Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Legalise Prostitution

Anti-prostitution campaigners typically cite a central corpus of issues as evidence that prostitution must be regarded as an absolute social evil, and eliminated by means of oppressive law enforcement. These include:

  • Violence against sex-workers, including rape and murder.
  • Economic exploitation of sex-workers.
  • The involvement in the industry of professional criminal elements, including gangsters, pimps and people-traffickers.
  • Drug-use among sex-workers.
  • Unhealthy or dangerous working conditions for sex workers.
  • The involvement of under-age sex-workers.
  • The intrusion of street prostitution into the lives of those who do not wish to be involved, such as local residents.
  • Prostitution encourages the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • Prostitution constitutes a significant sector in the shadow economy, in which:

    • No taxes are paid
    • Commercial contracts are enforced by violence, due to the absence of recourse to legal process.
    • Causes secondary economic crime such as corruption and money-laundering.

All of these problems exist, and they are indeed a heady cocktail of issues.

However, they are all easily solved. All of them. At a stroke. All you have to do is legalise prostitution, and all of these problems will substantially go away.

The fact that prostitution is illegal is in fact the cause of these problems, not the solution to them.

However, anti-prostitution campaigners are not motivated by logic, but by moral dogma, ignorance and narrow self-interest.

Feminists have got it absolutely right when they talk about abortion. Making abortion illegal does not stop it from happening. It just makes it more dangerous. Therefore, it is in the public interest to keep it legal, and therefore regulated and safe.

However, they do not apply the same logic to things they disapprove of, such as pornography and prostitution, or in the last century, alcohol. A charming character called Carry A Nation used to go into saloons with a group of her friends, and smash the place up with axes. She and her fellow feminists were a key force in the Temperance movement, which eventually led to alcohol prohibition under the Volstead Act of 1919.

Prohibition was a national disaster for the US. It led to the creation of a massive shadow economy, organised crime, the criminalisation of many otherwise law-abiding citizens, police corruption, violence and a disregard for the rule of law.

A bit like the 'War on Drugs' today. Making drugs illegal actually makes them more dangerous, because gangsters are not concerned about quality control. Bootleg whiskey was often poisonous and contained methanol. That's why there were so many blind Blues musicians like Blind Lemon Jefferson. But the temperance fanatics would take this as evidence that they were right all along: "Look. You drink whiskey, you go blind. We were right!". They seemed to be willfully ignorant of the fact that they were the ones actually causing the problems.

This is exactly the situation today with regard to both illegal drugs and prostitution. People are going to do these things whether you like it or not, so you just have to make the best of it.

Many moralists were against setting up needle exchanges for drug addicts, on the grounds that we shouldn't be encouraging people to inject drugs. However, responsible policy-makers accept that you have to deal with what's in front of you; you can't just wish you had something different. In fact, needle exchanges have been very successful in reducing the spread of infections.

Feminists like to cherry-pick their issues. One policy for abortion, another for prostitution. It's time they started being honest.

My view is that anything which takes place between consenting adults in private is no-one else's business.

If we legalise prostitution, we can set up licensed brothels. These could be subject to police inspections and health and safety checks. The staff and the owners will pay taxes. There will be professional recruitment procedures. No more people-traffickers, pimps and gangsters. No more violence. No more disease. No more under-age workers. No more coercion. Let's see if anyone wants to work there. Of course they will. This is exactly what the Australians have done.

I offer the Australian model of legal prostitution as a model for the Western world. I challenge anyone, even Julie Bindle, to find anything wrong with it, beyond the same mundane operational problems which affect any business.

In the licensed brothels in Australia, there has never been a single murder of a prostitute, or a single case of HIV infection. In Britain, in the past 10 years, over 60 street prostitutes have been violently murdered. A third remained unsolved. They make up the biggest group of unsolved murders in Britain. Reference.

I offer the American model of alcohol prohibition as an explanation of why the current situation in Britain is so completely fucked-up, and far from being the solution, is actually the source of most of the problems. It is interesting to note the high degree of feminist involvement in both problem situations. Feminism simply causes far more problems than it solves.

As well as licensed brothels, there should be a zero-tolerance policy towards both street-walkers and kerb-crawlers. Never mind 'zones of tolerance'. The street is no place for prostitution. The appropriate venue is the private house or licensed brothel. The same thing applies to the gay community. The public toilet is not your personal brothel. Summary arrest for everybody. No exceptions. We need to get casual sex off the street and into a safe private environment. If we do that, the problems associated with prostitution will all largely disappear overnight.


Man_Thropology said...

I have difficulty with the idea that we should legalise and regulate any undesirable behaviour if we believe we can't control it.

So that does mean the feminists and other busy bodies are right to hand out contraceptives and abortions to underage girls without their parents consent -

because people believe they (the girls) can't be prevented from having sex?

I don't know. I think decriminalisation and regulation can work for drugs and prostitution, but where does it stop?

Heretic said...

I think where a minor is involved, the legal guardian should be involved in the decision making process unless there is a very good reason to exclude them. I'm only talking about adults here, and I think we have to be realistic. The current prostitution laws (in the UK at least) are just not working.

Richard said...

I agree with you (at least my head does- my heart tends to reject the whole issue).

Making something illegal does at least reduce its visability. Perhaps the laws could be enforced so as to reduce the visability of prostitution and the abuses rather than just forcing it on to the streets?

Heretic said...

Dear Richard,
I'm not persuaded that making something illegal makes it less visible. Most people never even thought about using heroin recreationally until they heard about it on the news. Making something illegal generates crime, which generates publicity. In addition, getting prostitution off the streets and into regulated private spaces, as I advocate, will make it less visible to the public. At the moment, citizens who wish to have no contact with it are not always able to do so.

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose anyone on this blog could help me. I am a reporter for the Observer and we are tring to find someone who has been a kerb crawler to talk to us completely anonymously about why they do it, what the risks are etc. Nothing on this blog suggests any of you are kerb crawlers but I am just trying everyone I can. If you can help I would really appreciate it.
I can be contacted on anushka.asthana@observer.co.uk or 02077134238.
Best wishes,

Amanda Brooks said...


I'm here from the SWOP-East blog. You left a comment I just found, so...

Although a lot of people are for legalization, most sex workers in the US prefer decrminalization. We have legal brothels in Neveda and they're not really the best solution. New Zealand has a system of legalization that offers many advanatages to private, independent workers -- which is what most sex workers prefer.

But either way, criminalizing sex work only puts the sex worker in constant danger and causes all the problems you listed. Sex work is something that will always exist and making it safe for everyone involved is the only smart thing to do.


Phone Sex said...

I thin this is is make to legalise prostitution
Although a lot of people are for legalization, most sex workers in the US prefer decrminalization

Anonymous said...

I'm all for legalising prostitution and such. However, the truth is there are always gonna be sex workers (and gay men) picking up trade in the streets. If only to avoid taxation, or maybe a jealous spouse/partner.

Nuala MacMoragh said...

We want to decriminalize prostitution, not legalize it. I can see huge problems with making it state regulated, including abuses, and invasiveness. Legalizing is the same as having the state as the pimp.