Posts tagged ‘Prostitution’

The Law of Supply & Demand

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.

April 6, 2011 at 12:32 am 11 comments

Buy A Girl

A detail from plate 1 of William Hogarth's (16...

Image via Wikipedia

We’ve all heard about the sex trafficking industry by now. We’ve seen Dateline go undercover in Asia and seen the sad stories of women in bordellos who tell how they were forced or coerced into the sex trade. We’ve seen young girls forced into marriage and seen the story of one young woman who camped out at the courthouse until a judge would grant her a divorce. We’ve seen another young woman whose much older husband cut off her nose. If you don’t know by now how often young girls and women are forced into marriage and sexual slavery, then it’s only because you haven’t been paying attention.

It’s a huge, huge problem, and it’s funded in large part by men in the United States as well as men in Asia and the Middle East. We like to think that’s a problem that belongs to “them,” but American men poor millions of dollars into the Asian sex trade, and they support pornography and prostitution here in the United States.

Even where the sex trade is legal in Nevada, you’d be surprised at how many women will raise their hands when asked if this is a business that they were forced into. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to find that in a classroom of kindergartners not one girl will say she wants to be a whore when asked what she wants to be when she grows up.

Do you know the key to stopping the sex trade and helping girls? It’s in educating them. There’s a saying that if you educate a girl, then you educate her whole family, and it’s true. Girls use that education to create economic opportunities for themselves and their children, and they apply that money towards the education of all their children, boys and girls alike.

Men in developing nations tend to put money into the education of their sons and fail to educate their daughters. They see an education for a girl as a waste since she is just going to be married off eventually anyway. Any money that could have gone towards educating a daughter is pissed away on beer instead.

There’s a website that’s working to create a difference in the lives of girls in India. The website is called The Girl Store, and it seeks to provide an education for young Indian girls who might otherwise not receive an education and be sold into sexual slavery or given away in marriage at an obscenely early age. The concept is that you “buy a girl” out of slavery by donating money towards the cost of her education. The girls are pictured, as well as their school supplies, and you can help a young girl to receive an education.

I love it! They turn the whole concept of slavery on its head and use it for their own marketing purposes. It’s controversial, but controversy generates publicity, and publicity generates traffic, which generates revenue, which goes towards helping young women.

I encourage you to visit this website. Buy a girl.

February 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm 1 comment

On Labor Day: The World’s Oldest Profession

Prostitute talking to a potential customer in ...

Image via Wikipedia

People joke that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. This would seem to imply that prostitution somehow qualifies as a “profession.” It’s a job. But it’s hardly a profession. The last time I checked no one issued a diploma in prostitution.

Most prostitution in the United States is illegal. It is legal in only twelve rural counties in Nevada. Some of those counties don’t even contain brothels. There are essentially three forms of prostitution: street prostitution, brothels, and escort services, otherwise known as call girls.

The overwhelming majority of prostitues are girls and women, although there are some men. Most of the men service other men, but a tiny percentage of male prostitutes service women. Prostitutes are generally paid by five factors: the venue they work in, their clients, and their race, youth, and level of physical attractiveness.

Women are paid more than men on average. Younger women are paid more on average, as they are seen as less of a risk for sexually transmitted disease. This could also be due to just a taste for younger flesh. White women command higher rates, and by default one could conclude that young, attractive white women make the most money from prostitution.

Street prostitution is the lowest rung of prostitution. It exists in every major US city in pocket neighborhoods. Typically, police run a sting in one neighborhood, and they scatter to two or three other areas until they’re raided there, and then go back once again to the point of origin, and the cycle continues ad nauseum.

A lot of prostitutes are forced into prostitution, so-called white slavery. Some are not forced but, rather, coerced. The average age for the beginning of a prostitute’s career is 12-14 for a girl and 11-13 for a boy. Staggering, huh?

Lots of times kids begin their careers on the streets as runaways. It’s not something they’ve chosen to do but instead it’s something they do on occasion to survive, to buy a hotel room for the night or some food to eat. Eventually, these kids end up doing it regularly, and it becomes a job for them. Given that they’ve run away from home so young, I think it’s safe to assume that most of them come from abusive homes where they were already beaten or expected to service a family member sexually.

It’s not uncommon in some suburban areas of the United States nowadays for girls to be recruited from middle class homes by pimps. Sometimes they’re enticed by the promise of good money and an escape from boredom. Who knows? Maybe they thrill to the danger involved. Sometimes these girls are coerced with threats of violence to their families. “I know where you live.”

A lot of people think that prostitution should be legalized. A lot of the people I’ve talked with about this are men. And I think they mean well. I really do. I even think that it’s possible that they don’t paint a sex worker with the same stigma that the rest of our society does.

There’s a great argument for it. Look at Amsterdam: Land of All Vices Legal. They’ve really cut down on some of the reasons people cite for their objections to prostitution: human trafficking, the exploitation of minors, the rampant spread of STDs, the threat of sexual abuse and battery to sex workers, the highway robbery of pimps and madams who steal a significant percentage if not all of the sex workers’ wages.

All these evils have been eliminated in Amsterdam, if we are to believe them, simply by legalizing prostitution. Who wouldn’t want to improve these people’s lives by simply legalizing and regulating and thereby legitimizing and taxing their “profession”? What narrow minded person would be opposed to such good?

I would. I would be that narrow minded person. I’ll tell you why. With very few exceptions, the women who are involved in sex work come into it by happenstance, by force, coercion, or exploitation. And then they feel trapped there because it is all they have ever known or because they don’t know how to do any better, or because they think the greater world will never forgive them the stigma associated with an arrest record for prostitution. And, largely, they are right. I think very few major American corporations would hire people of either sex who have a conviction for prostitution.

Some women fall into prostitution of their own accord. But they inevitably do it for the money. They do it because they can make $2,000 in an hour by having sex with a stranger when I make $3,000 in a month doing other work. I realize no one’s going to pay me $2,000 an hour to have sex with him, but that’s beside the point. These women don’t become prostitutes out of some sense of adding to the common good or a sense of self-satisfaction that they get out of sexually servicing men. I’d be very surprised to hear any woman say that, and if she did, then bully for her, and I would tell her that maybe she should remain a prostitute.

But I think it’s kind of funny that the women who glamorize prostitution for us, such as the Heidi Fleisses and the Sidney Biddle Barrows and the Xaveria Hollanders of this world, don’t derive their satisfaction from being sex workers. They would lead us to believe that it’s a victimless crime. Who doesn’t like sex? The woman gets paid handsomely. The Happy Hooker stereotype.

If these women were so happy as hookers, then why did they become madams? And after some of them got caught, then why did they become authors and reality TV stars? Why not just move to Amsterdam and continue to enjoy doing what they do so well? Good question.

And finally, the best argument for not legalizing prostitution. Well, there are two of them. The first is that there is no such thing as Whore Barbie. When they make Whore Barbie in the Streetwalker, Chicken Ranch, and Escort versions, then maybe we should consider legalizing it as a profession because that means that little girls will see it as being something to aspire to when they grow up.

And the other best argument would be if the men friends of mine who think prostitution should be legalized would really wish for their daughters, sisters, and mothers to be whores. Really. Would you be okay with that? You think she would be fulfilled and self actualized? When you really, really feel that way, and prostitution has a four year degree at the university and a pamphlet in the high school guidance counselor’s office, then maybe we should consider it.

September 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

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