Sleeping Dreamer recent posted a thread/poll on the EF forums about whether prostitution should be legalized or not. Not so long ago, I was old-fashioned enough to argue against it based on moral reasons. Then I realized how silly that was because I don’t see what’s morally wrong for a working girl to provide a service to a customer. I just thing it’s easy for people to use a prostitute for immoral reasons (cheating) or immorally (abusive interactions) and, really, that’s not the fault of a working girl or even the industry. I’ve never known a prostitute to force someone to use her services at gun point (I’m sure it’s happened, though, and am not making light of that situation). Most customers have a choice.
Prostitutes don’t have much of a choice when it comes to health and safety though. I watch a lot of Law and Order: SVU and I think it realistically portrays the resistance prostitutes have when it comes to talking to the police even if it might be for their benefit. In that sense, I think that legalization may help sex workers who are otherwise (legally) helpless when it comes to protection against abusive customers and possible even murderers. Right now, there’s definitely fear of going to the authorities and this may mean illegal means of protection (weapons) or seeking protection of an individual or group but protection can be just as costly.
Proponents also suggest that regulation of the sex industry means keeping a closer track of health. Healthier conditions and access to health care is undoubtedly valuable. In places like Nevada where there are legal brothels, STD screening is commonplace and condom use is prevalent. Safe practices certainly lead to a safer industry.
Of course, legalizing the industry means being able to tax it. It’s certainly prosperous in some ways and the funds from taxation could benefit worthy causes like, hey, health programs for the sex industry? OR education. Or rehab programs. You name it.
Still, it’s a tricky situation. Just because prostitution is legalized doesn’t mean sex workers will all of a sudden trust authorities and it could even spur human trafficking as one poster commented. Just because it’s a regulated industry and health care can be made available doesn’t mean that it will be or that sex workers would take advantage of it. Some will but some certainly don’t care. Drug use and prostitution go hand in hand, in some areas, and results in many bad decisions. It would be virtually impossible to try to force safer sex practices or use of health care services, even if they were universally available. I mean, it would be unethical to keep a list of sex workers and even if you tried, you could never succeed.
I’m sure some would want to take advantage of health care and it would make a difference but I would still be a cautious customer. Escort services and brothels which are well organized would probably be the best solution for providers and customers alike. They already exist and tend to be safer than your typical street-corner girl. I see these groups as the ones which would most take advantage of health care and promote safer sex. Many of the current brothels would be able to come out of the sex industry closet and new ones would certainly form.
I don’t know how close we are to legalization prostitution. and I also think it won’t be a magic cure for the ails of society but it certainly could be a step in the right direction.