Prostitution, the act of performing sexual acts with another person in return for money or some sort of payment, is often called the oldest profession in the world. Prostitutes can be male or female and of any age. Street prostitution is the traditional form of prostitution and is the first thought in many people’s minds upon hearing the word (Perkins and Bennett 5). Many ancient societies accepted prostitution as a common practice. The ancient Greeks had a group of “high-class prostitutes who lived in their own luxurious residential districts” (“Prostitution”). An Athenian named Demosthenes said of this practice that the prostitutes were kept for pleasure, but that wives were in place to “bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households” (“Prostitution”).
In ancient Rome, prostitutes were required to wear clothing that identified their profession and had to colour their hair either red or blonde; still they were highly regarded (“Prostitution”). According to Grolier’s Encyclopedia Americana entry on prostitution, “early Christian writers largely regarded prostitution as a necessary evil. Saint Augustine believed that worse actions, such as rape, would result if prostitutes did not provide an outlet for human lust.” Prostitution today is frowned upon and is punishable by law in most states. Before 1973, prostitutes were not hought to be able to speak for themselves. COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), a prostitute organization was put together by Margo St. James in 1973. This group worked to increase consciousness about the trials and abuses faced by prostitutes and to work towards changing the law (Sloan 2). The 1970’s was a time of great movements towards the rights of sex workers. Many different ideas surround prostitution and whether or not it should be legal. Prostitution among willing, of-age people should be legalized in the United States.
Health and safety are two reasons for prostitution to be decriminalized. Health and safety means proper health care and birth control for prostitutes as well as safe and non violent working conditions. Some people will argue that the legalization of prostitution will increase taxes because more money will be needed to better the health care of prostitutes. Those against the legalization of prostitution will also argue that if prostitution is decriminalized there will be more violence surrounding the profession. Legalizing and regulating prostitution will decrease the number of prostitutes with sexually transmitted diseases and will decrease the spread of these diseases through prostitutes thanks to better health care. With proper and mandatory health care provided to prostitutes, the risk of disease can be lessened significantly. Prostitutes would be required to have mandatory disease testing done every six months, for example. This way, if the prostitutes are clean then they cannot transmit diseases to their customers.
If prostitutes are provided with the proper birth control and disease preventatives, the chance of catching a disease or becoming pregnant from a customer can be lessened. Another issue is prostitute safety. Prostitutes often end up missing, murdered, or severely beaten. If prostitution is legalized and regulated, the number of tragedies involving prostitutes can be lessened. Those in favour of legalizing prostitution feel that “violence, exploitation, and health effects suffered by women in prostitution” are not deep-seated in the trade but are the outcome of the behaviour of “bad pimps or buyers”; many feel that if “prostitution were regulated by the state these harms would diminish” (Leuchtag 7). The power of pimps should be lessened, and perhaps even banned, to ensure the safety and well-being of prostitutes. Pimps often beat, or even kill, their prostitutes, and Prostitutes should be required to be licensed and made to carry some sort of government issued identification card. The state of Nevada gave the right to each county to determine whether or not to legalize prostitution. Churchill county voted two to one in favour of licensed brothels, which were not to be placed on main streets or close to churches or schools. Prostitutes working in these brothels are required to carry identification cards and are usually fingerprinted (“Prostitution”). This is for the safety of the prostitute. Because of an improvement in health and safety, prostitution should be decriminalized in the United States.
Economic reasons also influence the fight for prostitution to be decriminalized. Economic reasons include making sure the prostitute gets the money she or he has earned, as opposed to this money being paid to a pimp, and also that the prostitute has enough money to feed, clothe, and house him or her self. Opponents to the legalization of prostitution will argue that prostitutes do not make enough money to make a decent living. According to these opponents, prostitutes have horrible living conditions and not enough food to eat. Others will argue that prostitution is not a real job and that only uneducated people become prostitutes. Prostitutes often make a lot of money. Groups of high-class call girls sometimes make $1000 or more a night from their escapades with rich men (Perkins and Bennett 8) and have to work only three or four nights a week to make enough money to live very comfortably.
Many prostitutes rely on the money they make to feed, clothe, and house themselves and any children and family they may have. In many ways, this profession is better than a so-called “normal” job. Prostitutes often make their own hours, determine their own wages, and are their own bosses. In this way, prostitutes run their own businesses. According to Lacey Sloan, many feminists and sex workers feel that prostitutes are “businesswomen” who should be allowed the privilege to work, just as an employee in any other profession (2). Legitimate prostitution businesses are a way to regulate prostitution so that it does not get out of hand when legalized. This also benefits the prostitutes because they learn how to operate a small business and can escape the hold of their pimp, if they have them. Veronica Monet left a job as an office manager to become a sex worker. According to her, she became a small business owner after eight months when she began to work for herself, and she does not regret that choice (Monet 1). Improved economics are another reason that prostitution should be legalized.
The legalization of prostitution can contribute to and improve society. Opponents of the decriminalization of prostitution feel that by legalizing prostitution, a door is opened to increased violent behaviour. Others will argue that if prostitutes make too much money it will not be taxed by the government and the prostitutes will be more well off than those who pay taxes. If prostitution is legalized, it will decrease sexual and violent crimes against women by providing an outlet for those who wish to procure the services of a sex worker. An accepted thought is that prostitutes are not protected under the same laws as everyone else, so when a prostitute gets murdered, it is different from a doctor or a secretary being killed. Lacey Sloan writes that prostitutes feel that although some of them are often “kidnapped, tortured, raped, and forced into sex work”, prostitution should still be decriminalized so that prostitutes can be protected under the same laws that protect everyone else from these same offenses (2).
By legalizing prostitution and recognizing it as a legitimate business, any revenue from this profession will be taxed, thereby generating more revenue for the government. If this were to happen, hopefully prostitutes would earn more respect for the work they do. If prostitution is legalized, less money will be spent by police and the court system in trying to prosecute prostitutes, which really doesn’t do anything anyhow. Mark Liberator says “Police personnel and courtrooms are overburdened with these cases, having little or no impact on prostitution. The prostitutes and their customers pay their fines and are back to the streets in no time in a revolving door process. Catch and release may work for recreational fishing but it has no deterring affect on prostitution.” The improvement of society is another reason that prostitution should be legalized in the United States.
Health and safety, improved economics, and an improvement to the general state of society are a few reasons that prostitution should be decriminalized in the United States. If prostitution is legalized in nationally, prostitutes will earn more respect and will be recognized as having a legitimate profession. They will no longer be seen as lesser human beings than those who are not sex workers; they will start to earn the respect they deserve. The first step towards the legalization of prostitution is realizing that prostitution will not destroy society and to recognize the good things about it. According to Lacey Sloan, “sex workers’ rights groups claim there is no difference in work in which a woman sells her hands, such as a typist, and work in which a woman sells her vagina, as in sex work.” Decriminalizing prostitution in the United States is a step in the right direction towards the improvement of society and the status of women in this profession.
Leuchtag, Alice. “Human Rights, Sex Trafficking, and Prostitution (Perspectives on Prostitution).” The Humanist Jan.-Feb. 2003. Rptd. in Health & Wellness Resource Center. Galenet. OCCC LRC. 2 Apr. 2004.
Liberator, Mark. Legalized Prostitution: Regulating the Oldest Profession. 3 Dec. 2003. 25 Apr. 2004.
Monet, Veronica. “Prostitution Can Benefit Women.” Gauntlet Vol. 1, 1994. Rptd. in Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Galenet. OCCC LRC. 8 Apr. 2004.
Perkins, Roberta and Garry Bennett. Being A Prostitute. Winchester: Allen & Unwin Inc., 1985. “Prostitution.” Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier. OCCC LRC. 2 Apr. 2004.
Sloan, Lacey. “Prostitution Should Be Decriminalized.” Free Inquiry Fall 1997. Rptd. in Sex. Ed. Mary E. Williams. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center Doc # X3010162230. OCCC LRC. 8 Apr. 2004.