Sometimes you guys send in very thought provoking emails, and we benefit from your knowledge, humor, and insight. And sometimes your emails spark a good discussion.

Today's Inquisition subject comes from Skepchick reader, ullrich, who emailed us to say:

I’ve been periodically asked via email to sign a change.org petition demanding that Backpage.com shut down their adult ads section, because some are from pimps trafficking children. I’m thinking that this is not the best way to stop what is obviously a horrendous violation of human rights. A better idea would be to decriminalize prostitution so women in the oldest profession against their will can more easily avail themselves of laws against slavery, and unfair labor practices. Meanwhile, a better approach to this problem would be to take legal action against Backpage.com to force it to refuse to publish and report to the police any ads which implicitly or explicitly offer sex from children. I’m concerned that shutting down all advertising outlets for prostitution will just push the industry further underground and make it even harder for the service providers in that industry to escape or receive a fair share of the proceeds.

So what do you think? Is this a pressing issue? Is ullrich onto something? Any ideas of your own? Any big plans for this weekend? Can I come along?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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58 Comments

  1. Profile photo of JeffGrigg
    April 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm —

    That's so Libertarian.

    Support Ron Paul!  He's the best Republican candidate!
    (And that can be a scary thought.   ;-)

    • Profile photo of Improbable Joe
      April 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm —

      I've got a potato that would make a better candidate than Ron Paul… and a better human being, come to think of it. I love  you, potato! :)

  2. Profile photo of Luna
    April 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm —

    Right – one day a person is a 17 year-old "child" prostitute and the next day she's a misguided 18 year old "adult" prostitute. How about this: arrest the clients and any website that promotes prostitution, and get the prostitute the help she needs. Do you know anyone with a decent job and health insurance who turns into a prostitute? No? Good. Problem solved.

    • Profile photo of Ryan Moran
      April 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm —

      Yes, lets forcibly "help"  adult prostitutes whether they want it or not because surely no one who has a decent job would decide they'd rather be a prostitute.  Except for, you know, all sorts of people all the time.  But what do they know about their own lives anyways, surely they need to be helped for their own good!

      • Profile photo of Luna
        April 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm —

        Enjoy putting words into people's mouths? Who said forcibly? If you have evidence that women with good jobs still work as prostitutes, I suggest you provide a link. From the U,S. Department of Health:
         

        Percent who want to quit but can’t due to lack of money
        92%

        http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/index.html
        What's your solution?

        • Profile photo of SidBB
          April 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm —

           
          I wonder what other jobs you might find similar statistics for. If a huge majority of people with an unpleasant job (sewer cleaning, let's say) were to say they would like to quit but can't due to lack of money, that wouldn't necessarily mean that the work itself should be illegal.
           
          On the whole, I agree that trafficking and forced prostitution is a huge problem, but I'm skeptical of whether outright outlawing of all prostitution is the best solution.

          • Profile photo of Luna
            April 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

            There could be a more moderate solution, but I haven't seen one offered here. I don't count sewer work on the same level as taking off your clothes and allowing someone to invade your body if you are  wishing to get out of the business.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          April 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm —

          http://skepchick.org/2012/04/sexwork/
           
          You might want to scroll down and read the comments by Otoki.  An <b>actual sex worker who choses to be a sex worker</b>.  Imagine that!!!  Someone in the sex work business that doesn't neatly align with your biases.
           
          You know, sex work can be dangerous work.  But a LOT of that is because it's illegal and not regulated.  The women (and many men) can't get help because they fear arrest.  Or they fear not being taken seriously.  Or they fear being raped, even by the cops that they go to for help.
           
          This is far more complicated than just "MAKE IT ILLEGAL!  Arrest!  Arrest!  ARREST!"

          It's *already* illegal in most places, and it's not like these problems have gone away.  Just, as someone said, like the war on drugs.

          • Profile photo of Luna
            April 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

            I agree it's more complex than that, however the same statistics show that the average age the prostitute begins her "job" is 14 years old. We won't even let kids that age drive or work full time in an office (if I remember right). If they're hitting 18 years old and saying they'd like to quit, I consider it a form of rape if they don't feel they can stop having sex out of fear of not being able to feed themselves.
            Again, some points I agree on. But where are the alternate solutions to what I said?

          • Profile photo of marilove
            April 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm

            Underage children are not the same as adults making the choice.  Forced sex work is not the same thing as choosing it yourself.  There IS a difference.
             
            And, as I said below, it's not like this hasn't been going on for FUCKING DECADES.  Including children.  Yet more and more and more and more laws are not the answer.  In fact, there are *already* laws in place.
             
            The laws that are in place need to be better enforced.  There needs to be more education.  There needs to be more OPTIONS and support for families and young people so that they don't feel like they need/have to go into sex work.
             
            More and more and more laws, however, are not the answer.  If they were … we wouldn't be having this problem.

        • Profile photo of Ryan Moran
          April 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm —

          The 92% figure is dubious at best.  Most people would quit their jobs if they didn't need the money.  Is a job only considered ok if you don't in any way need the money from it?  Does everyone working jobs they don't like (or at least wouldn't do for free) need rescuing?  And that still leaves 8 percent of people who love their job so much they'd do it even if they didn't need the money… do they not count?  Is it cool to deny them their right to have sex under whatever conditions they deem appropriate?

          • Profile photo of Luna
            April 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm

            Well, data is data, Ryan. If you have competing statistics, I'd be glad to read them as long as they list the source. Otherwise your claim of dubiousness falls kind of flat. As I mentioned I'd support not charging the prostitutes, so they'd be free to do it again. But really, 14 years old average age of beginning that practice? If you have a better solution, by all means, let me know.

          • Profile photo of Ryan Moran
            April 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm

            The alternative solution is clear.  Legalize it.  Regulating the industry has, for the most part, eliminated 12 year old factory workers in America.  It would do the same with prostitution, or at least severely reduce the numbers of underage workers.  The 92% figure is dubious because it's not measuring the number who are coerced into prostitution, it's measuring the number of prostitutes that wouldn't work if they didn't have to.  That's not the same thing, and includes tons of people who wouldn't work ANY job if they didn't have to.  
            I don't have any numbers on forced prostitution worldwide, but in India 70% of prostitutes enter the trade voluntarily (http://www.plri.org/resource/70-cent-women-enter-flesh-trade-voluntarily-study).  That leaves 30% who need help, but the solution isn't to criminalize (or drive out of business if you just criminalize their customers) the 70% who entered their chosen profession voluntarily.  The solution is to legalize it so it's out in the open and far easier to stop abuse.

    • Profile photo of vexorian
      April 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm —

      Your strategy already does SUCH a good job against drugs and prostitution that it has got to be a great idea!
       

      • Profile photo of Luna
        April 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm —

        A fourth naysayer with no alternate suggestion? Sheesh.

        • Profile photo of kagerato
          April 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm —

          To discover the solution, one must first understand the cause.  The root causes of slavery and forced trafficking are in poverty and power imbalances.  Therefore, the solution must directly attack those issues.
          We could pretty much stamp out modern day servitude of all kinds in a matter of a generation or so if we were actually dead serious about programs that would address it.  However, most Americans casually dismiss systematic attempts to end economic inequality as "socialism" and even "communism", as though they think labels and emotional appeal are convincing.
          What do those programs look like?
          (1) Guaranteed Minimum Income, also known as Social Security for Everyone
          (2) Guaranteed Health Insurance/Care, also known as Medicare for Everyone
          (3) Deeply Progressive Income and Estate Taxes
          (4) Comprehensive government job programs, plus education and training as necessary to perform them.
          There are a variety of other ideas, too, and accomplishing some of these can potentially require many other changes.
          All of this tends to get dismissed, not only by conservative crowds by the public generally.  They assume these programs would not work (even though incomplete analogues already exist in some nations).  In other cases, they merely prefer the status quo which is much more effective at accomplishing the goal of concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few, and creating a stratified society.
          Note that these "radical" programs effectively replace many existing government activities.  For instance, with a graduated minimum income, there is no need for separate food stamps or housing programs.  Those are merely incomplete and less efficient ways to accomplish the same task less effectively.
          Some question why anyone would work at all if they had assurances of basic food, shelter, and medicine, but this is ultimately silly.  People already "work" well beyond what is necessary to actually acquire the minimum sustaining amount of food, shelter, and medicine.  Clearly the motivating factors are more complex than that.  In any case, the concept and implementation of a basic minimum income does not provide anyone with a lavish lifestyle.  There will be no mansions with butlers and maids.  People will still be motivated by the desire to compete with others, earn fame and outstanding fortune, and have exceptional luxuries they could not otherwise acquire.  Presumably there are even those motivated by sheer boredom.
          In any case, all of this is to show that we don't really look seriously at solutions to poverty and all of the emergent problems it creates.  People are stuck in a mind set of a hierarchical society with clear and substantial class divisions.  Why, if the neighbors can eat and have a house, too, how can I prove how much better I am?  (-_-)

          • Profile photo of kagerato
            April 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm

            Oh, my.  The formatting of paragraphs was terrible there.  Sorry about that, though it seems others have also had some difficulty using this pseudo-HTML entry box.

        • Profile photo of victoriadashtwenty
          April 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm —

          Here's an alternative: Infect them with Chlamydia. I know that sounds bad, but keep in mind your idea is to take trafficked children and arrest them. I'd like to point out that prison itself is a form of imprisonment, and in this country, depending on the prison, it may involve being repeatedly raped by men. And after that? They have a criminal record. Legitimate work a felon can get doesn't often pay a living wage, and often the only illegal work these people are qualified for is prostitution.

          Chlamydia is curable. Once these people get the antibiotics they need, they can make a living wage doing something other than sex work. That seems like a much better plan than your idea.

    • Profile photo of ufischer
      April 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm —

      Another simple (but wrong) solution to an age-old problem.  Someone (probably on Skepchick) recently pointed out that her work which she did to help pay for her education was also very demeaning (even though it did not involve prostitution).  The problem is lack of workers' rights.  People in the sex trade in countries where prostitution is not illegal are generally in a much better position than where it is illegal.   The more draconian the laws against it (imagine being a hooker in Iran), the worse it is.   
      Yes, better opportunities for women, minorities, etc and better workers' rights legislation (not to be confused with anti-union legislation which is often billed as right to work) would help, but it doesn't eliminate either the demand for sex work, nor the work itself.  
      Just as the war on drugs has not eliminated marijuana or other illegal drug use, so the laws against prostitution have just given more power to criminals and left the women involved in the trade with fewer opportunities to escape and more opportunities to be murdered.  
      Prohibiting drugs has led to running gun battles in American streets amongs rival gangs of thugs.  Criminal laws against prostitution, far from eliminating the trade, are handing it over to gangs of thugs who profit by terrorizing and enslaving women (and men, let's not forget that boys can also be caught up in that world).
      Regulating the trade in alcohol is an excellent example of a measure which actually worked to reduce the problem of excessive alcohol consumption and has taken that trade out of the hands of trigger happy criminal gangs.   It is time to take the remaining "industries" which are currently in the hands of these gangs into the business world and regulate the crap out of them, just as has been done with the alcohol trade. 
      Unfortunately, with the current push to keep deregulating everything and with lax oversight over the privately run prison system, there are many powerful lobbyists pushing to make more and more things illegal — as long as they're not things rich folks do.   The USA is coming dangerously close to Bob Dylan's famous song:  "… the whole world is one big prison yard. /  Some of us are prisoners /  and some of us are guards …"  …. does anyone in their right mind really want that? 
      Let's not let disgust over the nature of an "industry" blind us to the consequences of leaving it to fester underground.   In the case of prostitution, the consequence is untold suffering and premature death among the most powerless in society.
      I disagree with a lot of what hard core libertarians advocate, but on this issue, they happen have (IMHO) a perfectly valid position. 
       

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm —

      Oh fuck.  Not this again.
       
      I actually know quite a few people who had jobs with OK pay and healthcare who became strippers, doms, prostitutes, and cam girls.  Some liked the freedom they got with the schedule, or being able to choose what days they worked, and being able to make money when you want to and get paid in the moment rather than waiting a week or two to get paid.  Some enjoy the control they have in the job.  I know I'm one of those people.  I don't like when prostitutes try to come into the clubs and ply their trade there, but I don't think they should be pushed further underground.  I think prostitutes should have safe, legal work places where they can go to the cops if shit happens.  I think prostitutes should be able to call the cops because the brothel they work at isn't following health code, worker safety laws, whatever.

      And you know what would be really helpful in curbing minors being prostitutes?  If fellow prostitutes could call the cops without fear that they will be beaten by pimps, or arrested, or kicked out of a brothel.

      Legalize it and give pros rights and a voice.  Children and minors have no fucking place in the sex industry.  There are plenty of adults who shouldn't be in it, but some of them are abused, some of them are desperate, some of them fool themselves into thinking that if they drink they can do the job and there will be no psychological consequences afterwards.  Just as I got out of the emotionally unhealthy job that was retail and food service (and into stripping, which I find very fulfilling thankyouverymuch), there are a lot of sex workers who really should get out of the industry into a job that better suits their preferences, limits, and needs.
      BUT when it comes to prostitution, the chances of getting out if you want to are slimmer because, due to lack of legal protection, many workers (men and women) depend on pimps  to "protect" them.  If they had rights, and cops didn't have to look the other way about their illegal occupation in order to help them, the industry would look a fuck of a lot better.  Just look at Australia, Germany, and Amsterdam for examples of what our industry COULD look like.  They're not perfect, but no industry is, and it's a hell of a lot better than what we have now.

  3. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    April 12, 2012 at 3:47 pm —

    I've not familiar with the website, but my view is that if you're running a website that is obviously being used for criminal behavior, you have an obligation to police yourself, or else the actual police will step in and deal with you. 

    • Profile photo of DiscordianStooge
      April 12, 2012 at 11:34 pm —

      Don't tell this to any file sharing site.

    • Profile photo of Unnullifier
      April 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm —

      If by "obviouscriminal behavior" you're talking about human trafficking and child prostitution, in my brief glance at Backpage I didn't see anything that outright adverts those things.  If you're talking about criminals using Backpage to subtly advertise human trafficking or child prostitute services, then the idea of "an obligation to police yourself, or else the actual police will step in" is actually a bad idea.  That idea that forcing the service provider to police themselves or shut down their adult section completely will not stop the criminals you're trying to stop.  It will drive them deeper underground, to more obscure networks where they will continue in their illegal trade.
      Smart law enforcement officers have and will continue to use the fact that stupid criminals advertise their illegal services on legal websites to find and catch them.  Stupid grandstanding state AGs, politicians, or not stupid but short-sighted well intentioned individuals will try and place the blame on the legal service provider.

      • Profile photo of ufischer
        April 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm —

        Excellent point.  Backpage.com sex ads may actually give police leads to catch more of the child prostitutes' pimps than they would otherwise be able to do if Backpage were shut down.   
         
        If prostitutes were assured they would not be prosecuted and/or sent back to the pestilential Eastern European (and other) hell-holes from which they were recruited, they would likely be much more willing to testify against their captors.   So ultimately, the solution to this problem, like the problem of currently illegal drugs, lies in decriminalizing victimless (in the sense that the person committing the "crime" does not directly impinge on the rights, freedoms, property, etc. of anyone other then herself) crimes.   That obviously includes consumption of illegal drugs and prostitution.  Ultimately the laws against such crimes are religiously motivated and stem from the imperative felt by some true believers to meddle in the lives of people who are "sinning" according to religious "laws".

  4. Profile photo of deviladv
    April 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm —

    Let's stick to discussion of methods and procedures rather than people.  We can find a more appropriate blog to discuss the pros and cons of Libertarian candidates (and as a progressive I'd love to debate you sometime on him).  As a side note, progressives believe prostitution should be decriminalized as well.  It's not a libertarian vs everyone point, it's simply a point of women's health, women's power/rights, and what makes logical sense.
    Yes that's the first is to decriminalize prostitution.  Just disease wise, I heard some of the counties with the lowest rates of STDs are the counties in Nevada with legalized prostitution (but don't hold me to that).  Plus by regulating it, you give women who wish to be in the industry a level of power to control their situation, which is what you want in any industry for any person.  It also frees up resources looking for real crimes.  Child Trafficking is harder to manage, but you would have a mechanism to basically say "if you aren't registered, it's illegal" it makes it easier to find and pin down anyone who's not got the right documentation.  You also give those who are looking for a legal way to engage in these services a way to seek a legal outlet. I'd also bet you'd find legal services "innovating" to provide people with "fantasies" that replicate these illegal activities in a legal manner, cutting down on the demand for "real thing".
    It's not a 100% solution, but I think it would be a rather large percentage solution to the problem.

    • Profile photo of Improbable Joe
      April 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm —

      … not all progressives. I'm not 100% on legalizing prostitution. Sorry… if you read Heina's piece from yesterday, about how crappy the labor market is in general, I'm not really sure how slapping a veneer of government approval of prostitution is going to create overall improvement. 

      • Profile photo of marilove
        April 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm —

        "I'm not really sure how slapping a veneer of government approval of prostitution is going to create overall improvement. "

        It would be a slow process, I think, and we'd need to change our attitudes about prostitution in general.  And about prostitutes.  So much stigma is involved with that profession, and that's not helpful either.
        The problem with the laws and attitude as they stand is that women in this profession are kept hidden.  That is not going to make things better, or safer.
         
        Also, it's called "the world's oldest profession" for a reason — it's not like it's just going to disapear.  DECADES of these laws haven't stopped prostitution.  People who think that making SEX illegal … are naive.  It's never going to work.  IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY.  Making laws against it just makes it worse, not better.
         

        • Profile photo of Improbable Joe
          April 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm —

          I think we need to change the way we think about workers, period. Sex workers have it bad, but they are far from the only ones. 
          Ideally, the integration of sex workers into the general workforce would entail higher overall standards for ALL workers. Otherwise, we're just trading one shitty set of dangers for another slightly less dangerous set. 

          • Profile photo of ufischer
            April 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm

            I agree, Imp.  Ultimately, it comes down to an ongoing fight for workers' rights in general.  But meanwhile, being a prisoner getting fucked 20 times a day with no benefits and no pay, then murdered and  tossed in the nearest dumpster when you get an STD is something that could be made much less frequent by simply decriminalizing prostitution and applying whatever remaining workplace health and safety rules exist to (legalized) sex work.  Arresting johns and "re-educating" prostitutes doesn't help at all as it will just drive the industry further underground and ensure that sex workers are hidden more securely with even fewer chances of escaping from slave status.   

      • Profile photo of ursulaminor
        April 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm —

         If you are a prostitute, not only do you have no recourse against your employer (pimp or client) because you are both engaged in something illegal, you cannot depend on law enforcement to protect you either, because you will be arrested. Worse, if you ARE forced into the job, then there is NO one to protect you
        If prostiution is illegal, it punishes the guilty, the victims and those who engage of their own free will. If someone was forced into sex-work, there should be clear and easy avenues for them to report the abuse without fear that they will go to jail. The criminal in that case is the person that forced them into sex work, or trafficked them into the country.  If someone wants to run a brothel, they should be held acountable for the health and welfare of the people working there – and that everyone working there is a consenting adult. If they don't do that, they need to be shut down. 
        The fact of the matter is, there are always going to be people who want to buy sex. There are always going to be people who are willing to sell. There are dangers inherent in both sides of the equation. 
        I don't think it's the government's job to protect you from the emotional consequences of choices you make about your own body. I DO think it is the government's job to protect you from the choices of other people. 
         
         

        • Profile photo of ufischer
          April 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm —

          Right on!   If the sex industry is legalized, there woud be incentives for "legitimate" (ie law abiding) brothel owners to rat out the illegal operators and get them shut down.    
          An automatic 30 year sentence for human trafficing might also help, but would probably run into opposition from Republican politicians who don't want to pay their filipina house slaves minimum wage.

  5. Profile photo of biologistintraining
    April 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm —

    Interesting topic. Any "solution" to the current state of prostituion would have to balance the needs of many different people who engage in prostitution for many different reasons. As a twenty something female surrounded by many liberal, feminist, and alternative twenty something females, I personally know some women who make money as prostitutes, in porn and by stripping. These women have other means of making money and view it as an extention of their sexual freedom and liberation. I have a hard time understanding this, BUT what is important is they voluntarily choose to engage in these activities. Do we have a right to keep them form objectifying their own bodies for money? When I think about my friends, I would say no. Its their body, life and choice. If we say no to that question, what about the MANY women who are prostitutes for other reason and those that are exploited, or victims of slavery? What about giving these women the tools and support to improve their living conditions and support themselves/children in other ways? What about providing protection for those who need it? These are concerns that should be address regardless of the legality of prostitution. I don't have a solution, but its important for people to recognize that the solution is not as simple as making prostitution legal or keeping it illegal. Also, porn should be included in this discussion. Porn actors and actresses are getting paid to have sex, are subject to exploitation, and are stigmatized by society. I don't see much difference between porn and prostitution. I'm far from an expert, however, so any comments would be welcome.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm —

      Well this was refreshing to read.
       
      I would argue that porn and prostitution are in very different places in this discussion for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that porn is legal and, to some extent, regulated.

  6. Profile photo of Luna
    April 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm —

    Well, I agree that education is needed. I have no idea of Johns would change from "education", but arrest ideally would not just be about cuffing someone and putting them in jail. Ideally it IS about education. Where else are people going to hear this? Do we think Johns will take a class at a community college about women's health issues? Please. It's only if they're forced to. I never said they should be stuck in prison for a year, in fact I'm in favor of arrest leading to mandatory classes.
     
    As for women, it's clear what is needed. Better sex ed beginnning at a young age, equal pay for women, etc etc. No need to put them through an arrest, just give them the choice to get out if they wish. The claim of children vs adults gets iffy when we're talking about an 18 or 19 year old who may have gotten into prostitution at a young age.

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      April 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

      //just give them the choice to get out if they wish.//
      LOL, uh-huh.  You're living in fantasy land.

      • Profile photo of Luna
        April 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm —

        Fantasy land? You mean people don't want choices? Wow.

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      April 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm —

      Well it's funny that you say
      //As for women, it's clear what is needed. Better sex ed beginnning at a young age, equal pay for women, etc etc.//
      It's just funny to hear that you say "what women need" is better sex ed, and some magic equalization of pay, and prostitution will suddenly go away.  Or that if you make Johns go to classes they'll stop going to prostitutes. 
       
      You're suggesting band-aid solutions that won't stop the problem whatsoever. 
       
      Legalizing it and regulating it puts it in the hands of the sex worker to control their own destiny.
       
      //No need to put them through an arrest, just give them the choice to get out if they wish//
      What's laughable about this is that you think that "giving education" will somehow make people stop doing this.  LOL, most prostitutes after an arrest go right back to doing what they did before, and just because you make them and the johns take some class doesn't mean they'll stop.

      • Profile photo of Luna
        April 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm —

        .? You just said below that access to health care and education ARE the solutiion, hypocrite. Clearly you and Marilove get off on being rude to people, and by the way I am the only one among you three jokers who posted a link to evidence. Where's yours? 

        • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
          April 13, 2012 at 9:09 pm —

          Well I'm not sure what your point or solutions are?  Education will stop prostitution?
           
          Can you state them more cleary?  And I did post supporting stats, read above.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm —

      Please keep in mind that there are men and trans people who are sex workers as well.  Making prostitution safer wouldn't just be helping women.

  7. Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
    April 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm —

    Marilove Says:
    //Also, it's called "the world's oldest profession" for a reason — it's not like it's just going to disapear.  DECADES of these laws haven't stopped prostitution.  People who think that making SEX illegal … are naive.  It's never going to work.  IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY.  Making laws against it just makes it worse, not better//
     
    SPOT ON.  Marilove is absolutely correct, sex work will happen anyways, legal or not, and pushing it underground makes it a whole lot more unsafe.  If we made it legal (like say, Germany does) and provide education, health services, freedom to practice publicly, and strict regulation we could make it MUCH safer.
     
    And the statistics seem to back it up.  According to the CIA world factbook, Germany 81 million people and has roughly 67,000 people living with HIV (0.08% or 1 in 1250) – conversley, the US has 311 million and 1.2 are infected with HIV (.32%  or 1 in 300!).  .32% vs 0.08% HIV positive people.  Doesn't that say something?
     
    Yes what it says is that widespread education and access to health services (including sex workers!) has a big god damned effect.  Our faux-puritan culture breeds ignorance of such deadly things such as HIV and other STDs and pushes it into the underground where exploitation is rampant, and this leads to higher death rates from sexual diseases.  If we legalize, educate, and regulate, we CAN make this problem a whole lot better.

    • Profile photo of James Fox
      April 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm —

      "Our faux-puritan culture… "

      …fucks up so many people not to mention all the fun it interferes with. 

  8. Profile photo of dashwood
    April 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm —

    If prostitution was legal it would not make everything wonderful, but it would allow for regualations such as limits on working hours, protection from being beaten by a pimp, STD testing, required use of condoms, age limits, zoning restrictions, recourse for complaints against employers, screening of the clients, and so on. With the way things are now, there is nothing protecting sex workers.

  9. Profile photo of Vene
    April 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm —

    Decriminalize prostitution, they are victims. If you are going to criminalize anything, criminalize pimps and prostitute soliciters. Reinstating the social safety net would also help, remove the need to people to engage in dangerous work. Create a jobs bill that actually hires people for projects. Subsidize public education, including post-seondary education, but not limited to college and universities.

    • Profile photo of Otoki
      April 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm —

      Those forced into the work are victims.  Those choosing to do the work of their own free will are not.
       
      I think pimps should be criminalized for fucking sure.  I don't think seeking out prostitutes should be illegal, unless it's soliciting those who are not advertising the services (website, brothel, etc).

  10. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    April 13, 2012 at 3:04 am —

    Prostitution is legal in New Zealand. Funnily enough, the world hasn't come grinding to a halt.  I see lots of sweeping generalizations in this discussion thread.  Sex workers provide a service.  Some enjoy it more than others. I don't think it's my place to judge.  And I certainly don't feel I'm in a postion to blanket generalize that all prostitutes hate their work. That would be… unskeptical of me.  
    Some reading: http://titsandsass.com/about-tits-and-sass/

  11. Profile photo of owlglass
    April 13, 2012 at 8:21 am —

    I don't think people are trafficked because prostitution is illegal. People are trafficked as maids and farm labor and those jobs are legal.

    • Profile photo of ufischer
      April 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm —

      True, but trafficed farm workers and maids are also illegal in the sense that if they report labor standards violations (first they have to learn to read English), they risk being jailed and deported, so the same problem keeps them in bondage (and often in sexual servitude as well).

      • Profile photo of owlglass
        April 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm —

        Trafficked maids and farm labor are illegal in every sense as it is illegal to traffick people. Trafficking is forcing someone to do something by use of threats, blackmail or coercion. My point was that legalizing prostitution would not affect trafficking. The issue is the use of force whether the actual job is legal or not.

  12. Profile photo of hairybear
    April 13, 2012 at 8:39 am —

    Is anyone under the impression that prostitution will end while it is illegal? Surely it is better to legalise it so it can be better regulated, at least that way it would be harder for movement of people against their will. Then it can be taxed and won't need as much police attention. I think the same rationale can be applied to drug legislation.
    I'm not suggesting that it would solve all the problems but at least if someone is taking part in something legal they have a recourse if they're being mistreated whereas now if they go to the police they'll be arrested. Again, parallels with drug legislation

  13. Profile photo of jiuguizi
    April 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm —

    For what it's worth, I worked in SE Asia for a while for an NGO concerned with human trafficking and underage and forced prostitution.  While all three were technically illegal in the country involved (Thailand), they were widespread, and enjoyed varying degrees of official approval/protection. 
    The view the organization took was that prostitution itself was inevitable, but by investigating cases of underage/forced prostituion and human trafficking, documenting them thoroughly and reporting them to authorities that would be compelled to act from the weight of evidence, we would raise the over all cost of engaging in these criminal enterprises.  Hopefully, by more stringent policing, even if compelled by outside parties, pimps and traffickers would be nudged towards less illicit forms of prostitution, because the increased likilhood of arrest and detention would be adequate discouragement.
    From at least a behavioral economics approach, this would be a much more efficient means of cracking down on such behaviors then closing backpages.com's offending sections.  Preventing pimps and traffickers from covertly or in some cases, overtly advertising does very little to discourage the behavior, it just makes them resort to means of advertising their criminal endeavors in a less easily detectable means.  Without increased risk, I'm not sure how much it would do other then make it harder for (more?) voluntary sex workers to operate without the interference of a pimp.
    But that's just my two or three baht's worth
     

    • Profile photo of ufischer
      April 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm —

      This raises another issue with keeping prostitution (and other  "sins" like consuming illegal drugs) illegal. 
       
      The problem is corruption.  Just as prohibition of alcohol led to large scale corruption of public officials and police, so does the clearly failed War on Drugs and the illegal status of prostitution provide huge temptations for lawmakers and police to accept bribes from the immensely rich gangs of criminal thugs to look the other way, or to focus their efforts on eliminating rival gangs of thugs.   
       
      The existence of for-profit prisons in the US with judges funnelling first time juvenile drug possession law offenders into unconsionably long prison sentences is a case in point.   
       
      Just as disgust at the "bum with crumbs on his face" sitting in the gutter with debilitating alcoholism was used as justification for prohibition of alcohol,  so widespread disgust at the nature of sex work and what drug addiction turns many people into is used as ongoing justification for keeping some drugs (including actually helpful drugs like marijuana) and prostitution illegal. 
       
      It is past time that the lessons of prohibition of alcohol are incorporated into a more rational legal system.  Unfortunately, with the US being swamped by fonts of misinformation like Faux News, it seems unlikely to happen any time soon.  Even more unfortunately for countries like the UK, Britain, Canada and especially Mexico, it is almost impossible for rational policies on these issues to become law in those countries until it happens in the US.
       

  14. Profile photo of thebewilderness
    April 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm —

    The Nordic model that criminalizes pimps and johns but not the prostituted has had a good effect. Legalizing prostitution in OZ has had the effect of increasing illegal trafficking.
    The idea that trafficked children would have access to law enforcement protections if only prostitution were legal is absurd. They would have no more access to report the crime than any other kidnapping victim.
     

    • Profile photo of kagerato
      April 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm —

      When the Swedish government has been asked for the evidence as to the effectiveness of their model over the past decade, they have openly admitted they have no reliable data.  The only apparent difference in sex work in Sweden since the law changed is that it now occurs out of sight and thus out of mind.  To Swedish politicians, this is apparently considered mission accomplished.
       
      I don't know where OZ is… perhaps you meant New Zealand?  To the extent there is any data on New Zealand, it is mostly inconclusive from what I can tell.  You should cite your sources if you are to make specific claims of effectiveness or lack thereof.
       
      The short-term legal status of sex work has little connection with any effects on human trafficking and slavery, as far as I can see.  Rather, the problem is poverty, lack of job opportunities, totally different labor standards, mistreatment of immigrants, and so forth.  Talking about the Swedish model as a solution to the problems of poorer countries with massive wealth inequality like India and Indonesia does not make sense.  Sweden didn't have a large problem with forced sex work (or any kind of forced work) even when it was completely legal.
       
      If we really want to do something about poverty and labor abuse of all kinds, we ought to consider substantial economic reforms.  Guaranteed minimum income and health care would be a good start, as well as far more comprehensive government job programs including training and education components.  Do you support these?  What is your plan, precisely?
       
      One other thing you might want to know about the Swedish model: it's nearly impossible to enforce the laws against buying.  The actual money exchange almost always happens on private property now that it's illegal, and the government isn't exactly spying on everyone to find out who is doing what.  However, the laws criminalize accepting money earned from sex and running a business or associating with the workers in several other ways.  This makes it nearly impossible for sex workers to operate basically anywhere, since building owners cannot accept funds from them for rent.  Likewise, it's very difficult for them to advertise or hire bodyguards, since accepting the money would be illegal.  The model as a whole punishes the seller overall, who are much easier to find and track due to constantly be kept on the run, compared to the customers who are nearly impossible to catch in the act.
       
      The same sort of thing would happen if you criminalized the buying and proceeds of any other service, but not the sale itself.  It's always far easier to track the business and the salesperson than the customer due to the numbers difference.  Similarly with fraud or smuggling in businesses; it very often gets caught after the original exchange.  Rarely do you see the case where it is identified immediately, since the initiating agent is very cautious and ultimately only one person among many.

  15. Profile photo of artdyke
    April 13, 2012 at 11:21 pm —

    Prostitutes aren't the only ones that use backpage; it's a vital networking/job-finding tool for adult performers and models of all kinds.
    This same issue came up when they banned the adult gigs section of craigslist. It was a stupid move because now the talent gigs section is full of ads for nude modeling and porn. Wasn't it better when they had their own place?

  16. Profile photo of Hilary Gerber
    April 16, 2012 at 9:46 pm —

    I think it is best to listen to the voices of those who have been there.
    http://secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com/
     

  17. Profile photo of ufischer
    April 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm —

    … Or you could look at these sites which also feature the voices of those who have been (and are) there….
    Bottom line.   As with all industries, the key to ensuring human rights are not violated is appropriate regulation of the industries involved and consistent application of appropriate labor standards and laws.
    Imagine what would happen if tobacco consumption (also a sin by many folks' standards) were illegal instead of being regulated by age and what is allowed to be advertised and where it can be practised. 
    Google "Sex workers' rights" for tonnes more sites and stories.
    sexworkersproject.org
    spoc.ca
    http://www.pivotlegal.org/our-work/sex-worker-rights
     

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