Saturday, March 15, 2008

Solidarity, Sister! Paying Prostitutes a Little Respect

I've spent the last few days watching anchormen on the local news channels refer to prostitution as the “world's oldest profession” with a sly grin on their faces. Though prostitution, or advertising sex in exchange for foods and goods, has played an essential role in our evolutionary past, I believe we now have the resources to make prostitution completely unnecessary. And thanks to the Spitzer scandal, this issue is back on the front page of newspapers and is at the forefront of everyone's mind.

Everyone is asking the same question: should prostitution be legalized? But a far more important question to ask is what can we do so that women don't resort to desperate measures such as selling their bodies for cash? What alternatives can we create for them? How do we eliminate prostitution from the grounds up?

Many American cities think the best solution is shaming the men who solicit the services of prostitutes. The photos of these male clients are posted not only on websites but printed and dispersed throughout the community. Some towns go a step further and send letters to the relatives of these men, informing them of their crime.

But trying to cut demand seems unreasonable. It's safe to assume that some men will seek sex outside of their established relationships, even if prostitution is eliminated. If they're not paying a few dollars for anonymous sex or thousands for high-class escort services, they will simply have “affairs, lovers.” They'll go on dates, bars and clubs, looking for casual sex. It's also safe to assume that some women will readily accept the “no strings attached” sex. Therefore, trying to curb the demand by men seems foolish. Humiliating these men, like we did to now ex-governor Pitzer, doesn't solve anything. Neither does sending them off to jail. (Unless of course, they use the government's money for their “private needs,” like it is alleged of Pitzer.)

Charging and arresting female prostitutes, however, is a much more ridiculous notion. Prostitutes don't pose a danger to society; in fact, they're in one of the most dangerous “professions.” We should be helping them, not arresting them. They're probably more likely to die on the job than any other “professional.” Putting them in jail does nothing but overcrowd our prisons with these harmless women. Instead of raising taxes to build more prisons to house these “small-time criminals,” we should use those funds to create alternatives for the lower-class and poverty-stricken women who look to prostitution in order to make ends meet.

We need to create jobs, raise the minimum wage, create free educational and vocational programs for adults, have a national health-care and daycare system. In other words, we need to eliminate all the problems that force women into prostitution. Prostitution is not an isolated problem; it is the result of a faulty economic and political system.

We need to stop looking at prostitution as a “victim-less” crime. These women, these prostitutes ARE the victims. They're the victims of a system that has given up on them, that chooses to allocate money for wars that don't need to be fought and abstinence-only programs that are proven ineffective instead of on poverty, job training, instead of on them.

Little girls don't grow up wanting to become prostitutes. They don't want to go to work at a time where the rest of the world goes to sleep. They don't want a job that can get them killed. Little girls don't dream about being a part of the sex industry.

But prostitution happens. We already know why. The jobs they have don't pay enough; the jobs they want aren't given to them. Their children need to be fed, clothed, immunized. They need support and don't find it in their familial harms.

But these issues are tangible, treatable. If we fix these roots, they wouldn't branch out to become “prostitution.” So it's not a question of making it legal or not; it's a matter of ethics, of humanity. Let's start caring about these women, yeah? And each other.


Global Citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
privilegeindifference said...

What's your opinion on prostitution being legal, but still restricted in some ways be the government? This happens in a lot of other countries. For example, many European nations allow prostitution (though, in many cases, it is illegal on the streets) through brothels, which are regulated by the government.

Just some more food for thought. Personally, I think this can make a lot of sense in some ways, as I don't see why prostitution can't be something a person could choose to do with his or her time (barring a myriad of related parallel issues that come up with prostitution, such as drug abuse).

Vanessa said...

Legalized prostitution is the way to go. Once regulated, prostitutes--regardless of sex or gender--are not left vulnerable to the exploitation of pimps or violent customers, they can unionize, they would be regularly tested, they can turn down customers, they can report abuse, THEY CAN HAVE RIGHTS.

When we push people into the shadows, obviously they will be vulnerable to oppression.

evanomics said...

Prostitution does seem pretty normal in other parts of the world: Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo recently had a run in with cross-dressing prostitutes in Brazil(it's legal there), but the worst he got was a little embarrassment - much different than it would have been in the US:

Also, this article answered some key FAQs about prostitution: