Top 10 Reasons Prostitution Should Always Be Illegal
So many myths surround prostitution; it is the world’s oldest profession, it empowers women and can be a route, Pretty Woman style, to a new life.
The reality of prostitution is about as far removed from the glamour of Hollywood as it is possible to be, remember in the real life version of Pretty Woman Hugh Grant was caught picking up a prostitute and walked away from Divine Brown, she may be a millionaire as a result of the incident but it was as a result of her own media savvy and not as a result of his support or respect for her. Even worse, for every Divine Brown who does manage to make it good, there are any number of young women who are at danger of rape every time they go to work, who are perceived as objects, looked on as legitimate targets of violence and misogyny and who dice with disease and death every time they walk the streets.
In a world where we seek to promote equality between the sexes though equal pay and equal opportunities the world of prostitution is one where women walk in fear, where they are exploited by men and fall victim to drugs, violence, human trafficking and more. Far from being an empowering career choice it is one that only serves to potentially degrade and destroy all of those engaged in the business whether as a prostitute, pimp or customer. Prostitution is not a victimless crime or a harmless pastime it is exploitative, immoral and unpleasant in equal measure.
Given the perpetuation of myths of the happy prostitute or empowered escort here is our list of the top 10 reasons prostitution should always be illegal.
10. Women do not prostitute themselves by choice
One of the arguments in favor of the legalization of prostitution is that it is a valid choice of job. Not all prostitutes, so the argument goes, are the victims of trafficking or under the control of vicious pimps. They can choose when to work and how long for and are paid a fair rate for the work they do.
The problem with this argument is that by its very definition prostitution is the act of granting sex or sexual favors for money. While women may choose to prostitute themselves in order to earn money this is not, in reality, a free choice. It is not a choice most women would make freely if a viable alternative were available. For many of the women who end up working as prostitutes the work is the least worst option available to them, there is no other viable choice. While some women may genuinely choose the work 88% of prostitutes surveyed said they wanted to escape their way of life. They work as prostitutes only because they have no other rational choice.
9. Prostitution is not a career option
There is much talk about prostitution being the world’s oldest profession. Written references to prostitutes date back to the Sumerian era of 2700 BC. Certainly for much of history the career options available to women who did not have the support of family were limited indeed. Many were forced into prostitution as the only way to support themselves. Even animals engage in prostitution with female chimpanzees having been seen to trade sex for meat and penguins using sex to get stones to build their nests.
This background is used by some to justify prostitution as a valid job or even as a career. It is touted, by some, as an acceptable way for women in poverty and without other resources, to work and earn money. Strangely enough this solution is rarely promoted as an acceptable route out of poverty for men. This is a stark example of the disparity between the sexes that is so prevalent in the business of prostitution and eloquent demonstration of the fact that the ‘industry’ exists to exploit rather than support women.
This mistaken view of prostitution as a valid career choice serves only to harm the women who get locked into the cycle of prostitution and results in society glossing over the problems they experience as a matter of course. In 1994 85% of prostitutes surveyed in Minnesota claimed to have been raped. A worldwide study of the life of prostitutes showed that at least 75% had been assaulted and over 60% raped in the course of their work. Most prostitutes can expect to be raped at least once a week.
Accepting prostitution as a legally acceptable career normalizes this appalling mistreatment of women. No legitimate career should expect people to live in daily fear of rape.
8. Prostitution can never be a legitimate business
It is tempting to think that simply legalizing prostitution will reduce the incidence of crime. With prostitutes being monitored by social services or local government departments and properly registered, inspected and (of course) taxed on their earnings, they can be kept safe.
It is true that criminalizing the sale of sex effectively criminalizes women who have no other option to survive. Some countries get around this by criminalizing the customer instead of the prostitute. Many people, however, argue that this does not go far enough and that prostitution should be completely legal, a simple transaction of services for money.
The trouble with this point of view is that while it sounds like a fantastic solution it does not work in reality. It has been tried, by many countries in Europe but without success. Human traffickers still recruit and abuse underage children and vulnerable women to service the demands of the sex industry. Legalizing prostitution in Australia has not led to a better or safer working environment for women in the industry. Women and young girls are still vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
The Netherlands, famously seen as a beacon of progressive legislation in the field of prostitution permitted voluntary prostitution, the idea being to free women from the tyranny of the seedy underworld of prostitution. Sadly the Dutch sex industry has, since legalization, been infiltrated by violent gangs. The country is now a magnet for international trafficking and drugs gangs peddling in the worst of human misery.
These experiences show that even when approached with the best of intentions the nature of prostitution is such that it can never be a fully legitimate business.
7. Prostitution is rape
The frightening statistics quoted in point 9 above show that rape is a constant fear for women working in the industry with huge numbers running the risk of being raped once a week.
Even when the prostitute consents to the act involved it is really nothing more than paid rape as a result of economic coercion, particularly when the victims are themselves vulnerable such as children or trafficked women. The very act of prostitution turns a woman into an object to be used at the whim of and for the desire of her customer. When women are objectified in such a manner it is only a short step to men deciding that it is legitimate to rape a prostitute if she will not do as he wants.
Legalizing prostitution will just enable pimps and traffickers to benefit from a legal business and legitimize customers’ bad treatment of women and young girls. The only ones who will not benefit are those same women who are abused, objectified and demeaned on a daily basis. To legalize prostitution is to normalize and legalize rape.
6. Former prostitutes agree that legalization would be a bad move
Many former prostitutes speak out against prostitution and the effect it has on people’s lives. They speak eloquently about the fact that no matter how society perceives it, it is not a victimless crime.
When speaking about legalization they claim t least to a increase in exploitation and criminality. One described the legalized brothels of Amsterdam’s red light district as a ‘cesspit’ with nothing to be proud of. The effect of legalization has been to increase the black market and turn Amsterdam into a hub for human trafficking. Many people who work in the sex industry speak about the need to urn to drugs to dull the pain and trauma of the work they are engaged in. Legalizing prostitution will not reduce the incidence of women turning to drugs and therefore remaining involved in the criminal world.
Even in the US state of Nevada where brothels are legal (and where women are supposed to be kept safe and protected from exploitation) are the subject of a searing commentary by former prostitutes. Women working in the brothels are kept practically imprisoned, allowed to leave only when in the presence of their pimp. Many of the women are extremely vulnerable and enter the profession as a result of a history of abuse. Once working as prostitutes they are even more vulnerable. The legalization of their work in Nevada only serves to leave the women open to abuse while providing legal protection to their abusers.
Legalization does not make women any more comfortable with prostituting themselves nor does it do anything to remove the stigma that many experience following their work as a prostitute with reports from the Netherlands, Australia, Senegal and New Zealand showing that prostitutes continue to face harassment, abuse and are treated as social pariahs.
5. Prostitution is not a victimless crime
As the previous points have established prostitution is a deeply unpleasant industry. While it is extremely lucrative business to be involved in (estimates show that over 13 million prostitutes generate $186 billion worldwide. Only a relatively minor percentage of this, however, reaches the women involved. The remainder goes to line the pockets of pimps, traffickers and drugs suppliers worldwide.
Customers like to think of themselves as decent people and often rationalize the purchase of sex as a free ‘business’ exchange. Sex in exchange for money – they are not raping the woman, they are not doing anything she has not agreed to. This view of prostitution as a ‘victimless crime’ exists only to allow ‘punters’ to justify their exploitation of women; to make them feel better about their choices.
The truth is that attracts women who have no other means to support their family, the majority turn to it out of desperation and would give almost anything to escape it. Even those who have the economic means to escape the life of prostitution often stay because they are frightened of the retribution their pimp may exact following their exit. Those who are not drug addicts when they start to practice prostitution end up addicted, ether as a means to escape from the pain and degradation of their work or because their pimps have cynically ensured that they become addicted in order to exercise even more control over the women. In addition to drugs many pimps exercise control over ‘their prostitutes’ by means such as calculated rape and sexual assault, refusing to pay the money due, keeping the woman locked up during the day and isolated from friends and family and subjecting them to a tirade of verbal abuse.
If this abuse were experienced by a woman who is not a prostitute it would be prosecuted and the perpetrator sentenced. Prostitutes are invisible. As mentioned previously legalizing prostitution may seem like the ideal way to prevent this from happening but the experience of countries such as the Netherlands or states such as Nevada show that all it does is protect the abuser.
4. Prostitution; both legal and illegal promotes violence against women
At point 7 above we mentioned that prostitution is rape. Even where an act of prostitution is not in and of itself rape it is an act of violence against women. It does not matter where the prostitution takes place, it could be on the street or in a brothel, in a hotel room or in a club the prostitute is at risk of violence from her customers and, once her customers leave, from her pimp or her drug supplier. Prostitutes are also disproportionately amongst different groups of women, at danger from serial killers. This is down to a number of different reasons; prostitutes are often seen as less valuable and worthwhile members of society. Secondly they have to put themselves into vulnerable situations by reason of their work and are seen as a target that will not be easily missed and for whom society and the police will not search for some time.
73% of prostitutes who responded to one survey reported that they had been the victim of a physical assault during their work and 67% experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Prostitutes in jurisdictions where the act of prostitution is legal do not experience any reduction in violence. The experience of police in New South Wales (a state in Australia) following the legalization of prostitution was that they were less able to monitor the safety of the women involved, brothels became instead the territory of organized crime. Police in New Zealand found a similar result noticing that legalization made it more difficult to uncover exploitation.
3. Legalization does not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
One of the very strong arguments in favor of legalization of prostitution is that it would permit the authorities to impose mandatory regular health checks and registration in order to ensure that the women who work as prostitutes are free from sexually transmitted diseases. Equally, the argument goes, legalization gives the women the right to insist on the use of condoms in order to protect themselves.
It sounds like the perfect panacea but the experience of countries that have legalized prostitution does not bear this out. In Brazil despite measures taken to educate prostitutes in the dangers of HIV and the importance of condom use many prostitutes report that customers become violent if they ask to use a condom. Research in India has shown that prostitutes who insist on the use of condoms lose, on average, almost 80% of their income.
Not only that but the worst of the common sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS does not show up in blood tests for an extended period of at least 4-6 weeks. This means that a prostitute who becomes infected can test as clear for a long period of time and yet be infectious.
2. Prostitution leads to human trafficking
Human trafficking is one of the scourges of our modern age. Estimates in 2013 showed that approximately 27 million people were trafficked worldwide, usually in order to be used for forced manual labor or to work as prostitutes. 82% of all trafficking cases within the US involved sex trafficking and perhaps most worryingly of all, half of all those cases involved underage women. Trafficking is big business, netting the crooks involved in it a staggering $32 billion per year. It is possible to buy your own personal sex slave for less than $2,000 and she can generate almost $30,000 a year.
For those people who think that legalization is the answer to a reduction in trafficking it has been shown that countries which have legalized prostitution, particularly wealthy countries have become target markets for trafficking. When Sweden criminalized prostitution they saw an immediate and significant reduction in the volume of trafficking over their borders. Effectively as legalization opens up the market place for prostitution as a revenue generating business, the human traffickers see a business opportunity and bring the girls in to make the most of it.
1. Prostitution is wrong
Some actions are just wrong and we should not look to make them legal just because people do it. Many people exceed the speed limit on roads but we do not suspend the limits. Many people might choose to beat up another to a pulp but we criminalize this action whether it is justified or not. Why then should we make an exception for prostitution?
Prostitution objectifies women and allows men to degrade and abuse them. It is tempting to paint a cozy picture of an emancipated woman using her natural assets to work the hours they choose but the reality for most women is abuse, beatings, rape and drug addiction. We should not even think about legalizing something that promotes violence, trafficking and the abuse of underage girls
The fact that so many prostitutes find themselves stigmatized and ostracized from society when their ‘profession’ becomes known to others should tell us that the majority of people still feel that there is something absolutely, completely and totally wrong with prostitution. Even in the Netherlands, one of the most tolerant and open minded societies in the world only 5% of prostitutes are willing to own up to their profession in order to register for tax.
We hope we have debunked the myth of the happy, empowered prostitute. Our top 10 list should have convinced you that there can be no earthly reason to justify the legalization of prostitution.
We hope that we have adequately explained the true nature of the misery that prostitution can cause to the women who fall into its trap. Many live in fear of their lives, either from their pimps or from their customers. Prostitutes run a daily risk of rape and assault and many are forced into drug dependency. Far from choosing to prostitute themselves as a valid career choice many women who become prostitutes do so because they are left with no other option. Many are so traumatized by their experiences at work that they suffer from PTSD, the same stress response as soldiers who have seen active service.
If you are still undecided on the issue let us ask you this. Would you be happy for your mother, sister or wife to work as a prostitute? How would you feel about your daughter being given the numbers of brothels by the school careers advisor or given work experience as a prostitute there? The chances are we can predict your answer. If the career is not good enough for your family members it is not good enough or safe enough for anyone else.
What do you think? Check out the opposite take in another great ListLand article here: Top 10 Reasons Why Prostitution Should Be Legalized