Promoting prostitution?

September 13, 2016

House of pleasure in Pompeii.

You’ve heard of them: these “seeking arrangements” and “sugar baby” online services that have been all over the media for years. That’s when (usually) young men and women rent their company out and by “company” they usually include some form of sexual services. For the most part.

Escort services have gone online in a big way these past years –the internet was MADE for this kind of business- and wealthy men (yes, usually men) are signing up. And these ARE escort services, make no mistake about it.

A “No obligations” relationship

Sometimes, these men are married and are seeking a little “strange” and other times they’re  busy businessmen who want the benefits of female companionship without the obligations that come with a full relationship. They may want the whole “girlfriend experience,” as in date nights, a faux-relationship in that their emotional needs to be listened to, etc. are being met and the women, usually young women, are paid handsomely for providing this service.  Other times it’s just about the sex.  The key here, at least to me, is that they don’t want to give back, not really. They don’t want any of the emotional obligations but they do want their own needs to be met.

Critics say that women in these circumstances are being exploited. But are they? I’m not so sure.

Prostitution: a need, a solution

Prostitution is as old as the hills and maybe older. In fact, the oldest known record of the sex trade is around 2400 BCE. So it goes back a long time. Commercial trade requires there to be a need and a way to fill that need, and in that regard, prostitution fits the definition. Women have something men want to buy. As a simple trade between consenting adults, where’s the exploitation?

But the key terms are consenting and adults. Prostitution is not always victimless–human trafficking in underage girls is a huge problem. But that’s not always the case. If no one is being hurt, if both parties are benefiting, is it exploitation?

prostitutionWhile in Amsterdam some years ago I spent time observing the brisk trade in the red light district. The Dutch believe that if you ban these things, they’re harder to control. There, prostitution has been decriminalized since the 1800s (or so I read) and is regulated. The goal is to eliminate illegal exploitation, cripple criminal enterprise, and improve working conditions of prostitutes. As it turns out, the experience has been mixed. There’s still human trafficking, especially in underage girls. At the same time, there are fewer sexual crimes. Still, the Dutch are working on further reforms and regulation, including raising the minimum age for working girls to 21. But there’s concern among prostitutes that some of the other changes in the law may hinder their ability to make a living.

New Zealand decriminalized it in 2003 and some say it’s made it easier to protect sex workers.

Here in the U.S., we’ve had a difficult time with sex, mostly an outgrowth of our Puritan history. Although prostitution is regulated and controlled in one Nevada county, that’s pretty much it.

I admire that Amsterdam’s struggles with this system are so public. It’s the first country that has made any attempt to grapple with the issues surrounding the sex trade –New Zealand is the second, I think– and has worked to make the system safe and fair for workers. Because make no mistake about it: prostitution is booming in the U.S.  Booming and unregulated. Sex work is always going to exist. The question is do we want to keep it illegal and underground?

I’m interested in your thoughts.




14 comments on “Promoting prostitution?
  1. Prostitution will be around as long as human nature is still in business! For six years I took a bus into Manhattan to get to work and I had walk past the “red light district” in and around 42nd Street. When I worked late I got more than an eye full. (This was the early 1980’s before Giuliani cleaned it up – the only good thing he did!)

  2. Leanne says:

    Most of Australia has legalized prostitution – I think it was primarily so it could be monitored and taxed – all that extra revenue for the government. It’s a bit of a grimy business all round in my opinion – but what would a middle class, middle aged woman really know about it all? It’s the trafficking in young women (and men) that really makes me sad.

  3. I think that I would be in favor of legalizing prostitution if done on a heavily regulated, limited basis. Have these houses set up almost like casinos are. I think its strange that you can make a porn movie, but if its not being videotaped for others to watch, its illegal?

  4. Shavonne says:

    Hmmmmm… Something for everybody to think about. Great Article.

  5. brenda says:

    Excellent points key is…not to prostitute our very own lives. It’s no longer *out there* and the temptation to succumb to lonliness or rejection is great in this day an age. Porn is at our fingertips

    Healthy boundaries start with us

  6. Skipah says:

    Personally I would take the Amsterdam model. It’s not going to be stopped illegally, make it legal and give hookers and johns a designated area or “whore” house to make their business transactions. Beats looking at skanks on public streets!

  7. Very interesting topic and one I’ve never really considered before. I think a comment above made a REALLY good point – why does tapping it make it legal? I’m in favour of legalization overall.

  8. I was thinking about the re-branding of prostitution in the U.S. as “Human Trafficking”. Of course it does include the immigrants and kids, but by definition here it is all considered trafficking.

    FTR-I have never sought or purchased their services.

  9. Diane says:

    I’m in favour of anything that would limit or eliminate the exploitation of children. If legalizing and regulating this industry would do that, they have my vote!

  10. As a feminist, this issue tears me in two. First, it is sad to me that the demand is so high for men to have quick, meaningless sex. BUT, if a woman is a consenting adult, she has a right to do whatever she wants with her body. If we could start really teaching children equality and respect, the need for this might decrease. The male desire for underage girls is simply pedophilia.

  11. I hate seeing girls who look like they’re under aged or possibly slaves especially the Asian ones. Some sort of regulation would be nice to protect them, especially.

  12. I am in favor of legalization–there are lots of women out there who are not being well taken care of and who need protection.They need to feel safer, they need access to health care and more. Sex trafficking could be eliminated, mostly, with regulation.

    Through my work I’ve met sex workers at conferences, a more select group than you might find on the streets-bright, interesting people who do this work because it’s profitable, they enjoy it, etc. What makes the difference is when people engage in this work by choice–the old ways of prostitution assume that women were mere objects to be used and bought…it’s changed over the years I think. Sex workers need the protections the laws could provide, instead they’re subject to abuse by law officials as well as their pimps, if they have them and occasionally clients.

  13. Silly Mummy says:

    Yes, it’s an interesting area. I tend to think that there are some circumstances in which perhaps no one is being exploited. I think that is usually at the ‘high class’ end, the women making vast amounts of money accompanying rich men. Though I still think there is maybe some question about whether the giving of intimacy and your body for money is an innately damaging experience. But maybe that depends on your own views – some women do claim they are happy with it, and perhaps they should be believed. At the other end of the spectrum, I think the amount of pay for what you are having to give probably pretty much rules out anyone doing it for any reason other than desperation, which immediately makes it an unequal relationship.

    In terms of legalisation, yes, I agree with prostitution being legalised and regulated. We have proven that it does not ever go away just because it is illegal. Regulation is imperfect, and there will still always be people operating underground, but I do think that it does offer more protection, and is a better way to go.

  14. Christina says:

    The problem with prostitution is less the sex and more all the other crimes that tag along with it. Drugs, assault, robbery as examples. If it were legalized and monitored those companion crimes would not be there. Although if in Nevada all one has to do is look at the strip to see that having it legal outside the city does not keep it from creeping illegally back into the city.

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