I’ve paid for sex. I’ve traded expensive dinners for sex. I’ve sprung for nights on the town for sex. I’ve given gifts for sex. I even once wrote a term paper for sex (she got an "A" and I had a fine time, so I’d call that a fair exchange). But had I ever just coughed up cold hard cash for sex, I would have tripped over a legal line that violates the law in most U.S. jurisdictions. It’s ridiculous that the U.S. regulates this victimless crime.
The reasons why prostitution remains illegal in so many places generally boils down to two arguments: Prostitution sets the wrong tone for society, and it degrades the people who peddle the favors.
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The first argument can be described as the "conservative" one, and it is held by folks who despise sex outside of marriage. They see commercial sex as a threat to the institution of marriage, which is supposed to be the backbone of society — a conservative society, of course. The second argument is the "liberal" one, and is usually intended to apply only to women, not men, who solicit their favors on the open market.
There are, of course, abuses in prostitution. Prohibitionists on the left wing "whoop and holler" about women being pressed into service as sexual slaves around the world, brutalized, and exploited. Right-wingers, on the other hand, add to their moralistic arguments with public-health warnings about sexually transmitted diseases – a stronger argument than the "sanctity of marriage" in the age of AIDS.
But, if anything, both of these arguments are stronger cases for legalization than against. An above-ground hooker is a worker in yet one more legal trade. Beating or abusing an above-ground hooker is much the same as kidnapping a man and forcing him to be a bank clerk or walking into a bar and punching a waitress – the perpetrator can expect serious legal consequences. But, when the trade is illegal, it’s going to attract the same sort of bruisers who dominate all sectors of the underworld, and a hooker isn’t likely to risk her freedom to call the cops on an abusive john or brutal pimp.
Likewise, a legal prostitute, whether an employee or entrepreneur, is likely to have health coverage and a public profile that encourages healthy practices as a "competitive advantage." To maintain good health, a legal hooker is likely to have a greater willingness to visit doctors for regular checkups. Simply put, the difference between legal and illegal prostitution is the difference between the corner pharmacy and the corner drug dealer.
Prostitutes will argue that they are fully aware of what they’re doing and just want to be left alone to do their business and make a living face the ultimate insult. They’re told that their first-hand experience automatically makes them victims who are unfit to judge their own experiences. That basically amounts to a bunch of self-appointed "elites" patting the hookers on the back and saying, "there, there, we know your lives better than you do." It’s also a way for people who claim to be defending the oppressed to ignore people who have first-hand knowledge of prostitution. Moralistic prohibitionists have no need of such a tactic, since they regard prostitutes as the definition of social evil.
So, in the eyes of the conservative prohibitionists, people who peddle sex for money are corrupters of society’s morals; in the eyes of liberal prohibitionists, prostitutes (women prostitutes, anyway) who assert the right to exercise their trade are too ignorant to realize that they’re being abused and betraying their gender. Those two things are quite a burden to bear for folks who are just trading pleasure for rent money. Just thinking about it gets me all wound up. And I can think of just the thing to release the tension – anybody need a term paper written?
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