Debate Forum: 08/26

Should prostitution arise from the underground?

By Alex Culpepper

Illustration: Mike Lester

First and foremost, one must accept the definitional difference between human sex trafficking and consensual prostitution in for the purposes of this week’s debate. No person should be coerced into, or participate under duress, an act of prostitution. This week’s debate question is strictly based on situations when both parties are consensual adults.

Over the past several weeks, 20 individuals, many of whom are considered “upstanding” local community citizens, were arrested for soliciting a prostitute as a result of a coordinated effort by the Dayton Police Street Crimes Unit, Riverside Police and the U.S. office of Special Investigations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This local effort was part of a national collaboration of law enforcement agencies of 14 different states for National Day of Johns which yielded nearly 500 total men arrested nationally. In addition to women arrested for prostitution, the local men allegedly involved included a WPAFB lieutenant colonel, a Central State professor, a Better Business Bureau director and the son of a Dayton police officer, just to name a few. This law enforcement sting isn’t unique and included the use of a human female decoy, in addition to fake Internet website advertising to lure would-be Johns. Though 13 juveniles were recovered nationally, including a 15-year-old girl whose mother was pimping her out in Seattle, the majority of participants were adults.

The idea of targeting the buyers instead of the sellers is part of a national trend mirroring European models. In fact, Sweden has simply banned purchasing sex instead of banning the sale. Regardless of the manner of enforcement, the arguments for and against prostitution vary, as it takes place legally and illegally around the world and in the United States.

Prostitution opponents argue on the basis of morality and health. Their statistics consistently show most people simply disapprove of prostitution in any form, and they cite prostitution’s association with crime and corruption. Even legalized prostitution is not a victimless crime, they say, because it doesn’t really end the exploitation, and there is no equality or empowerment as advertised by proponents of prostitution. Even the health benefits have been overstated, they claim, because in places where it’s legal, sex workers rarely see the inside of a doctor’s office.

Proponents argue based on the premise two consenting adults should have the ability to make whatever choices they wish behind closed doors. They also point to decriminalization in Canada leading to reductions in STDs, and in Rhode Island, a mistake on a legal statute inadvertently decriminalized prostitution, and studies there showed reduced STD rates and sexual assaults. Another argument states making prostitution criminal does not reduce the dangers prostitutes face. They further say we cannot reasonably think to end the demand, so running sex work underground is counterproductive.

It is likely accurate to predict prostitution will never be eliminated from any society. In Dayton, as is the case nationally, prostitution is an underground phenomenon that has become more accessible via the Internet. Countries such as the Netherlands and states like Nevada are the most obvious examples of legal and regulated prostitution where sellers are statistically never underage, health is monitored and the state becomes an economic partner. Whether it’s legal or not, however, opponents of prostitution firmly believe few people want to see brothels in their neighborhoods.

Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

Rather than continue to keep prostitution by consenting adults illegal and underground, is it time to consider legalizing it via state regulation as it is done in Nevada and the Netherlands?

Debate Left: Oldest profession; biggest headache

By Marianne Stanley

 

Legalizing consensual sex between adults seems at first glance to be a no-brainer. One of the Constitution’s key provisions, for those who didn’t know this, was to emphasize the right of adults to enter into a contract with each other. It’s not much of a stretch to see prostitution in this light – as a verbal contract with a quid pro quo agreement between two consenting adults. Sex for money, the bottom line in the prostitution business, is an exchange that should be legal.

The key argument for legalization is government has no right to criminalize a transaction between two consenting adults that harms no one. Prostitution, after all, has long been called a victimless crime. Another argument is criminalizing things people want or need just attracts organized crime and never ever works. Just as Prohibition actually created a large and violent criminal element intent on profiting from the country’s ongoing demand for alcohol, laws against prostitution just increase the violence, drugs, human trafficking, kidnappings, coercion, suffering, abuse and even deaths prevalent in the industry.

Historically, criminalization of prostitution has not eliminated it, nor has it eliminated the demand for it. Instead, it has given rise to an abhorrent industry that encourages sex trafficking, creates pimps who use and abuse unwilling women and girls, creates lifelong criminal records for those who are caught in its net and creates a whole population of drug and alcohol abusers when those who are not freely part of that trade seek a way to cope with their despair, pain and lack of personal control. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also a formidable problem for those engaged in the business, particularly those forced into it and living at the lower edges of society. Runaways are notoriously preyed upon by street thugs and pimps who often beat and threaten the teens they find on the streets in order to keep them powerless. So, all of this misery exists while prostitution is a crime. Doesn’t that tell us it’s time for a different approach?

To be sure, those who want to keep it illegal have common sense and reason on their side, too. This topic crosses so many moral, economic and emotional boundaries, any clear-cut, simple answer is impossible. Their thinking is, keeping it illegal should, logically speaking, mean there would be less of it – a good thing. If it’s illegal, after all, there will be penalties for those who ensnare and abuse others, putting an end to at least some of the violence women in the profession often endure. If it is illegal, the threat of being caught and exposed as a “john” may be a deterrent and exposure to STDs would be reduced.

But here’s the rub: It’s not working. The industry is growing, not shrinking. Something is wrong and needs rethinking. This is another one of those issues where it is exceedingly important to go behind the old, tired arguments and well-worn words to ferret out all the difficulties and complexities. Moving toward legalization is the humane, decent, democratic thing to do, as long as certain ground rules and guidelines are in place. But the guidelines must be clearly established, reviewed, applied across the board and enforced by a board or agency, probably at the state level. Any industry as prone to an imbalance of power as prostitution must have enforced government regulations. Otherwise, those with the money, usually the men seeking sex from women, can exercise their superior financial and political power to abuse the women or men they seek out.

What might those regulations look like? The board should ask those in the business. They would know the pitfalls, dangers, concerns and what is most needed for them to pursue that line of work. It seems a fundamental requirement would be to ensure each person is licensed and is freely choosing that trade. Preliminary and regular medical exams should also be provided. Safe, secure working conditions are a must, perhaps like those of Nevada’s “Mustang Ranch” where women choose their limited work schedule in a safe facility and customers are required to leave their wallets at the desk while they’re with one of the workers. Also, the worker, not the pimp or madam, needs to be fully in charge of key decisions, including how many clients they will see in a work day and how much they will charge. They need to have access to a hotline for a way out if they are in danger, afraid, mistreated or threatened. They must be able to quit at will. These are just ruminations; the sex workers would be the ones to really know what it is they need and the regulations would need to reflect their requirements.

In an ideal world, everyone would be loved and his or her needs met, but if we can’t achieve that world, then at least those who choose that line of work would be able to leave the sleaze, the cover of darkness and the ever-lurking danger from the police, the streets and the johns, behind. A legal and well-regulated – rather than criminalized – industry can spare untold suffering and end human trafficking in a way prosecution never could and never will. It can take sex workers from objectification to entrepreneurs or employees, from caricatures to real people. It’s a beginning.

 

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

Debate Right: A model for a society moving in the wrong direction

By Dr. Westbrock

As the hominid, man emerged as long ago as 20,000 years – by some estimates – to form a civilization, defined as the organization of functioning groups, characterized as communities, tribes, villages, then towns, cities, city-states, and then nations sharing common goals. More basic than this, however, is the family, the basic unit of most mammalian species. Man happens to be the most sophisticated and intelligent of these family organizers.

What does this have to do with legalized prostitution, you may ask?

Postmodern society, based on the post-World War II model of deconstructionism by Jacques Derrida, designates language and ethical behavior is relative to the individual. That is, consenting adults should be able to do most anything they want as long as it does not adversely affect someone else. In other words, everyone is free to interpret the world as they please. There are no norms and no absolutes, which, if fully manifested, would result in chaos and anarchy.

There are, in fact, norms based on foundational principles, and although one may criticize governmental principles based on this philosophy, Judeo-Christian principles are foundational for this United States. The Declaration of Independence’s statements of “endowed by their Creator,” and “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” directly reference not only a previous philosophic basis, but one based on systematic recognition of a God as the basis of government. Although theocracies are not unique, for the first time in history, no specific religion was supreme, but freedoms of all citizens based on God-given right was ruled to be dominant. All society and order was thus based on these principles, at least for Americans, from the outset.

Why is prostitution, the world’s oldest profession, illegal in most societies? The answer is it is ultimately destructive of the basis of most societies. The nuclear family is the basic unit of any society, and in countries where the family is not, such as communist countries where the state is the basic unit, society is generally disjointed and much less productive and successful in the long run. As a result, threats to this unit may result in a general disruption of society in terms of education and nurturing, future societal threats by extinction of birth rates and general well-being of children as the future of society. Most parents sacrifice for the good of their children and sustenance of family. Children could be raised by general governmental bodies, but few would agree that this is Brave New World ideal. Prostitution, in general, encourages this.

As with same-sex marriage, statutes relaxing the marriage contract, out of wedlock births with one father and multiple mistresses with multiple resultant children, legalized prostitution threatens this same basic societal unit. This is philosophical and reasonable and not just based on some mundane religious idea. It is the basis of “Nature’s Law,” now so easily cast aside by modern relativist theory. Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were well schooled in Western thought, based on Judeo-Christian principles and Platonic philosophy, enlarged upon by John Locke, Rousseau, and others. Such was the basis not only of the Declaration, but the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Aside from societal concerns, proponents argue its virtues based on multiple factors. First, rape frequency would diminish. Although there is little statistical evidence, a study of three cities where prostitution was legal showed a decline in rape cases when it was again prohibited. Rapists also include men who are married, have girlfriends or do not patronize prostitutes.

Second is the argument it provides a better health environment by preventing sexually transmitted disease (STDs) as a result of governmental regulation. The surveillance of STDs is, in fact, less stringent than 40 years ago, when a marriage certificate included a requirement to have a blood test to screen for syphilis. In addition, a London study showed 50 percent of sex workers were given drugs (heroin, cocaine and alcohol) for sex and two-thirds of prostitutes reported they would not work for sex if they were not using drugs. The additional question, then, is: Do more women who are drug-addicted turn to prostitution? And would legalization increase the number of drug-dependent women? Will legal prostitutes’ private lives be more routinely scrutinized if they become legal? And should they be? Will civil rights suits be filed on their behalf to prevent such scrutiny?

Third, like legal marijuana, does a new source of tax revenue and jobs – by eliminating black market sex – justify legalization? In Nevada, the rape rate has been consistently higher than the national average. Most sex-related arrests there (77 percent) involve prostitution (as reported by a study at University of Nevada, Las Vegas). Crime rates are higher and thus the overall balance of local income vs. police expense does not seem to be justified, notwithstanding the degradation of the local community.

Lastly, and important in the context of women’s rights in the 21st century: Does it empower women? According to an article from Voices for Justice, “a john believes he takes ownership over a prostituted woman upon his purchase for sex with her.” If this is dehumanizing, as it is, treating another human being as an object, the john feels he can do anything he wants with her. This is far from the feminist ideal.

From an ethical, moral, rational and economic viewpoint, legalized prostitution is wrong for the individual and wrong for society.

Dr. Westbrock has been in private medical practice for 35 years. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S House of Representatives in 1994 and 1996. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject of health care reform and health care policy. He can be reached at Dave.Westbrock@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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    […] Debate Forum: 08/26 They also point to decriminalisation in Canada leading to reductions in STDs. In Rhode Island, a mistake on a legal statute inadvertently decriminalized prostitution. Studies there showed reduced STD rates and sexual assaults. Another argument … Read more on Dayton City Paper […]

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