Making headway on drugs, prostitution should be next

Now that a couple of states have made it clear that pot is legal within their own borders, it looks like the momentum has shifted on drugs.  I can’t help but believe that presidents in the future will be elected based on how little they want to pursue the “war on drugs,” meaning we will see the end of it in the future…if I’m right.

Perhaps now is a good time to start directing some attention to another prohibition, and that is prostitution.

I’m going to ask folks to turn off their morality arguments.  Those are great for telling someone why they shouldn’t use a prostitute, but it doesn’t have any place in a discussion about why it should be legal or illegal.

Prostitution is nothing more than the act of selling sex for money.  One has to be rather specific about the money part though, because without that a lot of people can be considered “prostitutes.”  For example, the person who sleeps with their boss for a promotion could be considered a prostitute, despite the act itself not being specifically illegal in most jurisdictions.

They say that prostitution is the “worlds oldest profession”, and it may well be.  It is probably one of the earliest examples of entrepreneurship in history as well.  After all, it requires minimal startup costs, minimal overhead, and large potential return on investment compared to other potential industries.  However, it’s currently illegal.

Let me ask the opponents of prostitution this: who is hurt by a mutally satisfactory exchange of cash for a service?

The answer is no one.  If it were, then plumbers or electricians - who take money in exchange for a service - would be classified as committing a crime.  They’re not, and for a good reason.  We need properly functioning pipes and wiring, and see nothing wrong with exchanging money for the necessary services to keep them in working order.

However, what about services that aren’t really “necessary”?  My wife absolutely loves to get a pedicure.  Is it necessary?  I still argue that it’s not (though my wife points out that it is if I prefer to sleep in the bed versus the couch).  It’s pleasureful for my wife, so is it prostitution?  No, of course not.

It is merely the fact that the act of service being exchanged for money is sex.  For some reason, the idea of sex being exchanged for money just turns people in puritans.  I have no idea why.  However, if they take a moment, they’ll see there are serious social advantages to widespread legalization of prostitution that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

First, we need to understand what legalized prostitution will do to illegal prostitution.  People want what they want.  If licensing is involved as it is in Nevada, the one state with legal prostitution, then a black market will still exist.  However, while people want what they want, and will break laws to get it, if they have to choose between a legal option and an illegal option, they tend to take the legal one.  This is especially true if it’s a safer option, such as Nevada where prostitutes are tested for disease on an extremely regular basis.

Now, if you have a reduced use of illegal prostitutes, you also find a reduced amount of human trafficking.  Much of the practice, one of the most abhorrent in human history, involves getting tricking young girls into prostitution…if it’s even remotely their choice.  Still more are hooked on drugs then forced out onto the streets in exchange for their next fix.

With legal prostitution being available, this becomes much less common.  It won’t go away completely, but that’s true no matter what you do.  However, what you will find is that without as many customers, more and more of this kind of thing will disappear.  While it’s not perfect, it’s definitely a stronger move in the right direction.  As so many try to argue, think of the children?  In particular, think of the children who will be spared this fate?

Then there are the prostitutes who find themselves victims of violence.  Prostitutes in most states find themselves as tempting targets for those who wish to hurt others.  Prostitutes are less likely to report violence visited against them since they were hurt while committing a crime.  They’re also likely to be abused by pimps who control their lives to such a great extent (this ties in with the human trafficking argument above).

However, violence isn’t the only occupational hazard.  Disease kills plenty of working girls each year, yet if states followed Nevada’s lead, far fewer would find themselves infected with things like HIV.

It’s time.  It’s beyond time.  Prostitution is only illegal at the state level, so the lessons learned in Colorado and Washington should provide a roadmap that advocates could follow to change the laws and end this prohibition as well.

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