Sex for money: America should look to legalizing prostitution
High heels, revealing clothing, degradation and misguidance are some of the words that come to mind for hotel and restaurant management freshman Thutrang Mai’s mind when the controversial topic of prostitution is brought up.
This is a feeling concerning individuals getting paid to perform sexual acts is one mirrored by many Americans — but it should change. Through the rise of feminist and social right activist groups, our nation’s morality has certainly evolved through time; with each new breakthrough comes more and more backlash from conservative communities, but undeniable support from others.
Consequently, these achievements have sparked the progressive movement towards more and more social and political issues. It is no surprise that with the recent, morally controversial state-level legalization of marijuana, abortion and same-sex marriage, the legalization of our history’s oldest profession, prostitution, has also been brought into question.
Biology freshman, Marisol Rodriguez said that she believes prostitution is “immoral, wrong and degrading,” but the sexual acts are consensual, so it’s their own decision.
“It should still be legal because of the fact that no one should tell you what you can and cannot do with your own body,” Rodriguez said.
Unfortunately, not many people see this viewpoint as valid because they are blinded by their own personal moral and emotional responses to the topic. Standing in the way of a more stabilized economy, a drop in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, a decrease in violence and rape is society’s misguided belief that prostitution is immoral.
This belief is understandable and the believers cannot be blamed for the ideas of impurity and shame which are attached to sexuality are ones that have always been difficult to stray from. An engineering sophomore who preferred to remain anonymous said that it comes down to society’s view on sex and marriage.
“From a very young age, we’re led to believe that we should only have sex with those we love and/or are married to,” the anonymous student said. “In the end, it’s their body and they should be able to do whatever they want with it. If it means selling it for money, so be it.”
There is one single fact that everyone, regardless of their views on legalizing prostitution, should understand: it’s not going anywhere. And, despite what common sense may suggest, keeping it illegal may not be the best way to fix the violence, diseases or rape associated with it.
“Every hour spent going after prostitution is an hour that could have been spent going after terrorists and going after people who victimize.”
-Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz
In fact, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, certain laws restricting prostitution-related activities have actually made conditions in this profession unnecessarily dangerous.
“Prostitution is going to happen either way,” the anonymous student said. “So why not protect the women involved?”
A study of San Francisco found that 82 percent of prostitutes have been assaulted and 68 percent raped. Another study in Colorado Spring found that prostitutes were 18 times more likely to be murdered than people who do not prostitute, clearly showing an incredibly high violence surrounding sex workers.
Many of these crimes remain unreported because the prostitutes themselves are afraid of coming forward due to their profession’s illegality. Legalizing it would allow sex workers to take protective measures that are unavailable for them at the moment, such as hiring bodyguards or simply reporting their assaults.
An even sadder truth about prostitution is that many women, some of them even under-age, are brutally forced into the business by what are known as “pimps,” who are agents for prostitutes who collect their earnings. The chase for disintegrating these cruel forms of rape is ever-going and expensive.
The closest thing to reaching this goal would also be legalizing prostitution, primarily because in this way, government would be able to regulate it and through the required health check-ups increase the quality of of life for legalized sex workers, ultimately driving the illegal brothels out of business.
If Americans do not have empathy for sex workers, perhaps they will care for their country’s economy. Similar to how marijuana is being taxed by state governments, prostitution also has the potential to be taxed, as well as to provide jobs for both prostitutes and government regulators.
Furthermore, if time is money, the government’s time must be considered gold. Wasting time on never-ending investigations, arrests and prosecutions of sex workers, brothel owners and prostitute costumers is wasting government and tax money.
“Every hour spent going after prostitution is an hour that could have been spent going after terrorists and going after people who victimize,” said Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz to MSNBC’s Micheal Smerconish.
From a social standpoint, keeping it illegal and prejudicing them is essentially equal to slut-shaming or discriminating against women solely because of their personal decisions. Politically, sex workers do not have the same rights as legally employed people in America, such as minimum wage, freedom from discrimination and a safe work environment, jeopardizing the standard of living of all sex workers.
No reform comes without some protest, as it can be proven throughout history: from race riots rising upon abolishing slavery in 1865 to churches forming special groups against the legalization of same-sex marriage today.
The fight for what is just must always come with a price, so the question that must be made is not, “should prostitution be legalized?” simply because the facts prove that it should. The question must instead be, “is America ready for this?”
“For prostitution to be legalized in a certain country, the country must first be sexually liberal enough to handle it,” Rodriguez said. “And I believe that if any country is ready, it must be the U.S.”
Opinion columnist Natalia Marfil is a creative writing freshman and may be reached at [email protected]