Friday, October 17

What came first. the chicken or the prostitute.

I recently saw a history channel special about prostitution. I guess it wasn't so much a special as a regular episode. In any case there were multiple interesting things, but i'll keep to just 2 points. First in 1888 prostitution in new york brought in 3 times as much as the ship building and brewing industries combined. Secondly because our morally outraged government was so sure that there couldn't be so many women willingly becoming prostitutes they started a big scare about white slavery. Specifically that these women were all white slaves and that we had to stop it. Despite a series of interviews which showed that only 5 prostitutes out of 1000 claimed they were slaves in anyway, the Mann act was passed in the early 20th century making it illegal to transport women across state lines to participate in (immoral acts.) They could just make slavery illegal, because it already was, and none of these women were slaves anyway. The legitimacy of the government determining what it is that makes an act immoral, more interesting to me is the effect of illegalizing prostitution. Today there really are female slaves, both white and of any other race who are forced into prostitution, in the US, Europe, and around the world. They are forced into prostitution because the illegal nature of it means a it is more expensive, making it worth the risk of kidnapping and woman and keeping her against her will. If prostitution was legal, and licensed by the state, like say alcohol and cigarettes, then it would essentially kill the profit margins of people using slaves, and drive them out of business. I've never understood arguments against legalizing prostitution. It is certainly not bad for the prostitute, who can now ply her trade in the open without fear from police or abusive johns, and it is certainly not bad for the john who can also make sure he knows what he's getting and not worry about being arrested. The only people it is worse for is the pimps, and slavers. Why we would uphold laws protecting their interests is truly beyond my ken. Prostitution has existed in all society in human history, trying to ban it has never worked, and never will work. I say live and let live. I don't believe any activity between consenting adults ought to be illegal.

P.S. i couldn't help putting in a couple interesting factoids. Whore in it's original use means any women who has sex with some number of men. The number could be debated, but whether or not money was exchanged was irrelavent.
Hooker comes from the fact that hooker street was a well known haven of prostitutes.
In ancient greece prostitutes used to carve a message into the soles of their shoes about where to find a good time, so people could literally just follow their footprints.


Blogger Rachel said...

then it would essentially kill the profit margins of people using slaves, and drive them out of business.

In theory, yes. In practice, no. The reason for this is people who use trafficked women to gain a profit invariably work outside of the law and hence whatever the price of the service, the traffickers can always provide it cheaper because vulnerable, impoverished women are in huge supply the world over. In India for example many women are trafficked into the bigger cities to provide sexual services for as little as five cents, for want of a better description the pimps are looking for quantity over quality so to speak, because again there will always be a ready supply of women. No matter what the legal going rate is, trafficked women will always be forced into providing a cheaper service.

I would definitely like to see pimps held more accountable (something Joe Biden doesn't appear to think is necessary. Link: and I begrudgingly advocate the decriminalisation of prostitution, I don't like it but it needs to be regulated as an industry to provide as much support to sex workers as possible and to help steer them away from exploitative pimps. I don't see how stringent, across-the-board criminalisation helps in the end, apart from driving the profession even more underground and in turn into even more dangerous territory.

However there's also the problem of trafficked women working in legal brothels because some individuals will always seek to maximise profit at the same time as reducing expenditure and this, in the sex industry, again leads to the exploitation of trafficked women.

I don't know if I have made much sense here I just let my thoughts burst forth onto the screen. However I will say that to criminalise prostitution means to drive it further underground, but that's not to say criminalisation is the be all and end all.

4:45 AM  
Blogger Aras said...

It might not drive them out of business, Rachel, but I think it will reduce their business significantly. You know, Lithuanian-English translation services are legal here, but let's say I do them illegally (no license). That means I do it cheaper but still at a higher profit for myself (no taxes for client or translator); this describes your illegal pimps as well. However, working this way I get maybe 5% of the work I otherwise would, because I can't advertise and I can't be in the phone book.

It would be interesting to know a) what proportion of hookers in Amsterdam are legal, and b) if the number of hookers total would decrease if prostitution were made illegal. I expect the number would not decrease much or at all, i.e. whatever percent are now illegals would increase by the total current number. I'm guessing that'd be a big ass increase.

I'll be there next week, so maybe I can figure it all out. Or maybe I'll spend all my spare time doing other stuff.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Where are we talking about? Only in the USA?

I don't think you can make the prostitution/translation services analogy here, sure it might bear some relevance but considering the profoundly different reasons for the demand for both services the analogy ends up falling flat. While many things have similarities not everything fits into a neat little mode of assessment, especially considering the abundant nature of independent variables affecting the prostitution and translation service industries.

So you think the decriminalisation of prostitution would reduce the business of pimps? I can see your point and it makes sense but in practice I do not think it would work that way considering the nature of the global sex trade. I do agree with you that it might minimise illegal prostitution to a certain extent, but there is no way it would completely eradicate it, then again it is still quite possible it would drive up illegal prostitution because dodgy pimps will always be able to supply sexual services of trafficked women well below the market rate, so it just means they will need to traffic more women to drive up their profit levels.

I think more responsibility needs to be put on the consumer as well; men who engage the services of illegal prostitution should face the full force of the law instead of just a slap on the wrist.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Trashcan said...

I don't know what the situation is like in 3rd world countries, but i think at least in the US, and other developed countries, it would be very similiar to alcohol. Are there places that still brew their own alcohol illegally, yes, but it is a very small industry visited by a select few. If legal prostitution business had to show that thier women were there of their own volition/government interviews or something with the women to make sure, that would make sure most (not all) women working in legal brothels were volunteers. Meanwhile most guys i think would strongly prefer to visit legal brothels, because 1, it's legal, and 2 you could have guarantees about diseases as part of licensing. All girls must be tested once a week, etc. Once again not all guys. I'm sure there are guys who prefer women who are there against their will, and they would still pay for. But i think at least in the developed world it would drastically reduce the number of sex slaves, and i do think mostly because guys wouldn't want to go to illegal places. Now everything is illegal so it doesn't make a difference. As far as india, or the developing world, i can't comment on the situation, but i still don't see how making it illegal could be better for women

3:12 PM  
Blogger Trashcan said...

Funny side mark, at least funny to me, one of the most important issues in america, is a women's right to choose. It's her body and nobody else can tell her what to do with it. Except that has to do with abortion, and whether you agree with it or not, there is a father and fetus that are involved. Women's right to choose to sell their bodies seems like a much more natural right that feminists don't seem to care about. So clear they don't really care about a women's right to choose, they care about a women's right to choose what they think is moral, but not what they think is immoral.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Aras said...

i agree with you, trash.

3:56 AM  

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