Moral righteousness – check
Intrusive and abusive morality laws – check
Rampant hypocrisy – check
Unbridled Feminist blather – check
Yes all of the above are firmly in place when the discussion of legalizing prostitution comes up. Especially in the United States, we focus our outrage on several issues and the most interesting bedfellows emerge. Unexpectedly Christian Fundamentalist and Radical Feminists are on the same side of the debate although for very different reasons.
Women must be protected from their “victimization” by the sex industry; they must be protected from degradation, exploitation, and dehumanization resulting from prostitution. The sex industry objectifies women, all women. Prostitution exploits women regardless of their consent. Based on these statements it becomes clear that women are not capable of making informed decisions regarding their choices and their bodies. Women remain in need of protection from themselves. I happen to disagree.
Society is a secondary victim of the moral debasement that legal prostitution would somehow encourage. Yes it is easy to see that maintaining the status quo is the “right” thing. Some would say by keeping prostitution a criminal offense society is protected from sinking into a quagmire of moral turpitude. In this way prostitutes are “punished” both by the law and ultimately by the consequences of their lifestyle. Without the protection of legalization prostitutes are subjected daily to the risk of rape, strip searches, disease, and every form of abuse and degradation.
By criminalizing sex, we create an underground economy along with the very real victimization of women, men, and children. Without legal protection sex workers and their customers remain at risk from predators. By legalizing prostitution the underground economy and the predators are put in check; thus there is some assurance that those who enter into the sex trade do so of their own free will. It should be the goal of our legal system to protect those unable to protect themselves. Today it seems that our legal system would rather define the morality of the individual within society.
The question must be asked what harm does prostitution do to society. I can think of no harm done by legal prostitution. I can think of a great deal of harm done to society by the archaic moral laws that criminalize prostitution though. Blighted communities where streetwalkers and their customers use cars and alleys to transact business for example. The inherent violence associated with the shadow world where neither party is protected and both are vulnerable. The high risk of disease with the undocumented sex worker. Finally drugs and alcohol play a very large role in the street scene of most major cities. Add to this that because prostitution is illegal, the workers are taken from the most vulnerable of our society, the young runaway, the desperate mother.
This is really about control. Better to make criminals and victims out of women than allow them choice with regard to their bodies and minds. Easier to focus society’s valuable resources on “cleaning up the streets” of prostitutes rather than repairing our ancient and crumbling infrastructure. More efficient to fill our courts and prisons with ladies of the night than to provide health services. Far more effective to enable criminal enterprises and the shadow economy than to decriminalize thus creating a new source of revenue for both state and federal governments.
I don’t disagree with those that claim there are abuses. Of course there are abuses and these are further enabled by the very fact that prostitution is illegal. By decriminalizing prostitution states would be able to place strict controls including age of sex worker, health certifications, location of brothels; just to name a few. In addition states would have a new source of revenue, one more component of the shadow economy would be eliminated; one more criminal enterprise shut down. With the additional revenue states could focus on the real problems of child pornography and child exploitation.
My personal opinion is that there are only victims in prostitution because it is a criminal enterprise. This is not to say that by decriminalizing prostitution the entire underworld built around it will suddenly disappear; obviously this will take some time to accomplish. This is not to say the decriminalization of prostitution will prevent child exploitation; it will not, however these are two very separate issues and should be treated as such.