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Whores no more: the case for legalizing prostitution

One social issue that receives little attention in American politics is that of prostitution. In a country that openly accepts pornography, an industry where performers are paid to have sex, it surprises me that we have yet to, at the very least, decriminalized prostitution.

Is prostitution morally questionable? Yes. Do I support individuals selling sex? Absolutely not. Although my personal set of beliefs reject sex for money, I cannot understand how the pornography industry is a perfectly legitimate business profession that is allowed to make profits, and prostitution is outlawed. The television show Cops still shows police officers soliciting sex in order to arrest unsuspecting customers. It baffles me. If taped acts of sex for money are permissible, then maybe prostitutes should carry around video cameras.

In all seriousness though, prostitutions prohibition is yet another outdated social policy that needs to be re evaluated. I will admit that regardless of what or how prostitution is regulated, abuses will occur. However, I think legalizing the industry will protect prostitutes and give the government a much-needed source of revenue, and will eliminate another unnecessarily backwards social policy. Prohibiting the industry has not worked favorably, and has hardly eradicated issues caused by prostitution.

Legalizing prostitution would allow government oversight of an industry that is known for abuses. Pimps and customers often exploit prostitutes, and when prostitutes raise claims of abuse, police rarely listen (unless the perpetrators are rich, white, college lacrosse players). There is also a problem of involuntary prostitution. Both of these problems could potentially decrease if prostitution was legalized.

If prostitution can become a legal occupation, government regulation would have the potential to actually clean up the industry and save lives. First, legalizing the business would take prostitutes off of the streets. Allowing prostitution businesses to open would force prostitution to operate behind closed doors in an environment that would much safer than current locations for such practices. Secondly, if prostitution were a legal profession, minimum health standards would be able to be instituted. In the California porn industry, actors are forced to undergo STD testing in order to stay active, and similar measures could be passed in order to ensure that prostitutes were free of any transmittable diseases. Additionally, legislation could be passed requiring the use of contraceptives and protection.

Allowing prostitution would also extend labor rights to prostitutes, which are clearly non-existent under the current system. Giving prostitutes full labor protection would give workers the power to prevent abuses in the work environment. Such regulations would help limit the employment of underage workers, although it would be naïve to think legalizing prostitution would completely prevent juveniles from entering the field, whether it is voluntarily or forced.

Legalizing the industry would grant protection to prostitutes to protect against abuses by superiors, as police are typically unwilling to investigate claims of abuse by prostitutes. Legalizing prostitution should not be seen as an act of support for its practice. The difficulty in legalizing prostitution is that a large constituency of Americans would think that ending its prohibition would be condoning prostitution. In reality, however, legalizing it would instead be accepting the fact that, regardless of legislation, prostitution will occur, and the best response is to make the industry as safe as possible, all while increasing government revenue.

When government policies fail to end practices that are banned solely for morality reasons, as opposed to actions outlawed due to their abuses to innocent people, the policy should be re evaluated and reformed. Nevada is a start, but because politicians are too afraid to admit that policies are not working, I doubt national reform will be on the agenda of many politicians.

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