Known as “the world’s oldest profession,” prostitution, both voluntary and involuntary, has existed throughout human history and is still widespread across the country, as well as the world, even today. Despite many advancements having been made in other controversial areas throughout the United States, such as marijuana legalization, the expansion of gambling as well as recent developments in marriage equality, prostitution still remains widely frowned upon throughout our society and is presently only legal in some rural counties in the state of Nevada.
Throughout my work as a sex and adult entertainment blogger, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to speak with many individuals connected to the worlds of prostitution and sex work, such as Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel owner Dennis Hof and sex work advocacy group NJ Red Umbrella Alliance founder Derek Demeri. I’ve learned greatly about the harm that forced prostitution, that is, where an individual is forced to perform sex acts against their will, has caused to society and their victims, mostly younger women. The statistics are staggering; according to trafficking.org, there are up to 300,000 underage girls being sold for sex in America and 1 out of every 3 teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of running away from home. To make matters worse, those who are forced into prostitution are often treated as criminals instead of victims and aren’t given the proper treatment or resourced they so desperately need to deal with the emotional and physical trauma they often endure.
I believe that society would benefit from a legalized and regulated prostitution industry, taking control of the industry out of the hands of pimps, drug dealers and criminals and placing it in the control of business-minded entrepreneurs while under the strict control of government oversight and accountability. I know it might seem hypocritical for me, a proponent of women’s rights and a sex-positive blogger, to advocate government regulation of what an individual chooses to do with their own body, but let’s take a closer look at how a regulated and controlled industry would better serve prostitutes, their clients, and society as a whole as opposed to criminalization or wide-spread legalization.
First and foremost, I’m completely in favor of the individual exchange of sex for money, goods or services by any two or more consenting adults. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world full of drugs, disease and violence, of which the unregulated prostitution industry is a part of and is often associated with. I truly believe that a licensed brothel system, such as is currently in place in the state of Nevada, offers the safest, most beneficial option for prostitutes as well as their clients. Having a “brick and mortar” location where records are kept and where prostitutes can safely meet their clients and be tested for diseases provides substantial social benefits over a decentralized scenario where little or no safeguards are in place. Prostitutes in the Nevada brothel system need to be licensed, and that licensing includes adhering to a long list of rules and regulations that are set up to protect both themselves and their clients alike. Condom usage is mandatory, prostitutes must be licensed and are also tested weekly and monthly for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. In the current scenario of an illegal prostitution market, there is no way of knowing that the individual you are engaging in sex with is being honest about their health status. While condom usage and testing are never 100% accurate in detecting and preventing sexually transmitted diseases, to my knowledge there has never been a case of HIV infection or AIDS in a Nevada brothel.
In terms of improved safety, by establishing a legal brothel system, with a “brick and mortar” location with controlled access, intercom systems, staff and panic buttons, the prostitutes themselves would have a level of safety that they don’t have available by doing an incall meeting at their own residence or an outcall meeting to a client’s house or hotel room. The same level of safety holds true for the clients, who have the peace of mind that they are less likely to be robbed, extorted or harmed by a prostitute or their pimp. In a scenario where prostitutes can meet their clients under the roof of a brothel owner, who is held to standards and accountable for their actions, clients will know that they aren’t breaking the law and that the prostitutes are clean and safe, which will reduce the demand for unlicensed prostitutes (with the related risk of a criminal conviction and higher chance of disease transmission) and limit the sex trafficking of women to fulfill the demand of those who are already seeking sexual services.
Furthermore, widespread decriminalization of prostitution without systems and regulations in place would clearly be a disaster. Many individuals, who would now consider sex work as a legal career option, entering the industry at once would result in a flooding of the market with prostitutes who won’t have any training, safety, protection or testing as would be associated with the regulated options available. Also, widespread legalization would only serving to legitimize the control that the illegal elements of society have over those who they force into prostitution. If prostitution is legalized, what ramifications would a pimp or drug dealer face for forcing a woman to commit a now-legal act if it’s her word against his? If we legalize prostitution for everyone, it would be easy for a pimp to say “she was doing it of her own free will” or “I was being paid by her to protect her and drive her to her clients.” While we never fully eliminate pimping, for as long as there is an illegal market there will always be those attempting to profit from it, providing a legal alternative will certainly reduce the ability of someone to control a prostitute or forcing someone to perform sexual services against their will since their demand will decrease as the legal option is now the better, safer one available to everyone.
Finally, no matter how much you may dislike certain laws that are seen as infringing on our personal freedoms and choices, most laws and government regulations exist to protect members of society. From medicines to the automobile industry to even our food, without independent guidelines our safety would be in constant jeopardy by unscrupulous individuals who favor profit over the welfare of others. By limiting prostitution to those who are licensed and tested, the “service” of licensed prostitution would be a cleaner, safer alternative than the illegal options that are pretty much the only ones currently available.
While there will never be a perfect system of prostitution, changing our current laws in favor of those that provide a safe and clean alternative to the current illegal one will reduce crime, reduce sex trafficking and result in better public health for everyone.