What to Legalize Next?
I urge you to bear with me here. I know this sounds like a TALL order but it’s way shorter than you think.
Please keep in mind that I am not writing this blog for the purposes of shocking or disgusting you.
My hope is that I can help you see the grey in issues that are widely perceived to be so black and white.
I am not, nor was I ever a prostitute, I have never paid for a prostitute, and I wouldn’t be any more compelled to be a prostitute if it were legalized.
However, if we truly wish to live in a free society, we cannot stray from this belief once something conflicts with our personal moral code.
We may not agree with someone’s line of work but we should advocate for their right to pursue it.
We may not agree with what others purchase but we should support their right to be able to buy it.
It is extremely authoritarian to infringe on these rights.
Admittedly, my knowledge of prostitution is very surface level and any data on black market goods is spotty at best, but for the purposes of this argument, surface level will suffice.
Prostitution at a glance:
- Prostitution is one of the oldest trades, tracing back to 18th century BC.
- Prostitution is currently legal in:
-13 North American countries/territories
-11 South American countries
-20 European countries
-8 African countries
-6 Oceania countries/territories
Specific to the US:
- Sex is legal among consenting individuals
- People often marry for the SOLE purpose of financial gain (legally recognized prostitution)
- Nude entertainment is legal (strip clubs)
- Pornography is legal to film and purchase (where consenting individuals are paid to have sex with one another and consumers pay for the ability to watch)
- Prostitution is illegal everywhere in the US with the exception of 12 counties in Nevada (these counties EXCLUDE Clark & Washoe i.e. Las Vegas & Reno)
- LEGAL prostitution in Nevada grosses approximately $75 million a year
- ILLEGAL prostitution in the Las Vegas area grosses approximately $5 BILLION a year
- Black market estimates of US prostitution revenues total $14.6 billion a year
Pros for legalization:
- This goes well beyond the prostitutes and their bosses. If prostitution was legitimized as an industry, the domino effect would touch many other industries/professions, at the very least:
- Real Estate (including building and construction)
- Insurance (including liability, health, property, etc.)
- Healthcare (just like in pornography, vigilance & prevention from healthcare professionals would likely be mandatory)
- Banking (business loans, personal banking, etc.)
- Those who work in illegal professions pay minimal to no income tax / purchases of illegal goods are undocumented, thus incur no sales tax
- Legalization would mitigate tax evasion
- Missed opportunity—we can never estimate the amount of missed tax revenue. We will never how much growth and creation would spur from its legalization and how much the above mentioned verticals could flourish
- Legalization would allow prostitution to come out of the dark and into the light
- Any acts of violence or illegal behavior could now be reported to authorities, giving prostitutes a sense of safety they have yet to experience
- Would ultimately eradicate the corruption/foul play that has plagued & compromised law enforcement & public officials
- If treated as a legitimate industry, prostitutes would have the ability to carefully choose their employers based on the same criteria many of us use when considering an employer:
- Benefits (health insurance, vacation days, retirement planning—401k, IRA, etc.)
- Hours (full-time vs. part-time, rigid schedule vs. flexibility)
- Pay scale (assessing pay based on market, industry, and competitors)
- Career advancement (is this a dead end position or can I grow within this organization. I know you are probably laughing–innuendo aside, you’re probably asking yourself how could a prostitute advance to anything else in a prostitution business? As mentioned above, legitimized prostitution would create a demand across many verticals and most definitely within a prostitution organization itself. There would be a need for accounting, human resources, IT, healthcare services, etc. I can only guess that many prostitutes have other career aspirations and this is just a means to an end. Legitimizing the profession would ultimately give them exposure to other career possibilities & tangible opportunities within the walls of their own workplace.
- In a black market, power and control belong to the employer. With a competitive landscape, employers would no longer wield all of the power & would have to treat their employees fairly and make concessions.
- It would be up to the states to decide on whether they make it legal or not. The states who legalize it would likely experience a boost to their economy and entice certain individuals from states where it is illegal to move there.
**Food for thought
Pretend that for some reason we cannot find any wiggle room within the laws to make prostitution legal.
Let’s quickly examine pornography which is our closest proxy for legal prostitution.
Consenting adults are paid by a 3rd party (production company) to have sex with one another and then a consumer pays to watch.
If the only difference in porn is that both individuals are being paid to have sex (vs. prostitution where only one side is paying for the service), then what if we found a loophole where both the prostitute and the client get paid?
The client pays the 3rd party (owner of the prostitution business) $2,000
The 3rd party (owner of the prostitution business) pays the prostitute their %, let’s just say it’s $1,500
The 3rd party owner keeps $495 as their %
The 3rd party owner pays the client $5 (the amount is nominal—purely as a means to comply with whatever the laws are)
**In this scenario, just like in pornography, both parties engaging in sexual acts are being paid
Cons for legalization
-Fear that legalization will in some way increase demand
- This is not my fear but I imagine this would cross the minds of those who are opposed to prostitution and its existence
-With legitimization comes legitimate facts & figures—this could be very daunting to those who are against prostitution
- Society would be forced to ask themselves existential questions that they so dread
- If this many people engage in prostitution, can it really be so immoral?
- Are we more fearful of its potential effects on our youth or are we just afraid of knowing the concrete truth and having to face it in the mirror?
I generally have a decent moral compass but it was admittedly hard to come up with cons that I truly believe in.
As stated earlier, my knowledge around prostitution is pretty limited but my understanding of human behavior is quite deep.
Sexuality is undeniably a huge part of our biological makeup and physical human contact is a necessity.
I don’t believe that every person who engages in paying for illicit sex is grotesque or a sexual deviant.
I believe some people are lonely and are looking for short-term companionship.
I believe some people have primal urges that need tending.
I imagine the transactional nature of prostitution is what makes it so compelling. Both parties understand that it is purely a service—no commitment, no expectations, desires fulfilled, finality achieved.
On the same note, I don’t believe every prostitute is grotesque, a sexual deviant, or lesser because of their profession.
I believe some prostitutes take enjoyment in their work. On a very primal level they are bringing someone else satisfaction–often individuals who are in dire need of some joy.
I believe some prostitutes enjoy the positive attention they receive and the validation it may bring. A client is paying you (often large sums of money) to perform. Deep down, in some way we are all show ponies. (Ever posted a selfie?)
I believe some prostitutes do not enjoy their work but it is a means to an end –a way to provide for themselves, for their family, and a stepping stone to a better future.
As older generations leave us and younger generations become more secular, the stigma around sexuality and prostitution will inevitably fade.
Turning a blind eye will not eliminate prostitution (or any other heavily regulated contraband for that matter). Far worse, it will only embolden a dangerous black market’s existence.
Just something to think about…
Footnotes & Sources:
**The U.S. constitution forbids the US federal government to pass any law on prostitution. States, territories, and the Federal District are allowed to pass laws governing prostitution. Despite that, nearly all but one jurisdiction prohibits prostitution, the State of Nevada.