Let Working Girls Work

prostitutesLet me first begin by saying: Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry.

Now to the point. Prostitution should be legalized.

The principle of sex for money is horrifying to many (yet strangely fascinating). But why should something that is completely consensual, and done in private, be banned? However vile prostitutes’ activities may be, their dirty deeds are not directly affecting anyone who chooses not to be involved (except maybe the hotel maid the following morning). But as usual, Washington bureaucrats feel the need to get in people’s private business by banning consensual sex for money.

Why does it matter what people do in the privacy of their homes, if others are not affected? Heck, I don’t care if you dress up as a Teletubby and eat dog feces in your bedroom; just don’t ask me to come over and hold the camera.

Prohibition never works. For instance, alcohol consumption increased sharply during Prohibition in the 1920s. Other effects of this ban: alcohol became more dangerous to consume, crime increased, and prisons became very overcrowded. When something is banned, its use rarely decreases significantly, and a black market is always created.

Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol, and it doesn’t work with prostitution.

The laws banning prostitution are well intended. Would you want your daughter being a sex worker? Your sister? Of course not. But the unintended consequences of these laws are worse than the problems they attempt to solve. Prostitutes currently must operate in the shadows of society, which places them in jeopardy. Anonymity allows dangerous Johns to abuse the women (remember the Craigslist killer?), often with no consequences. Bringing both the prostitute and the John out of the dark reduces the likelihood of dangerous clients. Another benefit of transparency: prostitutes could advertise their services freely, eliminating the pimp from the equation. And just think how adorable those new billboards would be!

Prostitution legalization would also reduce the risk of STD transmission if the state mandated disease exams for sex workers. As it stands now, prostitutes with STDs, who may not even be aware that they are infected, can spread disease rapidly and repeatedly.

Most people are opposed to prostitution legalization because they think it is immoral. This is understandable, but just because something is immoral does not mean it should be illegal (with the possible exception of renewing Keeping up with the Kardashians for another season). Cruelty is immoral, but we can’t pass laws outlawing every cruel behavior. We simply cannot ban everything we don’t like.

But what is morally wrong with a consensual woman of age using her body to make money? Strip clubs are everywhere, and they allow women to make a living exploiting their own bodies. And porn stars make a good living having sex for money- and we’re okay with that because there is a camera in the room. The hypocrisy is laughable.

In Amsterdam, prostitution has been recognized as a legal profession since 1988. Despite prostitution legalization, the violent crime rate in Amsterdam is far lower than that of New York City. The Dutch believe that regulating the sex industry helps reduce human trafficking, forced prostitution, and exploitation of children. Dutch prostitutes pay taxes on their income, and get tested for STDs regularly. The city of Amsterdam has been so pleased with the system that in 2007, a bronze statue memorializing “working women” was erected (pun intended).

In the US, Nevada is the only state that allows regulated brothels. Moonlite BunnyRanch in Mound House, NV, is one of the legal brothels in the state. So far, it has been a tremendous success. The women who work there may set their own wages transparently, and are regularly checked for STDs. HBO has even turned the BunnyRanch into a popular reality show (thanks for sharing that pearl with me, Dad). Most of the female workers say they love their job, and wouldn’t want to do anything else. On a side note, I wonder if they’re given a mandatory retirement age. If not, the situation could get really ugly at the BunnyRanch.

Clinton and Menendez

Does anyone truly believe that outlawing the oldest profession in the world makes it less prevalent? I tried to contact former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and New Jersey congressmen Bob Menendez for their thoughts. When my phone doesn’t ring, I know it’s them.

Prostitution legalization would not ruin our culture. It would only make the sex industry, and society as a whole, safer and more transparent.

Thanks for reading. Leave your appalled comments in the space below! And please, keep them gentle- my mom reads this.


blog pic 3Kristin Tate a political and economic journalist. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

44 thoughts on “Let Working Girls Work

  1. Invisible Mikey says:

    I’m neither appalled nor rapacious (rapacious means greedy – why would I react with greed?). I think it should be legalized too. However, I also think commercializing sex demeans it for the person selling it. Sex is one of the chief joys in life. Selling joy capitalizes it, making it less free, reducing the quality by changing the purpose of the activity. It’s no longer a gift, but a commodity. I understand completely why women choose to sell it, and why men might want to buy, but I wouldn’t – ever.

    1. Allyn Lottouzee says:

      This is an amazingly good reply. MY only argument is the same argument she has for Prohibition: It still happens. It WILL continue. Just like the drug industry, or any crime industry for that matter. Weed is illegal, but MANY people smoke it. In other countries, those that have allowed it, even to a minimized extent, there is evidence that it is better used in regular society, because it reduces the stigma behind it.

      My argument against (or for, paradoxically) legalizing would be based off of the power that sex conjures. It can be a very dark world for these girls. Be legalizing it, I’d imagine it could be better regulated instead of girls walking the street or answering to a pimp. My issue is that I fear it would still be overly exploited, and by the wrong people. Sex for money, I believe, has and always will be a very dangerous industry.

      In my opinion, this is almost rightfully so. It helps keep the balance, if nothing else. I’m not condoning the terrible acts that some do to some of these individuals, but that fear does make the job much less desirable, among other things.

      I wonder it would be like if you had to get hired just like any other job, with drug tests and resumes. But, I guess that’s what reality TV and pornos are for.

  2. Steve T says:

    I agree with Invisible Mikey that selling sex commoditizes it and destroys its joy. But restricting a person’s freedom to do so is a worse alternative.

  3. Aly says:

    Kristen, Im actually quite surprised to know this of you. I didn’t REALY know you, but I knew you were an interesting girl. I Just have one question, would YOU perform prostitution as a way of life? If you would, email me. Im curious. 🙂

  4. budgeteurotrip says:

    Hi, I’m also a bit skeptical about legalization of sex. I’m not a fan of prohibitionism nor a closed mind person and to add more i’m atheist (so I’m not talking as a crusader…). What we should say is that prostitution, as all kind of ‘selling’ of a body is wrong. I mean why a girl who works as prostitute has a chance to earn money while another one would rather search for a ‘common’ job not involving her body to be shown, touched and whatever is about sex? Not talking only of prostitutes, there are many (goodlooking) girls seeking for rich (ugly) men. These are already legalized. Is already the idea that money can buy everything, even happiness, that makes all of us living in a wrong society. I’m sorry for my bad english (i’m italian)

  5. John Finch says:

    I’ve always been amazed that prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone, and, in fact, it appears to be helping the economy out there. Nonetheless, legalizing it is something that still makes me uncomfortable!

    1. Dan says:

      Just so you know I’m uncomfortable with your lack of reasoning after reading (or not reading) this article. Your lack of reasoning should be illegal.

  6. NYC Ken says:

    Interestingly, I HAVE dressed up like a Teletubby and eaten dog poop in my bedroom! But I’m proud to say that I’ve never paid for a hooker!

  7. Rita Scalabrin Lane says:

    the argument is compelling, anything that protects women by checking for STD’s and eliminating “the John” sounds like a big plus to me…and if children are protected because they are less likely targeted for sex, I am a huge fan then of legalization…

  8. Pam Sturgeon says:

    I am just wondering why the hooplah. A job is a job, no matter what the field, and these days they are hard (no pun intended) to come by. A male/female wishes to become one, go for it, they should, however in my opinion, have to pay into taxes like the rest of us employees of other professions. Seriously though, if being a politician is “legal”, why shouldn’t being a prostitute be the same?
    Great job on all your articles, by the way. I truly enjoy reading them. They get me to thinking every time.

  9. Jeff F. says:

    Good article! A true Libertarian perspective. For those above – skeptical, uncomfortable, demeaning?? All honest statements and valid points on a PERSONAL level, yet should carry NO weight regarding the law and individual rights.

  10. Robert Resnick says:

    I love hypocrits like Congressman Bob Menendez who lecture us on how prostitution shouldn’t be legal, then it’s discovered that he is having sex with underage hookers in the Dominican Republic. Another case of “Do as I say, not as I do!!!” Nice article, Ms Tate.

  11. Leo says:

    Interesting points but lets turn the argument. What about drugs, should they be legal for personal consumption in the home? This only hurts the person making the decision to take them. Should we legalize all drugs and only make it an offence if you drive a vehicle while under the influence? Even if someone uses drugs privately (assuming they are legal) they still become a burden and cost to society over time. Where do you draw the line? Many drugs are still illegal in all countries.

    I would like to hear a good libertarian viewpoint on this topic.

    1. lhtwist says:

      It should be obvious that drugs are a different case since there’s mental impairment at risk, which has the potential of harming more than just the user. There’s also the issue of personal dependance with drugs which, other than financially, doesn’t exist for prostitution to my knowledge.
      And if you’re looking for an argument about the physical affects of prostitution creating a burden upon society, look at all of the other legal jobs which do exactly the same. Several of the blue-collar industries create thousands of dependents every year, much earlier in life than their white-collar counterparts. Are prostitutes endangering themselves or society any more than an iron worker for example?

  12. rtenorio12 says:

    “Prostitution legalization would also reduce the risk of STD transmission if the state mandated disease exams for sex workers.”

    It’s interesting that you acknowledge some room for the state to regulate and impose standards on private, consensual activities. Where do you draw the line between helpful government regulation and burdensome interference?

    1. jarommoroni says:

      I agree with you. Keep the state out of it. Let private businesses advertise that their prostitutes are regularly checked. They would probably get more business than the brothel down the road that doesn’t require their prostitutes to get checked. Let the free market work. Drive the others out of business. Kristin seems to be really on target much of the time, but you can tell from these kinds of tidbits that there is something she may lack yet.

  13. Jane E. Hendrix says:

    Quite honestly, if you think about it to some degree it is already legal. Some older men want younger women with less wrinkles, younger bodies and some younger women want older men’s income and the benefits that come with that income……How many times do you see a younger women with a “poor” older man….not often.

    If the men are willing to be used like that then that is their personal problem. Let’s just see where that younger woman is when the man loses his job, or gets downsized. LOL! Just like strip clubs, the women are actually the smarter ones….they get the money and all the guys get to do is look! If the men went home with their money and spent it on their wives …they might get more….

    If prostitution were legal….I know several single male friends (I will not name names 🙂 that would NEVER attempt to be in a relationship! It would be like texting or socializing via the internet (no personal contact)

  14. thenativetraveler says:

    I agree with Leo. If we legalize these personal things, we will in some way be hurting others, whether it is family or someones wife/husband. Not a great idea make this legal.

    1. Tommy says:

      I don’t think it would hurt anyone. Even if it were legal its not like people would be going around boasting about using a prostitute. And it’s not like a wife would go into the prostitution business. An affair is an affair whether its illegal or not

  15. John says:

    It seems to me that selling sex for money is already legal. It is regulated by the civil courts according to the rules of “marriage”. The rules have recently been expanded to include same sex relationships and may soon be further expanded to encompass more than two adults as well.

    I realize that the rules may seem a bit onerous, and more akin to transacting a cemetery plot than a drive through happy meal, but nonetheless there is a legal path.

  16. BardicHeart says:

    I agree, prostitution should be legalized but regulated in the same basic way as say a restaurant has to follow certain health codes (and for the same reasons). Its not that I condone prostitution, I don’t. But I also recognize that it’s called the world’s oldest profession for a reason. No matter how far back into human history archaeologist seem to dig, where ever you find humans living in groups you find some form of prostitution. If after thousands of years no civilization has ever succeeded in actually eliminating prostitution, what makes us think we will? So my first point is that making it illegal is impractical, regulating it is a more practical approach to controlling it.

    But banning it has other negative impacts on society. Kristin mentioned Prohibition and that’s a key point. Prohibition did more than just fail to eliminate the consumption of alcoholic beverages, it nearly single-handedly fueled the rise of organized crime. Criminal organizations grew wealthy from “boot-legging” and even after Prohibition was repealed, they remained because they had other lucrative means of income. One of those sources was and remains prostitution. Various studies have repeatedly indicated that virtually all prostitution in the US is either directly or indirectly controlled by some form of organized crime. Legalizing prostitution would be a big step in cutting off that control and one source of their revenue.

    Bringing prostitution out into the open might also have another unintended effect. By bringing it into the “light”, people might get a better look at what it really looks like, the real effects, etc. Its no longer some abstract documentary or a glamorized image in a TV show with beautiful actresses playing the roles. People see it as it really is and I suspect that reality might not be so appealing.

    Ultimately, the law can’t stop prostitution; it doesn’t and never has (not in the US, not in any other country or civilization… ever). If the goal is to discourage it then I suggest considering other, more effective, means. Ask yourself, why does one person decide it (prostitution) is an acceptable option and another never would under any circumstance? Why does one person feel patronizing a prostitute is okay and another would never do so? What causes one person to restrain themselves regardless of what the law may or may not allow? I think you will find it boils down in all cases to the same thing, self-respect. If you believe that prostitution is beneath you, that your personal value is higher than that, you will seek avoid it regardless of either what the law allows or whatever circumstance you are faced with.

    You can’t legislate ethics or morality, you can only teach it. The law can’t teach only punish after the fact. It’s really that simple. Unfortunately, America seems to have come to a point where many take their ethical values based on what is or isn’t legal, and having done so have thus made the law-makers the arbiters of our virtue. So we get laws that, rather than following a higher ethical standard, sink to the lowest common denominator. We need less legislation and more education.

    Good article Kristin

  17. John says:

    I think people who are against prostitution might be misinterpreting the point. It is not so much that prostitution is right or wrong. You can look at it from two perspectives and reach the same conclusion.
    First from a national principal of government, Do I have the right to tell you if it is right or wrong and use force to coerce your compliance. That is the essence of criminal law. We as a society make certain acts right or wrong and using our police enforce it with physical violence. A very necessary part of life unfortunately but with consequences so high you must closely examine the validity of those decisions. One of the most clear cut litmus test; Does this action do direct harm to unwilling participants? Things like violent crimes can obviously be identified this way and should be illegal. When the crime falls outside of this metric such as consensual sex with another individual who is age of majority, well those individuals should have rights and my desire should not be forced upon them no matter how idealistic. That is something that you should have the freedom to discern for yourself.
    Second, as Kristin mentioned, purely pragmatic. Who are you kidding thinking you will stop this? Literally oldest profession ever, wouldn’t everybody be safer and better off if this was transparent industry? Prohibition taught us a lot of lessons but one of the most important to me was the reversal of prohibition did more to fight the organized crime than any other government effort. Once organized crime has to complete with legitimate business the excessive premium on the good or service will not be sufficient to support their much higher overhead. They are literally ran out of existence. Now days organized crime is dependent on things like a sex trade and illegal narcotics. Why not deny them a significant revenue stream?

  18. Kyle says:

    I agree for the most part, but STD screening should not be regulated by the state. STD screening is a problem that the market would easily correct. If the states mandate the screenings then the cost for those screenings obviously goes up, punishing those not involved in the sex industry to suffer from higher prices. If the market were to handle the screenings they could be used as an advertising ploy, each brothel claiming to be the cleanest around, those that had a reputation for being unclean would loose business and close. Overall great article, I just hate to see more regulation of any industry so I thought I would mention it.

  19. John Guetterman says:

    The only thing you failed to bring into your argument… Is the real fact that “millions of girls” are stolen, drugged and forced into a life of prisititution. (2.5 million estimated)

    If you legalize it… That “may” cut down on the victims of human trafficking. There needs to be accountability and that may be a valid answer that saves countless lives.

    Then again you are dealing with immoral (pimps and drug lords) people who will find a way to currupt absolutely anything they can… I don’t know if there is anyway to allow women to work in this industry safely and free from predatory slave drivers who only care about profit.

    If these girls could work independently the free market would drive down cost and many of them would be forced to look for a different line of work. May be a great way to help them “out” of the biz and find safer ways to make money. (If that’s a concern… If not… They are free to stay in whatever biz they choose)

    Good article… Don’t hesitate to state the truth… Women are being forced into this industry and stay bc they believe there is no way out. They are enslaved to a pimp who uses and abuses them… Tell the whole story! Let’s save these women bc exposing the evil for what it is… Not consensual in most cases… It’s forced!

  20. whiskyrebellion says:

    Just think, if prohibition would have never happened, the USA might not have ever had to put up with the Kennedy’s.

  21. Jim Maerk says:

    With the womens rights movement and all the “It’s my body” talk, I’ve always wondered why those people didn’t or haven’t pushed this agenda as well. After all, it’s her body and if she wants to use it to make money, why not? If she has and wants sex, why can’t she charge for it, it’s her body, right?

  22. Gordan Mitsas says:

    Just let it be legalized.

    After all, anyone who is part of a church or other such group can avoid that part of the lifestyle. People are still free to protest, to stand against and oppose things they don’t like – such as gambling or prostitution, etc. It also is allowed to continue legally which is in my opinion the best solution, so violence is reduced. And so others can learn their own lessons from sin, doing wrong etc., there is no better path God offered than experience.

  23. Trent Elko says:

    Legalizing prostitution is one thing that should NEVER happen. While it seems like a good idea, along with drugs, etc., it’s already been done in Australia. The repercussions are devastating:

    Countries where it is legal become the hub for human trafficking. With a new market available, human traffickers kidnap women, drug them up, and make them sell sex, now legally.

    While selling sex should not be illegal, anything that makes it easier on the trafficking enterprise cannot be allowed.

  24. Mike Dillinger says:

    Wrong Trent, it should be allowed because frankly the free market resolves these problems much faster. That country you mentioned is not a free market, and is not a free society. Regulation is not free.

    The free market resolves all things much faster. Drugs and prostitution are not any cost to society, it is society’s actions which make the cost. Therefore, if the market is allowed to freely operate then anyone who dislikes STDs, strong drugs etc, will likewise drive them out of business by not visiting or purchasing.

    Those who are safe about it, will rise to the top as you see in everything from gambling to housing. And those who are criminal about it, will lose, and it will cost them rather than cost us. Let the free markets reign and just quit trying to force everyone to do anything, period.

  25. Josh in Champaign says:

    Make up your mind Trent. You say prostitution should never be legalized and then you say selling sex shouldn’t be illegal. Um, that’s a complete contradiction.

    I think a good rule of thumb for banning things is that something shouldn’t be banned for the sake of criminal abuse when others make their living from it peacefully. Go after the criminals for the abuse, don’t eliminate a choice for a means of earning a livelihood altogether. Human trafficking goes on extensively in the US, even while illegal, just as there is no shortage of illegal drugs on the street.

  26. Dean says:

    Totally agree! I think as a society we are extremely over-regulated by our government and it seems as time goes on people become so thin skinned they just push to ban everything that they don’t agree with or personally enjoy. I might not be willing to pay for sex but have no problem at all with people out there who are willing to do so. If you don’t like hookers, here’s an idea, don’t sleep with one, if you don’t like cigs, don’t smoke, if you don’t like guns then don’t own one… and the list goes on. If only the rest of the world thought in the same free thinking, live the life I choose way that the author of this article must think…. Then maybe we wouldn’t have 6,000 laws on the books, a list of hundreds of different taxes, rules, laws and regulations. How can we call it the land of the free when every aspect of our lives in regulated or controlled in some type of way by someone else outside our homes??? And don’t even get me started on things like home owners associations and things like that. I’d move to another country before I’ll ever let someone tell me what kind of color scheme I can paint the house that I’m paying for!

  27. OutsideTheBox says:

    I think it is possible to recognize that prostitution is degrading, inappropriate, and inevitable. I believe it is also possible to create legislation that is genuinely helpful to those in the trade.

    If buying sex were illegal, but selling sex was OK, this would enable the (mostly female) sex workers to go about their business without fear of reprisal. Because purchasing sex remains illegal, that might dampen the market, but it would not totally push it underground. Some additional measures would be necessary to make this really work, like allowing sex workers access to the banking industry, ensuring that they can not be compelled to reveal their customers, etc. This protects the sex worker while condemning/discouraging the activity.

    As legal workers, sex workers can be required to have regular health checks and account for their revenue. This last point can be quite effective at discouraging pimping, trafficking and other forms of oppressive activity.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I agree in that prostitution should be legalized. Great article Kristin! There are many aspects to prostitution in that there are
    1) street walkers (hookers),
    2) Escorts ($150-$500. average) in private incalls whether your home, their house, apartment, or hotel..
    3) Agencies ($250-$500. per hour) with higher end being call girls or high dollar hotties.
    4) Asian Massage Parlors (more than just happy endings)……beautiful Thai, Korean ladies and the occasional Chinese or Japanese.
    5) Studios (again….more than just happen endings), and
    6) extras in strip clubs (VIP rooms).

    Everything aside from hookers is readily available on the Internet.

    These same men that occasionally see escorts have probably saved their marriage, their sanity, and continue to go on in their humdrum day to day lives to provide for their family. Especially when wives cut them off from sex after they snag them. Biblically, the wife is to make her Man happy and satisfied often so that he never wants it anywhere else. A woman makes that commitment and obligation when she marries. But women love to play mind games and use lack of sex as control or punishment. Hence, why men stray!

    I’m single but can see a married man’s dilemma.

  29. Ron says:

    What about children? Besides the children that are abused in our current system (and would continue to be abused in any legalized system), what about children of the working girl? Laws that regulate immoral behavior allow entry into the home. In other words, if a woman is a prostitute and gets arrested for that crime and has children at home, cps can intervene in that child’s family. Have you ever known a prostitute with appropriate daycare for her child? How about reasonable medical provisions for the child or proper safety measures in place for the child? How many prostitutes have you known that are drug free and able to function to get their child to school and check their homework? No… The likely scenario is that the mother who is a prostitute works all night, does drugs to deal with the gross SOB asking her to film him eating poop while wearing a teletubby outfit to get his rocks off. She gets home (after leaving her child unattended b/c day cares are not open all night), passes out in a run down hotel or apartment and fails to make breakfast or get her child to school. That situation is much more probable. Because it is illegal there is an opportunity to protect the child from craziness. That is like saying that meth should be legal… how many of you have ever known a functioning meth addict who cares for children and takes in stray animals. There are victims. .. The children. Wake up! It is generally men or childless folks who defend actions that ultimately bring demise and immorality to the family and fail to see how actions will affect the lives of children, resulting in a cycle of failure in that family. Morals exist because without them we will fail.

  30. A. Scott says:

    I personally would love to see prostitution become legal. There are many of us who could use a little comfort now and again, the kind only a woman can provide. I hope this will change soon, it’s a shame we can’t just allow adults to behave in a manner that is constructive.

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