Monday, September 6, 2010

End Prohibition ... of Prostitution

The recent controversy over Craigslist's removal of "adult services" has raised larger questions over how, if at all, prostitution can be prevented in the United States (source).  The issue at hand, of course, is how prostitution can be minimized by preventing "legitimate sites" from offering these services.

What about Google?  A quick Google search of "Washington DC escort services" reveals a plethora of websites (some quite upscale) that offer commercial sex - thinly-veiled as "companionship."  The essential question becomes this: how many resources are Americans willing to spend in order to prohibit the "oldest profession?"  Moreover, who are we kidding when we believe that the demand for sex will ever diminish to the point where there is no longer a market for it?

A quick primer on prohibition in general: when a government prohibits a product or service, the demand for this service doesn't go away; the market is driven underground, devoid of regulation and often fraught with all the problems that one would expect to find in a black market.  Violence, coercion, organized crime rings, even slavery and murder. This Craigslist incident, in addition to being about increased censorship of the Internet, is really about the absurd degree to which some Americans are willing to enforce the prohibition of commercial sexual services.

Prostitution should be legal in the United States.  The number of countries decriminalizing commercial sex has been on the incline for decades (source).  Some legal experts (including, yes, women) have argued for the end to the prohibition of prostitution, citing a variety of health, safety, and worker's rights improvements that a legal sex industry would bring (source).  And ultimately, along with the erroneously-named "war on drugs" (which is really a "war on people"), illegal prostitution continues to grow the police state and serves only to prosecute victimless crimes.  In the words of attorney Alan Dershowitz after the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal (source):

"I feel that this is a America-only story that we have to put in perspective. You know, big deal, 'married man goes to prostitute!' In Europe, this wouldn't even make the back pages of the newspaper. It's a uniquely American story. We’re a uniquely, you know, pandering society and hypocritical society, when it comes to sex."

Indeed.  Until we are honest enough with ourselves to admit that women (and men) should have a right to self-ownership - which includes everything from drug use and abortion rights to prostitution and end of life termination - we will have a difficult time claiming to be the "land of the free."

1 comment:

  1. Well said Danny. I think part of the problem is in finding politicians who are willing to help make these changes occur. I'm afraid that anyone who would be willing to speak up for these issues would be labeled pervert/stoner/babykiller etc. by opposing parties... Thus we are doomed to become increasingly conservative over time. Meanwhile prostitution and drugs are pushed underground (as you mentioned) feeding organized crime and putting people behind bars who don't need to be there. The government wastes cash on victimless crimes when there could be tax, insurance, education.