Published: May 8, 2009
I am a 35 year old white married male of the Unitarian Universalist persuasion
s. I have never been a prostitute, used the services of a prostitute, nor known or known anyone who knew a prostitute.
I am writing this post in a response to a debate I am participating in just a little bit at Change.org titled “Prostitution and Trafficking: A Policy Debate. In putting this together I am hoping to distill, formulate, and solidify my opinion and position on this controversial topic. Most of my discussion will revolve around the topic of Prostitution itself, and a some about the Human Trafficking issue.
It is important to understand that it is not only males that are frequenting prostitutes. There are females as well, but males are, by far, in the majority. Keep in mind also that they are not all heterosexuals, some are homosexual as well.
For most of my discussion I will assume that “prostitutes’ or “sex workers” are adults who choose their profession. I will cover those who do not qualify as such, but are involved with prostitution, in the Legalization and Regulation portion of my discussion.
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when discussing the issues of prostitution and human trafficking and I will try to cover a lot of it here so we can put it all into perspective and discuss it as objectively as possible. Not everyone is going to agree with everything I have to say here. Some of it is definitely solely my opinion, some of it is not. I still have to gain quotes, fact, and examples for this to support my work, but any how, here we go:
Prostitution and Human Trafficking Are Separate Issues
Prostitution and Human Trafficking while seeming, and in some cases, definitely related are not visceral to each other. You can (and do) have prostitution that does not involve Human Trafficking, and, vice verse, Human Trafficking that does not involve Prostitution. They are distinct and separate issues and need to be treated as such. The existence of one does not intrinsically invoke the existence of the other.
Choosing the Profession
Many who discuss this topic speak of prostitution as a necessarily slave based profession, as if there are not people that choose to be prostitutes, and that all are brought to this occupation by human trafficking.
Many do choose to be prostitutes because it is a lucrative profession that generates a lot of money. Some choose it because of the extremely low barrier of entry. Some choose it because they really, really, really enjoy sex. Some for power and influence over the their clients. There are other reasons I am sure. Some strippers in Florida make in excess of $100,000 a year. Imagine what someone who was actually a sex worker would make there.
Something which is also related to prostitution is those in the porn industry. They do similar work, but the method of pay and client base is considerably different. Porn is one of the largest and most profitable businesses to be in. Again, most choose this profession and it involves having sex with others while getting paid for it.
Prostitution is a Consensual Crime
Prostitution is a Consensual Crime, and this is also key to many of todays civil rights movements such as gay and poly rights, drugs, and so on. Work towards the abolishment of the criminalization of consensual crimes may see a sort of a rennaisance in the coming decades or so as gay rights and polyamory/polygamy soldier on.
The book “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity Of Consensual Crimes In Free Society” covers this topic in great detail. While I do not agree with everything the book says about consensual crimes it is a great read and very applicable to this discussion.
Prostitutes choose to engage in a sexual act with someone in exchange for money. It is their choice to have sex with a person on their terms, be it dating, for cash, or as a one night stand, or serial monogamy. In any case consent and terms are given and, hopefully, adhered to. Why does having a direct money transaction soil the consensual act of sexual intercourse with another human being?
Consent, as is applicable to this discussion, does not involve coercion or duress. Either they really do have a choice and are legally able to give consent, or they cannot. People that are forced into prostitution by slave trade are not there by their choice and therefore do not give consent. People who are raped do not, by definition, give consent. Anyone who is not legally able to give consent by virtue of being underaged or mentally unfit to do so, cannot give consent. People who are in fear for their personal safety and acquiesce are not giving consent for there is duress and/or coercion present. Not being able to give consent in a sexual act is rape. Period.
Because Something is Illegal Does Not Mean It Is Wrong
There are so many laws that have been passed in our country’s (and others’) history that have propagated gross civil rights violations and have been repealed because their unconstitutional or inhumane nature has been recognized. Part of this is due to evolving cultural values, and an increase in understanding in civil rights and the very nature of our Humanity.
Just because something is currently illegal, does not mean that it should be. African Americans and women not having rights, interracial marriages and so on are all things that have been limited or illegal in America’s history, and, in the face of cultural evolution and greater understanding of civil rights these gross violations, have been corrected, but the historical damage done to those is these demographics still remain, as horrible vesitges of the past.
Separation of Church and State
When discussing the topic of prostitution it is faulty to assume or imply in your arguments, no matter how emotional or vehement they may be, that all sex workers are slaves, emotionally scarred, abused, crime ridden, would never choose the profession, or that it should patently be illegal purely for morality’s sake.
In much of the discussion there are many who espouse conservative Christian views about sin and morality, or saying that no woman would do this, or no woman would want that. I do not necessarily want to tell them to stuff it, because that would not be appropriate. I appreciate their zeal and passion for their spiritual path and morality, but not everyone belives as they do. Believe it or not, there are other religions out there that do not have similar beliefs. My favorite phrase when talking about this topic is, and it is very important to remember:
Keep your religion out of our government.James E. O’Neill, IV
Religion, spirituality, or aspirituality is a personal choice and our government is not. The government governs over all of us regardless of what our personal beliefs are. Unless you want to start a Conservative Christian Theocracy (and maybe you do) I would suggest keeping in mind that there are other religions out there and your religion is not the only choice, and to impose it on others is wrong and a violation of our Constitutional rights. To want to do so is a step back to the heretical days where the church burned people at the stake for asking questions or thinking.
If you base all laws off of conservative Christian morality you are automatically discriminating against other religions, even against other Christians. Due to the nature of the topic. If you do not like it, you do not have to do it. You do not have to support it and you can teach your children likewise, but others have the option to do the exact opposite. Legalizing is does not mean that we are going to force you to participate in it or support it. It is wise and better for society in general if you are able to separate your personal views from your political views, and to be able to know when one should be different from the other.
There are some religion or spiritual paths that revere sexuality such as Tantra or Paganism or other similar paths. In all cases, as long as the prostitution is consensual and does not harm anyone then what business does the government or you have in telling them what they can and cannot do with their sexuality. It is their personal choice what to do with their sexuality, not yours. Because your version of your deity tells you that this is wrong does not mean that their deity (or deities) says it is also.
Keep your religion out of our Government.
I cover a lot more about the harms of conservative religions in my post here: Religion, an Overview if you want a deeper dive into this topic.
You are probably going to ask “What the hell does any of this section have to do with prostitution?“. Well, I am really working to establish humanity’s proclivities towards extra-pair coupling, or more simply, their desire to seek sexual release outside of their primary relationship (if they have one) or to seek variety in sexual partners to establish that prostitution, perhaps, provides valuable service that caters to our evolutionary instincts.
The average birthrate for humans is 55% males to 45% females, of course it differs from person to person, depending on evolutionary advantages the couple bears, but this is the average, so there is always going to be a surplus of males who do not have an acceptable mate and may choose a prostitute to vent their sexual energies. Prostitution is a natural and safer vent for these sexual energies than kidnapping, human trafficking, or rape.
If you also take into account scientific studies which have shown that the level of sexual dimorphism (size difference between the genders) is directly proportional to the level of non-monogamousness of the species. The larger the difference in size between the genders the less monogamous the species is.
Take, for example, Silverback Gorilla’s whose males are much larger than the females (~50%); they practice harem guarding. The alpha male takes and protects the females that he wants and the other males get the left-overs.
Puffins, a species of bird, whose genders are the same size, and they mate monogamously for life. As do swans and penguins.
Humans, where males are larger than females, but not by a large amount, are definitely not completely monogamous. Our infidelity stats and divorce rates and the existence of prostitution as one of the oldest occupations tend to speak to this as well. Humans tend to socially monogamous, but sexually promiscuous.
Evolutionary psychologists bascially are out to define exacly what humanity is at its most base level. They look for the traits and characteristics that are similar to all humans regardless of culture, and some of this encompasses moral values.
Some would say that morality is given to us by our religion. I will say that religion will offer a cultural/religious specific implementation for our base evolutionary morality that oft times is colored or stained by current cultural values and biases. There are too many moral commonalities between dissimilar religions and cultures for religion to be the sole peddler of morality to humanity. I have a whole post on religion and its origins if you want to learn more.
This little section will not be quite in the same genre as the others in this section, but it is similar.
The sociocultural values of the United States have been continuously evolving as we gain a better understanding of morality, ethics, and our humanity. Our values are strongly rooted in the conservative European Christian tradition which tends to be quite closed minded and opposes change in sociocultural values especially when it undermines current church teachings.
Most every civil rights movement is championed by a vocal minority and definitively opposed by the conservative religious majority. People have fled from the oppressive and stagnant yoke of theocratic rule to the American colonies all throughout history. Conservative religions promote maintenance of the status quo resulting in stagnancy and punishing the thinking man who questions the unquestionable religious majority, often to their detriment.
The United States has worked through such civil rights movements such as ending slavery, women’s suffrage, and interracial marriage. All of which have been opposed by conservative religions in one form or another, and decried as the downfall of civilization as we know it, but it has come to pass to the betterment of society as a whole, and our world has not fallen into chaos and brimstone as they have portend.
Our morality and sociocultural values continue to evolve and change with our understanding and exploration of our humanity and our (a)spirituality, and will continue to do so. Some will champion these causes and some will oppose them. This is the way that it is, but still civil rights keep moving imminently forward, advancing our knowledge of our values and our humanity. Hell, even the Bible had changing and evolving laws and standards.
Sex Is Not Just For Procreation
Contrary to what some may say or think, the act of sexual intercourse for most humans is not done solely and specifically for the intent of species perpetuation. Humans, as well as most primates and dolphins, if I remember correctly, are the primary species that engage in sexual play or intercourse for recreational purposes as well. Sex is not just for generating progeny. It is also for pleasure, bonding, stress reduction, tension reduction, and social interaction too.
What To Do About Prostitution?
As you may have already guessed that I believe that we should legalize prostitution. It is the oldest profession in the world, and arguably provides a valuable service. I do not have all of the answers or sides of the story, and I will never claim to, but I will put forth my ideas and suggestion here so you can see what I am proposing.
You will find that a lot of what I propose here is also viable when talking about polygamy as well. The licensing/taxation parts, of course, does not really apply, but you get the picture. Currently, you will see some of it being implemented in Utah for refugees from Mormon patriarchal polygamy.
Decriminalizing prostitution will allow those who wish help to come forward and get it. Many do not go to the police, psychologist, or hospital due to being afraid that they will get in trouble or lose their children. A very similar case exists for those involved in non-consensual polygamy. If they want out or if they have been raped, robbed, abused, or whatever else, much of it goes unreported and damage to them continues to mount as the current law treats them as a criminal even when they are the victim. Decriminalizing it will also work towards changing the public’s opinion towards this occupation. Majority public opinion will always have a negative opinion towards anything that is currently illegal.
The stigma associated with the criminalization of prostitution makes it really hard for those who are in prostitution to get out of this job or enslavement. If they have a criminal record with prostitution then they are probably not going to get hired for many jobs and therefore have to resort to prostitution again as the only other option, and in seeing no way out, depression sets in and then eventually drug use and crime. Decriminalization will help those who want to get out to get out, and stop this vicious cycle.
Social Support and Preparation
Perhaps one of the more basic things we can do is change the name of the profession: words such as prostitute, hooker, and whore have severe negative connotations and thousands of years of religious baggage associated with them. Perhaps changing the base name to sex worker and then sepecific implementations or common usage to companion, liaison, escourt, consort or others shall also give the profession a new image and feel, as well as to help to alleviate the negative baggage that comes with the current labels.
Create A Sex Positive Culture Through Training and Public Education
America has a negative opinion of sex and all things sexual. The attitude towards sex and engaging in it is distinctly negative and not something to talk about. Because people are positively having sex does not mean that society’s attitude is positive towards it.
Currently, cheating on your partner is significanly more socially acceptable than an open and honest polyamorous relationship. Sex negativity is a pervasive American attitude and our laws most assuredly support that.
We are not teaching our children responsiblity in sexual matters or even relationships skills, and part of that is because of the negative attitude we have towards sex and fear of intimacy or inadequacy, or perhaps even inadequate positive role models.
It is a difficult topic to talk to our children about, and many parents have no idea or are ashamed to broach to subject with them. Our schools still teach abstinence or nothing at all, and we do not have good curriculum in place to help children to cope with their raging hormones and all of their questions, rumors, and insecurities about their changing bodies and feelings, and their desire to explore their new feelings and urges.
Teaching sexual education in a positive and healthy light will help to change people’s attitudes towards it. Our sexuality is a beautiful thing and not something to be ashamed of. Many Unitarian Univeraslist congregations have great sex education curriculum. Perhaps their work is a good starting point for this.
A change in the public attitude towards sex and prostitution will also help to prevent violent crimes towards sex workers. Sex workers are strongly stigmatized and many aggressors feel vindicated in their violent behavior just because they are ‘just a filthy prostitute’, as if the sex worker, or any person, is not deserving of dignity. Conservative views, strong stigmatization, and sexual repression in our society all lend itself towards the acceptance of violence towards sex workers.
Training of Professionals and Public Service Workers
Currently, the pervading attitude culturally, and for many healthcare, social work, and legal professionals is very negative towards sexually liberated people, and specifically to prostitution. Public service people such as doctors, police, psychologists and so on need to be taught or need to study the needs and situations that prostitutes face so that they may be better prepared to be able to be objective and to truly help prostitutes in their times of need, and to be able to prevent themselves from potentially victimizing a victim.
Prostitutes need to be assumed to be innocent and/or a victim as should anyone who would be seeking help. An environment of protection needs to be established and not an antagonistic one, otherwise they will not be able to find, or feel that they can find appropriate help if they have been harmed by someone. Police brutality is partially fostered due to the negative attitude towards them due to prostitution being illegal and having a sex negative culture.
In our current sex negative culture, and with the possibility of human trafficking, rape, and negative socioeconomic conditions – support groups, rehabilitation, sanctuary, relocation, or retraining needs to be offered to them to allow them to get a fresh start and start over in a more positive way if they are victims and are able to get out. Similar programs are currently being setup for those fleeing from fundementalist polygamous marriages as well. These sorts of things can benefit both groups.
Legalization and Regulation
Part of the legalization process should change the parameters for entry into this profession so as to increase the barrier to entry, increase the health, safety, and tracking of the profession as a whole, as well as raise tax money for increased law enforcement and social support. Social support will be very important until as such time as the profession becomes acceptable, as well as having the active and positive support from the law enforcement community.
Setting a minimum age to 18 will be an important, regardless of the age of consent within the state, since some states go from 16 – 18. This will protect children before they are ready to perform work of a mature nature such as this. The ability to serve alcohol serves a similar function.
First, we should institute a licensing model. I first mentioned the real estate model – broker/licensee simply because it models the current method of prostitution well. However, perhaps it is also important to have it so that individuals can work alone too, and not have to deal with others if they do not wish to. Either way, I do not care which model is implemented, or something different, but I recommend them as a starting point for the conversation.
One benefit of licensing is increasing the barrier to entry, as well as associated costs which will generate revenue for the government which can also go towards support for prostitution support programs and increased police work to protect them, and working towards clamping down on human trafficking violations and so on.
Prostitutes will need to get a license to practice and this will allow us to track who is a legally practicing as well as institute taxation on their practice. Having licenses will also allow us to determine who is potentially working legally, illegally, consensually, or non-consensually as well.
This will make it harder for those involved with human trafficking in prostituion to do as such.
The next part of this program shall be training and testing. Training in a licensing program shall include topics such as:
- health risks and concerns, and methods of protection, safe sex practices
- psychological effects of the job for the sex worker, and for their clients
- rights, support programs, legal protections and obligations
- health testing requirements for worker and clientele
- sex worker code of ethics
- taxation and licensing requirements
- disclosure requirements for human trafficking, disease, abuse, etc..
All of these will be important to not only change the public opinion of the profession, but also to educate and protect the sex workers and their clientele.
It will be a requirement that all professionals report any suspected human trafficking or abuse in a similar manner that doctors or lawyers would have to do or face loss of license, fines, and prison time due to ethics violations.
Required Medical Testing for Sex Workers
Mandatory medical testing should be required for licensing to ensure that they are drug and STD free. They should also require periodic drug and health testing to maintain their license. Perhaps weekly, monthly, or every quarter or so.
Their code of ethics should also include in which cases you should have to get a additional medical tests done like if you find out that a client was recently diagnosed with something and so on.
Clientele Medical Testing
I know with the current attitude towards prostitution that there will be quite the stigma associated with this possibility, but those who partake of their services should give similar protections to their service provider as they would give to them. A standard suite of tests run on clients as well as a survey of their sexual history so that the sex worker can decide whether or not to accept the client for services. This will also serve as gounds for lawsuits and prosectution in case they rape or abuse the sex worker. This will be harder to pass and to put into effect, but of much value to enforce protection for client and sex worker, as well as instilling the importance of personal responbility for our sexuality.
Other Legal Measures and Other Issues
For much of these issues there will need to be changes made to existing laws, or enforcement of the laws will need to be increased. The options I listed above will also combat some of these issues as well.
Rape: When a person does not consent to a sexual act then then is called rape and there are laws for that. People can be convicted of raping their spouse, as well. Just because there is an assumed relationship or money changing hands, it does not assume consent. A prostitute can most definitely revoke consent for any sexual act, just a much as general contractor can not agree to a contract for work.
Children: Again, there are laws regarding this. A child cannot give consent. A person who believes otherwise is committing, at least, statutory rape. If a person gives this child money and then engages in a sexual act that is still rape, since consent cannot be given. The presence of money is not relevant.
Human Trafficking: Human trafficking laws need to be reevaluated and perhaps made more severe. Police will want to make this a priority to combat and engage in mystery shopper/quality assurance type work to ensure that all the rules and regulations are working as well as to look for abuse, human trafficking, and other violations. The more this is done, the more dangerous it will be for these criminals, and will decrease the cost/benefit for the crime. Human Trafficking needs to be tried as a Crime Against Humanity.
International Socio-Economic Issues: Another part of the Prostitution/Human Trafficking issue is socio-economic in nature. Many are out-right abducted into sexual-slavery and taken to other countries. Some are told stories of a better life and the possibility to be independent and free from their current squalorous and oppressive life and country. Many that are tricked into it are there because they hope that this opportunity that they are being sold will help them and their familiies. If their socio-economic situation or politcal climate was conducive to freedom and safety these situations would be far less likely to happen.
Immigration: Immigration will really need to be looked. If immigration controls are stronger and more thorough then it becomes harder to traffic humans. We do, however, have issues with that since we have a massive amount of coastal lands as well as weak border security with Mexico and Canada where human trafficking could be conducted from. This needs to be very much looked at and improved.
Infidelity: Infidelity is not the problem of the sex worker. It is not the job of a sex worker to be a relationship counselor, therapist, or fidelity checker. If someone comes to a sex worker (without their partner’s knowledge and consent) then that is a symbol that either there are unresolved issues with themselves, their relationship, or that they have an open relationship. In either case it is not an issue with sex work as a profession, or the sex worker. It is an issue with our sex negative culture with which there is a heavy stigma placed upon sexually liberated people, and those who take care of their sexual desires in a non-violent and mutually beneficial arrangement.
International Support for Human Trafficking Laws
Since a lot of the human trafficking involves taking people across national borders, we will need to work with those countries to help garner support for existing Human Trafficking laws and have them put this issue as a priority, and start to combat it, not only in law enforcement, but on a cultural level as well. PSA’s about how human trafficking is wrong as well as having known human trafficking organization crushed, will be a good start.
How to Prevent Many from Choosing Sex Work
If you really, really are against sex work then you should want to do whatever it takes to keep people from choosing this profession. Here is a list of policies that you can support and vote for to help make sure people have other options than to choose sex work:
- Universal Healthcare
- Universal Education
- Universal Daycare
- Universal Basic Income
- Increase Minimum Wage
- Housing as a Human Right (Housing First)
If you want to read more policies that work towards this then please check my policy site.
- Is Sex Necessary (2003)
- Legalize Prostitution (Humanism by Joe)
- Queensland’s Female Sex Workers Generally Happy In Their Work
- Sex Work Europe
- Flawed Theory and Method in Studies of Propstitution (by Ronald Weitzer, 2005)
- Prostitution – (Men’s Stuff.org)
- Migrants in the UK Sex Industry
- Prostitution: Pro-Con.org
- Prostitution on Answers.com
- Prostitution Then and Now – A Feminist Overview of the Past 2 Centruies (University of Texas, )
- Why I am happy I became a prostitute (Alter.net, Nov 2010)
- 5 Myths About Prostitution (Washington Post, Sep 2010)
- John Lowman’s Prostitution Research Page
- 10 Reasons to Decriminalize Sex Work (Open Society Foundation, 2012)
- This strange neo-Victorian desire to save prostitutes and porn actresses (New Statesman, Dec 2012)
- Global movement votes to adopt policy to protect human rights of sex workers (Amnesty International, 2015)
- Sex Worker Claims She’s ‘Saving Marriages’ and Calls Monogamy ‘a Lie’ (Polyamory Diaries, Apr 2016)
- Sex Workers and Organizations
- You Have a Right to Buy and Sell Sex. Will the Courts Protect It By Legalizing Prostitution? (Reason.tv, Jul 2015)
- Prostitution = Crime? (Lacey Green @ Sex+)
- Human Rights for Sex Workers (Amnesty International)
- Sex Work (Last Week Tonight, Mar 2022)
- Change.org Topics
- Prostitution and Trafficking -a Policy Debate (Apr 29, 2009)
- “Its the oldest profession” and Other Bullshit Excuses for Inaction (May 28, 2009)
Global movement votes to adopt policy to protect human rights of sex workers