The Law of Supply & Demand
I read an article recently on CNN, written by a Swedish woman in law enforcement, about how they have reduced the rates of human trafficking and prostitution in their country. Since I identify as a feminist, this topic is of obvious interest to me.
Also, the fact that the article is specifically about how they tackled prostitution in Sweden is of particular interest. You see, I detect a lot of similarities between the culture of modern America and the culture of modern Sweden, particularly when dealing with the relationship between the sexes. I actually get a noticeable amount of traffic on this website from Sweden.
You might wonder what they did that helped with the human trafficking and prostitution in Sweden. Here’s what they did. They decriminalized prostitution and cracked down on solicitation and trafficking. So, in other words, if you are a prostitute you won’t be punished for it. However, if you’re a john, a madam or a pimp, then you’ll be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows.
I’ve personally been saying for a long time that the key to combating prostitution is in focusing on the demand rather than the supply side of the prostitution chain. How do you decrease demand? You do it by creating consequences for the buyer. Consequences for the seller sort of defeat the purpose. Not to mention that criminalizing prostitution in some cases is kind of like prosecuting a rape victim for her rape (which is still done in some countries).
Let’s put this in more understandable dynamics. The typical prostitute is either forced or coerced into prostitution. Frequently, they start at a young age, before the age of consent, and more often than not, they are dependent upon drugs. Sometimes the prostitution funds a drug habit and sometimes the drug habit is what necessitates the prostitution. Sometimes the prostitute is made dependent upon drugs in order to keep her dependent upon her john or madam. She can’t run very far away from her bordello if she starts to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Typically, what happens in America’s penal system when it comes to prostitution is that a police department receives complaints about street prostitution. The police department is under an obligation to respond to that complaint. So, they send out their vice squad to run a sting and they send out more patrol cars to enforce laws on loitering. The sting involves vice officers posing as johns in order to arrest and prosecute the prostitutes. The prostitute goes to jail. She gets convicted. She pays a fine or serves her time and then goes right back out on the streets. She just moves to a different neighborhood next time. The problem isn’t solved. It’s just temporarily migrated.
The reason why attacking the problem in this manner isn’t working is that prosecuting prostitutes is kind of like giving a man on death row a consecutive 153 year sentence. First off, no man is going to live to be 153 years old. If he were convicted as a newborn baby, he’d spend his entire lifetime in jail. Secondly, he’s already going to die. What’s the point of the extra sentences? He’s never getting out. Sadly, we actually do stuff like this in the American justice system. It’s not just a metaphor for idiocy.
Getting arrested for prostitution and subsequently convicted of prostitution is like a life sentence. It’s a criminal record that will stick to a person for the rest of her life, like an unfortunate tattoo. If a prostitute isn’t already convinced that she has no other alternatives available to her before her first conviction, then she’s certainly convinced afterward. She sees no opportunity for redemption. What decent company would take her on? She probably can’t pass the background test for McDonald’s.
What happens when we prosecute for solicitation instead? Well, I imagine that you see a lot of men go to jail and pay fines and experience severe punishments. A lot of these men will be married men with families and some might lose their families. They will quite possibly lose their jobs. They will be publicly humiliated. They will lose friendships. And after all of that is over? They will think twice before paying $20 to a stranger on the street for a blowjob. Why are consequences more effective for the buyer in this case? That’s because the buyer has more to lose.
The way to combat prostitution is to penalize the people who perpetuate it. We need stiffer sentences for human traffickers, pimps, madams, and customers. This should go hand in hand with programs to provide housing and educational assistance to sex workers as well as freedom from prosecution for prostitution. I would propose that we expunge past records for prostitution so that sex workers can apply for decent work and have the chance to get it.
This is a no brainer, and there’s nothing inherently sexist about it. If a woman is purchasing sex, then she should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law just as a man would be. And for those sex workers who are boys and men the same principle should apply as to female sex workers.
Entry filed under: Alcoholism/Substance Abuse, Crime, Ethics, Human Rights, Sex, Social Commentary, Women's Rights. Tags: CNN, humantrafficking, Police, Prostitution, Prostitution in Sweden, Sex worker, Sweden, United State.