This article was last modified on June 14, 2006.


How Prostitution Can Save America

The word “prostitution” seems to make people scared. The very mention of this word provokes thoughts of filth and degradation. But what most people do not realize, because they are too busy focusing on the negative connotations, is that prostitution should not only be legal but can greatly benefit this country more than harm it if instituted in the right manner. Throughout the next few pages, I shall discuss various issues related to the topic of prostitution and make a case for its legalization.

A Moral Issue

Unlike theft and murder, prostitution should be a moral rather than a legal issue. Moral issues are a personal matter between man and his god (should he choose to have one), as well as man and his fellow man. Crimes are typically crimes because they have victims and are between man and the State. But who is the victim here? The man who freely decides to pay fifteen dollars for oral sex or the woman who freely decides to offer this service and accept the money? These are two consenting adults. Prostitution is not rape, it is not theft – it is a business transaction. Why should the state step in and call this illegal when the only people hurt are those who choose to be hurt?

I quote Thomas Jefferson: “A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” Some might argue that these women are forced into prostitution by violent pimps. In some cases, this might be true. But the crime here is the kidnapping and false imprisonment imposed on the women, not the sex acts themselves. We will address the issue of “violent pimps” again later in this paper.

Many people cannot distinguish between “moral” and “legal” issues. One young man I had a chance to discuss these issues with, Cosby Stone, felt that prostitution should remain illegal because of the various religious pronouncements against the acts involved. But morality and legality are not interconnected. They often overlap, but are, in fact, mutually exclusive. Many immoral things are perfectly legal, and many moral things are illegal. In situations where our legal views are based on our personal moral outlook, we are best to leave the issue out of the state and keep it to ourselves. No one is forcing anyone to become a prostitute or use these services anymore than a Christian is forced to make human sacrifices or chant obscure Latin phrases while wearing black robes.

A Perpetual Existence

The idea of making prostitution illegal has this goal in mind: when we make something illegal, we make the problem go away. And this is so utterly false. Did prohibition make alcohol go away? No, it made alcohol go underground and become dangerous. People turned to alternate alcohol sources such as rubbing alcohol or making their own moonshine, both of which are very potentially deadly. Does the war on drugs make drugs go away? No, this farcical war makes the drug trade more profitable for violent dealers and more violent for potential buyers. Drugs, which cannot be eliminated, become the domain of the underworld. And prostitution exists everywhere regardless of legality. As “the world’s oldest profession”, it always has.

An argument might be raised that murder happens whether the act is legal or not, so let’s legalize that, too. But this is not at all what I’m saying. If we refer to the first point above (the morality issues), we see that prostitution, unlike murder, is a victimless crime. Legalization leads to regulation and better conditions for all those involved. The percentage of prostitutes who choose to be prostitutes is much greater than the percentage of murder victims who choose to be murdered (or so one would assume).

Would legalization increase the amount of prostitutes? This is highly unlikely, in my opinion. People with this view point to Las Vegas and the overabundance of sex workers there. But this plentitude is because Nevada is the only place to go for legal prostitution. This cluster would thin out if we legalized prostitution en masse. Think of it like this: A small town has one tavern. Everyone in town uses that tavern and the bar is overcrowded with drunks. Someone proposes a second tavern and people protest that this would double the amount of drunks. But that is irrational – the reality is that there cannot be more people in town than there already is, and the extra tavern would only spread the existing drunks around town.

Would legalization lead more young women into the field? I find this unlikely, as well. The prostitutes of today are mostly there out of necessity. Prostitution is not a glamorous or respected profession, and I do not think the majority of people see it as such. As long as we continue to educate women to respect their bodies, I don’t think the idea of making extra money through prostitution will be overly appealing. I have faith that most women want to lead “normal” lives and marry fine, upstanding gentlemen and have 2-point-3 kids and own a minivan or Jeep Cherokee.

And as the bar example illustrates, the number of johns (clients) would not increase dramatically, either. The men today who wish to use a prostitute’s services will do so, and those who do not will not. The legality is not a major contributing factor to one’s personal views on this service. Compare this also to the prohibition example. There is no reason to believe that the rate of alcohol consumption increased greatly after prohibition was lifted. You are either a drinker or you are not.

First Aside: On Loose Women

Why is it wrong for a woman to charge for sexual favors while other women continue to give these same favors out for free at local bars? Answer: The unregulated (i.e. tax-free) exchange of funds upsets the government. If any other answer could be found (such as the spread of disease), we would have laws against alcoholic barflies. The government does not regulate how often or with whom we have sexual intercourse until the concept of money becomes involved.

More Revenue for the Government

Legalization leads to regulation, as anything legal will inevitably have numerous supporting laws deciding where activities may occur, at which times, and other such issues. If the government regulates prostitution, they would be getting a cut of the profits just as they do with any other occupation through income tax and sales tax. This author has no idea how many prostitutes exist in any given city, but at the very least we are talking thousands (probably millions) of extra dollars the government is missing out on. Sure, they get a smaller percentage of this same money by arresting prostitutes and charging them with various crimes.

But this one-time bust cannot net as much funding as a regular tax-payer. And if this woman is a prostitute for some unfortunate reason (as many are), does it really benefit her to spend a night in jail? According to Margo St. James, a former social worker, “When a woman is charged for a sex crime, it’s a stigma that lasts her lifetime, and it makes her unemployable.” In a round-about way, the ban on prostitution is driving more women into poverty and into dirtier parts of town, many of whom likely rely on government assistance programs. Although I have no source to support this claim, I would be willing to bet the government pays a prostitute more in welfare and unemployment than they could ever hope to get back in fines.

Think of how much money pimps get if we assume the standard pimp takes a fifty percent cut. Pimps would become unnecessary with state-run brothels and the equivalent of their current cut would go directly to funding local social programs to heal, house, and educate people (and ultimately, in theory, decrease the number of future prostitutes). If the money goes from pimp to government, the prostitutes themselves are making the same amount and only the pimps get shafted (unless they become government employees as bodyguards, which is believable).

It has been reported by Suzanne Daley that in 2001, the “sex industry” accounted for five percent of the Dutch economy. While critics say this is far too many people involved in the field (and I am inclined to agree), a percentage of that magnitude is a great contribution to any economic infrastructure. With proper regulation, this percentage could be brought down to a happy medium – say at two or three percent. Still a remarkable profit for a government working with billions of dollars annually.

Safer Environment for the Prostitutes

Working off the assumption that prostitution will exist regardless of legal conditions, it is safer to have them in state-sponsored brothels. This eliminates the threat of the stereotypical “violent pimp” who needs his money to buy crack cocaine. This also eliminates the threats of outside assailants. Prostitutes are easy targets for robberies and murders (for a variety of reasons), and it is a well-known fact that they are the number one group targeted by serial killers. The police are not as concerned about the death of “one more whore” as they may be about the single mother of three or the politician’s wife.

And we need not forget sexual assaults. Prostitutes are very vulnerable to these attacks by their very nature. They cannot or will not report the crime to police, as this would put them in jeopardy. Furthermore, it is difficult to prove that the sex was without consent when it is your occupation to have sexual encounters with unknown men. Regulation would lead to a decrease in these sex crimes by having standards of what johns were allowed to do and by keeping accurate (though still confidential) records of the customers.

The Spread of Venereal Disease

One of the most dangerous parts of being a prostitute now or going to one is the spread of very deadly diseases – including AIDS and herpes. While any job involving sexual contact will encounter these risks by default, a legalization and regulation program would greatly reduce these risks. Most diseases can be effectively prevented with protection.

In countries where prostitution is legal, they are often required to do monthly exams and blood tests to make sure they are “clean.” A customer could then ask for their license and be assured that to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the risks are relatively low. Also, the use of condoms would be mandatory and other methods might be employed to stop the spread of disease as this technology continues to develop. Currently, many women will not require condoms and charge a higher fee for not using them. This practice must be abolished in all sexual acts involving penetration (oral, vaginal, or anal) if we are to stop the spread of these diseases (which should be a priority for anyone, regardless of their position on prostitution).

These steps towards disease prevention are more of a guarantee than any man can get from some random barfly.

The argument has been raised that the people who give the prostitutes the diseases (the clients) are not screened, and this is discriminatory. In my original essay, I suggested that screening the men would be impossible due to time constraints and costs. I am happy to say this is no longer the case. A standard AIDS test, which requires no more than a quick prick of the finger, can be done in as quickly as twenty minutes and for a relatively low cost. This author received an AIDS test in June of 2004 and was not asked to pay anything other than what he felt was a respectable donation. The procedure was quick, painless, and completely confidential.

A Better Police Focus

In some cities – notably Minneapolis – there are officers who devote the bulk of their time to arresting prostitutes and their customers. Legalization of prostitution would do one of two things here – it would either reduce the number of officers on the police force and save tax dollars that could go to education; or it would allow these officers to pursue other criminals who are in real need of being captured (such as thieves or murderers whose cases have gone “cold”). Either one of these would greater benefit the community, as prostitutes are generally not a threat to society – keep in mind that men seek them out, not the other way around. Prostitutes do not break into our homes to ask if we need any sexual gratification.

Here’s an example of tax dollars at use: “in 1999 at least one of the vice-squad officers in Columbus, Ohio, was regularly having sexual intercourse with prostitutes before arresting them. After receiving negative publicity about that practice, the police division issued new guidelines that limited officers to getting completely naked with prostitutes, being masturbated briefly, and ‘momentarily’ having sex ‘in spite of all reasonable efforts of the officer to stop.'” Does anyone else see a problem with this? But here’s the clincher: “Unfortunately for the public, this nonsense goes on at the same time that Columbus has over 350 unsolved murders since 1990, including several prostitutes brutally murdered by a possible serial killer.”

Second Aside: On Male Prostitution

Following the original edition of this essay, the author received numerous comments on the complete lack of discussion on male prostitution. Admittingly, this was short sighted of me. Unlike what certain people believed, this was not done out of any sort of political motivation [1]. More likely, the decision was based on the fact that women account for the vast majority of the prostitutes in this country [2] and that they are generally seen as the status quo definition of what it means to be a prostitute.

Rather than revise the article to express a more gender-neutral position, I encourage the reader to simply replace the concepts of “female” and “male” in their mind, because my understanding is that the same situations and arguments apply to either sex. While male prostitutes probably do not have pimps, the threat of disease applies. The issue of pregnancy exists (and some could even argue as a bigger issue due to the man’s ability to impregnate numerous women while women can only be pregnant about once a year). The stigma exists for male prostitutes as much as for women, because male prostitutes tend to service “undesirable women” or gay clients. For the reason that these issues are outside the scope of this article, I will not discuss these stigmas, but we can agree that society in general frowns on sexual relations between two men or involving undesirable women (as portrayed comedically in the film “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”).

The arguments are completely parallel. The issues of tax dollars and morality are unchanged. In summary, male prostitution is really no different than female prostitution and the fact it is discussed significantly less should not be surprising in the least.

Conclusion

Some will argue I have hardly “saved America” by presenting an argument in favor of prostitution legalization. But I would be inclined to counter that I have taken an important first step towards an America worthy of respect. Changes must be gradual, and I have outlined a plan that reduces violence, increases tax revenue, and eliminates a stigma from a disenfranchised class of workers. If these are not important changes, I would not know what were. In the years to come, I assure you measures will be taken in line with this essay and I will have been vindicated.

Notes

[1] One reader in particular, who goes by the online handle “Krueger” and appears to be a fan of the Pogues, came to the conclusion I was a “feminist-debate-trendfollower.” He somehow equates the legalization of prostitution with feminism, which is generally incorrect (most feminists, in reality, oppose the legalization). What Krueger did not know, and might help to put some perspective on this article, is that my minor in college was Women’s Studies. Entering college I considered myself a feminist and a defender of women’s rights. However, after a few classes the fact became clear to me that most feminist arguments are foolish, illogical, and I could not in moral conscience declare myself a feminist anymore. I would even go so far as to say that women have things too easy in this country, with the law overwhelmingly written in their favor.

[2] Keep in mind that the focus of this article is prostitution in America. Male prostitution is more prevalent in such places as Southeast Asia. This article does not deal with Southeast Asia, however, and situations there are decidedly different from ours. In Southeast Asia, you will also find a higher rate of human trafficking, child prostitution, and massage parlors (especially near port cities that service United States naval officers). These things are not issues in America, as they either do not exist or exist on such a small scale that their discussion would be mostly frivolous. Prostitution free of trafficking or children is the norm in America, so that is the focus.

Also try another article under Political
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

One Response to “How Prostitution Can Save America”

  1. The Framing Business » Andy Blood on Prostitution Says:

    […] On May 30, 2006, I received an e-mail from documentarian Andy Blood, who had enjoyed a prior piece I wrote on prostitution, “How Prostitution Can Save America” (which, as of this writing, is grossly inadequate). I kicked the e-mail around a year, wondering how I could parlay it into an essay or article. Nothing materialized. […]

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