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.