Prostitutes Are People, Too

Professor Chapman: below is an image I can’t seem to add to my post! If you could insert it before posting that would be great.

I believe that sex work should be decriminalized in the US. There will always be human sex trafficking and women who have been battered who work on the streets—but if we make prostitution less shady, sex workers will become individuals rather than pawns used was goods for trade. In the documentary film Buying Sex, there was a very clear message: as long as we put value on sex and money, prostitution will exist. Given legislation to approve prostitution, of course there are additional matters to consider such as taxing and regulation, but fundamentally I believe that prostitution should be legalized in order to ensure VISIBILITY OF ALL CITIZENS.

Attempting to legalize prostitution will bring about a variety of opposing arguments, but so does any other major piece of legislation. As citizens of the United States of America, we are given countless liberties that people in other countries may not be given. One of those things should, without question, be the right to our bodies. One argument made in the film against the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada was that prostitutes are affected by PTSD and other traumas regarding their work, and by legalizing prostitution more sex workers would have to face these issues. Yes, the mental health consequences surrounding a life in prostitution will still exist, but I don’t believe that legislation over the legalization of prostitution is responsible for addressing that issue.

Even though it is challenging to argue and protect against long-term issues that could stem from a life in sex work, it is possible to address and provide solutions for issues that are more directly associated with the industry. Revenue from the industry or other requirements to legalize prostitution could open doors to health screening and safety for both prostitutes and their buyers. Additionally, regulation surrounding the use of condoms in instances of prostitution could legally be put in place if prostitution were considered a legitimate industry by the government and citizens of the US.

sex animated GIF

The primary concern I have with sex as commerce is the general laws (or lack thereof) regarding protection against sexually transmitted infections, especially such diseases as HIV/AIDS. This is a large problem around the world, and many foundations seek to find solutions and promote use of condoms in red light districts. In general, brothels can require the use of protection under contract, but in situations where prostitutes have less control—whether in the case of rape or other coercive forms of sex, johns will risk transmission of STI’s in order to “bareback”. We discussed this phenomenon when we looked at the presence of anal sex as an option, when risky behavior changes from an issue of health and medicine to an erotic stimulant:

“…the element of risk now associated with unprotected anal intercourse may sometimes heighten its erotic appeal. In this context the practice of ‘barebacking,’ as it is called, is often experiences as a daring and adventurous form of transgression that provides the individual with a sense of being carried away by an overwhelming sex-drive, and thus provides a powerful affirmation of masculine identity” (NSS, Hardy, 108).

It seems as though the anonymity of a sexual transaction can heighten the presence of risky behavior and overexcited male dominance. The sexual exchanges I am discussing in this post are primarily between a woman (the seller) and a man (the buyer), but we cannot discount these similar risks for other forms of prostitution as well. Any creditor/debtor relationship will create a power dynamic where the person who is purchasing the other will dominate—and most often without the consensual contracts we observe in other established Dom/sub relationships.

In the film Buying Sex, the defendant in the Canadian case was fighting for the adoption of Swedish law: decriminalizing the act of selling sex, but making the purchase of sex illegal. Although I’m sure the law is more complicated than this, the general description raises some red flags. A prostitute, let’s assume they’re a woman, is selling her body and her sex for a purpose. Most likely this is to support herself or her family. In order to sell her “product”, she needs buyers who feel as though they will not get caught purchasing her services. Thus, the transaction is once again on the terms of the buyer, the “john” is most likely able to set the location in order to avoid being caught, and if the prostitute wishes for them to pay her, she must comply. Maybe I am missing the mark here, but doesn’t the law further push prostitutes away from their rights as citizens?

Nobody should have to exist as a second-class citizen. Nobody should be forced to work in the sex trade as a slave. If by legalizing prostitution we relieve voluntary sex workers of shame and give trafficked sex workers rights, then why aren’t we?

 

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