Why Criminalizing Sex Work Won’t Work…
Now granted, this is just one woman’s, one sex worker’s, theory on the whole ball of wax, but let me lay it out for you:
I firmly believe that criminalizing sex work will not work for one very simple reason: I live in the United States.
Let me elaborate for you. Come on, kick back, smoke if you got ‘em, and let me wax epic with some theory here. You see, in 48 of the 50 United States, prostitution is illegal. Rhode Island has a loophole in the law which allows for indoor prostitution (though that law is currently under fire) and about half the counties in the state of Nevada have legal prostitution (a system which is wrought with its own problems). In the rest of the USA, prostitution is illegal on all fronts: it is illegal to sell sex and illegal to buy it. Be that as it may… There is still a whole lot of selling of sex going on here on my side of the pond, y’all.
Where I live it is illegal, and I am in a pretty conservative state. However, that said, it would take me no time at all, were I of the mind to do so, to hire a sex worker. I could find one from an agency add, I could find one online, I could get in my car, drive a few blocks, and find one working on 14th street in our Nation’s Capitol- even though the weather right now is horrible. I could find one in a bar, a club, a massage parlor, a strip joint. If I wanted to, even though it is illegal here, I could find a sex worker in no time at all. Even though it is illegal here, all around, for everyone involved, people are still buying and selling sex all day, every day, 365 days a year, hell, even on Christmas! The fact that it is illegal has done nothing whatsoever to stop people from buying and selling sex. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. It has not cut down on the supply, it has not cut down on the demand, all it has done is make life for sex workers a huge pain in the ass and a hell of a lot more complicated. And why yes, I do know that the popular plans these days revolve around criminalizing the activity for men, the patrons, but not the sex workers themselves. Uh huh. It being criminalized for men/patrons over here sure has ended/ cut down on prostitution! I mean fear of the law and fines and public embarrassment have sure stopped clients from hiring prostitutes over here, right? Um, no. Not at all. If anything, when the law does come down hard on prostitution over here, one of four things happens:
The sex workers and clients move to a new less stringent area.
Guys who are into the danger and the risk of the whole thing, or who do not fear the law at all (read here, are more likely to be violent assholes) do the buying in said areas.
The workers who are most at risk (i.e. survival level workers) will engage in more dangerous activities with riskier clientele to make money.
Sex Work will take place in more underground areas where danger is far more prevalent.
Helpful, no? And always, with these wonderful plans, it is the survival level sex workers, the ones people are trying to help, that take it in the chops. Here, they get arrested, have to engage in more sex acts with less protection to make money, get harassed by police, basically all the bad things that can happen to sex workers plus the added bonus of the activity being a criminal one for them. In plans like the oh so popular Nordic models, well, take away the criminal aspect, leave everything else…oh yeah, and there reports that say the Nordic models which boast about low trafficking rates can do so because any foreign national caught selling sex is pressured to either testify against the client or is deported. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to what happens to a trafficking victim who is deported back to his or her home country? While still owing a perceived debt to a trafficker or being perceived as property of a trafficker? Often, they are just trafficked somewhere else, if they are lucky. If they aren’t lucky, well, gee, they can end up raped and murdered to set an example. Nice, eh?
Point is, folks, I live somewhere that has made the exchange of sex for money illegal. Yet people still exchange sex for money in droves every day, all over the place, and the law or fear of laws has done little to change that. It has not decreased demand in the least. It has stopped nothing: Not trafficking, not drug use, not abuse, nothing. Right now, as I type, tons of people, from the high end escort with the Escalade to the fourteen year old runaway working a shitty ass corner are out there selling sex for money, and people are still buying even though it is illegal. Making it so has changed nothing. The USA is living proof of that.