Decriminalization of Sex Work?



Sex work is a commonly found practice that brings in a great deal of money and affects many peoples lives, but yet is illegal and seen as a criminal act in the United States and many other countries through out the world. Women who prostitute themselves are in great danger and one of the major questions to determine is does legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution protect them?

There are concerns about the legalization of prostitution with the ideas of objectification. Having it legalized can always increase the demand of these sexual acts causing possibly more women to work and more men to participate. This legalization brings encouragement, which is arguably dangerous entirely. Many women have been victimized while working and experienced violence from their customers.

However, it could be argued that this violence could decrease if prostitution was legalized giving women better working conditions and not having to work illegally on the streets. Working illegally causes a vulnerability of the women leading to greater violence from both the customers and the pimps they must report to. Because prostitution is illegal it forces more secretive work that can be more dangerous for the women. After watching Buying Sex I found it to be very commons for prostitutes to be assaulted or raped while working as a prostitute and they also have a greater likelihood of being murdered. They can not call for help in these cases due to the illegality of their actions. Where Brothels could offer a safer environment to sell consensual sex. This could provide women with the options of working out of the safety of their own homes providing them with the feelings of more safety and comfort. This idea is shown through the video, Buying Sex, where women in New Zealand are affected by it due to the legalization. They have protection from the business and are taken care of from their “house mom”. They don’t have to worry about working on corners and being picked up by unknown customers in the night. They are able to freely occupy a job and safely and openly have sex with men. Not only is there less danger but also there are also better health conditions for the women working out of homes. Sex work as a crime results in it being driven underground with the possibility of practicing unsafe sex. The women in Canada who are fighting for the legalization of sex work feel this will benefit them and will keep them safe in doing the job they enjoy. Legalization can also lower the stigmatization that is placed on them for being “whores” or “sluts”. Decriminalization can lead to freedom from discrimination of the women partaking in these acts.

In the article, “Sex Workers” by Wendy Chapkis, she mentions the difference between sex work in the United States compared to the Netherlands where it is a legal practice. She brings in the presence of the police and how they can be a resource instead of a threat or a risk. In illegal situations, sex workers must discuss in rapidity to avoid any risk from the police or the possibility of entrapment and arrest. The women in the Netherlands are able to fully discuss what can be performed with their clients in a consensual way making the action less abusive or violent.

Does sex work constitute as a profession?

This is an important question to answer in determining whether or not sex work should be decriminalized. Mostly, the women participating in prostitution are competent and are freely choosing this act for an income. If sex work is seen as a profession than it needs to be regulated placing rules and guidelines on what is acceptable. However, dealing with human beings, this brings in the issue of human rights. The women should be allowed to demand their rights as workers and receive the respect any worker or women is owed.

There are also visible issues of gender power present in the argument of decriminalizing prostitution. It is legal to buy sex but it is illegal to sell sex. There is an issue here where men do not get in trouble for partaking in the act but women do as they sell themselves. If it is criminalized for the sex workers than it should be criminalized for accepting of the service as well.

Also, a common reason women partake in this sexual act is because of money. Women typically make less money than men in our countries socioeconomic system providing them with less stability in supporting themselves. Overall, women are under-represented in occupations with a higher pay and over-represented in service occupations. One women in New Zealand in Buying Sex said she preferred prostituting her body over working a minimum wage job. She felt more exploited in the work force than she does being sexualized by different men every day. There is a source of income for the women that provides them with a good earning of money and as a legalized profession, it also acquires large sum of money from brothels due to taxes. As an illegalized act, prostitution is currently not taxed and could be a source of income benefiting the women, businesses, and the government.

It is seen through different movies and television shows that women have resorted to prostitution in order to obtain money to live and having a pay check from this work could be very beneficial. In the movie Les Miserables, the character Fantine must work in the streets to earn money in order to support her child. She is not working willingly like most women seen through the film Buying Sex who want a legalization because they enjoy participating in the sex work, but she has resorted to it and could have the potential to support her family if prostitution was decriminalized and provided a legit income.




If prostitution is decriminalized, are female bodies going to have rules placed on them? Could these regulations intervene the liberations the women are trying to achieve through prostitution? Do you think the legalization of prostitution is beneficial for women, or could it possibly be contributing to greater objectification and sexual violence?


One thought on “Decriminalization of Sex Work?

  1. I never really saw the benefits of prostitution because whenever I thought of it, I looked down upon the whole system simply because of our social constructivist culture and what the norms our in our society today. This isn’t a good way of looking at things, especially after this class where we have been dissecting our heteronormative culture, and seeing how it isn’t necessarily better than any other way of life such as being lesbian or gay verses a straight heteronormative couple. However, even after learning all the pro’s of the sex trade sector, I still don’t think it should be legal. Though, it is argued, that much like marijuana, making it legal will lead to people opting out of the sex trade because the fun of participating in the illegal is gone and now it is regulated. But, I think having prostitution legalized would be detrimental to society because it would show children that sex is meaningless and can be so casual as to even be bought with cash. Though we all have our own opinions, and to some sex may be that casual, I believe legalizing sex trade will make the industry grow instead of making it smaller as people would hope.


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