When thinking about trades that have been around for centuries, prostitution is not one that normally comes to mind yet it is claimed to be one of the oldest of professions. People have very different views on the subject of prostitution. According to Berkin, C and Mary B. (1979) Since Mesopotamian times, attitudes surrounding prostitution have evolved and changed many times from a celebrated necessity to a cultural evil. The United States Victorian era (1840-1900) experienced the same evolution of thoughts as their prostitutes experienced empathy in the beginning of the century then utter rejection towards the end. The twentieth century on through to the twenty-first has kept the ideals of the latter Victorians. American society’s outlook towards prostitution has not changed in over a century and a half because the societal views and the debate over a solution remain the same.
American societal views on prostitution have not changed in the twenty-first century since the 1800s. Prostitution is still seen by contemporary society as a crime against morality Scambler (1997). Many people today still have an extremely negative connotation when the words ‘hooker’, ‘prostitute’, and ‘whore’ are applied to women who sell sex for money. Stereotypically, these women are seen as trash; these are individuals who have sexually transmitted diseases and people with no morals or respect for their bodies. Currently women working as prostitutes are perceived as bad girls, disregarding norms of acceptable behavior, suffering the ‘whore’ label, and “increasingly criminalized by the state, policing practices, and the lack of effective action taken by the state to address male violence against women.” Scambler (1997) Although these perceptions are held by many educated, scientific and government minds, the public has conflicting views about prostitutes because of the importance the media plays into everyday life. The prostitute has been portrayed to society in many alternative forms: “as a symbol of cultural and moral decline, an innocent victim of male lust, a public health nuisance and even a cinematic heroine.” Stolba (2000). There are numerous opinions and attitudes about prostitutes and the industry remains in business because society has allowed the institution.
Prostitution evolved into a highly visible, industrialized business “with economic development, industrialization, and urbanization in mid-nineteenth century United States.” Barry (1996). The industrialization increased the market demand for prostitution because of an increased standard of living that came with the new prosperity of the business classes. Women were commercialized as “sexed bodies for hire” and “business stood to profit from the rental of their properties for prostitution, and ‘illicit sex’ increasingly became an attractive form of capital investment.” Barry (1997). With women facing these dire times, they were hard-pressed to the bottom of the work force. The labor market saw a decrease of women from domestic labor or work as servants, seamstresses, or chambermaids and into prostitution because of the developing sex industry. This did not hurt the aristocracy because of the increase of male immigrants for labor Barry (1997).
Definition of Prostitution:
Flowers, R. (1998) referred to prostitution as the “oldest profession”, prostitution “. . . has long been a problem which has provoked and disturbed Americans”. Prostitution is the performance of sexual acts, solely for the purpose of material gain. Prostitution remains, accepted and considered normal in some cultures. No gender specifics exist for prostitutes, but female prostitutes comprise the majority of prostitutes. A person male and married characterizing the majority of prostitute’s clients, commonly referred to as a “John”. Surprisingly, but true, US prostitutes work legally in some areas. “Prostitution is currently illegal in all 50 states” Flowers (1998), with the exception of 12 rural counties in Nevada.
A variety of different types of prostitutes exist: streetwalkers, call girls, massage parlor/brothel/in house prostitutes, madams, indentured sex slaves, escort service prostitutes, professional dominatrics, homeless, drug addicted and part time prostitutes Flowers (1998). In 1995, approximately 95,000 arrests were made (70% female prostitutes, 20% male prostitutes and 10% customers), mostly streetwalkers; a misdemeanor typically resulting in a fine, occasionally a 30-day jail term. More importantly than numbers, what motivates one to choose a career of prostitution? Perhaps persuasion, coercion, abuse, addiction or poor conditions/lifestyle and the financial lure. Legalizing prostitution ensures regulation and taxation, allowing the police to deal with more violent crimes and reduce the abuse of prostitutes by “Pimps”. Some see the “profession” as exploitive to women. Feminists claim that prostitution reinforces the status that women represent objects, undoing the prevails of women in the past. Yet still, many believe in neo-Victorism, a condescending belief that prostitutes are unaware of their action and need someone with more education to protect them.
Much of the public describes the profession of prostitution as dirty, immoral and degrading. For many, prostitution results in a destructive, abusive “career” in which Pimps, those who “own” and distribute prostitutes for the benefit of financial gain, and Johns abuse and violate women. Prostitution also greatly affects the community and the public. Those who use prostitutes for their pleasure risk the contraction of diseases, thus spreading with each new sexual partner, endangering the lives of many. Although valid reasons justify why one would want to keep prostitution with an illegal status, the benefits far out way the negative aspects of prostitution. Legalizing the profession increases the quality of lives for those who partake in prostitution as a career and those who “use” the business they offer.
Health, Economic and socaital Benefits:
Legalization of prostitution allows regulation, requiring medical examination of prostitutes on a regular basis, helping to reduce the transfer of STDs and communicable diseases. According to the US Department of Health, 3% to 5% of STDs in the United States are linked to prostitutes. If someone contracts a disease during an interlude with a prostitute, each sexual partner thereafter carries the potential risk of contamination. In addition, the health of prostitutes most likely increases. Early detection and treatment of STDs, diseases or illnesses, and drug addiction constitute likely results of prostitution legalization. These actions increase the likelihood of prostitutes’ good health, resulting in a safer environment for their clients as well. Exploitation from pimps eliminates with the legalization of prostitution. Pimps usually take a large portion of the prostitutes’ profit, up to 50% and sometimes more. This exploitation includes abuse, both physical and mental, often leading to murder. A legal status of prostitution allows prostitutes to work for them, or in a safe, controlled environment, such as a licensed brothel. Legalization allows for taxation of prostitution wages, like any other employment. Taxation of prostitution results in increased taxes collected by cities, counties and states. By taxation, prostitutes enjoy the benefits of unemployment insurance, disability insurance and social security, thus ensuring prostitutes the choice of continuing or discontinuing their career in prostitution. Cities, counties and states profit by taxation and legalizing prostitution results in a reduction of criminal prosecution costs.. This extra money and time provides police more time to deal with and prosecute violent crimes. The elimination of the prosecution of prostitutes saves time and money for the justice system as well as freeing the courts to prosecute of crimes/criminals. Once police officers and prostitutes join the same side, there will be creation of a safer environment for prostitute’s results. Prostitutes have the rights of every other citizen, hence shouldn’t be allowed to ill behavior without the threat of being arrested. Legalization of prostitution eliminates one of the violent aspects of prostitution, the pimp. With the elimination of the Pimp, the prostitute looses the need for exorbitant charges of his/her services.
Making prostitution legal will allow the act to be managed instead of ignored. Pimps and organized crime figures, which regularly treat their workers on subhuman levels, would no longer control women. In some countries, prostitute rings buy and sell women on the black market, force their women to comply through violence and create unhealthy working conditions. When prostitutes operate independently and in secret, many times they become abused by their own customers.
Legalizing prostitution would prevent underground prostitution that occurs today. When men want to pay for sex, they find prostitutes. These people work in massage parlors, escort services, strip bars and modeling agencies or still work corners as traditional streetwalkers. There are legitimate parlors, dating services, bars and agencies but of the hundreds that exist within newspaper classified advertisements and telephone directories, there are a large number that provide sexual services. A routine search through Google’s Internet news engine for ‘prostitution’ routinely reveals connections between prostitution and these falsetto agencies. Google, (2004).
it is estimated that 100,000 to 3 million teens are nearly invisibly prostituted per year in the United States Walker( 2002). If we allow prostitution to remain hidden from view and basically invisible to the law as it is today, we allow a number of teens to be swept up into prostitution every year. When adult women decide to exchange money for sex, it is a personal choice open to them under the philosophy of a free, democratic society. When troubled minors who do not yet have the social survival skills decide to prostitute, they are often manipulated by opportunists who exploit these teens, typically leading to horrific ends. Legalizing prostitution will help prevent these instances through regulation.
Legalized, regulated prostitution has many benefits. Encounters can happen within controlled environments that bring about safety for both the customers and the prostitutes. Prostitutes would no longer be strong-armed by pimps or organized crime rings. Underage prostitution would be curtailed. There would also be health-safety improvements.
Reasons for its Regulation:
The continuation of the sex trade regardless of campgain against it has been noticed by many lawmakers, and many countries have chosen to legalise prostitution as a result. Some merely decriminalise prostitution, resulting in the day-to-day operation of the sex trade continuing largely as normal, but without police attacks on prostitutes; others go further, and introduce state licensing and regulation for brothels and their workers and customers. Each method has its relative merits and demerits.
The first, decriminalisation, if introduce will help to a grate extent, so if prostitution is legal, prostitutes will pay taxes, most are self employed and will all have access to health care although it is not compulsory. Regulating prostitution, on the other hand, has largely been a product of the United States, although it is not a national endeavour and remains confined to one state, Nevada. In Nevada, brothels are not only legal but heavily regulated, and prostitutes are regularly given health checks and since 1988 must use condoms. Prostitution outside of this regulation is a misdemeanour — the same level of illegality as all prostitution is in most other states.
There are various reasons why this regulation is necessary: The first and possibly the most important is that of health and hygiene; prostitutes are frequently carriers of sexually-transmitted infections, due to their promiscuous nature, and spread these infections to their customers. With state-regulated health checks and mandatory condom use, such infections can be reduced to a barely perceptible level and the overall health of the population increases.
The second reason is one of safety. Many prostitutes who work in countries where prostitution is illegal are “employees” of violent and oppressive pimps, and their working environment is one of beatings, low pay and drug-dependency. With legalisation, prostitutes most often become self-employed, even in brothels, most prostitutes are considered contract workers, and as a result have no financial or other obligation towards abusive pimps. Prostitutes are also frequently in danger of attacks by customers; the homicide rate for female prostitutes in the US is 204 per 100,000, over 50 times the rate of the most dangerous legal job for women, working in a liquor store. With legalised brothels and employment comes security; most brothels offer CCTV and even security guard protection, and many require customers to sign in with valid identification, vastly reducing the chances of a prostitute being attacked and vastly increasing the chances of catching an attacker if such an attack is made. With prostitution illegal, many prostitutes are afraid to report their crimes for fear of being prosecuted themselves and are afforded no protection, particularly when working from the street.
The third reason is one of revenue. Many people object to state regulation of prostitution because of the cost involved; however, in a system in which prostitution was legalised, prostitutes would pay income tax on their earnings and thus contribute, in whole or in part, to the cost of state regulation. Even disregarding the other benefits, the increased tax revenue would be a considerable incentive for lawmakers to legalise prostitution, especially given the relatively high earnings prostitutes make in legal brothels — in Nevada, the average price for half an hour of intercourse and oral sex is $300 USD, a more than respectable wage that would place most prostitutes in a high-income tax bracket.
Given the three broad categories above, economic, health and social benefits, the countries having legal prostitution enjoy many benefits the United States does not. Crime is higher within the U.S., despite severe laws, intense prosecution rates and a high number of imprisonments. People infected with HIV/AIDS are higher, as is the number of HIV/AIDS deaths in the U.S. Even suicide rates and divorce rates are disproportionately high in the U.S. as well.
You should agree with me that prostitution is inevitability. Prostitution, “the world’s oldest profession”, has been around since the dawn of civilisation, and despite many attempts to legislate it away it shows no signs of disappearing. Instead of wasting police resources and public money on attempting to prosecute prostitutes, many governments have realised that it is much more effective to legalise prostitution, and spend a fraction of the resources in creating a healthy environment for both prostitutes and their customers.
I would certainly argue that regulation is a stop-gap solution, not worthy of long-term consideration. Whilst it solves a few problems with illegal prostitution, it does have impact on the health and safety of prostitutes and customers that a state-regulated industry does.
The benefits of legalizing prostitution outweigh the reasons for keeping it a criminal activity. Many lives improve as a result, creating a better working environment for prostitutes and clients, provide taxes and save cities, counties, and states money and the elimination of exploitation by “pimps”, comprise a few of the benefits The practice of prostitution, morally and ethically wrong to many people, remains a choice made by two consenting adults. Keeping prostitution illegal results in few benefits and prostitution continues to thrive with all the negative aspects. Making prostitution legal increases the probability of “safe” prostitution. Why continue to fight a losing battle that costs people in many ways.
With such measures in place, society would see a reduction in violent crime against prostitutes, a reduction in sexually transmitted diseases amongst the prostitute and non-prostitute population and an increase in tax revenue, all from the legitimising of an industry that will continue were it legal or not. Such a noble aim is seemingly not pursued out of some Victorian, prudish attitude towards prostitution amongst the voting public; the main reason is that prostitutes suffer needlessly at the hands of oppressive pimps and savage customers and this is a crying shame.
Barry, Kathleen. The Prostitution of Sexuality. New York: New York University Press, 1995.
Berkin, Carol Ruth and Mary Beth Norton. Women of America A History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979.
Flowers, R. Barri. Defining Prostitutes and Prostitution. The Prostitution of Women and Girls. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland ; Company, Inc., Publishers, 1998.
Google (2003) Search Engine. Accessed Online on November 2003 at: http://news.google.com/news?q=massage+parlor ; http://www.frontiernet.net/~kenc/pros.htm
; Jimmy Swaggart and Prostitute Debra Murphree ; Jim Bakker and Church Secretary Jessica Hahn
Scambler, Graham and Annette Scambler. Rethinking Prostitution, Purchasing Sex in the 1990s. London: Routledge, 1997.
7. Walker, N. (2002) Prostituted Teens: More than a Runaway Problem. Michigan Family Impact Seminars. Accessed Online on December 2004 at: http://www.icyf.msu.edu/publicats/briefng2/2002-2.pdf