The Law of Supply & Demand

April 6, 2011 at 12:32 am 11 comments

Prostitute in Tijuana, Mexico.

Image via Wikipedia

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: , , , , , , , .

My Fancy Shoes Put the Shame Where It Belongs

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Craig Benno  |  April 6, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Clap, clap clap. Well said. My wife and I (& Church) are involved with the “Call to Response” which is about putting an end to trafficking. Human trafficking is the highest from of criminal income – way and above guns and drugs. A human can be continual on sold and be profited on.

    I applaud any laws and attempts to stamp out trafficking of any kind and maintain the dignity and respect of those forced into it.

  • 2. Mirco Romanato  |  April 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    You missed the First for this.

    Your scheme don’t work. It will not work and never worked anyway. It is only a silly idea some busybody had to try to impose his/her morality to others.

    The same article say “The Swedish ban on the purchase of sexual services has recently been subject to an evaluation. According to the findings of the government-appointed evaluator, prostitution in Sweden has not increased since the introduction of the ban and street prostitution has been halved. Although the number of foreign women involved in prostitution in Sweden seems to have increased during the years, the increase is not as big as in neighboring countries.”

    So, the law don’t reduced the prostitution, simply moved it from the street to apartments, hotel rooms and likes. Not that must be difficult to do it, given the climate of Sweden.

    Anyway, you have not so many Swedish in the US. They are much more sensible to the peers pressure and much more conformists than the average American. If you look at the Blacks and Latinos they are much less law abiding, so they will not respect this.

    In fact, all of this is a way to reduce competition mainly for the white women. You are not interested in the lives of the prostitute. You are afraid that you priced your pussy out of the market, then try to kill all the competition. When it didn’t work, you try to kill the buyers going to the competition, hoping they came back to you. (YOU is used as YOU WOMEN, not YOU PERSONALLY).
    If the man is convicted or jailed, and he lose his job, who will pay the bills for the family? Do you considered that, for what if a sin, not a crime, you are condemning working families to poverty? Young men to a harsh life?

    This is an clear example of “false ideas of utility”, “that forbid fire because it burn and water because it drown”.

    • 3. Author  |  April 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Prostitution victimizes women. No woman grows up thinking she wants to be a prostitute.

      As for who will pay the bills, the women will pay the bills. They are perfectly capable of working and providing for their families, Mirco. Any man who uses a prostitute will get exactly what he deserves.

      You wouldn’t want to be a prostitute. Why do you think a woman would want to?

      • 4. Mirco Romanato  |  April 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm

        “No woman grows up thinking she wants to be a prostitute.”
        In fact, where I live we had cases where “good family girls” 16 years old, choose to prostitute themselves to be able to pay for their costly habits. Their family was not very happy when the police returned them home. The local prostitutes alerted the police so they removed the competition.

        As much as women don’t like becoming prostitutes, there are many other things they could not like more than having sex with strangers. Like working long hours at minimum wage or working physically hard jobs or simply not working.

        In Italy, the evolution of prostitution in thelast twenty years was so:
        1) African immigrants start to displace local prostitutes from the streets.
        2) East Europe immigrants start compete with the Africans and completely remove the local from the streets. A few Asians here and there.
        3) East Europeans move in apartments and likes, keep a strong position in streets.

        Initially, the racket had many girls forced, in a way or in another, to prostitute themselves and were severely exploited by their pimps. As the time went on, the pimps discovered, like it or not, that exploiting the girls too much was not a good business practice. The girls had not incentive to be faithful workers. So they started to share the money with them and recruit near only consenting girls.

        Do you want legislation against the pimps that force the girls to work? I’m all for this. Make easy for them to denounce their pimps and land them in jail for a long time if they force them.

        But a blanket criminalization of clients and exploiters can and will have unwanted consequences. For example, and this happen sometimes in Italy, we have people renting apartments or rooms to the girls accused of “exploiting the prostitution”. Or two prostitutes living together to exploit each other and more.

        I want repeat myself:
        if you push for legislation against violence and people using it, I will support the idea. If someone is forced to have sex against his will, it is rape. I would support charging the pimp for rape. But criminalizing only the man (or both) for a voluntary exchange of sex for money is stupid and evil.

      • 5. Author  |  April 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

        I don’t want underage girls having sex with adult men, period. They aren’t old enough to make wise decisions, obviously, as evidenced by sixteen year old girls prostituting themselves for Prada. Adult men, however, are adults. They know better than to have sex with underage girls, or at least, they should. Young girls can’t consent to sex, period. The same thing applies for the boys, and anyone who exploits children and teenagers, “willingly” or not, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

        Sex for money is evil and stupid, no matter the circumstances.

      • 6. Mirco Romanato  |  April 12, 2011 at 12:29 am

        I don’t want underage girls having sex with adult men, period. They aren’t old enough to make wise decisions, obviously, as evidenced by sixteen year old girls prostituting themselves for Prada.

        Is it OK if they have sex with underage boys?
        What is the difference from a boy of 17 years old and an adult of 19 years old.
        Is it OK if to keep them at home to prevent them from having sex altogether?
        Do you have the right to decide for them?
        What you want matter?

        But, more important: what is underage?
        Less than 21?
        Less than 18?
        Less than 16?

      • 7. Author  |  April 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm

        Well, Mirco, to answer your questions, what would be right is if no adults ever had sex with underage persons of either sex. You get prosecuted for that in the United States. Given the amount of trouble your President seems to be in over allegations of sexing with underage prostitutes I’d say that the majority of people in your country feel the same. I certainly hope you agree, although I’m well aware that there are pedophiles in the world.

        The designation does have to be arbitrary. An age has to be decided upon. Some women and men will be ready earlier; some later. Each state in the United States decides this individually. Many use the age of 17. However, I feel that the age should be 18. That seems to be a good age since it is also the age that we in the United States give our citizens adult responsibilities (military service) and privileges (voting), although we withhold the right to drink until 21.

        I think that society does have a responsibility to decide for young people when they are able to take on the risks of sexual activity. I absolutely believe that. Teenage minds are not fully developed. Scientific research has confirmed that they are given to impulsive and irrational decisions, thus the young women who decided that they wanted to be prostitutes for designer clothing in your country. That was an impulsive and irrational decision, a short-sighted choice, the repercussions of which will follow those young women for the rest of their lives.

        Teenagers are going to experiment sexually. Their hormones are raging, and they are exploring their sexuality. We won’t be able to stop teenagers from having sex short of locking them up, as you mentioned. However, we can set up deterrents to adults of both sexes who would take advantage of their innocence and vulnerability. It is absolutely the adult’s responsibility to ensure that sexual activity between an adult and a child does not happen. If a man or a woman reasonably close in age is attracted to an underage partner, then that man or woman can wait until the child attains adulthood if they really desire or love the person and don’t merely want to use them. Does it seem like a random designation in certain cases? Absolutely. But those cases are the exception and not the norm. I’d rather protect our children and teenagers. If we keep moving the line in the sand, then how long is it until we have pregnant 9 year olds? There has to be a law, and it can’t be open to interpretation.

  • 8. Amanda  |  April 8, 2011 at 4:28 am

    I am sure there are a fair amount of women who DO want to be a prostitute. Look at Las Vegas and the like. High end call girls and such. I know they are not who you are referring to and are not usually the humans being trafficked, but still…… you can lump all prostitutes together as being victims. There has got to be a way out for those who want out. Especially in America. I would like to see them get help.

  • 9. stephenpaterson  |  April 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Stockholm + escort:
    4,740,000 results in 0.12 seconds.

    • 10. Author  |  April 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      Which doesn’t prove anything unless you compare it with the same search before the law changed or compare it with countries with different approaches to prostitution, such as legalization, etc.

  • 11. painlord2k  |  April 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Underage is a bit vague. Underage is 21 for drinking in some US states, 18 elsewhere, some places on Earth have no age limits.

    “Doing it will get you prosecuted” is a logical fallacy.
    I think the matter is better left, as much as possible, to the minor parents or tutors. I argue that what you can do gratis (for free) you must be able to do for money.
    For example, Mr. Berlusconi could only be prosecuted for induction of prostitution if he paid for sex with the minor. He could not be prosecuted by the Italian laws if he had sex gratis (it is legal have sex with 14 years old in Italy – with some minor limits). Given he say he did nothing, she say he did nothing and no one said they saw them have sex together, it is improbable anything will follow. No stained dress to show.

    By the way, apart for minors prostitutions, I again don’t understand because a free exchange of a service for money between two consenting adults can land one in jail and the other free.
    If a married man pay his wife to have sex, could she land in jail for the same time of a male?
    If a woman pay a man to have sex with her, would she land in jail for the same time of a male?
    If, instead of money, the man (or the female) give a gift (say a gold ring)in exchange for sex does he risk to land in jail?
    If I pay the rent of the apartment of a woman and after or before I had sex with her, do I risk to go in jail?

    Think well, because this is the way the prosecutors in Italy are using to accuse Mr. Berlusconi of “induction”. Are you sure your prosecutors and your judges will not try this in the US?


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