Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 10.1

So…this week we’ve discussed the legalization of marijuana and the boundaries of feminism.  Let’s take on prostitution.

It’s consensual sex.  Both parties agree to the terms.  They’re not hurting anyone else.  How can this be illegal?

On the other hand, would the legalization of prostitution prevent the courts from nailing related criminals that are committing offensive acts?  Or would it allow health and safety standards to be implemented, making prostitution a safer, more valid career choice?

Should prostitution be legalized?

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98 Comments

  1. Absolutely.

    Making prostitution legal would allow for the implementation of health standards, reduce violence against prostitutes by eliminating the fear of arrest when filing compliants, eliminate the “pimp” situation which is rife with abuse and help combat sexual slavery.

    Of course, it would also give rise to legal brothels for fundies to camp out in front of taking pictures of clients like they do with women’s health centers that provide abortion services… but hey – everyone needs a hobby.

  2. We debated this topic in a recent philosophy group I belong to. Initially, 18 out of 21 people were for legalizing prostitution. By the end of the debate, the number dropped to 13. What I learned from the data was that a lot of the claimed benefits of legalization do not actually pan out, as is evident in jurisdictions where it is legal. (In the U.S., prostitution is generally legal only in Nevada (rural counties) and Rhode Island (if indoors).) Specifically, the Netherlands have become the prime destination for human trafficking, and it has documented that in other areas of Europe where prostitution is legal, the incidence of child prostitution and pornography production is significantly higher. Nor has the black market disappeared in these jurisdictions.

    This is a great information resource for both the pros and cons – http://prostitution.procon.org/

  3. In brazil, as far as I know, prostitution is legal, but exploitation of sex worker is not. So if I wanted to sell my body for sex I could, but if I hire someone to sell their sex that would be illegal. This covers human trafficking that TheSkepticalMale stated as illegal, it is also cool that sex workers here have a union that fights for the class.

  4. Yeah, I kinda wish you hadn’t asked this today, I’m still uncomfortable with 9.29. : )

    Prediction: 9 out of 10 comments will be “yes”.

    I’ll be blunt: No.

    I do think there need to be some changes in the law, however. For example, amnesty for prostitutes who are victims of crimes. …Even though I recognize that, more often than not, the fear of retribution will outweigh the benefits of amnesty, it would still be worthwhile to help those women who can take advantage of it.

    Complex issue, of course.

  5. If it’s any activity that two adults engage in of their own accord, it should be legal. If it’s not hurting anyone and the involved parties both want to do it, the argument pretty much ends there for me.

    Child prostitution and kiddie porn are different, and (IMHO) should be (and remain) illegal.

    If there are studies that show that legalized prostitution is enabling some other behavior that DOES hurt innocent people, then let’s get some undercover copstitutes and put a stop to it.

    But making prostitution illegal out of fear of that is silly — should we also ban cars because they are used as getaway vehicles after bank robberies?

  6. @JRice: Is it complex? Why?

    I can charge you for my advice (consulting etc), I can charge you and then clean your house, I can charge you and then drive you around…. Why can’t I charge you and then * you?

    (not sure how graphic I can be on the boards)

    It is my understanding (perhaps wrong) that things are illegal because they hurt society, because society needs agreed upon rules for behavior to keep the majority of the people safe and happy.

    Again, Resounding Yes.

  7. Regulate it, tax it, create an entire legal industry overnight. Sex workers could more easily bargain collectively, could have health and other benefits, etc.

    Legal sex employers would have a vested interest in shutting down illegal (exploitative) operations — it cuts their profit margin. Related crimes (assault, theft, extortion) would occur less, because the victims wouldn’t have to fear going to the police.

    Of course, there would still be a hard path to tread for legitimate sex workers in terms of socio-religious discrimination. But that can’t begin to be addressed until the workers need not fear “coming out”.

    Besides, “legal prostitution” happens all the time. There are plenty of women (and probably a few men… though sexism is still entrenched at social levels) who, while perhaps not overtly, use their sexuality and the act itself to entice people to buy them expensive dinners and opulent gifts.

    It’s hard to do anything about that, since an outside observer would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between such a relationship and real affection, all else being equal.

  8. It’s all over the Bible and God never cares enough to do or say anything about it, so clearly it’s alright by him.

    I mean Him.

    I mean HIM.

    Ok, I mean her.

    Besides, my body = not your business, right? That said, I don’t see the point in paying for sex when you can get it for free if you just get out there. I’ve always seen the use of prostitution as a sad thing, really.

  9. I’m not sure where I fall on this question. I do want to say something about this, in the original post:

    On the other hand, would the legalization of prostitution prevent the courts from nailing related criminals that are committing offensive acts?

    This can’t possibly be a good reason for keeping prostitution illegal. It’s an argument I’ve heard before, but it sounds very fallacious. If prostitution is not bad enough on its own to merit being illegal, it would be abusive for the government to ban it merely as a means of catching criminals, to have some charge to levy against them. (Extrapolation: There are lots of things that aren’t bad, that criminals do sometimes. Why not outlaw taking a walk through a park? Surely that would allow us the opportunity to arrest some people involved in other criminal activity.)

  10. My first instinct is to say that it should be legal and somewhat regulated for the health and safety of both the prostitute and the client.

    As to whether or not this enables illegal related activities, well, I believe that there is a certain amount of overlap in terms of human trafficking, underage sex, and forced prostitution. But these are issues that exist either way and just because they may be slightly more easily achieved with the advent of legal consensual prostitution does NOT mean that legalization isn’t a good idea.

    Regardless, I don’t think it should EVER be considered a crime for either the prostitute or the client. The criminals, IMO, are the people who EMPLOY trafficked or underaged girls, or force women into prostitution. Those are the ones to whom we should be directing enforcement ANYWAY, whether or not we want to consider the actions illegal.

    @audaciousman: “I’ve always seen the use of prostitution as a sad thing, really.”

    Why so? I recently heard a BBC radio program/podcast where an author (whose name escapes me) studied the relationship between prostitutes and regular clients, and found that (despite the occasional horror stories) both parties tended to view the encounters very positively. Some men even treated their escorts LIKE girlfriends, taking them places, sitting around and watching TV, etc. There was even MUTUAL gift-giving. The only difference is that, yes, there was an exchange of money, but that (to an extent) both parties benefitted from having all of the perks of a relationship, but being able to “clock out” and be alone as they wanted. It was fascinating.

    It may be sad that some people don’t want to go out there and meet people at bars, but consider that it is (or can be) safer and more emotionally clean to go straight for what it is you are really after and not mess around with liquor/bars, people who may develop unrequited attachments, etc. Only the social stigma really makes it sad.

  11. @Kaylia_Marie: Why is it complex? Okay… [Most points from here, thanks to TheSkepticalMale]:

    * A person should absolutely have the right to do with their own body what they will.
    * Sex is not amoral.
    * Two consenting adults having sex in exchange for money is not inherently wrong.
    * Who defines “consent”? How easy is it to abuse that definition? How is it enforced? How easily can you manipulate a person to where they believe they are consenting, but have really been brainwashed? (Before you answer that: think Christianity.)
    * When does a prostitute have a right to say “stop?” …How is that enforced?
    * Exactly how “free” is the “choice” to go into prostitution if you’re economically forced into it? How do you control that?
    * Criminal prostitution creates rampant exploitation and abuse of sex workers. It would be nice to end this.
    * Prostitutes in countries that have legalized prostitution are originally victims of trafficking in women. It would be nice to end this.
    * Police cannot and do not simultaneously seek to arrest prostitutes and protect them from violence. This is fuck-tarded.
    * Prostitution is inherently dangerous for women, because of social disparity between women.
    * Illegal prostitution is likely hiding serious STI from treatment. That’s lame.
    * “Even if a prostitute is being tested every week for HIV, she will test negative for at least the first 4-6 weeks and possibly the first 12 weeks after being infected…. This means that while the test is becoming positive and the results are becoming known, that prostitute may expose up to 630 clients to HIV.” (Jeffrey J. Barrows. Dude’s Christian, but ad hominems aside…)
    * Legal prostitution may reduce rape. MAYBE. I personally doubt it, because:
    * Legal prostitution will almost certainly help cover up plenty of rapes where the perpetrator claims it was prostitution.
    * The perception that people can be bought and sold for sexual pleasure probably doesn’t do much for human rights.
    * Illegal prostitution makes the whole subject closed to scrutiny. That’s not healthy.
    * Do you really trust corporations to do “the right thing”?

    And I think that’s just scratching the surface.

  12. Darren said
    “Besides, “legal prostitution” happens all the time. There are plenty of women (and probably a few men… though sexism is still entrenched at social levels) who, while perhaps not overtly, use their sexuality and the act itself to entice people to buy them expensive dinners and opulent gifts.”

    I agree 100%. Legalise it. If it were legal, what evidence, what principle, could be marshal’d against it to criminalise it?

  13. The idea of why pay for it when you can get it for free… well, let me point out that there are some acts that it can be hard to find a willing partner for. Plus there can be elements of the fantasy or even dominance that one might not wish to do with one’s significant other.

    Also, to some people there is an inherent attraction to treating sex as a business transaction. I pay for this, I get this. Simple and clear cut. No worries about the emotional ramifications of not snuggling afterward.

  14. Yes, but with very strict regulations and oversight to make sure the prostitutes are treated as fair employees, and that the establishments follow standardized hygene practices (whatever those are).

    As for the “street walkers”. I do not think it should be a jailable offense for either of the two practicioners, but if there is a “pimp” involved, then probably the prostitute is more of a slave. In that case the pimp gets 3 hots and cot and hopefully the hooker can get a different career, if she wants it.

  15. It’s consensual sex. Both parties agree to the terms. They’re not hurting anyone else. How can this be illegal?

    There’s one instance in which a third party is harmed, and that is when the client is married (or even, in my opinion, just in what is supposedly an exclusive romantic relationship with someone else).

    In addition to the simple, sterile breaking of what amounts to contract terms (e.g., the wedding vows, which include such terms as “cleave only unto each other”), there is the gut-wrenching emotional factor of that betrayal as well. As one who has been on the receiving end of that betrayal, I don’t want to hear one word to the effect that this “isn’t harm”; the psychological damage can be devastating.

    However, there is a further and more practical element to consider: The potential for contracting STDs and passing them along to one’s regular partner. Granted, legality and regulation of the prostitution industry (including the granting of health care and instituting regular health checks) would help to reduce this risk somewhat, but it would still remain an occupational hazard, and it would be significantly higher than the risks for the same thing from “nonprofessionals” because they rarely have sex with nearly as many people.

    Also, significantly, that risk would apply just as much to ignorant, innocent third parties (i.e., cheated spouses) as it would to the knowledgeable, consenting clients. That is exposure to very real harm, on par with selling someone a house built on top of a toxic waste dump. One could argue, with good reason, that the philandering spouse bears responsibility in this case; but just as bars bear some legal responsibility for patrons who drive away drunk, so the prostitution industry would have to bear some of the legal blame for enabling the situation and for exposing people to such dangers.

    As for single clients who have no commitments to break, I really don’t see much of a problem there, provided that they monitor their own health so that they don’t infect anyone later with something picked up from a sex worker — but that also applies to serial dating anyway, so it’s just an extension of basic responsibility.

    Anyhow, that’s my $0.02 (adjusted for inflation).

    ~Wordplayer

  16. @JRice: Complicated, yes.

    I guess what I meant was that the bare bones about it are simple… most of the reasons it has been illegal is because of an outdated moral code.

    I think an interesting question is:
    Does it fit the bill of being dangerous to society? Why? Could some of that danger be changed if it were made legal? I think so.

  17. @Wordplayer: So the WORST thing you can say about whoring is that it might upset people’s marrages? It’s not a problem if your single (or not in some form of committed relationship), but having swapped rings with another person then, well then, whoring is off the cards?

    Also I think you are confusing moral culpability with legal responsibilty. Besides court in the western world (what goes on in islamic countries may be a different matter) would uphold a “Encitement to Violation of the Marriage Contract” as a crime.

    Thirdly, does anyone actually take the concept of marriage seriously anymore

  18. @Kaylia_Marie: You asked why the issue is complex.

    In jurisdictions where prostitution was legalized, the incidence child prostitution and child pornography production increased significantly. The relationship seems to be causal. (See my weblink above for very good pro and con articles on each talking point.) Do you really want to move toward THAT outcome?

    I have to ask, what does everybody mean by taxing prostitution? Prostitutes are required to report and pay income and self-employment taxes on their income whether it is legal or not. Do you mean a prostitute license fee or something like that? If so, do you realize that if you “tax the hell out of it,” you will simply perpetuate the black market (i.e., cheaper, illegal providers) and thereby lose the benefits of making prostitution legal (e.g., safety for prostitutes, decreased dissemination of STDs, etc.)?

    To me, the issue is very similar to legalizing drugs. On the one hand, we should have civil liberties, and porn actors/actresses are paid to have sex onscreen – so how is that different? On the other hand, we are feeding destructive behavior, as a large portion of the johns are clinically addicted to sex. One argument offered is that if the cost of prostitution is maintained sufficiently high (legal or illegal), they could satiate that addiction in other ways (e.g., pornography) – ways that do not involve contracting STDs and passing them along to loved ones.

  19. @TheSkepticalMale: The relationship does seem to be casual… in fact there doesn’t seem to be any significant evidence that says that legalizing prostitution would lead to all those other horrible things.

    But, obviously, no I don’t want to move towards child porn etc.

    What I meant by taxing it (and I am a writer/admin, not a financial expert so this is totally coming from a place of “no background knowledge”) is that yes sex should be seen as a service that when sold is taxed… and taxed at a higher rate than other things that are sold… I think it used to be called “sin tax” where certain items would automatically have a higher tax attached. I don’t like the word “sin” but the idea is fine with me.

    Really though, I say “tax the hell out of it” much in the same way I would say to tax the sale of drugs should they be made legal (pot, talking about pot).

  20. Hmmm, I don’t seem to quite get the hang of referring to previous posts with links here. Oh, well, I hope this will do.

    @ Kaylia Marie (20): I agree, but I also see potential difficulties with legalizing a profession that has such great intrinsic potential for harming uninvolved third parties. I see it as an enabling situation.

    @ russellsugden (21): No, I’m not saying it’s necessarily the WORST thing I can think of about legalizing prostitution (though I think it’s quite bad enough); it’s just something that I hadn’t seen already addressed, and that I thought ought to be raised for consideration.

    I see what you mean about confusing moral culpability with legal responsibility. Granted, this is an extremely tangled issue, and I don’t claim to have all the answers here; again, I was just raising what I considered an important angle that I wasn’t seeing addressed here.

    And, yes, there are plenty of people who take marriage VERY seriously. I am one of them. Unfortunately for me, my wife was not.

    ~Wordplayer

  21. @TheSkepticalMale: So I am avoiding work and will have to stop being a part of the discussion in a bit but one last thing

    “as a large portion of the johns are clinically addicted to sex.”

    Are there actual studies that give us reliable data concerning johns? (How would they get done?) Who they are, why they use, how much they pay?

    Because in my experience with sex workers and johns… it is far more likely that it has more to do with power, fetish play, and ease (see my earlier note about sex as business) than an addiction.

  22. @Wordplayer: I am very wary of creating legislation or continuing legislation because of potential ramifications to third party involvement.

    Because that smacks of not being really all that relevant.

    Because that brings a girl’s mother, father, priest, boyfriend, etc into her choice of what to do with her body.

    Maybe it’s a stretch, but do you see my point?

  23. Well, unlike prohibition and drugs, I haven’t really done my research into prostitution. But I see many parallels between the two. I think making prostitution illegal is like the prohibition of drugs – you’re living in a fairytale land if you think it’ll make the problem go away. Prostitution has been around since the stone age, it’s not going away, it’s here to stay, making it illegal is like pinning your hopes to a star that someday, soooomeday, it’ll disappear. It won’t. So I say the same thing I said in the marijuana thread – it does no good to add the label of “Criminal” to an already-marginalized (at least, most of the time) group of people. In the the darker areas of the industry, most of these people are already “Addicts” and therefore already labeled Criminals because of that… why heap more stigmatization upon them? Why not admit that it’s here to stay, and regulate the industry instead?

  24. I feel like no one here has read Nickled and Dimed. Living the lifestyle of poor is hard because there is no choice but to keep going. Many prostitutes find themselves in that situation – they want to leave, but the option isn’t there.

  25. @TheSkepticalMale: Well, shit. My prediction of 1/10th wasabout right until you weasled out of it. ; )

    @slxpluvs: I think this is one of my primary reasons for believing it should stay illegal (with modifications to help the prostitutes themselves). For the most part, I think prostitution is an abuse of power. (There are exceptions, but as far as I can tell, they are rare.) It’s not a good thing. It’s indicative of some deep-rooted prejudices in society. I don’t want to see more of it.

    And I think legalizing it would create more of it.

    A lot more of it.

    And I think the increased demand would create even worse conditions.

    …THAT said, once we’ve got some of our issues worked out: when men and women are on equal footing, when society is aware of the problems inherent in prostitution… then, hey, sure. If no parties were coerced into it, if everyone involved is fully aware of the issues at play, and there’s some nice solution to STIs that doesn’t involve demeaning tests, and we’ve solved the problem of whom to trust when it comes down to he-said-she-said, and they both still think, “hey, it would be keen if we had sex, and I’m willing to give you some money for it”… then great. No reason for it to be illegal.

    Personally, I see that being a long, long way off.

  26. @JRice: Aaaargh! I did exactly that the last time, and nothing happened! But this time, obviously, it’s working. Thanks for the help, regardless.

    For some reason, I have had very uneven luck with this site’s features; sometimes they work for me; sometimes they don’t. Bad karma from a past life, maybe? [/totally kidding about the woo stuff]

    ~Wordplayer

  27. Like drugs, and like porn, this is a case where our vaunted rational-actors of libertarian lore run headlong into the modern sociological synthesis, and it’s not clear where the pieces land, and, in examining these issues, we need to think about what law really does-it’s the instrument we use to shape public behavior towards long-term less destructive ends, not just take the worst baddies out of the soup.

    Sure, I think we can come to some kind of a broad consensus that allowing empowered, consenting, imformed men and women to be paid for entering into a transaction free of bodily harm to third parties is probably something a free society could tolerate. However, I think a sensible analysis suggests the picture is not so rosy, and it’s not clear there is a path from reality to Rational Actor Land.

    To start, let’s slay the canard that there’s something wrong about criminalizing things because of their relation to other, more harmful acts. Conspiracy is a crime because its preferable to allowing a crime to occur so you can prosecute. Making it illegal for the insane to purchase firearms is a far better option than simply waiting for them to use said firearm and charging them with murder. They keep the ephedra behind the counter now not because there was anything wrong with buying large quantities-they do it because the most probable use of big purchases was to make meth and rot the brains of Midwestern teenagers. Sometimes the law, as a pragmatic entity, has to go after the chokepoints in a system, even if those points are not the most harmful in a chain.

    Is, or isn’t, prostitution a chokepoint like this?

    Secondly (and as skeptics used to staring down lots of evangelicals and homeopathic practioners and the like, it should come easily,) when we look at this problem, we should recognize that not every choice a person freely makes is one that’s good for them, and the rest of us altruistic monkeys sometimes have to step in, to make things better in the long run. We have a minimum wage, and the evidence suggests that it works-a zero sum game suggests that a minimum wage increases unemployment, but reality points to decreased compensation at the top of the income distribution and innovation to make the best use of those higher-paid workers is the real result. Does prohibiting prostitution act like a minimum wage-on the outset it looks like it keeps people from work, but actually force the culture to create more worthwhile work instead?

    I don’t know the answer. I do know that simply stating that people should be able to do what they like with their bodies and people should be able to spend money as they like so long as their aren’t bodies is not in agreement with the complexities of reality.

    It might reek of hypocrisy, but, in keeping with the pragmatic vein, keeping it illegal with the knowledge that it will still occur at a vastly decreased rate could (COULD) be a workable choice-and, indeed, seems to be the most common one. Pruning the weeds can work just fine if you can’t pull them out, and don’t want them to run wild.

  28. @Aristothenes: Wow. +10.

    …I think part of being liberal (hey, we’re all liberals here, right?) is getting people to examine that which is uncomfortable to them: turning the fringe into the familiar. Prostitution should be no exception.

    Err… not that’s condoming the act.

    Condoning! I meant condoning it.

  29. I’ve only been skimming peoples’ responses on here but there are a few things I would mention.

    1) As for the argument that child porn, etc will increase if prostitution is legalized, it’s a matter of having stronger enforcement. That comes with the territory in legalizing and regulating these types of activities. for instance, when drinking was legalized after prohibition, it meant an increase in the law enforcement efforts in keeping people safe.

    2) I can’t agree with the ‘3rd party harm’ hypothesis. What is described here is not the effect of prostitution on a marriage/relationship/family, but of infedelity. And quite frankly, if someone is going to be unfaithful, they don’t need a prostitute to make them do it.

    What it comes down to, IMHO, is that the only difference between regular consentual sex and prostitution is that the parties involved are also consenting to pay/be payed for it.

    Legal or not, prostitution will happen. Legalizing and regulating it would improve how it’s happening and create better environments for those who (for whatever reason) are involved.

  30. Okay, why is it with all of these discussions, there are people who speak in favor of it who immediately say, “TAX IT!”? What, a $5 trillion budget isn’t enough? Taking almost 60% of everyone’s income in taxes isn’t enough?

    Moreover, why isn’t criminalizing it okay but levying a “sin tax” is?

  31. Legalizing prostitution could almost certainly save hundreds, perhaps thousands of women’s live in North America every year.

    But that would only be true if the follow up steps were ensured, such as, but not limited to, limiting prostitution to secure, guarded, safe houses, guaranteeing health benefits and ensuring regular medical checkups and control, perhaps licensing, and adamant regulation of who is actually getting the money.

    Prostitution, like sex, simply is not going to go away.

    Making it legal; making it safe; making it fun. What’s not good in that?

    A side comment. There seem to be several odd comments about no one really needing prostitutes because all they have to do is go out and get busy. Phht. Stuff n’ nonsense. Those comments must come from young and beautful boys and girls with good jobs and plenty of disposable income to toss around.

    What about all the unattractive (and let’s not forget how mysterious and everchanging the definitions of attractiveness are), or crippled, or socially outcast folk who just don’t possess the mystery appeal that makes them sexually attractive to other people?

    The world is overflowing with people who nobody wants to ride for profitless fun.

  32. slxpluvs said: “I find it interesting that you fail to mention the un-fun. A lack of being fun is, IMHO, the number one cause of involuntary celibacy.”

    I’m thick today. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please explain.

  33. Quick disclaimer: Being liberal, I don’t believe it’s my right to legislate my morality on other’s personal freedom. The previous comment was my personal opinion on the matter and reflects no position on the legality of prostitution.

    I think you’re about as moral as a flaming butt-fungus if you do it… but not necessarily a criminal.

    …Just to be clear. : )

  34. @SicPreFix: Well, I am a crippled, social outcast. Before I married, I have never had difficulty finding dates. What I have found with most crippled, unattractive, social outcasts is that they let society define them instead of themselves. This leads to a sheltered life and less sex. If they (learn how to) go have fun in spite of their problems, the sex will come.

    Fun. Fun might be the ability to play/hypothesis/synthesis with others.

  35. JRice said: “I’m talking about the “client”, not the “provider”

    I’d be interested to hear your rationale on how you differentiate between the “morality” of being a client versus being a provider — perhaps leaving out for the moment, if we can, the issue of the provider’s need to provide him/herself with an income.

    JRice said: “…as moral as a flaming butt-fungus if you do it….”

    Woah, holy flying Nelly Furtadoes! There sure are no nuances or gray areas in your moral imperatives, I must say. How nice to be so uncritically certain.

    So, what about those lonely, ugly cripples who nobody loves, and who would just like a couple hours of warmth rather than the old technicolor plastic? Are they too nought but butt fungae festering in the low swamps of their moral decay? Flaming softly away in their solitary unhappiness? Fated forevermore to pierce nothing more than the cold cirrus of nobody wants to make nice-nice?

    Speaking of which….

    JRice said: “15 minutes at a good website and 5 more in a private room solves that problem.”

    Um, so should I take it that you’re saying that because I don’t understand what the other poster was saying, I should therefore watch, I don’t know, is it sex videos? Am I missing something?

  36. slxpluvs said: “What I have found with most crippled, unattractive, social outcasts is that they let society define them instead of themselves.”

    Ah, so does that mean that it’s really true that the power of positive thought and positive self-image will fix all social/sexual ills?

    How nice to know that. Perhaps I’ll just pop out and buy back my Secret books.

    :)

  37. @shanek: Because there really isn’t any other way to transform externalities into costs at the register. If society at large pays for the side effects of something as admittedly borderline as prostitution, society at large should be receiving a suitable counterstream of revenue.

  38. @SicPreFix: What I’m saying is that, in the world of the crips and the ugs, being pleasant to be around is a balance* of low self-esteem (high maintenance) and putting up walls no one could penetrate (auto rejection of anyone who tries to get “in”). Pleasantness* can either create playfulness or superstition; we can act because we believe it will magically result in something or just for the sake of acting. People looking to recreationaly mate don’t want to deal with other people’s superstitions/baggage. They will tend to seek people who are acting to act (e.g. playing).

    Problem is that crips tend to have more baggage than the normal people, like we’ve got a chip on our shoulder or something.

    *We all seem to be into moral philosophy, so I don’t know why I’m not calling them “golden mean” and “just resentment.”

  39. slxpluvs, what you are saying seems to me to make sense. But something about it is not getting through to me. I don’t know if that’s because of your choice of words and a complexity of thought, or whether I’m just getting tired and a bit dozey.

    I’ll come back to this tomorrow and see if I can follow you more closely.

    Thanks for the response.

  40. As I mentioned in passing in my comment in the marijuana thread, I believe prostitution should be legal. “Consenting adults”, “victimless crime” and all that.

    I dream of a world where Companions with the looks of Morena Baccarin are considered among the highest class of citizens!

    … Mmmm, Inara … I’ll be in my bunk.

  41. @Briarking: Firefly allusion aside, you’ve pretty well nailed the argument for legalization and regulation-there’s no real reason why I, as a peaceful, law-abiding citizen, should not, in a moment of desperation or adventure, or excess, be able to meet a vetted, clean, unaddicted, well-compensated man or women saving their money to get their Ph.D or a trip to Kenya, engage in an evening of sexual companionship, and get a bill later with their real name so we can be found if someone gets sick. That seems imminently reasonable to me.

    It’s simply not clear that any conceivable world where I could do that wouldn’t be far more overrun with cracked out high school dropouts stuck in the ultimate dead-end no-skill job, at risk of sexual violence and disease, and being used as camouflage in the front room for the bargain-basement lost souls stolen from their village in Eastern Europe in the back.

  42. On the other hand, would the legalization of prostitution prevent the courts from nailing related criminals that are committing offensive acts? Or would it allow health and safety standards to be implemented, making prostitution a safer, more valid career choice?

    Given that some countries have managed to ally their criminal justice system with legal brothels to help uncover other crimes and that legalization allows for the women to more easily report serious crimes, I don’t really see a rational reason why one would think legalization would aid in covering up crimes. meanwhile, legalizing prostitution does give women more protection within that job market in that there are better health regulations that one will find in brothels, for example, and the opportunity for the provision of protection.

    I’m going to keep that answer more direct so that I can focus on answring some of the problematic comments that I see.

    @TheSkepticalMale:

    (I did see that you mentioned you were for legalization, but since you presented the opposing arguments, I am going to respond to them as if you are opposed – it makes things easier).

    We debated this topic in a recent philosophy group I belong to. Initially, 18 out of 21 people were for legalizing prostitution. By the end of the debate, the number dropped to 13.

    Given how easily people are swayed even by fallacious arguments and mistruths, I would hardly think that is a compelling reason to change one’s opinion on prostitution.

    What I learned from the data was that a lot of the claimed benefits of legalization do not actually pan out, as is evident in jurisdictions where it is legal. (In the U.S., prostitution is generally legal only in Nevada (rural counties) and Rhode Island (if indoors).)

    I think your data is skewed and even the site that you posted a link to has a serious problem with fallacies. The very first con on the top 10 page assumes that a prostitute takes part in BDSM and/or is forced to. It also assumes that BDSM is always harmful. Neither one are an objective look into prostitution or even rational assumptions to make. It seems like the presenter is really reaching on that one and using an assumption based on their own aversions rather than on something more objective. BDSM itself is, of course, its own topic worthy of debating, and should not be used in this context against something as an assumption. That’s just absurd.

    The second con states that most prostitutes choose that option for economic reasons – but using that same argument, doesn’t that mean we should also ban employment at McDonald’s?

    The third con simply states that prostitution is evil. I don’t even think I need to point out why that argument is poor.

    Specifically, the Netherlands have become the prime destination for human trafficking, and it has documented that in other areas of Europe where prostitution is legal, the incidence of child prostitution and pornography production is significantly higher. Nor has the black market disappeared in these jurisdictions.

    It is true that the Netherlands has a higher rate of child prostitution and human trafficking. Right now we don’t really have enough information to figure out what is the entire cause. It does appear, though, that prostitution’s role is not as a cause of these problems, but is more a mask for the activities. A comparable problem would be that while legal alcohol consumption is not the cause of drunk driving, it may very well be the case that alcohol consumption being legal leads to a higher rate of drunk driving accidents. As it turns out, though, there are things that can be done to reduce the number of said accidents – things like providing alternate transportation programs for people who go out to drink. I’m pretty sure that after finding some of the elements that lead to child prostitution (which seem to be tied to various things, including economic status), steps can be taken to begin to fight the issue directly. It is also possible that the information that we have on child prostitution and human trafficking has changed because legalization has given us access to more accurate numbers. A similar thing has happened as abuse laws have become more common. The law is enacted and the statistics increase. Something I discovered when I was doing volunteer work as a peer counselor was that it is becoming increasingly more common for men to report that their partners are abusing them. That seems to be due to it becoming more recognized that women are capable of abuse and that it is OK for a guy not to be a tough guy (to put it in the short explanation form, anyway). Correlation is not causation and that’s precisely why other information is seriously needed and that fear of this problem being responded to through making prostitution illegal may end up just covering the problem back up again rather than solving it.

    All that being said, using the Netherlands alone as something to point to regarding this problem is certainly not objective research, especially when the same pattern is not true in all the other places where prostitution is legal.

    This is a great information resource for both the pros and cons – http://prostitution.procon.org/

    It is more of a great resource for what each side presents as pros and cons, but when reading it people really need to be on their toes and thinking critically because there are clearly flaws on both sides (I didn’t break down the pros because your post seemed to be more ‘against’ than ‘for’ and unless provoked to respond to them in a reasonable manner – since I don’t have all the time in the world – I will simply resort to my own points for supporting legalization).

    @Expatria: I just wanted to point out that what you say about prostitutes and their clients is actually true. The same is true for even more limited areas of the sex industry. I have become friends with many of my own clients in my chat room and we’re all pretty much accepting of the context of the relationship. They respect me, we have fun together and we talk about things we care about. They can talk to me about their problems, I can ramble about my writing projects and we can laugh together about whatever the latest media hype is (as long as it isn’t politics ;) ). The prostitutes that I know also have mentioned in the past that they are friends with many of their clients and that they often have fun with them.

    @JRice: Regarding your questions on consent, I have a series of articles I wrote a long time ago on the blog I have on the site I cam on:

    I am in need of writing a new one sometime soon, but it may have to take a back burner for a few weeks as I’ve got too many projects on my plate at the moment.

    (The following links *should* all be SFW but since it is a cam site and there’s a live ad at the bottom, I can’t promise that all the girls are behaving themselves and playing by the rules, thus, excersize caution).

    Consent, Control and the Sex Industry: Part 1, Dominating

    Consent, control and the Sex Industry: Part 2, Consent

    Consent Play, A Side Note

    Consent, Control and the Sex Industry: Part 3, Money, Money Money!

    Interesting side note: When I wrote these, it was suddenly widely misunderstood what my feelings about domination were in regards to my own actions. Essentially, men mistook ‘willing to pretend for x, y, & z reasons’ as ‘wants x, y, and z always’. This is untrue, but became an issue when many men found the prospect either intimidating or thought I’d be willing to do things to myself on cam that I wasn’t willing to do (I did manage to straighten some of them out on this matter, though, and it was just fine after that).

    Those articles were not necessarily written with the same expectations as articles over on sextech, so if there’s a flaw in them, feel free to point it out, but don’t be surprised.

    I’m skipping over things I already answered above or things I don’t disagree with or am indifferent regarding, in your post, JRice, but have other things to say:

    Prostitutes in countries that have legalized prostitution are originally victims of trafficking in women. It would be nice to end this.

    While this is the case sometimes, there is certainly not evidence that this is the case the majority of the time.

    * Prostitution is inherently dangerous for women, because of social disparity between women.

    That can be addressed by educating people and working on changing social attitudes regarding the industry.

    * Legal prostitution may reduce rape. MAYBE.

    Legalizing prostitution actually might reduce rape – the evidence used for this, though, is minor. Basically, there’s evidence that availability of erotic services from porn to prostitution seems to be inversely correlated with many types of sexual crimes. This is a mixed bag, though, because some researchers suggest that some forms of erotica may cause a person to be more aggressive. In response to that, though, another set of researchers found that while expressed aggression may be more likely after exposure to violent erotica, the same men seemed also more likely to walk away from a conflict than cause harm from their aggression. Thus, that aspect of the controversy is still up in the air. The other concern is that some types of erotica may reinforce maladaptive sexual habits – but then the question becomes, who determines what is maladaptive?

    I personally doubt it, because:
    * Legal prostitution will almost certainly help cover up plenty of rapes where the perpetrator claims it was prostitution.

    The same kind of thing happens already where the perpetrator claims it was consensual – trading one excuse for another isn’t going to mean we should make prostitution illegal. A better solution to this problem is to do things to change attitudes regarding sexuality so that rape is less likely to occur.

    * The perception that people can be bought and sold for sexual pleasure probably doesn’t do much for human rights.

    What about people being bought and sold for other forms of physical pleasure? I mean, isn’t that what chefs, masseuses and ad campaign mascots are for?

    * Do you really trust corporations to do “the right thing”?

    That’s pretty much irrelevant – you can ask the same of any industry on the planet.

    @Wordplayer:

    There’s one instance in which a third party is harmed, and that is when the client is married (or even, in my opinion, just in what is supposedly an exclusive romantic relationship with someone else).

    Just as you can’t blame Wal-Mart for people no longer purchasing at JCPenny’s, it makes no sense to blame the prostitute when guys go astray. Also, do you outlaw adultery if a married or romantically ‘taken’ person goes astray and doesn’t pay for it? It seems to me that’s pretty much the same thing. Relationship agreements regarding monogamy are between the couple involved and not third parties. Another point to consider can be highlighted with something that happened in my webcam room last night. I was basically just relaxing and chatting with some of the guys when someone came in asking what I could do for him. Now, I make it a point to never beg the guys for a private show in my chat and I make sure they know that I just want to have fun, BUT when a guy requests something that is only supposed to take place in the private chats (which are what I get paid for) then I inform them that they have to take me private first. This guy requested to see my breasts. I responded by telling him that he had to take me private for that, and he told me that he couldn’t because he didn’t want to cheat on his girlfriend. I responded to him that if he considered that cheating and already sought me out on the internet specifically to ask to see my breasts, then he was already considering cheating and it was clear he just wanted to cheat for free.

    I have no problem with entertaining men who are either married or not married – their personal lives are not my business and I don’t talk to them about it unless they decide to offer the information to me. It is up to them to manage their personal lives and not me. The same thing goes for a prostitute. By requesting her services, he’s already had the intention of cheating, regardless of if he’s paying for it. Now, if she asks for him to pay for some services it is still not her responsibility – it is his. Just as if a co worker of his requests sex in the broom closet at work, it is still his responsibility. That is not harm done by prostitution. If it is harm, it is harm done by him. If he is so powerless against women that he can’t turn them down, then that is his flaw that he needs to own, not hers.

    Note: I’m mostly using gender specific references because that’s what is implied in the post, but it did just occur to me that it might be misinterpreted, so please adjust sex/gender references according to your own preferences, if you like, since this problem is not really concrete situation of men as sexual clients and women as sexual service providers.

    However, there is a further and more practical element to consider: The potential for contracting STDs and passing them along to one’s regular partner.

    This is another problem that can’t be blamed on prostitution itself. Disease spreads no matter if you’re paying for it or not. I’m sure the sting might be a few hundred dollars worse, though, if you did pay for it. Disease is a risk that the workers themselves should be educated on and aware of as well as the clients. I would suggest that be addressed by ensuring condoms and educational materials are available at legal establishments.

    One could argue, with good reason, that the philandering spouse bears responsibility in this case; but just as bars bear some legal responsibility for patrons who drive away drunk, so the prostitution industry would have to bear some of the legal blame for enabling the situation and for exposing people to such dangers.

    I don’t think a bar should bear responsibility for the guy who drives away drunk, either. I do think it would be good to address such issues by providing ways to prevent drunk driving, such as transportation alternatives. Taxing the services and then ensuring that money goes to what is needed for prevention of the problem sounds like a far better solution than blaming one set of people for choices that an individual made for themselves. Likewise, I don’t think McDonald’s is responsible for making people fat.

    @TheSkepticalMale:

    In jurisdictions where prostitution was legalized, the incidence child prostitution and child pornography production increased significantly. The relationship seems to be causal.

    I looked all around that site and did not find anything that indicated the relationship was causal. I also looked up information in other places just to be sure and still didn’t find indication that it was causal. Please provide whatever you think it is makes it causal. I’m guessing that the things that cause child prostitution are 1) potential for economic gain and 2) people being sexually attracted to children and not understanding the negative impact sexual actions with children would have on them.

    Social issues that come into play may be quite different and ways of preventing it altogether may have very little to do with prostitution being legal (see above).

    Do you mean a prostitute license fee or something like that? If so, do you realize that if you “tax the hell out of it,” you will simply perpetuate the black market (i.e., cheaper, illegal providers) and thereby lose the benefits of making prostitution legal (e.g., safety for prostitutes, decreased dissemination of STDs, etc.)?

    I would say that taxation only in the amount needed to support the extra things legalization would require for keeping the industry safe (such as age verification, disease control, education), would be sufficient. Taxing other consumer products doesn’t seem to force those things onto the black market and I actually question the validity of that claim. Some things that do seem to promote the illegal prostitution that occurs in places like Nevada seem to be related to health and safety restrictions and competition. Essentially, if you want to play it safe, a brothel may be preferred – but cheaper services are available illegally – enter at your own risk.

    On the other hand, we are feeding destructive behavior, as a large portion of the johns are clinically addicted to sex.

    Do you mean more so than other people? Please provide evidence.

    @Kaylia_Marie:

    I appreciated your comments :)

    Sorry about the tremendously long post! (yes, more links, but I didn’t see a point in rewriting what I wrote months ago right here)

  43. I don’t know if it is of any interest, but looking at the statistics for “sex-buying crimes” in Sweden from 1999 to 2007 is kinda funny (selling sex was criminalised towards the tail end of the 90s, buying sex was criminalised some 3-4 years earlier).

    1999 94
    2000 92
    2001 86
    2002 110
    2003 300
    2004 156
    2005 460
    2006 163
    2007 189

    Based on roughly the same ratio of “instances of crime committed” to “instances of crimes taken to the law’s attention” (not entirely unreasonable, but a possible flaw), it seems that criminalisation doesn’t necessarily lower incidence (people who can read Swqedish can find more statistics at the BRÅ statistics server.

  44. Aristothenes:

    Oh, come on! That’s typical liberal excuse-making! What externalities could there possibly be with prostitution that aren’t there with good, old-fashioned, perfectly legal, tax-free sleeping around?

  45. @SophieHirschfeld: Well-written. I’m sure there will be a lot of “TLDR”s, which is a shame. ; )

    A better solution to this problem is to do things to change attitudes regarding sexuality so that rape is less likely to occur.

    I’m so glad we all agree on this. I’d go so far as to say this is really my point: when society has a better grip on sexuality and the inherent sexism presently therein, then we can (and naturally will) move toward a healthy legality of sexuality.

    What about people being bought and sold for other forms of physical pleasure? I mean, isn’t that what chefs, masseuses and ad campaign mascots are for?

    And when it’s the case that prostitution is considered a craft, and those with artistry and skill are valued for it, great. When those who control prostitutes don’t believe they own the prostitute’s private parts, great. When there’s recognition that the interaction is between two human beings, great. That’s when we should talk about legalization. (Like I keep saying: someday, just not now.)

    [shrug] Maybe I have it backwards: I’m willing to admit that. Maybe things have to be legal-but-bad first, before sexism in sex gets fixed. I’d like to say that’s why so many people here are arguing for legalization… but I worry that it’s because people aren’t aware of the sexism, and some people here aren’t even willing to consider it.

    [Trusting Corporations is] pretty much irrelevant – you can ask the same of any industry on the planet.

    …Yeah, but any corporation that thinks they own your private parts has way too much power. It’s my strong (strong) political view that corporations must be tightly controlled because they are designed to abuse power. And when the power they hold is over women’s ability to give sex… that’s something I’m deathly afraid of.

  46. During Prohibition alcohol was controlled by organized crime. Now it’s part of the normal fabric of business. Just because criminals are involved in prostitution now doesn’t mean they’d stay involved if it were legal. I’m with Kayla Marie – legalize it, regulate it, tax the hell out of it.

    As for prostitution spreading STDs, JRice, that seems to apply whether it’s legal or not. I don’t see how legalization would affect the spread of STDs, other than possibly giving sex workers more control over their work, which could lead them to taking more precautions.

    I mean, prostitution could not possibly be more available than it is today. Have you looked at the back pages of your local broadsheet rag? Have you ever been in a seedy part of town at 3 AM?

    (On a side note, I think that prostitution is actually legal here in Canada as far as the act goes. It’s the communication as regards the act that’s against the law. Now that’s fucked up.)

  47. Corporations have power over everyone’s ability to give work (which is sex in this case). Sex = work. This is no different than any other industry.

    You are putting the pussy on a pedestal while simultaneously pushing the “women aren’t capable of making choices with their own bodies” mentality & we must protect them in a nanny state-ish way.

  48. JRice: No offense, because I know you’re an intelligent person, making good points with good intentions, but I REALLY think you need to stop trying to apply academic and intellectual approaches to sexism to the real world. They are simply impractical and impracticable.

    Of course most people aren’t aware of sexism as you define it. As we’ve discussed in previous threads, even people who self-identify of feminists don’t qualify as such in your eyes because they don’t fit whatever academic standard you’re applying.

    Reality and academia are, at least for the liberal arts, two completely different worlds. The things that we discussed while I was getting my MA in Film Studies…NO ONE who goes to the movies is thinking about that stuff. It’s all self-sustaining and has more than a slight stink of BS to it. That’s just the way it is with liberal arts academia, IMO, and most people who are in the academy would benefit from reminding themselves of what the real world is like from time to time without viewing it through the lens of whatever the philosophical approach du jour may be.

    As others have stated already, time and again, utilizing prostitution is not about power (at least not all the time) and people who visit prostitutes aren’t all “immoral” by default. I think those attitudes come from thinking about it too much and (perhaps) seeing popular portrayals in the media or the news. The news doesn’t run stories that say “Man visits prostitute, brings dinner, watches TV, and both enjoy their time.” They run (as in ANY situation) the negative stories… but the positive almost certainly happen as often (if not more often).

    And, finally, if you’re waiting for ideal conditions to arise spontaneously before you legalize things, well, good luck. As you noted, I think you’ve got it backwards here. You propose waiting for ideals that, frankly, are lofty and may never come in exactly the forms you would desire. I do not think that there is sufficient reason to sit around and wait for the intellectual and social reforms before we apply changes to legality.

    Again, I mean you no offense, but I just felt I had to speak up regarding the approach you take. I’m no expert, by any means, and I welcome criticism of all sorts for my own ideas. If you’re being too academic, perhaps I’m being short sighted or pollyanna about it, so I’d be happy if someone pointed it out to me :-P

    BTW: @SophieHirschfeld: GREAT post. Bravo!

  49. JRice:

    “Yeah, but any corporation that thinks they own your private parts has way too much power. ”

    Um…Wha??? Thinks they own their private parts??? Does the company who hires a manual laborer think they own his hands? Does a corporation that hires a scientists think they own his brain?

    Stop being stupid.

  50. I’d rather spend half the day in a whorehouse having sex with people I’m not overly attracted to, than spend all day in a warehouse lugging boxes I’m not even remotely attracted to.
    But then, I’m a guy. Maybe we think differently on this kind of thing.

  51. The more I think about this, the more I wonder.

    (and maybe this is too off topic or whatnot, and who knows how many people are still reading this thread)

    Why do we have laws? Aren’t they to protect the safety and happiness of the majority of the people?

    Murder, theft, arson, etc are against the law because they hurt people and it isn’t enough for us to know that they hurt people… someone is still going to do it, so we make it against the law so that we can punish the wrong doer and encourage others to not do these things, not just because they are “bad” or wrong, but because our society has felt so strongly about them being bad or wrong that we have set up a punishment system to keep people in line.

    Right?

    Jaywalking is against the law because it puts people in danger. The punishment is less sever than for rape (as an example) because we view the threat to society as less. But it is still something punishable, something unlawful because we want to try to make the roads safe for other pedestrians and drivers.

    Right?

    Sometimes laws are put in place based more on social views…. Black people can’t marry white people, women can’t vote, etc… and eventually our perceptions as to why these things are bad change to the point where it doesn’t make sense to keep these things illegal. Where is the harm to society if there are interracial marriages? Where is the harm with women voters? There isn’t… so the law is changed.

    So when we look at anything that is currently illegal… before we ask about making it legal, shouldn’t we ask why it is illegal? Is it illegal to keep the majority of society safe (laws against murder, rape, incest) … or is it illegal to keep the majority of society happy, (or more comfortable with what is societally accepted as is the case of the former laws against interracial marriage, women’s rights etc.)

    Obviously we can connect the issue of prostitution or drug use to this…(Where does prostitution fall? Somewhere in the middle? Are the laws against it helping keep people safe? Or are they just continuing to uphold societal pressures that might need to be reexamined and maybe change?)

    But I am really asking about the larger picture of why we have laws and would love some feedback on this from you beautifully awesome skeptical people.

  52. @Expatria: None taken! I respect your opinions, too: you bring a lot to our community.

    I’m not so sure “apply[ing] academic and intellectual approaches” is often a bad thing, so I can’t agree with your point. : ) I may be terribly biased there, since I’m such a “University guy”. But, A) my position on sexism doesn’t come from universities: 99% of it comes from my wife, who’s never taken a class on feminism. And most of what she believes comes from a feminist (ginmar, if anyone cares to make ad hominems) who’s never even been to college. I think their approach has been pragmatic. That said, this is a red herring: here’s my point.

    People (both men and women) are way too quick to brush sexism off. They’re doing it now. You’re an intelligent chap, so perhaps you personally have really explored these issues and decided on your own that patriarchy is “impractical” to work against. (Which would be a shame.) If that’s what people think after considering it, so be it…

    Nor am I asking for everyone to understand and acknowledge it… just a critical mass, which could be quite small. (15%?) Once there are enough people who “get it”, the ideals start to work themselves into the rest of the population by some kind of social osmosis.

  53. @JRice: It’s not that I think “patriarchy” is impractical to work against. I just think that, in some regards, it’s a windmill at which the academic left repeatedly tilts and which, in many cases, doesn’t mean what they say it means in real or practical terms. It is rather protean and often lends towards special pleading, you must admit.

    Nor does “academic” necessarily HAVE to mean “university” in my estimation. I think it means a generally lofty approach involving over-reliance on liberal arts (read as: self-sustained and not always scientifically based) books or scholarly work, and over-intellectualization of problems coming from self-isolating communities rather than direct engagement with general public. I think of it as the general attitude of trying to explain or change the actions of people via sociological theories rather than direct engagement and actually understanding and working with what people THINK makes them tick.

    That said, please don’t think that I mean academia or intellectualism is useless…clearly, that’s not so. I just don’t think that it’s always the most practical or reasonable way to approach big real-world problems especially in terms of legislation or policy making. It’s a top-down approach in some ways that can neglect more effective bottom-up strategies.

    Anyway, that’s all I’ll say about it. I’m a bit of a curmudgeon and nit-pick too much, so I’ll shut up for the time being. Glad you didn’t find it offensive :)

  54. Drat, I really didn’t want to post again this soon, but you made me remember something relevant: human pliability. WARNING: off-topic. Kinda.

    Like you posit (rightfully so): over-exposure to over-intellectualism and academia will eventually lead a person to start believing in the ideals they preach.

    To use another analogy, we like to point out how growing up in a Christian family, we often absorb their values. It can take a very, very long time to “deprogram” those things we learn. While we believe them, we barely question them… and in fact, when we are questioned about them we resist even considering that our actions are harmful or misguided.

    …My point, which I’m sure you’ll have made by now, you insightful minx of a reader, is that we’ve been brought up in a “family” where the power is unevenly given to the men.

    So all I’m saying is: it’s natural and expected to resist questioning how we were brought up. (Maybe not you, of course… but some other people, right?)

    We’ve very pliable minds, humans. It’s a good thing we’re mostly harmless.

  55. @SophieHirschfeld:

    “Given how easily people are swayed even by fallacious arguments and mistruths, I would hardly think that is a compelling reason to change one’s opinion on prostitution.”

    As you recognized, I lean toward legalization. However, I think the problem here, as is often the case with debates on this blog, is with burdens of proof. You find the evidence that prostitution should be illegal to be unpersuasive. My point is that those who think everybody will be healthier and better off if we legalize prostituion have little data to back up any of THEIR contentions. I know Penn & Teller think that this is all bullshit, but whatever does or does not happen rural Nevada is not exactly indicative of what would happen on a larger scale. (I imagine you are not a fan of anecdotes, but consider http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/122984/detail/.) (See also http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/rfre/2001/00000067/00000001/art00007.) Ultimately, I sit on the side of the civil libertarian (i.e., freedom of choice), but I don’t think it’s as easy an issue as others think it is.

    “Please provide whatever you think it is makes it causal. ”

    According to European members of our discussion group and my own admittedly cursory reading, in countries (indeed, districts within the same cities) where prostitution is not legal, the incidence of child prostitution is lower. The same is true for human trafficking. We can go back and forth on the correlation v. causation, but I do not ignore the trend. Certainly, law enforcement will tell you that if you give people an inch (i.e., legalizing adult prostitution), they will use the room you give them to take a mile (i.e., hiring 15 and 16 year-old girls). That’s my only point.

    “Taxing other consumer products doesn’t seem to force those things onto the black market and I actually question the validity of that claim.”

    So you really don’t think raising the “sin taxes” significantly does not create a black market of cheaper non-taxable alternatives? What do people do when a state raises cigarette taxes? They illegally smuggle cigarettes in from another state. See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cigarette_smuggling (“According to John D’Angelo of the U.S. government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), there is a “direct relationship between the increase in a state’s tax and an increase in illegal trafficking.”) Quite simply, if people are offered an alternative at a significantly lower cost, even if it is illegal, they will take that alternative. Seeing as how prostitution is relatively easy to get away with, even if it is illegal (as others have noted above), why wouldn’t providers avoid the costs of regulation/taxation to provide the service for signficantly less? (See the web abstract above too, which notes that new regulations on legal prostitution have driven prostitutes underground.)

    “Do you mean more so than other people? Please provide evidence.” Re: Johns being clinically addicted to sex]

    My evidence is only anecdotal, and I will grant you that. A client of mine was an escort when she was in grad school about a decade ago. She indicated that well over half of her clientele were repeat customers, all married, who saw her at least 3 to 4 times (dropping $1,500 to $2,000) a week. So if I have a coke habit that costs me $1,500 to $2,000 a week, is that an addiction? Does the answer to that question really depend on how wealthy I am? Just posing the question.

  56. @shanek: Sleeping around doesn’t provide a revenue stream for human traffickers, create red light districts that invariably require extra police presence and lower property values, provide nearly the same possibilities of disease transmission… you have to admit, there are plenty of possibilities-I just don’t know how big each of them are, and whether they are substantial enough to sway my opinion firmly either way.

    I’ve found some stats (but am still rooting for raw data…stay tuned) that suggests that in Victoria in Australia and Amsterdam, the ratio of legal to illegal brothels is 1:3, and a majority of the workers in the illegal brothels are trafficked. If these numbers pan out, in a couple of the most cited examples of benefits for legalization, does that change the argument?

    We also may be orbiting around one of the sticking points, that probably points to why the group seemed solidly in support of porn but much more ambivalent about prostitution-are you paying for a service or a person? Now, a purely mechanical argument can be made that receiving the services of breasts and a vagina is no different than receiving the services of a carpenter’s hands or a bike messenger’s legs- at the same time, I think it’s disingenuous to assert that because their is no hard line in the sand that their is no meaningful difference between paying for an hour of carpentry and an hour of rent on someone’s genitals and limbic system.

    Thoughts? Is that what we’re really struggling with here- the emotionally privileged nature and level of bodily access of sex? Is paying for sex problematic for the same reason paying Grandma for Thanksgiving dinner is-that converting a social relationship to a far less valuable economic one inherently produces nothing but losers?

    In case I haven’t said it before, I think legalization is probably smart. I just think the evidence suggests that the framework for doing so must be intricate and extensive, and even then I’m not sure it can do the job.

  57. @JRice:

    It can take a very, very long time to “deprogram” those things we learn […] we’ve been brought up in a “family” where the power is unevenly given to the men.

    I really don’t think you can extend this metaphor from individual families to the “family” of a global society. This really, really isn’t to say that sexism does not exist, nor that it is not a large, persistent, and often unnoticed problem, nor even that some values are culturally inculcated.

    It’s just that the degree to which and the means by which this sexism is taken up is going to vary WIDELY from community to community, from culture to culture, and even (if, indeed, imposed family values matter so much) from family to family. And, naturally, there will be variation in the degree to which a person is prone to question how they were raised, anyway. Otherwise you hit a paradox in terms of how the first “true feminists” came about…how could they, with the views of a society AND family to reject…that would take a ton of deprogramming, but by who?? (reductio ad absurdum, I know, but you see what I mean).

    All I’m saying is that there must be a middle ground between relativism and these vague, collectivistic ideas about the prevalence of sexism and sexist attitudes, especially since you’re running with a premise that seems to say “EVERYONE IS AUTOMATICALLY SEXIST BY DEFAULT AND CANNOT COMMENT UNLESS THEY’VE READ UP OR STUDIED THE LITERATURE.” I place a lot of value on the experiences of the individual and, since that’s one thing we all are, I think the individual is where to start.

    Gah! Sorry. I said I was done with JRice for now but I had to come back. Sorry sorry sorry! ::scoots back into a dark corner::

  58. @Expatria: I do dislike tit-for-tat commenting, so I feel your pain… cause here I’m doing it again, too. : )

    I really don’t think you can extend this metaphor from individual families to the “family” of a global society.

    Agreed. That’s why I was maliciously vague. ; )

    I place a lot of value on the experiences of the individual and, since that’s one thing we all are, I think the individual is where to start.

    [nod] I don’t mean to diminish the individual. But, like in medicine, you can’t cure the disease if you’re only looking at one patient. You’ve got to look at the broader context.

    I understand why it’s difficult and “abstract”.

    a premise that seems to say [shouting shouting]

    My most sincere apologies: everyone has their right to comment. I had hoped I was pointing out the dangers of ignoring something. Guess I was doing it wrong.

    I guess I need some outside validation, here. Am I really out of line? Should I just STFU?

  59. @JRice: “Should I just STFU?”

    No! :)

    Don’t let my grumpy pickiness make you think you shouldn’t comment. You’re not out of line, and in a discussion the worst thing one side can do is to just give up the ghost under criticism. No worries! I’m just trying to challenge your preconceptions (as I hope you are trying to challenge mine) in the hopes of giving everyone something to think about.

    That said, we may just want to wrap up the tit-for-tat to make sure that the two of us aren’t annoying the others, rather than making them think! :-P

  60. This is a really interesting conversation. Before reading the comments, my answer was “absolutely legalize it.”

    It is my personal opinion that the issues of feminism and sexual attitudes should not necessarily be part of the question of whether or not prostitution should be legal. The fact that there are people who behave in socially unacceptable ways (according to some) is not the issue that caught my attention. I think you can’t legislate attitudes.

    However, it was my first reaction that prostitutes would be safer if prostitution was legalized. I don’t necessarily think that this is the slam-dunk argument that I thought it was.

    The most compelling thing stated above (if it is accurate) is that the ratio of legal to illegal brothels in Amsterdam is 1:3. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    If that is the case, is it possible that the conditions for the women (or men) in the illegal brothels is worse than it currently is in the U.S. for illegal prostitutes? I have no idea. But I think that this is the type of question that needs serious consideration before we can answer the big question.

  61. I have run across a few prostitutes and it is not an ordinary profession. I don’t know how to set it up so that the girls are not exploited or don’t start conning the Johns. It isn’t as trivial as people let on.

  62. @Aristothenes:

    Actually, the law is not a tool that “we” use to shape peoples actions in some desired end. The law is an instrument for the resolution of grievances and the protection of civil rights. Goverments exist for the sole purpose of defending the rights of the citizens. That is called “libertarianism”.

    The word for your definition of law is “orwellian fucking nightmare.”

    And from a skeptics point of view, its called “unworkable and innefficient”. One thing we’ve learned form keeping the ephedrine behind the counter is that it doesn’t decrease meth production. Drug laws don’t decrease drug consumption. Laws against prostitution don’t protect poor women from becoming prosititutes.

    These sorts of behavioral laws don’t work. They are as unworkable as Rational Actor theory is naive. Skeptically speaking, we need to look at this without patronizing people by assuming that we know what behavior is constructive or destructive for them, and without pretending that laws we know are worthless have some value.

    The question is best asked: Is there a reason to prohibit in their entirety transactions in which one or more parties agree to sexual congress with one or more other parties in exchange for money? Is there a clear violation of rights that requires government intervention in such transactions?

  63. @sethmanapio: Meh, whatever. My point was that good law is a subtle instrument-rephrase my “less destructive ends” as “a world where fewer people’s rights are violated by the externalities of the transactions of others” and I’d bet we’re on the same page. Orwellian, I assure you I am not. :-)

  64. [email protected]Aristothenes: I’d bet we’re on the same page. Orwellian, I assure you I am not.

    ———-

    No one ever thinks they are. :)

    The point I was trying to make is that any law has to make a case for itself. And if the case is unclear, and the harms of the prohibition are obvious, the correct response should be to remove the law, monitor the situation that results, and create new laws that address any rights violations. It seems like the law is never on trial, but it should be.

  65. @Aristothenes:

    00000

    I mean, why doesn’t anyone ask what it would take to legalize those illegal brothels? Why are they illegal? Are the taxes high enough to make dodging them worth the risk? Is the demand for sex workers artificially high because of sex tourism? I think its obvious that the market is not being properly regulated, but that doesn’t mean that banning prostitution is the answer… then 3 out of 3 brothels would be illegal!

  66. @sethmanapio: Good points both. On the first, I generally agree-but best practices usually calls for trying to head off consequences at the pass with results from other experiments-people’s lives make for awfully big chemistry sets. But yes-the law should always been on trial.

    On the second-it is a good question. But when you look at the taxes levied in both regions, they seem in line with other consumer goods, and the amount of medical attention seems thoroughly reasonable to me given what we know about sex workers as disease vectors. It looks to me like a straight-up market failure- the number of women willing to participate in brothels is insufficient (not surprising with such a charged issue-we wouldn’t expect it to follow any kind of sensible demand curve) to satisfy the demand (which, as you say, could be artificially high because of tourism,) entrepreneurs fill the vacuum with the unwilling, and law enforcement is crippled by the inability to tell them apart from the street-a discrimination problem that doesn’t occur with prohibition.

    I should probably let this one rest-I’m really just camping here to stir the pot and remind people it’s thorny-especially considering I’d vote for some kind of legalization. I just love (from an interesting debate and exploration standpoint) and hate (from a trying to actually imagine equitable solutions in the real world standpoint) messy issues like this.

  67. Aristothenes

    “Sleeping around doesn’t provide a revenue stream for human traffickers, create red light districts that invariably require extra police presence and lower property values, provide nearly the same possibilities of disease transmission…”

    It provides for exactly the same possibilities as disease transmission, and the rest is only true because prostitution is illegal!

  68. @Aristothenes: On the first, I generally agree-but best practices usually calls for trying to head off consequences at the pass with results from other experiments-people’s lives make for awfully big chemistry sets.

    ——————————–

    The thing is, we know that here, in the US, we have negative consequences–severe ones–that are a direct consequence of government action. Therefore we already know that prostitution law is bad as it stands. It does not work, and it doesn’t make sense.

    The baseline for change would be no law. That’s where you start. From there, sure, you can step forward with other people’s results in mind.

  69. @shanek: I was referring to legal prostitution, actually. People don’t want prostitutes in their backyards, the risk of abuse and violence necessitates extra police presence, and the sexual partner distribution for someone advertising themselves for sex and booking their day with encounters is still a fair bit different from even the most skillful lothario.

    Like I’ve said before-legalize, but don’t pretend that that doesn’t come with a raft of negative consequences.

  70. What risk of abuse and violence? You assert this would be there only because it’s there when illegal.

    NIMBY is not a valid argument.

    And people’s affairs and bookings, in any industry, are their own business.

  71. Shanek said: “And people’s affairs and bookings, in any industry, are their own business.”

    Only in an ideal world long past, shanek. We no longer live in a world where any real expectation of privacy can prevail.

    To be more specific, “people’s affairs and bookings, in any industry, are their own business” only until some corporate or political interest deems it their business too.

    Oh, by the way, I just thought I might mention that there is no extant style guide, at least in the Western, English speaking world, that accepts ALL CAPS as a mode for written expression of emphasis.

    Just thought I’d mention that for futture consideration.

    For example, the Chicago, the APA, and the New York Times style guides advise that emphasis be expressed using either italics, or in a pinch and under specific special circumstances bold.

    Just sayin’.

  72. Blah blah blah. We’re talking about making it legal. Once it’s legal, it’s not anyone else’s business. I reject your tyrannical notion that no one should expect privacy today. You could use that to justify anything you want.

    Oh, by the way, I just thought I might mention that there is no extant style guide, at least in the Western, English speaking world, that accepts ALL CAPS as a mode for written expression of emphasis.”

    Ever read Shakespeare? Ever read the Declaration of Independence? Ever seen any particular flier or playbill from the 19th Century?

    Not all formats support bold or italics. But you go on, and keep looking for whatever lame excuses you can find to avoid rational debate.

  73. To be more specific, “people’s affairs and bookings, in any industry, are their own business” only until some corporate or political interest deems it their business too.

    ——————–

    Oh, bullshit. If Tom Cruise wants to book whatever movie he wants, its his business, as in, he has the business control. Everyone else can comment, but we call this butting in and it has no legal standing. And a studio might decide to drop him because other people don’t like it, but that is also their business.

    It’s trivial to expect that Prostitution, like any business, has some potential for force and fraud, and that the legal system should be capable of dealing with that. It is possible, although not certain, that Prostitution might require laws that other industries do not require to protect the rights of people in the industry.

    The fact that it is even a point of question whether legalizing prostitution would involve some level of reasonable regulation is a mystery to me. Its as if people can’t imagine treating prostitution the same way we treat strip clubs, personal trainers, or massage parlors. Grow up, people.

  74. Sorry it took me so long to get back to this – I’m a busy girl sometimes.

    @JRice:

    Yes, I think you do have it backwards. How can we change attitudes if the law itself is against the thing we’re focusing on? It reminds me of when I was a kid and my dad forbade me to date black boys and when I argued with him, he said it was because couples shouldn’t be interracial because of prejudice. Such a stance is, of course, counter-intuitive (and really wasn’t the real reason why my dad didn’t want me dating them). People don’t make change very well when elements of their social environments reflect the opposing stance.

    @Kaylia_Marie: & @Expatria: Thanks for the compliments!

    @TheSkepticalMale: “You find the evidence that prostitution should be illegal to be unpersuasive. My point is that those who think everybody will be healthier and better off if we legalize prostituion have little data to back up any of THEIR contentions.

    Actually, it should be taken on a point by point basis. (Though, if that was your point and I saw it as clearly expressed as you stated it here, I would have agreed.) I could go through that same website and point to things that are wrong with both sides, but I feel it wouldn’t be a very practical thing for me to do right now.

    I imagine you are not a fan of anecdotes, but consider

    You’re right, I’m not a fan of anecdotes and that milkandcookies link didn’t work anyway. But then, you could have posted something that brought me to tears and I still would have taken a moment to bring myself back to reality before telling you that I’d much rather have a rational basis for a stance than make a decision based on an anecdote.

    Ultimately, I sit on the side of the civil libertarian (i.e., freedom of choice), but I don’t think it’s as easy an issue as others think it is.

    I’m not going to pretend the issue is easy. Hell, if it was we wouldn’t even be having this debate. Issues like this aren’t easy – there’s usually going to be tough points, places where lines are blurred and where you have to find a stance even when you know you risk damage points too for the sake of some ideal.

    According to European members of our discussion group and my own admittedly cursory reading, in countries (indeed, districts within the same cities) where prostitution is not legal, the incidence of child prostitution is lower.

    That doesn’t really eliminate the possible explanation that I mentioned before that the instances of child prostitution are just not uncovered as much as well as other factors that may come into play.

    The same is true for human trafficking. We can go back and forth on the correlation v. causation, but I do not ignore the trend.

    Actually, bringing human trafficking into prostitution debates tends to ignore other very important aspects of issues regarding human trafficking. Essentially, human trafficking happens, also, in great numbers in countries where prostitution is illegal, where women have very few rights and where poverty is a huge problem. There is also not a consistent correlation between human trafficking and prostitution – that particular trend tends to vary widely.

    Certainly, law enforcement will tell you that if you give people an inch (i.e., legalizing adult prostitution), they will use the room you give them to take a mile (i.e., hiring 15 and 16 year-old girls). That’s my only point.

    I don’t consider law enforcement to be a consistently reliable source of information on human behavior, really. I won’t deny that people are usually selfish. Hell, I’m selfish. But that isn’t really a great explanation, alone, as to why some of this happens. I think we need to take care in creating more evidence for a link before we jump to conclusions. That’s basically my problem with the argument, there’s not enough evidence to make the connections your post tried to make.

    So you really don’t think raising the “sin taxes” significantly does not create a black market of cheaper non-taxable alternatives?

    There is a difference between taxing and ‘significant’ taxing. I thought I had mentioned that, but I don’t see it now, so forgive me if I didn’t. People are less inclined to go out of their way to save small amounts of money. If it is a large tax, or a ‘significant’ tax, then you’re right. Little taxes, though, are not such a big deal. If, for example, my coffee was taxed 2 cents per can, I probably wouldn’t really care much to try and avoid the tax. However, if it was $1 per can, I might better understand the motivation to buy it in bulk, somehow, tax-free.

    Erm, actually, I found the statement about how to tax in the previous sentence to what you quoted:

    I would say that taxation only in the amount needed to support the extra things legalization would require for keeping the industry safe (such as age verification, disease control, education), would be sufficient.

    In other words, the tax would be small, just enough to cover certain things.

    Seeing as how prostitution is relatively easy to get away with, even if it is illegal (as others have noted above), why wouldn’t providers avoid the costs of regulation/taxation to provide the service for signficantly less? (See the web abstract above too, which notes that new regulations on legal prostitution have driven prostitutes underground.)

    I think you misunderstand my stance on taxation. Also, it isn’t just taxes that leads to the prostitution underground in Nevada – it is also the regulations. That being the case, I tend to see it as a buyer beware situation. If a consumer wants to risk their safety on someone who is not paying taxes and does not have the right paperwork, that’s their choice – not mine to make it for them. I would want the taxes there primarily to provide ways to protect people. I can’t force people to accept that protection.

    “She indicated that well over half of her clientele were repeat customers, all married, who saw her at least 3 to 4 times (dropping $1,500 to $2,000) a week. So if I have a coke habit that costs me $1,500 to $2,000 a week, is that an addiction? Does the answer to that question really depend on how wealthy I am? Just posing the question.”

    No. Addiction has more criteria than simply how much it costs and cost relative to income is an even sillier basis to determine an addiction. If a wealthy person spends $200/week on food and a poor person spends the same on food – are we going to claim that the poor person is addicted? I’d hope not. In reality, things like this depend on what the individual decides they need. If there is an element of self-neglect or other damage to their lives that is significant, then there might be room for a case. Money spent on its own, though, is not the only thing you can base it on.

    I’m not jumping into the rest of the debate right now (sorry) because I lack time.

  75. shanek said:

    Ever read Shakespeare? Ever read the Declaration of Independence? Ever seen any particular flier or playbill from the 19th Century?

    Not all formats support bold or italics. But you go on, and keep looking for whatever lame excuses you can find to avoid rational debate.

    shanek, you’re so hostile, reactionary, and wrong! It’s almost not worth the effort, but I can’t resist a good bash. And anyway, I’ve never, ever looked for lame excuses to avoid rational debate. I’ve no idea what you base such a groundless claim on.

    Of course I’ve heard of Shakespeare, don’t be a twit. And I think I’ve read the Declaration of Independence, a long, long time ago — after all, being a Canadian it doesn’t carry quite the emotional weight for me that it might for you.

    Anyway, that being said, what on earth relevance do either of those have on the issue of effective means of declaring emphasis in written language — or even more meaningless, 19th century handbills? Are we now discussing the marketing tools of fools from the distant past?

    Anyhow, those examples are beyond being simply out of date and irrelevant. For crying out loud Shakespeare doesn’t even use conteomporary English. Would you argue that we can all communicate effectively and make ourselves understood if we use Shakespearean English? Hardly. If you really think that a four hundred year old play is a model for how to present modern written communication, well, O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, and thus not, as some ungracious shaneks do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads. And recks not his own rede.

    And both shanek and sethmanpio, judging by the rather amazing and certainly unwarranted hostility in your responses, I think I must have mis-stated my comment regarding privacy and things being one’s own business.

    What I intended was to simply comment that in contemporary society it seems that despite some claims to otherwise, governments and corporations have greater access than ever before to our private lives should they decide it is warranted.

    Yes, perhaps “if Tom Cruise wants to book whatever movie he wants, its his business, as in, he has the business control. Everyone else can comment, but we call this butting in and it has no legal standing.” But let’s say a government decides it doesn’t like Tom’s “religion”, for example, it can butt into Tom’s business quite effectively and make that business to some degree its own, and cause Tom a great deal of public discomfort (if he’s capable of any such thing) and make “his business” that much more everyone’s business and that much more difficult for Tom to carry out in the way he deems it to be his business to do. You do recall Germany do you not?

    However, I would like to say that the primary intent of my comment was a wry observation on the overall intrusion of government and major corporations into our lives as well as the general nosiness of the general public and how it is generally encouraged by the general media.

    Lastly, why on earth either one of feels the need to be so rude, hostile, and insulting is rather beyond my comprehension. It’s fine if you wish to disagree with me. That’s what debate is all about. But if you feel the need for so much unwarranted hostility, anger, and rude behaviour, why don’t step away from your computers, go outside and beat up some women and children or something.

    Sophie, it is becoming a real delight to read your posts. You are so well spoken and reasonable, even while those around you are losing their rational heads and climbing back into the trees. Thank you for your rationality.

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