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68 Responses

  1. Emily
    Emily August 20, 2008 at 4:06 pm |

    Do you think the stigma of being a prostitute will go away if it is de-criminalized? Do you think it won’t be hard for sex workers to get jobs in the future (what’s on the resume?) or get housing, etc? I don’t disagree that the illegal nature of it is harmful, or that it would be helpful for the sex workers to get the kinds of protection they need, but that’s one aspect that isn’t going to go away with decriminalization.

    The part of legalization that troubles me is that you’re talking about a situation in which there would have to be a record of some kind. That’s EXTREMELY troubling, and goes to the above – trying to get out of the profession is harder if you have this black mark, legal or not.

    There will always be a market for illegal prostitutes, particularly if the johns are going to be held legally accountable for the way that they treat the legal ones.

    Just a couple of thoughts. I don’t know what the answer is; I suspect nobody really does.

  2. Sb
    Sb August 20, 2008 at 4:20 pm |

    “Do you think the stigma of being a prostitute will go away if it is de-criminalized?”

    Of course not – the stigma is a social thing not a legal thing, hence changing the law will have only a small impact (at least at first)

    NZ Sex workers still suffer a high level of stigmatization.

    “Do you think it won’t be hard for sex workers to get jobs in the future (what’s on the resume?) or get housing, etc? ”

    The resume thing is a very real problem, I did interview a woman for a job where she had a two year gap on her resume (or CV) in the end she admitted to me that she had worked in a brothel for those two years, she got the job.(I had been concerned that she had been in jail!)

    Housing? why would that be a issue?

    “The part of legalization that troubles me is that you’re talking about a situation in which there would have to be a record of some kind”

    Why? NZ sex workers do not have to have any documentation with the authorities, with the brothels all they need is proof of age? I don’t see why this would be a issue?

    When the Law changed in 2003 the NZ police was instructed by the courts to destroy all previous records.

    If a sex worker wants to work outside a licensed brothel these is zero documentation or registration required. If she wants to work in a SOOB even the SOBB does not need to be registered and the SOOB has no legal requirements to keep records.

    The tax number for sex work is the same as the general tax record number so even the tax authorities (and a lot of NZ sex workers pay tax on the earnings) don’t know how the person is making their money.

    Sb

  3. Sara Anderson
    Sara Anderson August 20, 2008 at 4:52 pm |

    I’m reminded of the time when blogger collegecallgirl wrote about being sexually assaulted on a gig (is that the right word?), and got a whole torrent of commenters decrying her decision not to report the incident to the police.

  4. ucsbclassics53
    ucsbclassics53 August 20, 2008 at 4:55 pm |

    Until the police give sex workers and rape victims any assurances that they could be trusted not to judge them, is it not surprising that many rapes and sexual assaults will go unreported? Our society has done an effective job in stigmatizing sex workers and rape victims because our standards of morality are so Puritan and out-dated and thus, many are hurt in the name of “morality.” Until those standards change, we have to fight step by step.

  5. Brian Charles
    Brian Charles August 20, 2008 at 5:03 pm |

    I am so glad to see this sort of sane message so articulately expressed. It has given me food for thought and a subject for my next blog

    I look forward to more

    Thanks

  6. Emily
    Emily August 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm |

    If there is legalization, will there not also be regulation? Will there not also be requirements of health checks and whatnot? And what woman can get insurance in the US if she has in her medical records that she was once a prostitute? Insurance companies already deny women who have had one C Section if they think they’re going to have another baby because the company doesn’t want to pay for another C section. I’m not joking.

    There will be a record, somewhere.

    And Ren, I don’t think that legalization will make it worse. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the criminal issues. I would think it would help to continue to have the crime be in hiring a prostitute but to have the part of BEING a prostitute be perfectly legal.

    You asked us to talk about it, so I’m talking about it.

  7. octogalore
    octogalore August 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm |

    Agree, Ren — I don’t think the standard for decrim making sense needs to be that it would completely solve the stigma problem. Plenty of legal things are stigmatized and will continue to be — drinking, smoking, some piercings, and as you said, stripping and porn. But if it improves the situation, why not?

    If one wants to phase out of sex work, there are ways to mask the time doing it on a resume, especially if it’s brief. Doing writing, any kind of consulting, tutoring school kids, other volunteer work — and if the money’s being made in sex work and one doesn’t need to get paid jobs doing this stuff, it’s not hard to find volunteer opportunities. Resume spin, as opposed to resume falsehood, is completely legal.

    Legal or illegal, it likely won’t ever be advisable to put sex work on a resume used for a non-sex-work gig. While sex work can involve picking up business/marketing/sales skills, many employers would be skeptical (as, apparently from that thread, many feminists are too). And even for an employer who gets this, sex work doesn’t come along with recognized roles (“product manager,” “ad rep,” “VP,” “sales associate,”) so it’s difficult to tell whether a particular sex worker did gain these aptitudes, or maybe focused on more physical ones (nothing wrong with that, it’s just not as translatable).

    But this is a different argument from whether decrim makes sense. Decrim will help stigma, as anything not illegal will be less stigmatized.

  8. Chris H
    Chris H August 20, 2008 at 5:26 pm |

    As SB says, of course the stigma won’t go away automatically with legalization. But it sure as hell won’t go away without it. Decriminalization/Legalization is the first step that is necessary for real progress to be made in guarding the rights of sex workers. If a person doesn’t embrace that one principle at some level, I consider their statements of concern for sex workers to be only so many crocodile tears. The more above-ground the sex work industry is, the easier it is for the workers to access resources that protect them from abuses, and, as Ren points out, to eventually leave the skin trade if they so desire.

  9. Sb
    Sb August 20, 2008 at 5:30 pm |

    “If there is legalization, will there not also be regulation? ”

    But that does not necessarily lead to keeping records on individual women.

    “Will there not also be requirements of health checks and whatnot?”

    Not if you don’t build that into the system. The German system broke down because it had a requirement for registration and health checks and most German sex workers chose to ignore it and work unregistered. The Germans several years later removed the requirements for the law.

    When the NZ law was being formulated there was originally a requirement for registration however the PC made it clear that NZ sex workers would ignore it if that was the case. The requirement was later removed which is why the current law has no such need.

    “nd what woman can get insurance in the US if she has in her medical records that she was once a prostitute”

    Why would it be recorded in her medical records?

    Sb

  10. Faith
    Faith August 20, 2008 at 5:58 pm |

    “Why? NZ sex workers do not have to have any documentation with the authorities, with the brothels all they need is proof of age? I don’t see why this would be a issue?…But that does not necessarily lead to keeping records on individual women.”

    I’m having trouble understanding this. If the brothels must prove age, then they are reporting to the someone (one would assume a government someone). If they are reporting to someone, then there is a record on the individual woman.

  11. Calderon
    Calderon August 20, 2008 at 6:00 pm |

    Quicky, hopefully simple question: what’s the difference between decriminalization and “full out legalization”?

  12. Faith
    Faith August 20, 2008 at 6:02 pm |

    “If the brothels must prove age, then they are reporting to the someone (one would assume a government someone).”

    Make that “so someone”. Not to “the someone”. Sheesh.

  13. Faith
    Faith August 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm |

    “Make that “so someone”. Not to “the someone”. Sheesh.”

    Ok, I give up. Reminder to self: Don’t try to comment on a blog while doing 50 other things at one time.

  14. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes August 20, 2008 at 6:17 pm |

    Calderon:

    As I understand it, legalisation means making a special case of prostitution, with laws pertaining specifically to that line of work (like the Nevada brothels system). Decriminalisation is simply the repealing of the laws that ban prostitution. While legalisation maintains the stigma by making prostitution a “special case” and effectively walled off from the rest of working life, decrim will remove the legal barriers to reducing the stigma (although, as pointed out, it might take a generation or two for the stigma to be lifted to any great degree).

  15. RenegadeEvolution
    RenegadeEvolution August 20, 2008 at 6:28 pm |

    Emily- Wrt to the insurance thing…a ton of people have no insurance, and the assumption that prostitutes have a higher rate of ANY sort of illness than, oh, other people is a bit…off. Truth is, most sex workers are far more paranoid about their health than most people are…esp. wrt to STD’s.

    FOLKS- I am out until er…late…this evening. If you find comments stuck in mod or whatever, I shall check when I get home.

  16. Sb
    Sb August 20, 2008 at 6:50 pm |

    Faith:”I’m having trouble understanding this. If the brothels must prove age, then they are reporting to the someone (one would assume a government someone).”

    I will explain how it works. Since the law change the cops have started (and IMHO they are correct to do this) on quiet nights walking into licensed brothels and looking around. If the see somebody who looks under 18 they say “hi you duty manager prove to ME that SHE is at least 18″.

    If the duty manager cannot provide proof then the manager is arrested on the spot and the brothel is closed. Therefore the brothels keep a file on the premises of the paperwork provided when the women signed their work contracts (all licensed brothels now have written contracts of employment).

    If the cops are satisfied they leave without taking any information with them, when the woman resigns her records are destroyed.

    This approach has been successful with finding several underage sex workers.

    It is however a bit contentious in the industry because underage workers frequently provide false information when starting work and its not a defense for the brothel owner to say “she lied to me” even if she provided a false passport, driving license & birth certificate. If you accidentally employ a 17 year old its a fine of up to $10000.

    Sb

  17. William
    William August 20, 2008 at 6:50 pm |

    I’ve always felt that talking about social stigma and talking about decriminalization of sex work talking about two different things. Sure, decriminalization might (or might not) reduce the stigma associated with sex work, but social stigma isn’t really the issue decriminalizing is aimed at addressing.

    Under the current system people who work in the sex trades have less access to basic government services (like the filing a police report), are legal targets for housing/employment/loan/insurance/etc discrimination, and are routinely arrested for an activity that doesn’t even potentially harm anyone other than themselves. Further, the black market nature of the business all but ensures that the most abusive, violent, aggressive individuals will end up cornering any given market (pimps and human traffickers come to mind).

    The real question isn’t whether decriminalization is going to have an effect of any kind on the social stigma associated with sex work. The question is actually pretty simple: is prostitution so inherently bad for sex workers and/or the society around them that all of these circumstance are not only justified, but should be enforced at the barrel of the government’s gun? Is prostitution so bad for sex workers that they would be better off in prison/county lock up/paying a fine than doing what they’re now doing? Is punishment likely to stop their behavior? Is the existence of prostitution so ruinous to society that sex workers need to be taken off the streets to protect the public?

    If the answer to those questions doesn’t seem to be yes, then decriminalization is the right policy.

  18. William
    William August 20, 2008 at 7:01 pm |

    If the cops are satisfied they leave without taking any information with them, when the woman resigns her records are destroyed.

    I don’t think it isn’t necessarily wise to trust brothel owners and government entities to be discreet. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I have trouble believing that there aren’t a few brothel owners (or operators, or bouncers, or employees, etc.) who aren’t looking at the employment contracts and thinking about how they can be used to make money in the future. Can you imagine what proof that a celebrity worked an a brother would be worth to the National Enquirer?

    As far as the government is concerned, I trust their discretion even less than I trust the brothel owners. I know that in Illinois records of who underwent a background check to buy a firearm are supposed to be destroyed within 72 hours. It recently came out that the governor, who just so happens to be a big proponent of gun control, had “forgotten” to have the files destroyed for years.

  19. Sb
    Sb August 20, 2008 at 7:25 pm |

    “I don’t think it isn’t necessarily wise to trust brothel owners and government entities to be discreet.”

    This might be an instance of different cultures between NZ and US.

    NZ Brothel owners have generally invested a considerable amount of money in their operations all of which can go down the pan if their license gets suspended for any reason.

    One of the most expensive brothels in Auckland lost its license because of drugs being found on the premises and was bought up by a competitor for a song because the owner could not get it back and hence could not trade.

    Another one revealed that its start-up cost was over 2 million dollars.

    When you are in that sort of a system then owners are not going to put their licenses at risk for a couple of hundred dollars.

    I am not saying it could not happen just that I would think it might be very unlikely to happen.

    We have a TV news reader who is an escort, on evening when she is not reading the news she makes it plain that you can hire her ($7000 for 8 hours!)
    for sex.

    Sb

  20. Elizabeth Wood
    Elizabeth Wood August 20, 2008 at 8:04 pm |

    I support decriminalization wholeheartedly though I am not sure that it will go far towards reducing stigma. (Being a pornographer is legal, but it is heavily stigmatized. And as Ren has noted many times, her work as a porn performer has caused subjected her to much social stigma, and it would be hard to say that stigma is less than the stigma attached to, say, upscale escorting. The stigma varies not just in relation to the criminal or legal status of the work, but also in relation to the class niche the work fits into. I’m sure it varies in relation to other things as well (for example gender identity and sexual orientation come to mind.)

    I think to have any great impact on the stigma attached to sex work we need to be working hard, whether sex workers or not, to attack erotophobia and antisexual attitudes and the social norms/values that support them. Many sex-positive/sex-radical feminists, many sex worker advocates, many of the people here in this thread and many who are out there blogging, talking, and organizing their hearts out are to be applauded for their courage and their persistence in doing this hard work!

  21. Faith
    Faith August 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm |

    “If the duty manager cannot provide proof then the manager is arrested on the spot and the brothel is closed. Therefore the brothels keep a file on the premises of the paperwork provided when the women signed their work contracts (all licensed brothels now have written contracts of employment).

    If the cops are satisfied they leave without taking any information with them, when the woman resigns her records are destroyed.

    This approach has been successful with finding several underage sex workers.

    It is however a bit contentious in the industry because underage workers frequently provide false information when starting work and its not a defense for the brothel owner to say “she lied to me” even if she provided a false passport, driving license & birth certificate. If you accidentally employ a 17 year old its a fine of up to $10000.”

    Yea, that’s sounding extremely fucking shady. There’s no way in hell I’d trust the cops or the brothel owners to be completely honest or thorough about making sure underage girls aren’t working there. If what you say is true, there’s almost certainly some mad cash being exchanged between between brothel owners and dishonest cops in exchange for those cops looking in the other direction.

    Seriously, that just sounds completely and totally fucked. There’s no way that can be working to keep underage girls from being exploited.

  22. Sb
    Sb August 20, 2008 at 8:21 pm |

    “Seriously, that just sounds completely and totally fucked. There’s no way that can be working to keep underage girls from being exploited.”

    Then how would you handle this issue? remember that Brothel owners that have invested considerable sums in their enterprises are not interested in high risk low return deals?

    Also remember that there is no shortage of 18+ women interested in working in the industry? (Government figures suggest that around 1 in 12 women will spend some time in the sex industry)

    Also government reports suggest that very few NZ males (contrary to popular myth) are interested in under 18 sex, and those that are are “serviced” by the street workers rather than brothel workers?

    Sb

  23. dananddanica
    dananddanica August 20, 2008 at 8:25 pm |

    faith,
    I find it hard to believe too but SB, who has a lot more knowledge than we do about how things are working in that country, says it’s working well. I can’t say theres no way it can be working if I’m not at least a little familiar with how things work in that different country/culture. NZ is not a large country and I’m sure some 16-17 year olds may be falling through the cracks in the brothels but it sure as heck seems better to me than nothing at all. I would trust the cops/brothel owners to ensure there are no underage girls as the disincentives are too high, similar to a 3 million dollar trademarked strip club here in the states.

    I also think that we havent come upon the best possible solution but the work being done in germany, nz, and other places is gettng us there and while there is still a lot to be asked and thought about, saying “theres no way that can be working” doesnt help much too my mind. Why can there be no way that works? Even just a little bit? Make things a little better the day the brothels were set up than the day before?

  24. Faith
    Faith August 20, 2008 at 8:34 pm |

    “Then how would you handle this issue? remember that Brothel owners that have invested considerable sums in their enterprises are not interested in high risk low return deals?”

    I don’t really believe there is a sound way of handling it personally. Which is why I’m anti-sex work (yes, I support decrim, but not because I support sex work. I just don’t want women being harmed by being arrested for prostitution and sexually assaulted and unable to report it). I don’t believe it’s possible to create a genuinely safe system to protect women and girls from exploitation.

    “Also government reports suggest that very few NZ males (contrary to popular myth) are interested in under 18 sex, and those that are are “serviced” by the street workers rather than brothel workers?””

    Bullshit. Really…just straight up bullshit. NZ males are males. They are not anymore enlightened than another other males from any other country. Believing that a significant portion of the male population wouldn’t have sex with an underage girl is just incredibly naive…or intentionally obtuse.

  25. Faith
    Faith August 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm |

    “I find it hard to believe too but SB, who has a lot more knowledge than we do about how things are working in that country, says it’s working well.”

    With all due respect, believing it’s working just because some man you know nothing about says so on some blog is a really bad idea. We know nothing of who SB is or what his intentions are.

  26. Peter
    Peter August 20, 2008 at 9:43 pm |

    My theory is really rather simple, actually. If prostitution is fully decriminalized, well, then how much more time, money, and effort could law enforcement then allot for going after traffickers? How much easier will it be for people to help sex workers/prostituted people in the ways that they need? Vice stings on the local stroll or busting brothels does very little to stop traffickers or help sex workers…so which would be far better time and money spent?

    This makes sense to me, and I’ll be the first to defer to your judgment on this, since I’m not as informed as you on the business.

    On the trafficking issue, I think its mainly an issue of political will, than it is of money. I don’t think trafficking is high on the radar screen of politicians, or of the general public. I just don’t think trafficking of women and children get nearly the media and attention it deserves, and the public is not demanding anything substantial be done about it. I don’t think dealing with the issue in an effective way would cost a ton of money. Probably the amount we spend in one day on the Iraq war, would be enough to fund adequate law enforcement efforts on international trafficking. But, I’m just guessing.

  27. Kelli Busey
    Kelli Busey August 20, 2008 at 10:24 pm |

    When I was young I thought I needed prostitution like a crutch. I lived in Germany. Legalized prostitution is just legalized shame. It allows the politicians to look the other way satisfied the public will do the same. We all are human but make a decision today. I will not do anything now that I will feel guilt for tomorrow is a beginning.

  28. Geert Geerts
    Geert Geerts August 21, 2008 at 2:21 am |

    RE: Faith’s comment #21 on corruptible NZ cops.

    It’s true that if the patrol scenario described in SB’s comment #17 involves uniformed cops or even plainclothes cops making a self-advertised check of the premises, such cops could be easily corrupted. So I would assume that NZ law enforcement makes use of undercover agents posing as either clients or sex workers to check on various premises. That’s at least how law enforcement carries out vice patrols in the State of Georgia, USA, where I live, as I know from press reports (undercover agents posing as sex workers). I would also speculate that, in NZ, the PC (Prostitutes’ Collective?) would have an interest in cooperating with law enforcement to see that brothels don’t employ underage workers.

    RE: Faith’s comment #24 on SB’s reliability in reporting the results of decriminalization in NZ.

    It’s true that, at least for American readers, there is no way of checking on SB’s personal identity or reliability. But, as SB is probably aware, his/her reports could be fact-checked by googling the NZ sex industry, so SB would have an interest in making accurate reports.

  29. Faith
    Faith August 21, 2008 at 7:41 am |

    “Even presuming you did have the kind of creeps coming in who wanted to fuck someone genuinely underage and you were willing to cater to them, why would you take the risk of advertising under age workers?”

    Why take the risk? Because of the large sums of money to be made. Men are, in general, fascinated with young teenage girls. They will pay more, quite often seriously amounts of cash, to have sex with a teenage girl. There are men flying all over the world looking for teenage and virgin girls to have sex with.

  30. Soren
    Soren August 21, 2008 at 8:58 am |

    “Seriously, that just sounds completely and totally fucked. There’s no way that can be working to keep underage girls from being exploited.”

    No it can’t guarantee that no underage girls are being exploited. But no system can do that.

    In this system you have to have shady brothel owners – that’s no stretch of imagination – and shady cops.

    But how about the system in place in the US now? Is there not the same problem? Shady cops and shady brothel owners might still conspire in the exploitation of under age girls.

    But is prostitution is not illegal, then having a brothel wouldn’t be illegal. So suddenly there is a different choice for the brothel owner – making legal money, or illegal money. This will not deter all bad eggs, but might it not trim down the number of people willing to put their ass on the line?

    The same with cops. Vice cops must sometimes be sick of their jobs. To many of them prostitution is not so bad ethically, it just happens to be illegal. But whats the harm in turning a blind eye, if you get compensated well? Once you’ve done it once, it gets harder to turn down.

    Now if prostitution is legal, but underage isn’t then the initial bar is set much higher. You are not just turning the blind eye on a little harmless fun, but aiding in the exploitation of underage girls.

  31. William
    William August 21, 2008 at 9:57 am |

    The same with cops. Vice cops must sometimes be sick of their jobs. To many of them prostitution is not so bad ethically, it just happens to be illegal. But whats the harm in turning a blind eye, if you get compensated well? Once you’ve done it once, it gets harder to turn down.

    Maybe its that I grew up in Chicago, but I don’t really put cops on the same ethical level as brothel owners. We are, essentially, talking about hired thugs who go into the job knowing that part of the job description is to protect your fellow thugs at all costs. These are men and women who, when picking a career, decided to go for the career that would allow them the most possible authority with the lowest risk, oversight, and investment. At the very best they’re people who are comfortable with a job in which most of their active time is spent pushing around (usually poor and of color) people who happened to violate social norms. A cop is the kind of person who can routinely sleep at night after sending a fifteen year old black kid off to get raped in prison for selling a little bit of dope.

    I stretch my imagination far enough to believe that brothel owners might be incentivized into behaving themselves, but not cops.

  32. Faith
    Faith August 21, 2008 at 10:25 am |

    “You are not just turning the blind eye on a little harmless fun, but aiding in the exploitation of underage girls.

    Whether or not prostitution is just “harmless fun” is highly questionable. For some women, it is reasonably harmless. For a lot of women, possibly even the majority, it is far from harmless. It also doesn’t just effect the people participating. It has an effect on people in the general population as well.

  33. Renee
    Renee August 21, 2008 at 10:54 am |

    I don’t believe that decriminalization will cause more attention to be focused on trafficking. The point of the matter is that women don’t count. Unless and until society can learn to value women this will continue to occur without much outcry from society. Similarly I believe that decriminalization or legalization while not reduce the social stigma that is attached to sex work. Truth of the matter is that for a society that claims to be sexually liberated we spend a lot of time disciplining sex. We talk about it, watch it obsess over it but still consider it a dirty, dirty thing to do and therefor those engaged in it for a living are stuck with spoiled identities. Until we start naturalizing sex in our discourse sex workers will always be seen as less than.

  34. Dana
    Dana August 22, 2008 at 4:37 am |

    I don’t believe that decriminalization will cause more attention to be focused on trafficking.

    That’s nice, but do you agree with prostitution being illegal? Of course we have huge societal issues, but why would it even remotely be a good thing for women selling sex to be criminals?

  35. Dana
    Dana August 22, 2008 at 4:46 am |

    Oh, and might I add that the age of consent in NZ is 16? So if a man wants to have (free!) sex with 16-17yos it’s not illegal.

    And for guys who like sex that the woman does not enjoy… it’s always going to happen. Keeping prostitution illegal does not help this, it only harms women.

  36. Observer
    Observer August 22, 2008 at 5:06 am |

    In WA we have a ridiculous situation in which prostitution is legal but profiting from it is not. So being a prostitute is legal but operating a brothel isn’t. Which seems to me to be a really stupid idea because at least in a brothel (as far as I can tell) there is relative safety (as opposed to on the street, in the home etc). AT least safety in numbers. There is a policy of “containment”, however which basically means everyone pretends brothels do not exist.

    They’ve passed new legislation that legalises brothels, provided they are licensed but they haven’t come into effect yet.

    Wrt the possibility of underage prostitutes I imagine it works in a similar way to people working behind a bar. They have to provide proof to their employer that they are over age. If they lie and they get caught working behind a bar there are fines and charges to pay

  37. Faith
    Faith August 22, 2008 at 7:50 am |

    “Oh, and might I add that the age of consent in NZ is 16? So if a man wants to have (free!) sex with 16-17yos it’s not illegal.”

    Maybe so. But that has nothing to do with girls who are under the age of 16. And just because it’s legal for adult men to have consensual sex with girls as young as 16, doesn’t mean it should be legal. I fully support the rights of teens to have sex with each other. I do not support the right of adult men to have sex with minors under any circumstance. The power dynamic is simply too unbalanced.

    “And for guys who like sex that the woman does not enjoy… it’s always going to happen. Keeping prostitution illegal does not help this, it only harms women.”

    The sex that women don’t want is always going to happen? No matter what? Really? So no matter what women do, they are doomed to provide men with sex they don’t want?

    What a terrible, depressing outlook to have.

  38. Faith
    Faith August 22, 2008 at 8:56 am |

    “Child prostitution and decriminalised adult prostitution are two different and separate animals.”

    In a sense, yes. In a sense, no. I believe the demand that drives child prostitution is the essentially the same that drives adult prostitution. A complete and utter lack of respect on the behalf of men for anyone who has a vagina, or for anyone that they perceive as weaker than themselves. The two industries aren’t that separate no matter how much we’d like to believe that they are. For one thing, many adult prostitutes start out as child prostitutes. Hell, if you believe the hype, most San Fransisco prostitutes are entering the business at 12-14. Trying to separate the demand for underage prostitutes from the demand for adult prostitutes ignores some very key components to what drives men to behave the way that they do. The demands aren’t that damn different and they are intersecting.

  39. Faith
    Faith August 22, 2008 at 8:48 am |

    “You appear to have jumped on the “Why take the risk?” question without actually reading the bit where I listed the major disincentives, or the bit where I mentioned real, actual teenage prostitutes being unable to find brothel work.”

    I read everything you posted. But how often does the risk of any sort of punishment stop men from engaging in exploitive behavior if it’s what they really want to do? The answer: It quite often doesn’t. You can threaten men with castration or death, even that wouldn’t stop a lot of the ones that want sex with teenage girls. And large amounts of money to be made creates greed under even the best of circumstances. There’s just no way that there isn’t people running brothels who are knowingly employing underage girls. Do the majority of brothel owners do it? Probably not. But I’d bet everything I own that many do.

  40. Faith
    Faith August 22, 2008 at 9:05 am |

    Let’s consider this:

    The punishment for child sexual abuse is pretty damn severe, correct? Not as severe as it should be as far as I’m concerned, but it’s a pretty damn high price to pay for being a child molester/rapist. Yet how many men still engage in child sexual abuse? How many men rape their own daughters in their own homes? How many men are in our schools right now, and on the internet, trying to lure young girls into having sex with them? Fuck only knows how many that’s how many. I read an article once that theorized that at any given time their are over 50000 or more sexual predators on the internet looking for underage kids.

    Punishment is not going to stop them.

  41. Ron O.
    Ron O. August 22, 2008 at 12:35 pm |

    “A complete and utter lack of respect on the behalf of men for anyone who has a vagina, or for anyone that they perceive as weaker than themselves.”

    I’m sure that is true some of the time, and is a serious problem. However, it is definitely not true all of the time. Sometimes men go to prostitutes because they are lonely and have poor social skills. Sometimes they have kinks they can’t meet elsewhere. Sometimes they can’t have sex with their spouses anymore and feel this is better than an affair because it isn’t as risky to their emotional bond. IMO sex work will still exist even if misogyny goes away.

    As Ren said, this is about helping the sex workers, so I do not want to thread jack and make this about the johns. But I didn’t want to let this misconception go without comment.

  42. William
    William August 22, 2008 at 12:49 pm |

    The sex that women don’t want is always going to happen? No matter what? Really? So no matter what women do, they are doomed to provide men with sex they don’t want?

    What a terrible, depressing outlook to have.

    And just a little later:

    Punishment is not going to stop them.

    Ok, if punishment isn’t going to stop child molesters/rapists/etc, but its depressing to say that nothing will stop them, what do you propose? I think its pretty clear that the system we have now encourages the abuse of sex workers. I think its become painfully obvious the the laws we have in place serve mostly to reinforce the existing power dynamics in our culture and punish sex workers. You’re talking about a lot of things in a lot of different directions, but you don’t seem to be speaking to the core issue: sex work exists and the current system makes life substantially worse for the people who engage in it.

    You want to change the factors that lead to a demand for sex work, I get that, and its probably a good idea, but really we have something a little more pressing here. People have been selling sex for as long as there have been people. Hell, prostitution even exists in the animal world. I think that makes it a reality of our current condition. If we want to change that reality, thats fine, but I think our primary concern ought to be making life livable for the men and women who choose to go into the business of selling their bodies.

    The two industries aren’t that separate no matter how much we’d like to believe that they are. For one thing, many adult prostitutes start out as child prostitutes. Hell, if you believe the hype, most San Fransisco prostitutes are entering the business at 12-14.

    Did you know that there is a very strong positive correlation between ice cream sales and the rate of violent assaults and murders? Its true, if you track ice cream sales and the murder/assault rate in any major city in the US you’ll see that as one goes up, so does the other. Does that mean that ice cream makes people violent? No, of course not, thats a ridiculous conclusion to come to, even if the numbers make it look like the case. If you actually examine whats going on, you see a third variable that is responsible for both ice cream sales and increased violence: heat. See, when its 100 degrees in the shade people get irritable, angry, and occasionally violent; at the same time other people decide to go buy an ice cream cone.

    I think you’re missing a third variable: prohibition. Sure, many adult prostitutes did start out as child prostitutes, and I’m sure there are some people who go out looking for young girls (just as there are some people who will become violent even in the dead of winter). But trying to explain all child prostitution, especially in a system like the one we have today, denies some other important variables. Prostitution is often a job of desperation, something you do because you need basic things to survive and all you have left is your body. Young people, particularly runaways, have few options for getting their basic needs taken care of unless someone is looking out for them. More to the point, young people are more easily controlled, manipulated, and dominated than someone with a bit more life experience (thats why I’m uneasy with the idea of adults having sex with teenagers even if it’s technically legal in the jurisdiction). Indeed, its not uncommon for street pimps to actively seek out young people because they know they’re malleable. Saying that there are a lot of young prostitutes solely (or even primarily) because most men want to have sex with young people is like saying that there are a lot of drug addicted prostitutes because most men want to have sex with drug addicts (or transgender people, people of color, poor people, or any of the other groups disproportionately represented in sex work).

    Sadly, the current system we have makes it very difficult for people to get out of sex work once they’ve come in, and it simultaneously reduces their access to basic government services (making them more vulnerable to criminals). Decriminalization is about reducing the harm that comes to people who have, for whatever reason, chosen sex work. Think about alcohol prohibition. Sure, now that alcohol is legal we still have alcoholics and drunk drivers, we still have people who behave inappropriate ways while intoxicated. But the Jack Daniel’s distillery doesn’t engage in drive-bys to put Knob Creek out of business, no one who buys a bottle of alcohol has to worry about going blind because of unscrupulous and unaccountable criminals selling it, and the people who actually work in distilleries are protected by labor laws. Is the system perfect? No. Is it a hell of a lot better than what we had when Capone was running between Chicago and Stickney? Yeah.

  43. Faith
    Faith August 23, 2008 at 10:50 am |

    “Ok, if punishment isn’t going to stop child molesters/rapists/etc, but its depressing to say that nothing will stop them, what do you propose?”

    Wiliam,

    I propose the same thing I propose to stop men from feeling they are entitled to use prostitutes. Teaching them to value women and children, teaching them to not feel sexually entitled, and teaching them to not view themselves as dominant to women and children. I support punishing them, but it isn’t the ultimate solution. Punishment is largely just putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, same as decrimin (which I support in case anyone has missed that) for prostitution.

    “Now, can we please put down the “BUT CHILD PROSTITUTION!!” straw-whore?”

    It is not a “straw-whore”. Child prostitution and adult prostitution is interrelated. My previous comment stands.

    “This is another one of those occasions where I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs…”It’s NOT all about the g’damn MEN.” Yes, men drive the industry, but decrim, IMHO, is helpful to the PROSTITUTES…which is where my concern is.”

    Of course it isn’t all about the men. But the men are involved and they are a large part of the equation. You can’t get around that no matter how much it frustrates you and makes you want to scream bloody murder. Hell, I’ll scream with you.

  44. William
    William August 23, 2008 at 12:03 pm |

    “to go into the business of selling their bodies”.

    Do me a favor and never use that term again.

    Yeah, very poor choice of words on my part. I hadn’t even realized I’d done it until I was reading my comment over after I’d posted it. The worst part is that I know better than to phrase sex work like that and I still did without thinking about it. Mea culpa.

    I propose the same thing I propose to stop men from feeling they are entitled to use prostitutes. Teaching them to value women and children, teaching them to not feel sexually entitled, and teaching them to not view themselves as dominant to women and children. I support punishing them, but it isn’t the ultimate solution. Punishment is largely just putting a band-aid on a gaping wound, same as decrimin (which I support in case anyone has missed that) for prostitution.

    Thats a great idea, Faith, but it doesn’t do a damn thing to help people in sex work today, tomorrow, or really very much at all for the next three generations (at best). Education is great, but there will always be a certain portion of people who would like to pay money for sexual services and a certain portion who will be willing to provide sexual services in exchange for payment. Saying “I’d like to teach that demand away and punish those who still have it” doesn’t really address the reality on the ground.

    Also, not to be difficult or anything, but when was it proven that all sex work is about domination and entitlement?

  45. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm |

    “Thats a great idea, Faith, but it doesn’t do a damn thing to help people in sex work today, tomorrow, or really very much at all for the next three generations (at best).”

    No shit.

  46. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 23, 2008 at 1:56 pm |

    “Also, not to be difficult or anything, but when was it proven that all sex work is about domination and entitlement?”

    Can’t say that it has been proven. But if you honestly believe that it isn’t the overwhelming reason that sex work exists… ::shrugs::

    There seems to be the idea amongst certain pro-sex work folks that people have a right to a sexual partner. People do not have a right to a sexual partner. They have the right and entitlement to pursue a sexual partner. They also have the right and entitlement to experience sexual pleasure via masturbation. The idea that people have the right to a sexual partner is a large part of what got us in this mess in the first place.

  47. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 23, 2008 at 1:58 pm |

    “The idea that people have the right to a sexual partner is a large part of what got us in this mess in the first place.”

    That should read “certain people”. As in those people who, oh, have penises.

  48. Lab Lemming
    Lab Lemming August 24, 2008 at 9:32 am |

    To what extent does legalization increase participation levels?

    If legalization reduces damage by a third, but increases business by a factor of 10, then you’re doing 3 times as much total harm.

    For a non-sex example, you can look at the social impact of slot machines. They make gambling safer than a poker game with the mob, but the total social impact is sctually worse because of the increase in accessibility.

  49. Sb
    Sb August 24, 2008 at 3:01 pm |

    Lab Lemming:

    “To what extent does legalization increase participation levels?”

    the 2003 changes have not increased the size of the industry in NZ.

    see http://www.justice.govt.nz/prostitution-law-review-committee/

    Sorry dont know the answer for OZ but suspect its a similar answer.

    Of course wherever you are your mileage will vary………

    Sb

  50. William
    William August 24, 2008 at 6:07 pm |

    There seems to be the idea amongst certain pro-sex work folks that people have a right to a sexual partner.

    I haven’t seen much of that in the discussions Ren has started, nor have I seen it come up much in the libertarian pro-decriminalization discussions I’ve seen. The idea that someone has a “right” to have a sexual partner isn’t actually something I’ve ever seen, much less seen defended or argued. Maybe thats because a lot of the circles I walk in don’t tend to have much regard for the notion of positive rights, but even in a setting where positive rights are routinely respected (like this fine progressive/feminist website) there really hasn’t been much discussion of consumers.

    I think for most people the focus isn’t on consumers, but sex workers. I don’t believe that people have a right to a sexual partner, but I do believe that an individual should be allowed to use their body in whatever way they see fit, so long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. If someone wants to sell a look at their ass or an hour of sexual favors I believe that they should be able to without being branded as criminals, arrested, abused, or otherwise treated any more poorly than someone selling their skill at installing wiring or a print of their latest painting.

  51. Lab Lemming
    Lab Lemming August 25, 2008 at 8:13 am |

    Here in Australia, decriminalisation has not stopped sexual people trafficking.

    From the recent Us state department report:
    “Australia is a destination country for women
    from Southeast Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, and
    the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) trafficked
    for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
    Prostitution is legal except for in the states
    of Western Australia and South Australia. Many
    trafficking victims were women who traveled to
    Australia voluntarily to work in both legal and illegal
    brothels, but were subject to conditions of debt
    bondage or involuntary servitude. There were reports
    of several men and women from India, the P.R.C.,
    South Korea, the Philippines, and Ireland migrating
    to Australia temporarily for work, but subsequently
    subjected to conditions of forced labor, including
    fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of travel documents,
    confinement, and debt bondage.”

    and:

    “In March 2008, a joint operation between the
    AFP and DIAC broke up a syndicate in Sydney
    that allegedly trafficked South Korean women to
    a legal brothel and was earning more than $2.3
    million a year. Police allege the syndicate recruited
    Korean women through deception about the
    conditions under which they would be employed,
    organized their entry into Australia under false
    pretenses, confiscated their travel documents, and
    forced them to work up to 20 hours a day in a
    legal Sydney brothel owned by the syndicate.”

    My moral call is that slavery is a negative social impact. If the legalization of prostitution encourages slavery, that’s a problem. On the other hand, if it makes identification and persecution of offenders easier, then that’s a good thing. Figuring out the magnitude of these and other direct and indirect effects can be somebody’s PhD thesis.

  52. Lab Lemming
    Lab Lemming August 25, 2008 at 8:14 am |

    Forgot the link to the report:
    http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2008/

  53. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 25, 2008 at 8:27 am |

    “I haven’t seen much of that in the discussions Ren has started, nor have I seen it come up much in the libertarian pro-decriminalization discussions I’ve seen. The idea that someone has a “right” to have a sexual partner isn’t actually something I’ve ever seen, much less seen defended or argued.”

    Oh, the idea is out there. Most certainly so.

  54. William
    William August 25, 2008 at 10:05 am |

    Oh, the idea is out there. Most certainly so.

    So is the idea that the earth is flat and at the center of the universe. But when you’re in a room with a bunch of geologists, arguing against that notion is kind of irrelevant (especially if, you know, no one in the discussion has mentioned it)…

  55. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 25, 2008 at 10:22 am |

    “So is the idea that the earth is flat and at the center of the universe. But when you’re in a room with a bunch of geologists, arguing against that notion is kind of irrelevant (especially if, you know, no one in the discussion has mentioned it)…”

    What exactly are you trying to prove, William? Now you’re just being an ass.

  56. Natalia
    Natalia August 25, 2008 at 10:25 am |

    What is being meant by a “right” to a sexual partner? Would we tell someone hiring a professional nanny for their kids that they just want to have the “right” to make someone mother their children? I guess I’m just not seeing that much of a difference.

  57. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 25, 2008 at 10:32 am |

    “What is being meant by a “right” to a sexual partner? Would we tell someone hiring a professional nanny for their kids that they just want to have the “right” to make someone mother their children? I guess I’m just not seeing that much of a difference.”

    I stated on the terminology thread that I’m anti-capitalist. So, while I’ve never actually told someone they have no right to hire a nanny, I do have issues with hiring nannies and maids. I have objections to capitalism period.

  58. Natalia
    Natalia August 25, 2008 at 10:45 am |

    I understand that you’re anti-capitalist, Faith, and perhaps this may turn us into a de-rail (though I hope it doesn’t, because I do have a related point I’m still trying to make),

    But I have to ask, what does having an issue with it truly mean and how far does said issue extend? What is the viable alternative for a family where both parents work and travel? And I don’t just mean within a capitalist system, I mean within any system. In the USSR, you could make use of a creche – but that’s essentially the same thing, minus the personal touch.

    I have similar thoughts about someone who’d like to hire a sex-worker for the night. You can say that a viable alternative is masturbation, but I think it’s fairly obvious that masturbation and a blow-job (I think by far the most requested service, based on many discussions) are two very different things. Once again, a personal touch is involved.

    My interest isn’t a person’s “right” to, say, a governess or sexual gratification, I think if one has the right to provide another has the right to purchase, assuming both parties have reached a satisfactory agreement. My interest is in this: what is the alternative? What would you personally propose?

    The reason why I’m asking is because I see this issue crop up a lot, but I’m not entirely sure what the solution is, from your point of view.

  59. Faith at F.N.
    Faith at F.N. August 25, 2008 at 10:58 am |

    “The reason why I’m asking is because I see this issue crop up a lot, but I’m not entirely sure what the solution is, from your point of view.”

    A real explanation isn’t something that I can really give in a comment thread. Let’s just say that unlike most people (apparently), I have this really radical idea that people can evolve to be highly more cooperative than they already are. Meaning: I believe people possess the capacity to engage people with generosity and compassion rather than competitiveness and entitlement.

  60. Natalia
    Natalia August 25, 2008 at 11:31 am |

    Faith, I’m not asking for a treatise, but I think you for your answer. You suggest that generosity and compassion are lacking in the present system. I would agree, but only up to a point. A lot of people working as domestic helpers, nurses, and yes, sex-workers already have generosity and compassion as guiding principles. Many derive pleasure from their jobs. I know I derive pleasure from my writing position, even though I equally derive pleasure from the money I earn.

    Are you against professional detachment of any sorts? This is what I was leading to in my earlier post. I believe that professional detachment can help you do your job, any job.

    I think if your only guidance is generosity and compassion, you may have a really hard time. Perhaps harder than it need be, depending on the situation.

    Even outside a capitalist system, people still need to perform certain tasks, in order to survive and help their community thrive. I understand that we are used to drawing a big line between professionalism and vocation, but even vocation has to involve a certain level of detachment, or even competitiveness, from time to time. How are you going to stay good at what you do otherwise? And how will you prevent yourself from going insane after forming a personal attachment to each and every one of your tasks?

    From the buyer’s point of view: There’s a reason why someone would want to hire a governess for their kid, and it’s not necessarily because of entitlement either. Compassion is often involved in the decision as well.

    It’s not an either/or situation. No?

  61. Natalia
    Natalia August 25, 2008 at 11:32 am |

    And by “think you” I mean “thank you,” d’oh.

  62. William
    William August 25, 2008 at 3:44 pm |

    What exactly are you trying to prove, William? Now you’re just being an ass.

    I wasn’t trying to prove anything, just to illustrate a point. Now, maybe I missed it, but I just haven’t seen much representation of the idea that decriminalization is about the consumer’s right to a partner on this thread, or really in any of the other communities I’m a part of. It just hasn’t come up, primarily because in most of these discussion the focus is on the sex workers, not the consumers. Its sex workers who are punished, maligned, stigmatized, marginalized, and generally subjected to the kinds of conditions society simply wouldn’t tolerate in any other job. This has really been a discussion of the negative rights of sex workers, not of the positive rights of those who use their services. Bringing up a view thats unrepresented in the discussion as a problem with the idea of decriminalization is a strawman. Thats what I was saying.

    I have objections to capitalism period.

    Thats great, but it doesn’t really have much to do with this discussion. You might have objections to the idea of commerce, but thats the way of the society we’re living in. Prohibition of sex work isn’t some vanguard of an anti-capitalist utopia. Prohibition of sex work is a means to control the options, autonomy, and behavior of human beings so that they’re choices boil down to following social convention or losing many of the benefits of being a human being. I think thats monstrous.

    Let’s just say that unlike most people (apparently), I have this really radical idea that people can evolve to be highly more cooperative than they already are. Meaning: I believe people possess the capacity to engage people with generosity and compassion rather than competitiveness and entitlement.

    And thats great. Thats the kind of point of view that society needs to move forward, to counterbalance more cautious and/or cynical individuals. But right now, at this very moment, prohibitions on sex work are harming real living men and women (and all sorts of people who identify as somewhere between, or wholly apart from, those arbitrary points). I don’t think its fair to ask all of them to stand by and tolerate all the horror our imperfect society sends their way while we educate away the roots of big problems and evolve into higher beings.

    Maybe you don’t like the fact that people have entered their images/bodies/sexual services into the competitive field of capitalism, maybe you believe that they would be better off if they hadn’t, but at the risk of being an ass, who the hell are you to tell anyone what they should be able to do with their own lives and bodies? If you want to work towards forging a world in which those who currently choose sex work have what you believe to be better options, then do that. Its an admirable goal. But to sit in judgment and tell people, even though you know they’re suffering and that they’re going to continue to suffer, that they shouldn’t be able to have the same basic rights everyone else enjoys because you don’t like what that means is the fucking height of arrogance.

    Most kinds of sex work makes me uncomfortable, I can’t for the life of me comprehend why someone would want to go into the business, and I don’t really spend money on sexual services (including most porn) because I don’t like the way the business works and I’m not sure I could sleep at night if I advanced it with my dollars. Even if sex work was completely decriminalized, I’m not sure I could get over some of my moral and ethical objections. But thats my shit. Those are my problems, my subjective standards and judgments. Theres no reason someone else, someone who clearly has come to the conclusion that the choice they’ve made is the best option they have at the moment, should be expected to conform to my world-view. Thats the urge of the tyrant: do as I do or else. Doesn’t our society have enough of that shit already?

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