Thursday, March 20, 2008

Is prostitution a victimless crime?

It wasn't surprising when former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer was caught engaging a prostitute that supporters of decriminalizing prostitition would speak out. Their usual argument is what private consenting adults do in private is nobody else's business. Of course that argument is also used to criticise anti-gambling, -drug, -adultery, -sodomy and -fornication laws. (Yes, Minnesota still has laws on the books against sodomy and fornication.)

An excellent retort to legalizers of prostitution appeared in the Star Tribune; written by a former prostitute Christine Stark.

As a formerly prostituted child and young adult, I disagree that prostitution should be legalized. Prostitution is an industry of sexual exploitation, predominately of women and youth. Prostituted women and youth are raped, beaten and otherwise tortured by pimps and johns. A study in Canada reveals that prostituted women and girls have a 40 percent higher mortality rate than nonprostituted women and girls.

Many of the women lack high-school educations. Many end up with severe physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Another study also reports that prostituted women have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than war veterans.

Most prostituted women and youth are coerced by poverty, racism, lack of opportunity, and drug and alcohol addictions. The average age of prostitution is 13 in the United States, so a woman has likely been abused for five years when she turns 18 and supposedly chooses to be a whore.

Another study conducted with thousands of prostituted people found that 89 percent of those interviewed wanted to get out of prostitution immediately. This backs up what those of us used in prostitution know from experience: Prostitution is organized rape and battery of women and youth, and the vast majority of those in it want out now.

Studies in countries where prostitution is legal reveal that when prostitution is legalized, international and domestic trafficking increases, child prostitution increases, and the women are actually treated worse because the johns become more violent. What we need are better laws that treat as sexual predators those who use, rape, batter and kill prostituted women and youth.

I argue private behaviors have public consequences. They undermine the morals of the community and it's appropriate to protect the public welfare. Of course, in our moral relativist, radically individualist society that's not a popular position, yet human nature hasn't changed and the devastation wrought by illicit sexual behavior, for instance, is there for everyone to see. A prime example is the HIV/AIDS crisis which costs society billions of dollars annually and results in untold death, disease and human suffering. It's spread is nearly exclusively through illicit sex and drug use.

Of course laws don't eliminate any activities, just look at laws against murder, but they serve as a societal statement of right and wrong and do discourage the behaviors in question.


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