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Ana Sibrian

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Should prostitution be illegal?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16047284

This article published today about France's new abolitionist stance on prostitution has made me question: is illegal prostitution better or worse for women's rights? On the one hand, if prostitution is legal, it promotes the ideology that women can be comodified, owned as property (or in this case, rented). Yet there are several successful, happy prostitutes living in countries where prostitution is legal and regulated such as Australia and Holland. So by making prostitution illegal we are technically stepping on these women's rights to use their own body to make money.

The purpose of criminalizing prostitution is to minimize violence on women, at least as stated by the above mentioned article. Another side effect, although not outlined by this article, is that it would ideally deter men from using women as objects. Yet as we have seen with the criminalization of other wide spread taboo practices such as drug use, criminalization has led to a booming underground industry of criminals and violence.

Does criminalization protect women or expose them to the risks of having to resort to clandestine, illegal resources that could ultimately be even more detrimental to their welfare?

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    Dec 6 2011: I tend to have mildly dark answers on these subjects so feel free to take them with a grain of salt... but I will at least suggest that I am trying to be particularly honest, not intentionally vulgar.

    We will never create a society, where there are not, sexually repressed men, and poor women. There will never be a world, in which, productive, but sexually, and emotionally unfulfilled men will pay poor women for temporary comfort. I actually think, that as weird as it sounds, prostitutes actually provided a necessary public service similar to a psychologist. It is built genetically into the male mind, to define his worth by the attractiveness of his partner, by her percieved desirabillity, and there will always be hard working, but ugly, or socially inept men, that cannot validate their egos this way through natural means. Is that person necessarily not worth that affection and validation.

    In every study I have read. Legallizing prostitution decreases the amount of sexually transmitted disease, and illegal narcotics use, during afformentioned service. The strangest thing that is uniform across all studies is that of course, unlike with all other commodities, when the female body becomes a legal commodity, it almost quadruples in value. Thus the illusion of women "putting themselves through college on prostitution" is less of an illusion in Las Vegas, than in Las Angeles. In Los Angeles you can find crack whores for 20 dollars, but in Vegas, you better bring a couple hundred dollars and a condom.

    The strange dichotomy there, is that by legallizing prostitution, do we actually remind ourselves how valuable the female form is, and how much control it has over our society? Do we actually teach our women something valuable, even our men, by having prostitutes advertising for a thousand dollars, rather than saying "Hey... You want me to suck your dick for five dollars"? I lean towards acceptance... I'm not really that interested in the product though.
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      Dec 7 2011: Is there any possible way you could post a link to one of those studies. I would like to see the results. I want to see the actual difference if that is alright with you.
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        Dec 7 2011: Damnitt Ender, can't you see I'm busy trying to become Hegemon... Do you know how long it takes to find actual science on the internet nowadays?

        I had almost given up, I was really worried, that I had just listened, to media and common sense, rather than science, then me and google had an "Aha" moment. I kept looking up terms like research, papers, prostitute wages. stds... nothing... So stupid, wasted like 40 minutes... Then the revelation "UNLV"... The best source for reallistic prostitution legallization, combined with strict feminist overtones.

        http://faculty.unlv.edu/brents/research/socpersp.pdf On the merits of the Nevada Brothel system as a public health model, without going so far as to say that legallization is the best model for all cities.

        http://faculty.unlv.edu/brents/research/violence.pdf On violence among women in the legallized Brothel System, and how it is dramatically reduced in both psychological "fear" terms, and practical "physical violence terms, among sex workers. This whole article is written with a sensitivity for the view that "all prostitiution is violence against women", a sympathy I share, but it still says that the evidence is compelling that a legallization model improves violent working conditions as opposed to making them worse.

        Anyone not familiar with the area might be fascinated to learn how "pro prostitution" the state actually is... Basically, the state, is the pimp. They took the stance that the pimp, and related drug dealers were the violent ones... Now their brothels, state sanctioned, have to have security cameras, have to have guards watching them... Usually off duty police. They literally decided that the only way to improve prostitute living conditions, was basically to have police officers watch you have sex in brothels, lol, it sounds absurd... but it works. You start hitting a girl, and you'll get thrown out, if not jailed. The security guards do a lot less drugs than the pimps used to.
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        Dec 7 2011: Couldn't find anything on wages, but that was admittedly just personal experience. Having lived in Los Angeles and been offered 20 dollar blowjobs... and having been to Vegas, and seen advertisements for brothels... I can tell you, the wages are better, in America, in states where it is legal.

        In reallity though it may be hard to study. High priced prostitutes in New York for example command an unimaginable premium, because they're not just expected to be clean, risk jail, and be absolutely gorgeous, they're expected to be able to pull that off with class and distinction at a party on the Upper East side, before the actual transaction. Prostitutes in Harlem New York however have notoriously been some of the worst paid and worst treated women in the first world.

        This is all personal experience you'd have to take my word for or find something to back up though. I've lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Mean/median wages may be similar, but wages at the bottom rung are dramatically, and measurably worse in the two cities where it is illegal.

        As to psychological motivations of men, that's again personal experience, and revalation among friends. It's very difficult to measure. Some have tried, this study produced interesting results, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jan/15/why-men-use-prostitutes

        The problem here is obvious, they say things like "men feel guilty after", "they self report not liking the experience", but they "keep going back". The guilt makes men lie. It's just like drugs... No one wants to say "drugs make you feel awesome when you're on them", once they know they have a problem. Prostitutes provide men with ego validation, and as Chris Rock said "You don't pay a prostitute to spend the night, you pay her to leave". I almost think it's worse to feed a girl drinks and lies for 3 hours, if you're going to leave her anyway the next morning, and lots of men do that.
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      Dec 7 2011: David, this is all well written and fascinating.
      And I agree with every word.
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      Dec 9 2011: Very well argued and nicely put..Kudos David!
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    Dec 13 2011: Ana I just read your whole text. Having lived in Amsterdam, my wife and I (both therapists) have had sex workers as clients. I would have to say that from observation "happy prostitute" qualifies as an oxymoron. It is true that any well adjusted, joyful professional would be unlikely to seek out therapy of any kind and therefore I can not absolutely assert that there are none, I just have no evidence to believe it. What I would say is that the Netherlands sex worker on average has a somewhat kinder form of hell, certainly no paradise. Most still have "pimps" or landlords who take the lions share of their earnings, many abuse drugs. Yes supposedly they all use prophylactics and it was claimed years ago that none had AIDS. No more. The fact that very few Dutch women are involved these days should tell you something. Most of the Pros are eastern Europeans or of African ancestry and many have been duped into coming into Holland by promises of legitimate work. Xaviera Hollander the original "happy hooker" is now monogamous and has been retired for years. Near exceptions to the rule like XH are like those who can abuse drugs and still seem to function. They do not prove that a behavior is safe or that they are "happy" only that it doesn't immediately destroy everyone. Just that a few people are much tougher and more resilient than the average.
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      Dec 13 2011: Thank you for sharing the first hand experience! I have heard before that legalizing prostitution actually increases a lot of the problems that criminalization addresses.
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    Dec 13 2011: To David H. I can agree with you if I narrow my perspective. By then by analogy it could be said that because war, murder and cannibalism exist and have existed for all of history and even prehistory and even in nature then we should just accept them and assume they are inevitable and serve a purpose. Since I choose to believe that I have a choice in how I act, and think I can have some influence on the behavior of others then I choose to believe it is possible to create a better world. If we are truly hostage to our lowest urges and expect no better of others then we are already in a hell of sorts. When I worked with juvenile delinquents as a counselor I was shocked to learn that their world view was that everyone used drugs and also lied and stole to get them. They assumed I was lying when I denied this was the case with me and many others that I knew. I gradually understood that the view that everyone shared the same ethics gave them solace or you could say killed their conscience. Still to answer Ana's question I would not make prostitution Illegal. Since then anyone who marries someone like Donald Trump would technically be a criminal. I would however penalize anyone who pimps others for profit 200% of earnings and jail them if they used coercion, deceit or violence. But then l admit I am generally an optimist and tend to have light answers on most subjects, that makes the world less depressing for me. At the same time I think I am realistic about the wretched state of the world. This makes me look for solutions outside the box as politics nor religion nor education as they now exist offer real hope.
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    Dec 8 2011: Has criminalizing anything for which there is a vigorous, widespread, steady demand ever solved the problems associated with that demand? Alcohol? Drugs? Driving fast? Gun ownership? etc.
    Pragmatically speaking there is a reason behind the longevity of the oldest profession.
    Regulation has worked to protect the providers and the customers and to collect revenue for the regulating agency, rather than for the pimp.
    I doubt that making prostitution illegal has ever done more than reduce problems by some amount.