Should Prostitution Be Legalized? Essay.
Legalizing prostitution, defined as the act of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money, has been widely debated since its time of recognition in our society. Some characterize prostitution through violence and oppression against women and girls, while others express their opinions about its fulfillment and empowerment. Prostitution laws vary among countries, and in the United States prostitution is illegal in every state except for Nevada. Despite the strict prostitution laws that the United States government stands behind, it is evident that the laws have not succeeded in stopping prostitution.
It is important to distinguish that prostitution is not sex trafficking, those opposing the legalization of prostitution view the two as mutually exclusive and believe that it would only institutionalize exploitation and abuse (Weitzer 2011). Sex trafficking involves non-consenting adults and children forced into selling sex, those individuals deserve the full protection of the law. Conversely, prostitution involves consenting adults who wish to negotiate payment in exchange for sexual services, it is a service industry like any other (Kempadoo 1998).
Prostitution laws violate every citizen’s human and civil right to choose their trade and occupation.
To understand why prostitution should be legalized it is first important to consider why people choose to prostitute. To put it plainly, the number one reason people choose to prostitute is to make money (Ditmore 2011). It is an extremely liquid business, and because of that it is very appealing to many individuals who are struggling just to put food on the table. It may not be the most desirable idea of work, but for many prostitutes it is the best alternative available. According to Veronica Monet, sex work is a better alternative to being president of someone else’s corporation or someone’s secretary. She chose to be a prostitute after experimenting with various other occupations that she hated. Many other prostitutes view their work in the same way that Veronica does, sex workers often get to set their prices and choose their hours, making it all the more appealing.
Opponents to legalizing prostitution feel that it is demeaning, and that it would only further exploit women (Hughes 2004). What they don’t understand is that women prostitute because they feel that it is empowering and a woman’s choice to choose what they do with their bodies, if they want to sell sex in exchange for money that is their prerogative. Prostitution is an extremely lucrative business that allows women to control how to budget, who they want to see, who to be polite to, and who to decline (Stryker 2012). Legalizing prostitution would allow women to be appreciated in ways that they would not regularly be appreciated in an office setting.
The strict prostitution laws that exist in the United States promote the criminality of sex work, creating a setting where prostitutes are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and trafficking against their free will (Macy 1996). Whether or not a law to legalize prostitution is passed, it will always exist because there is an endless demand for sex services. Recognizing it as a legal institution would allow for women to gain legal and social rights through choosing prostitution as an occupation, and allow the government and police to punish those who were abusing and exploiting non consenting individuals (Hughes 2004).
There are many injustices that exist in the sex industry because of the strict prostitution laws. If society could understand what prostitution was really like rather than seeing it as a delinquency, legalization would be the obvious choice. Prostitution is when consenting adults decide to exchange various sexual services in return for financial gain, yet prostitution as a career choice is about much more. Like any other industry, prostitutes must work hard in order to achieve the monetary gains they are seeking. Prostitutes must maintain professional facilities, the places where they will meet clients, as well as maintain their appearances.
They do this by spending time at the gym, tanning salon, and beauty parlor. Just as banks spend time doing credit checks on possible clients before agreeing to extend them a loan, prostitutes must perform background checks on their perspective clients to ensure their safety. They must advertise their services and provide professional feedback through phone calls and emails, and they must network in order to expand their business and clientele (Albert 2001). Prostitutes operate their business similarly to many other industries, yet they risk being charged with a felony every day that they operate their business. If society could get past the linkages between prostitution and sex trafficking they would be able to view it for the legitimate business it is.
Most of the focus in the prostitution debate has been on the women involved and the individuals who are offering their sexual services. However, it is also important to consider who uses the services, and who is benefitting from the services. Studies have shown that men of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds have been known to purchase sex (Macy 1996). Individuals who purchase sex often do it because they are looking for sexual excitement, or because they are not satisfied with their wives at home. Most studies show that sex buyers do not respect the women; they are not required to be nice or polite, and the majority of them patronize the prostitutes (Bennetts 2011). Because of all the negative energy surrounding prostitution, women are seen as inhuman commodities, and their work poses a threat to their well-being. Prostitution is an extremely dangerous occupation because of its illegality.
Purchasers believe that because they paid for sex, they have the right to behave however they want. They believe that their payment gives them the right to degrade and assault prostitutes freely. One man who was interviewed noted “you get to treat a ho like a ho – slapping, choking, and having aggressive sex beyond what your girlfriend will do” (Bennetts 2011). Men believe that if they pay for sex they have total control over the woman, and this is the reason why prostitution becomes dangerous. Women who feel they have been abused or violated by their clients will not report it to the police for fear of being arrested for prostitution, and the men who abused them get off completely untouched. If prostitution were legalized, then the men who abused the prostitutes and committed crimes would be punished by law. It would allow prostitutes to operate their business without the constant fear that their life and well-being could be threatened (Kempadoo 1998). Despite what the laws say about prostitution, it is always going to exist because for every prostitute arrested, there will be two more to replace her.
The demand is high and the supply of poverty stricken individuals looking to make money is never ending. Legalizing prostitution would allow the government to instate rules and regulations to control criminal acts and protect prostitutes against abuse (Kempadoo 1998). Opponents to prostitution argue that it is immoral because the women are vulnerable and exploited through selling their bodies for sex. On the contrary, it is immoral for the government to turn their back on prostitutes who are being abused. Sex workers are not granted basic human rights that all other professionals are granted. Despite opposition to the idea of commercial sex, the “moral” course of action would be to grant the prostitutes basic rights and protection, so that they can practice their trade safely and responsible (Albert 2001).
There are organizations of prostitutes working under illegal conditions across the country, and activists are arguing whether or not legalizing prostitution will improve the corruption and criminality surrounding sexual labor today. The Netherlands provides a perfect example of how legalizing prostitution limited the crime and violence associated with the sex industry. After the country instated laws that regulated the sex industry and designated certain areas where legal prostitution could take place, violence exponentially declined (Weitzer 2007). There is less corruption because police and government officials are no longer being paid off to look the other way when witnessing an act of prostitution, and there is less reported abuse and murder. The police are now able to walk the streets and monitor the legal sex institutions. Legalization has given prostitutes rights that protect them against violent predators looking to take advantage of their services. Legalizing prostitution and regulating certain aspects of it has proven to be effective in limiting corruption and violence in the community (Weitzer 2007).
Opponents to legalizing prostitution are consumed by the idea that prostitution is immoral, exploitative, and criminal. The government is worried about how legalizing the institution would affect crime, public health, taxes, poverty, etc. Some believe that it promotes rape and homicide and would increase the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, comparing brothels to slavery (Lankford 2008). What these opponents do not understand is that prostitution involves consensual sex and legalizing prostitution would in fact reduce crime because it would keep the prostitutes off the streets. Public health is in more danger with the current prostitution laws than it would be with legalization because the government could impose regulations and require mandatory health screenings for all working in the industry. Tax revenue would be increased because the prostitutes would have to declare their profits to the state, legalizing prostitution would create a legitimate business operating under the laws of any other industry.
The benefits of legalizing prostitution will come after society can understand exactly what the prostitution industry entails and why prostitutions choose it as a career option. The bottom line is that prostitution is not a crime, and it is not a harmful act against society. Women who choose to sell sex in exchange for money are doing so on their own account. They are consenting individuals and they should have the right to decide which occupation they want to pursue without receiving scrutiny from the rest of society. Prostitution is not sex trafficking, it involves consenting adults and choice. Sex trafficking forces victims into sex work through various acts of violence, threat, and manipulation, they are recruited from poor areas because they are uneducated and naïve.
Sex trafficking victims get brainwashed into staying in the organization (Ditmore 2011). Prostitution and sex trafficking are vastly different acts, yet because prostitution is illegal the two often get lumped together in debate. Legalizing prostitution would allow society to separate prostitutes and the illegal sex trafficking business. Prostitutes would gain the rights of every other human being in the work force, and the government could stop the illegal sex trafficking of children and non-consenting adults into the sex industry. After analyzing the reasons why individuals choose to prostitute, what it is really like for those individuals, and which individuals benefit from their services, it is clear why prostitution should be legalized.