Recently I was asked my opinion regarding whether prostitution should remain illegal, as it is most places, whether legalizing prostitution is better since in many cases it is effectively legal due to lack of enforcement, or if completely decriminalizing prostitution is a viable alternative.
Here is my opinion – –
The person who asked me this is a serious world player in the civil right / migration point of view regarding prostitution. It was a great excuse for me to form my opinions in writing. Some discussions take place in private and my opinions do not need to be associated with anyone else except me.
Here is what I think – –
When sex work is illegal – –
Laws making sex work illegal are used to control women. Anti-prostitution laws hand off power men and to
Anti-trafficking’s hypocrite is a philanderer who gets his women for free.
people who impose their moral judgement onto others. Laws can change as politics change making the life of those involved unpredictable, Any law in America will add to the large numbers of people in (American) prisons. Anti-prostitution crusades hurt families more than the prostitution itself.
For seriously religious people keeping sex work illegal gives them a feeling of retribution over others who don’t accept their moral guidance. Anti-prostitution laws are a defense of their way of life which is unlikely to be everyone’s way of life. Sex laws remain as a central part of a process where some people shovel out a load of shame onto others.
Sex work is defined by western moral standards not necessarily that of the rest of the world. Sex workers remain ostracized in society. Sex, which some see as a legitimate part of adult recreation, is demonized.
When sex is legalized – –
Should we legalize prostitution? This is a better choice than that of laws and crusades attacking prostitution, but it is rife with dangerous problems too. Sex work becomes a business, but not one without historic disrespect for the work. When we legalize prostitution bureaucracy takes over.
Sex workers have a difficult choice between being a known (legal) sex worker and thus not respected in society. Or remaining an illegal sex worker for the respect that offers when the work remains sub rosa (secret). I think, in any legalized system, most sex work will still remain on the illegal side of bureaucracy. Legalization can easily fail as policy.
Legalization implies a bureaucracy rife with problems. Lists of legal workers and maybe customers, flexible laws with inherent unpredictability, specialized health concerns,and of course taxes will all be necessary if prostitution is legalized. Taxes are often used to punish people for their sins, reference cigarette taxes, taxes on alcohol, etc. Taxes require records. Keeping records of sex acts is dangerous to everyone involved. It denies normal privacy rights of acts often expecting to be conducted in private. Privacy is already under attack everywhere. Privacy issues alone call for a defense against legalization. Under a legalized system sex workers remain ostracized in society, but they may be on an official path to some societal redemption – or a big crash.
When sex is decriminalized – –
This is the best choice because sex work is no longer illegal and it also remains out of the public eye. This avoids the pit falls of bureaucracy too.
This is the path that results from a civil rights understanding of sex work. In America, until 1967, marriage between people of different races was illegal. (Called “miscegenation” laws.) These were largely used against black men, but they could be applied to Asian/Caucasian couples. In America sex acts – or you might say “the expression of love” – between same sex partners was illegal until 2003. (Called “sodomy”) Both of these are examples of historically resent decriminalization of existing laws opposing private sexual relationships. Now the issue du jour is same sex marriage and that is on a liberalizing path too, meaning same sex marriage will soon be legal most places
Decriminalization of sex work can be our next civil right.
So, why not sex work? Sex work, AKA prostitution, can easily be considered as a private contract between consenting adults. Money is an equalizing factor. An attractive woman may enjoy a (free) sexual experience with a young, rich celebrity, possibly a one night stand lasting an hour. Yes, it is a relatively recent concept to admit women do like sex. For $200 the same woman might enjoy the same sex act with an older, less attractive, less well known man. The money is an equalizer no different then a nice car, expensive clothing, or tickets to an expensive show.
So, if both are freely consenting adults, what is the problem with that? American comedian George Carlin said this about prostitution,
“Why is it illegal to sell something that people give away for free.”
I think George makes an important point.
Decriminalization does not mean that the control factors of pimps, gangs, coercion, deception, and force will all be ignored. First, there will be less involvement of pimps and gangs. When something becomes legal the hangers on and people on the people providing services on the fringes are no longer criminals. Second, these control factors of abuse or extortion used by pimps and gangs remain as normal crimes unrelated to the sex work since sex work itself is no longer a crime. Police will likely find it easier to enforce crimes against pimps and gangs who commit traditional crimes against people doing something that is no longer a crime.
Treating sex work as illegal will always be popular with some people who have a strong moral association with anything involving sex. Existing history tells us they are losing the battle to force their attitudes on everyone else. But tradition and engrained demonization of prostitution are powerful forces to overcome.
Legalization will remain popular because all the control aspects move away from pimps and gangs into the hands of bureaucracy. Lists and paperwork will continue to control women and empower men. Tax revenue is their selling point in some cases because many people think there is a huge industry making a lot more money than is in fact true. Plus taxing a “sin” is a way of extracting punishment from sinners which appeases religious fundamental understanding of sex work. But I think legalization won’t work. Making a crime legal will still remain illegal if sex workers resist participating in new processes to retain their anonymity.
Decriminalization is the best choice since, when stripped of someone else’s morality, sex acts between consenting adults are a well established civil right and should remain a private act. Decriminalization offers fewer faults and more positive outcomes than the other two choices. The hurdle is to help people understand sex work in these terms. Unfortunately the two decade trend of power and wealth passing into the hands of a small number of wealthy people and their conservative minions means civil rights issues are not as easy to sell to the public as would have been the case 20 years ago. Having many laws and putting many people in prisons or in “the system” is a way the wealthiest people can consolidate oligarchical power. If we are to have a free democracy we need fewer laws, not more.
So, that’s my opinion. I will be pleased to see your comments here – –