indeed exploited and abused.

I agree that steps must be taken to end such exploitation and abuse.

But I don't agree that prostitution is inherently exploitative, nor do I think the solution is to keep it illegal. Rather, I believe that legalizing it will bring it out into the open, where it will be easier to address the forms of exploitation and abuses common to sex work.

It's interesting to note that there are many legal occupations where exploitation and abuses of various kinds are common. I can guarantee you that many fast food workers, some factory workers, janitorial and cleaning staff, migrant workers, to cite a few examples, are often exploited and treated unfairly.

However, no one suggests that the only proper solution is to abolish the occupation altogether and make it illegal. It would be viewed as akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Rather, people work to improve conditions in such jobs, believing that exploitation is not inevitable.

Why should prostitution be any different? Oh, wait, it involves SEX! Prostitution is inherently exploitative because no matter how willing both parties are and no matter how much money the woman makes and no matter the conditions, they are not having sex for the "right" reasons, thus it is necessarily exploitative. Have I got that right?

Give me a break. Keeping prostitution illegal and wrapping sex up in a mystique has done nothing all these hundreds of years to protect those who are truly abused and exploited. Legalizing it, bringing it into the light of day, and rationally looking at ways to improve the conditions and status of sex workers, in the same way exploitation is addressed in other occupations, would be a more effective approach in my opinion.


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