Prostitution poses valid claims: Sex work is legitimate work

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Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:00 am

Prostitution is typically considered a crime worth fighting: It objectifies women and can damage the psyche of those who participate in it.

But prohibition of prostitution in the United States simply won’t stop this. Prostitution is a victimless crime because much of the dangerous activity doesn’t come from engaging in the activity itself, but from the activity being illegal. To the extent that there are victims from prostitution, the government’s prohibition is more to blame than the act of itself because sex work is legitimate work.

The problems in the industry arise from the vulnerability of the workers engaged in prostitution. Currently, women seek protection from being “ripped off” or abused in the act by working under an employer, or pimp. But these pimps often exploit their female employees both financially and physically.

By legalizing prostitution, women would have little need for a man’s protection, and it would severely diminish the role of pimps.

In addition to eradicating pimps, legalization would curb the number of rape-related crimes. A study from Northeastern State University estimated that if prostitution were legalized in the United States, the rape rate would decrease by roughly 25 percent, or approximately 25,000 rapes per year.

Furthermore, prostitution is little more than an argument of women’s rights. Yet in order to make this argument, I must first make a clear distinction that I am referring to prostitution and not sex trafficking. Prostitution differs from sex slavery or human trafficking in that it involves no unwilling participants or individuals coerced into the act of sex.

There is also a great deal of hypocrisy when it comes to the laws of prostitution. Consider this situation: A man pays a woman $500 to have sex with him. This would be deemed illegal in the United States. But now suppose he still pays her $500 to have sex with him, but sets up a camera, films the act and then posts the video on the Internet. This is entirely legal — in fact, he is an entrepreneur in the $3.9 billion pornography industry.

Or, consider another example from the modern dating scene: Suppose a man isn’t looking for a girlfriend, a friend or any sort of company for that matter. He simply wants someone to have sex with without forming a connection or attachment. What does he do? The man will likely meet an attractive, but perhaps vulnerable woman and convince her he is interested, lie to her and take her out to dinner a couple of times. But once he finally gets her into bed, he never calls her again. This leaves the woman feeling used and hurt. In effect, the woman has been exploited, as she decided to have sex for a man who left her with the false promise of a relationship. At least a prostitute is fully aware of what she is getting herself into.

Or, bring to mind the popularized idea of having a “sugar daddy.” If a woman has sex with a man because he buys her designer jewelry, expensive purses or even pays her rent, she is not breaking any laws. Yet the moment the woman accepts money, she is. There is no consistency within our laws today.

For some women, prostitution might be the preferable way of earning a living, and what gives government the right to tell them what they can or cannot do with their bodies? To deny women this opportunity is not fair.

Additionally, from an economic standpoint, prostitution is a largely unexplored, multimillion-dollar industry that could add to federal tax revenue. The average annual income of an employee at one of Nevada’s legal brothels — working only one week per month — is at least $100,000, according to an article published in The Times of London. Under current tax laws, this would generate nearly $20,000 in annual federal income tax for each legally licensed sex worker. This would be in addition to fees the government could impose for obtaining a proper license.

Sure, there would need to be regulation for this industry. Age requirements would be necessary and, like the cigarette industry, the government could prohibit advertising or solicitation in order to protect those that might be offended, while simultaneously allowing customers to find what they are looking for on the phone or Internet.

Legalized brothels could provide health care for their prostitutes as well as a clean and safe work environment. These women would no longer need to walk the streets to find their clients. Smartphone apps could be made available with ratings for each brothel to encourage competition and safe practices.

Legalizing prostitution is not the same as endorsing it, and I am not endorsing the act of selling sex. But I believe it would create a lucrative business. After all, it is one of the longest-standing businesses in the world.

Write Christy at cpl9@pitt.edu.

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