This is not about the morality of prostitution but the reality of it. We can never legislate morality. It was tried with prohibition and that failed. Sometimes it is better to tame the problem when eliminating it has failed.
Please read the full diary entry before commenting.
In 48 of the 50 states prostitution is illegal. In one of the states where it is legal, Nevada, it is illegal in 4 out of 16 counties and in at least one city. Male prostitution is illegal in Nevada by a quirk in the law requiring monthly cervical exams. Where it is legal in Nevada, prostitution is only legal in a licensed brothel. Whereas, in Rhode Island, the act of sex for money is not illegal, but operating a brothel, pimping and street prostitution are illegal. So those are the only places we find prostitution in the US?
Of course not it is in every town in some form. Whether it is street walkers, call girls, escorts, massage parlors, or the girls that the bartender or cab driver has the number for. It might just be a woman who gets not so little gifts from her male friends. It has been this way for centuries. The only things these laws have done force the girls to be criminals. As criminals they fear going to the police because even if they are a victim of a crime, they are not likely to be treated fairly. This leaves them open to exploitation and victimization by the people around them. Pimps can rape, beat, and rob the girls at will. To get girls in to the trade some pimps get them hooked on drugs then make them work to pay for them. If a guy gets away without paying, that is rape but what cop and what court will support a prostitute in a case like that. At the lower end of the pay scale, street walkers and massage parlor girls, end up where the law is loosely enforced or willing to look the other way most of the time. This puts them in the area with high crime rates to begin with. So what is a little more violence anyway.
I'm going to avoid discussing male prostitution both heterosexual and homosexual. I'm sure many of the same problems exist especially in homosexual prostitution. I'm also sure there are some unique problems. I just don't know enough to talk about either.
Now let's talk about the clients. The call girls or the escorts as they are called now, tend to have a better clientele but once in a room alone with a man they are as vulnerable as any street walker. The clients can be anyone from a lonely business man or a wandering husband, to a woman hating sociopath. Without being able to readily call the police a working girl who escapes serious injury is not likely to contact the police. Leaving the malefactor to brutalize another. The man looking for a bargain is going to the more dangerous areas, places he is likely unfamiliar with, distracted, and carrying a largish sum of cash. He has victim written all over him.
You have runaways that sadly find the only protection and sense of belonging in a pimp's stable. These girls are psychologically trapped as badly as if they had physical chains. Then there are the kidnapped and exploited, sometimes under age, always working against their will. Just two forms of modern slavery.
There are the massage parlors. While some act as a safe and protective place to work many these days are run by organized crime. They import women from foreign countries, usually illegally, under false pretenses then force them to work as prostitutes. Sometimes not letting them leave the premises at all. While most of these sex sweat shops are Oriental there are Hispanic and Eastern European ones as well. There are also the traveling version of these where they take women from town to town, set up in a hotel for a week or two and move on. Yet another couple of forms of modern slavery.
How about a place with legal prostitution readily available nearby, is this any better? Well not in Las Vegas. Nye county is one of the 4 counties where prostitution is illegal but the last time I walked down the strip I was handed an 8 page flier of entertainers that would come to your room. So even if there are legal venues nearby you still have girls trading on convenience over legality.
So this is an uptight US thing? No. England, where street solicitation, procuring a pimp, and operating a brothel are illegal, has their problems with drugged out street walkers and explicit advertising cards being placed in phone booths. The Netherlands has red light districts and health checks on the licensed prostitutes. There the problem is with unlicensed prostitutes hanging at the edge of the district and undercutting the licensed prostitutes. The unlicensed prostitutes are either trying to stay anonymous or avoid the costs of being licensed and overhead of space in the districts. Sweden has switch to laws that only target the clients of prostitutes. They use surveillance to find the clients but this has the effect of moving the trade to more secluded locations where the possibility of violence is greater.
Why would any woman willingly become a prostitute? There are some beautiful women that have found that they can make large sums of money is a short time with work that is not too taxing. Some may do it because of the flexible work schedule with good pay. For some it just may be a stop gap between normal employment or a short term source of emergency money. For some it is the power they can wield over men. For some it may really be about the sex. For the majority I believe it is either the job of last resort or the only job that they can find that provides a living. Lastly, there are those who are either hooked on drugs or alcohol or have been so beaten down by society that this is the only thing they can do.
For police the tactic of choice to catch prostitutes and their clients these days is the sting. Either the police act as clients looking for prostitutes or as prostitutes looking for clients to catch them in the act of solicitation. For streetwalkers this is effective at driving the trade from one area to another. For the computer savvy, this is done one by one with police answering escort ads or place their own ads on the many sites that cater to escort ads. The higher market prostitutes work through services that screen the clients ahead of time. Thereby, avoiding all but the best and most extensive police efforts. Even in these, sometimes high profile, cases it is usually the people running the service that are prosecuted. These folks stand trial on charges other than prostitution such as money laundering, tax evasion, or running a criminal enterprise.
It is only the middle to lower end of the market prostitutes that tend to be the ones arrested. These are either the true professionals or the desperate. The ones who are likely to be working for years. These are also the ones making smaller amounts of money and can least afford the lawyers to fight the charges and pay the fines. What good does it do to fine someone who is already struggling to survive? What does locking them up do besides fill our overcrowded jail system? How much does it cost the police in man power to catch and prosecute these prostitutes? How does it protect the girls physically and from exploitation? What does it really do to keep us safe? How does it help to prevent the spread of disease? Does it really reduce the amount of prostitution or just move it around?
What I would suggest is the decriminalization of prostitution universally. Regulate brothels both with zoning and for working conditions. Regulate the services, the pimps, to significantly reduce the exploitation and eliminate the abuse of the prostitutes. In the same way we have turned ticket scalping into a legitimate business by calling them ticket brokers. By legalizing the business it is much more likely for the government to be able to collect taxes on the income of these operations.
License and health check prostitutes monthly. Allow those who wish to work independently as long as the operate discreetly. Keep the license fees be low enough and medical exams costs low enough that they are not a barrier to getting and keeping a license. Have the license fees go into an education and aid fund as well as helping to pay for an inspection force. To get a license there should be a health, safety, and personal finance course with annual refreshers. Drug addiction should not be a reason for withholding a license but the opportunity for rehabilitation should be available and strongly encouraged. For prostitutes found working without a license or doing street solicitation should on a first offense be sent to the mandated classes plus community service at an AIDS hospice or treatment facility. Only for chronic offenders should fines and possible jail time be used as a deterrent. Advertising would be strictly regulated. Some of the fund should also be used to help women who want out of the sex trade trade prepare for other jobs.
It is interesting that something much more radical has been done in New Zealand. They eliminated all the anti-prostitution laws. This was done with the support of the Church, Young Women’s Christian Association, trade unions, the business sector and major organizations. This has resulted in less violence and more reporting of violence to the police when it does occur.
Will this eliminate illegal prostitution? No. It will however lower the numbers of prostitutes soliciting on the street significantly. It will eliminate the fear of reporting when they are victimized. Hopefully catching some of the sociopaths before they kill. It will free up a lot of police resources for more serious crimes and to tackle the sex slave trade. What this will do is make the lives of most of the prostitutes better, keep them healthier, and safer. It will lower the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by educating the prostitutes on hygiene and disease transmission. My final hope, and it's a long shot, is with some money management training they might just have a better life.
My main source of data was the 2005 London Assembly's Safer London Committee report Street Prostitution in London